Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow day, pain day

Wow,what a snow storm. Carol and I went to a party at a friend's home in Rhode Island last night. We woke up Saturday morning and listened to the weatherman give dire predictions about the impending snowstorm. They said that it would start around noon, last into the night and be done by daybreak today. So while Carol and I were doing our errands, we were trying to decide if we would be able to attend the party. With no snow by 3 PM, we called our friends and they said that the party was still on if we wanted to come. We decided that we would go, taking the 4 x 4 truck (just in case) and try to have some fun for a bit. We were there for 3 and 1/2 hours before it started to flurry. At 9:30 we decided it was time to leave. It was a good thing that we brought the truck. The snow was coming down pretty fast, the wind was blowing and the highway was a mess. But we did not have any problems getting home other than trying to get by some of the really slow drivers. When we got up this morning the first thing that I did was go out onto the deck to clear a path and area so that the dog could do her business. As I was coming back in to go to the front door, I felt a twinge in my back on the lower left side. I thought that I had not done anything serious, so I went out the door to clear off my front walk and the elderly couple's walkway across the street. Every shovelful of snow reminded me of what I had done. But I kept on going. Just like when I do something while running. When I went back in the house, I told Carol that I had done something to my back and I would be unable to finish the shoveling. But I decided that I could take my dog for a walk and pick up the newspaper. Again not the right thing to do. So the rest of today, I have been in pain and having difficulty getting around. I wanted to get out for a run today and that did not happen. I want to work out tomorrow morning and I believe that will not happen either. I may have to go see my doctor. I am going to turn fifty and I still do not know how to listen to my body clearly. Hopefully this does not last too long. I was having too much fun being healthy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Changes

Alice Cooper sang, "School's out forever". That does not apply here. As of January 11th, 2010, I will be going back to school. I had always wanted my children to go to college and so they have done. My son graduated with a degree in English Literature, although I do not have any idea what he is going to do with that degree. Kathleen, my daughter, is presently in her second year of college and doing very well. While they were growing up, I tried a couple of times to return to school to get a degree but with kids growing up it is very hard to raise them and go to school. To save family relations, both times I dropped out. Now that they are both on their own (to a certain degree) my wife decided that she would buy me a laptop on the stipulation that I go back to school so that she would not have to hear me moan and groan about wanting to do so. I will be attending an on-line college, Capella University. My work schedule changes every week so the traditional way of going to college would not work. The on-line school gives me the opportunity to attend when my schedule allows. Of course, this probably means that I might have to curtail the number of races I attend for a while. As long as I can get out most days for a run, I should still be able to stay sane. Here is to "forever".

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Unknown speed

For the last few years, my times at races have been slowly slowing. Part of that is to blame on no speed work, part is on my running longer runs and part is probably on getting older. But I have not been running very quickly or at least not as quickly as I used to. Especially in the shorter races. I have tended to shy away from road races in favor of the trails. I get so much enjoyment out of getting into the woods, away from the noise of people and vehicles. But I still do some of the local road races, mostly to keep in touch with people who I have met at those races. I went to the Pearl Harbor Day Masters run this past Sunday. I had already decided that I would do no more races this year when I remembered about this race. So last week I hunted down an application at Waterford's Community Center and signed up. Sunday morning was cold and windy, but I have been waiting for the weather to change and actually look forward to the cold weather. The race time was 11 am. I arrived at 10:30, got my number and t-shirt and headed out for a small warm up. I was trying to decide on whether or not to wear a windbreaker during the race. The wind was cold, but ultimately I decided that the shirt I was wearing was enough.
With my recent history of running slower I have been starting toward the back of the pack at race starts. Sunday I started near the front so that as the pack started to string out there was maybe fifteen people ahead of me. I felt great, but I knew that it was faster than I have been running. I thought about it while maintaining my pace and decided that I would just keep on going until I fell apart. I was surprised when I caught up with the first woman, who called out that we did the first mile in 6:38. I am not sure how she knew where the first mile was as there was no mile markers that I could see. That was the last I would see of her, surprising me since I rarely finish in front of the first woman. Up Boston Post Road we ran, powering up the hill. I crested the hill running with Todd Fisher, whom I had not met before, and staying with him down the small slope to Oswegatchie Road where we took a left. I stayed with Todd for a while, but eventually he started to pull away. Just about half way down the road, he stopped to stretch his calf. I asked if he was all right as I went past and he replied that he was fine. At three quarters of the way down Oswegatchie, there is a stop sign and a race offical was there directing the runners to go straight. His truck was parked at the opposite stop sign and as I went past, noticed that there was a set of keys on the ground. I worried that some runner had lost them and one of the other runners would kick the keys under the truck and not be seen, so I stopped, ran back a couple of steps and yelled to the official that there were keys on the ground. As soon as I saw that he was reacting to that, I turned back and started to run again. Todd had been right behind me and went by and another guy also passed me. The other guy was also someone who I had never met before, but he amazed me. I found out later that his name is Dave. He does not look like your typical runner, especially one who was running at the pace we were. He had a belly and looked slightly out of shape, but he was running very well.
Getting started again was tough. I had been in a really good groove and it took a bit to start to feel good again. I ran through the neighborhood with someone on my heels. He stayed there as we came off of Oswegatchie and onto River Road. As soon as we took the left onto River Road, the wind hit us right in the face. The guy that was following me tucked in behind me and was content to let me be his wind break. We took a right onto Boston Post Road and headed back up to the the finish line. The guy behind me takes the opportunity to pass me here and I find out that it was Dave Jacobs in his normal green shorts. As he started to pull away from me I decided to try to stick with him. Now this race has a nasty little hill at the end; it does not look like much but after running almost five miles, it can be a killer. The good thing this year was that the wind was mostly at out backs. Halfway up the hill Dave Jacobs passed the other Dave. A minute later so did I. As we crested the hill and headed across the intersection (thank you Waterford Police Department!) I felt good and started pushing toward the finish. Dave Jacobs had nothing left and I passed him about 100 yards from the finish. Of course, here is the thing about Dave. He is 64 years old and I believe that this was the first time that I have beaten him. Fantastic runner! So I finished the 5.2 mile race in 35:45, a 6:53/mile pace, 6th place overall and second in my age division. Not too shabby. It would be nice to be able to bottle that feeling. I could clean up.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cha-Cha Changes

