Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Biking Through Hollis

A leisurely ride this morning exploring some of the back roads near where I live. I'm trying to find which roads are best to ride on, so today was another exploration route with that in mind. Ideal roads to me are smooth, have good shoulders, and the less traffic the better.

The section of Rt. 35 north of Rt. 202 wasn't as good as expected (south of 202 it's ideal, at least for a few miles). No real shoulders, and while traffic was somewhat low (at least for this time of the day), the higher speed limits and low visibility turns made it a little sketchier than I'd like. Even so, not too bad. I'd ride it again, but just have to be careful.

The rest of the route was great. Rt. 117 does have some traffic on it, but also has shoulders that are so wide that it eases those concerns significantly, along with good visibility (i.e. no sharp turns so cars and trucks have a better chance of seeing you up ahead). The true back roads I traveled on were also ideal.

I've gotten a lot of great feedback on the effectiveness of cross training with the bike to help with running, specifically the quads. I've heard it from my fellow Trail Monsters, but also posed the question on the ultra list and was surprised at the feedback I got at how significant the results can be. Sounds like a good fit for me, especially since my quads are my weakest muscles.

Biked 25.3 miles @ 16.4 mph/avg. (29.7 mph/max)
Paved roads.
Very hilly.
Mid to upper 70s, sunny.
Bike shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jim Hutchinson Has Passed Away

I just learned that Jim Hutchinson, the race director for the Vermont 100, has died. I didn't know him well, but I distinctly remember that each time he handed me my buckle for the past two years, he met my smile with one just as big. You could tell he really enjoyed putting on the event, and all proceeds from the race went to a good cause, Vermont Adapative Ski & Sports. I've heard a lot of great things about him, and this is obviously really sad news.

Mackworth Island Run

Ran from a friend's house to Mackworth Island where I ran around it once and then returned. The island is pretty neat... it hosts a school for the deaf and blind, a burial site for former Governor Baxter's dogs, and coolest of all, a fairy village of small houses made of sticks and shells built by children. There are dozens, if not hundreds of them within one wooded section.

Run itself felt good. While I didn't feel any muscle soreness, it is obvious that the body is still recovering. This was evident by me thinking I was running faster than I actually was, and also quantified with the heart rate data. For this pace and this course, the HR would probably normally be in the mid to upper 130s. Instead, I was in the lower 140s. Nothing out of the ordinary and to be expected for only being a week and a half out from a 100-miler, but a noteworthy observation nonetheless.

Ran 8.8 miles @ 8:26/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 142/161
Paved roads and trails.
Slightly hilly.
Mid to upper 70s, sunny.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Group Bike Ride

Met up with Mindy, her husband Pete Ian, Stephen and his wife Kelly for a ride today. Big thanks to Mindy for hosting the ride and coming up with the route.

We biked from Scarborough through Cape Elizabeth and up to South Portland and back on a loop route. A bit more car traffic than I'm used to, but that was a good confidence builder for me.

Legs and body continue to recover well from last weekend. I swear biking is great for recovery. Will likely run tomorrow. May try to do eight miles or so on hills.

Biked 25.3 miles @14.5 mph (28.1 mph max)
Paved roads.
Moderately hilly.
Mid 70s to near 80, sunny.
Bike shorts, shirt.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sunny Bike Ride

Rain has ended (for now) and bright blue skies prevail. Took the bike out for a nice little ride. Route features a long overall downhill to the Saco River followed by a long climb out.

Legs felt good. Nice to work them in a non-impact way but still get the blood flowing and the heart rate up.

Tomorrow will sort of be a rest day as I'm doing trail maintenance up in the White Mountains with Al (pacer at the VT100) for the Randolph Mountain Club. Sunday I'll play by ear, but will likely rest.

Biked 14.6 miles @ 17.1 mph avg (29.0 mph max)
AHR/MHR - 136/158
Paved roads.
Moderately hilly.
Mid 70s, sunny.
Bike shorts, singlet.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mapping Out What's Next

Went out for a nice little run this morning in between rain showers. Rained a little at the beginning and the end which was refreshing. It's been raining all week and a good dumping is expected later today and tonight. Good week for not-so-good weather since I'm recovering.

The run itself went quite well. The right calf felt a little tight, but nothing bad. It loosened up some as the run went on. Quite pleased and overall I felt better than I thought I might.

Ran 4.2 miles @ 8:57/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 138/153
Paved roads.
Mostly flat.
Intermittent rain, overcast, humid.
Shorts, cap.

I'm still relishing last weekend's race. Man, what a great challenge that was and I had so much fun. I'll be riding high about this one for months, just like I did last year.

