Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Crazy Loves Company

As I previously wrote HERE, it’s great to have running friends who are just as nuts as you are. So when you decide to jump aboard the “crazy train”, you can probably get a few of them to come along for the ride!

Such was the case two weeks ago when a group of us did our annual “Pack Attack” -  an 18 mile run out-and-back along the first 9 miles of the Pack Monadnock Road RaceOver the course of the 9 mile run up to the base of Pack Monadnock Mountain, the back-country roads of Wilton and Temple, NH rise almost 1500 feet!  As a result, the run out is always a challenge, particularly the last 1 mile stretch where the average grade is close to 10%!  The return trip is much easier, but there are still a few sneaky little hills which can really zap your already tired legs.

When I put out the call for people to join me this year, the response was tremendous.  18 miles on snowy, slushy roads?  Sure.  1500 feet of elevation gain and loss?  OK.  2 extra bonus miles to avoid an un-plowed section of road near the reservoir?  No problem, as long as we still get breakfast!  We started doing this run in 2006 and have done it at least once a year ever since. The first year we ran it, we had 4 people.  This year, we had 26 come out and join in the now 20 Miles of Fun!

At the start, the conditions couldn’t have been more perfect - for early February anyway!  Temps in the single digits with clear blue skies and not a breath of wind.  We began by tackling Burns Hill Road, literally. Zig-zagging back and forth trying to find any kind of traction on this steep opening segment.  We quickly broke up into smaller groups based on pace and settled into a rhythm, churning up the miles beneath our feet and chatting away about races run and races yet to come.

Time passed quickly, as it always does in good company, and before long we made it to Old Revolutionary Road - where the real climbing begins!  After a couple of long steeps, it was on to Route 101, where the hills were joined by high winds blowing through the notch and the combination of the two nearly stopped us in our tracks.  Undeterred, we made it to the parking area at Miller State Park in 1:21 (8:06 pace) and quickly turned around and headed back down before we froze.

The return trip is always my favorite part of this run.  I get to let my nearly 200 pound body loose, and just fly back down the mountain.  The wind was now at our backs and the warming sun was in our faces.  Sheer running bliss!!!  The legs did get a bit tired as we neared the end and some of us were forced to crawl the last little hill back up to the school but we finished the return trip in 1:14 (7:24 pace) taking a full 7 minutes off our “out” time!  Nice!

In the end, only 13 of us made it ALL the way to the top.  The rest turned around at various points along the way.  But nearly everyone got together again afterwards for a hearty breakfast down in Milford at the Café on the Oval.  And nearly everyone had a comment (or two, or three) for me about how tough a run it was.  But, true to form, as we were limping out of the restaurant, our bellies full of post run goodness and our legs full of post-run soreness, all anyone could talk about was how they were looking forward to the NEXT time.  Crazy!  Right?

Therefore, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the following weekend, when I decided to create and run my own hometown marathon (instead of wasting a whole day (or two, if we stayed over) driving down to a 20 Mile Race that I was just going to run slowly) that I’d get 6 of my crazy friends to come along and join me.  26.2 miles?  Sure.  On sheer icy roads?  No problem.  Weaving amongst dumb-ass city drivers?  Bring ‘em on!

Ahh, these are my friends!  And, I couldn’t have chosen them any better!

The 26.2 Mile Course I laid out consisted of 4 loops that began and ended at my house in Nashua.  I tried to hit all the major, centrally-located, Gate City neighborhoods and never have to run the same road twice. Main Street, North End, French Hill, Crown Hill, Kinsley, Conant, Robinhood, Bicentennial, Tree Streets and Rivier. This course got them all!

I'm a big fan of multi-loop courses. They allow me to hydrate and re-fuel without carrying a bottle, or a lot of gels.  The first two loops were 8 miles each and the final two loops were 6 and 4.2 miles respectively.  I figured it was best (mentally and physically) to get the big miles out of the way early and just have the 10.2 miles left at the “half-way” point.

Unfortunately, the first 8 miles were almost the last 8 miles as we slipped and slidded all over the place.  I nearly wiped out twice and a few of my friends narrowly avoided sliding in front of (and under) an oncoming SUV.  Whew, that was close! Thankfully, the second 8 mile loop was much drier and easier to navigate and we safely completed the first 16 miles in an easy 2:08 (8:00 pace).

At that point, my friends wisely called it a day and I was on my own for the last 10.2.  I upped the pace a little bit for the 6 mile leg - completing it in 47:00 (7:50 pace) and again for the 4.2 mile leg - finishing it in 32:30 (7:44 pace) for a total time of 3:27:30 (7:55).  Not too shabby for what one of my friends called the “Miracle on Black Ice”.  I much prefer to call it the “Gate City Marathon” and I can’t wait to run it again someday!  Crazy?  Yup.

And, knowing my friends, I'll probably get a few of those "nut-jobs" to join me again that day too!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Greg. Some days I think I run just to have something to write about. Good luck with your training for Cayuga Trails!

  2. Thanks! Makes me feel better to know I "only" have to run half as far as you! Good luck with the 100 training!