Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Weekly Log 19-Dec to 25-Dec: VT Skiing & Christmas

Penultimate blog post of the year.  "Fast away the old year passes."

Monday:  18
Chilly in the low 20s with a breeze.  Took me a few miles to warm up, but was still able to wear shorts.  Solo run around the pond, with a few extensions to bring it up to 18.  Longest run in 7 months.  Legs were not happy. Average pace 7:30.

Tuesday:  12
Noon:  Solo Champlin and Mastuxet run.
Evening:  Christmas Light Run from my house with 6 of us.  Most of the lit houses were in Sea Glen (my neighborhood) and Chin Hill.  As most of us had headlamps, I threw in a short 1/4 mile trail run on Mastuxet North to get over to Benny Drive/Babcock neighborhood.
Fun Christmas Light Run with the guys.

Wednesday:  6
Winter Solstice.  Late afternoon trail run from Wahaneeta up to Bradford Preserve and back.

Thursday: 5
5am local roads in the dark, before heading up to Vermont for a short ski trip.

Friday:  10
Warren, VT.  Ten hilly, snowy, and mostly in the dark miles.  Despite some initial trepidation, I'm really glad I went out for this one.  It had snowed most of the day before, and initially the only people I saw outside were snow plow drivers.  The first three miles were rolling hills, and then I got a little nervous when for the next three miles, the road just kept going down, down, and down.  I had better footing and confidence on the snow-covered dirt roads than I did on the asphalt roads that were fully plowed, but still had a thin veneer of ice/snow.  By the time I had dropped down to Route 100 for a short, relatively flat section, I had lost 850' of elevation.
Time for the return.  A 650' climb in just one mile, with an average grade of 11%!  By now, daylight was appearing and I was able to switch the headlamp off.  Got back to the condo and the others were just getting up to get ready for skiing.  Great run!  Total elevation gain of 1,585 feet, concentrated in just a few miles.

Beautiful view later that day skiing at Sugarbush.

Plenty of snow.

Fun skiing in the woods with Mark
and my cousins.
Saturday:  5
Back in RI for Christmas Eve.  After some last-minute Christmas shopping (not my strongest suit), I stopped on the way back at dusk for a run in Champlin.  Really neat to have found a decorated tree in the woods.  Despite having a headlamp, missed a stump and fell hard on some rocks, drawing blood.  Such is the life of a trail runner!

Sunday:  6
Christmas Day.  Local road and beach run.  Temps near 40.  Quite a few people out walking the beach in Misquamicut.

Weekly mileage:  64!

Weekly synopsis:  Finally, a week that I am really happy with my mileage.  Run highlights were the group Christmas Light Run and the hilly, snowy run in Vermont.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Weekly Log 12-Dec to 18-Dec-2016

Heading into my two-week vacation soon.  I will have a total of 17 days off.  I already know they will fly by quickly, so besides lounging around for the holidays, I had better set some objectives:
  • Run at least 65 miles in a week
  • Ski
  • Volunteer for a good cause
  • Register for a spring marathon
  • Get at least something done on the honey-do list (replace leaky faucet, fix broken deck door handle, etc)

Monday:  0
Rest day after Christmas 10K.  Good news:  we have the heat working again!  First time in a few days the indoor temp has seen above 58F.

Tuesday:  7
Fun, warm (40s and calm), and sunny midday run from West Beach, Charlestown, through the Quonochontaug beaches and neighborhoods.  I'm actually enjoying running roads again. The horrible HHH weather from the summer is a distant memory, and the cool air invigorates me.

Wednesday:  5
Old Furnace State Park, Killingly, CT.  Right off Route 395, convenient for a stop on my way back from working in MA.  The lot was deserted when I arrived, except for two other cars, so I parked far enough away to be able to change into running clothes.  Just as I was finishing up, despite the lot being still deserted, a car with one broken (as in smashed in) headlamp pulled up real close perpendicular to me.  A big guy got out and walked over to my side looking into my car.  Weird!   A cop checking that everything was alright?  Nope.  I got ready to put the window down, and he turned and walked into the woods.  OK, then.
Some water crossings had bridges ...
... and some didn't!

Put on my running shoes, locked the car, and off onto the trail.  Once the trail went into the woods, here's that same guy just standing on the edge of the woods barely into the woods, looking at me.  I say "hi", but he just stares at me.  OK, this guy is creeping me out.  Continued on the trail, and about 1/2 mile in I was relieved the next person I saw seemed much more normal:  a woman in her 30s out hiking with her skittish puppy.  She was stopped on the edge of the lake, said she was from NH but liked hiking here when she was in the area, and explained to me where there were really cool cliffs that I could run.  Sounds good; thanked her and off I went.
Lake shore where I paused to talk to a woman hiking
with her dog.  Lake had a thin veneer of ice.

View from the recommended cliffs was indeed worth the steep climb.

Rugged territory!
Descended on a different trail, which cut across a different parking lot, where I saw the same car with the same broken headlamp!  I didn't see the grizzled creeper anywhere, and once I entered the trail on the other size of the parking lot, I picked up the pace to get away from there.  As I'm continuing further away from my car, I am acutely aware that I am rapidly losing daylight.  The trail continues around the southern edges of Ross Pond, and as it leaves the pond and back into the woods, the trail is getting harder to see.  It starts to get technical as it climbs, and at every intersection I am pausing long enough to make out where the blue blazes go.  The last half mile is getting really tricky as the last vestiges of twilight are fading.  I slip a couple of times, but don't fall.  As I make it back into the original parking lot, night has fallen.  There is only one car in the lot now; you've got it - it's the creeper.  Fortunately, he's in the car with the car running, so I know where he is.  Now his car starts moving and soon his one headlight will be shining on me.  While he's probably fine and I'm probably overreacting, I am feeling very uncomfortable and run into the woods despite no trail here and I can no longer see.  I crouched down until his car passed and left the parking lot.  I don't know why I had such a reaction, but I'm so glad he's gone and I get back to my car, get inside, lock the doors, and hightail it out of there.
Took one CR in the process and am just 7 seconds off a technical CR, which turns out to be Critchlery's from 3 1/2 years ago!