But I also don't want post-race depression to set in too badly, so I'm already mapping out what's ahead. Yesterday, I finally registered for the Mt. Desert Island Marathon. This race is very special to me, as it was my first marathon and I'm going to try to do it every year. It is so well organized, so scenic, so challenging, and so much fun. My father is flying up this year to run it also which will make it even extra special this year.

But three weeks before that, I also plan on running the Vermont 50. A bunch of fellow Trail Monsters are planning on running it as well, so it will no doubt be a blast. I ran it two years ago and really enjoyed it. Look forward to doing it again. I'll register for it soon, but wanted to register for MDI first since it has a cap and it's popularity continues to increase each year.

There's also the Stonecat 50 which I'm on the fence about. It's just three weeks after the MDI Marathon, and I think that'd be a bit much, given that the Vermont 50 and MDI Marathon are also just three weeks apart. If I don't register, I'll at least volunteer there.

Plan is to bike tomorrow, weather permitting. A few have asked if I plan on doing a triathlon anytime soon. The answer is no. I will be hitting the bike more often but it's more to build up my quadriceps and get in some good general cross training. I'd be open to maybe doing one in a few years, but it's too far ahead to even consider and I have enough on my plate with running goals.

Monday, July 21, 2008

2008 Vermont 100 Race Report

Finishing time: 22:26:29
Placing: 33rd out of 156 finishers (65% completion rate)

As if the course wasn't tough enough, Mother Nature decided to up the ante this year at the Vermont 100 by throwing in temperatures that reached into the upper 80s, soupy humidity throughout, and a round of heavy thunderstorms.

As a result, over a third of the 100-mile runners DNF'd and almost everyone's times seemed to have been affected considerably. My goal of breaking 21 hours wasn't going to happen in these conditions, but finishing in under 22 1/2 hours and getting through some major mental down points made this race incredibly rewarding.

I also had a lot of fantastic support to help get me through the tough conditions. My crew member, Kate, was incredibly valuable. She was ready to help at each accessible aid station with lots of enthusiasm and her positive attitude and encouragement was just awesome.

My friend Al also helped with crewing duties in the afternoon and was my pacer for the last 30 miles. He did great and I really appreciated his company, especially after dark when the stretches between some of the aid stations seemed long. He really kept me going. I might not have felt as obligated to push it harder if I was alone.

And it was almost as if I had a pacer leading up to mile 70, as my good buddy Stephen and I pretty much ran step-by-step together for that entire stretch, which of course was great. We worked together getting each other through our low points and had a blast.

Pre Race
I'll start with a brief course description. First off, it's beautiful. It meanders through some of the most scenic countryside, farms, and woods this country has to offer. There is around 15000' of elevation gain and the same amount lost as it's a loop course. The terrain is either going up or down. No flat sections at all, just some that are steeper than others. 70% is on hard-packed dirt roads, 27% on trails, and 3% on paved roads. The aid stations are plentiful (30 total, including the finish), the volunteers are fantastic and the course is very well marked. It is one hell of a great event.

One of the great things about the Vermont 100 is that you can camp out right at the race site. I'm a heavy sleeper and am used to backpacking and car camping so sleeping in a tent before a race has never been an issue for me. After setting up my tent, I walked down to get weighed in and registered. Damon was handling the weigh-ins, and it was great to meet him face-to-face and hang out for a bit. His blog is excellent and has quickly become one of my favorites.

I waited for the others to arrive. Stephen came first, and was soon followed by our good friend and Trail Monster leader Ian, who was running his first 100-miler. Erik arrived soon afterwards, and so did Chuck (though he and his wife and daughter were staying elsewhere), both of whom were also running their first 100-milers.

I was sitting in my camp chair hanging out with everyone and noticed two girls approaching. I didn't recognize one of them from a distance because of her sunglasses, but as she got closer I realized it was Devon, along with her friend! After years of regular contact over the internet and phone, it was so great to finally meet her face-to-face. It would be normal for there to maybe be a hint of shyness or maybe even awkwardness, but I didn't feel that at all. I was immediately comfortable around her and we just chatted away like good friends. We're both pretty hyperactive and constantly joking around, so it's little wonder we immediately clicked.

Devon and I walked down together for the prerace meeting and the race directors went through the formalities. They warned us that it was going to be very hot and humid with strong thunderstorms, and urged us to be ready for that. I knew proper hydration and electrolyte intake were going to be even more vital, as well as choosing foods that I knew I could digest since the heat often contributes to stomach problems.

The pre-race dinner that night was excellent, just like last year. Got a full load of carbs. Afterwards, I made final gear arrangements, and double, triple, quadruple checked all of my supplies and gear. Also went over crew/pacing instructions with Kate and Al. Nothing fancy with my plans, I had all of my stuff organized in a couple of bags and a cooler, and I'd tell them what I needed when coming into an aid station and the goal was to get in and out as quick as possible. When pacing, just wanted the company along with an extra set of eyes for the dark.

