Friday, November 27, 2015

Weekly Log 16-Nov to 22-Nov-2015: A Week of All Trails

Monday:  8
Fresh off my big PR at Rhody, I was very happy to perform my annual ritual of a second sweep of the course and facilities.  The course was in great shape, thanks to master sweepers Tammy and Mandy; the parking lot not so much.  Most runners are awesome.  Why a few thought it would be cool to leave behind soup bowls and cups, a few now ant-infested, is beyond me.

Tuesday: 6
Lunch time loop in Woody from Bradford Preserve.  Awesome fall day in the woods.

Wednesday:  9
On my way up to Wellesley for work, decided to try out a new (to me) trail system:  Adams Farm in Walpole, MA.  It was a chilly morning right around the freezing mark.  The hat and gloves that I took out the night before and absent-mindedly left on my nightstand would not help me now.  Took a quick look at the map at the kiosk, and got moving.  The trails in Adams Farm proper were well blazed and a lot of fun; once crossing the power lines into Patten Forest, not so much.
Neat frost covered field,
where I saw a pair of coyotes running (they wouldn't stop for a pic)

Some trails were well established

Some not so much

Thursday:  5
Lunchtime run in Wahaneeta.  Didn't eat my Wheaties; was feeling very weak.

Friday: 0

Saturday:  11
Barn Island:  biggest group run ever!  Ten of us came out to run with Mike B, who was returning to group runs amidst a personal tragedy of losing his father.  Ran 6 miles including Perimeter Trail and out to the Barn Island entrance off Stewart Road.  On the way out, deep in the woods we came upon a hunter up in a tree stand and surmised that he must be hating us.  Looped back to our cars, where Seth and Crutch dropped out and the rest of us sauntered on.
Do we look like we are ready for a run or the firing squad?
(Photo by Crutch)
We were at a trail juncture where the rest of the group was continuing on double-track gravel road to finish and Muddy and I were taking a twisty single-track (Shot Shell Trail).  Jonny kept looking down the single-track with wide-eyed glee, and when I told him the two trails would reconnect, he took off like a flash on the single-track.  Alas, we parted ways with the group and Muddy and I tacked on a few more miles on double/single mix.   In the end, Muddy had 10.7 miles on his watch, I had 11.0 but when I uploaded it, Garmin Connect retained the 11.0 but Strava reduced me to 10.8.  Odd?

Epilogue:  Fast forward to about 9pm that evening at the Bridge over dinner and drinks with some of my friends from high school.  I'm telling them about my run with running friends early that morning at Barn Island, when a diner at the next table interrupts me to ask, "Were you with the group of runners on the trails at Barn Island about 7am?".  I said, yes, I was in the front leading a group of ten runners, all dressed in orange, why?  He said, "Actually, most of you were in orange, but one guy was in yellow.  I know because you ran past me when I was up in a tree stand."  Oops.  Awkward.  The long story short is he was fine with us, he never saw any deer anyway, said runners sometimes flush out the deer, and we ended up buying drinks for each other's tables.  (They were drinking $2 Narragansetts; we were drinking $12 single-malts and bourbons, but that's another story.)

Sunday:  0
Rain in afternoon and low 40s.  No motivation to run in that weather.

Weekly mileage:  39
Wasn't my intention to run all trails all week, but that's the way it shook out.  Suspect that will change as we move into shotgun season starting Dec 5.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Li'l Rhody 2015!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It was a dark and stormy night.  No, wait a minute ... wrong story.  It was a radiant autumn day amidst the falling leaves, temperatures hovering at a runner-optimal 55 degrees, sylvan trails dry and conditions ripe for crushing PRs.  After a couple of hours of placing trail signs, setting up registration, directing volunteers, chatting with friends and frenemies, and shamelessly cutting bathroom lines to take care of business, it was time to let one of my favorite annual adventures begin.