Have you read the book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall? I just gave it to my daughter to read while she is at school (yeah, I know she has probably has more than enough to read) and I will read it again once she is done with it. But reading the book made me realize that my feet problems could have been caused by the over-engineering of running shoes. So this past week I decided that I was going to make some changes on how I run. I have not had any insoles in my shoes since I recieved orthotics early last year. I decided to not put in the orthotics in the running shoes and also leave out the insoles. I have run twice in the woods with my shoes like that and worked on running like I am falling forward, trying to keep my running steps on the forefeet. It is difficult to keep that form-the body has had plenty of time to adapt to the wrong running form. I have to constantly think about my form, to make the adjustments necessary to bring my body over the front of my feet. I have to tell myself to make quick, light steps and to increase the turnover, trying to take three steps in places where two used to do. Is it going to work? Only time and how I feel will tell.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Every ultra runner should volunteer to crew for a friend or even show up at an event and do so for a stranger. It provides you the perspective of all the non-runners who show up and crew for their friends and family time and again. I believe that it also can renew your own desire to run, increasing the commitment that you feel to just get out the door, to train and run like you were first starting out. When I first started running ultras, I did my first one alone, on the roads in Rhode Island at the Nifty Fifty. While it provided me with a good taste for doing ultras, it also clued me in on the fact that I like trails and that is what I wanted to do ultras on. So the next ultra I did was the JFK50 in Hagerstown, Maryland. When I decided to do it, I was not sure about how I was going to do, especially alone. So I asked Julie White (nee Pinkham) if she would be willing to come along and crew for me. She said yes and the rest is history. I ran and finished and Julie was awesome helping me out.
In late September, I heard from a friend that Julie had decided to run her first ultra, the 2009 edition of the JFK50. I immediately sent her an email asking her if I could return the favor and go crew for her. She said that while she had not been advertising that she was doing the run due to the fact that she was not sure she would be ready, she was more than willing to have me crew for her. Chuck Brenker was also going down to try for his eighth consecutive finish. Julie had planned on running with Chuck but he was injured and very worried about making it to the finish. Julie sent me an email on Thursday telling me to make sure that I brought along some running togs because she wanted someone to run with on part of the course.
The JFK50 starts at 7 AM for most of the runners but there is a 5 AM start for those people who do not think that they can finish in 12 hours. Both Chuck and Julie applied for and received the 5 AM start. We left for Maryland at 8 AM on Friday morning, riding in Chuck's van with my mountain bike on the back. We shared the driving, arriving in Hagerstown at 3 PM. As we were heading for the hotel, we passed the hotel that was the host for the JFK50. In we went so the the two of them could pick up their race packets and numbers. Julie bought me a neon yellow tee shirt that said Crew Support on the back. She also talked to one of the guys who were selling jackets and such, asking if he could put a jacket away with her name on it. She told him that she would only be buying it if she finished. He had no problem with that and put it in a bag with her name on it.
Saturday morning Chuck and Julie were up at 3:15 AM. I was awake also but I had the luxury of possibly going back to sleep. They had to leave the hotel by 3:45 to make it to the start for the briefing at 4:20. After ensuring everything they needed was with them they were off. I laid back down but was unable to fall asleep right away. I watched a bit of a basketball game on ESPN and then dozed until I had to get up to catch my ride at 5:45 AM. Joe Kairys, a friend of Chuck's, had met us at the hotel the night before with his wife, Selena and two of their children, Joseph and I am such a dunce, I forgot the name of their daughter. They were giving me a ride to the start so that I could pick up Chuck's van and head to the first aid station with crew access. After arriving at the start area, it took me ten minutes to find the van. I walked by it twice before I realized it was there. After a stop at a convinence store, I headed out following the directions provided by the race. They were excellent directions and I did not have a problem all day. I arrived at the aid station just after seven and the first runners were already coming through. Julie arrived somewhere around 7:30, feeling good and enjoying the run on the trail. Chuck showed up about ten minutes later, hobbling but gamely going forward. I walked with both of them through the aid station and up the parking lot road to the next trail area, making sure that they both had everything that they needed.
I headed out to the next aid area that I could access thinking that I was leaving early and would have no problems parking. Was I ever wrong! The area where crews could see their runners is not the actual aid station, but about one-half mile before it. The runners come down off of the Appilation Trail and head toward the entrance to the tow path. The place was mobbed with people standing in the intersection of the road. I found a place to park at the end of the road, hiked back up to the trail, decided that it was much too crowded and hiked up the trail. I found a very large rock that was flat on top and parked myself on it to wait for the runners. The trail at this point is a series of switchbacks coming down off of one of the high points of the course. I pulled out my crossword puzzle and enjoyed the time sitting there. Approximately fifteen minutes went by and the first of the early runners started coming by. I tried to talk to everyone that came by and all of the early runners would reply. It was not until the first of the 7 AM starters started coming by that there was no replies. They were more serious and more focused on moving ahead. Julie showed up looking great and feeling good and I fell in behind her, running down the trail to the road. She changed her socks, got a new bottle and I told her when I would next see her. I waited for Chuck, who showed up about 20 minutes later still hobbling and still going forward.
From this point the runners run on the tow path that parallels the Potomac River for 26.2 miles. My plan was to go to the Mile 38 aid station, put everything that I needed into my backpack and ride my mountain bike along the trail to meet up with Julie and Chuck. The aid station was in the process of being set up when I got there. I rode past them and headed out. The towpath was in pretty good shape, but there were area that were muddy and some puddles. I really enjoyed splashing through the muck. I met the lead runners around mile 32 and began what I would do for the next few hours-talking and encouraging the runners. Julie was looking good when we met. She had hooked up with another runner, Sue from New Jersey. They were doing a 7 minute run/3 minute walk pace and I think that it helped hold everything together for Julie. Farther back on the trail Chuck was walking. His injuries had caused him to over compensate and he was having problems with the other leg. It would continue the rest of the day. I went back and forth between the two, giving encouragement and providing anything that they needed to keep on going.
When the runners go off of the tow path, they run on the road for the remaining eight miles of the race. There was not supposed to be any crew on the road section. The race, in their notices to the crews, said that no one who was not a runner would be allowed to run on the road. So I told Julie that I would see her at the finish. I left her at the 38 mile aid station and after checking on Chuck, headed for the finish line. I thought that I might have missed her, but after going over the times in my head, realized that I was just very early. She finished strong in 11 hours, 58 minutes. Chuck struggled in, but had plenty of time before the cut off with a finish in 13 hours and 32 minutes.
The two of them were funny at times the following day. I drove the whole way back while they nursed their aching bodies. All in all a good time. Makes me want to run another one. Next year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Too much over a short time?

