Saturday, December 29, 2012

Siete Bellezas

Had some good, chilly fun this morning with Gazelle & Mike B. on a trail outing that I've wanted to do for quite a while.  I've dubbed it Siete Bellezas due to the fact that with a little bit of creativity, you can hit seven substantial bodies of freshwater along state/conservancy lands, many with some beautiful views. Of course, the granite scrambling, climbing, sliding, and falling is not optional --Lazy asses need not apply.  

We parked in the dark at Asheville Pond (trail head of the infamous Narragansett Trail).  We then looped up around along the yellow-blazed single track and hit Long Pond, Ell Pond, and Yawgoog Pond.  We hopped across the road and then picked up the white blazed "Hidden Lake", which despite its lack of size, is really a cool spot. 

After some exploration in Hidden Lake we retraced our steps back down Narragansett Trail until North Road, where we headed east.  A quick view of inaccesible Wincheck Pond (#6) and we then continued on to Canochet Rd.  Here we headed south and ducked in to explore Blue Pond, (or what is left of it after the floods of 2010 obliterated the earthen dam and drained it to merely a ghost of its former self). 

Finally we exited back out of the woods and followed asphalt back around to Asheville. A nice little morning jaunt in 29 degree, overcast skies that took us 2:00:XX

Exactly what everyone should be doing with their early Saturday mornings......

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide

Yesterday Jonny and I ventured to Carolina Mgmt Area for some hill repeats in the woods.  We texted back and forth during the day to set up a track workout but the obnoxious winds left us with the better option of wooded running instead.

After warming up first on the south side to a small, "hidden" pool in Meadowbrook, we crossed back over into the north side and ran Meadowbrook Trail to Jerue Trail, around the summit of Shippee Trail, near Kenyon Hill Trail then back down Haberek Trail, to a "staging area" near the trout pond.  We then began attacking the back side of Shippee Trail (often listed as Essex Trail).  It is a gradual ascent of varying grade (3.5 -7.5%) on an old logging road.  It is about 400 m and, although not a killer, is deceiving and can kick your tail if you're stupid about it.

I was stupid about it.

We ran 6 x 400 with an easy jog back down of about 2:00-2:20.  The first one we ran much too fast and then paid for it (at least I did) in each successive hill.  Splits: [1:28/1:33/1:32/1:32/1:35/1:35].  The best part is an increase in grade and intensity for the final 40m or so at the top.  I was struggling and my legs were really rigging up with that oh so enjoyable sour, heavy burning sensation.

My muscles hated me: "Where is my oxygen? I'm sorry, I've no more ATP to really give you. You're depleting my electron carrier supply--so screw you, here's some lactate to deal with!"

After a nice (dark) cooldown along Laurel Trail, I concluded that my original hypothesis was supported by my data: Biochemistry makes hills awesome.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Old Mountain 5K Trail Race -- Daddy Got A New Plan

Year two of this awesome series.  As such, my second go around with the first race of the 4th season, Old Mountain 5K Trail Race.  Although it was a new course compared to last year, it still promised the same style of racing: muddy, wet brook crossings, crumbling stone footings, roots, twisty climbs, short decents, open field sprinting, and narrow single track.  Good times!

After a warmup of most of the course with the guys, I talked to Mason (my 9 yr old son, newly into running....sometimes) a bit re: some race strategy over a very short w/u with him. I still can't believe he wanted a piece of the action on this one! Immediately after this,  I lined up in the front with other WTACers, anxious to get started. The Turtles were there again and it was funny to see each side scoping out/sizing up the other.  You could almost hear peoples thoughts: "Gotta beat that guy." "Can't beat him."  "Who the hell is that?"  "Uh-oh.  He's here?!?!" Total Jets vs Sharks.

WTAC mascot is a bird, (I think).  Although not a GBH, we too should destroy turtles.
I made a silent promise to myself to NOT get stuck behind slower runners before entering the single track about 600m or so from the start.  I pushed it in the beginning but got a little tangled with some other runners descending the small lip at the edge of a ballfield before turning down along center field.  As a result, I dropped back about 4-6 places and although I tried to make it up before crossing the water and ducking into the woods, I still found myself 2-3 spots back farther than I wanted to be.  Honest translation: I was separated from Jonny and Jeff.  Oh no!  I did it again, damn it!!

