Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Back and Forth

I started 2013 off with the rather ambitious goal of setting road PR’s for every distance from the mile to the marathon. However, an early and persistent calf injury kept me from being able to get the quality speed work I needed, so I decided to change course (literally) and do more trail races and mountain runs. Fortunately for me, it turned out to be one of the best and most enjoyable years of running that I’ve ever had!

Here are a few of the highlights from this past year:

Ran a total of 3018 Miles – my second highest ever.
Completed 19 races – 9 road, 6 trail and 4 mountain.
Ran a Course PR at the Boston Prep 16m.
Did my first ever Century (100 mile bike) ride.
Had a great 7 Sisters – Probably my best race of the year.
Ran a gravity-aided 17:33 5k PR* at the Hollis Fast 5k.
Had my first ever 90 & 100 miles training weeks.
Ran a Course PR at the Bear Brook Trail Marathon.
Completed 7 WMAC Grand Tree Series races.
Finished 12th overall and 4th in my AG for the GT.
Ran/Hiked all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000 foot peaks.
Qualified for Boston again – with 14 1/2 minutes to spare.
Helped guide GCS to our 6th straight Mill Cities Championship.

As outlined here, I hope that 2014 will be the “Year of the Ultra” as I try to complete my first ever 100 mile race - in late October. So, pretty much everything I do this year will be working towards achieving that goal. Interspersed amongst the Ultras, will be some of the Gate City Strider club races in both the New England and New Hampshire grand prix series.

As always, I expect that there will be a few bumps along that road, but hopefully I’ll be able to handle them with quiet dignity and grace. If not, I hope at least to make it seem that way. :)

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hitting The Wall

In the sport of marathon running, the term “Hitting the Wall” refers to a point in the 26.2 mile race where a runner suffers from a depletion of glycogen stores in the muscles, resulting in a sudden loss of energy and an overwhelming feeling of fatigue.  I have run dozens of marathons over the years and have had this happen to me nearly every time.  Recently though, it feels like I’ve hit a very different wall.  It feels to me now, like I’m hitting the wall of life.

In marathon racing (and training) “The Wall” is very real and comes almost without any discernable warning.  One minute you’re clicking off the miles with relative ease, and the next, you’re barely walking.  And so it has been lately with me in my life outside of running.  Things have been going along relatively smoothly these past few years, and now for some reason it seems like I can’t get out of my own way.  I feel like my energy has been zapped and I’m staggering to the finish line.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Darkest Day

December 21st, five years ago today
The earth did have its darkest day
The winter solstice marked the time
A brightest light was snuffed away

The jumbo jet fell from the sky
While ornaments were hung on high
Innocent victim of a terrorist act
A senseless cause for one to die

Family and friends could not believe
This joyous season now one to grieve
The trip abroad with much to share
Memories lost we'd not retrieve

Stoic and strong we had to try
But played the songs with teary eye
Classmates and some not seen in years
Gathered together to say goodbye

Goodbye to one so young of age
A too our youth we turned the page
Saddened so that each had passed
A sense of loss combined with rage

Though solstice has the longest night
Day with scarce amount of light
It also brings a ray of hope
That those to come will be more bright

And if an answer's to be sought
For this wicked evil wrought
Give your love to friends each day
That’s the greatest lesson taught

Written in 1993 and dedicated to my friend Steven Boland who was killed  in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21st, 1988. 

If you liked this poem, I have a few more over here.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Goat of a Different Color


1996, The New England branch of USA Track & Field started a challenging race
series called the “Mountain Circuit”. The brain-child of legendary mountain man Dave Dunham, the circuit initially consisted of three all uphill mountain races: Wachusett, Kearsage and Pack Monadnock. All 3 races were run primarily on paved summit roads and varied in distance from 4.3 to 10 miles. Over the years new races were added such as: Ascutney, Northfield, Cranmore & Loon. And some were taken away, such as: Kearsage & eventaully Northfield. Some of the newer races featured courses run on hiking/skiing trails and a few of them added the extra challenge of having to run back down the mountain! In 2006, I finished the entire circuit (plus Mount Washington) and wrote about my experiences HERE.