What is too much? Since I am older than when I started running long, does that change how much is too much? In the last six weeks, I have done six races.

The first weekend was the Strides for the Handicapped. Of course, for me that was not enough. I met Pam for a two hour run at Bluff Point. Beautiful run in the early morning. After we finished, I drove over to Camp Harkness to run the 10K part of the Strides races. I went into the race saying that I would not run hard and amazingly, I did not. I ran with Karen Short for the first three miles and then I turned around to help a lady who was pushing her husband in his wheelchair. She was struggling up a hill and I had to help. I believe that her name was Susan; do not remember his name. I helped her up the hill and she said to go ahead, that she could handle it from there. So I ran to the finish line and turned around and headed back out to give Susan a hand. I met her about a mile and a half from the finish. So I added an extra three to four miles to the 10K. I felt great and enjoyed the run.

The following weekend I decided on Thursday that I was going to run the Hartford Marathon. Julie White was running it as a training run; she is going to run her first ultra, the JFK50 in November. So I decided that I wanted to help out. The day was beautiful and and we ran the 26.2 miles in 4:22:30.

The third weekend brought the Penguin 5K. Now, five kilometers is not bad, but the Thursday before I decide to try to play with my stride, working on running on and off of my forefeet. It can be difficult and trying, but I did it and the problem was that I strained my left calf. Friday it still was sore and I was worried about running the race. Saturday morning I ran the race. During the warmups, the calf was not bad, but I planned on running easy. Fat chance! The calf did not bother me and I took off. That was bad, but it wasn't because of the calf. After the race, I turned around and ran the course again (slower). By the time I finished, my left hamstring was killing me. That took too long to get over and made the race the following weekend something of a problem.

The Bimbler's Bluff 50K. I had not run this race before and had been looking forward to running a course that Jerry Turk had laid out. It had rained the day before, so the course was wet and muddy. Just what I like. I have written about this race so I will skip the facts and just say that I again enjoyed the run.

Taking a trip to run a race is normally a solitary thing for me. Carol does not go to races and pretty much does not like to associate with runners. She is not hostile toward runners; she just does not like running. So when she goes with me, it is pretty neat (at least for me). We took a trip to Washington DC with four other couples, taking Amtrack down and back. Riding the train is an easy way to travel. No worries about traffic, staying awake, able to eat and drink when you want and, on the plus side for me, being able to play a game of cribbage or two. Carol was going with to be able to see some of the sights-she had no intention of going to the race. So the Run Geek, Run 8K was a lonely run for me. NOT!! I ran from the hotel to the race start, ran way too fast for the first 4 miles and died in the last mile (8K = 4.98 miles). Came in fourth in my age group; not bad but the other people in our group did pretty good. An age group first, two seconds and two thirds. Not too bad for our little group.

Last weekend, I tried to run the Stone Cat 50 miler. So this was the final straw, at least for how I am feeling now. The biggest problem going into this was work the week before. I had to work second shift and two of the days I worked to 12:30 am and 3:00 am Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. Friday evening I left work at 9:30 to drive up to Ipswich, MA. I got to the hotel by 11 PM and was in bed by 11:30. So when I got up at 5 AM, I was pretty tired still. I did not feel bad and did not think that it would affect how I ran. The race started at 6:15 and I felt pretty good. The course has changed since I ran it 8 years ago, with more single track and starting and ending in a different place. Running through the woods in the early morning (it was very cold-I had planned on wearing one lightweight poly shirt and ended up wearing that shirt plus another lightweight poly shirt plus a light jacket shell. I kept them on, even when it warmed up a little later in the morning) was awesome and I was moving better than I expected. The first loop went by in 2 hours and 10 minutes. I went through the start/finish and headed back out still feeling pretty good. About one-third of the way through the loop, I slipped on a rock and twisted my right knee. It was, at the time, a minor pain and I kept on going. Unfortunately the pain stayed and continued bothering me, with the pain increasing the farther I went. I started having to walk for stretches. When I would start running again, it took a couple of minutes for the knee to loosen up enough to actually run without a limp. Another problem that was occuring was that I was favoring the right knee and unbeknownst to me, I was hurting the left knee. But I am getting ahead of myself. I kept on trying to run only to have to walk to relieve the pain. I took the one Advil that I had, but it did not help. By the time I finished the second loop (in 3 hours and 10 minutes) I had pretty much decided not to continue on. The guys at the aid station tried to convince me to go back out and I started, but turned around immediately and went looking for Gilly, the race director. He convinced me to do the 1.2 mile loop that the marathoners do at the beginning and that gave me a finish in the marathon with a fleece as the finishers gift. I left soon after and my left knee started to let itself known almost as soon as I got into the truck for the ride back. I will be visiting the doctor to have both knees looked at.