Thursday:  10
AM:  5 miles solo at Riverwood Preserve.  Small and neat preserve with lousy access and intimidating neighbors trying to keep people out with multiple "No Trespassing" signs, despite the fact that the Westerly Land Trust has a right-of-way for public access.  I hope someday they succeed in getting a more friendly access point.  Slipped on ice I didn't see and fell on a rock, but bruised nothing but my ego.
PM:  5 miles in the Borough for a Christmas Light Run with Mikey and Tommy.  23 degrees, the wind made it feel colder than that, but even with shorts once we got going, I warmed up nicely.  The lights were less impressive than just the fun of getting out with friends.  Finished up at the outdoor fire at the Dog Watch.  Just like in the summer, except that it was dark, there were no other nuts out running, and it was just a few degrees colder.

Friday:  0
My last day working for 2016.  A planned late afternoon run didn't pan out, as I kept getting "just one more request" several times over, and ended up working later than I had planned.

Saturday:  12
There's no run like a snow run!  Was just about to head out the door when I got a text from Tommy 5K asking if I was still going for a run this morning.  Absolutely!  Come join me.  Ran around the pond, plus a little extra out Ocean View Highway.  24 degrees means shorts, despite the snowfall.  First half was really nice in the falling snow, but by the second half the snow had turned to rain and was starting to get slushy.  Glad we didn't start any later.
First snow of the season!

Sunday:  8
Slushy run at Bluff Point & Haley Farm State Parks.  With Mike B, Jonathan Short, and Matthew.  The snow was basically gone in Westerly, so I figured it would be the same in Groton.  Unfortunately, it was a lot of slush we ran through.  Still a good time, but at times the feet were quite cold from running through slush and cold puddles of melted snow.

Weekly Mileage:  42

Weekly synopsis:  My runs were fun, even through the slush, but I am not happy at all with the mileage quantity.  It's easy to make excuses, but with being off for the rest of the year now, there should be absolutely no excuse next week.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas 10K 2016

Newport, RI
Sunday, December 11, 2016

I've probably run this race about five times now.  10Ks are not very common in this country, so I like the change of distance, and I really enjoy the course which goes right along the ocean past Brenton Point.  We've had a few off-and-on years of running this as a club, so I proposed to our board that we promote this as a team event again.  Kudos and thank-you to new club Secretary Beth for promoting and organizing.  Several days before the event, I believe only Beth and I had signed up and committed.  I would still go and enjoy it, but the more the merrier.
Fun, nearly traffic-free course,
with 2 miles alongside the ocean.

By race morning, there were 7 of us WTAC'ers in.  Not as many as last year, but still fantastic!  Warmed up with Kevin and Eric, neither of whom had previously been in the park.across the street with cool cliffs and trails.  Changed into my racing flats and headed to the start line.  I got some comments about wearing short-shorts and singlets at the race, but honestly the temps had risen to 30 degrees, it was sunny, and no wind.  Perfect choice of running garb that I didn't regret.
Race start

Miles 1 & 2:  Started off with a pack of 10, including Muddy, Jonny, and Turtles Principe, Jackman, and Venable.  Hung with them for about 2/3 of a mile, and while I'm sure the pace was slow for some of them at just over 5:30, it was too spicy for me.  Dropped off from the pack and finished Mile 1 at 5:42.  Just after Mile 1, another dropped back from the pack.  I thought, good, someone to stay near me and push me, but unfortunately, I easily went past him.  Mile 2 split 5:55.

Miles 3 & 4: Most of this 2-mile section was right along the ocean.  I've run it in the wind, in the rain, with seaweed covering the road, and with salt water spraying on me, but today was just perfect:  again, calm and sunny.  On the downside, I'm running as an island with no one to push me.  At this point, I can only see the next runner (Brightman) on long straightaways.  Similarly, the next runner is quite a ways behind me (I don't look back, but rather when I pass the few spectators clapping, I try to judge based on how long after I pass before they clap or say something again).  I know there is where I become complacent, and I try mentally to keep the pace up.  Miles 3 & 4 splits:  5:56 / 6:01.

Miles 5 & 6:   For the final two miles, we move away from the shore and head inland back to Rogers High School.  There are plenty of walkers on the course at this point, as they walk a 3.3 mile course the overlaps the last two miles of the 10K running course.  Many are supporting and cheering.  The final mile is net uphill.  Turning the final corner before the 6-mile mark and uphill finish, I pass WTAC'er Joe Light leading the walking contingent. Uphill to the school and done.
Finishing up.  Looks like I'm jogging it.

Final results:  36:45.  9th overall out of 251. 1st in age group.  Full results here.

Turns out this was my 2nd fastest 10K ever, 23 seconds off my PR. I don't feel like I had given it everything I had.   Should I have hung with the lead pack a little longer, or would that have hurt me in the end?  TNT took the team title, as they came in 1st, 3rd and 4th overall, but we had a good showing and placement with our WTAC team.  After a cooldown with fellow WTAC runners, most of us headed over to the Brick Alley Pub for lunch.  Fun race, and a fun get-together.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Weekly Log 5-Dec to 11-Dec-2016: Christmas 10K Week

Just four weeks remain in the year.  Final race of 2016 is this weekend in Newport.

