Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Weekly Log 12-Oct to 18-Oct-2015

Falling behind in blog write-ups seems a common thing lately.

Monday:  11
Columbus Day.  Solo run on Barn Island trails.

Tuesday:  5
20th anniversary of my father's death.  Tough morning.  I was very close to my Dad.  Took the day off.  Drove to Cranston Y, ran to my father's grave, and after return to Y, returned to plant a mum.

Wednesday:  5
Needham Town Forest.  Single track exploration.

Thursday:  6
Moonlight hills in the dark.

Friday:  0

Saturday:  6
Run for the Penguins 5K.  Short write-up forthcoming.

Sunday:  9
RI Duathlon.  Short write-up forthcoming.

Weekly run mileage:  43

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Run for the Pumpkins TRAIL 5K!

Westerly, RI
Saturday, October 10, 2015

Wow, what a day!  The event went off without a hitch and far exceeded my own expectations!  Where do I start to write this tome?  Normally, that would be arriving and warming up, but in case, as Race Director, I've invested months in helping to bring this new trail race to fruition, so I'm going to have to go back a little further. 

When I was six ...   (OK, maybe not that far back.)  The Run for The Pumpkins was a hilly road race for the first 12 years.  From 2003 to 2010, the event was run exclusively by the Town of Westerly Recreation Department.  In 2010, the field size reached its nadir with a mere 17 runners (Steve S joked that it was a group run!), and the Rec Department asked WTAC if we could team up and try to help manage the event.  While we did increase the numbers, they still averaged about 50 and fell as low as 36 last year.
The old course.  Chris and Jonny leading it out in the 2013 road edition.

Cute age-group awards made by the Town Recreation Director's mother
in the early days of the Run for the Pumpkins race.

Time for a change ...
After the 2014 (road version) of Pumpkins, we polled participants on changes they would like to see to keep the race interesting and sustainable.  The Town Recreation Director was very interested in any changes to bring the numbers up, and had himself asked "what about a trail run"?  The runners had no shortage of feedback and suggestions, with the majority indeed being change to a trail.  Local road 5Ks in mid-fall are ubiquitous and ours was in need of a differentiation.  Other suggested changes that we agreed to incorporate were adding a kids' run, incorporating real pumpkins, moving to Saturday, moving away from Run for the Penguins weekend, and moving to an earlier start time.

Grills Preserve (site of current WHS home XC course) and Wahaneeta were both considered for their established trails, but in the end rejected due to parking constraints.  With the town's blessing, we settled on Bradford Preserve with a parking lot accommodating 300 cars, town-owned, and abutting 400+ acres of newly acquired town open-space land and 800+ acres of Woody Hill Management Area.  Now the only problem is that no trails connected to Bradford Preserve, and I needed a potential course and map before even approaching the town and state for permission.

I spent many hours and visits in December and January bush-whacking (of course typically in shorts getting my legs cut up!) through the town land trying to envision a 5K course.  There was an old but overgrown trail running from horse fields and barns on the old Lucey farm property, running in the woods behind Bradford Preserve fields, and running southerly behind houses along Route 91.  Despite the briers and brush, incorporating part of this trail would make the most sense, and by planning to cut three short sections of trail, each 0.1 to 0.2 miles, I could form a running loop:

Sounds good, but measuring it yielded just over 2 miles.  I considered two options to add the additional mileage:  1) running loops around Bradford Preserve, and 2) cutting a new trail through deep pine forest just before the horse field section.  I'm glad I arrived at the second option!  By now, it was mid-January and all I had was a course vision and many GPS and GIS maps.  With a major snowstorm looming, I went back for my final bushwhacking, armed with spools of green ribbon, a knife, and a GPS watch.  Timing was fortuitous, as feet of snow would soon be on the ground for two months, and I now had what I needed to print up a course map to start the approval process.

Permits and clearing:
During the winter months, I got buy-in and suggestions from the club, wrote up a safety plan, presented the plan and details at Town Hall, submitted paperwork to DEM and spoke with them on the phone numerous times, and about four months later, got permission from both.  The rest was "easy" - moving branches off the course, hauling in a chainsaw for the downed trees I couldn't drag, multiple trips with loppers, and two heavy-lifting days walking the course with power equipment.  Huge kudos to Mike B for all the help, along with newest WTAC member Jeff Huckle giving up the better part of a Sunday to help clear and haul decades-old debris out of Woody Hill, as well as to the Westerly Municipal Land Trust then loading it on to a truck and getting it out of here.
Some of the junk we hauled, dragged, and carried out of
Woody Hill Management Area

... and now, finally, the race!
The rain ended and the sun came out!  A beautiful, sunny, 50 degree fall morning.  Having marked the deep pine forest the night before, I arrived over two hours early race day to get setup and ready.  Thanks to an awesome and capable all-volunteer WTAC team (Muddy, Jonny, Crutch, Matthew, Jana, John, others) we divided and conquered tasks of course marking, table setup, registration, parking, and got it done!  John and Tom brought the food, Jana the cider, Tom's parents helped setup, and even my Mom came and volunteered!
Leaving the house race-day morning.  How much stuff can you pack into a car?
Are we going on a week-long vacation?  No, just to a trail race!