So did I do too much in such a short period of time? Is it just age creeping up on me? I am not sure yet, but I do know that I want to get back out there and run. I will just have to do like Pam for a little while and limit my running for a little bit to shorter runs. Once I can.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bimbler's Bluff

7 hours, 22 minutes. Going into the 2009 Bimbler's Bluff, I was worried about my left hamstring. It still was sore when I ran on Thursday and I was worried that it would flair up during the race. Turns out that except for two times, once when I first started and once later in the day when I semi-turned my left ankle, it did not bother me. Unfortunately, I had stomach issues. I have not ever had stomach issues during an ultra. But this time it was a problem from the start. When the race started the weather was great. Temperature was somewhere around fifty degrees with a breeze under clear skies. I ran with my North Face pack on with the bladder full of water and a hand-held bottle with Gatorade. At the start my stomach was feeling bloated and queesy. I thought that it was just pre-race jitters although I felt calm enough. Around the back of the school yard and across the street to head into the woods. The golf course crew was out blowing the leaves off of the greens, sending the vibrant oranges, yellows and reds swishing through the air as we ran by in the woods. With the worry of my hamstring, I started out near the back and took it easy heading down the hill. With the rain on Saturday, the trail was wet. Certain areas had large puddles, mud was evident everywhere and the rocks were slippery. The rocks, by the way, were plentiful, sharp and of various sizes. The bottoms of my feet protested vigorously. It become very painful to run on the rocky sections of the trail. But the biggest problem was my stomach. Everytime I drank or ate anything, I felt bloated and nauceous. I kept hoping that it would pass, but it never did. Knowing that I had to eat and drink to make it through the race was disheartening based on how I felt each time that I did. I spent some time walking to get past the queasiness a few times. Later in the race, I discovered that if I passed gas, it seemed to get better and I was able to run pretty well. Of course, I could not pass gas each time that it occured. I left the fourth aid station and was told by another runner that the last aid station was five miles away and then three miles to the finish. That was wrong. I figured I could do five miles in just over an hour so when it became one and a half hours and still going I knew that I had been misled. It was actually eight miles to the aid station. It just took a bit longer. I passed a gentleman on a horse while on the trail. He stopped the horse in the middle of a big puddle to allow me to pass. Me being me, I was plowing through the puddles, enjoying the feeling of splashing water on my legs. The gentleman commented that I must be cooling off my feet. I replied that I did it any chance I could. The cold water felt great on my battered feet. When I had started the race, I thought that eight hours would be pretty good for me. Seven hours and 22 minutes was better that I expected considering my state of fitness. Mr. Bimbler put on a fantastic race with some great volunteers out on the course. I look forward to improving my time next year (or some time after that).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Doin' the stupid

I had planned on running twice in the woods this past weekend. Dummy me that I can be, I did not go either day. Friday I decided to run the Run with the Penguins 5K in Mystic since the race director is a friend. I would do the race and then run the course again to get in some easy miles. Then Sunday I would go out to North Stonington and run on my favorite trail. Friday at work I was able to get out for a run at lunch time and I decided to see how well I could do running on my forefoot. I read 'Born to Run' and realized that my feet problems could probably (this might be stretching things a bit) be blamed on too much cushioning in my shoes and running the wrong way. So why not give it a try, slowly, to change my running style. So Friday I gave it a try. It was not very comfortable and I had to concentrate just to keep it going, but I did it. I also strained my right calf, which seemed to get worse as the day wore on. So Saturday morning it still was sore and I told myself to keep it low key and just jog it out, hoping that it would ease up with the warm up. When the gun went off for the race, I actually took it easy at the start. Unfortunately, I did not keep it easy and by the time the race hit the farmer's field (with some very enjoyable mud) I was moving faster and ignoring the signals from my leg. But what I did not realize was that my left leg was trying to compensate for the right leg and by the time that I was in the finishing stretch, my left hamstring and left abductor were making quite a bit of noise. Do you think that hearing that noise, I would not go for the extra run? Of course not. Just who do you think I am? After getting home and getting cleaned up, I went out with Carol to do a bit of shopping, hoping that the hamstring would loosen up a bit. That did not happen. So Sunday on the trails also did not happen. I am nearing fifty years old and I would think that I should have the ability by now to learn from my mistakes, but in the case of running it does not seem so. I ran this morning to the fitness center and on of the trainers, Ben, showed me some stretches that have help it already. I ran easy for seven miles and with the stretches, I am hopeful that I have not put my 50K in jeopardy. We will see.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shoelaces, a rock and the dogs Part 2