Monday:  0

Tuesday:  7
Penfield State Park and Talcott Mountain State Park, Simsbury, CT.  Looked for a place to run near Bradley Airport, as I was picking up Mark coming home for the holidays.  Scanned Crutch's Strava runs in this area, reached out to him, and the choice was made.  This place is a lot of fun!

Started off on the Metacomet Trail (a 62 mile blue-blazed CT trail) in Penfield State Park and immediately started huffing and puffing on a 250' climb in the first half-mile.  After 1.6 miles up to Lake Louise, headed back on a parallel trail where I took the downhill CR.

Next across the street to Talcott Mountain State Park, where I would ascend more than 530', but this time it was over 2 miles.  Very technical trails along a ridge.  At the top I lingered around the Heublein Tower for just a couple of minutes, as I was running out of daylight.  Bombed down the yellow trail on the way down, taking my 2nd CR on the day.  Fortunately I didn't crash.
Heublein Tower,
built in 1914

Buildings at base of Heublein Tower

Views from Heublein Tower

Wednesday:  5
Dark, cold, and rainy run at Ninigret Park before sunrise.  37 degrees and a steady rain.  Even with a headlamp, it was easy to get disoriented running across the field.  Matthew planned this oneI out.  We were trying to get out to the trails, when we were surprised when we got to a gate with signs saying the refuge was closed.  A search later on revealed that the area is closed until December 23 for hunting of deer.  Continued out of park and onto Arnolda loop; my first time there.

Thursday:  6
Planned a lunchtime run at Grills Hopkinton.  Got there and started to change into running clothes, only to find I didn't bring any shorts.  I brought three shirts and two hats, but no shorts.  What an idiot.
I drove home (where I do have shorts) and at that point, ran roads and a little of beach.  My punishment for my idiocy was I got caught by a wave and went ankle deep into the ocean.  Actually didn't feel that cold.

Friday:  5
Noanet Woodlands, Dover, MA.  10-minute warm-up, followed by 10 x (1-minute on, 1-minute off).  The first three felt really easy; the remaining ones not so much. 
My run was going really well, until the final interval when I was coming downhill hard around a corner and a dog started growling at me.  I stopped dead in my tracks.  Where the heck is the owner?  Oh, here he comes, shuffling up the trail repeating "She just puppy, she just puppy".  Oh, well, as long as she's just a puppy, then it's fine for her to interrupt my run, block the trail snarling at me and pouncing towards me unleashed, all the while I have no idea of whether she is friend or foe.  I was ticked, and after the owner grabbed his dog to let me pass, I tried to talk rationally to him, but he just kept interrupting with "Thank you, thank you", so I don't think I was getting through.  Argh.  We need more Gusses and less unleashed snarling dogs with irresponsible owners.
On my cooldown, I calmed down a bit.

Saturday:  Zero, zilch, nada
Planned to run in the morning, but awoke to our furnace no longer working.  Temp had dropped to 53 degrees in the house, and now with temps forecast to be sub-freezing over most of the next 48 hours, this needed to be my priority to call and wait for a repairman to come out.  Anyway, the furnace needs a new circuit board, which is being expedited to get here Monday, and in the meantime, between the gas fireplace and electric space heater, we were able to get the inside temperature up to 59 degrees.  Good enough.

A tad chilly in the house this morning

Deferred my run to the afternoon, and then spent most of the afternoon getting a Christmas tree.  I overdid it this time, and being the first time the boys didn't come with us, this was the first time we (Jana and I) could not lift the tree onto the car.  I cut down a 15-footer that was very full and such a wide circumference trunk that it was a bear to drag it to the car alone.  We needed to get it to the Christmas tree lot about 1/2 mile away where they could bale it for us and there would be others to lift the baled tree onto the car.  We dragged it about 5' at a time before taking breaks, then I parked the car near a fence while climbing a fence trying to simultaneously lift the tree.  Yeah, no go.  I don't understand why my back hurts.  I was contemplating tying the tree to the back of the car and dragging it the half-mile, when one of us (hint:  it wasn't me) had the common sense to abandon this nonsense.  Sectioned the tree and moved it into the woods, then Jana picked a second tree (a "small" but nice-looking 13' blue spruce) and that was a breeze compared to the monstrosity of a tree.  Got it on top of the car, drove it over to the main lot where the workers came out and helped, and then I explained my story and insisted to pay for 2 trees, but the employees wouldn't hear anything of it.  Where is this gem that will continue to get my business?  Buttonwood Farm, Griswold, CT.

No, the tree wasn't this big, but
 the Griswolds had four to handle the tree,
and the Walkers were down to two this year.
Maybe seeing how long it took me to cut down the tree
should've been a hint that it was too big?
Sunday:  8
Christmas 10K.  Really fun time.  Write-up to follow shortly.

Weekly mileage:  32

Weekly synopsis:  Disappointing mileage total.  It's easy to make excuses, but this was clearly not the mileage I was looking for.  Onward and upward.  Between no more races this year and having the last two weeks of the year off, it should not be a problem (to exceed this week's paltry mileage).

A major disappointment was the hats we ordered for Clamshell Series awards.
They look great, and I love the color, but unfortunately even though
"one size fits all", they're huge and just too big for running.
I was really excited when hats were suggested, and didn't realize
the sizing issue until after distributed.
Perhaps a lesson learned is to get a single sample ahead of time to try on?
Maybe the hat would fit this guy well?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Weekly Log 28-Nov to 4-Dec-2016: Trail, Road, Track Mix

Monday:  0
Rest day.

Tuesday:  11
Something different:  went for a road run in the rain.  While I had been avoiding roads pretty much to date this fall after a brutally hot and uncomfortable summer, the roads are much easier to take in this cooler weather.  It was raining and 53 degrees at Noon, so it made for a very comfortable run.  Didn't feel I was running hard, so a little surprised with a sub-7 average pace especially given this run had a number of hills, including the Boombridge climb from the state line up into North Stonington, and Potter Hill Climb.
Saw more cows than humans on this run.  Not a bad thing.

