Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground

Even though November contains both my birthday (the 17th) and one of the year’s best holidays (Thanksgiving) I still think it has to be just about the dreariest month on our calendar. The fun and frolic of Halloween has given way to the somberness of All Souls Day. The October explosion of leafy color has long since passed and all that remains is the gathering of their decaying carcasses. A return to standard time leaves us wandering around in the dark and the cold. But, the snow has not yet come to brighten our spirits and start us thinking about fun winter-time activities. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Slight Tactical Error

This past Sunday I headed up north for the 25th Annual White Mountain Milers Half Marathon. Despite the word mountain in its name, it’s actually a pretty flat race. In fact, the state record for the fastest NH half marathon (1:05:42) was run on this course by Dave Dunham back in 1989 when it was called the Joe Jones Half Marathon. I personally hadn’t a run a half marathon in nearly a year and a half. So, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But, I did know that this race might be the perfect opportunity to lay down a fast time.

Despite my still being in marathon recovery mode since Clarence, I’d run a couple good workouts recently. I’d done a speedy 10 mile progression run (started in 7:15 & finished in 6:00) in 1:07 flat (6:42 pace) and a 4 mile trail run (in XC spikes) in 25:08 (6:17 pace). So, I knew there was some speed to be had now that my overall mileage was down. The question was, would my sore knee & tight hamstring hold up for the full 13.1 miles.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Walk in the Park

Warning: This post is not for the faint of heart. :)

Despite what you may think, the title of this blog entry does not mean that my recent 26.2 mile “adventure” was easy. In fact, what the title refers to is what I was doing during mile 20 of the Clarence Demar Marathon – which just happens to occur in Wheelock Park.

The day started off well enough. My son Casey & I headed out the door super early (5:30am) for the ride over to Keene. A scant 1 hour later we were at the Keene State gym picking up my bib number and a few moments after that I was on a school bus riding up to the 8:00am start in Gilsum. Gotta’ love those low key marathons. No expo, no pasta dinner, no long porta-potty lines, no waiting at the start for hours, and no ridiculous entry fees! Just get off the bus and run.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pre-Race Psych(e)

The hard work has been done. All the miles, all the hills, all the repeats, all the tempos – they are over now. All that’s left to do at this point is stay loose, stay patient and wait for race day. It’s taper time. I’ve run 18 marathons and it just doesn’t seem to get any easier. The only thing that’s changed over the years has been my expectations.

Boston Marathon
When I first started running marathons it was just about completing them. Then once I did that, it was about breaking 4 hours, then 3:30, then 3:15 and then finally 3:10 (to qualify for Boston). Now it’s all about that elusive (and hallowed) 3 hour mark. To me, a sub 3 hour marathon on your resume means you’re serious about running and you know what the heck you are doing. I know it’s not going to get me a shot at the Olympics, or even any prize money, but running a 2:xx marathon would mean for me that (after all these years) I’m a real, good, long-distance runner.

Baystate Marathon
The last time I ran a marathon I came so very close to breaking 3 hours. If it weren’t for an insanely strong head wind in the last 4 miles of the 2008 Baystate Marathon my 3:00:22 might well have been a 2:59:xx and who knows what I’d be doing with myself this coming weekend. But, as it is, I’m preparing for the 33rd Annual Clarence Demar Marathon in Keene, NH with the hopes of having another shot at sub-3.

Clarence Demar
Regardless of what happens on Sunday, I know that I’ve worked really hard this year to get myself back into racing form and that form won’t be disappearing anytime soon. It seems like it's been a very quick 8 months since I started running again - after that 16 week layoff due to my knee injury. The fitness (and confidence) that I’ve gained in that recovery time has been worth every step – sub 3 or no sub 3. And, the new-found appreciation that I now have for running (and the fortunate ability to do so) will stay with me for a long time to come.