I was unfortunately unable to get back to this until now. So last Tuesday I went for a run in Vermont up Mt Kearsarge and over the top, running a total of around 9 miles in three hours. Carol dropped me off at the trail head on Hurricane Mountain Road at 9:30. The day was humid but relatively cool. Waking up that morning the temp was in the low 40's. The sun was in and out among the clouds with a slight breeze blowing through the trees. I threw on the back pack with the water bladder in it, kissed Carol good-bye and headed up the trail. If you have ever hiked or run in the White Mountains, you know that the trails are loaded with rocks and roots, which can make for a interesting run. The trail started going up right away, with it being runnable for a bit. As the grade got higher I settled into a good paced hike, keeping my eyes on the trail for the best line to go up. Fifteen minutes into it, I started hearing voices. I caught up with a group of ten hikers of various ages headed up the mountain. I greeted them and continued on my way. About five minutes later I felt my left shoe lace loosen. Now I wear Salomon trail shoes that have a slide on the laces and the laces with the slide gets tucked in the pouch on the tongue. I have never had any problem with them before. I looked down to see what the problem was and the lace had broken! I have never had a lace break during a run. Mostly they break when you are tightening them. So the lace had worked its way out of most of the eyelets, making for a problem putting it back in. I finally, with the use of a twig from the ground, was able to put it back into one of the eyelets. I decided that that was the only one I was going to thread it through and just tied it off at the bottom of the laces and pulled it tight. It felt comfortable and did not feel loose on my foot. I could hear the group that I passed drawing nearer, but could not see them yet. It had taken me about ten minutes to fix that and I was anxious to continue on my journey. The trail continued to be steep with plenty of loose rocks and the roots of trees popping up off the ground trying to draw my toes under them so as to send me flying. I was sweating pretty good due to the high humidity, but felt pretty good. I was making sure that I took a good swig of water every 15 minutes or so. An hour into the run, I crested the mountain. There is a climbable forest fire lookout tower at the top. It is bolted into the rock crag at the top and provides an awesome 180 degree panarama. I was regretting not taking the camera with me. I spent less than five minutes looking around and headed down the other side. The trail markings up to this point had been pretty good, with the trail not having too much deviation. But going down the other side, the trail became harder to see (in certain places) and the yellow markers were far fewer (or at least seemed to be). I was running more, with breaks to climb down the really steep patches. Ten minutes into this downhill, the shoe lace on my RIGHT foot loosened. What do you know!! The shoelace had broken! I immediately stopped and was able to grab it so that it only went through one eyelet. Who has ever had two shoelaces break during a run? At least I was able to minimize the damage and get back to running within five minutes. As the slope leveled out a bit, the ground got a bit mushier, with a small lake/pond that looked to be prime moose sighting territory. As luck would have it, I had no luck. Since I had no camera, it would not have mattered. At this point I really had a problem with finding the trail. It seemed to disappear into the mush and I could not see where it came out. There was no markings on the trees. I turned around and headed back to see if I might have missed something. I found the tree with the last yellow blaze and I had not missed anything. Back to the mush I went and started looking around for any indication of where to go. Along the edge of the mush, I noticed what looked like a footprint in the goo. I followed the edge of the goo, stepping on exposed roots around to some large ferns that I found out, when I pushed my way through, covered the trail and hid it from view. For the next thirty minutes, the trail would go for a bit and then disappear from view, hiding under the brush and growth that overhung it. The trail was on a pretty continuous downward slant with mud and water interspersed among some pretty runnable conditions. I came upon a rock garden with plenty of good sized boulders among the ankle turners. As I ran through, I stepped to the right to go between two boulders and brought my left foot up and ran it right into the left boulder! My knee solidly connected with the rock, causing the trees to blush from what came out of my mouth. It felt like, along with the pain from the impact, to numb a portion of my left quad. I knew that if I stopped it would tighten up and would be very difficult to keep going. So with blood running down my shin, I hopped and hobbled my way down the trail. I had started taking my Succeed tabs one hour into the run and was due for the second set. So I grabbed an ibuprofren tablet also and took one of those with the Succeed. I still do not know if it did any good, but the leg did loosen up. In fact I was running pretty good when all of a sudden two dogs came barking and snarling up the trail toward me. Scared the shit out of me. Of course the dogs belonged to someone who was back a couple hundred feet from them. He called them and they backed away. He spouted the standard line, "Don't worry, they don't bite." Maybe not, but sure looked like they wanted to. This was about twenty minutes after the rock and I decided that I needed to finish this run quickly. Unfortunately, I would have problems with finding where the trail went again. It delayed me and made me go back and forth a few times trying to decide if I had missed something. I finished in three hours and Carol was not at the pickup spot. She got lost trying to find the lot. So I started running down the road thinking that I was running toward where she was coming from. Ten minutes later I found out she was coming from the other direction. Once she found me and I got my knee cleaned up, I was glad to be done but also looking forward to when I could go out again. Of course, first off I have to find out about replacing the shoelaces.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Shoelaces, a rock and the dogs

Carol and I took off for the White Mountains to recharge our personal batteries for 5 days. It was part recovering from a long, busy summer of no real time off, with me having some long stretches without any days off. Besides the fact that my work schedule changes every week from first to second and then back again, not having days off with Carol meant that we rarely saw each other for a long period of time. So we were also reconnecting to each other. We arrived up at a friend's house on Lake Conway in Conway Centre, NH on Saturday afternoon, taking our time getting there. Frank and Lori own this beautiful home with its own private beach. The house has 5 bedrooms, with the two bedrooms upstairs having two beds in each room. There are 3 full baths and one half bath. The basement is set up with a TV and DVD/VCR player in one part and a game area in another part. There is a gas stove in the basement, a gas stove on the front (facing the water) porch and a wood fireplace in the main room. The main room consists of a well equipped kitchen with an island, a formal dining area on the back side of the room, a informal eating area and a living room/den area by the fireplace. There is plenty of windows and a small deck area off from the main room. It is a well appointed house. Outside there is the beach with a fire pit, picnic table and chairs, and a cabin. The cabin is left over from when the property that they own was part of a summer camp. They keep up the cabin to use when there is an overflow of guests. Another six people can sleep in there. The place is phenomenal! Frank and Lori are very generous in letting us stay there. Frank was there when we arrived working on winterizing parts of the cabin and pulling out the swimming raft and the pier where they moor their small boat during the summer. When we told him that we would be going to the grocery store, he told us to see what was in the house first and use what ever we could so that he would not have to trash it. So when we went to the store, there was a few things that we did not have to get. It was nice to reacquaint ourselves with the Conway/North Conway area. We were going for a hike on Sunday, so after sitting out at the fire pit with Frank for a bit, we decided to retire for the night (besides it was starting to cool off quite a bit). Sunday morning dawned with the temp at about 38 degrees. Not freezing, but pretty cool. Sunny and clear. Carol is not as avid a hiker that I am, so we headed to Crawford Notch to take a hike up Mount Willard. It is a relatively easy hike up to the peak at 2804 feet. We took it easy going up, stopping twice just to rest a bit and arriving at the top after about 90 minutes. We sat on the rocks with the other hikers, fed a chipmunk some nuts (he actually stuffed the nuts into his mouth and waited for another nut until his mouth was full) and enjoyed the sunny day. Going down took us only an hour (who says downhill is hard?) and then it was back to North Conway so that Carol could enjoy something she likes-shopping. By the time we were leaving North Conway, my left groin muscle was starting to really bother me. I had not felt anything while hiking, so it was confusing as to why it was being bothersome. I was worried that I would not be able to bike on Monday or worse, not be able to do a long trail run on Tuesday. After a very late dinner Sunday night and a couple of ibuprofen, I went to bed hoping it would be better in the AM. Monday morning it felt better but not that much better. I changed the rear tire on the bike (I got a flat while it was on the car rack. Something must have been kick up and it went right into the tire). After changing the tire, I did a test ride. The groin was sore but not so bad that I couldn't ride. So I told myself. I went out and rode for approximately 60 minutes out into Maine. At that time I decided that I needed to turn around because the groin was getting tight. No pain, just uncomfortable. On the way back, I passed a gentleman who had come out of a side road. He decided to attach himself to me and enjoy an eight mile ride in my slipstream. I guess he had been out for a while and enjoyed his rest to finish his ride. He was going to the same area that we were at, I did not mind at all, so it worked out for him. The groin was okay after the ride, so maybe I had strained it while hiking and the ride helped work out the kink. So now I am getting to what I started to write this about: a run up Mount Kearsarge and down the other side. A little over 9 miles, which considering my endurance right now seemed to be long enough. But I have gone on for a bit, so I will save the good stuff for the next entry, hopefully tomorrow.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Being the bad guy