I turned in for the night a little before dark, and set the alarm on my phone and as a back-up, the one on my watch to wake up at 3am (race started at 4am). Slept okay for the most part, and got in a good five hours.

The Race

Woke up, gathered my stuff and headed down to the start line. It was already warm and humid, a good reminder that extra special attention for hydration would be needed. I kept an eye out for Stephen, as our plan was to run the first 30-40 miles together if it felt comfortable but didn't see him.

Just minutes before the start, it began to rain and everyone stayed inside the big dining tent just a couple dozen feet away from where we'd line up for the start. But the rain was short-lived and with about a minute to go we lined up. 30 seconds to go and finally I spot Stephen. Whew. With a countdown, we were off.

Note: I'm writing the report based on what I remember happening between the aid stations that allowed crew access.

First 21.1 miles - our ka-tet

For the first hour or so, we ran under the light of headlamps, running downhill on a dirt road until heading up a trail into the woods. Another runner we know, Ron Farkash, joined us for the next several miles until he pulled ahead.

The sun had risen now and we put away our headlamps. Though it was hot and humid, at least we had cloud cover for much of the morning. We reached the dirt roads and soon began the climb. It was here that our ka-tet began to form when the aforementioned Chuck (who paced me last year, but went on to DNF this time around which was a bummer) joined us, as well as another runner, Frank, from Connecticut. Frank was a really nice guy and he fit in perfectly with our little group. He's a vegan chef and really knows a lot about nutrition, which I found interesting to listen to. Great company for sure. This was his first 100-miler, and he ended up rocking it.

One of the cool things about the VT100 is that there is also a horse race of the same distance (with 75 and 50 mile options for them as well). We started to see the first few come through and it's neat to run alongside them (on steeper grades going up or down, you can actually pass them). Ian also caught up with us around this time.

I really liked our group, so I was a bit disappointed when I needed to duck into the woods for a bio-break. Fortunately, I was able to catch back up to everyone with little effort and together we reached the first aid station where crews were allowed at mile 21.1. If I remember right, we got here at around 7:40am.

Miles 21.1 through 30.1 - moseying along

We pulled in and I had Kate spray me down with sunblock. Grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the aid station, some Mountain Dew (my favorite ultra drink) and was off. Ian was going to do a shoe change and it was here that he left our ka-tet, but the rest of us soon grouped back together.

We flew down a long downhill stretch to an unmanned aid station at mile 25.1, and I proclaimed "awesome, we're already a quarter of the way done!" This was met with groans from some other runners nearby. I really meant it to be positive.

Five miles later we reached the Stage Road aid station at mile 30.1, where crews were allowed. Was in and out of here quickly after refilling my water bottles and grabbing another PB & J as well as some fig newtons.

Miles 30.1 through 47.2 - feeling the heat

The sun was starting to break out of the clouds now, magnifying the already brutal heat and humidity. This combined with a grueling climb out of Stage Road really made it tough. Stephen and Frank caught back up with me during this stretch and we climbed and climbed and climbed.

What goes up must go down, and then we had a long downhill. Eventually, we reached the covered bridge that precedes another ridiculously long and grueling climb. Around here I took off my shirt pretty much for good until the finish. It was just so fricking hot out, and not having that additional layer helped, just had to make sure I was fully covered in sunscreen, and I was (the spray-on kind worked perfect, quick application and easy to cover everything). We were probably around 40 miles in when Frank dropped behind a little and it was just Stephen and I. However, it wouldn't be the last time I'd see Frank on the trail.

Somewhere within this section was where the major ups and downs in energy would begin. It'd continue until dark. My energy would be zonked and mentally I was just in such a low point that I almost hoped I'd get yanked at some point. But after a few miles, I would be back to myself, able to hold and enjoy a conversation, laugh, run well, and all systems go... then crash... then feel good again... repeat. This is common in ultras, but no doubt the heat magnified it all greatly. I found it to be quite intense.

I hit a major low point along one stretch here that follows a paved road for about a mile. Even when the route ducked into the woods again, it didn't help much. I concentrated on just getting through it and getting to Camp 10 Bear, the next aid station.

Fortunately, I was on an up point when I pulled into Camp 10 Bear at mile 47.2, the first medical checkpoint. No doubt a big concern of the day for all runners was losing too much weight where they'd make you sit and eat and drink until you got your weight back up, or even worse, they'd pull you (talked to several runners where this was the case).