My Biggest Fans
So now I sit here (munching on my celery sticks) thinking about what race day will bring and what life will be like after Sunday. And, while there is much that I don’t know, I do know this: When I get home from the race I’ll have a wife that will want to hear all about it, an older son who will text me (from college) that he loves me, an older daughter that will give me a great big hug, a younger daughter that will want to wear my finishers medal and a younger son that will smile and probably poop himself. In other words, life will be pretty good!

Oh, and here’s a fun video clip I ran across recently during all my free time from training. Enjoy!
40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Humble Pie and a Fat Lip

Humble pie and a fat lip - That’s what I got served at the 77th Annual Cape Ann 25k Road Race this past weekend.

The humble pie was on the menu due in large part to the difficulty of this course. In a word, this 25k is “relentless” - just constantly up or down. And, its only flat parts are highly exposed to the wind and the brutal late-summer sun. The fat lip portion of the day was due to the very untimely demise of a bee in my mouth. More on that later …

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bridging the Gap

The Bridge of Flowers 10k Classic was conceived in 1979 and has remained on approximately the same course ever since that first competition. The one notable exception is that (back in the early days of the race) the runners actually ran across the Bridge of Flowers. However, in the 1980's the Bridge was rehabilitated and the course was slightly altered. What has not changed is the beauty & charm of the village and the warm & friendly people of Shelburne Falls. This year’s race was the sixth race in the New England Grand Prix Series and it was another great day of running and team camaraderie for the GCS-Triad Racing Team.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Showdown in Sandown

This past Saturday was the Sandown Old Home Days 5 Miler which served as the 6th of 7 New Hampshire Grand Prix Races. And, with Gate City holding a very slim lead over host Greater Derry, it was important that our club get a good turnout for this “Showdown in Sandown”. Fortunately, we did have a good turnout. Unfortunately, we still got smoked. More on that later …

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fitness University 2010

Fitness University recently wrapped up it's 2010 schedule of clinics with Finals Day on August 1st and I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge what a phenomenally great program it is! Fitness University is a FREE running fitness program for children ages 3 to 14. It was originally developed in 1989 by the Gate City Striders, as a way to help promote the importance of fitness, fun and good health. Through June and into July, running clinics are held in Nashua and surrounding towns. Kids are instructed on how to warm-up, stretch, run and have fun while doing it. They learn about healthy eating habits and staying safe. Then, the fun culminates on Finals Day with games, prizes, and plenty of laughter for all.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Trevor and Leann Ward (and the gracious help of all their amazing GCS volunteers) this year's Fitness University Program was a huge success! From the 497 kids that showed up for the first clinic at Fairgrounds Junior High, to the 500 plus that came out for Finals Day at Nashua South, it looks as though everyone has caught on to what an awesome experience this program really is!

On a personal note, this was the first year my daughter Emily (3) got a chance to really partake in all the fun of Fitness University and she just had a ball. The volunteers helping out with the activities for her (and all the age groups) were so incredibly patient and energetic. That kind of positive energy really rubbed off on the kids and you could see it in their faces every moment they were out there. Kudos to them and everyone at GCS and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center for making this great event happen!

Below are links to pictures, articles and information about this year's clinics:

Pictures from Finals Day & Various Clinics
from the Fitness University Facebook page

Summer Program Promotes Healthy Lifestyle for Kids
from the 8/1 edition of the Nashua Telegraph

More Information About the Fitness University Program
from the Fitness University Website

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Weekend Double Dip

This past weekend I loaded the family (myself, wife, 3 year-old & 3 month-old) into the car and headed out for a weekend of fun (and racing) in the sun. The weekend itinerary included: The 43rd Annual Bill Luti 5 Miler, Quechee Gorge, The Ben & Jerry Ice Cream Factory, The 29th Annual Stowe 8 Miler , lots of pool time, The Vermont Teddy Bear Factory & multiple trips to Dunkin Donuts. The weekend goals included: have fun, help the Team, enjoy the family and not get myself hurt.

