Sunday, December 28, 2014

12/28/14: Boyer's Furnace 40 Race Report

Sometimes you eat the trail; sometime the trail eats you.  Last year I had a great run at Boyer’s Furnace and won it in 7:40.  This year I was chewed up and spit out, and I struggled mightily to finish in 8:56.

Somehow my hydration bladder leaked all over my pack during the night, so I had a bit of a disaster to deal with in the morning and got to the start line late.  The runners were already off, so I hustled to catch up to my usual running crew and eventually made my way to the front of the pack.   I made quick work up the 1,000 foot climb to Woodstock tower, averaging just under 9:00.  The next 8 miles on the MMT orange trail up on the ridge went well, and I got to Edinburg Gap at mile 11.8 in 2:07, about four or five minutes ahead of last year.

On the next 9.5 mile road stretch things started going south.  Last year I ran impossibly fast on this section and seem do have averaged well under 8:00s.  I don’t really remember running this stretch fast, but I guess it had something to do with running it with a 19 year old.  Ah, young legs.  This year I was still moving well, but my stomach was not cooperating.  I threw up a bit at mile 19, but it unfortunately didn’t seem to help.

I rolled into mile 21 at 3:43 elapsed thinking I was going to drop, which sadly would ruin my no-DNF year.  But there is no rush when you are out in the mountains, so I sat down and relaxed for a bit.  After some soup and PB&J I was feeling better but still wasn’t great.  If I left this aid station, I would be committed to another long, tough 21 miles with most of it up on the ridge.  It was also a long, long 12 mile stretch until the next aid station.  But stupid is as stupid does, so I grabbed some food, left the aid station, and started hiking. 

I managed to keep hauling myself along the trail over the next 12 miles at a somewhat respectable pace.  The views over to the Shenandoahs were great, and the weather was as good as it gets with temps in the low 50s.  I managed to run out of water and Coke more than an hour from the next aid station.  Woops.  I had some Perpetuem in my front bottles, though it wasn’t really agreeing with me and I suspected it might have been the culprit upsetting my stomach.  But I was just too thirsty and drank it anyway.

The Milford Gap aid station appeared like a mirage, and I was tremendously thankful that they hiked everything up to the trail.  What service!  I spent some time gathering myself together here with soup, Coke, and Ginger ale.  Reluctantly I dragged myself out for the last 8.5 mile stretch and was somewhat revived for the next 3 miles or so.

But sadly it didn’t last, and I threw up again about four miles from the finish.  I felt much better for the first 2 miles after that but then had a tough slog for the last 2.  Let’s just say I was super happy to finish and just sit down for a while.

It was not exactly my best day out in the mountains, but I still had quite a few fun stretches and was pleased to keep it together more or less.  I still haven’t fully cracked this stomach issue and maybe I never will, but at least I was keep to keep on moving and get it done!

Beautiful sunrise over the mountains 

First glimpse of the Shenandoahs from the far ridge in the first half of the course 

We were treated to awesome views of the Shenandoahs for 15 miles up on the ridge 

That is one sad, tired dude coming into the Milford Gap aid station at mile 33 

Must find food I can stomach ...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

12/14/14: A Few Grindstone Pics

Training has been going decently well.  I ran 70 miles last week with a bit of speed / incline worked in (though not as much as I'll need to start doing).  I'm looking forward to the Boyer's Furnace 40 miler and hope I am in good enough shape to get through it well and have a good time out there.

The Grindstone 100 site just posted a bunch of race pics.  The first one below reminded how damn tough this race was and how worked over I was at the end.  The second one made me want to go out and run another 100 tomorrow.  Ok well maybe that wouldn't be a great idea, but it at least made me want to go back to Grindstone.  The feeling of finishing 100 miles is certainly something special.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12/10/14: Who Needs Western States?

Apparently it is more likely to get struck by lightning than win the Western States lottery.  My name was not one of the lucky few, and my odds ended up being less than 5% despite the change making it much tougher to qualify.  Oh well, who needs Western States anyway?

I am cooking up some even better plans for next year, and all I can promise for now is another crazy race in the Alps.  While the Sardona Ultra nearly ended me, I am still hungry for more!  I am also hoping to run a race somewhere with Dylan.  He’s got his own crazy plans at this point, so we’ll just have to see what happens.

In the meantime I am trying to keep the base mileage up and start injecting more quality runs.  I’ve been getting back at my 15% treadmill incline runs and am going to make an effort at dragging my slow self to the track. 