Wednesday:  9
Easy pace run on the Blue Heron trail loop, Dedham into Boston and back.  Trails very soggy after last night's pouring rain.

Thursday:  5
Barn Island at lunch.  First day of December brought balmy 60-degree weather.  Single-track trails.  Only saw one other person on the trails:  a woman walking her three dogs, one of which really wanted to run with me.

Friday:  5
Knowing that tomorrow I'll be running track (gasp!) and roads with Tommy and crew, I headed to Bradford Preserve in late afternoon to run trails and keep it short and easy.  Contemplating add a "bump-up" option to our 2nd Fall Series trail race next year, and scouted options which would make an easy 8K.  A few runners gave feedback that they'd like a longer distance than 5K; a few more indicated 5K is probably the longest they would consider.

Saturday:  15
  1. Track workout with a group of 5, led by Tommy 5K.  5 miles including warm-up splits and rest.  4 x 400 (78, 79, 80, 82), 4 x 300 (58, 59, 60, 61), 4 x 200 (39, 38, 37, 34).  One pleasant encounter (a girl doing a track workout as we arrived, and explaining part of her workout to us) and one not so pleasant (an old man walking in Lane 1 the whole time; I inadvertently bumped him on one 400; wanted to both apologize and explain track etiquette, but the opportunity didn't present itself as he soon left).
  2. Medium distance group run.  Started with a group of five, ended with a group of one.  Ten miles for me.  Changed out of my NB 1400 flats into my Vazee Pace, while sitting in my car and noticing that the other four guys looked cold on the WHS quad in the wind waiting for me.  I felt cold looking at them, so I turned on the heated seats, got something to eat, and relaxed a bit (slight hyperbole, but it did feel like I was taking forever with the shoe change).  Again, one unpleasant experience (running on busy Elm Street while a woman in a minivan gave us a clear look of derision for running on the road, despite running single-file here; we runners should have been up on the cement sidewalk ruining our knees, or better yet on the couch) and one pleasant experience (running into Beth and Gus [who I probably insulted by calling Jax] and catching up for a bit).
Sunday:  6
Barn Island trails with Matthew.  Thank you to the state of CT for shutting down hunting on Sundays.  MA does the same, but RI does not follow suit.  Fortunately, with the proximity to the Constitution State (or is it the Nutmeg State?), this gives the trail runner a number of safer and more comfortable weekend trail options.

Weekly mileage:  51

Weekly synopsis:  Very happy with mileage of 51.  However, it's time to up the ante if I want to run well at a spring marathon, and accordingly, want to bring the mileage up to 60 by mid-December.  Having the last two weeks of the year off will help in that regard.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Pie Run 2016

Middletown, RI
Thanksgiving morning
Thursday, November 24, 2016

Last year Matthew and I ran the Washington Trust Family Turkey Trot 5K in Pawtucket.  This year, between my employer no longer sponsoring the race and a need to finish up earlier to go to my brother's house in Narragansett for T-day dinner, we looked for an earlier starting race.  We found two:  Fit Trail 5K in Cumberland, and the Pie Run in Newport, both with an 8:30am start.  We had seriously considered the Fit Trail 5K until Matthew researched it and found the trails were more like wide XC trails instead of single-track, so we opted for Pie.

Arrived at the Newport County Y about an hour early, and the crowds were already gathering.  Middletown Police already had Valley Road completely closed in both directions; that was exciting.  I exercised poor form in not pre-registering, but there was plenty of time to register and still get a short warm-up on the course.   I had studied the course map, as well as at Matthew's suggestion, Tom's race recap from 2015.  On the warm-up and while milling about, saw locals Carol and James Rose and NRA runners Dave Tetreault and Peter Barbera, but we also saw an overabundance of people wearing turkey hats and guys with shorts over their tights.
One of the many turkey-hats worn during the race.
I get this one; it's Thanksgiving Day after all.

 Dorks in shorts over tights were in abundance
at this race. 
RW opinion: No way! Are you kidding?

Mile 1:  Lined up about two rows back in a field that was 900+ deep.  A guy in a pilgrim suit made some brief remarks about something, then he tried but failed to use an airhorn to start the race.  The runners surged ahead anyway and the race was off.  Runners were pulling ahead but I tried to keep it conservative.  5:52
Temps in mid-30s.  Opted for short shorts, singlet, and thin gloves.
Pic by Jana.

Crossing the start line mat.  Only time I would be close to Matthew.
Courtesy Spitler FB page.

Mile 2:  Beautiful run along the water.  I was starting to retake a few of the runners that passed me in the first mile, including college student James Rose.  6:05
Course map:  mostly an out-and-back along the coast

Mile 3:  The mile starts with a 25 foot downhill to run near the ocean out to Sachuest Beach and a turnaround.  I picked it up a bit downhill and that carried me for a while on the flat section, but I was starting to worry about the purported big hill at mile 3.5.  On Sachuest Point Road now, I could see the three leaders coming back now in a pack, with Matthew in 4th being chased by Keven O'Neill and another BAA runner.  After the turn-around, I passed about three more runners in this stretch.  5:59

Mile 4:  The Hill.  We had about another 1/2 mile of flat, and then it began.  90' climb over 1/2 mile.  I was fearful of being overtaken by the guys I had just passed, but I was pleasantly surprised that I held my own here.  In retrospect, I think I psyched myself out here, and found the hill to be more long than steep.  6:26

