Monday, June 29, 2015

Ragnar Salomon Trail Relay

Northfield Mountain, MA
June 26 - 27, 2015

Take eight guys and arrange a weekend outing for them.  Sounds pretty normal so far.  You're imagining laughter, reminiscing, crude jokes, and maybe some beer.  Yeah, we had all that.  Now for the not so mundane, throw in camping in the great outdoors, a giant bonfire going through the night, headlamps, and oh yeah, 200+ teams each running 120 miles of twisting trails all through the night with each participant covering at least 15 miles and 3,300' of elevation.  Now you have the inaugural 2015 Ragnar Salomon Trail Relay at Northfield Mountain!
Thanks for our sponsor, Foolproof Brewing Company

For me, this team adventure started last month when I got an e-mail from Chris explaining that Bob Jackman was putting together a team of 8 for a trail run relay in western MA, and did I have interest?  (Apparently he was having trouble rounding out 8 good trail runners, as he was now scraping the bottom of the barrel!)  I checked the family calendar, asked the wife and family, and I'm in.  About a day later Jana asked me, "Isn't that the same day as the Bottone Mile [our club's track mile event]?".  Doh! Well, I'm committed now and the Bottone is our event that requires the least setup, so with Jana's blessing that she'd help organize the race registration and supplies together with Nick Bottone, I left it in good hands to continue with the team adventure.
Meanwhile, back in Gotham City,
Matthew does the WTAC proud by smoking a 4:44 mile at Bottone
while wearing the WTAC colors
(Photo courtesy of Jana)

Fast forward to Friday morning the 26th.  I worked / volunteered at a local soup kitchen and shelter, then started the trek northwest with the Volvo wagon laden with various camping supplies.  Arrived about 3pm, setup the rest of camp (more like "city camping" with sites packed like sardines), and we all went off to watch the obligatory safety video.
Camp setup.  Everyone looks hard at work, except ...
is Chris pretending to be a supervisor and did he not get the message about
what shirt to wear?

Tent city.  I have no idea why that guy is sprinting - this is not part of the course.

Yellow trail.  4.7 miles (GPS), 950' elevation (altimeter), 36:29. Our team's start time was 5pm (staggered team starts from 10am - 5pm, according to reported 10K road times).  Seth was up first, and I took the baton (actually a bib with a chip on a race belt, similar to tris) from him at 5:28pm.  The trail just keeps climbing for nearly a mile and a half.  Power hiked two short steep sections; otherwise ran huffing and puffing.  After the crest, it was screaming downhills on both single and double tracks.  Constantly yelling "On your left!", most runners were awesome to give way as I gazelled the downhills. Two runners with headphones annoyed me as they didn't hear me yelling and I had to run through bushes around them.  Why they allow headphones on a trail run is beyond me.  I missed one sharp turn completely as I didn't see the small yellow arrow for a 90-degree turn off the double track onto a single-track; fortunately the two runners behind me yelled that I missed the turn.  Picked up the speed progressively; 10:01 first mile on uphill climb, final mile was a 5:54 as I came into transition and passed off to Boj.
Check out this profile for the yellow loop!  Steep climb for about 1.5 miles, then screaming downhill.

At camp after my first run.
(left to right:  Ryan, Jonny, Bob, Seth, Jackie)
This is what the finish chute looked like
in the light.

Chris starting off on one of the last daylight legs.
Green trail. 10:41pm.  3.3 miles, 550', 25:01.  Obviously pitch dark.  First race in my new Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp.  Felt very comfortable, and having run the harder yellow trail already, the green trail, while no picnic, felt easy by comparison.  Passed runners left and right on the climb, and then flew down (or so it felt) the double track downhills.  The directional signs were actually much easier to see in the dark, as they all had LED lights in the same color as the trail loop.  Also runners could see my light coming up on them and all moved out of my way.  Nice!  Felt really good to be able to run low 6s on these trails in the dark.
And this is what the finishing chute
looked like in the dark

Random runner running between
the tiki torches to start another

Awesome bonfire to warm me
(and my wet singlet) between runs

Back at camp, Mike G and Jonny were trying to catch some Zs...

