Monday, July 21, 2008

"If a Runner Bonks in the Woods...." - TRILOGY PART 3

Essex County Greenbelt Trail Race - 10k

First off, the nuts and bolts of the race. The course was very well marked and the volunteers were out in force to make sure runners of varying states of conciousness were able to stay on course, which was great for the 10k runners as the heat seemed to really bear down on the double loop runners the second time around. Nice goodie bags to all of the pre-registered racers, which a cool frisbee (ultimate frisbee approved!) and a nice T-shirt. Porta-John's were in short supply though (ONE!), and where I am usually fairly flexible with some pre-race excretions and the locations, there are just some moments where you need the facilities. Yes, it was a smaller field of runners, but one.... yeah. The post race offerings were nice. The usual fare (Bananas and bagels), but there was chowder also. Too bad temps were in the mid 80's and adding to my core temp was not really something I was interested in doing. Results were posted quickly on the web later in the day - not that I was all that interested.... You'll understand.

So I was standing on the start line wondering why I let the morning spin off into some weird race day black hole of worrying about my internal plumbing and factors like the heat and humidity, instead of a race strategy. It seems like much because I am lacking speed, so why would I need to strategize about how I was getting from point A to point B somewhere in the middle of the pack, and why was a worrying about the heat, last time I checked everyone has to deal with the conditions and course.

The good news was that I was wearing my "Monty's" (Montrail Hardrock trail runners). I wasn't sure if bringing out the Monty's would be necessary for this event, as the race application advised that the footing was fairly even, which was a bit misleading. Aside from the sections of athletic fields and pasture, the trails were a bit more gnarly than expected. Maybe not "rock plate" worthy, but roots, rocks and mud were all present. I was also happy because I ran blister free for the first time since buying my Monty's.

I am not sure where my anxiety stems from, but this is the second time in a week of two races, where my anxiety has made pre race a living hell. But the only difference was that I had spent hours thinking about the Skyline last weekend. How it would almost certainly be a race of survival, so from the start it was a "slow and low is the way to go" situation. This race was more of a spare of the moment thing, I heard about it because EBSCO was a sponsor and I saw an ad from HR come through my email two weeks ago. So as the whistle blew the race to start, I was thinking, about how to approach the task at hand.

Essentially what happened was starting midpack, jostling for position on the single tracks, using more energy passing slower 5k runners at good passing sections, and paying close attention to not trip on obstacles or other people. The first lap (5k) was disasterous. I realized wearing a singlet wasn't a good idea, stopped and walked to take off the singlet and re-pin my number to my shorts, generally started feeling respiratory issues 2 miles in, and just felt like trash from the first two miles of trying to navigate the course and the other runners. The second lap was actually more fun because the 5k runners were out of the way, I had a chance to get some water and dump my singlet with my support team (hehehehe) and met some genuinely nice folks along the way, and was VERY content running with people and chatting than doing my best impression of a Green Line trolley speeding up and then slowing down and walking, and then SPEED UP, slow down, SPEED UP, slow down.... next stop, Government Center, change here for the BLUE line!

Going around the field I met one of my fellow Blue Hills runners from last weekend. I guess I wasn't the only one with thrashed quads! Evidently he had more juice left because he plodded along ahead of me, disappearing over a hill never to be seen again. I also met Dan, who also has an excellent blog on all things trail running (, which was excellent because I had previous read his blog, which has a great base of knowledge on running the trails at the Middlesex Fells, Breakheart Reservation, and Lynn Woods - all places I frequented while staying with my Mother-In-Law in Saugus. Dan and I chatted for a bit, but I thought I had more and took off. I managed to catch a couple other runners, and then totally bonked. Imitating the Green Line once again for the next mile. Though I was stop and go I starting to catch another runner, Marty, who as it turns out, had been someone I had been email to in my quest for trail knowledge of the Rowley-Ipswich-Topsfield area. Marty runs with Gil's Athletic Club, the club one joins when they have a passion for fun and running (not to mention those who are interested in finding fellow endurace junkies!). Marty and I chatted and plodded to the finish line, I felt like I had more at the end, and did pick it up the last quarter of a mile, but it was nice to finally meet some folks from Gil's.