This year, the USATF-NE Mountain Circuit consisted of 6 races: Sleepy Hollow, Wachusett, Bretton Woods, Ascutney, Loon & Cranmore. And had a good mix of: road, trail, all up, up/down & down/up. Pretty much all you could ask for. Also, any runner who completed all 6 races received a coveted Mountain Circuit T-Shirt, a By-Pass to the 2014 Mount Washington Lottery and the all-important designation of “Mountain Goat”.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Half Life

Ever since I was I child, I always thought that 90 years old would be a fine age to live to. Somehow 100 seemed like far too much to ask for, and 80 seemed like far too little.  At the time, and for whatever reason, 90 seemed just right. This Sunday I turn 45 years old and can hardly believe that I’m halfway there!

Looking back, I have to admit I’ve had a pretty good life so far.  Sure, I’ve had my share of heartbreaks, mistakes and abject failures.  Who hasn’t?  But I’m healthy, I’m married and I have 4 great kids.  I even have a dog, a house, and a white picket fence. Who could ask for more?

Sure, in my weaker moments I have done just that - asked for more.  But, then those moments pass and I realize how foolish I am to consider myself anything but truly blessed to have the  life I've been given.  In fact, I think if I could have 45 more years of the same stuff, I’d definitely take it.  No questions asked!

The only problem I’m having right now is the perceived acceleration of time relative to age. As a child, the gap between birthdays, Christmas, etc. felt interminably long.  Now, it comes and goes in a blink.  It seems like just yesterday I was lamenting the sands of summer slipping through my fingers.  Now November's nearly gone!  I simply cannot abide by this rapid reduction of my remaining days.

Therefore, starting on Sunday, November 17th (the occasion of my 45th year on this earth) I will endeavor to reverse the river’s flow by counting my birthdays back down to zero. Should I live beyond my established goal age of 90, then so be it.  I’m sure a pre-conception twinkle will be worth much more than a decade of today’s warped chronographic currency!

Anyway, that’s a story for another day.  In the meantime, here’s a fun look back on how much I’ve changed in my 45 years.  And, here’s to hoping for 45 more - just like the last!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Long Range Plans

I think it's safe to say that I’m less goal oriented than I am goal obsessed.

It’s now been almost 2 full weeks since Baystate (my last goal race for 2013) and I’m already chomping at the bit for a new set of challenges.  I don’t know about you, but I find that if I don’t have something to work towards, I end up just going through the motions without any real purpose.  And, while I do realize that it’s all part of the recovery process, I find it wholly unsatisfying.

And so, as this year comes to an end, I’m starting to plan out what I hope to be working towards for next year.  Building off of the success I had at last year’s Stonecat 50, and the fun I had during this year’s Summer of 48, I’m going to spend 2014 primarily focusing on Ultra-Marathon races and seeing just how far I can push myself and the limits of what I think I can do.  Long story short, it’s shaping up to be a VERY interesting year!

Below is a preliminary list of the races that I’m eying for next year, with a brief description of each.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


There’s nothing quite like the smell of manure in the morning.  It’s more effective than coffee at waking you from your slumber and nearly twice as strong!

These are some of the semi-lucid thoughts that bounce around my brain during a solo run down a country road in the middle of July.  It’s only 6:30am 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 a glimpse of the putrid perpetrators.  In their pen, a dozen cows stand motionless - save for the slow but synchronized turning of their heads as I run by.  The quizzical looks on their cowy faces only serve to reinforce the growing sense that I’m a stranger in a strange land.

Friday, October 25, 2013


My goal for this year’s Baystate Marathon was simple.  Finish in less than 3 hours.  That’s it!  One last shot for me to break this ever elusive time barrier before diving headlong into Ultras.  Unfortunately, as the year played itself out, it turned out to be one goal too many.

Monday, October 7, 2013


As a child of the 70’s, the only war movies that could be found on television were ones about World War II.  That changed, of course, in 1978 with The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now.  But, those were Rated R.  So, as a kid, I watched PG war movies like To Hell and Back – with Audie Murphy.  Or Westerns (the other “safe” war movie genre) like Outlaw Josie Wales – with Clint Eastwood.  Both stars were heroes of my Dad’s and, by extension, heroes of mine.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Substance Abuse

Hi. I’m Michael and I have a running problem ...

Well, it’s not so much a problem, as it is an obsession - really. It all started when I was an out-of-shape 28-year old who desperately needed a lifestyle change. “Why not start running again?” I thought. “It couldn’t possibly be any worse then when I was in High School, right?” Come to find out it takes significantly more effort to propel a 240lb. body than it does a 140lb. one!