Mile 5:  Downhill for 1/2 mile, then flat to the finish.  Downhill running is my forte, and I passed at least five runners on the descent.  Tried to use the momentum to carry me to the finish.  When I saw the clock ticking away high 29:40s, I knew that sub-30 was not a possibility, but I hadn't really even considered either.  Final mile:  5:39
Headed for the finish line.
Pic by Jana

Race over

Final results:  30:08.  16th place out of 926.  2nd in age group.  Full results here.
With my age group winnings:
A pumpkin pie and a blanket

I run competitively, but it's mostly about the fun of the race.  Having said that, I was bummed that I missed sub-30 by 8 seconds and went into the usual thought of where I could have made up the 8 seconds.  That became a fleeting thought as I was quite happy with my race overall, and had a good time.  This was my 3rd fastest 5-miler ever, and it had a significant hill in the course.  Matthew ripped a new PR of 26:41.  Had time to take a shower in the nice facilities of the Newport County Y before our awards, and still had plenty of time to get home and make Thanksgiving dinner in Narragansett in time.  Good, fun race.  Exceeded my expectations.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Weekly Log 21-Nov to 27-Nov-2016: Harry Chapin and the Pie

Thanksgiving week brought a few midweek twists from the usual:

Monday: 8
Started off the week the way I have for at least the past five years the morning after Rhody:  a sunrise run and final policing of the course.  As has been the norm since Mandy and Tammy have been the sweepers, the course is left nearly spotless.  Picked up only two flags and two pink directional arrows.  I thought we were no longer using the latter?

Tuesday:  0
Swapped Monday for Tuesday as my rest day.  Headed up to TF Green Airport at Noon to pick up Mark, returning for the first time from college since August.  Good thing we went out to lunch and caught up, because once we got home, he was home for all of 10 minutes before heading out with his friends 'til 3AM.  Reminds me of the Harry Chapin verse from "Cat's in the Cradle":

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man, I just had to say
"Son, I'm proud of you. Can you sit for a while?"
He shook his head, and he said with a smile
"What I'd really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later; can I have them please?"

Wednesday:  5
Road run on the Clamdigger course.  Out and back from the old Westerly Town Beach.  Easy pace; figured I'd get in a road run prior to tomorrow's run.

Thursday:  8
Thanksgiving Day.  Pie Run.  Write-up coming shortly.
Second day in a row of running roads.  This was the first time in 11 weeks, since late summer, that I had run roads more than once in a week.  Actually really enjoyable.  More to follow.

Friday:  8
Rainy run in Carolina North with Matthew and Aaron.  Really enjoyed the single-track trails Laurel Trail and Pony Express, but the downside is I didn't realize we were running in circles.  Tried to emulate a run we found from Chris Garvin, but ran into a chain across the trail trying to get out to 112, and turned around.  Whatever the name of the trail headed east across the stream starting from the gravel road (Meadowbrook Road) near the intersection of Jerue Trail, that one was fun as well.  Should learn these trails better.
Was surprised to see two hunters with guns out in the rain. They didn't seem friendly at all.

Saturday:  13
Tillinghast and Wickaboxet group run of 6.  Now this one was a lot of fun.  Very rural West Greenwich.  Jonny led this group run starting out heading into Wickaboxet with some serious climbs.  A mix of hills, fields, pine forests, and twisty single-track.  We hit most of the trails, except some red trails to the south off Plain Meeting House Road that we'll come back for another time.
Bonus:  Jonathan Short got in his longest run ever (13 miles).

Sunday:  6
Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme, CT.  Trail run with Matthew through meadows, rocks, and along the beach.  One of the final trails we ran was a twisty fun single-track through gnarly mountain laurel.  Ran at sunrise, as needed to get back home to bring Mark to the airport.

Weekly Mileage:  49

Weekly Synopsis:  Really good post-Rhody running week.  Had four days off for a long Thanksgiving weekend and each of the four days involved running new trails or roads.  While it was depressing Sunday evening that the long weekend was over and it's back to work, the next three weeks are interspersed with holiday events, Mark will be home again in just two weeks, and I have the last two weeks of the year off.  A lot to look forward to.  One race remains for 2016, and the rest should be fun runs and long runs.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Li'l Rhody 2016

Charlestown, RI
Sunday, November 20, 2016

This was the silver 25th anniversary of the Li'l Rhody Runaround 8-Mile Trail Race.  Personally, I have "only" run the last 13 of the 25 years.  This was my first ever trail race, and indeed for many years the only trail run of any kind that I would run. I am honored at this point to be an officer of the fine club that puts on this race, and to serve as Race Director.  Onto the race ...

The temperature was only in the mid-30s as I departed the house at 7:45 to get setup, and while it warmed all the way up to 47 degrees by race time, there was a brisk wind across the pond right into the registration area that just kept it feeling quite cold.  My warm-up consisted of shuffling around from registration to the SNERRO van, moving parking marshals from the lower DEM lot to the upper YMCA lot, etc.  Before I knew it, it was time to give a 2-minute overview to the crowd and line up.
Start of the 2016 race

Front half:  Ran out in a conservative 5:58 first mile, following behind Jonny and Tom.  By the time we got into the campground, I could no longer see Tom anymore.  A tall guy went by me and then also went by Jonny, and surprisingly I caught up to and passed Jonny on the final asphalt stretch of the campground before re-entering the woods.  I guess he was not having a great day.  Maybe still feeling the effects of his marathon?  The tall guy was pulling away from us, and I could hear Jonny behind me.
Making our way out to the covered bridge, I sensed my left shoe was really loose.  So much so that I wanted to stop and tie it.  No time for that.  Soldiered on, but it was bothering me.  Unfortunately, after the right turn right near Klondike, I noticed my shoelace was now completely untied and annoyingly hitting my other leg when I ran.  Damn.  This was a first for me.  Why didn't I check and tighten them pre-race?  Now I had to stop.  I lost a good 20 seconds, and Jonny re-passed me.  I resumed running with one tight shoe and one looser shoe.  Let's hope it holds.  Followed pretty closely behind Jonny all the way out to Buckeye Brook Road.