The medical team asked me to step on a scale and read my weight to them. I'm guessing the reason they did this was a test for mental alertness. My weight was 178, down just two pounds. Whew. Drinking like a mule, taking an S-Cap electrolyte pill every hour along with the Clip-2 sport drink was working well.

I was starting to have some chaffing issues, so I applied another coat of body glide and then doubled up with some Vaseline. This worked well and kept it at bay for the rest of the race.

Al joined Kate here for crewing duties until it was time to pace, and they informed me I was off my pace to break 21 hours here by about 20 minutes. I wasn't surprised or disappointed given the weather. I just wanted to finish the darn thing.

Miles 47.1 to 57 - more heat

I honestly can't remember much of what happened between these two aid stations. I just know it was full of more big mental ups and downs. Stephen and I at times would both be in a low point, both be in a high point, or one in a low and the other in a high. We really worked together to get each other through our down points. He was a huge help, and I hope I was to him at well. Just knowing you are running with someone is enough to keep you going rather than slowing down or stopping.

Once again, I was able to hit a high point a few miles away from the Tracer Brook aid station. We picked up the pace on a long downhill and cruised on in. As we were leaving, we saw Frank coming in. Good, he wasn't too far behind. I was hoping he'd do well for his first 100 and it was good to see that he was looking strong.

Miles 57 to 62.1 - thunderstorms

Coming out of Tracer Brook is an insanely long climb. Fortunately for Stephen and I, thunderstorms were rolling in and they hit us on the way up. This was most welcome, as we really wanted to cool down. Also, this stretch is normally pretty exposed and we didn't have to do it with the sun beating down on us. Instead, we had a nice full-on downpour to shower us off. Ahhhhh. We later heard that runners on other parts of the course got haled on. Ouch.

Pulled in to the Margaritaville aid station, grabbed a turkey sandwich, refilled my bottles, said hello to Kate and Al, and we were off. Kate and Al said I looked pale and were a bit concerned, but I wasn't feeling any different and thought it was probably just because it had rained and my body cooled down. My color apparently returned so that was most likely the case.

Miles 62.1 to 70.1 - the worst low of the day

My lowest of lows happened early on in this stretch. Just had zero energy, my feet ached badly and I felt pretty miserable. Stephen was on a high point here, and I'm surprised he didn't go on ahead and I urged him to do so. But he said he'd rather stick with me and have the company since he didn't care about his finishing time anyway. Not necessary, but incredibly unselfish of him and greatly appreciated. We hooked up with a few other runners during this stretch, and I can't remember their names but they were great guys. Wish I had more energy to hold a conversation.

And then... boing! The food I ate at the last aid station must have kicked in because on the downhill I felt great again. I was talking with Stephen and we were moving along quickly on the descent into Camp 10 Bear for the second time around. Here we'd pick up our pacers, which was nice.

We reached Camp 10 Bear and got weighed in. I weighed in at 180, my starting weight! I had gained two pounds over the last 32 miles. Excellent. I high-fived Kate upon that news and then Al joined me for pacing duties and we were off.

Miles 70.1 to 77 - down and then up for good

We began the first half mile or so with Stephen and his pacer Brian, but I had to stop for a pee break and they went on ahead. They hadn't realized I had stopped, but I was glad as I knew Stephen could let loose a little.

I then hit my umpteenth low point for the day, but fortunately, this was my last one. As I slowed down during my low point, Frank caught up and passed us, saying he got his "eleventh wind", which made me laugh. Seems like most runners I talked to were all going through some extra-dramatic highs and lows with the heat.

As I pulled out of my low, Al and I picked up the pace and caught up with Frank as we came into the West Wind aid station at mile 77. Here I downed some chicken noodle soup, just as I did last year. Good stuff. Frank (running without a pacer), Al and I then headed out together. Below is a picture of us doing that, and I like this one so much I made it my wallpaper (thanks for taking all the pictures Kate).

Miles 77 to 88.6 - shot quads

The next stretch had us on some pretty neat trails going through the woods and we encountered a lot of the horse riders here. They were all great and fun to talk to. Every rider I encountered throughout the race was super encouraging and friendly, and their horses were absolutely beautiful. A really nice and unique element to the race for sure.

Once out of the woods, we hit a loooooong stretch of downhill on the dirt roads where we ran at a pretty good lick and played leap frog with a few other runners, including the runner Damon was pacing (I forget his name). Nice to see Damon out there, he's a great guy.

I also knew that this would probably be it for me with running downhill as my quads couldn't take it anymore, and just like last year, at around mile 85 that was the case. It showed that I have to really focus on building up my quadriceps. I'm beginning to think now that Western States being canceled might have been a blessing in disguise, as now I have another year to get them stronger. I definitely have some work to do on that front.

