Sunday, December 23, 2012

Goals for 2013...a list in progress

As part of my accomplishments entry, I feel it is important to look ahead to 2013 with some goals. This list is likely to evolve and be expanded but the following are my goals going into the year:

-Set a FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the Batona Trail
-Run a couple snowshoe races
-Participate in more ultras than last year
-Set a 50M PR
-Sub 2:30 marathon
-Travel for racing (and vacation at the same time)
-Run the 4-Corners Run in the Wissahickon
-Accomplish more than listed above...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Accomplishments - 2012

Originally, this post was going to focus on both my accomplishments in the past year as well as my goals for 2013. However, I felt it more fitting to split them up since I have two more weeks to figure out all my goals in the upcoming year.

With that said, 2012 was a big transition year for me. Not since my high school cross country days did I do this much racing on trails. Since I am about to turn 33, that goes back 15 years. Oddly enough my last real trail race back in 2009 ended up with me injuring my right knee. Yet, with my body not getting younger, I felt a good way to keep my edge and help my body was to go to the trails. Plus, with all the road racing over the past several years, I know my expectations there. Along with the pressure resulting from prior performances. Trail running allowed me to be a rookie in the sense I would build my expectations along the way. Also, I would go beyond the marathon distance. I'd go close to double with a 50 miler. 2012 was a year to expand my boundaries.

I'd say I accomplished things with great success.

-Ran two trail ultras setting course records in both
-Winning a trail running series
-On the roads dipping under 16 minutes multiple times
-Over 2700 miles for the year (my goal was to average 50 a week...or 2615 mi yr)
-Traveling to new areas to race.
-Most lucrative season from winnings.
-Doing long run days that were marathons
-Expanding my runners network
-Got in a snowshoe race
-Lots of wonderful training on trails

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Closed - 2012 Racing Season

This past Saturday saw the conclusion of my racing for 2012 (unless something awesome comes along) in a most fitting way as I had the opportunity to do two races: a road 5K and a trail '5K'. I found this nice way to close things out as I wanted a nice fast road course and thought it would appropriate to have one more trail race since I did so much of it this year.

For the road 5K, I went back to Lansdowne's YMCA Reindeer Run. It is a small race with cheap entry ($10 w/ shirt) that has a course suited to my strengths. In other words, a fast course that is not purely flat. Going in this year, I felt I could go under 16 minutes. And that I did! Total domination in 15:41. From the gun, I just put my head down and pushed as hard as I could. As a reward for the effort, I got 6 months to the local YMCA. Pretty sweet since I had my award from last year so I got a full year of family membership that I cashed in.

Since the road race was at 8am, the timing worked out well that I could get in an 11am trail race. (@ Haverford Reserve) Even better, it was only 10 minutes away. I got to the site around 10am. And I admit, I was a bit tired from my effort so I thought about not racing to save a few hours of my day. I decided to do the whole course backwards and go home. Now while I ran the course, I did more than just go home. I opted to sign up. It was my plan to race it from the beginning. So what if I had a hard effort prior, pushing my limits is what makes me a better tougher runner. At 11am, the field was off. I got into the lead around the 400m mark and worked through a challenging longer than 5K course. Doing the course in reverse was helpful once the race started as I could take the best lines possible. My favorite part is when there was a huge log to go over. The organizers had placed a couple of boards (for the lead bike) to help go over it. I strode over that log using the boards with great finesse. So much so, I ran right up the back of the bike to which I had to ask to speed up or move over. (It moved over.) In the end, I won this in 20:19. The course was somewhere between .25 and .6 miles long. (I'd say more like .45) Afterwards, had some nice hot pizza the organizers ordered. Nice fitting way to end all the day's racing.

What is more, my goal of hitting 2600 miles for the year was met during the trail race. I'll be running a bit less for this month. It will help me recover and take sometime to bask in my achievements while looking forward to 2013.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Drive, Run, Drive - Rosaryville Veterans 50K Recap

Periodically, I do some half-brained things. Some with good results. Some with not-so-good results. And then there is the just plain crazy. This past Saturday's race falls into that last category.


Three reasons: 1) I wasn't training for a 50K. 2) Had no plans to do another long race after the 30K a few weeks back. 3) Three hours of driving each way is not something I like to do.

Crazy ended up with my 'decision' to run the Rosaryville Veterans 50K down in Upper Marlboro, MD. I use 'decision' lightly because on the night before the race, I had not committed to running the 50K. Simply the notion of leaving the house at 4am for three hours of driving was not appealing. So, when I went to bed, I told myself, if I sleep past 4, I'll run something else closer to home.

Low and behold, I woke up at 3am giving myself plenty of time to leave the house at 4am. It is pretty amazing driving on major interstates at that hour. Hardly any traffic so I could hit cruise control and enjoy some Graveyard & Killers on the drive. (A drive I actually enjoyed.)

After arriving at Rosaryville State Park, I registered, had time get any drop bags in order and relax. Since I was running an ultra, there was no warm-up. Before, I go farther, I should tell you, the course primarily consists of three loops of a 9.8 mile trail with an out and back section at the start and finish of the race. This last part was lost on me because I thought we ran three loops going through the start/finish each time. So I had expected a drop bag at 4.5 miles into each loop and a bag at the start/finish. Yeah, I blew this. But more on how that plays in a few.

Promptly at 8am, the field of 135 runners took off on what started out as a chilly morning. (If you weren't running.) I gingerly strode to the front. Being that it was my second ultra (and first 50K), I wanted to take it leisurely and see who wanted to take the pace. Apparently, that guy ended up being me. As we entered the first loop, I just did my best to get into a grove and get away from second. Not too fast but enough to slowly open a gap so I could just run my own race in the woods. This was easier said than done. Part of it is the course, while very runnable, there are a ton of switchbacks. I do not have a loving relationship with them. So as a result, times I thought I was gaining space, it would be swallowed back up. But I was not running dumb as I had my watch keeping me honest. At the 1st aid station, I briefly stopped and grabbed a gatorade before heading back onto the trail. (I didn't see drop bags, so I didn't bother with anything else.) My yo-yo relationship with second continued all through the first lap. As I came out of the first loop, it hit me. Hit me hard. We were not passing the start/finish each lap as I came right out to the parking area where on the opposite side, we entered the woods. This was bad. I had chosen not to run the first lap with a handheld bottle so I could get a rhythm. So this meant, my handheld was way up the road and I would not be running with it at all. Thankfully, the aid stations were stocked with gatorade as I chugged a few more while stripping out of my gloves and armwarmers at 1:05.

Into loop two....I thought I had a sizable lead on second by now but not far into the second loop, who do I see? Yep, second place not far behind. I felt I had to push my pace a bit more at this point so I began to up my tempo. Knowing the lay of the land was helpful because I knew how to benefit from the course for here on out. I slowly began to open up some space but as I approached the loop's 4.5 mile aid station, I had a choice to make: Do I stop for gatorade and stop momentum or do I risk it by putting my foot all the way down on the accelerator. I chose the latter. I blew past the aid station knowing it was my make it or break it moment. Without my handheld, I had no gels or fluids on me making the move even bolder. But I was flying now. Since I had not yet passed anyone still on their 1st lap, I had no obstructions to pace other than the course. I was in command. I came out of the 2nd loop feeling much more confident as I had not seen second place since I upped my pace. At the aid station, I chugged two gatorades and dumped a cup of water on my head. This was it....I was at 2:07....time to put up or shut up.

Lap three on the trail was not going to be easy. I expended a good effort to build a sizable lead and I had no fuel on me. Not only that but now, I was going to be taken out of my rhythm by passing people. With the trail being single-track, I had to call out each time that I was passing, thus, expending more energy. This was going to be a mental war. I did my best to not let my pace slip too much but it did some. Every so often, when I hit a bad stretch, I would tell myself, just need 3 1/2 minutes up on second to have this. Why I chose that figure, I'm not sure but it didn't change throughout the loop. Until, I got out of this trail loop, I was going to be weary of my lead.