When I started running, I decided I needed a goal to take my mind off the pain that my body was feeling. So, once I could go a mile without stopping, I started training for the Boston Marathon. For some reason this seemed like a very logical progression to me. Little did I know that my decision would mark the beginning of an odyssey filled with stunning disappointment and profound joy. The likes of which can only be found in the world of long distance running.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Angry Bee

I don’t know if it was the ending of the summer, or the early-onset darkness, or the near-doubling of my commute time.  Perhaps it was the Florida-like humidity, or the concrete collecting in my legs, or my bewildering inability to find sleep.  Maybe it was a feeling of post-partum after the completion of my Summer of 48, or the embarrassment of yet another speed workout gone wrong, or the realization that my Sub-3 hour goal for Baystate seems more and more out of reach every day.

Whatever the reason, there’s just no denying that, last week, I was one cranky bastard.

In my heart, I know I have absolutely no reason to be angry.  I have had a great year so far – both in and out of running.  My two older children are thriving in college and seem to have things well under control.  My two younger children amaze me every day with how much they’ve grown and we enjoyed a fun (albeit busy) summer together.  I accomplished a huge goal by running up NH’s 48 tallest peaks – in 7 days.  And I’ve been able to race whenever, and wherever, I want.

So, what’s my problem?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tripping Through the Whites

Back in June, I outlined my Grand Plan to climb all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000 foot peaks in a span of 6 days. I had aggressively (and wrongly) assumed I could run/hike over 33 miles a day (with 3 of those days at around 37 miles) and still enjoy myself. Then I started my trip. And all it took was one 37 mile, 8 summit, 13 1/2 hour day for me to quickly change my tune.  For some reason,  the 30 mile mark was just about the point where it stopped being fun.

So, after Day 1, I re-shuffled the deck. I extended the trip from 6 days to 7 ½ and lowered my average daily mileage down to 30. The big change included taking Owl’s Head and Isolation out of the Pemi & Presi traverses. And, I set them both up as “stand alone” events. This did increase my overall mileage from around 200 to over 225. But, it made both traverses a heck of a lot easier and the summit attempts of Owl’s and Iso a heck of a lot more fun!

Below is a brief trip report of each of my 7 ½ days on the trail - with notes and totals from each day. I also did more detailed trip reports for the Cabot and the Pemi portions - if you have some more time to kill. And for the truly OCD, a fully detailed spreadsheet of the entire endeavor (including start times, trails, distances, splits, elevations, etc.) can be found HERE.

Also, photos from each of my trips can be found here: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3.

I had an awesome time running around in the woods this summer and I feel so blessed to have had a chance to do so! I learned quite a few things that I can use going forward as I continue to explore the wonderful world of endurance running, namely: Navigation, Pacing, Refueling and Recovery. But, most of all, I learned a lot about myself. A few of those things (48 to be exact) are shared HERE.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Summer of 48 - Complete

For easier viewing, click on the image, then right click and select "View Image". This will allow you to zoom in and read all the small print.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

48 Things

48 things learned while hiking New Hampshire’s 48 highest peaks:

  1. Don’t forget to look up every once in a while.
  2. Bring more water than you think you’ll need. Or …
  3. Bring a water filter. Unfortunately, I did neither.
  4. Don’t hike alone. It’s more fun with friends. Or …
  5. If you do hike alone, don’t tell your wife.
  6. Read the AMC guide. I didn’t because it scared me.
  7. I like single track. Well-pruned single track.
  8. I don’t like low, pointy, angry branches.
  9. I also don’t like clearing cobwebs with my face.
  10. Make a point of volunteering on a trail building crew.
  11. AMC Hut Croo are seriously awesome people.
  12. Views are great, but never guaranteed.
  13. Always have a Plan-B. And, a Plan-C. And …
  14. Never trust the local weather forecast.
  15. Ridgelines know no seasons.
  16. It never ALWAYS gets worse.
  17. Never underestimate the power of a hot shower.
  18. Or, the comfort of real food, for that matter.
  19. Know your animal scat. And …
  20. Keep yours at least 200 ft. from a water source.
  21. Don’t throw your pack across a river. It will break.
  22. Wait for a thunderstorm to pass before climbing.
  23. The mountain will always be there. Unlike you.
  24. No 4000 footer ever gives up her elevation easily.
  25. The best trail-ends are ones with cold rivers to sit in.
  26. Fear of missing a shuttle ride is a great motivator.
  27. Chaffing can ruin an otherwise great day.
  28. Bike shorts can be your best friend. Seriously.
  29. Keep your camera battery fully charged.
  30. Mount Clay (5333 ft) should be part of the 4k club.
  31. All mountains should come with fire towers.
  32. Able Crawford was a trail building genius.
  33. Hiking up out of notches is very hard work. And …
  34. Hiking down into notches can be quite terrifying.
  35. Mount Moosilauke is extremely underrated.
  36. Mount Washington is extremely overrated.
  37. Never turn your back on a mountain. It may bite.
  38. Wet rocks are vengeful rocks. In disguise.
  39. Don’t think too far ahead. You’ll fall on your behind.
  40. Leave bushwacking to the professionals.
  41. Tim Seaver is an absolute trail-running stud.
  42. It’s possible to be nauseous and hungry at the same time.
  43. It’s even possible to become sick of yourself.
  44. Be kind to your fellow hikers while out on the trail.
  45. It may hurt to walk but it doesn’t hurt to smile.
  46. Even the best solo hikers can’t do it all on their own.
  47. If something doesn’t scare you, it’s not worth doing.
  48. Plan the next trip now. True regret is the path not taken.

