Sunday, November 25, 2012

11/25/12: Turkey Trotting

We kicked off Thanksgiving this year with the Flemington Turkey Trot 5K.  Jen and Dad both ran this year, and Steve continued our semi-tradition and joined us as well.

This race has continued to grow over the years and ballooned the 4200 finishers this year.  The start line is like a carnival.  A crew showed up wearing lederhosen drinking beer out of giant steins.  A guy wore nothing but a speedo and some chest paint (it was about 35 degrees).  Gangnam style was blaring.  At the last minute Steve showed up.  The start line was jam packIed, but he hulked his way into the front so we could catch up a bit before the race started.

I planned to try very hard to go sub-18.  It was a stretch given my fitness, but I figured it was a good goal.  Everything went as I had hoped, and I ran 17:55 for my second fastest 5K ever  (the fastest was 17:48 at this same race 2 years ago). 

The first mile was 5:35, which was spot on.  Mile 2 was slightly slower than I hoped at 5:52, but it also is mostly uphill.   I was in a lot of pain by the end of mile 2, but I knew sub 18 was reachable, so I dug in and pushed on.  I was pleased to hold pace with a 5:53 last mile.

Everyone else had good runs, too.  Dad is just now coming off his injury and has not yet been able to do much speed work, but he still ran a nice 23:19 for 6th in his age group.  Steve was a little behind that and apparently had an excellent time run with turkey costume guy.  Jen again showed how easy it is for her to break 30 minutes despite having to walk a bunch of the beginning with the huge crowds. 

It was a great way to kick off the holiday, and I am glad the semi tradition lives on.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

11/17/12: Western States? MMT 100?

I have been pondering what races I would like to do next year.  Life is certainly full of difficult choices, and my thinking has been all over the map.

Since Ice Age 50 and the Mason Dixon Longest Day 100K, I have not done any ultras or much serious trail running.  I of course did lots of amazing hiking in some of the world's most beautiful mountains this summer, but my running has mostly been shorter and road focused.

Part of me wants to switch gears now and buckle down to whip myself into shape for a tough 100 mile run in mountains.  But there is also a big part of me that has enjoyed the speedier running.  It was an incredible feeling to "comfortably" go sub-3 at Marine Corp Marathon, and that left me hungry to take another crack at a PR or sub 2:50.  I have also been running more and  more of my track workouts and fast runs with co-workers and / or neighbors.  These types of runs are so much better with good company, and I would love to keep up the workouts with these fun people.

So what should I do?  I need to decide ASAP, as all of the races I am considering are lotteries or fill up quickly.  I have decided to take it out of my hands and leave it to chance.  Time to roll the dice!

Today I put my name in for the Western States 100 lottery.  The Big Dance.  I almost certainly will not make it past the lottery.  I figure my odds are 5-10% or maybe worse.  But if I somehow have my name drawn out of the hat, I will toe the line in Squaw Valley and see for myself what all of the fuss is about.

On December 1st I will also throw my name in for MMT 100.  Held out in Virginia's Massanutten Mountains, it is my home course and generally regarded as the toughest 100 in the east (though the Grindstone 100 now vies for the title).  100+ miles, 18K feet of climbing, and more rocks than you possibly imagine.  I have run numerous 25-45 mile training runs out there on parts of the course, but I have never been brave enough to put my name in the hat for this one.  It is about time.

Odds are slightly better to get into MMT, but the most likely outcome is that I will not make it into either.  If that happens, I will focus my sights on somewhat shorter races.  I will likely go for a fast marathon early spring (maybe the Rock N Roll Marathon in DC in March) and a later spring 50 (maybe head back to the North Face 50 for redemption).

I at least kind of have a plan now, and it is actually fun to have it be a surprise based on the lottery outcomes.  Whatever happens, I will be excited about the races I end up running.  For now though I will keep on training and wait to see where the chips fall!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

11/3/12: Dolomites Day 5

I planned on running the Potomac Heritage 50K for the 4th time this morning, but I bagged it last minute.  I ended up running the  Marine Corp Marathon  harder than I had expected.  Recovery has been great, and I did a bunch of easy runs this week, but it would be foolish to go out there and run a 50K 6 days days after running a 2:58 marathon. 

I really love this local race and am sad to miss it, but I am still looking for to the MGM 50K in December and some serious Turkey Trotting later this month.   Since I did not run at all today, I also had time to post more Dolomite pictures.  Hooray! 