Fortunately, I guess my strength is I'm a good power walker. All in the genetics, as I have relatively long legs (thank you Scandinavian ancestors). I can pretty much power walk at the same speed as a slow jog, and for whatever reason I can do this easily even in the later stages of a race. That definitely helps tremendously.

Shortly after the unmanned aid station at mile 81, the headlamps were turned on, and if I remember right, nobody passed us for the rest of the race.

We pulled into the Bills aid station at mile 88.6, the last medical checkpoint of the day. I heard a voice ask "Are you number five (referring to my bib number), the friendly runner?" I replied yes, and I like to think I'm friendly, and she replied my friends were up ahead. It turns out she was Cathi, Frank's crew member. Apparently both Frank and I were always smiling and happy when coming into aid stations. If only they could see me at some of my real low points out on the course. :-)

I was feeling great mentally and the pace was moving along just fine. My weight was 182, so now I was up two pounds. Cool. Off we went.

Miles 88.6 to 95.5 - getting closer

Trucking along, and once we mused we were past mile 90, it was great to know that we just had single digit mileage to the finish. Like last year, this was a huge mental boost. Al was musing that I would still break 22:30, but I didn't believe him and was thinking it'd be closer to 23 hours. We'll see.

We came into the Keating's aid station and it turns out they had lemonade in one of the coolers. Boy, this hit the spot. It tasted sooooooo good. I filled up one of my bottles with it and enjoyed it for the next few miles.

A few miles later we pulled into Polly's aid station, the final manned aid station and final one with crew access. Got out quick and we were off to the finish!

95.5 to the finish - final stretch

Leaving the aid station, we came down a hill and the dirt road ended at a paved roads. No sign of glow sticks or the yellow plates that marked the path. Uh oh. I started to panic a little, but just as we realized it, we heard horses and knew we weren't off by much. We backtracked and about 50 feet back up the dirt road, we saw the turnoff. Whew. Ended up being no big deal and not costing us any time. Truth is, the adrenaline rush I got out of it probably more than made up for the minute or two we might have lost.

We reached the final aid station, an unmanned one at mile 97.7. From here on out, I really pushed it with all I had. Al was really encouraging here and was urging me to keep it going. There was a lot of steep uphill, technical trail, which made it fun. Seriously, it was truly fun. The fact that the finish line was so close and all that hard work I had put in was about to come to fruition, I was relishing what I had left.

The final stretch (maybe quarter of a mile?) is mostly downhill to the finish, and I brushed aside the pain in my quads and ran. Soon, the milk jugs filled with water and glow sticks lined the trails, signifying the finish line was very close. Then we could see the lights at the finish through the trees!

I booked it with all I had and sprinted across the finish (at least I think I was sprinting). 22:26:29 was my time. Ah, sweet. About 16 minutes slower than last year, but the level of difficulty was much higher this time around (weather was nice and cool last year). Very happy with how I ran considering that.

Post race

I sat down in a chair to watch the other runners come through. Not too much longer later, Frank came through. Was really happy for him and he rocked it, especially considering this was his first 100 and he did it without a pacer. No doubt he'll only get faster.

Kate helped me take off my shoes and literally gagged when helping me peel off my socks (I never changed them during the race). Hee hee.

Ian also came through, breaking 23 hours, another fantastic performance. He immediately went to the med-tent as he had a hurt ankle. You'd never know it the way he flew through into the finish! Well done. I learned that Stephen had finished about an hour ahead of me. He must have been flying that last 30 miles, which is awesome.

I began to nod off and Kate drove me back up to the tent, saving me a few hundred yards of walking. Took a sponge bath and went to sleep, getting in a short but very refreshing three hours of sleep.

Next Morning

I woke up to a surreal dream. One of Stephen's kids was softly singing in their tent next to mine, and another runner was talking about the race from another nearby tent. The singing provided the background music to the narration of the runner, and my dream provided the mental images. It was pretty cool.

My legs were sore upon wakening, but I was way less stiff than last year. Headed down at 8am to watch the other runner's finish, with one fellow beating the 30 hour cut-off by a mere 11 seconds! Talk about drama! That was awesome to watch.

We ate at the post-race brunch, got our buckles at the awards ceremony and then packed up and headed home. Great race.

Other stuff:

- Congrats to Ian, Erik and Frank on their first 100-milers. Also congrats to Devon for not only running her first 100-miler, but winning it for the women as well! I can't say I'm too surprised about that though, she's obviously wicked fast.

- Nice to see Paul and Kathleen Braun from Wisconsin there. I saw them out at Western States, and we brought microbrews from our respective areas to trade with one another.

- PB and J's continued to work well for me, as did the Mountain Dew. Have to remember the lemonade for next time. Clif shot blocks also worked extremely well.