I was the bad guy the other night. This is not my normal state of being, especially when it involves children that are not my own. After the group run at East Lyme High School Tuesday evening, I went into the locker room to shower. While I was getting ready to get under the shower, a group of kids came into the locker room from the swimming pool. They all had the look of swimmers, probably young high schoolers or maybe older middle school age. There was probably ten to twelve, joking around which I did not mind. But as I walked to the showers, there was a group of four who were joking around with the removeable shower head. There was another gentleman in the shower and his towel was hanging on the rack, which just happened to be right outside the area with the removable shower head. All of a sudden a spray of water of water hit the man's towel and right away, out of my mouth, comes, "Knock it off". Of course, me with my wild head of hair and what my wife calls my scary voice caused the four kids to immediately shut up and look down at the floor. My first thought was 'where the hell did that come from?' I taught my kids all sorts of things when they were growing up, including squirting water at inappropriate times. So when and how did I become the bad guy? I know that it was the right thing to do, just that it was something that I normally do not do. Has it taken me almost fifty years to outgrow, what do I call it, my childish tendencies? Or maybe it is just an abberation, a blip in the growth (or non-growth) of me. I guess as long as I can still show a child how much fun can be had breaking the soft rules, I can live with a blip.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Sunday ended up being a pretty good day. Carol was in New York visiting her sister so when I got up in the morning I was able to do as I wanted. Sounds bad, but normally I try to see what she would like to do before I go off to do as I want. Sunday morning I wanted to get back on the trails. I drove to Bluff Point to run some of the single track trails. The morning weather was cloudy and humid, but cool. I started off on the wide pedestrian trail, but soon veered off to the single track that is in the area between the two wide tracks. This was the only place that I would pass mountain bikers, two, while out for the hour plus that I was in the woods. The trails were in their summertime mode, with vines draped over certain sections of the trail and the growth on the sides of the trail pretty high. The bugs were not bad at all, with them buzzing around my head only a couple of times, mostly when I slowed down to look at a new side trail. After getting through the trail back onto the wide track at the Bluff itself, I headed back toward the railroad tracks looking for the single track that would take me back down to the cove. It took a bit longer than I remember to be able to dive back onto the single track and into the woods. The trail here was a bit wetter and muddier than the earlier trail, but very passable. After traversing this trail to the point that I was almost to the water, I passed two of the young bucks (trail runners/very fast college guys) that were going in the opposite direction. They were yakking it up while running, so I heard them coming before they knew I was there. It was nice to have them behind me and to envelope myself back into the noise of the woods. Going along the trail, heading for the back trail along the water, I came upon a baby stroller. What the hell was a plastic, Greco baby stroller doing in the woods on the single track? I slowed to look around for someone who might have taken their child out to show them something. But no one was around and as I passed by the stroller, I noticed one of the rear wheels had come off. So someone decided to take their child into the woods in a not-for-the-woods stroller, had the wheel come off and decided to leave the stroller there to rot. I made a mental note to come back in the near future on a hike so that I can remove it. It really ticks me off that people come in to enjoy the peace, solitude and the non-urban enviroment that comes with places like the Bluff and they have to ruin it by being selfish. I know that the person or persons had to carry out the child/baby and all their belongings, but at least they could have come back to get the stroller. I guess what really blows my mind is the fact that someone decided to take this stroller off of the wide regular trail onto a single track with all its roots and rocks. Who was thinking here? Anyway, back to my otherwise enjoyable run, I past by the stroller and followed the trail along the water for a bit until the first side trail up the hill away from the water. Up and over the hill toward the other side of the Bluff, hook up onto another trail heading back to the water and down the hill again, back up the hill and headed back to the parking lot. A good run, enjoyable feeling at the end of the run and happy that I know I can get out in the woods for a long run real soon. Looking forward to it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Three days

Three days! Sunday, Monday and Tuesday have been run days and I have gone 7 miles each day. Actually today I went 7.5 and it was a bit more difficult than the other two days. I did not enjoy the heat at 10:30 this morning. I headed out the door to run to the fitness center at 10:05 and it was starting to warm up quite nicely. Humidity was down which helps me out immensely, but it being the third day and quite warm, it was a difficult run. I ran to the fitness center for my far too infrequent yoga class. Do one hour of yoga and then run home. Running at noontime was really warm and I definitely felt it by the time I was home. But I feel good now and while I think that I will bike tomorrow (it is supposed to be soupy) I do feel good about being able to do all three runs and not feel like crap while out there. So I will look to run Thursday, Friday and Saturday or Sunday go for a longer run. I really need to start cranking up the mileage. I signed up for Bimbler's 50K and StoneCat 50 miler. I also signed up for the Shoreline Biathlon which should give me a good indication of where I stand in fitness. Of course my wife is already complaining that I am over doing it. I told her that I have not even come close to starting to over do it. After all, I have not even made it into the woods yet.