The Bill Luti 5m is one of the oldest road races in New England and a fixture on various local road race Series’ including: the NHGP, the CARS and the Summer Swelter Series. Ok, the last one is made up but it’s completely appropriate because, as a mid-July race, this one always seems to be un-bearably hot. And, with temps in the upper 80’s and stifling humidity at the start, this year’s edition was certainly no exception! What made Luti even “hotter” was the competition, as my club (The Gate City Striders) is in a heated battle with the Greater Derry Track Club for supremacy in the 2010 New Hampshire Grand Prix Series. We have held a slim lead over them since the early part of the season and they have been slowly slicing into it ever since. It was for this reason that I chose to do this race as a “warm-up” to Sunday’s NEGP main event. I figured that even at my current low-level of race fitness, I could help out club keep that scrappy GDTC team at bay. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Canadian Boot Camp

As a rule, I typically don’t post much (if any) of my training schedule or running log on-line. This is partly because there’s really no magic in it. I run practically every day at a variety of distances and at a variety of paces. Big deal, right? And, it’s not like I’m ever going to be an Olympian, or anything. So what’s the point, really? That being said, I'm making an exception this week to discuss an unusual kind of training that I’ve been doing these past 7 days.

Twice a year, my family and I go up to New Brunswick (Canada) to visit my wife’s relatives. They live in the Capital City of  Fredericton which is about 450 miles northeast of Nashua and a whole world away. In fact, it’s a full length of Maine (plus a good bit on either end) away. Usually we head up there once in the middle of the summer and once during the week between Christmas and New Years. So, basically, we're in Canada during the hottest and coldest times of the year. Therefore, long runs during our Winter Trips (at subzero temps plus windchill) are always a challenge in this "Great White North". And, speed work during the Summer Trips is generally an exercise in sweat managment. So this summer, with the record heat wave, more than lived up to it's advanced billing.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mount Washington – Run vs. Hike

A side by side comparison

After recently doing both a Run and a Hike up Mount Washington, I thought I’d do a little side by side comparison of each to see which one was better. See if you can guess which one of the two I liked more …

                                    Run                  Hike
Distance:                      7.6 miles           44 miles
Duration:                      1.5 hours          100 hours
Elevation Gain:            4688 ft              18, 400 ft
Mountains:                   1                      14
Weight Carried:           192 lbs             242 lbs
Food Consumed:          2 gels*             10 meals
Snowball fights:           0                      1
Wildlife Seen:              1 (a)                  8 (b)
Goals Met:                    3/6                    6/6
Enjoyment Level:         4 (c)                  8 (d)     
Awards Received:        1                      Countless
Lessons Learned:         4 (e)                  4 (f)
* temporarily

a)       Denny Leblanc

b)       Gnat, Spider, Fly, Chipmunk, Bird, Fox, Hippie, Moose

c)       Would have been a 2 if our team didn’t do as well as it did.

d)       Would have been a 10 if we got to see a bear.

e)       1. Don’t participate in the lottery to run this race.
2. Don’t attempt to get a bypass to run this race.
3. Don’t run this race.
4. Don’t even think about this race again.

f)         1. Even though we are quite different, my son is pretty neat.
2. Given time, people can adapt to any given situation.
3. Never underestimate the power of friendship.
4. The toughest challenges can be met one step at a time.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mount Washington – Part II “The Hike”

Based upon the results from my Mount Washington Run, I decided that maybe what I really needed to do was go a little further back and get a nice running start. So that’s what I did - three days later. I started way back at Franconia Notch, 21 miles (as the crow flies) west-southwest of the Washington summit. But this time, I brought reinforcements (my 18 year old son Casey) to keep me company during the trip. Plus, I figured this would be a great opportunity to spend some time with him before he heads off to college in the fall.