- Volunteers were fantastic. They'll bend over backwards to help out and were always cheerful and encouraging. This is one amazing race.

- Legs are recovering much faster than they did last year. I'm walking up and down stairs with some discomfort, but nothing terrible at all.

- Got home Sunday and slept 11 hours. Looking forward to another good night's sleep tonight.

Link to album

L to R: Stephen, me, Erik and Ian.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Vermont 100 Photos

Finished the Vermont 100 in 22:26:29, good enough for 33rd place (I think). Temperatures got into the upper 80s and humidity was as thick as it could get, slowing just about everyone down and contributing to a large number of DNFs (65% completion rate this year). Given that, I am very happy with how I did. Made it all the more memorable.

Full race report coming in the next few days, but here are some photos:

Link to album

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Final Pre-Vermont 100 Run

Just a short three, and by the time I was beginning to get warmed up, it was time to stop.

The weather forecast for the Vermont 100 has improved somewhat since yesterday. As of now, the National Weather Service (who I trust the most) is calling for highs in the mid-80s with a 20% chance of thunderstorms. Supposed to be windy also. If that's the case, fine by me.

I continue to feel great about this weekend. Very excited and can't wait to get out there! I have a great crew and pacer. My friend and neighbor Kate will be crewing for me, and she'll be joined by my friend Al, who will also take over as my pacer at mile 70. Kate is one of those people who's always on the ball, and I've done a few long hikes with Al and know he'll be very entertaining as he helps bring me in during the final stretch. Wish me luck!

Ran 3.0 miles @ 8:15/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 140/153
Paved roads.
Slightly hilly.
Mid 80s, mostly cloudy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Back Cove

Did a couple of laps around the Back Cove, enjoying the warm sun and cool ocean breeze. Legs felt great. Had to concentrate on keeping the pace down, which is always a good sign. All systems go for the Vermont 100.

Speaking of which, looks like it'll be a scorching hot one for the race. Highs around 90 degrees, and I'm guessing humid as well. I typically do well in the heat, but running 100 miles in it will be a real test. Bring it on!

Ra 7.2 miles @ 8:18/mile pace.
Hard-packed dirt trails.
Slightly hilly.
Around 80 degrees, sunny.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Deer Fly Experiment: Part One

Deer flies. I can't stand them. They've been very bad this year, and have driven me from running on the trails to running on the roads. Bug spray is ineffective, even with high concentrations of DEET. I think that stuff just makes the little buggers laugh.

I've also tried the dryer sheet method, which consists of pinning a fabric softener sheet to your hat and it's supposed to repel them. Not much luck there either. It might have worked some, and I'm willing to experiment more with it, but the one time I tried it I wasn't impressed with the results.

There has to be another way, and I think I found something that could possibly work. I was willing to give it a try, even if it meant looking like an idiot.

ResearchI googled around, and the research I found on thwarting deer flies was few and far between. Most articles had a defeatist attitude, saying nothing could really be done. However, one piece of information surfaced that appeared to be somewhat of a gem:

Worth noting that since it came from the University of Florida, it was obviously reputable. The school is the birthplace of Gatorade, national champions in football and basketball, is located in my hometown of Gainesville, and is also where I earned my Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications back in 1997. Go Gators!

But I digress.

To paraphrase, Dr. Mizell's article says that deer flies are attracted to bright blue and typically attack the highest point on a moving target (7 mph is optimal). The obvious variable here is that Florida and Maine are two different places, and we could have two different species of deer flies. However, the information seemed pretty consistent, so it was worth a shot.

The HatThe article showed a hat with a blue cup attached to the top, but it didn't say much more about it. It's possible the author could have been joking, but in theory, it could work. Here's the picture from the article:

Looked good. To make mine, I punched holes along the rim of the cup and wove twine through the holes and the rivets on the top of my hat:

The next step was to coat the cup with a sticky substance that would trap the deer flies if they landed. However, a trip to the hardware store for the "Tanglefoot" mentioned in the article or a similar insect goo was unsuccessful. I decided to try my luck with clear packing tape folded over with the sticky side out.

The Test
I conducted the experiment along a section of logging road near my house that I've come to refer to as "the gauntlet". The deer flies are traditionally extremely bad during this quarter mile section, and you must run through it in order to get to the single-track that leads into darker woods where the flies are less.

Unfortunately, conditions weren't ideal. It was hot (83 degrees), but the humidity was low and a very strong wind was blowing. Those last two factors would really hinder the experiment, especially the wind.

I donned the blue-cup hat and began running. The flies were indeed out, but in small numbers. Looking at my own shadow, I could see their shadows as they buzzed around my head. They appeared to take to the cup, since they like to attack the highest point, and that minimized them flying around my face. I mused that this at least raised the attack zone (see diagram below).