Working around the family schedule has also been resulting in some good “character-building runs.”  Last Saturday I skipped lunch so I could overlap with nap time and ran almost 3 hours on tired legs in pouring 40 something degree rain.  Given the tough realities of racing in Switzerland, this is probably the best training I could possibly be doing for a tough European mountain race.

By the way, I highly recommend Trader Joe’s Reserve Ale to warm you up after some cold winter training!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

11/30/14: Training Across the Country

This was an epic and fun week of running.  I ran in DC, the Shenandoahs, and the Marin Headlands out in San Fran.  I ran under the stars well before dawn in the Headlands, did “speedwork” with a Turkey Trot 5K, and trudged through a foot of snow up on the Appalachian Trail.  I covered about 91 miles and felt surprising good throughout the week.

·         Saturday: 20 mile trail run in DC.  I felt good on this run and moved along relatively quickly on some of my favorite DC trails (Potomac Heritage, Battery Kemble, Glover Archbald).  Unfortunately I took a big spill 5 miles in and seriously wrenched my thumb.  I was worried it might be broken, but a week later it feels much better, so I’m sure it will be fine.

·         Sunday: Easy 8 miles before flying out to San Fran.

·         Monday: 13 miles in the Marin Headlands.  I worked the time change in my favor and woke up at 4:45am and drove to the nearest trailhead.  It was a beautiful night with more stars than I expected to see close to the city.  After a little over an hour of nice, hilly running I was treated to a beautiful sunrise over the East Bay.  Nothing like getting 13 miles in on sweet trail before 7:15am.

Sunrise over the East Bay

You can see the city of San Fran in the distance just to the left of center

·         Tuesday: 9 miles on trails.  Woke up early again and did a 5 mile loop up and over the local hill by Danny and Rachel (I was lucky enough to stay with them while I was there).  I picked up Danny back at their house and had the pleasure of another 4 miles with the big man.

·         Wednesday: 8 miles easy.

·         Thursday: 8.5 miles with 5K in 18:20.  With all of the hilly miles this week, a cross country flight, and having not run a single sub 6 minute mile since May (very sad, but true … I checked my training log), I was not really expecting much.  But I felt pretty solid and managed to average 5:55 (5:57, 5:57, 5:52).  The family also came out to this one, which was tons of fun.  Liam even walked over the finish line after getting pushed in his stroller by Grandma and then me for a bit after I had finished.

·         Friday:  24.5 miles in the Shenandoahs.  VHTRC has an annual Black Friday tradition of a tough but beautiful loop that starts and finishes at Old Rag.  This sounded like a way better idea than shopping, so I was excited to join in the fun for the first time.  The remnants of Tuesday’s storm made themselves felt at the higher elevations.  Old Rag is a notoriously rocky / technical mountain, and it was quite tricky with all of the rocks covered in ice and snow.  It took us over 2 hours to go a bit over 5 miles, so that gives you a sense of what we were working with.  I wanted to get home by 3 to spend time with the family, so I figured I needed to start hauling if I want to make it home before the next day.  I motored down the fireroad to the Whiteoak Canyon trailhead and then started up the 3,000 foot climb.  I made quick work of Whiteoak Canyon and then slower progress up the very snowy fireroad to Skyline Drive.  I bailed on the Hawksbill Summit to try to make faster progress and turned onto the Appalachian Trail.  Well this side of the mountain was much more snowy, and I had the honor to be breaking fresh tracks in about a foot of snow.  I was making very slow progress, my phone literally froze (apparently it stops working in sustained cold temperatures), and I was not dressed for this level of adventure (especially in the sock department).  I turned off to trudge back up to Skyline Drive and ran on the road for 1.5 miles to Skyland Ranch.  I met up with the VHTRC crew who were smart enough not to do the Old Rag Summit and chatted a bit while warming up and bossing some BBQ chips.  But soon it was time to get back out and get home, and I bombed down about  7 miles of snowy  and fun trail.  All in all a great day in the mountains, and the legs held up decently well given the 5K the day before.

You can see the Old Rag Summit in the distance just to the right and above center.  It was lit up in early morning light shining off the snow. 

Just a bit of snow at the higher elevations! 

Getting closer the the summit 

Old Rag "trail" 

Very nice views from up top 

You can barely see it in the distance in this shot, but at the highest elevations the mountains were just caked in snow 

Somehow we need to get up there 

Old Rag is never an easy climb.  With ice and snow it was even more fun.

Hanging out up top in a snowy paradise 

Some sweet single track trail with just the right amount of snow 

Whiteoak Canyon Falls in the snow 

Top of the falls 

More nice trail, but the snow was getting thicker 

Breaking trail on the AT.  The branches were also heavy with snow and drooping down to the ground.  I am crouching to get this shot. 