Thus I spent the next mile or so working around the two Turtles in front of me.  I did have to work a little harder here than I wanted to but at least I jumped ahead of two of the enemy (Principe Sr. and Corsi?) and managed to close a little on my teammates.  I quickly tried to mentally count off positions in the competition- TNT vs WTAC but gave up and focused back on footing and effort. 

The second mile was really fun--twisty, muddy single track that allowed us to push it in some spots but choose our footing carefully.  I threw in several bursts and closed in more on Jeff and could sniff Jonny and some blue jacket ahead of me.  After managing to pass Jeff going back up "old mountain" and "the rock", I tried to set my sights on the two guys ahead of me.  However, I quickly realized that I most likely wouldn't be catching them, at least over the rest of the wooded section.  Switchbacks were everywhere/non-stop, which really slowed down my momentum.  Actually, I doubt I could've caught anyone else anyhow at this point.   *[Photos below courtesy of Jana Walker]
Tired Dad....

The best part (worst part?) was cruising back along the parking lot and spectators.  The cheering was awesome and, I thought: "almost out of the woods!" Oh wait, we have to snake back up a hill over the ridge again before spilling out onto the field.  Thanks so much, Mike! Just what my legs needed. 

As we emptied out by a skate park onto the field area for the final push (400 m or so?), I began licking my chops.  I closed in even more on the two guys ahead of me (Jonny and Chris G.) but quickly realized--that was all she wrote.  No more ground to be made up here.  They took off and I ended up finishing 4-5 seconds behind them.  Either way, it was super fun trying to catch them at the end.  Not enough oofda in my legs but it was crazy enjoyable finishing up like a XC race (open field into the chute).  I thought I would hate this part but actually really, really liked it instead.  Unfortunately, although Jonny finished 5th, I was 6th, and Jeff was 7th, (two TNT guys ahead of us) it wasn't enough to overtake the Turtles.  They won the team division again.  Damn.  Results here.

Mason managed to come in at a near death crawl in 35:08.  He was really upset with his performance but I'm super proud of him.  I tried to explain that it was a trail race, and NOT an easy one at that--this ain't no easy road 5K, boy.  Having never raced in the woods, especially single track, he had no idea what he was in for.  He was really upset about falling in a few mud bogs, stopping to have to strip off clothes because he was so hot, and getting passed so much : "Dad, people kept pushing me outta the way yelling, 'On your left!' I almost fell off a bridge into a river that was 50 feet deep!  Although we debated the veracity of his water depth assessment, he was right to be frustrated.  Trail races are frustrating.  But that's what makes them so friggin' awesome!

Tired little boy...

Doesn't matter though.  He'll be back.  He said he's already looking forward to the Resolution 5K in several weeks.  So am I and, I'm assuming, so are my teammates.  I've even developed a new plan to try and battle the Turtles. It's genious and pretty much fool proof. I really think it may work.

It's wicked simple:  Run f*^%ing harder!   

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Countdown To Extinction

This  morning on the way into work, NPR had a very brief follow up piece regarding the recently escaped (month ago) Nilgai, a large Asian antelope, in the woods of southern Rhody.  If you haven't heard, the details are as follows:  it was rescued and brought to a farm in Hopkinton before being shipped elsewhere in the US.  Federal and state laws mandate that before exotic pets can be shipped across state lines, they must be tranquilized and tested for various diseases and problems.  When DEM officials shot the nilgai, instead of getting stoned, eating a bunch of food, and then going to sleep, it jumped/crashed a fence and took off into the woods.  It hasn't returned since.  Officials warned hunters not to shoot it as it looks very much like a large deer.