The plan was for us to start a Franconia Notch and loosely follow the Appalachian Trail over to Crawford Notch and then on to Pinkham Notch with a little stop a Washington (again) before we headed back down. We’d stay overnight at the Galehead, Mizpah & Madison Huts while stopping at the others along the way for lunch. And, as with the run, I went into this hike with 6 levels of goals. #1 - start, #2 - finish, #3 - hike the whole way, #4 – enjoy the scenery, #5 – enjoy my son’s company, #6 – Not kill us both. I figured that this time, despite carrying a 50 lb pack, there was a real good chance I’d be able to accomplish all 6.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mount Washington - Part I "The Run"

Let me just start by saying this, from here on out I’m going to refer to the 50th Mount Washington Road Race as a “run”, not a “race” because it simply bears no resemblance to any race you could ever hope to imagine. In fact, referring to it as a run is being extremely generous since what you end up doing most of the time is flail around wildly, as you slowly creep up the very steep and very hot auto road. But, out of respect to the folks who actually know what they are doing up there, I’ll just call it a run and leave it at that.

I went into this year’s run with 6 levels of goals.  #1 - start, #2 - finish, #3 - run the whole way, #4 – set a PR, #5 - Beat Chris Dunn & #6 – Beat Steve Wolfe. My rationale behind setting so many goals is that I’ve invested way too much time in this endeavor to leave completely empty handed at the end of the day if things don’t work out as planned. I figured goals 1 & 2 would be easy since I ran this twice before and knew what to expect. Goals 3 & 4 would be a bit tougher to obtain since the temperature at the start was in the mid-eighties. But, all things being equal, these both were certainly do-able. Finally, if it was a really, really good day I might be able to achieve goals 5 & 6. I’ve been back and forth with Chris at various races over the years and usually end up seeing the back side of Steve at most events. However, at Washington, Steve and I have gone head to head 2 times and I’ve won both. So, maybe I own him at this one? Only time would tell.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pack Monadnock 10m

A Sloppy Mess

My 2010 Pack Race was many things. But, a Good Clean Run it was not. The day started well enough. The newborn & toddler both decided to give Mom & Dad a break by nearly sleeping through the night (5:30 am) - a very rare occurrence in the Wade household. That enabled me to get up mostly rested and out the door early. On my way up to the parking area at Temple Mountain, I swung by the course to drop a Hammer Gel right where I thought I’d need it (just before the hills really took hold) at about the 7 mile mark. Then I proceeded up to park and hang the GCS-Triad banner on the food tent, and hopped into Mary Minami’s car for the quick ride down to the start just as the early drops of rain began to fall.

However, once I got in and got settled at the school I realized I had only one racing flat. Doh! Meaning I could either: run in my trainers, run with one racer, or quickly find a ride back up to Temple to find my missing shoe which I figured was in the back of my car. I chose option 3 and thankfully Rich Mello & Stacey Ascone we’re heading back up there for one last shuttle run so I hitched a ride with them. The only problem was when I got to the car there was no shoe. So, back down to the school with Rich and Stacey I went with 20 minutes to the start, no potty break, no racing flat and more importantly, no warm up.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pineland Farms 25k

After taking the last three months of 2009 off from running completely (due to injury) I’ve slowly been working my way back into shape. I built my mileage up gradually starting in January, then added some short tempo runs in March & April and finally mixed in some track workouts with my running club The Gate City Striders beginning in May. I also tried out some early-season races to help me gauge my fitness level in adverse conditions and see just how far I’d come. Well, based on my mixed (at best) Race Results, it turns out I still have a long way to go just to get back to where I was even late last year.

Nevertheless, I signed myself up for the Pineland Farms 25k Trail Race in New Gloucester, Maine. This race would not only be twice as long as any race I’d done so far this year it would be just short of my longest run of the season to date. However, the motivating factor for me to run this race was not for the individual results but rather for the potential for team glory. Because, as luck would have it, the PF25k had a team race component and the gauntlet had been thrown by my friend Steve Wolfe and his buddies over at Acidotic Racing. They were headed up to Maine en-masse to dethrone the host (and defending team champion) Trail Monsters Running and take home their pine trophy title.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Way Off Track