But finally, I was out! Second was still not in sight. Now, it was time to run on the park road with some slight incline. I wish I could say it was easy but it wasn't. I kept looking over my shoulder for someone to catch me. As I looked back as I crested the final hill to where I could see the finish and a good ways behind me, I knew I had the race won. I felt relieved but still pushed a bit because I had a shot of going under 3:20. That became my goal. In my final approach of the finish, I had it!!! I crossed the finish line in....


My time smashed the course record (only the third year of the race) by nearly 17 minutes! (It was 3:35:03).
Second place finished in 3:31:32 also going under the old mark.

My pace was 6:24 which would have translated into a 2:47:41 marathon.

Lets say, I was very happy about my performance. Now, I just had to drive 3 hours home with the hope I-95 was not going to be congested or gridlocked. (Thankfully it was not.)

In the end it was long day. Out at 4am. Home at 4pm. And in there I ran one of the best races of my life despite a big mistake.

Guess, I'm an ultra guy now.....

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Talking about miles....

Ok, I admit it, I'm a race-a-holic. I like running races and I've been doing them for some many years that my weekends almost feel empty without one. For years, 5K's were fine but now I craze more diversity which I feel is a great thing.

In my last post, I spoke of wanting to do a 10K or HM. After analyzing my options, I have found a few but none of them are events that scream..."do me!" Honestly, the most interesting run for me this week is a 50K down in MD. Right now, I'd say the odds are 50/50 of me doing it. Mainly it is because of the 3 hour drive for an 8am start. So I would have to leave at 4am to give myself time.

If I do not make that race, I feel I will aim for NYRR's 60K next Saturday unless I gut out the miles for longer and do NYARA's 50K on Staten Island. I love the idea of the 60K but the fact it is all on Central Park roads.

These are where I am leaning simply because I feel moving into Ultras and long trail races would lead to great run-cations. 

Thanks for letting me voice my thoughts on some running options.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Next steps....

Still recovering from Saturday's 30K. It really beat me up. Then again, my recovery might be slowed due to my running since. I pushed the pace on Sunday and ran some trails on Monday before 'Frankenstorm' hit. Might take a day off....(yeah right.)

Right now, I know I have a 5K right after Thanksgiving but not sure if I will add another race between now and then. Ideally, I'd like to find a 10K (or maybe a HM). Yet, finding a nice 50K would be awesome. There is one in December that sounds promising but it is in December.

Consider this my waffling post of what comes next....

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rock'n The Knob Recap

I did what?!

Well, you are about to get a recap of my gumption. If you have been following this blog, you might be aware that my marathon replacement ended up being a 30K trail race out near Altoona, PA. My logic to not replace a marathon with a marathon was for mental sanity and to avoid the thrusting the same goals when they might not be as possible. After all not every marathon is the same. And after training for a specific marathon, finding one that meets the same set of requirements is not easy. But not wanting to waste months of training a 30K trail race was a challenge to utilize my training while knowing when the expectations have to be different. Anyways....

My race of choice was Rock'N The Knob. It was a first year event being held at Blue Knob All Seasons Resort. Sure, it was a 4 hour drive but seemed interesting with a challenging course. (See here and here). Being on a Saturday helped as well as super cheap rates to stay at the resort. Those factors told me to do it. I booked a room and worked out leaving work early on Friday. However, instead of leaving early on Friday, I ended up with a bonus day. Awesome! So instead of hitting the road around 1-2pm, I was on the road at 10am. Made it in good time too! I got to the resort and checked into my room. Oh that room.....lets say it did not feel warm and cozy. Sure it had a fireplace but the TV had no good reception. The office told me that TV reception was not so good recently. So I figured I would scope out the grounds. Mainly the indoor pool and hot tub. Yeah, those were not accessible. And when I got back to the room, I discovered the phone did not work. NOT GOOD! There was no cell service at the resort so having a room phone was something I was not willing to put up with. Thankfully, the resort switched my room and I got upgraded to a two bedroom that was everything I had hoped the first room would be. And yes, I got TV. So instead of wanting to check out, I got to settle in. Had a nice sleep too. And the fact, all I had to do was walk 100 yards to the start was really nice to help begin the day.

On to the race...

Now while, I would have liked a start before 9am simply because I had 4 hours of driving to do following the race, it was probably the best given the overcast and damp condition. I'm on a mountain so the weather is a bit different. Going to this race, poised an opportunity to run in a different manner than on the roads or even in the local trail races. After all, I was going to be gaining 4600 feet during the race for 9200 ft of elevation change. And since we started near the top, we were going down first before going up. All the runners lined up a few moments before 9 in time for the shotgun start. (Oh yes, they started it with a fired shotgun.)

We were off.

I immediately settled into a calm pace. I knew a trail run is not going to be as quick and that I knew running conservatively was in my best interest. Things felt smooth until we hit that ski slope. Or I should say near the top of the slope. Towards the bottom of the slope, the grade was comfortable but it kicked up as we got farther up. It was quite an experience going up for two reasons. The fog and the bag piper. Totally cool. As I neared the top, I could hear bag pipes playing. It felt so epic!!! Add to that the fog and it was a sight. I had managed to make it to the top first and I knew from there, I was likely on my own. I had been hoping to follow someone just in front but I told myself I can do this.

For the first 2.3 miles, I was running with a nice tempo. It was at this point, there was a big downhill with stone rock steps. As soon as I stepped on the first, I knew they were not going to be run down. They were slippery as anything. So running would lead me to injury. Run smart! Once they were done, the course became manageable. Yes, some parts were technical and included switchbacks which made it easy to get dizzy since leaves covered the real trail but keeping a pace was not too difficult.

Eventually, I hit the first aid station around 10K in. At this point, I was off to do a 4.2 mile loop. And the first part....up. This section included the first real hill to grind up. This was because finding the best part of the trail to follow up was covered with leaves. And when I say leaves, I mean leaves covered everything. Thankfully the course was exceptionally marked with orange ribbon. Once I got to the top of this loop, I was able to open it up on some downhill that was light on switchbacks. Of course, at the one point, I had to turn, I clip a root under some leaves and took a dive. Either by luck or subconscious skill, I was able to minimize the damage. Sure, I got scraped up some but I was not bleeding from anywhere so away I went.

When I got back into the aid station after coming out of the loop, I asked how far second was behind. There was not any certainty so someone said 1-2 minutes. I was not sure that was right because I could not see anyone on the sections that allowed me to view behind me for a distance. But still, this was effective enough to make me push a little more. This lead me to probably my best climb of the event. It was also the longest road stretch. For around 1.5 miles, I was on a winding road that had a nice steady climb that REALLY allowed me to see competition below for a good distance back. I didn't see anyone so I figured my lead was bigger than 2 minutes. Mentally, I was hoping to have 10 minutes up knowing that I was now near 12 miles in and in the last portion of the race is 2/3rds of the climbing as most of my downhill running was over.

I hit the last aid station (13.5 mi) in 1:47. Right on pace for finishing around 2:30. However, I was about to run what is easily the hardest stretch of terrain I have ever been on. And little did I know it but my pace was about to SUFFER! Out of the station, the course hits a mountain trail that was literally running on edge. Once again with the leaves, the path was tough to see. This made running difficult as trying to keep a good pace required some strong posturing to keep balance. Otherwise, I was going to go down a hundred feet easy. Getting through that gave me a bit of relief EXCEPT....