Aspirations:  Forty-two and two hundred orange-clad runners toed the white starting line, each with a different goal in mind from anything of a time-specific goal to simply having fun to BLS' perennial goal of "don't die".  My sole goals for the day were A) sub-50, and B) PR.  Technically not much difference between A and B goals, given a 2013 PR of 50:14.  I wasn't highly optimistic on either, given that I felt tired running hills in VT and NH the prior two days and that running the Rhody course eight days ago at 59 minutes, I still felt tired on the hills.  Matthew had much more confidence in me than I had in myself (maybe that's part of his success factor?)  Even Chris Fox had assured me after last year's Rhody (50:16) that I had a sub-50 in my future.

The front half:  The gun went off.  Jonny rocketed ahead, and I do mean rocketed.  There was a solid mass of runners and then way ahead was Jonny.  Those of us in the top 15 all moved ahead at quite a quick pace for me.  I estimated that I entered the single-track off Sanctuary Road in about 11th place.  Just prior to entering the campground, Muddy passed me.  Mile 1 split (don't worry, I won't bore you with all of them, especially as many are meaningless on trails):  5:35.  Uh-oh, did I just ruin my race?
Jonny leading the group out at the start
(Photo by Jana)
We passed to the far right of all playground facilities and ran CCW around the first traffic island known as "East Rotary".  Is it just my fading old-age memory, but what was going through my head is didn't we used to pass between the playground facilities and through the middle of the first traffic island?  Is this going to add yet another few seconds to my time?

Passed two runners on the long stretch of asphalt on Four Boulders Road before re-entering the trail where I had just sawed obstructing white pine branches earlier in the week.  Continued running hard on the next mile of very non-technical trail and saw a runner ahead of me as I entered the covered bridge.  Passed this runner in the rock garden just after the approach with Klondike Road.  Steve Brightman?  Surely I am delirious.  He mouthed something to me that seemed unintelligible, and whatever I said back between my heavy breathing was I'm sure equally jibberish.

Just prior to the final boardwalk section before Buckeye Brook Road, I was closing the gap quickly on two runners:  one unknown and one Robert Jackman.  Jackman, seriously?  I asked what he was doing "way back here" and he responded something about feeling terrible.  We had a similar encounter at Mile 6 of Blessing this summer, and I feared he would retake me again before the finish as he did then.  On to the water stop, where I took a water cup (as opposed to what else would I take at a water stop?) and then promptly slammed my water cup into the cup held out right in front of me by the second volunteer, causing the 2nd water cup to spill all over that volunteer, and most of the water in my cup to exit, leaving me exactly 7 1/2 drops of water, which I imbibed, threw on the ground, and exited onto Buckeye Brook Road.  Does anyone offer remedial courses on how to drink water in a race?  I really need to sign up.
How do I keep the water
in the cup?

The back half:  On Buckeye Brook Road just prior to the trail re-entrance, someone is coming up on me fast.  I think to myself, Jackman's vengeance already?  No, it's Matthew!  Awesome!  Fresh off running the hills of Vermont in the New England X-C Championship race less than 24 hours ago, he looked in great shape.  I urged him to enter the trails ahead of me, and it's a good thing he did, as the gap grew very quickly and then he was gone.  Four miles into the race, he was moving and on a mission.  One of the best lines about this was an e-mail from Chris Fox afterwards:  "As far as I can tell, Matthew was chained to the registration desk until 5 minutes after start time."  Speaking of the devil, just after the short rock climb, who do I see ahead of me other than frenemy Fox?  Wait a minute, now:  I've passed Brightman, Jackman, and now I'm about to pass Fox?  Don't get cocky here; it's a long race with plenty to go.  As I passed Fox, we had a deeply intellectual and moving conversation:  I looked at him and said "Fox" and he looked back and said "Walker".  Nothing further needed to be said.
Passing Fox on the trail

This is my 12th annual running of this race, with my only longer streak being Blessing with 13 years.  I remember being at about this point in the race (~5 miles in) the first few years and each time thinking "when would this trail ever end" as I increasingly fatigued and slowed.  This year while I was certainly running at a tiring pace, I was able to keep the pace up as I could remember and predict upcoming parts of the course and I was running scared that one of the aforementioned frenemies would retake me.  It was not to be.  I took the rest of the trail in stride and comfort, including leaf-covered, leaf-blown, dirt trail, and rock gardens.
Nearing the end of the trail
(Photo courtesy of Susie Smith)