A beautiful sunny fall day awaited us at Bradford Preserve!
Setting up course marking with WTAC comrades.

Mile 1:
Changed into dry socks and trail shoes (thanks, Jana, for that suggestion! - the grass was pretty wet at 7:45AM), and was ready to go.  The race went off on time at 10am, as 111 runners toed the line!  Places shifted around during the first 1/4 mile on the field, and then it seemed that two packs of four emerged:  the lead pack of Jonny, Muddy, Brightman, and Matthew, and then Tommy and me and two guys I didn't recognize.  Into the woods, I could see Jonny leading the charge up the hill.  Tommy was just ahead of me on the hill and I wanted to yell to him to go catch the leaders, but nothing came out other than my heavy panting.  Exiting onto a short gravel road section in Woody Hill, we ran past course marshal Mike B (thanks Mike!) and back onto the trails.  It was on this section that I came up to and passed Tommy just before the Mile 1 mark.  He gave me some encouragement to go after the lead group, but they weren't even visible to me now.  Mile 1 split 6:37.
Field start of the 2015 Run for the Pumpkins
(Most photos by Jana)

1/4 mile, leaving the first grass field section
Short Woody Hill gravel road section;
Tom on right, me on left
(Photo by Mike B)

Mile 2:
Saw no one ahead of me as I finished the double-track Woody section, passed course marshal Joe Light, and then the final short gravel road section before entering the pine forest.  Early in the pine forest, I was excited to see Jonny ahead of me.  At times it seemed he was just a few feet ahead, but that illusion was really due to the switch-backs, which unfortunately also revealed to Jonny that I wasn't far behind him.  Twisting trail ensued on pine needles, as did jumping over logs, and a short rock scramble.  This is by far my favorite part of the course, and judging by the feedback to date, the favorite of most runners as well (although clearly not all!)  The pine forest ends as you come up to Mike B's Mile 2 pumpkin marker.  Mile 2 split of 7:49 only serves to demonstrate this is the most challenging section.
Keeping it varied and interesting with
a rock obstacle to go up and over.

Entering the former horse-farm field section at the end of Mile 2

We got lots of compliments on Mike B's mile markers

Mile 3:
120' of fun and fast downhill awaits you on the final mile of the course.  While a year ago much of this last mile was overgrown and brier-strewn, this part was well cleared and fast.  I was hoping my downhill gazellin' skills would close the gap with Jonny, but unfortunately he was running really fast and uncatchable for me.  On the final downhill trail section, I could see the leaders returning home on the grass field and was thrilled to see Matthew in 1st place ahead of Brightman.  I ran hard around the field section, finishing 11 seconds behind Jonny.  Mile 3 split 6:23.
Ghosts marked the low overhanging branches
Starting the final downhill section
(Photo by Mike B)
Last section of trail, before exiting back onto field for the finish.

Final results:  20:50, 5th overall, 1st in age group.  Full results here.
A great showing by Team WTAC.

Post-race, we served cider, pumpkin muffins, and apples, trying to return to a fall theme.  A kids' 1K race ensued, and as they crossed through the finishing chute, they got a mini-pumpkin handed out by my Mom.  I'll compile the feedback and review with the club, but thus far it is almost entirely positive on the venue, the course, and the obstacles intentionally left on the course.  Alas, my "what keeps you up at night" fears never materialized:  it will be pouring rain, people will get lost, someone will steal flags.  I've tweaked and adjusted race courses and features in the past, but this was by far the largest race project I had undertaken, and seeing it come to fruition was extremely rewarding. Thanks to all the WTAC volunteers and town and state officials that helped make this possible!
Highest number of finishers ever!
Let's hope this 2015 trend continues.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Weekly Log 5-Oct to 11-Oct-15

Fall running weather:  I love it!  

Monday:  0

Tuesday:  11
5-mile local road morning run.  Crisp and cool.
6-mile late afternoon trail run.  Wahaneeta and Woody.

Wednesday:  6
Late afternoon run with Tom on the Pumpkins course, plus a little more.

Thursday:  5
Needham road run before work.

Friday:  3
Late afternoon, marking the pine forest section of Pumpkins.  Got really nervous when I used up the majority of flags on just a 2/3 mile section; fortunately Home Depot had 100 more orange flags.  Nervous about the success of the race and because of that, slept poorly most of the night before the race.