I was now about to climb close to a 1000 feet in less than 9/10 of a mile. I was sort of ready for the climb but not with what the course was about to throw at me. This climb had switchbacks, stone stairs and fallen trees. All of these factors made it impossible to find a good running pace or even power hike. Any time I did get some momentum, I would hit a tree that I would have to climb up and over. I was began to grow concerned with my lead and my abilities as a trail runner. Going in I knew things would be technical and I am feel I am a fairly good technical runner but this was uber! Have no fear I made it through this section. I figured anything after I could really get back at a good pace. WRONG!!!! After a small stretch of some good trail, I exited front the wood line near the old ski chalet only to encounter switchbacks that had SHARP rocks jutting through the fallen leaves. Finding the best part of the trail to use for footing....HARD! So pace didn't pick up. On the bright side, I was still in the lead. Of course, I thought I was closer to the end than I thought. I knew 2:30 was out the window. I hoped for 2:35 and then 2:40. Neither were going to be accomplished. Looking at my watch at this point was just frustrating me. I kept plowing through and finally out onto some road.

At the end, I crossed the line a little after 2:46. I would say I did the last 5.1 in 59 minutes but the course was a long 30K meaning on the upside of 19.2 miles. So while not as horrible a pace in the last stretch, the final portion really crushed my pace. However, I was glad to be done with that was the hardest race ever.

Immediately after finishing, I was handing my award and prizes meaning I was free to leave. That was good for me since I had a long drive ahead. I did give myself sometime to recover and watch the next few places come in. 2nd came in 11 minutes behind with 3rd, 7 minutes after.

Pizza was available but since it had pepperoni on it, I was unable to have any. Sad because I hoping for some but it was not a huge deal. I hung out for 1 1/2 hours after talking to a few people before hitting the road.

Following a long drive I was glad to be home. Today I managed to run 8.5 miles but definitely feel yesterday's race. That last 5.7 was ridiculous! When I say it was the toughest thing I have done from a race standpoint, I mean it.

Am I glad I did it? YES!!!! I pushed my limits. And I have since checked similar race results to find my time was not bad at all. Not superstar level but enough to let me know I didn't run a bad race. I ran smart and rather speedy. This means I just need to do some more technical work out in the Wissahickon near my house. Only decision I wondered if it would make a difference..shoe selection. I went with the LaSportiva X-country instead of my usual Inov-8 Talon-X 190. My reasoning was the LaSportiva would allow some more speed. I think they allowed that but I think I might have had better traction with the Inov-8's. Never know and I think both are great shoes so definitely not going to lose sleep on this race.

At the end of the day, I found a good race to push my limits in a marathon-esque way. Parts of the weekend could have been horrible due to lodging but the resort did me solid this stay. Would I stay again? Not sure. Too much of a hit or miss in rooms. However, the rate was great.

Recap out....

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Familiar but different...

A few days ago, this past Saturday, I traveled down to Wilmington, DE to run the Smith McMillian Memorial 5K. As I mentioned in my last entry, this is one of my favorite courses I've run mainly because it is FAST. Sure it is 3 loops but I'll take that for the speed.


I arrived at the race site like clockwork to find out the organizers were not ready for day of registration (an hour before) with 3 runners (myself included) waiting to sign up. So we went to find the restrooms. Kind of humorous to have a few people going....'oh well, I can go to the bathroom'. After a brief stop, I returned to pay my cash. At this point, I found out two things. No more shirts and the biggie.....different course!!!! Oh noes! Not only was it different but it was HILLY!!!!! I went down to DE to get away from hills since I had enough on my slate for this upcoming weekend. But I took it in stride. Normally, on my warm-up, I stay away from the course. However, knowing there was some serious climb, I went out to the 1 mile mark as this was the major climb. I wanted to know the grade so I can plan my race strategy.

I found this was a smart move. Once the race got underway, I took an immediate lead. Knowing what was ahead allowed me to pace myself wisely. I ran a fairly even race crossing the line in 16:53.

To illustrate the difference in the courses, I ran nearly a minute faster on the old course. After, I cross the finish, one of the organizers asked me what I thought and I commented how I liked the other course. She yelled to the other director 'see?! he likes the old course too.' I found it humorous.

Anyways, despite being on a slower course than I would have liked, the race was a good payoff. Not to mention that it got me back on the right track for this weekend as a confidence boost.

On Friday, I will be venture out 4 hours away for a 30K trail race. Looking very forward to it, especially staying at Blue Knob All Seasons Resort. Granted the long drive home will be rough but I'll deal with that later.

Its trail time!!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Some distance removed

As the events around the date of Steamtown have gotten smaller and smaller in my rear-view, I've continued to move ahead. I once again am running. I resumed doing so with a mere 3 miles on the 9th. Since then, I have pretty much gotten myself back up to speed in distance terms at least. I've done some minor pushing of the pace but not a ton. My first test of speed is going to be in a 5K this weekend. With how things are lining up, I will be able to attend one of my favorite courses in the past couple of years down in Delaware.

Now you may be asking, isn't the marathon in Atlantic City this weekend? It is but I opted to play it wise and not compete in it. The race just did not match enough of what I needed my marathon to be. And if I had gone down and run a miserable race, I think it would have a negative impact.

Instead, my major race coming up is a 30K trail race out near Blue Knob State Park. It is roughly a 4 hour drive from Philadelphia. I feel strongly I will be able to have fun at it even if my ultimate goal is to be competitive and hopefully compete for the win.

But one step at a time. And first up is the weekend 5K on the road.

Monday, October 8, 2012

When things go off track...

If you have been reading this blog, you know that I was registered to run in the Steamtown Marathon yesterday up in Scranton. Unfortunately, things do not always work out how we wish.

On Friday night around 1am (really Saturday morning), I went to the ER with severe lower left abdominal pain that evolved into throwing up without any pain relief. For me to even consider going to the doctor for anything is a big deal. The ER means it was bad. I spent 9 hours there getting fluids and medication and trying to get something of a diagnosis. While there I did get a CT scan with contrast. At the end, the biggest sign of anything was with my blood cell count showing signs of a massive infection. The timing of this could not have been any worse. Doctors advice was to not race on Sunday.

Yet, for us serious runners, it is not always so easy. I worked for months to prepare for this race. And I was considered one of the contenders. Knowing who was racing, I had a formulated race strategy. I didn't just want to throw that out the window. Plus, from an economic standpoint, I had a hotel room with a non-refundable rate. So, thus, the beginnings of a debate as to what to do. At the hospital, I told myself that my goal was to run but I would give my body time to make the decision. I figured since I had to go use the room, might as well put off the decision. Well, on the way home my choice got a bit of a bump as my stomach did not want to hold down what it had inside. For me that sealed the deal. My Steamtown was done. It is a hard decision to make to withdraw at such a late stage. Thankfully, the hotel was kind enough due to the circumstances to cancel my reservation and not charge me. This was a huge relief. But I still felt down even if my body was telling me there was no way I could race a marathon.

Coming to grips with the reality, I was at a crossroads. Do I try to find a marathon now to run or just move along? And if I looked at marathons, would any help me achieve my goals? I decided to do my best to look at some races in the next several weeks while I still have the conditioning and mental resolve. So two weeks from now, I will be racing in the Atlantic City Marathon on its improved course. This gives me time to recover and focus.

But what happened at Steamtown? Turns out it was a slower day than usual. Only one person went under 2:30, Matt Byrne. I'm very happy for him to win and become the first 3 time winner of the race. It would have been great to run with him but it is a nice mental help to know that no one else went under the 2:30 mark so while I might have been happy with my placing, the time could have been a letdown. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to race Steamtown next year. But right now, my eyes are set on Atlantic City.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Less than a week out now! Yesterday marked the one week mark until Steamtown. Found out one of my former teammates and training partners, Matt Byrne will be racing. He is from the Scranton area and it is basically his home marathon. It will be great to see him again since he moved out of Philly even if it is race.

