Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pondering the Stone Cat, and 'Frozen Dessert' at Maudslay State Park

Six days to the Stone Cat Trail 50 Miler for me and as the saying goes, the hay is in the barn.

Actually, I think after running the TARC 50k a few weeks ago, that was when the hay was really baled and loaded into the loft, but following my run this past weekend, I feel a sense of completion, as well as the slight sense of promise, since I am basically on the way to the start line at the Doyon School in Ipswich next weekend for the first time in three attempts (note... this is my first attempt at the 50, the previous two years I intended to run the marathon edition of Stone Cat... or the JV race as the ultra runners call it.). 

I am comforted by good health and fresh legs.  I ventured out to Maudsley State Park in Newburyport yesterday and cranked out about 13.5 miles at a nice pace and felt strong enough at the end to really pick up the pace over the last 5 to 6 kilometers.  The conditions were also less than ideal, as the second I got out of the car for what I had hoped would be a nice easy two hours, the cold rain and wind from the approaching nor’easter stung my face.

All things considered, the weather was not too much of a factor.   I knew what I was getting myself into and planned accordingly, bringing a rain jacket and layering up.  I still got back to the car soaked and shivering, but that was mostly a product of the rain changing to snow at about an hour and fifteen minutes. 

I was also encouraged because Maudslay is a really unique place to run trails.  If I had to rate it on a scale of one to five regarding the technicality of the terrain, I’d give it about 2 ”rocks’n’roots”.  What makes Maudslay tougher is the amount of undulating terrain.  There are definitely flat sections, and some of the gradual descents can be really fun, fast scooting, but if you make sure you turn around and make these sections ascents as well, it all adds up when you spend a few hours in the park.  My Garmin said I got about 1,000 ft. or gain/loss over the duration of my run, which was a little surprising, but definitely encouraging.

Here are some of the scenes from Maudslay:

Maudslay State Park - Newburyport, MA

Vista looking west across the Merrimack River

Classic New England Autumn scene

Newburyport H.S. uses Maudsley as their home XC course...

Some rocks and roots, but pleasant sections of pine needles and WOOD CHIPS!

Tried taking a nice shot of the church across the river, but the rain changing to snow and the gusty wind from the Nor'easter was having none of that!
Basically all I can do now is prepare, pack, and mentally focus for Saturday.  I look at the training page I have hanging on my wall and I have doubts that I have collectively done too little, but I know that I have really focused on time on feet, and made sure that the limited amount of miles I have run are either quality speed training, or runs of multiple hours - where the focus is time on feet and mileage.  It certainly hasn't been the best training plan in the world, and is really about as minimalist as one should be doing for such a long race… maybe too little?  There are definitely things I should have done better – like dropping weight and doing more back-to-back long runs, but, as I alluded to above, I am healthy, and happy that I am not injured because I felt obligated to get some prescribed weekly mileage through junk miles.  This has always been a recipe for disaster for me since starting my life over as a runner.

The bottom line is that I will be there, and I can’t wait to see my trail running friends, AND I hope and pray that I share many of the 50 Stone Cat miles with them!

Next weekend will be yet another adventure into the crucible, where I try to find out what I am really made of.  It is also another opportunity to once again prove to myself that anything is possible.  I have also heard from those that have done it, that it is a distance that begins to change your outlook on life.  Not quite the same as 100 miles, but certainly one that reveals more than 50k.
As just a final thought, this morning I received a timely and needed boost from fellow ultra & trail runner, Brenda Morris.  I congratulated her on a great finish at today's Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. and I asked her how she felt about her race.  She replied, "I'm always happy with my runs, fast or slow I'm very fortunate to be able to run for those who are unable".

Saturday I definitely run to prove it to myself, but I also run because I can, and these last few months have been filled with reminders that we are never guaranteed anything in this life, and each day should be a moment to live!

Happy trails my friends!


pathfinder said...

great outlock Rob....I should spend more time counting my blessings rather than complaining about training...I supect you will do just fine at Stone Cat

Joe said...

Good Luck Buddy! As you increase the race distance your only goal in training is time on feet so you definitely go the right idea.

trailgrrl said...

you did amaze me..proud to run trails with you my friend...