Thursday, January 20, 2011

Couple Early Winter Training Runs

So I don’t normally write about my training runs but there were two that I completed over the last few weeks that I want to highlight.  The first run was on the AT in Pennsylvania north east of Harrisburg on January 8th.  The access point was in Pine Grove and I cover the mileage during a nice morning snow over Blue Mountain.  The trail was well marked there was parking at the access point.  There was an overlook to Tower City that was very scenic.  I didn’t see anyone on the trail but had the impression there may have been horses or mountain bikers accessing the trail because my foot was sinking into frozen indentions under the snow at times.  Nothing too bad – no ankle turns.  Just more challenging to navigate.  The trail was on top of the mountain so there was not too much elevation gain.  As I ran out the snow stared coming down and during my trip back the snow was falling.  No one in site and very pleasant way to start the morning.  The access point is about 5 minutes from my parents house so I definitely want to run it farther next time I visit.  After looking at a map, I think I can take it up to Ft. Indiantown Gap and back for a good 25 plus training run.
The second run was in Thurmont in the Catoctin Mountains on the Blue trail (January 15th).  This was one of a series of runs to get a feel for the CAT-100 course that I will be completing at the end of April.  This trail is very challenging and is comprised of a lot of ups and downs with hardly any flats.  There are rocks, roots and the like but the trail is well marked.  We had about 10 people at the start and over half of the folks split off at the 16 mile mark.  Jeff, Jim (CAT race director), and two other folks in addition to myself finished the first 24 miles of the course.  Now you think 24 miles and may equate that to 4 ½ hours on the trail with an average of around 5 an hour.  Add in 4 plus inches of snow on the ground, sections of the trail that had not been touched since the snow, and oh yeah – the rocks and roots under the snow – now how long?  It took 6 ½ hours to cover this distance and needless to say I was feeling it that afternoon but recovery came quickly.  Running with snow on the ground is quite challenging and slow.  It was fun to catch up with folks that participated and no one got lost which is always nice.  This race at the end of April will be a true test of the soul and I plan on sticking to a training plan throughout which will focus on more trail running on similar terrain in Patapsco Park.    We will have a few more group training runs on the trail to prepare for CAT and one or two of these will be night runs to get used to the conditions when the sun goes down. 

Jack Frost

So the motivation was starting to get low after PHUNT because of the winter, the post holiday blues, the dark mornings, lack of sun, etc.  You know all those things that runners complain about with the winter in the Mid Atlantic.  After these two trail runs, I was able to kick those feelings to the corner and get refocused on my running with the goals of keeping family balance, maintaining health, reducing stress, and preparing for the next race.  Until next time, happy trails.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

PHUNT 50K - January 2nd, 2011

There was a forecast of rain for race day that changed often the last three days entering into the race.  This resulted in several changes to the race outfit for the day.  In Northeastern Maryland there was 4 inches of snow that melted the two days prior to the race thanks to extremely warm temperatures for late December.  Some of this unseasonably warm weather lasted through race morning and turned colder during the day.  Long sleeve tech shirt, favorite Brooks running shorts, new socks (hole in toe at end-they are going back), new Asics Attacks (not new any longer) were the final selection.
Getting to the race was a challenge.  Leaving with plenty of time to spare I took a right instead of a left off the exit and drove two miles out of the way.  Soon I realized I was lost and had no luck with asking for directions at an Exxon, Shell, and Dunkin Donuts.  Finally I found my way and arrived at 9 am.  Little did I know that being lost would be a recurring theme for the day.  Luckily the race start was postponed until 9:15 am!
Hunt and Phil explained the course with smiles on their faces and we were provided with extra motivation with the promise of a saucer with a Trail Dawg to all finishers.  We lined up and were off.  Well kind of, there were so many people that the course was very slow for the first mile or two.  Entering the woods, I immediately knew it would be a long and slow race.  First we went through ¼ mile of thick mud on the single track trail followed by off trail portions consisting of navigating dry gully beds and briar patches.  There were 300 people at this event so the trail was overly crowded at the beginning.  At the one hour mark the Garmin clocked me at around 3 miles – OMG – no PR today!!  I started pacing with a few folks for a mile then we all dead ended and were lost.  Luckily I found my way back and started pacing with a couple Dawgs (Carl and Keith) that knew the course.  We caught up on each others races, talked about some Dawg events, upcoming races, and the mud.  Good times and by this point the mud was completely covering the shoes.  Almost lost my shoe several times.
The Dawgs knew where to go and explained the PHUNT markings so after getting used to the course and socializing I broke off solo for a while.  I enjoyed this time alone and started picking people off for some enjoyment.  The course consisted of muddy trail followed by muddy trail followed by muddy off trail sections and some open meadows.  The three aid stations were well spaced and adequately stocked for my needs.  I am low maintenance – water, Gatorade, and chocolate chip cookies are all I need.  My time was horrendous due to the course conditions and rainy weather but I had fun, finished and met some cool people. 
Next stop, Hashawha Hills 50K – February 26th!
Garmin:  28.42 miles, 6hrs 37m, 6,382 elevation gain