I’m in the midst of low mileage now. Granted I did run a peaceful 11.5 yesterday morning. (And I did do a modest 5K effort on Saturday.) Between today and the start, I’m looking at maybe 12 more miles. I’m getting twitchy and nervous. I did catch my first weather glimpse today but really won’t think about the weather much until Thursday when it is more likely to be reflective of the temps I will be encountering.

Almost forgot to mention (thus, my edit), that I have begun reading Scott Jurek's Eat & Run. While a pleasant read, it is not as meaty a book as I hoped for. It goes by just too quick. I started it yesterday at 3pm. I'm only 50 pages from the end. It really should have been double the length. At least that is my opinion as a serious runner reading it. I thought I would be reading this on Saturday in my hotel. Guess not. Either I won't be reading anything or my copy of Duel in the Sun will arrive by then. (I'm doing some reading now that is not about the US Senate, The Park Service, The Forest Service, Forest Fires, the New Deal or the Hoover Dam.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Taper Pains

With just a little over a week out from Steamtown, I am in the midst of my taper. It is nice but frustrating at the same time. I like the physical rest from the reduction in miles but when one is operating on all cylinders it feels like deploying the parachute in a drag racer way too early. This morning it felt odd that I woke up knowing I would not run at all today. Only the fourth day off since my ultra in July.

My latest dilemma is whether to add one more 5K speed/tempo session this Saturday. My choices are either one of my favorite courses out in Blue Bell, PA for a cause that is good but a bit more religious in its mission statement than I like or a course up the street I can walk to. While the latter is appealing for its proximity, you have to remember that I run around here all the time so it might not be as inspired. Especially since I raced the course back in the spring.

Those are not the only options really but the most reasonable from the sense I won't get into a showdown that will negatively impact me on the 7th. Even if I could try to race not one but two races for $100 bucks. One of those is nice and early but I have a lot of complacency on that course because I run and bike the route at least 5 days a week. (It is on my bike route to and from work.)

In the end, I might not do any but still....

Sunday, September 23, 2012

So one more trail...

Two days after my last post, I ended up hoping into a local trail race series. Or I should say one more trail race for me. Can't beat the cost...0. And some good runners come out to tackle a mysterious trail course that nobody knows until they show up. This year the Wissahickon Fall Series partnered with New Balance and Bryn Mawr Running Company to step it up a notch. Anyways, Thursday's race was a mere 2.75 miles but some really technical trail footing. Actually, a heck of a lot more than I expected. I was rocking my Inov-8 F-lites thinking we'd be on some more wide open double track that you could really open it up on. Once the race started, I did my best to work myself outfront and I managed to get on the trail first. However, right when we went into a big technical rocky downhill, I was swooshed. My reaction was...WHOA! And the person kept opening a nice gap on top of the distance he gained on the downhill. But I kept at it steadily eating back at his lead. Once we got off root riddled and boulder hopping stretch, I really started chopping it down, especially when we kicked it up climbing. With about 2/3rd of a mile to go, I caught up to the leader before he had one last surge to try to add some distance between us. But with a half mile to go, I finally caught up to him again and passed for good putting some serious distance before the finish. So I managed to come from behind for the win. Really happy with my performance.

And just two days later, (or yesterday), I traveled down to Maryland for my first ever race in that state. I ventured down to Havre de Grace for the Celebration Run, which is a 5K held in town for the past 15 years. (This year was 16) I was enticed by running a new course and the $100 gift card for 1st thru 3rd. Plus, I was in the town once before last year on my way back from Baltimore. It has some waterfront views. Considering I was back on the roads, I didn't have to worry too much about technical footing. However, not long after the race started, I had to worry about one thing....directions. Despite being such an established race, the course was open to traffic and had no course marshals. Luckily, I knew two things, the course did have arrows in orange and once I got by the 1 mile mark, I only had two more turns. At the registration, they had plenty of copies of the course available to look at. I also got the run down on the course from a runner who I have seen at a lot of my Delaware races. All of these things were a big help because within the first 1/3 of a mile, I was out all alone. About 1/2 mile in I got confused about a possible turn but I saw the orange arrow and went the right way. From there, nose to the grindstone and hammered out a 15:57. Second ended up being over three minutes back. It would have been a lot closer but apparently the people running 2nd and 3rd at the two mile mark, blew by the next to last turn. For my victory I got $100 to Dicks Sporting Goods which will come in handy at some point. And I celebrated the Celebration Run with breakfast at the Waffle House in town. Oh yeah.

Not sure of next weekend's racing. I may or may not race since as of today I am two weeks out from Steamtown. I'm feeling really good about my condition and don't want to screw it up.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

With the fury of the trail and ultra (all of one 50 miler) seasons behind me, it seems I continue to neglect this blog just a smidge.

Since my last post, I have been much more active racing, alleviating some of the worry I had relative to my conditioning. I’m feeling much better about where I am at physically and as such, mentally.

To follow-up on the possible 10 miler in my previous post, I did wind up traveling to York for its premier 10 Miler. In an effort to avoid, a long drive in the morning, I opted to drive out the night before and stay the night. It was the first time since 2001 that I spent the night in York. (In 2008, Peg and I got stuck in York when our car brokedown. But then we were not in downtown York.) Great weather really made it a nice outing and even better race. Despite some bus shenanigans (it is a point to point) and a delayed race start (which did help me), the race went super smooth. I was out front solo from the get go cranking out rather steady miles on the converted rail line. Even managed to drop my 2nd fastest split in the last mile! In the process, I set a new PR in 55:31. Considering, it was only my second 10 mile race and on a cinder-like trail surface, I might be able to whack off some more time on a road course. At the end of the day, I had a huge boost in my confidence.

In the weeks since the race, I have done two more 5K’s, each with increasingly faster times. (They were not any races that were too special in terms of prestige. Yet, I will note that the HCA 5K win was the 1st time I have won the same race 4 times in a row. Which I believe, may match the number of times I have won Milltown’s July 4th 5K.) And I have been feeling real solid in my workouts. (So confident that on the 8th, I ran 20 miles home from a BBQ/Bowling outing at 10pm. It worked out nice because I slept in on Sunday knowing my 20 miler was done.) Now the tough part is going to begin. The taper. I am ready for it but feel so guilty not running my normal mileage. However, with Steamtown, just a little less than three weeks away, no need to be stupid. I am ready for that race. (Especially, now that I finally booked my room. I waited a bit late but got a nice place not too far for race morning that did not require two nights.)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A month later....

Where has the time gone?

It sure has been a while since I've written for this blog. Luckily there is not too much ground to cover in the past month. Since last time, I've only one race down in the state of Delaware. It was a 5K on the roads and a modest effort so it is not much to write about in itself.

For most of the past month, I have been mentally struggling with my running. You could say I am feeling burnt out. And without what I would call ideal races to run, I am lacking a means to really show myself if my hard work is achieving its goal of progress. There is a possibility that next weekend, I might hit a 10 mile rail trail run. I know the trail's surface so it is more like soft road which is still pretty fast. However, I am going to play this week by feel as I need to kick start the positive and I think a bit of rest may been needed. So while I should be running 70 miles this week, if I do not but have quality in what I do, I'll be happy. Today, for example, should have been 20 but I was not going to do anything at all. In the end, I felt relaxed to go out and do 6 with two of those miles on the track very modestly but in a solid 5:27 each.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The road to victory is paved with trails...

For the most part, trail season is over. I completed the last race in the Trail Creek Outfitters series this past Saturday on a beautiful estate course in Chester County. This one included horse jumps and water crossings. While not technical the weather was lovely and I had enough of a lead on the competition, I was able to enjoy the race much more than the rest.