Through one of the few technical sections on the back half.
Pics by Scott Mason

Back half:  No change in position for the rest of the race.  Jonny gradually pulled away, but I could still see him on longer stretches for the rest of the race.  At switchbacks, I glanced back but never saw anyone.  It would actually help to have someone behind push me.  Scott Mason was at one of the rock gardens snapping pics.  I slid a little on wet rocks, but nothing major.  Coming out of the trail section, I felt my watch vibrate at a mile split and looked down to see I was running 5:02 pace?  Yeah, right! OK, maybe not that fast, but I did feel I was running fast.  Now I could see Tom again, as he wasn't that far ahead of Jonny.  My watch beeped "GPS signal lost".  Dang.  Pushed it home, knowing I was not having a PR, but was surprised and disappointed to finish in 51:07.
Finishing up.  Pic by Jana.

Final results:  51:07, 9th overall, 1st in age group.  Full results here.
The numbers were down a bit this year, but we still had a great WTAC showing and a good day on the trails.  Congrats to all the WTAC runners and volunteers, from Matthew and teammates at pre-reg, Jana and Beth handing out shirts, Joe on post-reg, Polly making hot vegetable soup, Jeff Vuono, Tommy, and Schane as parking marshals, Mike B bringing wood, Chris behind the scenes with Fall Race Series scoring, and I'm sure I'm inadvertently leaving a few out.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Weekly Log 14-Nov to 20-Nov-2016: Rhody Week

Final week before the 25th edition of the L'il Rhody Runaround 8-Mile trail race.  Enjoying fall running, and looking forward to my 13th straight Rhody.

Monday:  0

Tuesday:  8
Ran Rhody course at sunrise.  Trails are leaf-covered, but they are compacted and otherwise clear. 

Wednesday:  6
Morning trail run at Noanet Woodlands, Dover, MA.  Unlike yesterday's dry trail run, with a lot of rain in the past 24 hours, today's trails were pretty slippery.  On the trail ascending and descending Noanet Peak, I was slipping frequently on wet rocks and leaves and had to exercise more caution.

Thursday:  0
Poor planning on my part.  The day escaped from me.

Friday:  5
My initial temptation was to run a double today to make up for yesterday's miss, but that probably wouldn't be smart so close to an 8-mile trail race.  Besides, as it turns out, I barely got in a single race.  Left the office close to 4:30pm, which means I'm already battling the last vestiges of sundown.  Ran from Bradford Preserve.  Dark in the deep woods, especially on Hansel & Gretel, and obviously getting darker by the minute.  Came back to Bradford Preserve, and started another loop, but after tripping on a single-track trail where I could not see the ground at all anymore, decided to exit onto a road to return to the preserve and finish on the field.  Finally, a smart move.

Saturday:  5
Midday solo from Wahaneeta out and around the pond in Woody Hill Marsh.    Deliberately easy pace in advance of tomorrow's race.  Humans encountered:  0.

Sunday:  9
Li'l Rhody Runaround.  Write-up to follow.

Weekly mileage total:  33

Weekly synopsis:  Disappointed with low mileage, and two days off.  With darkness coming earlier and earlier, late afternoon runs are getting harder to do.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Avondale 5K

Westerly, RI
Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Avondale 5K, also known as the Westerly Land Trust 5K, but officially known as Setting the Pace for Conservation 5K. Yeah, long name.  Hence the fact that many runners generally call it either of the former.

Anyhow, it had been over a month since my last race.  After a summer of too many hot races run and not enjoyed, it was good to take time off from racing and enjoy group runs instead. 

The night before the race, I went to a local Mexican restaurant with Jana, and ate way too much.  (They put it on my plate, and I paid for it, therefore I had to eat it all, right?)  Someday I'll learn portion control, but this wasn't the night.  Rolled into the house feeling overstuffed and worried I'd already killed my race.

This is how I felt the night before the race,
after gorging non-stop on delicious but very filling Mexican food.
At the start of the race the next morning, Sam, one of Matthew's XC teammates asked what I expected to run.  How to answer?  This was the course just a year ago where I set my 17:32 PR, but that's when I had already had three sub-18 races last year and a number of 18:0x races.  This year my fastest 5K time was 18:23 and my food obsession from last night is not helping me.  I told him I'd love to get near 18-flat, but my best guess was 18:15.  He told me he would try to stay with me as long as he could.  Great, I welcomed the company.

And we're off.  I'm in the green singlet about 5th place.
(Photo by Jana)
Mile 1:  Very quickly Tom and Jonny Eckel settled in running together at the lead, and Sam and I a short a distance behind.  Uneventful first mile.  5:44

Coming through the end of the preserve loop with Sam, at the 1K mark.
Mile 2:  Turning off Watch Hill Road and onto Avondale Road, I could no longer hear Sam breathing, and figured he was dropping off.  Darn.  I didn't really care if he beat me, but I was rather hoping that he would push me or we could work off each other, as Tom and I did last year.  It wasn't in the cards.  At the turnaround loop at the end of Champlin, I could see Tom had now put quite a gap on Jonny and that Sam was dropping further back.  Running as an island is the prime condition for me really slowing the pace down, but I somehow came through the second mile in another sub-6 split of 5:54.
At the Champlin turnaround, nearing 2-mile mark.
Note the beautiful blue sky on another perfect fall day.
By myself for the first time this race.
(Photo courtesy of Seth)

Mile 3:  Just hang on now.  As I made the final turn off Avondale Road to come back into Avondale Preserve, I could see Tom way out ahead, but noticed Jonny actually came back to me.  While not in reach, it was the impetus I needed to pick up the pace.  Passed the 3-mile marker and started sprinting.  When the clock came into focus, I could see it ticking at 17:51.  It is always so deceiving.  Crossed the line as it said 18:00, which in a SNERRO race means my official time was 18:02.  (3rd mile was 5:47)
The old man trying to sprint in under 18, but it won't quite happen.