The 2009 Pemi Wild Ultra
What the heck were you thinking?” said a tiny little whisper inside my head during a fit of dream-like restlessness. “Yeah, you’re in way over your head this time, pal!” chirped the butterflies in my stomach as I tossed and turned just moments before my 3:15am wake-up call. From amid this symphony of doubt came a steady but sure voice of reason. “You’re ready for this. You’ve done all those long, hilly miles. You’ve raced over terrain as technical as this and you’ve hiked many of these trails already. On the other hand, the voice wavered, this is 12+ hours of running, on 33.3 miles, up over and down ten 4000 foot mountain peaks.” WHAM! The blast of the alarm clock sent a rush of adrenaline through my system. I bolted upright, in the pre-dawn darkness, and scarcely noticed that the voices had been silenced by the steady pounding of the rain. It was go time!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


There’s nothing quite like the aroma of manure in the morning. It’s more effective than coffee at arousing you from slumber and almost twice as strong! These are just a couple of the semi-lucid thoughts that bounce around my head during my solo run down a dusty country road in the middle of July. It’s only 6:30 but the humidity is rising faster than the sun and adding to the acridity of my bovine bouquet. As I near the farm house where the scent is originating I catch my first glimpse of the putrid perpetrators. In their pen, a dozen cows stand motionless save for the slow turning of their heads in unison as I run by. The quizzical looks on their cowy faces only serve to re-enforce my growing sense that I’m a stranger in a strange land.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Song of the Ungirt Runners

by Charles Hamilton Sorley

We swing ungirded hips, 
And lightened are our eyes,
The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
We know not whom we trust
Nor whitherward we fare,
But we run because we must
Through the great wide air.

The waters of the seas
Are troubled as by storm.
The tempest strips the trees
And does not leave them warm.
Does the tearing tempest pause?
Do the tree-tops ask it why?
So we run without a cause
'Neath the big bare sky.


The rain is on our lips,

We do not run for prize.
But the storm the water whips
And the wave howls to the skies.
The winds arise and strike it
And scatter it like sand,
And we run because we like it
Through the broad bright land. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

10 Years Running

When I celebrated my 39th birthday back in November of 2008 I also celebrated a decade of running. Back in 1998, when I turned 29 and weighed 230 lbs, I decided it was time to get in shape. Recently I decided to go through some of my old training logs and reminisce a bit. Below is some of the information that I found to be interesting and worth sharing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Battered and Bruised, but not Broken

--> Or, How I came to be a Mountain Goat

Late in 2005, after another unsuccessful attempt to crack the 3-hour barrier, I decided to take a break from marathoning. The 3 month build-up, 1 month taper and 1 month recovery cycle had begun to feel like an awful lot of time to invest in just one 3 hour race. So, early in 2006, I decided to do something different. I thought that I might benefit from a new challenge in my running. I had read about the USATF Mountain Series and figured that it just might be the thing to break me out of my rut. Of course, what I didn’t figure on was that it just might be the thing to break me, period. This race series is not for the feint of heart. One of my favorite Mountain Series stories is about Tesfaye Bekele a sub 2:15 marathoner who showed up gunning for the Wachusett course record. He had said something like "I read that the record was 24:35 for 4.3 miles and figured I could run a lot faster than that". Veteran mountain runner Eric Morse ran with him for the first mile then showed him his back. Eric missed the record by four seconds, but beat Bekele by thirty. Just another example of a road runner who got a taste of mountain running and found it not to his liking! These races are typically low-key events, run by hard-core runners, over some extremely demanding terrain. And, in this the 11th season of the series, there were six tough races to be run. They included: Wachusett, Pack Monadnock, Northfield, Loon, Cranmore and Ascutney. With the addition of the king of all mountain races “Mount Washington” I embarked upon my self-made, seven race, test of will.