I ran down the trail and back twice, and anxiously took off my hat to see if any deers had stuck to the tape which blanketed the cup. None. This could be because the tape isn't sticky enough, and/or the fact that the flies weren't too aggressive because of the weather.

Conditions weren't ideal for experimentation today, so I'll have to try it again when the wind isn't as great and it's more humid out. The raised attack zone as observed from the shadows was interesting. It didn't totally prevent them from flying into my face, but it did seemingly lessen them somewhat.

Next time I may try adding a thin coating of maple syrup and let it dry out a bit on top of the tape to make it more sticky, just to be sure. Trapping even a few of those buggers would be considered a big success, in addition to raising the attack zone. I'll do another post after round two.

And no, I won't be wearing this at the Vermont 100 this weekend.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bike N' Run

The Bike
After sleeping in, I managed to get a relatively quick start on things and was out the door with the bike after a breakfast of a huge homemade fruit smoothie and my usual two cups of coffee (16 ounces total, down from 48 ounces just a couple of months ago).

The ride was excellent. I rode on some back roads that had very little traffic and I really enjoyed continuing to get reacquainted with my bike. Very fun ride. I was also very happy to learn more about the problem I was having the other day with the front derailleur. It was popping off when I was going from my small front gear to my big front one (I don't know the proper terms). But, I found out if I don't cram the shift lever up all the way it shifts fine. I just have to be more gentle.

Biked 20.4 miles @ 16.8 mph/avg.
AHR/MHR - 129/179 (questionable max. HR)
Paved roads.
Very hilly.
Mid 70s, sunny, windy.
Bike shorts, singlet.

The Run
I arrived home and put the bike up, changed into my running shorts and shoes and headed out for a run. The transition was interesting. It took a while to get adjusted to the running immediately after the bike ride. I felt a little dizzy from it for the first mile and a half before I was fully back into the running groove. Energy was great however. Good little run.

Ran 4.6 miles @ 7:53/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 139/157
Paved roads.
Mostly flat.
Upper 70s, sunny, windy.
Shorts, singlet.

Less than a week to go now for the Vermont 100. Taper is going well and confidence is high. Will likely take tomorrow off (good timing, as rain is expected tomorrow and I also want to follow Badwater online). Plan is to run short, single digit mileages on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with some light biking thrown in. Take Friday off, and race is early Saturday (4am start).

Weekly Recap:
Running mileage: 31.1
Biking mileage: 30.9
Kayaking mileage: 7.7

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pre Vermont 100 Thoughts

The Vermont 100 is a week away and I feel quite ready. I am pumped and know it will be a blast, especially with the Trail Monster entourage we have going over (Stephen, Ian, Chuck, and Erik are also running it... not to mention our crews and pacers).

First and foremost, I am seriously really looking forward to it. So, I hope what I'm about to say doesn't come across wrong. But... It also seems a little anticlimactic after the whole Western States 100 cancellation ordeal. After going through that drama, it's just kind of hard to get myself so psyched up again to that same level. The pressure (as I perceive it) is also way less for the Vermont 100. But I'm thankful for that! I think I run better when that's the case.

The pressure is less for a variety of reasons: My time last year was 22:09:55. Breaking that shouldn't be a problem, since I ran the race three months after knee surgery (which was minor, for a torn meniscus) and missed a lot of training before and while recovering from the injury. I'm in much better shape this time around. Having run it last year, I also know the course and have a better handle on the logistics. There is little traveling stress, since it's just a scenic three-four hour drive away. And I know first-hand it's a well put together and super fun event. All those combine to make it less tense.

But of course, it is also 100 miles, leaving a lot of room for things to go wrong. If it's a brutally hot day, everyone's times will likely suffer. Weather forecast a week out looks okay, with highs in the low 80s... but this is New England, so that will likely change a few dozen times between now and then.

So my goal...

.. .- -- --. --- .. -. --. - --- - .-. -.-- - --- -... .-. . .- -.- - .-- . -. - -.-- --- -. . .... --- ..- .-. ... .-.-.-

Oh yeah, I ran today also. Just did 10 miles with Stephen, Brian and Lilly at Pineland Farms. Good run. Felt a little sluggish, but I had pizza for breakfast so I'm surprised I felt as well as I did. However, I did just go food shopping, and all healthy stuff is on order for the next week.

Worth noting the deer flies were out, but they were slow because of the cooler temperatures. Killing them was easy, fun, and oh-so satisfying.