Trail running is such an interesting take because it is almost welcome to talk with people as you go. Road running and races tend to be a bit more prissy in this right, and often times people get irritated when you try to chat as you run. I guess I can see why it would be annoying, but, my experience on the trails is that there is a bit of a genuine respect with REAL trail runners, i.e. guys like Dan and Marty. The two girls I passed on the second loop of the course were both young and first time trail racers, so when I asked to pass, and got that speechless "As If!" look, I didn't linger too much on it.

I am not sure what will be next. On the trails I will be looking at either the Wrentham Forest 20k Challenge in September, and perhaps, the Diamond Hill race in October. Ravenswood, Lynn Woods, and the last Woodland Race in Uxbridge are also options. I guess now I am looking at accomplishing the next goal, which is to run a marathon. I am under 200 pounds now, and have been handling 25-30 miles per week without injury, and I am at the point where I can go out and run for 60-70 minutes on any given day. The Bay State is 13 weeks away, and Cape Cod is 14 weeks, Stone Cat is also an option, and is a trail marathon.

Time to dream, decide, deliver, and dance!

Until next time, happy trails everyone!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Essex County Greenbelt Association Trail 10k

Very briefly - it was hot, it was humid and I wasn't very disciplined this week in my training. Thursday I went out and ran 8 miles on the roads at about 7:40 pace which is fast for me - great that I could do it, but stupid after Sunday's Quad thrashing. Then Friday I ran an "easy" twenty after work, sandwiched between work and a family obligation, which meant I was worried about time and stressed, which meant I ran WAY too fast on an easy day pre-race.

On the positive side, this training week included 5 days of running with one day in the gym working on upper body and core endurance/strength. I seem to be continuing to lose weight and am getting down towards 190, which turns the clock back to almost 2002/2003. I think in May 2002 I was 180, which means sometime between May of 2002 and May of 2003 I made it up to 190. If I can get to 180 this fall I would be SO happy! I wouldn't care where my running times were at.

I'll drop more on the race a little later, but with the time I have right now, I have reached the point where I have not signed up for any races - perhaps the next race is Labor Day weekend at the Wrentham Forest 20k, Run to the Rock Half Marathon back home in Plymouth, or Ollie in South Boston for the club. The thought now is to keep running, and perhaps start training in ernest for the Bay State Marathon, or the Cape Cod Marathon, or more simply, a Fall Marathon.

Placeholder Skyline Trail Race Report

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TRILOGY - PART TWO - "A 59th Place Winner: Skyline Trail Run 2008"

The race application states:

The Skyline Trail run is 7.2 miles with 1800 feet of climb on the Blue Hills Reservation North & South Skyline Trail and Bugbee Path. The trail is extremely rocky and steep and demands balance and agility. Expect views of Boston along with staircase steep climbs and tumbling rock down hills.

For those fool enough to be standing at the base of the Blue Hills Ski Area, the race director reminds the runners that this is perhaps one of the most dangerous and challenging trail races in New England. Additionally, encourages any runner that if at any time they decide that the race is not for them then they may quit, but must let a race official or volunteer know so that they know if they have to go looking for bodies along the course if racers don't return, which would be funny if he wasn't straight faced as he spoke the words.

I happened to be one of those fools standing there at quarter of eight. I was definitely prepared for the possibility of it being a truly blood and guts race, and when I saw the times of my old friend and training partner with Greater Boston Track Club back in 1999, Ben Nephew, who is now one of the regional trail studs, I knew the course was going to be a beast.

Before I launch into my race report, let me first say that I have been training on trails, running longer distances, did a 90 minute long run around Lynn Woods a few weeks prior, and had raced on trails with the Tri-Valley Front Runners, my current running club, at their Woodland Summer Series, but nothing can aptly prepare you for running the Skyline unless you train on the reservation, or are a veteran of the Escarpment or Seven Sisters Races.