is a race which is paved from start to finish. The first mile is the toughest as it climbs 377' for an average grade of 7%. The course then flattens out for a bit and even drops as you start the second mile. Mile two has 246' of climb and the average grade is 4%. The third mile has a big drop in the middle and descends almost as much as it climbs. The final 1.3 is a long up-hill grind. The final climb in the parking lot adds insult to injury with a gut busting 200m stretch. This is a tough mountain race as it is something of a "sprint". It has been said that times are generally equal to a 5-mile flat race but this would turn out to be the slowest 5 miler I had ever run. On race day the temperatures were in the low 80’s with high humidity. Despite the weather, I had hoped to stay with Rich Stockdale and run with him as far as possible. Rich and I had some closely contested road races recently and I thought we were pretty evenly matched. However, once the gun went off so did Rich and, like Morse, he showed me his back the whole way. The first mile twisted and turned but never flattened as Rich slowly crept out of sight. During mile 2 we passed a large patch of snow too stubborn to melt in the heat as I wilted on the hill. The descent that I had so looked forward to brought nothing but rubber legs and back-peddling. And, while I never “walked” during the entire 4.3 mile ordeal, I’m not sure any reasonable observer would call what I did “running”. On a clear day you can see Boston to the South and the Wapack range to the North, but once I got to the summit all I wanted to do was lie down. Only the savagely unsympathetic black flies could rouse me from my rest and I was left with a sullen walk of shame back down to the ski area. My time was 34:29 which was good for 55th place and 72.84 points. All in all, a very forgettable start to my ambitious endeavor.

Pack Monadnock
was the next race in the series and also the longest. This course climbs 2,000 feet in 10 miles. It is mostly paved with a couple of brief stretches of dirt. Like Wachusett the first mile is a long, tough climb. The next seven miles are rolling hills featuring some very scenic back country roads. The eight to the nine mile mark represents the first major test, a long climb on route 101, then a brief respite before turning into Miller State Park. The last mile in the park has climbs steeper than Mount Washington. And, while Pack may mean "little", there is nothing little about the final climb. The last 200m has a grade of 30%! Race day featured rain, drizzle, 55 degree temperatures and sore legs as I had run hard in the Jackson 10k just the day before. I went out fast from the start and ran pretty well until the rolling miles and the previous day’s race began to catch up with me. During the first 7 miles I averaged 7:00/mile. During the last 3, including some walking on the steeper sections of Pack, I averaged 10:15/mile! My time was 1:19:52 and I finished in 36th place with 80.02 points. The high point of the day was jogging back down to the parking area and sharing a soggy hot dog with my fiancée Johanne. Then we drove home together tired from a long, tough weekend of racing.

represented two firsts in this years series. It was the first mountain race of the year to be run entirely on trails and also featured the first loop course instead of the usual point to point. So, once we climbed the mountain, we would get to sprint back down to the finish. After suffering through 10 miles of climbing at Pack the week earlier, 3 miles up and 3 miles down sounded pretty good to me! This event also has served as the La Sportiva - USATF Trail Running 2006 10k Championship. So, there was more than the usual number of “crazies” at the slopes on race day. The weather was excellent with temps in the 60's and moderate humidity when we toed the line. The first mile was relatively flat compared to the previous two races and I went out hard. The trail was wide and grassy and I felt like I was running cross country again. My split at the one mile mark was 6:40 and before I could say “too fast” the trail turned and went straight up-hill. Ooops! Apparently trail races can be even steeper than mountain races and my pace ground to a slow, but deliberate walk. The next two miles were a combination of walking & running as I tried to stay out of Rich Stockdale’s reach. I had hoped that if I could just get to the top before him, I would be able to use my size to my advantage on the way back down. The blur of Rich passing me on the first steep descent quickly put that idea out of my mind. And, as I tried to keep from causing an avalanche of dirt and rocks with every awkward step, I saw him disappear down the trail. As it turns out, downhill running is no walk in the park and I stumbled home in 27th place, with a time of 47:06. I scored 75.44 more points and my barking quads couldn’t have been less impressed.