Happy Trails!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Wapack Attack

One of the better signs
In my seemingly never ending attempt to run nearly every trail in New Hampshire this summer, I headed over to New Ipswich, NH for the Wapack Trail Race. I had done this one twice before. In 2009 I got so dehydrated that I needed to sit down and “collect myself” in the closing miles of the race. I staggered across the line in 3 hours and 16 minutes. Last year, I ran it a little smarter (and lucked out with good weather) And I finished 3 minutes faster – over a longer course.  What would this year bring? In a word …    Misery.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Making Memories

As discussed previously HERE, once you become a parent, your life is no longer your own. And, even though this fact of life is widely accepted, it’s still sometimes hard to accept.  Parents try to hide it, run from it, or even gloss over it.  But, it’s still there, bubbling beneath the surface of our collective consciousness.  That is, until we take our kids on vacation. Then it’s front and center.  Like a slap in the face.  With a sledgehammer!

It used to be (in “once upon a time” time) that vacations were enjoyable and relaxing. A

tranquil time to get away from your troubles at home (or at work) and just recharge your batteries.  This is no longer the case.  Now, vacations are soul-sucking, brain-bending, heart-breaking feats of super-human strength that end up leaving you more tense and tired than when you began.  The reason for this sudden, but colossal, shift of fate?  Kids!

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my children. But there’s no denying that “vacations” are dead.  And my kids killed them!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Feeling Burnt

Over the course of the last 3 weeks I've been transitioning from "base" phase to "prep" phase in my Baystate Marathon training program. During that period I've also been having a very difficult time getting my legs to turn over. I've been feeling sluggish and completely out of sync - in short, "run down".

At first, I thought it was just the warmer "dog days of summer" weather and a recent inability to get an adequate amount of rest. However, after looking through my training log for the past 10 weeks, I think I may have discovered my problem. Overtraining!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mine Falls Summer Trail Series

For the past seven years I have been the race director of what was once a small trail race series held in Mine Falls Park (in Nashua). The Mine Falls Summer Trail Series is hosted by the Gate City Striders and is a shorter version of the 24-race trail series that Mike Amarello had put on as part of his Moose Milers Club.  When we took the race over we decided to add a 5m race to the existing 5k course to offer a bit of variety in terms of distance and terrain. At our first race in 2007, we had 42 runners. Which I thought was pretty good considering it was about double what Mike was getting every week during his tenure.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sweet Agony

Every runner knows that there’s a certain emotional ebb & flow associated with the  experience of running. Runners “Highs” and “Lows” are just part of the give & take nature of the beast. Whether it’s the supreme joy of suddenly (and effortlessly) running your daily 6 mile loop a minute faster than you’ve ever run it before, or the slow (but oh-so-sure) death of bonking hard halfway through your Sunday 12 miler, the peaks & valleys of a run are what we’ve grown to love (and also hate) about our sport. And never are these ups & downs more dramatic than when a “run” becomes a “race”.

Such was the case for me Before, During, AND After this year’s Bear Brook Trail Marathon.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Racing Mountains

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the mountains. I’ve been run/hiking the New Hampshire 4000 footers as part of my Summer of 48 - AND - I’ve been doing some racing as part of the Western Mass Athletic Club’s Grand TreeAnd, while these two endevours are somewhat related (lots of ups and downs) they really are two vastly different kinds of efforts.