Saturday:  10
Run for the Pumpkins Trail 5K!  The day has arrived!  Great success!  Separate post forthcoming shortly.

Sunday:  6
Matthew asked if we could run in Carter Preserve, as he had never been there before and presumably saw it recently in Strava and/or blog posts.  Of course!  Opted to start from the Old Mill Road entrance, first hit up the powerlines, then the Grassland Mile CCW, and finally a nice single-track loop from yellow out almost to Route 112, then red to blue to yellow and back.  I hadn't run in there in a while myself, and had forgotten how technical some of the trails are with undulating hills and turns.  Really fun run.

Weekly mileage total:  41.  Happy with that; pretty consistent lately.  5 trail runs, 2 road runs.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Strides 5K

Jack O'Keefe Memorial Strides 5K
Waterford, CT
October 4, 2015

Hadn't run this in a few years and the timing worked out.  It's a fun race held in Camp Harkness, which has a beautiful park setting.  The race benefits physically challenged programs in New London County, and they throw in a cookout afterwards.  Let's do this!  And get this, Jana is in for running the 5K as well!  She's run plenty of fun run 5Ks, and runs about 3 miles daily religiously, but never in a timed official 5K.

Had my warm-up run with Matthew, who is not racing as he has a meet the next day.  In the men's room I run into age-group nemesis Scott Grandfield and we both seem unhappy to see each other.  Turns out we both looked at the results from last year (19:xx) and felt we had a good shot of winning the race this year.  Besides any other competition, we now had each other to contend with.  He asked me what pace I was looking to go out in the first mile, and I said 5:40.  He said OK, me too.  Here we go.

Mile 1:  I wished Jana good luck and then settled in up front.  The gun went off and Scott took off like a rocket.  I give chase and followed him out of the park.  About 1/2 mile in I get passed by a guy who sounds like he's barely breathing.  This doesn't bode well.  Just before the 1 mile mark I catch Scott and pass him.  Mile 1 split:  5:26!  Has to be one of my fastest ever.

On my return
(pic by Matthew)

Mile 2:  I can see the leader, but his gap is increasing.  Up a slight hill, and then down to where we start a small turnaround loop.  At a 90-degree turn on the turnaround portion, I glance back to see I have a decent lead on Scott.  On the road heading back now, I can see many oncoming runners, but I can no longer see the lead runner at all.  Mile 2 split 5:55.  Slowed too much.

Mile 3:  At the beginning of the third mile, I see Matthew spectating on the side of the road (what's wrong with this pic?  - Mom and Dad are racing, and Matthew is out supporting us and taking pictures and videos of us).  He yells out that I'm 20 seconds behind the leader.  Really?  I figure the guy's a minute ahead of me.  OK, just a mile left, lets see if we can pick it up at all.  After a couple of turns, I turn into the park for the final stretch, and voila, there's the leader in front of me!  I muster up what kick I can, and actually narrow the gap, and finish just 4 seconds behind him.
In the finishing chute, just behind the overall winner

Final results:  17:35!!  Two seconds off my all-time PR.  2nd overall, 1st in age group.  Full results here.  Of course now my questions (to myself) were where could I have taken off 3 seconds to beat my PR and 5 seconds to beat the winner.

I ended up finishing up just over a minute ahead of Scott.  He and I went back out for a cool-down and to see Jana running the course as well as his girlfriend was out running the 10K.  Jana was elated to find she was 2nd in her age group, so I was really happy for her.  We both got $10 DD cards, and used mine up on the way back for the three of us.  Fun day.  Now after today's results, I've got to get at least one more road 5K in this fall season.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Weekly Log 28-Sep to 4-Oct-2015

Rain-drenched week (5 out of 7 days) as we turn the calendar into October.  Other than the lack of sunshine, I am enjoying the cooler temperatures.

Monday: 2
Lunch run and minor trail clearing.

Tuesday: 5
Last of the really hot weather.  Near 80 degrees on lunchtime run along the beach in Miquamicut.  Later in the afternoon was out on the Grills trails for Matthew's only home XC meet of the year.  Drenching rain but worth it as Matthew won it by over a minute over the next runner.

Wednesday:  10
Absolute downpour.  The question wasn't IF I would run, but rather WHERE I would run.  A track workout would not be fun, and I didn't really want to be on the roads with drivers splashing and sliding through flooded roadways.  The trails it is!
Socks after today's trail run.
For once, I was nice and at least rinsed out the
muck instead of just putting in the hamper
for Jana to deal with.

Ran the 10-mile Blue Heron Trail loop in Dedham, MA.  For most of the run, I was splashing through puddles.  In a few places, flooded streams were deeper than my knee to ford!  I had fun out there, but I don't imagine the local Y was thrilled with the mud I dragged in.