The Mount Washington auto road is 7.6 miles in length, has an average grade of 11.5% with extended sections of 18%, and the last 50 yards is a 22% "wall" to the finish. The course rises 4650 vertical feet from start to finish and represents the one true test for all aspiring mountain runners. This event draws runners from all over the globe and more than a few strange looks and comments from non-runners who simply don’t know why anyone would even consider doing something so stupid. In my only previous attempt at Washington, four years earlier, the weather proved to be too much to overcome and the organizers were forced to shorten the race. This year I wouldn’t be so fortunate as the weather was ideal, at least for spectators, with temperatures in the 80’s at the start and in the low-50’s at the summit, with almost no wind. This time I started out more conservatively and I let a large group of the almost 900 runners get by me on the first mile. I had purchased a heart rate monitor earlier in the year and used it to keep me from “red-lining” as I made my way up the road which wound around to the summit of this overgrown pile of rocks. A competent psychologist would have had a field day at this race since there we more than a few runners with “split-personalities” out on the course. Sprinting madly at one moment then walking slowly the next. Meanwhile, I tried to keep my effort at a consistent level throughout leaving many of the “yo-yo’ers” behind. I did, however, succumb to a bit of walking myself during the 6th & 7th mile when it became apparent that, despite my highest hopes, the road didn’t get any flatter. The finish couldn’t come fast enough and with the grueling hand-over-hand crawl up the “wall” I gratefully celebrated the end of my Washington experience. My finishing time was 1:32:42, good for 154th place and a mere half-hour behind the winner Eric Blake. However, the real winner that day was Brian Coates. The only person I knew who ran the whole 7.6 mile race without walking!

The Loon Mountain course starts at a dirt parking area along the Pemigewasset River, at the lowest possible point on the property, and winds its way through the lower parking area to the service roads heading up the mountain. It follows a combination of dirt paths and ski trails up to the summit lodge at the top of the gondola. Then it works its way up and over North Peak before returning back to the summit. The race averages a 10% grade with some serious sections of over 20%! This race also served as the USATF Mountain Running Championships and was a qualifier for the US Team that will compete for the World Mountain Running Trophy in Bursa, Turkey later in the year. A light rain fell in the early morning before the race leading to fog descending on the mountain. So, we had the unique opportunity to run through the clouds twice, as two layers of fog blanketed the two peaks of Loon Ski area. And, with the steep inclines, we had more than enough time to contemplate the various weather patterns of the White Mountains. The section of the course leading up to North Peak featured a long stretch of 30% grade along a black diamond ski trail. From the bottom I could see the race leaders weaving their way back and forth over the switch-backs a half mile ahead with the painful knowledge that I wouldn’t be where they were for another 10 minutes! My time was 1:10:17 and I finished in 35th place with 67.06 points. Not bad for the toughest 10k I ever hoped to run and the free gondola ride back to the bottom, along with the ice water soak in the “Pemi”, made the finish seem even sweeter.

had terrain very similar to that of Loon with the added benefit of getting to do it twice! The double-loop course started at the Base Lodge on a dirt trail and after a few hundred yards made an immediate right turn up the ski trails. The grade on much of the ascent was approximately 16%. The course was 10k long with 2400 vertical feet of elevation gain/ descent and was designed to mirror the 2005 World Mountain Running Trophy Race course in New Zealand. Or course, I affectionately dubbed each of the up and down 5k loops as “20 min. of suffering followed immediately by 10 min. of terror”! The weather on race day was on the hot side so I took it out easy and started walking almost immediately. “These mountain races were starting to turn into speed-hiking exhibitions” I thought, as I tried to keep myself moving ahead. Once I reached the summit (the first time) I breathed a sigh of relief and headed on down the other side. To my surprise I was starting to pass people fairly easily on the downhill. But, just before I could pat myself on the back for a job well done I was overcome with a nifty case of nausea. Apparently the constant jostling from the descent was upsetting my breakfast and causing my body to yell a very loud and emphatic “whoa-up”! So, as I dry-heaved by the start/finish line the people that I passed (and then some) quickly made their way by me and back up the hill. To add injury to insult, I realized I had developed a blister the size of Rhode Island on my right heel. And, now all I had to do was run the course all over again but, this time on my toes! My finishing time of 1:02:01 was better than I would have imagined. And, as I limped home, my 24th place finish and 77.80 points left me with the distinct impression that I was staring to get the hang of this mountain running thing!