Day 5 in the Dolomites was seriously eventful.  Highlights included:
  • Jen's birthday!
  • Covering two full stages
  • A sweet chair lift ride
  • Getting stuck up high on the mountain above treeline during an insane storm with lightning and torrential downpours
  • Beautiful high alpine lake
We started off by hiking past the Pelmo and then into some dense forest.  Thanks to our guidebook being about as easy to read as old school VCR instruction manuals, we did not realize that we were supposed to take a diversion from the true Alta Via trail.  This would have been a shortcut and would also have kept us up at a steady 2,000M.

Instead we plunged down over 500M in the other direction and popped out at the base of a ski area.  We had a brief lunch / snack at the lodge and then started doing some serious thinking.  We had been getting increasingly concerned about the length of the last day of hiking and how late we would get into Venice.  We decided to make this a big day and cover two full stages to leave only about 2 hours for the final day.  Given the huge amount of terrain we had to cover and the unintended detour, I was uncharacteristically enthusiastic about taking the easy way and riding the chair lift to skip over 300M of climbing.

On the way up a light rain started.  Luckily we had waterproof jackets and rainflys for our packs.  Look at us being so prepared!  Fortunately there was still tons of climbing left after the chair lift as we went up to about 2,400M.

Rifugio Coldai was at the top of the climb.  It had a fantastic view and was where we had planned to spend the night.  It was close to 1pm and we planned to do another entire stage of hiking, so we blew right by the Rifugio and motored along.

Shortly after the Rifugio we hit a beautiful alpine lake.  The weather was turning sour again, and we had to bust out the rain jackets and make our way into the cold, wet wind.  We could not even see the lake at all since we couldn't see more than a few feet in front of our faces.  But as we looped around the lake, everything miraculously cleared up!  We were treated to some most excellent views and stopped for a sandwich and some pictures.  Ahh, good times. 

Right after we left the lake, things got real.  Very real.  We literally saw the front coming in and the storm just erupted.  We were way above tree line, and there was lots of lightning.  Not good.  We hit a fork in the road, and there was a route that continued on high ground and one that descended steeply down.  We couldn't see anything and did not know what way was actually right, but we knew we had to get off the mountain with all of the lightning. 

We headed down the mountain, and Jen ... was ... flying.  It was all I could do to keep up!  She damn sure was not about to get hit by lightning on her birthday, and she was hauling ass towards safety.  The lightning died down, and it just absolutely poured.  We might as well have jumped into the lake.  I was trying to take everything important (e.g. our maps) and stuff it in the pockets inside my waterproof jacket to protect things as much as possible.

Just as soon as it started, the downpour stopped.  There were huge white cliffs to our left, and it was amazing to see these waterfall rivers run down the mountain after the rain stopped.  Pretty soon it was back to beautiful blue sky, and we started working to get everything dry.

With wet clothes and gear hanging all over our packs, we pushed on along.  This next section was really beautiful with towering white cliffs, lush green cow pastures, and great views in the distance.  Other than a few close encounters with some large bulls, the rest of the trip was uneventful.

As we made our way towards the Rifugio, we came to a clearing with the most stunning views of the south side of Civetta D'Ampezzo.  Luckily we had this same amazing view from Rifugio Vazzoler for Jen's Birthday.  We made it there around 4:30 and some nice time to relax, dry out, and celebrate Jen's birthday.  I had stashed a Twix bar that I picked up several days before, which made for quite the b-day present.

The mountain left of center in the distance is the Civetta.  We would end up on the other side of this mountain formation at the end of the day.

Our trusty Rifugio Citta di Fiume

Jen and the Civetta

Getting ready to go cover tons of ground.  Sleeves optional.

The mountain formations way in the distance are where we came from the day before

Descending down into the forest

Chair lift up from 1,500M.  It had just started to rain.
At the top of the chair lift but with plenty of climbing waiting for us in the background.  We would basically go right up and over the mountain.

Up, up, up!

Looking down at the top of the chair lift

Getting close to Rifugio Coldai. One more big climb.

The weather cleared up for just long enough to get some great pictures!  This is Lake Coldai.

We climbed over the pass in the top right and circled around the lake

What to do when hanging around an alpine lake?  Eat a sandwich.

This was after the monster storm.  Just a little bit wet.  We came from the pass up in the top left and moved REAL fast coming down the mountain.

Very wet.  Very sad.

It cleared up quickly, and pretty soon we realized we were in a beautiful spot flanked by the high white cliffs.

Looking out over our route for the next day

Starting to climb down to our Rifugio

Wow.  Hard to believe we were stuck in torrential rain 30 minutes earlier.

I think I want to move in with these cows

The mountains were just the amazing bright white

View as we came up to the Rifugio.  This is the back side of the Civetta.

Good lord

Do you see that?!

Next morning we will climb down through the pass to a bus station

Happy b-day Jen!

Rifugio Vazzoler

View from our dinner table of the Civetta

Exactly what you need after tons of hiking and a big storm