I came to the race lightly considering myself a trail runner, but not a trail animal. Little did I know, this race would allow me to earn a few of those trail animal stripes.

I will compose the rest of this installment when the hours are back on my side.... I need sleep!

TRILOGY - PART ONE - "Trail runner starts racing in 2008... on the roads"

I returned to competition in 2007 where I slightly gained a bit of the trail racing bug due to Dean Karnazes' book Ultra Marathon Man. Granted, Dean's book is a revelation that places sedentary runner into the wonderland of Ultra Running. Dean's story is remarkable and I highly recommend the book, but his ascent into the world of Ultra Running is very quick compared to some of us with endurance event aspirations. At this point I was battling nagging injuries and still convincing my body back into calories burning mode. I was still stuck in 200-210 lbs. land, great that I lost 25 pounds in about a year of walking and running, but the real treat was feeling like I was ready to run a 5k. As it turned out, I ran two road 5k's, three 5 mile trail races, and a Thanksgiving Day road 5 miler. The hurt of running 5k's and 5 milers that once were flowing and effortless were hard, but extremely valuable lessons. All things considered, though, I wanted to go farther, Marathon and beyond, but how do I get back there?

Quite simply, the answer was to keep running.

The winter was filled with dreams of running all of the New England Grand Prix Races in 2008, but unemployment and injury and really poor winter weather had adverse effects on my trauning. Then on a cold January morning I decided to run 13.1 miles on a whim, and really destroyed myself. It was mentally and physically draining, but it really destroyed my aspirations. Two months of nursing injuries and figuring out how to take the next step in my weight loss goals, I began training again.

Fast forward - 15 pounds lighter and a healthy dose of injury-free running, I decided to race for the first time this year, which I had no intention of doing, but while sitting in the orientation of my new job the HR rep told us of the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge 3.5m run.

Morgan-Chase Corp. Challenge - Boston, MA - 3 miles

I am not going to say that this was a bad event, because what could beat running with thousands of other runners through the streets of Boston? It had always been one of my dreams to race in Boston along the roads, I had always imagined this would be the latter end of a 26.2 mile trek from Hopkinton, but the opportunity to do so with new people from work who also run was nice too.

The unfortunate part was that going into it I was sure it was going to be an event and not a race. Sure, there were the usual New England speed burners that work for other participating companies, but for the most part it is attempting to run and not eat pavement along Comm Ave because other people have absolutely no idea what a mile pace is.

Got clipped once toward the end, but nothing serious like the poor woman who did get clipped and dropped face first into the road, and in a crowd. Feeling so much more wasted because of the jostling and jockeying for position to get by slower runners, while being conscious of not hurting anyone in the process, I was happy to just have survived the circus. As a trend with this race, and the second part of this opening race trilogy, time was not something overtly concerning at this point. I was hoping to have some sort of benchmark to compare my fitness this year with last year, but this was no setting to really analyze such things.

Cool as far as events go, but don't count on running PRs, and running to race another day is really the theme.

For this trail runner, it was a cool thing to experience, but I felt the call of the wild following the finish of this fiasco!

Enter the sequel! Here's a teaser, it is a complete 180 degree turn from the above.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Every endeavour has a starting point, or, in this case, a start line. My start line of choice happens to be a lime line across a gravel road or forest trail.

This blog is basically dedicated to the adventures of a runner who once was a speed baron, nothing All-American caliber, but alpha-dog of the XC team, 4:40 miler, and copious miles of weekly training miles. Then life happened and I gained a wife, two kids, and close to 75 pounds. Speed baron no more, I looked for the lifestyle changes that would get me back into shape where I could be able to enjoy running again. Two and a half years of walking and eventually running have got me back to modest weekly mileage and the ability to train for more than just 5ks. My 5k time has taken a significant drop, but with the loss of speed, I have found a new appreciation for the middle and back of the pack. I have also gained a new appreciation for the sport of running, and the basic satisfaction of setting and realizing goals.

So here we are on the line, in these races there is no gun, there might be an airhorn, but mostly you'll find a weathered Race Director who will let you know that he started the timer and you should probably start running.

Shall we?