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.