In the end, I won 3 of the 4 races with a 2nd in the other. I have to say I am a much better trail runner now than at the beginning of the year and really this time last year when I started to do more trail races.

With the series conclusion, I must now turn my attention to racing on the roads and speed in the next two months leading up to Steamtown. There is a chance I might add a trail race this weekend and a cinder trail 10 mile at the end of August. Aside from those, I will work hard to get my speed working to help me be ready in an effort to achieve my goal of a new PR in Steamtown,

Sunday, July 8, 2012

In the bag...50 Miles

So the time has come and gone, my 50 mile debut is in the books. It was hot. It was lonely. And it threw wrinkles at me that did require severe mental/physical endurance.

My 50 mile ultra debut (and ultra debut for that manner) took place in Lanesboro, PA. A town with a 2010 Census population of a shade over 500. The event itself is called the Viaduct Trail Ultramarathon. It is a young event as the first occurred in 2007. Over the years it has changed. For the first time, it offered 3 distance options: 50-100-200. As you may have guessed, I opted for the 50. The course is rather basic: 12.5 miles out, 12.5 miles back per lap on an old converted railroad line started under the Starrucca Viaduct.

With this being July, the temp was expected to be warm but recently there has been an enduring heatwave. Here in Philly alone, yesterday got up to 101. Lanesboro forecast 93. Thankfully, we were starting at 5am. Of course, a 5am start meant having to travel to Lanesboro on Friday night. Race organizers made arrangements for participants to camp out in a small town park right at the start. On our way up, dinner was consumed at a Perkins. It was a known entity so I opted for the safest bet. Good call I feel. Once we arrived, we set up camp and got to sleep. After all, I had to get up at 4:15 for prep.

Surprisingly, I had a good night of sleep. Upon waking, it was a fury of headlamp activity in the dark. As it got closer to 5, it was easier to see. With the forecast, I intended on making the most out of the lack of sun and cooler temps. At a reasonable and comfortable pace. We started out and I was alone pretty quickly. The one person who I expected to be close wasn't too far back but it was increasing between us. Peg was at 3.5 in to hand me my handheld as we determined it was a good place to add an extra drop bag for myself. That way I could run small patches without extra weight. My plan was to run from 3.5 to 10.5 with the bottle on the way out and the reverse on the way back. (The 10.5 point is where I consumed some food and additional nutrients on the return. On the first lap, it worked to perfection. As I hit the turnaround, I was 9 min up on 2nd. When I got back to the start/finish, I snacked and drank some more. Out I went and discovered I was now 18 minutes up.

Things were going well coming into the 3.5 bag....until I found it was gone. Bottle too. Mentally, I cracked. My hydration strategy went out the door. At that point, things became about enduring. I continued to run to a small 6.5 station but until I made it to 10.5 I was not going to have fluids with me. With the heat rising and the sun starting to rain down on the trail, my body started to heat-up. Patches of walking started coming in. As much as the thought stinks, I was determined to finish but not die. I kept plugging alone. Finally, I made it to the 10.5 station. A big relief as I had a hip pack in my bag there. Talk about planning that smartly. Had I not had that available, I probably would have quit. I put that on and headed out the additional two miles to the turnaround. Before I headed out, I told the station, I did expect to be passed because I was being a realist. Over the next 4 miles, I only saw one runner. (Twice.) I made it back to the 10.5 station restocked and off I went. Still no sign of second. It was not for 20 minutes since the turnaround that I saw 2nd, meaning I was increasing my lead despite stops! I felt I could win and started thinking about how much time I could afford to give back. It was now in the 90's. And I was not until I got near the 6.5 mark that I saw anyone else. Most people opted to now walk in the heat. Heck, I was doing it. But alone. When I spotted people it was usually in at least pairs.

Each mile was now feeling longer and longer but I was managing to run even if I was mentally exhausted. With each walk period, I thought about how much time I was giving back. Finally at 3.5, Peg was there rooting me on. I have to say those 3.5 miles were the toughest 3.5 miles I have ever done. Ever. Not so much for the physical exhausting but the mental self-solitude of the run. So much time spent alone coupled with stolen handheld played heavily on my mind. However, I was still on pace to finish before noon meaning under 7 hours! I really wanted to walk that whole last mile in and bask in what I was accomplishing. Yet, if I did sub 7. So I managed to run it in.....just as it was starting to rain....


Clearly a PR.

Aside from the mishap with my bag and bottle, the event was really well run by some dedicated volunteers. If it was not for the encouragement of Carl at 10.5, I may have wilted and dropped. Thanks also goes out to my partner Peg, who was highly supportive of me doing this. Even if it meant she is putting up with my uber-rest mode now and driving the whole 3+ hours back.

I know I didn't talk to much about me doing this because 50 miles is a scary thought in the first place. Add in the heat and I was very worried. But now that it is done and I have my silver railroad spike, I can say I did it and finished a debut that tried me to ends I had not experienced before.

Now, if I ever done a 50 again, I will make sure the weather is much cooler.

Due to a lack of clarity, I should probably point out that I did win the 50 miler. As to by how much, I am not certain as the results have not been posted online yet. And I also do not know because we did leave about 30 minutes after I finished due to the rain and our drive.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Just a tad over a week out and starting to get nervous. Wrote out my shopping list of supplies for nutrition for next Saturday. Also found out there will be a serious contender in the 50. Might re-think my pace strategy. Originally, I wanted out and back in 1:45 splits. But I might just sit with the other guy for a while. The company might be good and I could do less work. Just reminds me I have to run smart. Smart.

And this contender has a marathon time that is close enough to make me worry about him. Plus, he has more trail experience along with more ultra experience. Have to keep that in mind.

At least tomorrow is an off day. Plan is tomorrow off. 11 on Friday. Off on Saturday. Runs on Sunday and Monday. Rest on Tuesday. Run on Wednesday. 2 miles or complete rest on Thursday with rest on Friday.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jeopardy of Mileage...

Impromptu side note: Being a so-called Politico (simply because I am a non-officially practicing Political Economist), tonight's Final Jeopardy category of Presidential Campaigns makes me happy.

With that out of the way, I am now less than 2 weeks out from my ultra debut. Since my last post, I have firmed up a good portion of my hydration strategy. Since it is a double out and back, I will use multiple water bottles placed at a couple of points on the course. It is a variation of my initial plan of just one water bottle. That plan evolved into trying a hydration vest but within two blocks of using one, I knew it was not going to be for me. I may opt to use a hydration waist pack model that can also hold a water bottle. What I will be doing is running a stretch with fluid and a stretch without. This is so I can rest my arms from the weight.

Mileage wise, I did go over my goal last week. Instead of 55 in a taper, I hit 70. And that was with a day off. I'm shooting for 40-50 this week. Next week, I will take 2 days off and do light mileage with 9-10 on Sunday.

I will say once I pass the ultra, it will be nice to focus less on mileage and more on speed as I have been having trouble as the Spring has progressed with that extra gear.

All for now....

And the answer was Bull Moose.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A mid-week pop-in....

Popping to say that this week's training has gone rather well. The past 3 mornings I have done runs over 8 miles. That is so nice in fact, I am taking tomorrow off. (We shall see if I live up to it.).

After this morning, my partner and I were discussing the upcoming ultra. I told her I am most nervous about the weather and we touched briefly upon having to get our logistics in order. She is not a regular runner so if she does any support it will be on bike.

What? Mike, you mean your partner is not a runner like you?

That is correct. I know it is surprising but she is very supportive and has endured my craziness up the slopes, buildings and in snowshoes. Cannot ask for much more.

But anyways, I am posting this article posted on Trail Runner magazine's online site as I find it rather true and humorous. And considering I am transitioning to more trail, it is funny to look at it internally...