Apparently the large ungulate is still on the lam. Officials think that if it hasn't returned home yet with its tail between its legs, it has probably perished somewhere in the woods and is now coyote and mountain lion food.  As luck would have it, the farm is in close proximity to a small parcel of state land, Black Farm Management Area.  NPR also mentioned the original land owner's name.  I've done some cyber stalking and the property/farm, the management area, trails, running/adventuring and every other aspect is just too perfectly aligned together like a jigsaw puzzle in this case to pass up.  My hypothesis: the nilgai is currently in Black Farm Management area, either hunkered down and hiding or its corpse is in the same area. 

Either way, what better excuse to go run in the woods?  If it's alive, I think I can take it down.  Or perhaps I can at least snare it, or at least mount it and try riding it back to civilization.  However, if its dead, what then?  Well, haven't you guys seen the movie Stand By Me?  If said nilgai is now a mutilated corpse, I'm going on an adventure to find the body---not poor Ray Brower, just poor exotic nilgai. 

All I wanna know is, who's comin' with me?

Gordie Lachance

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas 10K (a.k.a. "Damn you, Turtles!!)

Today I, along with my WTAC teammates, got to take another stab at the Christmas 10K in Newport.  It's a fun, rolling course that can be a beast in some years (wind and weather) and amazingly perfect in others (2011).  Either way, no matter what the conditions, going into this one I had a clear cut goal of going under 36:00.  I knew I could do it (36:08 last year in perfect race conditions).  It was just a matter of not being stupid out on the course. I thought about having a "B" goal, just in case but in the newest issue of  Running Times, there is a good quote from a sports psychologist: "Having a Plan B is the best way to sabotage your Plan A-- kill Plan B."  Ok, Plan A or bust.

After a warm up in Ballard Park with Galoob, Jonny, Gazelle, and Seth, I changed up into racing flats and made my way down to the start line about 150m from the school.  As an individual, my plan was simple: run 5:43ish and don't blow up while as a team, our plan was to beat out TNT for the team title (they field a much larger squad-- A, B, and C teams for the guys).  Some small talk and familiar faces at the line were followed up by the gun --Let's do it!

It was nice to see a "slew" of WTAC singlets take off as I settled in with Jonny and Gazelle at what seemed to be a good pace.  In a pushback move of obstinance, I refuse to wear my gigantic, outdated Garmin (the size of the head of driver in Tiger Wood's golf bag).  As a result, I was forced to ask Gazelle about 0.5 - 0.75 mile in what our pace was.  Feel is different from fact.  When he replied "5:40", I thought it was perfect (for the gradual downhill beginning) and kept chugging along.

At mile 2 marker, I was still feeling pretty good.  The field had started to separate out and I just focused on keeping my form and pace steady.  I could still hear Jonny behind me and knew he was going to help push me to a good race and keep me honest.  Unfortunately, I had delusional thoughts that maybe, just maybe, as we turned ENE along Ocean Avenue (just after Brenton Point State Park) there would be no wind.  No such luck.  It wasn't a killer but it was enough to force one to buckle down and work harder than necessary to maintain goal pace. 

The discomfort started to set in around the mile 4 marker.  I felt like I was working hard but was slowing down.  Somewhere close to the mile 5 marker I started to hear the familiar pitter patter of my fellow teammate closing behind me.  As we turned onto Carroll Ave. I was undergoing a series of mixed emotions: I was really starting to struggle and had very little left but was pumped that Jonny was pushing it and running a huge PR for himself.  Awesome!! Yet at the same time, I couldn't help but get pissed too-"What the f*%k is he doing closing on me, breathing down my neck, coming for the kill at this point of the race?!?" Happiness mixed with hatred.....a rather strange and conflicting emotion.

I started to feel worse and worse as we ascended back to make our final left hand turn towards the finish. The footstriking felt/sounded like it was right behind me : Jonny the Not-So Silent Assassin -- Crusher of Souls.  We turned and the course dives down into a gully to the 6 mile mark before a short climb back up to the school and a turn into the finish.  On a regular day, this hill would be nothing significant but on tired wheels, it's not fun. 