The next runner I would see was out on King's Factory Road.  I saw two runners up ahead, with the one in the back wearing an orange singlet who I assumed [wrongly] to be Matthew.
Gazellin' to the finish

I pushed the final tarmac portion (I really dislike this section) at a 5:42 pace and as I rounded the traffic island headed for the finish line, I thought I saw "49:05" on the clock.  No, it must be delirium or poor eye sight at best.

Final results:  49:10!!  PR by over one minute!  7th place finish( 1 of 2 bandits was ahead of me - sore topic for another day).  1st in my old man age group.  Full results here.  Am I pleased with my result?  Ecstatic!
While not as impressive as the All Stater's 3rd place overall Rhody award
(and growing collection) ...

... I done good taking home the gold for the old guys.

Three of the six ahead of me were WTAC (Matthew in 3rd!, Muddy, Jonny), and frenemies Fox and Brightman still broke 50, but today was the day they didn't catch the gazelle!  An awesome day on the trails was had by all, as evidenced by all of the unsolicited feedback afterwards.  Thanks for all who ran and all who made the race possible.  Life is good!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Weekly Log 9-Nov to 15-Nov-2015: Vermont and Li'l Rhody Week

Monday:  0

Tuesday:  6
Land Trust volunteering in the morning.  We reopened Champlin Glacier Preserve for the first time since the spring, as it was closed all summer for a forestry initiative.  Many of the trails I don't even recognize anymore after all the clearing.
Doesn't look like Champlin

It's raining leaves

In the afternoon, I ran Barn Island trails in the rain with Matthew and a friend of his.

Wednesday:  5
Very windy Veterans' Day.  Decided to stay off roads and ran in the Westerly Town Forest instead.

Thursday:  5
Dover, MA.  Another day on the trails.  Ran/explored Noanet Woodlands.

Friday:  4
Thetford, VT.  Ran the NE XC Championship course with Matthew.  We ran at an easy pace, and I was still feeling it with all the undulating hills.  In the back half of the course, a 200' winding climb called "Morty's Monster" awaited us.

Saturday:  7
West Lebanon, NH.  Headed out early from the hotel before going to Matthew's meet.  I had mapped out a loop and a segment to go after.  1.2 mile "Down Mt. Support" segment.  64 people on the segment; I would need to run sub-6, but given a loss of 123 feet in elevation, that shouldn't be too taxing.  (It wasn't)
Stepped outside to find it snowing.  Not hard, and not sticking, but snow none the less.  Glad I had brought a hat and gloves.  Fun and scenic run.
1st snow flakes of the season!

Sunday:  8
Back in Rhody for the 24th annual Li'l Rhody Runaround.  Write-up to follow shortly.

Weekly tally:  Mileage a little low at 36.  Want to keep a base of ~40 throughout the winter before ramping up for whatever I undertake in the spring.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Avondale 5K

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The official name of this race is the Setting the Pace for Conservation 5K, but it's more often called the Westerly Land Trust 5K or Avondale Farm Preserve 5K or just Avondale 5K.  I think it needs a name makeover.

As a member and supporter of the Westerly Land Trust, I would likely run this race on those merits alone, but it truly is a fun and fast 5K course.  Steve had designed this course through the preserve and on quiet roads along the Pawcatuck River.  For two years, this race was run as the Commitment for Change benefitting the WARM shelter and others, and after they stopped the race, the Land Trust picked it up.

Mile 1:  57-degree start was ideal, although with some wind out of the west.  The gun went off, and surprisingly we did not have anyone sprint out.  Tommy 5K, Jeff Duda, and I ran together for the first 1/4 mile or so, until Duda said he would drop back "where he belongs".  Calls from Tom and me for him to get up front and block the wind were not heeded.  By the time we came back through the start/finish line to exit the preserve at 1KM, it was just Tommy and me.  Out onto Watch Hill road for a mile 1 split of 5:32.