3rd place.  1st in age group.  Official results here.  Congrats to Tom on the overall win and sub-17 finish.  I had to tell myself to stop fidgeting over the fact that I should have been able to make up 3 seconds somewhere on the course, and focus instead on that I had run faster and more consistently than I had expected, it was my fastest 5K time this year, and that every split was sub-6.  OK, now I feel better!  Had a nice cool-down with Tom and several high school runners before awards ceremony.  Keeping with the Land Trust conservation theme, I got another winterberry bush, and last year's is still alive in my backyard, so hopefully that bodes well.  Very happy to support the Land Trust.  It's a great organization, on whose trails I run frequently.
Age group award, and this year's giveaway.

Onto Li'l Rhody ...


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Weekly Log 7-Nov to 13-Nov-2016

Monday:  6
Barn Island single-track with Matthew at lunch (no school day for him).  Love the single-track there.  I will often try to push it harder on the few uphills and downhills in the Barn.  We spooked a horse along the way, and ended up walking 'til we got past him (her?).  That was a new one.

Tuesday:  0
Lower abdominal pain to the point where it was painful walking around the office.  No running today.  Scary.  Started my internet self-diagnosing.  Putting in my symptoms and location of pain, it looks like I have an ectopic pregnancy.  I figured it out on the internet, so it has to be correct!  What a dolt.

Wednesday:  6
Abdominal pain subsided.  Woke up shocked to learn the results of our presidential election.  Truth is I didn't like any of our front-runner candidates, but I just wanted to digest this and move on.  Headed to Woody Hill and ran intentionally slow, taking in not only the presidential results, but many topics.  Never saw a soul, and today I truly enjoyed the solitude.  Stopped at the ledge on the white trail at Wahaneeta, and just looked over the edge watching the peaceful leaves fall.  Running is truly cathartic.

Thursday:  6
Got in a run at Burlingame ahead of our monthly WTAC board meeting.  Had originally intended to run the Rhody course, but time and a setting sun were not in my favor.  Parked on King's Factory Road, and ran Sammy C's.  Hadn't run that in a while, and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of rock on the trail.  It was a lot of fun. 

Friday:  8
Happy Veterans' Day!  My father was a US Army veteran.  Indeed, that's how he met my mother in post-WWII Germany.  I took a Coast Guard entrance exam when I was between jobs in my mid-20s and not sure what I wanted to do in my life, but that's as close to the service as I ever got.
Thanks to all the veterans that served our country.

Anyhow, thanks to Jonathan Short for putting together today's run.  Ran with Jonathan, Tom, and Jonny in the Hillsdale section of Richmond.  Mostly fire roads.  I felt bad for taking one of our host's Strava segments, but Jonny started running it hard and I followed.  Jonny slowed at one point on the climb, and I pathetically took advantage of his post-marathon state and went past.  These group trail runs of late are a lot of fun.
Ran my 2,000th mile of the year today.
Against a goal of 2,315, with about 6 weeks remaining, that
might be a tall order.

Saturday:  9
Fourth consecutive and final weekend at Ponaganset XC course.  As there was no Westerly bus for the three WHS runners (Matthew, Randi, and Kata) that qualified for New Englands, we had to get Matthew there two hours before the race start.  I reached out to a couple of the LaSalle parents to see if they were running, and fortunately they were.  Ran many laps of the XC course with Fred Campagna, Dave Principe, Bob and Jackie Jackman, Bob Corsi, and several others.  The first couple of laps were fine, but after that, I was searching high and wide for some single-track to get off the manicured course.  Did manage to find one single-track trail that we ran, but it was pretty short.  Good to run with the guys nonetheless.

Sunday:  6
Avondale 5K.  Separate brief write-up to follow.

Weekly mileage:  41

Weekly synopsis:  Another good week of running.  Two group runs, a race for the first time in five weeks (quite a stretch for me), and enjoyable fall weather.  Rhody is up next week.  Excited and nervous at the same time.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Weekly Log 31-Oct to 6-Nov-2016

Weekly anecdote:

Amen.  Running shorts should be short!
(Runner's World spoofing short shorts views from the 1960s,
and this product of the '60s can relate!)
Monday:  0
Busy with Halloween setup and getting the fire ready.  No running today.

Halloween.  Always fun, even though we got our
smallest group of trick-or-treaters (45) since we moved to Westerly.
Tuesday: 5
Pafford Woods.  Lots of loops to make 5 miles in here, but it was good technical fun.  Unfortunately, at one point, a German shepherd not on a leash stopped dead in its tracks just staring at me, making me very uncomfortable.  Fearing the worst of a looming attack, I stopped as well.  It was a tense minute or so for me until the owner appeared smiling, carrying the dog leash, and said she's very friendly.  Sorry, but I've been mauled, pinned, and sent to the hospital by a supposedly "friendly" German shepherd before.  Put the leash on it and consider how others might feel that don't know whether or not your dog is friendly.  I digress; the entire rest of the run was great.

First run with my new (second) pair of New Balance
Vazee Summit trail shoes.  Hideous?
Wednesday:  7
Needham track workout.  It's a beautiful 8-lane track and facility, and since it's one of the few tracks not attached to a school, I don't feel like a creep hanging out running during early school hours.  Still, it's a track and I'm not enamored of running around in circles (technically ovals, but you get the point).