I was able to push it in and finish in 35:47 (a 21 second PR), good for 11th overall.  Jonny was right behind me, sub 36 also.  From there it was a matter of trying to get it together so I could observe the other finishers: Gazelle (36:22) and Seth (38:13) both with monstah' PRs as well as several WTAC ladies too (Galoob had finished well ahead of the rest of us in 34 mins+).  Good times, indeed! My splits: 5:40/5:48/5:38/5:51/5:55/5:43.  Definite slow down at miles 4 and 5 but at least I was able to hang tough the final mile.  Still, a tiny bit slower than I wanted (shooting for 35:30 or so).  PR is still a PR though so stop bitching. Results here.

A short cool-down and we all waited inside (for what felt like hours) for awards ceremony.  I quickly glanced at the results and saw that we potentially had beaten the diabolical Turtles (our top 3 came in before their 3rd OA finisher).  However, it was not to be.  The TNT guys were just too far ahead of WTACs finishers to compensate.  The scoring system utilized a summation of the top 3 team members' times overall vs traditional XC scoring (places).  It all turned out to be a moot point because we would've finished 2nd either way.

At least I know I can drink more beer than those Tuesday Night Reptiles. Looking forward to South County 4th Season .  Hope TNT and NRA and everyone else come to these races.  Off road always makes the fun more fun than normal fun.

 Either way, no matter what, it is still always fun.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Silly Rabbit, LSD Is For Kids

This morning I had the privlege of running with 3 other WTACers (Gazelle, Jonny, Mike B, and Tom).  We had decided to run a familiar loop that mixed in hilly roads, leaf covered trails, and options to add or subtract miles as necessary.  Given that my last three runs had been rather unenjoyable, I was looking forward to a longer run with the guys.  I figured that slower pace with a lot of conversation would be just what the doctor ordered. 

We left the Westerly YMCA parking lot at 0600 and immediately settled into a slightly quicker pace than I had anticipated.  No big deal.  However, as we wound through the empty downtown streets and into the North End, instead of slowing down a bit everyone picked it up a little more.  I must admit I had been expecting slow and easy, with pleasant chit chat. I wasn't ready for choppy, abbreviated, "wow, I'm having to work here" conversation.  Despite everything, the run was still enjoyable.  As everyone knows, running early on cold, dark mornings is awesome and pretty much the only way to roll.  Just chilly air, curious cows in fields, and a few runners cranking along.

The pace definitely slowed as we entered a tiny section of trails that wind through a small parcel of Land Trust acreage (Whitley Preserve).  I welcomed the deceleration, however, as soon as we got back out on the asphalt, somefrigginbody had the great idea to do some pick ups (2 telephone poles hard, 2 easy) for the foreseeable future.  Great.  My hamstrings and calves protested but managed to hang.

After a long climb up into the Westerly Town Forest, we scrambled around on leaf-littered trails down along the Pawcatuck River.  I love it in here and of course, cherished the slower pace.  Unfortunately, what we lacked in pace we made up in twisty contour lines.  You essentially drop down a couple hundred feet to the river and come back up, with a bunch of parallel trials intermixed.  Enjoyable yet again but I was humbled as Jeff pulled away from me on a winding, slippery climb up the red trail.  My legs were really starting to tire at this point.

We made it back to the roads for the final couple of miles back to the cars.  I'm guessing it was due to the down hill grade for the first quarter mile or so but my running mates felt the need to gradually pick up the giddyup again.  This time however, they thought it appropriate to keep accelerating so that everyone was cranking at close to T pace.  Doesn't sound like much but at that point I was a healthy dose of tired with a dash of grumbling! 

As we finished up, (read: I finally caught up to Gazelle and Tom because they were done!), I realized that was the hardest I had worked on a longer run (2 hours or more) in quite a while. We all agreed that running hard at the end of longer distances is rather difficult.  That's how you feel at the end of races, I guess that's how you gotta do it sometimes on non-race days too.  Don't get me wrong, long slow distance is great.  I realize that there is definitely a time and a place for  LSD for everyone: hot and humid summer morning runs, running on really tired legs, running with a large group, 3 day music festivals(?).... Long and slow is good and definitely necessary.  But I'll continue periodically doing the Saturday morning ball busters just to keep me honest, keep me humble, keep me tired, and keep me fit. .