Trail Runners vs. Road Runners
Deborah Paquin

It’s not unusual to see cross over between trail runners and road runners, a more and more road runners are looking for new adventures on the trails.  

And while road running and trail running are not mutually exclusive, they are different sports with different cultures. It reminds me of the stand-up comedy piece by comedian George Carlin on the differences between baseball and football.

In that piece, Carlin says, "In football, you wear a helmet; in baseball, you wear a cap. In football, you march into enemy territory; in baseball, you come home. In football, you play in any kind of weather, rain, snow, sleet, hail and fog. In baseball you get rained out. In football, they tackle you in the mud; in baseball, if you slide into second base, you call time out to dust off your uniform. ..." And the list goes on.

So, I created the same sort of piece for trail runners vs. road runners? Here it is:

• Road runners show up in snazzy matching outfits and Nike track suits. Trail runners have been mistaken for homeless people.

• Road runners try to step around the puddles on the street; trail runners are warned not to rock hop when going through rivers and streams so they don’t break an ankle

• Road races have aid stations every two miles where the volunteers throw Gatorade into your mouth as you run by. Trail runners have a delectable feast at their aid stations with cookies, chips, PB&Js, trail mix and gummy bears.

• Road runners are constantly checking their watches for split times; trail runners check where the sun is in the sky, to see if they need to take out their headlamps.

• Road runners have pretty white tennies; trail runners have so much dirt and mud all over their shoes, you can’t tell what color they are.

• Serious road runners don’t carry water. Trail runners have backpacks with water bladders, rain jackets, blister care, food and electrolyte tablets.

• If you go down in a road race, the road runners will jump over you and let volunteers know at the next aid station; trail runners will stop, pull out their meds, first aid-kit, emergency beacon, give you CPR and carry you to the next aid station.

• Road runners hope they are not overtaken by faster runners; trail runners watch out for mountain lions, rattle snakes, bears or other creatures.

• Road runners check for flat fast courses; trail runners look at elevation charts and the scenery.

• Road runners are lean and skinny; trail runners can crush a road runner with their calves and power up mountains with their glutes.

• Road marathons might have up to 40,000 runners, start with fireworks and end with bands and balloons; trail races start with, “Ready, Set . . . GO!”

• Road races are meticulously measured and certified; trail runs might be a few miles long, give or take a mile or two.

• Road runners count miles and study average pace; trail runners train by time.

• Both road and trail runners are healthier than the average American couch potato, and enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow runners.

• And finally, both trail runners and road runners like wearing their race T-shirts and gaining bragging rights.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Trailing on the trail...

Today was race 3 in the Trail Creek Outfitters Trail Series. It was a '10K' on a DuPont Estate in Delaware. Really nice piece of land with some great trails.

Being that this was a race, I was not able to enjoy the scenery too much. Especially, when at the start, I had someone nipping at my feet. There was a mix of technical, hills and grass straights to give something for everyone. And for a bonus, a tunnel with a stream to run through. For the most part of the 1st 7-8K, I was doing the lions share of the work because I was excellent on the technical sections. But I was running the engine super-hard with it being so neck and neck. Unfortunately, I ran out of technical sections to work and wound up with some hills at the worst time. I cracked. Cracked hard. Over the last stretch of race, I lost over a minute. And in the end, I lost the race, finishing up in second place to a former University of Delaware runner. (He'd still be one if they kept their program.)

Definitely stinks but I can't win all the trail races I run. Just wished it was another day.

On the plus side of the defeat, I had a wonderful time talking with some fellow trail runners following the race for something like an hour.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Milestone Miles....

On this past weekend, my training schedule had in it slated a run of 3 hours. Going in this was a huge mental barrier because it had dawned on me a couple weeks back I had only run over 3 hours once ever. It was in my second marathon when I ran 3:04:22 with a sinus infection. That was back in 2005. My 'whoa' moment made me want to scramble to find an event to run in that I could do the distance at a reasonable pace with people. My options ran the gambit from two trail and one road marathon along with a long 'train' run with the RVRR club. In the end, the weather forecast of showers on Saturday swayed me towards going solo early. The rain I felt would cool me off. However, turns out the rain passed before I started at 5:45am.

Mentally, I had a few rough spots but when I finished I was happy. I ran out 1:30 on the Schuylkill Trail managing to get out to the Norristown Transportation Center in that time. My pace back actually was faster! I ended up having to add mileage to keep me going for more than 3 hours. When the clock finally was stopped, I ran for 3:04:45. It was only a few seconds over the longest time I had ever run and nearly as long. I ticked off 26.13 miles. A lot better than I expected. Only downside was the lack of restrooms and water fountains on the trail. I was very disappointed as I hoped to use both. While I managed to get through without water, nature did call loud requiring a minor pit stop. It was super quick.

What was not super quick was the Sunday run. I slept in til 8am (which I never really do) and headed out to do 10 but wound up logging 14. Another good day.

While some great miles on this weekend, I will be hitting the trails during this week in prep for my 10K race on Saturday. Looking forward to it as it on a DuPont estate. Sunday will be my long run day. Hope to tack on 20.

My miles.....

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Still hammering....

Past couple of weeks has been packing in the miles which has felt good despite some rough patches. Hardest part was having to adjust off the trails back to the road circuit for a 5K. Ended up pretty flat but still happy with my conditioning. Just wish the weather did not rise like a volcano erupting. Recent heat has me worried a shade about my long run this weekend.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

One trail run, two states...

Yesterday, I trekked over to Kennett Square, PA (apparently mushrooms are big here) to the The Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County's Stateline Woods 9K. This race is number two in the Trail Creek Outfitters series, which meant if I wanted to be in it, I had run it.

Thankfully, unlike the last trail race, this was on a Saturday so I didn't have the 'mileage dilemma'.

Both the weather and course, we much different that Sunday's Iron Hill Challenge race. It was a lot sunnier and warmer. And the course, longer with more hills and open field running. That last part is what I did not like as the field running exposed us to sun in warmth and removed a lot of technical running. Plus, the surface was mowed grass that was more like straw. In other words, slow surface.

This race brought out a lot more people than last week. (It also had a 5K yesterday.) Within that additional numbers, there were a couple of people at the start line that really looked like they were ready to give me a go. And that was really true. Once the race started, I had someone right on my heels. I wasn't burning it up too much considering I knew there was a number of rolling hills but also needing to see who was going to be in it. I was running at a good clip when at the 2nd creek crossing, one of the race organizers was on a bike that got in my way. This hurt mentally as I was off my rhythm but I maintained the lead through the bit of technical. However, once we got out of this small wooded patch, we hit a paved section going up that saw me passed by two people. For a moment, I let the creek incident get to me saying, well this is it, I lost because of that. That lasted for a second as I just kept running and picked off the guy in second. And I slowly kept closing the gap on the leader. It wasn't until we crossed into Delaware that I managed to catch him. I passed him just in time to head up the largest hill on the course with a 15% grade (if not more). Unlucky for me, I had company. I got passed going up the hill and nearly cracked again but I was not going to kill myself on the hill if it was going to cost me the race. Instead, it cost me a $50 gift card placed at the top. But at the crest, I took back the lead and put in some distance. I spent a share on the hill but not as much as the person who grabbed the gift card. My thoughts turned to, "I have to keep this going. I need to recovery faster than him while putting in this distance" as I passed the 3 mile mark. From that point on, it was attrition to hold my lead.