Run/Hiking 25-30 miles in the span of 10 hours is all about endurance. You must make sure you stay well below the “red-line” in terms of pace if you want to have enough energy to make it all the way to the end. You’re pushing yourself, obviously! But if you’ve become used to spending that kind of time on your feet, it’s not too terribly tough to move at 2½ to 3 miles per hour.

Racing 7-14 miles in the span of 1-2 hours is a completely different animal. The biggest difference is that you have some company - fellow racers that you are trying like mad to beat to the finish line. Therefore, you are pretty much on the “red-line” for the entire event. Mountain racing isn’t done at the same breakneck speeds (at least for me) as road racing, but you’re still moving twice as fast (per hour) as run/hiking. The good news is, after 2 hours, it’s usually over.

The last three mountain races I’ve done are: The Greylock Half Marathon, The Blue Hills 12k and The Cranmore Hill Climb. Each one was very different from the next and each had VERY different results ...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Getting High

(With a Little Help from My Friends) 

This past weekend was Stage Two of my Summer of 48 hiking extravaganza. I was particularly excited (and nervous) about this 3-day trip because of its increased degree of difficulty over what I’d done on Stage One. This time around I would be “bagging” 22 of the 48 four thousand foot peaks (nearly half!) including ALL the higher summits along the Presidential Ridge. It would be quite an undertaking, to be sure, but I felt confident, based on my results last time out, that I could pull it off. Plus, I’d be spending one of the three days hiking with some friends. What could be better than that!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lost in the Woods

This past weekend I got lost while hiking Mount Cabot.  Not “dangerously” lost mind you, but lost none-the-less.  I had heard all about the poorly marked, off-limits, portion of trail on the Lancaster side of Mount Cabot due to a Forest Service dispute with a land-owner.  But, as part of a last minute schedule change, I moved Cabot from Part Two to Part One of my Summer of 48 hiking extravaganza and was therefore a little bit unprepared for the task at hand.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

YouTube Twenty

I  think one of the best things about living in the "internet age" is the instant access to all the great stuff that gets posted on YouTube.  From old Music Videos and TV Show Re-runs to  Inspirational Films and Embarrassing Home Movies, YouTube has it all!   I especially love finding some of the funny and original stuff that people put out there which eventually goes viral.  It's mostly unintentional, but almost always hysterical.   So, without further ado, here are my Top Twenty (for now) Funniest Internet Videos (with links)
sung to the tune of "My Favorite Things" - from the Sound of Music

Web-Caming  Seniors and Shark on a Roomba.
Baby Who's Laughing
and Dynamite Boom-ba
Dick in a Box that’s all tied up with strings.
These are my favorite internet things!

A Trip to the Dentist and Double Rainbow
and Star Wars  and Don’t Tase Me, Bro

Little Superstar
and a Scarlet who sings.
These are my favorite internet things!

I Like Turtles so Leave Britney Alone.
Grape Gal
and Ice Dude who fall on their own.
Silver white Whales that Explode into spring.
These are my favorite internet things!

When Charlie Bites, and Howard Dean Screams.
When I'm Driving Bad, I simply remember
My internet things and then I don't feel so saaaad!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer of 48

The great state of New Hampshire has 48 mountain peaks that are 4,000 feet high (or higher) and over the years I have climbed 36 of them.  Some, like Washington, I’ve done more than once. But, for one reason or another, there are 12 that I have missed altogether.  Some because they are pretty remote, such as: Cabot, Waumbek, Isolation and Owl’s Head.  And, some because they just weren’t on the way to wherever I was going, such as: Willey, Hale, Tecumseh and The Hancocks.  This summer I plan to rectify this situation.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mud World

It’s been over a week since I ran the Pineland Farms 25k Trail Race.  I don’t know why I’ve waited so long to write about it.  I guess it’s because there’s really not much to say.  It rained for the better part of the week leading up to the race, rendering the dirt and field trails barely passable on race day.  I had hoped to run well this year to “avenge” last years personal worst, but I ended up sliding all over the place, straining my calf (again), slowing down to stretch it out and even stopping to change shoes (mid-race) on the way to setting a brand-spanking NEW Pineland personal worst!