Thursday:  6
Morning run on my Westerly Hospital loop.  Low 50s and drizzly.

Friday:  5
Windy and rainy morning run on my Rockridge loop.

Saturday:  5
The rain broke long enough for me to get out on the Pumpkins course to inspect it after the wind.  Mike B had also suggested this during the week, but I knew I'd sleep better checking it out ASAP.  Nothing major, but many small branches were down on the trail.  Also took the time to map out an approximate 1K kids' course on the grass field.  Game day minus 1 week!

Sunday:  8
Finally, a great fall day!  Temps in the 50s and the sun came out!  Write-up forthcoming on my race at Strides 5K.
I was very excited to find this guy sunning himself
on our lawn.  Caught him and brought him in the house to
show everyone.  The boys seemed excited (as boys should be,
right, Mike B?) and Mark took this pic.  Jana was NOT impressed
and wanted to know why I brought a snake in the house.

I thought about putting him in the car and bringing him to Mike B's house
as I know he'd appreciated it, but this was just a little snake so I let him go.
I'll wait until I catch something bigger before I bring one to Mike.

Weekly mileage:  40.  A little higher would be nice, but not bad given nothing major or long coming up.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Weekly Log 21-Sep to 27-Sep-2015: College Visits Recap

Spent the week visiting colleges in south-eastern Atlantic states with Mark.  Y'all come back now, ya hear?
Monday:  11
Morning run in Barn Island.  Primarily hit the single-track trails. Really fun place to run.
Noontime 1.5 miles in Woody Hill, with a chainsaw.  There were four blown-down trees blocking the trail from Wahaneeta up towards Fern Drive; took out 3 of the 4; the final one easy to run around.
Afternoon flew out to NC with Mark.

Tuesday:  5
Umstead State Park, Raleigh, NC.  Trails galore. Wish I had a lot more time before the first campus visit of the day, but I got myself disoriented as it was. Nice mix of forested double and single track.
Visit to NC State

Fun trails in Umstead State Park

Beautiful campus at
UNC Chapel Hill

Wednesday:  11
Myrtle Beach, SC.  Barefoot beach run.  Staying right on the beach, it was calling for me to come for a run in the morning.  The beach just keeps going and going, so I was enjoying running it.
View from the hotel room balcony.  Could have stayed here much longer.

After going 5 1/2 miles, I thought I should be turning around and coming back for breakfast and start of the day.  Shortly after turning around, I felt my feet starting to hurt.  That's odd; I've only run 6 or so miles.  Kept going, but the more I did, the more the feet hurt.  What gives?  I run more than this back home.  A marked difference is here the beach was very hard packed sand and pulverized shells.  About 8 miles I consider stopping and checking my feet, but then decided that won't help me to get back the remaining 3 miles.  Looking around, the other runners I encounter are all wearing running shoes.  Hmmm.  I think about which surface will offer the least friction:  hard-packed beach or running in the water, and decide on the latter.  By the time I make it back to the hotel, my feet are quite blistered and would end up hurting for a couple of days.

I'm guessing the "hooves" are
better adapted to soft sandy RI beaches 
Afternoon kayaking with Mark

Of course, if you have an establishment like this ...

... you're bound to have
characters like this show up.
Had dinner here (NOT)

Actually had dinner here (Mark in foreground)

Thursday:  5
Shorter and slower run on Myrtle Beach, this time shod.  Still a little pain, but nothing like yesterday.
Untimely flash flood while on our
Univ of SC tour;
several inches under this water is the walkway

Friday:  0
In Georgia for the final day of campus visits.  Got up for my run at 5.  Pitch dark, pouring rain, roads literally had no shoulders - that was enough excuses for me to bag the run and catch another 45 minutes of shut-eye.
Final visit:  picturesque Univ of Georgia
At the end of the tour, how appropriate or
inappropriate was it that they blasted "Teenage Wasteland"?
(timeless "Baba O'Reilly" from the Who)

Saturday:  8
Woody Hill solo morning run.  Love running in Woody, and the trail cleared of blown-down trees gave me satisfaction as well.  The Pumpkins course is looking great!  What a change from the spring. Excited and nervous at the same time that this is coming to fruition so soon.

Sunday:  8
Grills trails with Matthew.  We ran the WHS X-C course first, as he has a meet there Tuesday.  After the XC course, we ventured over to the Hopkinton side and back.  I have no chance against Matthew on non-technical double-track, but the old man can hold his own on the Hopkinton hilly technical single-track.

Weekly mileage total:  49

Good experience and time with Mark.  Based on our visits, he "narrowed" down his list from about 25 colleges to the 8 he will apply to in October.  I guess I'll be working for a while. 

Happy to get in another ~50 mile week, plus run in some new areas.  Refreshed the blog header to put in a pic from a fall race.  Which race is it?