Friday, August 21, 2009

It takes time

So it has been a bit since I posted anything. It has been more because of my inability to mentally get past feeling sorry for myself than anything else. I have been kind of down due to not running in the way that I am wanting to. I believe that I have kicked the Lyme, but for a while I did not think so. Every time I went out for a run, I felt lousy and for want of a better word, weak. It took a bit, but I believe that since I have not run very well for quite a while, when I did start running (or trying to) the weather had changed from what I was acclimated to. Instead of the abnormally cool, wet but not humid weather that I was used to (and liked), it was now humid and hot. I am not used to that. My system is not used to that. Biking has been my saving grace. I am able to get out and enjoy a ride without feeling like I just drained all of my energy. So I will continue to plug away at improving the running, but with having the bike to keep my fitness level up hopefully I can also improve my mindset. It is definitely worth it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Keep on trying

Things seem to be slowly getting better. I ran Tuesday night, 7 miles, and I did not feel awful at the end. Of course, I did not go crazy with any kind of speed, just an easy pace with Dave Brady. Wednesday morning I went to the fitness center, did a body weight workout and then hopped on the treadmill and did a twenty minute run. I ramped up the speed every two minutes until fifteen minutes into the run. At that time I was running a 6:40 pace. Then I ramped down every minute until twenty minutes total. I was pleasently surprised that I felt pretty good. So right now I feel good about keeping up my fitness level until I get off the medication.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Another try

I ran again on Thursday after taking Wednesday off. Felt good heading out but by four miles I was in sorry condition. Right now it looks like I will only be able to run every other day because the day that I run I am so wiped out, it takes the next day to feel good enough to run again. Hopefully I will start feeling better the farther into this I get. Of course, I am not sure if it is the Lyme that has me feeling like this or the cure. I am already beating myself up over not doing what I know I should be doing (or what I want to do). Carol is happy as I am not going to be out the door every weekend morning to run. Maybe I will be getting more done around the house? I'll have to wait and see. But I am going to miss the woods. Plus, I have not tried to bike yet. Monday morning I will find out how bad biking to work is going to be. Maybe I should take this opportunity to stay up late and visit a bar. Like that will happen!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New reality 2

This might be harder than I thought. I went for a run this morning (before taking my medication). I first slathered on ample amounts of SPF 50 sunscreen lotion. Leaving out the front door, I felt pretty good. Up the street and a left onto Ocean Avenue, running my normal seven backwards. Continued to feel all right through the first mile, which is mostly uphill. Once I crossed Willets Avenue and started downhill toward Bank Street, I started feeling different, bordering on lousy. It happened pretty quick, just feeling blah, like I had completely nothing in the tank. The sun did not seem to bother me too much. I think I probably have to get some more of this stuff into my system before the sun sensitivity starts happening. Going down Bank Street and taking a right on Howard, I kept plugging away, keeping a semi-hopeful pace going. Through the two traffic circles and onto Pequot Avenue, I started dragging. Then as I passed Stash's, I did something that I do not normally do. I started walking. Walked for about one minute, felt a little better and started running again. Felt good for about two minutes, slammed back into feeling lousy and continued running as best that I could for the next two miles and then walked again by the private beaches on Pequot. Unfortunately that was not the last time. Once I started up Ocean Avenue, I ended up walking for a bit. After that, I slogged my way through the rest to home. I sweated a lot, felt lousy and was still glad that I got out there. Of course, with the medication, I am not supposed to eat for one hour after I take the pill. I lasted 30 minutes and then I HAD to eat. So I will try to have the pill before I leave the house and see if that works, because when I get done working out, I gotta eat.

Monday, June 29, 2009

New Reality

Went to the doctor's today for verification. Two weeks ago I found a tick on my lower abdomen. Approximately 10 days later, I noticed a very red rash in that area. By this morning the rash had spread around both of my sides. It was itchy but if I scratched it, it burned. Nasty. So when I went into the doctor's this morning, I told him about the tick and showed him the rash. First thing out of his mouth was, "yep, you have Lyme disease." He said that based on that, they do not even run a blood test. Just put me on the medicine, Doxycycline, for 21 days. Have to make sure that I use the sunscreen lotion liberally. Since Carol has had this at least two times, I know what to expect as far as side effects. I am planning to continue my training (such that it is) as much as I can. I look at it as a small impedment. I am not injured and have no desire to allow this to bother me. For all my years of running in the woods, this is my first experience with Lyme. For some reason, ticks never seemed to bother me. I can not say that anymore.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Getting old (?)