My splits were all over the place – as low as 21:47 (5k) and as high as 27:56 (also 5k). My finishing time was 2:04:30 which was a full 9 minutes slower than my Pineland best and nearly a minute slower than last year’s debacle.  It's been 3 years now that I've run this race, and I really like it a lot.  But, it's also been 3 straight years of getting slower, and that's no fun.  IF I run this race next year, I sure would like to stop that particular trend! But that's a big IF.  Right now, this 15.6 mile slip-n-slide race has left a bad taste in my mouth.  One that I'm hoping will be rinsed out by a nice, quick Hollis Fast 5k next week.  Oh well, at least the rain stopped (eventually) and the team won some beers!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Road Mode

For better (and worse) most of the training (and racing) that I’ve been doing over the past month or so has been slow and on the trails. At this point, I had hoped to be doing more speed work on the track and tempo runs on the road, but my on-again, off-again calf problem has slowed me down for the last four weeks. Anything faster than about 6 to 6 ½ minutes per mile and the calf/achilles immediately starts to tighten up and ache.

I got the calf worked on last week, however, and things improved enough for me to feel comfortable about giving track another go. “Slow and Rusty” would be the best way to describe my first full track workout of the season. But, thankfully, “Pain-Free” was also a key ingredient to the workout! So, if I’m lucky, I just may be past whatever it was that was holding me back.

Of course, any fears I might have had about messing up my lower-leg certainly didn’t keep me from attempting to run this month’s New Hampshire Grand Prix Race selection – The Bedford Rotary 12k. I’d have to look at the numbers, But, I’m pretty sure I’ve done this race more times than any other annual NH event. My first time was in 2000 and my last time was in 2012. I’ve run as fast at 45 minutes and as slow as 50. This time, I expected to be somewhere right in the middle. But, hopefully faster than the 49 I ran last year!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Surviving Seven Sisters

I was warned. This race is a monster! It’ll chew you up and spit you out! I’d read the humbling race reports. I’d heard about insane terrain. I’d poured over the ridiculous elevation profiles. I’d broken down all the heart-breaking splits. I’d seen the post-race photos – in all their gory detail. And, I'd read the Runners World article calling this the toughest up & down trail race in the country! Still, somehow, I was intrigued by this race and wanted to find out for myself what the 7 Sisters fuss was all about. And now, after running it for the first time, I can tell you that it definitely did not disappoint!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Eighteen and I like it!

Counting the two years I ran in High School, I've been running for 18 total years. During that time, I've also run 18 Half Marathons and 18 Marathons. Here's the breakdown:

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Cost of Freedom

Last week was school vacation here in New Hampshire, so my wife decided to take the week (and the kids) and drive up to Canada to visit her family. She left me with a sizable “honey-do” list but also with the freedom to spend the rest of my non-working, awake time however I saw fit. Last time this happened I nearly hiked myself to death - which I documented here, here & here. So, what would I do for an encore? Plenty!

Let's Play Two!
I’ve been biking a lot lately. So, on the First Sunday of Freedom (after the First Saturday of Basement Cleaning, naturally), I decided that I wanted to do a long bike ride. How long? A hundred miles sounded about right. So, that’s just what I did! I laid out a route from Nashua to the Ocean and back, packed the necessary supplies (disregarded the fact that I’d only biked 30 miles in a row so far this season) and then headed off to see what happened.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rollin on the Rivah

10 days ago I ran my very first Merrimack River 10m Trail Race. Given everything that’s happened since then, it seems like a lot longer than that!  But, I checked the calendar.  And, yup, it’s only been 10 days!  Anyway, I’ve wanted to run the “Rivah” for a while but it always seemed to conflict with another important race on my calendar - either Boston, or Red’s or Soup Kitchen.  This year, my schedule was clear so I headed down to Andover, MA for this 22 year old (Really?!?!) trail race.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

5 Days in April

  • April 19, 1993, a standoff in Waco, TX between the FBI and the Branch Davidian cult ended in the murder/suicide of 76 men, women and children.
  • April 19, 1995, a bomb blast at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK claimed the lives of 168 people including 19 children under the age of 6.
  • April 20, 1999, two students walked into a school in Columbine, CO and ruthlessly murdered 13 people (and injured 21 others) before killing themselves.
  • April 16, 2007, a senior at Virginia Tech, shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks, and then committed suicide.
  •  April 15, 2013, two separate bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon sent hundreds of people to the hospital and killed at least 3 including one 8-year old boy.
What do these 5 events have in common?  Other than the fact that they were cowardly acts on US soil that took the lives of many innocent people?  They all occurred within 5 days of each other in their respective years.  And either on, or about, Patriots Day.  Is this a coincidence?  Or, were the  perpetrators attempting to manufacture their own “Shot heard 'round the world”?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Answering the Call of the Wild