marked the final race in the 2006 Mountain Series. This race was first held in the early 70's as a tune-up for Vermont XC skiers and has always been popular with roller-skiers. The average grade is 12% and the many twists in the road are reminiscent of the Mount Washington road race. The course climbs 2300 feet in 3.8 miles. This is a very tough race, but thankfully not a long one! The weather at the start was typical for New England in July. As the 55 runners, from five states, gathered for the 3.8 mile grind the temperatures were in the low 80's and the humidity was just over 90%. Like Washington I tried to maintain the same effort throughout and just keep moving forward. But, unlike Washington, I was actually able to make it the whole way to the top without walking. I finished with my highest placing of the year and ended up passing some of the runners who had beaten me so easily earlier in the series. My time of 42:46 was good enough for 18th place and 69.33 points. Giving me 449.42 points for the year and 2nd place in my age group for all of the 6 races. More importantly, along with 18 other men and women, I earned the coveted “Mountain Goat” status (& T-shirt) for having completed all 6 races in the series! The ensuing awards ceremony and T-Shirt presentation capped what turned out to be a very memorable and rewarding first time Mountain Series experience. And, I would recommend it to anyone looking to take a break from their typical running routine.

After returning home from Vermont, still basking in the glory of my newfound “Goatness”, I did a little research and came across some amazing Mountain Series statistics. As it turns out, GCS’s very own Rich MacDonald is 4th in the Mountain Series with 35 total finishes. With 16 in a row at one point! And, Mr. President himself, Skip Cleaver is close on his heels with 31 finishes. As for my series “nemesis” Rich Stockdale, he’s 3rd overall in total points with a whopping 2486. So, I guess that just means I have only 2,037 points to go!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Power of Negative Thinking

Racing has always been a bit of a hit or miss proposition for me. Even though, going into a race, I’m confident that I’ve adequately prepared myself to run well, some results tend to be better than others. While it may be impossible to pinpoint the exact reasons for failure, when I take a look back at my best racing performances, there seems to be one consistent reason for success: “negative splits”.

For those who don’t know, running negative splits means running slower early miles and faster later miles. As a result, your split times descend, or move in a “negative” direction, as the run progresses. The theory is that starting slow allows your muscle cells to warm up and take on huge volumes of oxygen before the really hard work begins, attenuating anaerobic metabolism and spiking fatigue-resisting aerobic energy production. Simply put, running negative splits allows your engine to warm sufficiently before shifting into overdrive! 

Monday, February 1, 2010

True Confessions of a Bone-Headed Runner

Ambition can be a marvelous tool to achieve success, but sometimes it can become the monkey wrench that gets chucked into even the most well conceived plans. These are the kinds of thoughts that run through my head as I sit here with an ice pack on my foot and a chip on my shoulder, after another failed attempt to conquer Boston.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a sophomore strider, having just joined the Gate City team last year. I’ve participated in few of the club races, and more than a few track workouts, but the main focus of my running has been marathoning. More specifically, Boston Marathoning. Like many other runners who grew up in the New England area, Boston has always represented the Holy Grail of running goals for me. Not just an average everyday goal, but an all out, full-blown obsession.

Friday, January 15, 2010

About Me

I started running when I was an out-of-shape nearly 30 year old who desperately needed a change in lifestyle. “Why not start running again? I couldn’t possibly be any worse at it than when I was in High School, right?” Come to find out it takes significantly more effort to propel a 240lb. body than a 140lb. one! It was at that point that I figured I needed a goal in order to take my mind off the pain that my body was feeling. So, I decided that once I could run a mile without stopping, I’d start training to run Boston. For some reason this seemed like a logical progression to me. Little did I know that my decision would mark the beginning of an odyssey of stunning disappointment and profound joy that is the world of long distance running.

Friday, January 1, 2010

In The Beginning

So, here it is - my first blog post. Hmmm, I thought I'd have something more to say. Crap! Like I don't have enough things to waste my time with. OK. Sit tight. I'll be right back. Oh, in the meantime, here's an nice Van Gogh for you to look at while you wait.