So I went off to cook me some smores
(about Midnight)

Red trail. 3:35am.  6.3 miles, 1500', 59:19.  This one was just brutal and thoroughly wore me out.  Started off with a headlamp malfunction.  I had my headlamp on and ready to go waiting for Seth to come in, but was blinding Greg Hammett and others, so I turned it off.  When we saw on the electronic board that Seth was 0.2 miles out, I went into transition and tried numerous times in vain to get my headlamp turned back on.  Defective?  Out of juice already?  When Seth came in, I told him I needed his headlamp as well as the bib, and swapped mine out for his, but it cost time and unfamiliarity.  (It turns out my headlamp was fine, and reading the manual the next day, I learned I inadvertently set it into a "lockout mode" to prevent accidentally wearing down the battery.  Lesson learned - be totally familiar with your own equipment. What an idiot!)
Seth passing off to me (the green blur) in transition

Between the headlamp issue, very little actual sleep, gas issues from the burrito dinner they served, just physically beat and running the hardest loop last, this was the only loop I wasn't having much fun with and wanted it to be over.  The trail goes up and down (more up than down) for more than three miles before finally cresting.  Much power hiking.  On the downhills, the quads were just screaming.  Looked at my watch a few times to see how much farther I had left to go; was thrilled to finally see the point where the three loops converged, meaning I was familiar with the rest of the trail and had about a mile to go.  Coming into the open fields, the birds were chirping and it was actually hard to see in the pre-dawn light.  Handed off to Boj, and was so thrilled to be done!
Scoreboard announcing running teams
on approach to transition
as they passed a mat 0.2 miles away

Yeah, maybe next I'll do this ...
... or not.
Guess I'd have to have a little
more hair to attempt this.

The crappers overflowed.  It was a feast for the sight and smell senses.

Closing camp.  No sleep for the weary.  Watched most of the remainder of my teammates come in, and for Bob's final lap, we all ran in (er, limped in?) with him to the finish.  We think we won the whole thing, but won't know for sure until Tuesday.  Very cool that not a single one of us got passed the entire race, and not a single one of us fell (I had some close calls though!).  Wished I taken a video of either Chris or Mike G limping around afterwards!  We all went out for a hearty breakfast at the French King, and then parted ways.  Exhausting, but very fun adventure.  Life is short, my friends, live it up!  Thanks very much to frenemy Bob Jackman for excellent organization and planning of this trip and run.
Cool finishing medal / multipurpose tool.
Thanks to the whole gang for a great adventure!
Front row:  Seth, Jonny, Bob, Ryan
Back row:  Chris, Mike, me, Boj
(Photo courtesy Jackie Jackman)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Weekly Log 22-Jun to 28-Jun-2015

Monday: 0

19 miles.  To and fro - Stonington Fun Runs.  Rode out with Mike B and Matthew and friend.
5 miles.  Stonington Fun Runs, including warm-up.

8 miles.  5 in the morning in Needham, MA.  Westerly Fun Runs in the evening.  18:32 with Chris (and Seb!).  5:51, 5:58, 5:47.  Struggling to keep these paces in the heat.
Post-run a woman said my run was really fast, and I said not bad for someone half a century old.  Her son (5 years old?) looked at me and I asked him if he knew how old half a century is.  He thought for a moment, and then replied "500 years"!  His parents laughed, as did I.  Thanks (not) to Chris for passing this info on to B, who will be using this against for another half a century!

3 miles easy and slow.  9:30pm headlamp run to ease into Ragnar.

8 miles.  Ragnar Salomon Trail Relay.  Write-up shortly.

7 miles.  Ragnar.

10 miles.  After a near sleepless Ragnar trip, slept from 9pm to 9am!  Got up and went on a 10-miler with Matthew and two neighborhood teenagers.  Wasn't sure how I'd hold out, as legs still quite sore, but was actually able to pick it up slightly in last two miles.

Weekly Mileage Log:
0 miles
19 miles
41 miles.  

Not a bad mileage week, given recovery from the bike crash and laying low for Ragnar.  With no major races planned until late July, I'm hoping to amp up the running mileage a bit more while mixing in biking and swimming.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Goddard Olympic Tri: Crash, Flat, and Burn


Oh My Goddard Olympic Tri
Goddard Park, Warwick
Sunday, June 21, 2015

4am wake-up call.  Was impressed that Matthew was already up and showering at 3:45. On the drive out to Goddard we encountered brief downpours, but it let up as we arrived and was just a light rain as we set up in transition and started the race.

The swim:  AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" was blasting at the start of my swim wave.  How cool is that!  Tom asked me if I asked them to cue that up for me.  Right at the start, I stubbed my toe good on a big rock, but otherwise uneventful.  I got into my slow but steady rhythm as I rounded the first buoy, I could feel and hear that the pouring rain had returned.  Finished the swim in 31 minutes (1.5K), for some reason 4 minutes slower than last year.   On the run up to T1, I was pleasantly surprised to see Steve Schonning out cheering in the rain.

The bike:  On my way out of transition, I passed Matthew coming in.  (He was in the next wave, but swam three minutes faster than me.)  Leaving Goddard Park and onto NK roads, I was feeling good on the aerobars and passing probably 4 people for every one that passed me.  And then it happened ...