Crossing back into PA, I was holding maybe a 10-15 second lead. Or that is what it seemed to be. But I had another misstep. In making a turn, I lost some footing. I recovered as fast as I could and proceeded to run up the next to last hill on the course. Making it up this meant, making it back into the woods for more technical section. I knew that is where I could help myself the most. But it also meant, running into people still doing the 5K. Passing people on technical single-track stinks. Yet, it had to be done. Despite me calling out which side I was passing on, it was tough but doing enough to help me fire through the last 3/4 mile of the course and open up more of a lead as the times I glanced back I saw increased distance. This was great! Especially considering, the file 1/3 mile is an uphill climb on the nasty slow grass. But I kept chugging. When I hit the final straight into the finish, I was so happy as this was one of the hardest races I have run and won. There was competition on my heels throughout and the course did not play into having a sound rhythm.

Really happy with my effort yesterday. For my next act, I will hit the roads and hope to do well. Between now and then, I plan on getting one or two track sessions in for some speedwork. But for today, it was all about mileage. A tad over 20 miles this morning is fantastic. In a couple of weeks, I have to push the long run to 3 hours. It is funny to think, a run of that length will be the longest time I have run since my 2005 NJ Marathon (my only time over 3:00...never run one with a sinus infection. Just don't do it.). Accomplishing that will be tremendous for my ultra in a couple of months. Because once, I hit that run....I can reduce some mileage on in.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Back on the trails...Mileage Dilemma's

After some time in my racing schedule for the roads, I got the pleasure to hit the trails for a 5k this morning. However, getting there almost didn't happen....

With my increasing mileage for my ultra debut this summer, Sundays have been my bread and butter for my long runs. And considering I am two months out, I don't want to lose those precious days. Which leads me to the mileage dilemma and how it played into the race. It's pretty simple, the race was on a Sunday. Now before you say, I could always do the long run after...ask yourself if you think a race effort followed by an 18 miler is wise? To me that is not wise. Doable but foolish. So that lead me to consider some other possibilities several which included skipping this particular 5k trail race.

They included:

Option 1: Run my long run on Saturday and race Sunday.
Option 2: Change the race to a Half Marathon trail on Sunday 3 hours away.
Option 3: Run a trail marathon 2 1/2 hours away on Saturday and whatever Sunday is, it is.
Option 4: Just skip racing and do the long run on Sunday.

In the end the leaders were 1 & 3. 3 nearly won out but I woke up in the night 1/2 after I would have needed to. This happened because I let sleep aid in my decision which is always wise to consider. Since I was up, I decided to go out for my long run and use the time wisely. After all the sun had yet to come up. This helped because in the end, my long run was done 24 hours before the race giving me a full day to recover. Marvelous.

Of course that meant, I still had to run the race. My goal going in was to put in a solid effort but not risk hurting myself due to the previous day's mileage. I felt I achieved that.

The race itself was called the Iron Hill Challenge and was the 1st race in the Trail Creek Outfitters series. Because of wanting to compete in the series, this is why the race created such an issue. If it was not a race that I kind of had to be in for the overall series, I probably would have scrapped it. Thankfully, things worked out and I didn't. Why? Because I got to run some great trails in a new place, Iron Hill Park in Newark, DE. Let me tell you, Delaware has some great trails. Every time I get a chance to experience their parks, I find them terrific. Once the race was done, I switched out of my Inov-8 Talon 190's and did 6 more miles loving each bit of it.

And because I felt so good this afternoon, I did another 5 more miles near my house on trails.

Overall very happy to be back on the trails and I feel my technical ability is getting better as it was put to the test on today's course. Now to see what my next trail race offers up. Just hope, it works out as well as today.

Friday, April 27, 2012


After a couple of weeks on the roads, I'm hungry for some trails. Following one of my races last weekend, I went for a wonderful cooldown on some trails in a light mist. Beautiful. Chances are likely I will do a trail run soon but the more important thing is building my long runs for my scheduled ultra in July.

At least I have the hankering.

In other news, I'm thinking of doing some direct mounting on my Northern Lites Snowshoes. I do think come racing season next year, I will benefit. Especially if my goal is to make Nationals. For those interested, here is a link to a video discussing direct mounts: Snow Shoe Direct Mount

And how to do them yourself: Mounting Instructions

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Race Pet Peeve and Training Thoughts

Before I touch on my training in this post, allow me to mention a race pet peeve. The people at the start of the race who just all out sprint and just kind of stop. It is disrespectful. I understand it is all in good fun in the spirit of the event. However, for the people who are serious and racing, they create a potential for a collision or allow a runner to get out of their mental focus on their goal. Just my brief thought on the subject.

Training itself in regards to mileage has been fairly consistent this month. Averaging about 55 miles a week. Now that is not normally a large number of miles but considering the issues this year, I like I am experiencing the consistency. And with having done some racing now, I like the hold up. For the rest of this month, I do feel I will be a bit more cautious with the miles as I have to start focusing on ultra training. So I will add an off day or two in the next month. With the focus on the ultra in two months, hopefully, I can add more trail based mileage.

(Brief note: The blog interface has changed in making posts. Surprising to me. Chalk that up to me being new at this and having just found my rhythm.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Good luck and be careful!!!

Good luck to everyone running the Boston Marathon tomorrow morning. Remember to run smart considering the conditions are not going to be the most ideal.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Oh great, he is going to talk about the roads some...

Yes, today's entry is going to focus on some road running. Specifically a road race. Oddly enough this morning was my first race on the roads since the start of the year. Considering it is mid-April and I ran 42 races last year, talk about a drop. (Even more so when you figure it is only my 4th) However, I did come into the year with a goal of racing less.

Locally, there were a lot of options this weekend. Today alone had something like a dozen races I could have picked from all within 25 miles. My choice....Run for Justice in Camden. Mainly, I selected this race to get a true gauge of where my performance level is at on a familiar course. The course was key because I have been struggling with a nagging groin all calendar year. So if I was going to get an honest evaluation of my ability, it had to be somewhere that I could compare something to. Since I had done the Turkey Trot there a few times, I knew what the course was going to be.

Amazingly, I had a sound sleep and didn't feel worried about my body holding up until I started my warm-up. I felt a bit stiff in guessed it...groin. But that is why we warm race time...I was feeling loose. Whew. Once the race started, I ran the race I hoped for. Focused and fast. Except in maybe the last 1/3 of the last mile. My energy reserves started to go there. But I crossed the finish in an amazingly shocking time....15:53. That is only 5 seconds slower than my time in the Turkey Trot.

Mentally, this is a huge boost as a result of the groin issues is a wavering confidence in what I can do in a race. Now I know and it is good. Just have to see how things go tomorrow since I will have a clear sense of my bodies ability to recover. If that goes on.

But for now, I know I made a great decision regarding today's 5K choice.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

DC & The Hills Are Alive

Yesterday, I closed out my racing for March down in Washington DC for DC RUNNING CLUB's Inaugural The Hills are Alive 5K & 10K. This race ended up on my schedule as a result of three factors.

1 - Looking for a 10K on this particular weekend
2 - I was not going to be able to drive to a race on this particular weekend
3 - Schwaggle discount.

Since DC is not far away, in checking transit costs along with race fee, it was going to be the same amount as if I ran local. So I signed up at the end of FEB as it gave me a reason to race somewhere new. For this reason I was excited. Plus, it was a Saturday, meaning I could race and come home to have Sunday to relax.

As part of the trip, I decided to stay over Friday night at The Liaison hotel. This was highly convenient because around the corner was a Capital BikeShare station that I could get a bike at to ride to the race location at Fort Dupont Park since there was a station there to dock.

But enough of the logistics, the reason I am talking about this race on here is because it was a multi-terrian race. It was a mix of trail and road. And the trail portions were made up of some gravel, some dirt and some grass. Oh and the hills. 325 ft of elevation gain per 5k loop. And for the 10K, which was 2X the 5K loop, 650 ft. Since I traveled such a far distance, I was on for the 10K.