Is it getting old or maybe something else? Some disconnect in my mind. I had planned on running Nipmuck Trail Marathon. I was looking forward to it. I knew that I had the application sitting on the dining room table. All I needed to do was fill it out and send it in. Do you think that I did it? This past Friday, I pulled the application out and discovered that I was too late. There is no same day registration and I could not get the application to Nipmuck Dave (race director) since the last day to do so had already passed. So I told Carol that I would be doing a long run on Sunday on the Narragansett Trail. Sunday came around and I grabbed my stuff and headed for North Stonington for what I hoped to be at least four hours on the trail. As I was strapping my backpack with the water bladder on, I realized that I had forgotten my trail shoes. They were still on the front steps of the house. Okay I will just run with the Ecco shoes that I was wearing. Not trail shoes and not really running shoes. But they would have to do. If I had a bad run, I could always blame the shoes. I noticed right away that the tread on the shoes was not built for the trail. I was slipping all over, especially on the rocks. Not a problem, I will just avoid the rocks. Approximately one mile into the run, I realized that I had forgotten my Gu's and my Powerbars. The only food I had was a banana in the backpack. At about the same time I realized that I had run out of the Succeed Tabs and since it was warm out, I might end up with cramping problems without them. So based upon everything that I had forgotten, I decided to cut the run down to three hours. At least I could enjoy myself for a little while. Surprisingly, I did. It was a good run, a semi heat training run. The only bad blip was the two dirt bikes that decided to wander onto the single track instead of staying on the fire roads. But their noise disappeared quickly, leaving me to enjoy the solitude and silence. But I really have to work on the, what was it? Oh yeah, I forgot.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I have decided that I would like to do another 100 miler. The problem is that a lot of the 100 mile races require that each entrant do volunteering at a race or races (some require a certain amount of hours and some require it to be certain races or ultras, or to do trail maintenance) that will pass whatever requirements each race calls for. I volunteer at races on my own. I do not require anyone to make me do it. But I do not take take kindly to a race director or committee to whom I am paying a goodly amount of money for the privilege of running in his/their race requiring me to also do as they say in regards to volunteering. I enjoy volunteering at races; I know a lot of the local runners and race directors in my area. Since there is only one ultra in this area (50K in Branford, which is still a half hour trek), the requirement to volunteer in an ultra means that I would have to travel to complete that. To get in say Vermont 100 I would have to do the following: 1) get permission from my wife; 2) pay my $200.00 (!) entrance fee; 3) find out what volunteer work will be okayed by the race director; 4) travel to said volunteer work (and have it recorded?); 5) travel to Brownsville, VT to participate in the race. This does not include the training time (truth be told, I do this anyway) which can and should be extensive. It also does not include the cost of staying somewhere Friday evening and possibly Sunday (it depends on how fit you are to travel).
If you look up volunteer in the dictionary this is the definition:
a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking.
a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.

It does not say anything about being made to do something. When you do that, you are no longer a volunteer, but akin to a conscripted person. It no longer rings true that you are doing volunteer work.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Sunday run

So I did something that I was very proud to do, but it was something that I would much rather not do. Sunday I ran in the Steve Hancock Memorial Run/Relay. Steve Hancock, for those who do not know, was a runner, a good friend, a Mohegan Strider and Marine Corp Vietnam Veteran. A group of Steve's friends set this up to remember Steve's passion for running and for living. It is an informal run in the sense that there is no sign up, no one keeping time, everyone supporting everyone else. There are seven legs, 6 being running legs and 1 being a walking leg. We carry the American Flag, the Marine Corps Flag and the MIA Flag. I planned on running the whole thing, as I do every year. Although I would much rather do my long runs on the trails, I do this road run to honor Steve's memory. A group of 7 runners started from the Colchester Green at 9 am in a steady rain and cool temps. Running through the town of Colchester (and beyond) elicted a steady sound of horns echoing in support of our little Memorial show. Once we got out of town, it was not as steady, but it was nice every so often. Within an hour the rain had stopped and the sun was steadily making its way from beyond the clouds. While my goal was to run the entire way, my pace was slower then the other runners. So after some contemplation on my part while in the 5th leg and realizing that the day had warmed up quite consideredly, when I reached the change over for the 6th leg about 10 minutes behind the group I took a break. I told John that it would be better for me to catch a ride to the start of the last leg and run in with them then to slow everyone down by trying to continue. I got a break, cooled down, re-hydrated a bit and was ready to go. The last leg was mostly uphill and while it was a struggle at the end, it was also very satisfying to complete most of the course. I have to remember to reorder some S-caps. Ran out and really could have used them during the run.

Monday, May 18, 2009

So I took most of this past week off from running, allowing my legs to hopefully rest. Of course, I biked to work everyday, including Saturday, so I am not sure how rested they were Sunday when I ran the Trails for a Cure race in Cockaponset State. Eight miles in the woods, through mud and water, over rocks and roots. Aaah, nirvana! Once I finished, I turned around and ran back onto the trail, this time running it backwards. Again, a good run, although I really had to pay attention as the race course was marked with orange paper plates in one direction. But no worries, I still had a good time. Getting out in the woods allows my mind to wander while also making my mind pay attention, heed the signals that the trail sends to my eyes. Running on the roads, my mind also wanders but there is also less to heed from the roads, although the cars can be dangerous. I, like many trail runners, feel a whole lotta free on the trails. As I ramp up the time on the trails, the better I will feel going longer.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

So here I am, four days from running the Green Trail 50K on Long Island and I am still not sure how I am feeling about doing a longer run this coming June. The run was pretty good; the trails were a surprise, at least for me and there was some good mud. Who knew that Long Island had trails. The day started with some rain before the race that primed the trail with some muddy spots. The temp was slightly warmer than what I have been comfortable with. While the run itself was pretty good, the thought that I had around the 27 mile mark was "In every ultra race that I have done, the taste of whatever I eat seems to be increased markedly". I said this to one of the awesome volunteers who was manning the aid station that I was ate. It seems like my taste buds get super charged after running for distance. I really enjoy the taste of what I eat (so far). Of course, I also consider how lucky I am that I seem to be able to eat whatever I want while I run. Other people are not so lucky. So now I need to do some thinking about the June race. I also need to convince my wife to let me do it if that is what I decide. Here's to decisions.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

First time

This is a new experience for me. I have written articles for a running club's newsletter, but nothing like this. I went for a run this morning on a local trail with a friend, John, who has decided to give an ultrarun a try. I wanted to get in some time on the trail before next weekend just to have my trail legs when I get to the race, although the course for the race sounds like a walk in the park compared to the local trail. One of my biggest peeves is the fact that people treat the outdoors as their own trashcan, no matter where they may be. When I race on the trails, I take extra time to pick up other runners gu packs (they should know better) for disposal when I finish. So this morning while running out and back, I saw a piece that had broken off of a motorcycle laying on the trail. Of course, the owner of the motorcycle obviously could not be bothered to take care of it himself. I saw it on the way out and remembered it when we were heading back to the vehicles. Why go on about this? I am not sure why it bothers me so much. I take my dog for a walk, taking extra bags with me. A walk that normally would take 20 minutes takes me an extra hour because I am picking up the trash along the road! It drives me crazy that people 1) throw things out of their cars and 2) cannot pick up the garbage that accumulates in front of their homes. Do they not care what their own property looks like? Obviously not.