"Old longings nomadic lap, Chafing at custom's chain
Again from its brumal sleep, Wakens the ferine strain."
– John Myers O’Hara
Jack London's 1903 classic The Call of the Wild is a story of a courageous dog named Buck who is forced to fight for survival on the trail in the Alaskan wilderness. As Buck is ripped from his pampered surroundings and shipped north to be a sled dog in the last frontier, his primitive, wolf-like nature begins to emerge and he undertakes a mystic journey that transforms him into the legendary "Ghost Dog" of the Klondike. I can remember reading this tale as a child, but only now, after recently re-discovering it as an adult, can I truly appreciate the meaning behind Buck’s metamorphosis. It also got me thinking about why we runners are drawn to the sport we love and how we’ve all been changed by it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dirt Circuit

I love trail running! This is not news. I’ve written an ode to it here, photographed it here and dissected it here and painfully again here. So it should come as no surprise that I’m really looking forward to the rumored arrival of spring and the beginning of the “Dirt Circuit”!

We are blessed to live in New England and have a great many local trail races to choose from. Short, long or ultra. Rocky, rooty or grassy. Flat, hilly or mountainous. Dry, wet or Muddy Moose. Whatever conditions you like, you can find them nearby. And, many of these great, local trail races have been included in a number of great, local trail race series!

The granddaddy of all trail series is the Western Mass Athletic Club’s “Grand Tree”. The GT starts in April and doesn’t wrap up until November. During that 8 month stretch, the series hits 19 different locations with race distances ranging from 7 to 26.4 miles. You can run as many (or as few) races as you like and can accumulate points proportional to your pace as a percentage of the winner's pace. Your best six races determine your final standing for the series.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Half Meh-rathon


That’s the time that I ran at the New Bedford Half Marathon this past Sunday. It’s my fourth fastest Half Marathon (out of the 20, or so, I’ve done) since I began running them - back in 1999. And, it’s my fastest in 4 years, since I set my current PR on that course - back in 2009. But, I’m at a point in my running life where I’m not easily impressed by my “almost” successes. So, as a result, I’m left feeling a bit indifferent about this particular performance.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Group Love

I run at lunch and work in the middle of nowhere. So, needless to say, 90% of my workouts are done alone. And that’s fine. My schedule is my own. I leave when I want. Add detours where I choose and cut it short if things are going badly. No problem. That being said, the other 10% of my workouts are the true highlights of my training year!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Speed Weeks

In keeping with my “train fast to race fast” plan, over the last 4 weeks I have been doing a couple “up-tempo” training runs per week. During that time I have run an average of 52 miles per week which is down 10 mpw from this time last year. Less miles but more intensity. Here’s a quick summary on how things have gone:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Discomfort Zone

I have found, through a LOT of trial and error, the most effective racing strategy for me is: “Find a good, strong rhythm (that I think I can maintain) and just crank away”. This has worked well in the past from the 5k distance all the way up to the 50 miler. My comfort zone. It’s easy, it’s efficient and it makes figuring your splits really, really easy!
Entering the Discomfort Zone
Unfortunately, not all races are set up in a way where this type of racing is practical, or even possible. Such was the case this past weekend at the DH Jones 10m in Amherst, MA. This challenging 10 mile course is one of the most sadistic pieces of tortured tarmac I have ever had the displeasure of running on. I have done it three times now, and have yet to figure out how to beat it. I’m beginning to think it’s not even humanly possible!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tri Outs

Since the beginning of January I have been heading over to the Nashua YMCA a couple nights a week to do some swimming. Nothing crazy. Just an hour of easy free-style swimming as a nice way to get some low-impact, cardio work in on my easy/off run days. It’s also been a great way to burn additional calories at a time of day when I’m usually stuffing my face in front of the TV.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pop Quiz

If races are a true test of a runner’s fitness, then tempo runs are like a pop quiz. Nothing too taxing, just a quick check to make sure you’ve been keeping up and have a good grasp of the material.