I arrived at the start at 7am to get my race packet. I did a short warm up to get a sense about a portion of the course I had questions about. And I was ready for the 8am start. At the start, it did not look like a lot of competition which disappointed me. I knew the 10 Miler was the next day but I did expect someone to make the race interesting. Once the race started, I was off. By the 1.5 mile mark I was up by nearly 400 meters. And the person behind me was doing the 5k! My first loop, I felt good with but knew the second was going to be tough. My in-race analysis of the course was it was difficult to get a solid pace as the terrain changed so often be it having a hill show up or changing from road to grass. And the second lap did not help. I tried to keep the engine going. For the most part I did and ended up with a good time for the torture of the course as it was definitely slow.

In the end 35:19 for a clear 1st. Yes, two minutes slower than my normal 10K. However, it was a nice challenge and a good transition to the roads this month. If anything I challenged my fitness. I'll blog about the 1st road race but after that, I will not talk so much about my races that don't fit into the goal of this blog to focus on more unusual races.

But before I end this post, I do want to discuss the race logistics. Overall, I found it lacking in the amenities one expects. At the race day pick-up. Numbers were not already assigned. The numbers were written next to the name on the list. Also, shirts were given after the races not before. Despite having a set number of sizes and number from registration rolls, the organizers ran out of shirts. Completely uncalled for. Finish line set-up lacked organization as there was no finishing shute. Finishing times were called out and written down as there was not proper timing equipment for the 200 participants. This created an amount of chaos. Thankfully the race numbers were color coded to the distance. So the organizers got that aspect right on the money.

That is not all. No awards. None. (I was told the planned donation for the award did not come through.) I find this sad because the organization has put on solid races with all of things they lacked here.

Yes, I am criticizing a race for not delivering what I expect. Had I paid the full fee of 40, I would be livid. Luckily I did not.

And it pains me because all the organizers were really nice people. The energy of the volunteers was very supportive.

Ironically, the 5K winner was also from Philly and we had seen each other around.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


At long last, here is my recap of the Horse Hill 7K snowshoe race:

With not much of a winter down here in Philadelphia, I knew if I wanted to get a snowshoe race under my belt in 2012, I was going to have to travel. Lucky for me, a trip was planned up to Maine for the first week of March. It was lucky for me because a search of snowshoe races had some scheduled to occur while I was up in the region. I had races I could choose from in both Maine and New Hampshire. Due to logistics, our drive was starting on Friday night right after I got out of work. Since we were stopping in Lowell, MA, I knew I was going to be close to the Horse Hill 7K in Merrimack, NH. The race choice was decided: Horse Hill 7K on March 3rd.

Or so, I thought. A couple of weeks out, it looked likely there would not be enough snow for snowshoe racing. However, a few days prior, enough snow fell to have Horse Hill be, GAME ON! Except, it was going to be a lot of hilly single-track. The hills aren’t the problem. To date, I have not gotten the hang of single-track snowshoe running. Considering I’m from an urban city in the Mid-Atlantic and still new to the sport, this is not too surprising.

I was excited and nervous leading up because I knew I was going to get solid competition and was racing in a new pair of snowshoes, Northern Lites Elite Racer model. Also, this was my first race, representing Northern Lites as a competitor, so I was nervous to do well for them as they have invested themselves in me. (Hope I did solid by you!)

I knew I had it in me to do well given the right conditions. Oh the conditions….

While snow had fallen earlier in the week, the morning of the race looked a little worrisome with drizzle coming down. However, I was mentally committed and I drove the 30 minutes or so to the Horse Hill Preserve for the race. Driving up really got me worried as it started to downpour! Oh noes. I was hoping I didn’t show up to have it cancelled. Thankfully, when I pulled in to the small parking lot, it was still on, even if I got my car a tad stuck.

Before the race started, I did a small warm up, part of it on the course. I felt good about the opening stretch since it was wide but about a quarter mile in, the course got ugly. Since we were going through some wetland-ish areas, a couple of puddles appeared. Nothing major but not what I wanted to see. Thanks, rain.

One good and bad thing about racing in an area I am not from, I am not familiar with the competition. All I knew was Joe Johnson was injured and not running. I was not familiar with one of his training partners, Kevin Tilton who happened to be there. Even in the bad weather, the best show up. In talking with organizers before the start, I learned usually 100+ are at this race. While, on this day that number was much much smaller but filled with some quality.

Everyone lines up at the start. I’m about a row back. Bang! Off we go, I get off the line and am in 7th place but within a hundred meters, I make it into 4th. Knowing that the single track is coming up, I gun in for the whole and enter the single track in 2nd place. 1st place is already rocking me but I can see him and feel I can close the gap so I go the best I can. I’m doing well for about a mile in. Until the single track starts to snake itself around. For me the turns became too tight and my lack of technical skill compared to the others began to show. I started catching too much snow losing some balance. During this stretch, I was passed and dropped into 3rd place. However, I felt, I could reclaim second as first was now pulling away. My race for 2nd was a yo-yo. I would gain and loose throughout. Until we hit the ‘rollercoaster’ section of the course. The course weaved through this so much, I lost my sense of direction! And with each turn, I lost a bit of time on second place. Not a lot much but just enough. Once we came out of this stretch, I could see 2nd and hit the gas hard. Unfortunately, I ran out of real estate and finished 3rd roughly 25 seconds back. First place ended up running away beating me by 3 minutes. In a typical short distance race, this would devastate me but when done in snowshoes, I can take it in perspective.

I did learn after the race who Kevin Tilton, the winner and Dave Dunham, 2nd place were. Dave was a former national champion and multiple top-5 national runner. Kevin on the other hand is a multiple top-10 national runner and since this race finished 7th at the World Snowshoe Championships. If I had to lose, better to lose to two people with those accomplishments. They give me a place to strive for.

On this day, placing third to them is quite an accomplishment. Conditions were terrible. Running in snowshoes in the rain is gross and extra taxing. And given the course being of a design not suited to my best snowshoe skills at the moment, I’m happy.

Sadly, this race was the start and end of this year’s snowshoe season. Next year, I hope the winter is more of a winter where I can do more races. Considering Nationals are in Bend, Oregon, I plan on making them. This summer, I also hope to make it to a beach or two to do some off-season training in snowshoes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Still not about that snowshoe race...

I know, I will get to the Horse Hill 7K recap. Just not tonight.

This post is going to focus on last week's St. Patty's Scramble.

Around this time, last week I was nervous. I thought a good night sleep on Saturday would have been a great thing for me. However, I did not get it. Instead, I felt really jittery and as if I was coming down with something. Mind you 15K sick is not a good mental image when already feeling nervous. Considering I had to be at the race two hours early to help out beforehand, I had some thinking to do since I knew I was going to be involved with course sweeping. I made a decision to drop to the 6K.

As bad as it was to cut out such a distance, it was wise. Not for the sick feeling but turns out I was the only one sweeping the whole 15K course. So I had to run the 15k anyway, just with a bag on my back picking up all the signage. Really not my ideal Sunday. It made me a bit bitter even if I raced for free because I felt the time I had to dedicate was pretty steep compared to the other volunteers. But that said, lesson learned if I do that again.

With respect to the race itself, I feel I could have won the 15K as I was 50 yards up on second where the 6K and 15K routes split. I ended up winning the 6K by a fair margin of 2 1/2 minutes. Just missed going under 20 minutes but when the last quarter mile is a HUGE uphill, it is tough. The one really positive I take away from it all is that I had speed and held it well. Considering I won't have a 'normal' road race until April, it is nice to know I have the turnover on the trails.

By the way, I rocked the INOV-8 X-Talon 190's. Odd at first but a really great trail shoe.

One last note, of a sad nature, I learned there will be no XTERRA Philly series this year. The guy who put it on is taking the year off from doing so. I feel it is going to be no more. Bummer.