Mile 2:  Turning off Watch Hill Road onto Avondale Road, we headed back into the headwind.  Tommy got about 5 feet ahead of me, and I seriously considered just dropping back to a more comfortable pace.  I somehow pushed it to catch back up and we ran together turning off to Champlin towards the turn-around.  We alternated spots a couple of times, but by the time we turned back into the wind on Avondale Road again, I was just spent.  Mile 2 split 5:44 (it felt a lot faster than that).

Mile 3:  The pace slowed considerably, as at this point I was just in "hang on" mode.  Tom's lead increased, although I kept him in sight the whole way.  After what seemed like an eternity, we were back in the preserve.  I passed the Mile 3 marker with a 5:51 split, and as I watched Tom cross the finish line in 17:23, I sprinted to the finish.

Final results here.  17:32.  A one second PR!  First 5K PR in more than two years.  Duda finished in 18:07, and Shara notched a new PR in 18:39.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Weekly Log 2-Nov to 8-Nov-2015: Ocean swim, trail runs in the dark, and impaling poles

First full week of November.  Ocean swim and night trail run were the highlights.

Monday:  7
Moonlight Hills. After setting the clocks back this past weekend, it was good to be able to have more daylight to run in during the early morning, even if only temporary.

Tuesday:  7
Beautiful fall day in
Hopkinton Grills Preserve
Grills run from Hopkinton side at lunch.  Very balmy 67F.  Not complaining, but I do prefer the cool crisp fall runs.  When I made it over to the Westerly side, I decided to push it hard and unbeknownst to me, took a segment from Jonny on the blue trail heading back to Polly Coon bridge.

Heading over the bridge into Hopkinton, I missed a sharp right turn and kept heading up the double-track.  Eventually it was odd to see a pickup truck driving out here.  Oops, that's because I'm trespassing.  The man yelled out to me to ask if I was looking for the trail.  I turned around to come back to him and apologized for the inadvertent trespassing.  He insisted on walking with me to show me the return trail as long as he didn't "slow me down".  We talked for a while, and small world, it turns out his son played soccer with my brother Scott at Chariho decades ago, and he had worked with my uncle at Pfizer.

Wednesday:  8
Needham, MA.  Plans for a track workout were short-lived due to lack of interest.  Ran the trails at Wilson Mountain Reservation instead, pushing it a little faster on the uphill sections, one of my running weaknesses.
Odd pumpkin/squash/gourd impaling pole
near the start of my run today

Thursday:  5
Another balmy day in the mid-60s.  For my lunch run, I opted to go to the Westerly Town Beach.  There were actually a few people at the beach, some even in beach chairs!  Yes, this is November!  Weird!  Decided to go with the warm weather theme and ran barefoot.  Out to the breachway and back, continuing on past the state beach before returning to make five miles.  Completely sweaty, I ran and dove into the ocean.  It wasn't as cold as I expected.  Splashed around for a few minutes.  November, eh?

Friday:  5
Champlin trails in the dark.  First time running trails with a headlamp since Ragnar.  Had forgotten just how difficult it is, especially on the rocky/rooty sections.

Saturday:  8
Solo Li'l Rhody course run.  Easy pace inspecting the course.  A few tree blow-downs, presumably from the August freak storm, as most had long since had a detour routed around or over them.  Ready or not, here we come!

Sunday:  6
Avondale Westerly Land Trust 5K.  Write-up shortly.

Weekly mileage:  45.  Back over 40, yeah!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Weekly Log 26-Oct to 1-Nov: Lazy Miles & Halloween

Monday:  6
Blue Heron trail, Dedham, MA.  Running at dawn on rooty, rocky trails is a little tougher as I couldn't see them all.

Tuesday:  0

Wednesday:  6
Mystic trails in the rain with FiveK.  It was a pretty steady rain when we met late afternoon at the Aquarium, but undaunted, we sought out trails where the rain is not so bothersome on the face.  We made it up as we were going, but there were occasional maps along the way where we could check in.  A few times we got disoriented (normal for first time running a trail system), but it looks like we covered most of them.