 Views like this make it all well worth it.  The peak in the middle is Old Rag.

Skyline Drive at its most beautiful

Sunday, November 16, 2014

11/16/14: Running Through Australia

Last week I was in Australia for five days for work.  It was a crazy, exhausting week with back to back meetings, so I didn’t have too much time outside of work.  But with the time difference I was up early each day (between 4 and 6am), so I used the early morning to lace up the shoes and do some exploring.

I landed on Tuesday morning and spent time exploring Sydney on foot Tuesday afternoon and early Wednesday morning.  On Tuesday I covered 10 miles running through the Royal Gardens, near the Opera House, and then out and back along the coast towards the east. 

Wednesday morning I went up to the Harbour Bridge, crossed over to North Sydney, ran around there a bit, and came back over.   Both runs were excellent, and the late spring time weather was quite nice.  I truly love exploring a new city on foot, and there is nothing like it to see lots of the sights and really get a feel for the city. 

Wednesday I flew over to Melbourne for meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.  I had an unusually longer block of free time on Thursday morning, so I spent a bit more time and managed to cover about 13 miles.  I did a lot of running up and down the river and did a couple of laps around the Royal Gardens as well.  While it was cloudy in Sydney, it was a bluebird day in Melbourne, and I was treated to a beautiful sunrise. 

I was amazed at how fit people in Australia are.  I was out there bright and early around 5 or 6am every day, and the Aussies were out in force and were running, swimming, and rowing.  I have also never run anywhere on earth where more people were passing me while I ran.  I wasn’t exactly doing a workout, but I was easily running 7:30s or 7:45s, and I was getting dusted left and right.  It was great!  Love seeing such active people hammering it in a beautiful place.

On Saturday my flight out was at 3:25pm, which meant I had the whole morning to get into trouble.  There was a national park far out on the northeast side of the Harbour, and I am always a sucker for a good national park.  You could take a 30 minute ferry out there and back, but where is the adventure in that?  Between my running the previous days and a bit of research, I cooked up a plan.  I figured I could string together three different long walks.  Two of them seemed like decently well-traveled routes and one seemed like something that basically no one would ever do (Harbour Bridge to Spit Bridge).  All told it looked like it would be about 13 hours worth of hiking.  The plan was to navigate this tricky 22ish mile route in the morning, catch the ferry back from Manly, clean up at my hotel, and then catch my flight. After breakfast at the hotel I set out at 7am with a water bottle, a credit card, and one gel.  What could go wrong?

Well I had a glorious time!  I love the simplicity of just traveling from one place to another on foot and taking in the sights along the way.  Navigating was a bit tricky, but I more or less just tried to hug the coastline (which did make for a longer route), and used my phone as needed for the tricky parts.  I found some beautiful hidden gems that I suspect few tourists see such as the Cree, the trails through the National Park, etc.

The route was filled with exotic and aromatic springtime flowers, crazy birds making crazy noises, tons of coastal beach views, and some nice forests.  I even managed to spot a bunch of rather large lizards and a few pelicans!  I did reach a point close to 3 hours in when I saw how far I still had to go and started to get slightly worried about being on foot very, very far from my hotel with an impending international flight.  But as the Australians say, “no worries.”

The last 10km stretch from Spit Bridge to Many was the best, and most of it went through the National Park.  I cruised into Manly a bit after 11am right on schedule.  Happily I popped out right near this good looking little restaurant on the beach and treated myself to a smoked salmon focaccia and orange soda.  Not a bad life. 

I hopped the ferry, ran the 1.5 miles back to the hotel from the ferry terminal, and then hurried up to get myself out on time.  It was a pretty awesome last day and a great way to see tons of sights with some adventure sprinkled in.

Sydney Day 1

Royal Gardens.  It was late spring with the beautiful purple flowers in bloom. 

Skyline view from the ocean 

Opera house! 

Sydney Day 2

Running across the Habour Bridge 

View back over from North Sydney


Building where one of my meetings was.  Not so bad ... 

Sunrise along the river 

Royal Gardens in Melbourne 

 Sydney Day 3
It was much sunnier this time around in Sydney 

Sydney Day Four - Downtown to Manly Beach

Harbour Bridge 

Getting further away from the city now

Trail through the National Park 

 Lots of  nice beaches along the way

In the way, way distance in the middle of the picture is downtown Sydney, where I started my run.  I still had ~5 miles to go. 

First view of Manly towards the top left.  I was very excited for lunch! 

Manly Beach 

Huge Pelican!