Slower than I expected, but what kind of redemption can you expect from someone who seldom goes to "church"?  1 x mile (5:50), 2 x 800 (2:53, 2:53), 2 x 400 (83, 78).

Thursday:  6
Got a text mid-morning from Crutch looking for a Westerly run, so we went on a nice 6-mile trail run in Woody Hill.  Great fall day for a run.

Friday:  0
Another zero.  Just didn't plan this well, and the day got away from him.

Saturday:  11
Group run of five in Barn Island.  One of my favorite places to run.  With the number of hunters with guns in here, I may start to curtail at least Saturday runs here for a while.

Sunday:  11
Weekapaug / Misquamicut progression run for 8 of the 11 miles.  Roads.  7:53 down to 6:01.  Windy and winded.  Was planning on nine miles of progression, but talked myself out of the last mile into the wind.  Still good.  Cooled down on the beach for the run back home, and was very surprised to see a seal lying on the beach near the water's edge.

Weekly mileage:  40

Weekly synopsis:  Not many years back, I would have thought 40 to be a high mileage week, but not in recent years.  What I really need to do is pick a spring marathon, and then set training plans into motion.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Weekly Log 24-Oct to 30-Oct-2016: Blood, Boardwalks, & Headlamps

Fall racing:  We're one month into fall now, and I'm looking to plan out the remainder of my races for 2016.  I raced too much during the sultry humid summer, and now have lost much of my zeal to race in the fall, when the weather is much more conducive to it.  I'm really going to have to plan this out better and race more sparingly in the summer heat. (Yeah, right, I probably say that every year.)  Anyway, here is my plan for remaining races.

Beyond that, I'll be looking to figure out a spring marathon.

Monday:  5
My bone-head move of not bringing running shoes to run did not deter me.  The trails had too many acorns for me to run barefoot on, so I ran five miles barefoot on the fields at Bradford Preserve.  I'm sure there would be a threshold not too much higher at which I would get blisters, but my feet feel fine writing this Monday evening.

Tuesday:  8
Trail run in Woody Hill.  Fun run in crisp weather, about 50 degrees in late afternoon.  Bolstered by Jeff Huckle's recent run, I ran the over-the-boulder single-track run down towards the quarry, a trail I had not run in over a year in the aftermath of the middle of the night quarry death.  I stayed well away from the quarry, but just enjoyed the trails.  Ran past the ledge, the pond, and down to Fallon Drive before making my way back. 
The oddest thing was that someone actually lugged a chainsaw onto Hansel & Gretel and cut four of the tree limbs that we were jumping over.  It had to be real recent, as the sawdust was fresh and certainly those limbs or tree trunks were there on the day of Pumpkins.  I'm sure the person meant well, but it rubbed me the wrong way as we got so many compliments on the fun of jumping over downed trees.

Wednesday:  11
AM:  6 miles on the Blue Heron Trail, Dedham, MA.  Comfy 38 degrees.  Maybe could've used a thin pair of gloves for the first mile, but otherwise comfortable in short shorts and a technical shirt.  Saw two runners; a guy wearing long running pants and an Asian woman and her dog both dressed like it was the middle of winter. 
Didn't see the root under the leaves,
and careened into a tree face first.
PM:  5 miles at the Blue Hills / Ponkapoag Trail, Milton, MA.  A mix of double and single-track.  Quite a few people out walking their dogs.
Running this boardwalk was fun,
but a little dicey.

Cool rock formation that I ran by on this single-track trail.

Thursday:  5
Coldest, rawest day thus far this fall.  By 4:30pm, it was 40 degrees with a steady rain.  Contemplating just going home and taking a zero, but ended up going to Wahaneeta.  As soon as I got out of the car into the cold rain, I was instantly cold.  Knew I had to keep moving on this run.  Between the near sunset and rain, it was really hard to see the trails despite that I know these trails well.  Ran off the trail a couple of times.  Finished the run, and blasted the heat in the car until I could get home for a hot shower.  Brrrr.

Friday:  5
15mph winds with gusts to 27mph.  Not sure why I decided to road runs today instead of seeking coverage in the woods, but I think it might have been because I wanted to get one road run in this week and didn't want to sacrifice trail runs on the weekend.
Pushed it on the middle mile for a 5:49 mile 3; otherwise, ran mostly in the 6:40s.

Saturday:  8
Crazy, busy day in advance of going to Matthew's Class B XC Championship race, then to the cemetery with my Mom and Jana on what would have been my Dad's 80th birthday today, and finally an evening Halloween party.  My Dad age 80, really?  I've seen him many, many times in my dreams and thoughts, but sometimes it seems like yesterday when I last physically saw him at age 58.  Time heals all wounds: what a load of crap.
Fun contemplative trail run in the dark.

Anyway, that's why I had to squeeze in a run at 5:30am.  Chose to run the Li'l Rhody course, as it's close to home and high degree of familiarity.  Fun solo run with headlamp.  Mine is pretty bright, but you obviously still don't have the same perception you do during daylight.  Small animals freaked me out as they scurried and scampered.

Sunday:  11
Group trail run of 5 at Arcadia.  Good thing Jonny put this together; otherwise I'd be totally lost and probably still out there.  At over 14,000 acres, this place is huge!  We had over 1,000 feet of climbing on the run.  Dirt roads aren't my cup of tea, but after a mile or two, we had plenty of single-track with some fun downhills that Jonny "let me" gazelle down.  The stone shelter was really neat, and the Escoheag Trail was probably my favorite trail on the day.  It warmed up all the way to about 70 degrees on this late October run.  Stopped in a river to run water over my face; it was tempting to just jump in.  Thanks Jonny for putting this together!

Weekly mileage:  56!

Weekly synopsis:  High mileage week.  Ran every day and felt good.