Thursday:  5
Lunchtime run in Misquamicut.

Friday:  0

Saturday:  9
9 miles at 6:42 pace.  Chilly run through Avondale, before heading up to Glocester, RI to watch Matthew take 2nd in the RI Class B Championship meet.  16:35 on a hilly 5K course!  Now he is qualified for the RI State meet next Sunday, where he has a goal to make New Englands (top 25 runners in the state advance).
Really fun watching him go from 8th place early on, all the
way down to 2nd place.  Fastest sophomore time in the state.

Got back from the meet in time to carve pumpkins.

and enjoy one of my favorite holidays.

Can't you see I'm smiling?
Even got a fireside visit from the newlyweds.

Sunday:  0

Weekly run miles:  26.  Yeah, pretty pathetic.  I could make up excuses for missing three days of running, but I'll just rationalize it that it's good to take a recovery week from time to time with less mileage, and the previous 5 weeks were all north of 40 miles.  Let's just make sure I get back to the higher miles next week!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Of Penguins & Duathlons: Quick Pictorial Review

Back-to-back race weekend:

  • Run for The Penguins - Mystic, CT - Saturday, October 17
  • RI Duathlon - Charlestown, RI - Sunday, October 18

Run for the Penguins.
Yes, there were real penguins at the race!

Other than Pawcatuck Middle Schoolers (red shirts)
blasting out for the first 1/10 mile, Matthew took off
and dominated for the whole race.  (I'm behind him in the
green singlet fending off youngsters.)

Beautiful sunny cool day

The old man comes in 3rd (passed on a hill by a 20-something
1.5 miles in) at 18:08

Race winner!  17:10  Results

1st place age group.  Unique tile award.

Post-race posing with a penguin, sort of, as they wouldn't
let me hold it.
Onto the RI Duathlon.
First time running this race.  Transition
set up is so much easier when you
eliminate the
swim portion.

Bike setup

Final transition check. It was a cool 41 degrees, a tad
chillier than I like on the bike.  Many participants in
tights, jackets, hats, etc.

2nd overall!  Final run finish (run 2 miles,
ride 14, run 2).  Photos by Matthew
Now if I could run this fast at all my races, I would be
doing awesome!  (video by Matthew)

Weekly Log 19-Oct to 25-Oct-2015

Monday:  0

Tuesday:  13
Morning:  8-mile pond loop, including run on the beach into a strong headwind.
Evening:  5-miles on the Pumpkins course, including planning an extender trail from the turnaround point in the pine forest out to the Swamp Bypass Trail.

Wednesday:  5
Needham track:  6 x 400, w/ 200m recovery: 79, 78, 78, 76, 76, 74.  Tough mentally to complete 6 laps.  Effort seemed puny compared to workouts Jonny and Muddy do, nevermind Matthew.

Thursday:  5
70-degree lunch run on local roads.  27 degrees on Monday; 70 degrees today!

Friday:  3
Seldom take runs this short, and didn't have a time constraint, but after seeing that the majority of Champlin Glacier Park trails are STILL closed for logging operations, lost interest and returned home.

Saturday:  12
Trail run through Woody Hill, including Wahaneeta and town properties.  This was a fun one.  Jonny met early at Bradford Preserve.  Chilly to begin with, but soon warmed up as we ran a variety of trails.  We in there for almost two hours over 1,200 acres, yet never saw a soul.

Sunday:  5
Matthew asked me if we could find hilly trails to run.  Let's try Duval!  He had never been in there before, and Duval trails seem constantly rolling to me.  Went from the Quaker cemetery and covered most of the western portion of Duval, including what seemed to be newly cut or at least newly marked trails?  For example, there was a "Lynn's Loop" blazed yellow that I just don't recall and seemed to have newly felled trees in a few place.

Weekly mileage:  43 - Fifth consecutive week north of 40.  Very happy with that.