If you are not familiar with what a Tempo Run is, it’s a run of varying length (usually between 20- 40 minutes) which is done at, or slightly above, the pace where lactate starts to build up in your muscles - leading to muscle fatigue. Generally, this pace equates to your 15k or Half Marathon race pace. It should feel “comfortably hard” for the full duration of the run, but not all out. Greg McMillan does a pretty good job of explaining it HERE.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Moderately Challenged

As stated HERE previously, I have some big plans for 2013 and January started off exactly as I’d scripted. Week 1 included a couple of nice snowshoe runs, a tempo run and an epic 9 mile run up (and back down) Pack Monadnock Mountain. Then God laughed - and all hell broke lose. I was sick for most for Week 2 (logging all of 12 miles) then messed up my calf when I foolishly tried to run a snowshoe race while severely dehydrated. Week 3 followed much like its predecessor, ie. hardly any running. And, as a result, I ended up with just one quality week of training - out of three! Certainly not the way you’d like to kick off what you hope to be a season of PR’s!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Harbor Light

This is a poem I wrote which is a shorter (and rhymier) companion piece to the story I posted HERE earlier this week. Enjoy!

Harbor Light
A captain stands strong in the face of the storm
His crew huddles low staying close to stay warm
The ship they called home is tossed in the fury
As the waves crash down the picture turns blurry

Three battered souls are thrown to the land
Their boat is destroyed and awash in the sand
Lost out at sea they’re alone and afraid
Unsure what to do with the plans they had made

They must build and move on the captain decides
He gathers the wreckage amid stifled cries
A skiff is what’s needed to cast off these chains
So he fashions a raft with all that remains

Push off from the shore leave the old world behind
Concerned with what new worlds they would find
For months they did drift in and out of the haze
Discouraged and tired in this fog-induced daze

A sound came to him as the sleeping crew stirred
It started out low and just barely heard
Then a flash in the night that cut through the mist
Like a new lovers lips just before they are kissed

The captain exclaimed and started to shout
His crew quickly turned the small craft about
A harbor light gleamed and showed them the way
To a safe haven where they were welcome to stay

Arriving on the shore he found a first mate
Who thought it was near to being too late
Two more soon were added - number six and five
A family at last they were awake and alive

Now when they travel they do so together
A vessel they sail no matter the weather
If the fog does roll in and they feel all alone
The harbor light’s there to lead them back home

 - Dedicated to my Wife

If you like this, I have a few more you can read HERE.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Making of a Dad


I write about running quite a bit in this space. But, running is only a small part of what makes me who I am. What I am mostly, is a Dad. I became a dad for the first time when my son Casey was born. I was 23 years old. Much too young to be married let alone a new father. But there I was, in 1992, with a new-born baby boy, a degree in Architecture and a job at a t-shirt factory. Not exactly how the “big plan” was supposed to turn out!

Those early days of parenthood were completely surreal. My wife and I were living with my newly-divorced mom, in the house I grew up in. Our baby’s nursery was a closet that I papered with Beatrix Potter wall prints and outfitted with new wood shelving for his teeny-tiny clothes and all those diapers. And now, this “little alien” with a misshapen head was looking to me, barely out of childhood myself, to care for him and guide him through this crazy, mixed-up world!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Suc-cess (suk ses’) n. Achievement of something intended or desired; attaining wealth, fame or prosperity. ~ Webster’s Pocket Dictionary

Success in running CAN be a very easy thing to measure. How fast did you run? Did you win? If so, how many times? Did you set a record or win a medal in the process? It’s simple. There’s a clock. There are winners and there are losers. It doesn’t require an interpretation to be made by a judge or a referee. It’s as black and white a sport as there is, with no gray area. Heck, at some races, there are even cameras at the finish line to ensure there is absolutely no question as to who won and who didn’t.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Looking Both Ways

Before I look ahead to what’s on tap for this year, let’s look back to see how I did on my Running Goals for 2012.

Training Goals:
1. Stay injury free for the duration of 2012.

Grade: PASS - Only one (brief) minor setback this year and the time off was fairly productive. Stayed healthy enough to achieve an all-time record high in mileage for the year at 3130!

2. Get my weight below 180 and keep it there for the year.
Grade: FAILGot to 180, but stayed there for only 2 weeks. Averaged in the 182 – 186 range for the majority of the year. Now I’m up to 188 again. Gotta do better in this area!

3. Add more cross training exercises to my workout routine.

Grade: PASS
Did some swimming, biking, trail running and even spent some time at the gym. Shocker!

4. Learn to swim. Not just treading water.
Grade: PASS - Took a class. Began slowly but really improved as I started to figure some things out. I really enjoyed it and even did an open-water swim!