The endurance sasquatch in me has been quietly moving. Though I haven't been doing anything too spectacular, I have managed to maintain a little endurance, have successfully managed to run at least a half marathon distance or greater each month in 2010, and this past Sunday I rode 'Ugly Betty' my new 'do-it-all' bicycle nearly 65 miles over 4 hours, which was pretty darn amazing since the longest ride of my life was about 23 miles back in 1996. I have to say the cycling has been an awesome addition. It allows me to get out of the house a bit more often during the week, and, as evidenced during the Sunday ride, it is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to getting at the heart of why I am a trail runner in the first place - adventure and exploration.
(Ugly Betty Chillaxin' as I take a few pictures..)
As I rode I would make it out to one point of interest and feel good and would think: "Maybe I'll go a little further". For some reason I feel like cycling isn't as damaging as running has been lately on my body, and I have been faced with the desire to go long, but the inability to do so with my hip and IT issues. Thankfully I can run about a half marathon without too much carnage the next day, so I am extremely thankful for that, but in a lot of ways I look at cycling and think to myself, "I could do a century ride...". The plot thickens!
So on to the race report...
This is the second time I have participated in the 'Run for the Hills' 10k held at the Pingree School in Hamilton, MA. It is a 5k loop course on the trails and athletic fields of the school, and for those of us that decided to run the 10k, that meant one loop to experience the course, and then a second to try to survive it again.
As usual it was a great crowd, really low key. This year the race serves as the second event in the inaugural North Shore Trail Series. It was a little lonely for me, though, as this weekend is the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run, and nearly all of the members of the Ultra Gang are headed to the Green Mountain State to run, pace or crew. The same runs true for many of the G.A.C. regulars, and the Wicked Running Club was putting on their 'Kidz Races' at the same time, so there were only a scattering of familiar jerseys and trail racers.
Overall, Pat (38:05) and Heather Rich (49:19) continue to defend their 'Fittest Couple in Essex County' title, as both won their respective races, and I imagine they'll continue to dominate throughout the other NSTS races!
As for my experience, well the good news is that I can honestly say that over the last two years my fitness has improved. I finished 33rd overall in 54:53, which improves upon the 57:36 from 2008. One thing that hasn't changed is my complete and utter lack of performance in the heat and humidity. I also noticed my Garmin was up around 6.5 for the race, so I think my pace was just under 8:30/mile as opposed to hovering near 9:00/mile, but serious, we are splitting hairs here!
As far as gear goes, I decided to bring along the fuel belt with a couple flasks of water since I knew I'd need it in the nearly 80 degree temperature, and where I was leaning toward the Inov8's, I decided the course was okay for the New Balance MT100s. The MT's turned out to be a good choice, as they continue to be super responsive. I really like the Inov8's (Terroc 345 GTX), but where the NB's don't have all that much protection, and I really mashed my right big toe during the race, the Inov8's still have that feeling of clunky, 'moose-charging-through-the-woods', responsiveness when it comes to rocks, roots and debris. At least with the MT100s I feel nimble enough to place my foot wherever it has to be in order to get through technical sections.
I got out fairly quick, and where the race bottlenecks, when the wide athletic field grass yields to a bridge and narrow trailhead, I was in great shape and didn't lose any time. I felt like I was going slightly faster than I had hoped and dialed it back a little. I wasn't aware of it, but I came through the first mile in 7:40, which was fine considering my high hope was to average around 8:00/mile pace.
At about 1.5 miles my legs just seemed to crap out on me. I had no life in them at all, and around two miles I clipped a rock and did a face plant into the trail. Fortunately it was a good fall, nothing completely physically broken, but mentally it ruined me. I had to throw in a few walking breaks, which was really demoralizing since it happened on the FIRST loop, but I was soaked with sweat by about 2.5 miles on account of the humidity and heat.
At the Start/Finish area I saw Jen and the kids and ripped off my shirt and fuel belt and headed back out for loop two. I dialed the pace back a little and tried to build a little more mental toughness. I think the second loop was a little more controlled and I only had a couple moments where I had to stop and walk. The second loop certainly felt like it went by faster, as I wasn't work as hard as I did on the first loop, but I have to say that the first mile and a half of the course is a bit of a roller coaster, and does a great job testing the runners early and often.
I thought I had more, but the heat and humidity was brutal for me. Nevertheless, it has been over a month between trail races and I just feel like it has been far too long, so in many ways I was happy to get out there on the trail, even if it wasn't a stellar performance.
A few final thoughts on Pingree... I am not sure if it is the course or the heat or a combination of both, but it is a really tough course. I will call it the Pingree Power Plant, because twice now I have done the race, and twice I have felt like all my energy and mental toughness is drained in the first 5k, and the second loop I just spin my wheels because I am clearly spent. I say this all as a compliment, because if you want easy, stay on the track or roads. Pingree offers a really nice mix of trails. One minute you are cruising on some nicely groomed single track, and then the next minute you are negotiating a serious stretch of roots and rocks. Where the first NSTS race, the Kupenda 5k, is a little more friendly to those coming over from the roads, the Pingree trails really show what can be expected when one signs up for a trail race.
Up next for me is probably the 3rd event in the NSTS, the Beverly Commons 8 Miler. I know nothing about this race or the trails it is run on, so I'll have another mental challenge with which to deal. I may do a couple road events before Beverly Commons, and with all the cycling I have been doing lately I am seriously considering a Fall century ride or sprint triathlon strategically placed early in September to provide ample time to stay healthy and trained for my end of the Fall marathon double.
Until next time, Happy Trails!