I was having trouble seeing in a downpour, and was heading downhill at 28mph passing two bikers on their left.  I was on the center line of the road, and with a van driving towards me, I moved right to get clearly back into my lane.  With the flooding on the road and downpour, I didn't notice 'til the last second that the road was uneven and milled for repaving, and there was at least a 1" gap between road surfaces.  Too late!  I went airborne, the bike chain somehow struck me in the ankle and came off, and I came down hard on my hip, then skidded backwards on the road on my shoulder and arm.  Scared, dazed, and hurting, I picked myself off the road while the two cycler-witnesses came to a complete stop to check on me.  I waved them on to keep going with a lie that I felt fine.  Pulled my bike to the side of the road, and freed and put the chain back on.

What do you when you fall off the bike?  You get back on.  Slowly got on the bike.  Bike computer not working, brake lever bent, shifter not working, but otherwise manageable.  After the next turn, I see Tommy walking his bike in the wrong direction.  Not good.  It turns out he had a flat and didn't bring any flat-fixing supplies.  I continue on another mile or so, when I get a flat myself.  Uggh!  Now should I take a DNF?  Once again, pulled the bike to the side of the road.  Changed out the old tube for the new one when a vehicle from Providence Bikes pulled up with a pump.  Nice!  He gave me a grimace at the blood running down from my shoulder and back, but was a great help.

During my two stops, Matthew had passed me.  I somehow caught up to him, and with my own race now shot, and it being Father's Day, figured I'd spend some time with my son as we rode together for the rest of the ride.

The Run:  Painful start, as the hip was really bothering me.  Very slow first mile in 9:21, but I felt better and picked it up slightly with each progressive mile:  7:37, 7:19, 7:09, 6:58, 6:15.

Obviously no awards for me today (8th out of 14 in my age group), but I'm glad I finished at all, and was happy to get a voicemail from Steve saying I should get the courage award for finishing.

Congrats to Shara for 3rd overall female, and to Matthew for first overall in run portion.  Sore and painful tonight.  Will take next couple of days to recover and bring the bike in tomorrow for an assessment.

Now, for the obligatory body pics I know you've all been craving (I have a feeling these will be black and blue in the next day or so):

After cleaning up blood and mud, remaining
 road rash on the hip

and shoulder


Weekly Log 15-Jun to 21-Jun-2015

Monday:  0

6 miles.  Stonington Fun Run.

6 miles.  Goddard Park, Warwick.  Working in Cranston today, opted to run the course trails for Sunday's tri.
3 miles.  Westerly Fun Runs.  Mile splits:  5:41, 5:50, 5:40.  Ran in a pack with Chris, Tommy, Matthew, and Muddy.  At least twice I was ready to tell the group go ahead and I'll see you at the finish, but really glad that I stayed in and was pulled along to the finish.

7 miles.  Woody Hill trails.

0.5 miles.  Swim with Mike B in Watchaug Pond.

9 mile easy ride with Matthew before Sunday's tri.

0.9 miles.  Oh My Goddard Olympic Tri.  Write-up shortly.
20 miles.
6 miles.

Weekly Mileage Log:
1.4 miles
29 miles!
27 miles.  

Varied but low mileage week leading up to and including Olympic Tri.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Weekly Log 8-Jun to 14-Jun-2015

Running behind on my blog updates (a similar theme from many).  Here goes last week's, striving for brevity:

19 miles.  Solo to Quonnie Breachway and through West, Central, and East Beach (Charlestown) and back.

6 miles, trails in Woody Hill.
20 miles round-trip, with Mike B, to/from Stonington Fun Runs.
6 miles in the evening at Stonington Fun Runs.  Caught up with Jim Roy and Spy Barres on the conversational pace run.  Good fast guys.

9 miles.  Dedham, MA.  Blue Heron Trail in reverse.  Really getting overgrown in places.
3 miles.  Westerly Fun Runs.  I felt like I was working hard, but in fact a pretty disappointing 18:56.  2nd mile of 6:14 didn't help.  (5:58, 6:14, 6:00)

5 miles.  Barefoot beach run with Crutch, point-to-point from East Beach, Watch Hill, to Weekapaug Breachway.  Love running the beach.

7 miles.  Grills Preserve on both Westerly and Hopkinton sides.  Humid run.  I hate caterpillars.  Not as much as ticks, mosquitoes, or deerflies, but they're still vile.

38 mile group ride through Stonington with FiveK, Mike B, Dave Silva, and Duda.  Coffee stop in the Borough.
4 miles immediately after ride to make a brick.  Ran hills, and still pushed the pace with last two miles at 6:28, 6:42.  Happy with this one.

7 miles trails, dirt roads in Burlingame with Matthew.
0.5 miles.  Swim in Watchaug Pond with Matthew.  First time in new Orca S4 wetsuit.  Hard time getting it on; hopefully just because new.

Weekly Mileage Log:
0.5 miles
77 miles!
47 miles.  

Really big mileage overall considering I got all three disciplines in.  Almost tri season!