Ran 10.0 miles @ 9:00/mile pace (nice round numbers)
Very hilly.
60 degrees, rising to 70 degrees, partly cloudy.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt, cap.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Kayaking and Biking

Great couple of days of light cross training. After my run yesterday, I rested a bit and then packed up for an overnight kayaking trip to Little Chebeague Island with Heather. Beautiful weather and we had a great time, including cooking kabobs and corn on an open fire, topped off with s'mores for dessert. We slept right on the beach, watching shooting stars streak across the sky as we fell asleep.


Kabobs and corn... mmm, mmm, good:

Heather as we rounded the island:

Kayaked ~7.7 miles total.
3.7 miles Thursday
4.0 miles Friday.

On the way back, I picked up my road bike from the shop after its tune-up. Shortly after I got home, I took it out for a ride to test it out. Man, this bike is fast! It just cruises. However, the chain popped off twice when switching the front derailleur (forget which way). When I was picking up the bike from the shop, the mechanic mentioned that there were some weird spacers between the gears and he couldn't figure out why they were there and took them off. I think I found out their purpose the hard way. I'll give it another ride or two so I can pay attention to what's happening a little more and may need to take it back.

But aside from that, it felt really great to get out on the bike again. Great cross training and the back roads that have very little traffic (and there are plenty of those where I live) are especially fun.

Biked 10.5 miles @ 16.2 mph/avg.
AHR/MHR - 135/210 (MHR is definitely an anomaly, may need new battery)
Paved roads.
Moderately hilly.
Mid 70s, overcast.
Bike shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Oh yeah, I haven't forgotten about the Vermont 100 next week. I'll post more about that this weekend.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Easy Like Thursday Morning

Good little run at an easy pace in much nicer weather. Opted to stick to the roads today to avoid the deer flies.

Overnight kayaking trip on an island off the coast is planned for later today. Will be nice to camp out tonight in much cooler weather.

Ran 4.6 miles @ 8:38/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 134/180 (max HR looks to be an anomaly)
Paved roads.
Mostly flat.
Mid 70s, sunny.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt, cap.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sweet Mana From Heaven

Finally, a cold front is pushing through and things have already cooled off considerably. After the first line of thundershowers pushed through, I headed out the door, hoping that a second line of thunderstorms would hit midway through the run and cool me down and thwart any deer flies.

For the first half of my run, those incessant little buggers were out in full force, and they weren't just swarming, they were biting as well. This forced me to pick up the pace, giving me a good tempo workout on some technical trails. I was also flapping my arms the entire time waving them out of my face, getting a great upper body workout. This was aided by the hand-held water bottle I was carrying (think dumbell).

I drew a picture to better illustrate this concept:

But at about the halfway point, as expected, the skies rumbled and the rain began to fall. Ahhh. I was already completely soaked in sweat, which was soon replaced with the sweet cool rain falling from above. And, as it began to pour, it kept the deer flies at bay! Ahhhhhhh. Yessir, life is good.

Ran 7.3 miles @ 8:25/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 152/168
Trails, fire roads.
Very hilly.
Upper 70s falling to lower 70s, extremely humid, partly cloudy and then thunderstorms.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt, cap.
Deer flies killed = ~28-34
Deer fly bites = ~15-18
Deer flies flying into mouth = 3 (one down my throat)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Home Roasting Your Own Coffee

I'm far from an expert on the subject and am still learning, but I thought I'd pass along some of what I've learned since a couple of folks have expressed interest after my last post. Seems like a lot of runners, especially ultra folks, really love coffee, so I can justify putting it up on my running blog. :-)

Why Home Roast?
1) It's the best coffee you'll ever have since it's freshly roasted, and you're in more control of the flavor based on your preferences.
2) It's cheaper. Much cheaper. A one pound bag of pre-roasted gourmet coffee will typically cost $12-$15, but one pound of green beans of the same variety will be less than half of that. Even with shipping costs, it's still much less expensive.
3) It's fun and easy. If you can microwave popcorn without burning it, you can roast beans. Like microwaving popcorn, you have to listen (more on that later).

What I use:
My roaster is a French Roast Plus 8. I bought it from Sweet Maria's, as I do with my green coffee beans (which means they aren't roasted). I don't have any financial interest with Sweet Maria's. They're just a great company with a wide selection, great prices, and fast shipping. I highly recommend them.

Back to the roaster. It's a very basic model and cost me $84 and included a 4 lb. variety pack of different green coffee beans (1/2 pound packs) from Sweet Maria's. The variety pack was great, as it contained beans from different regions and I was able to better discern what I was looking for in a coffee bean (while all were great, I learned I generally liked the African beans best due to their fruity tones).

How to roast:
Simple. I just put in three scoops (it came with a scoop) into the roaster, turn the dial and let it go. What you are listening for is the cracks. It's hard to go by just looking at the beans, since color changes gradually and therefore it's hard to tell just how dark or light it is and how far you have to go. So, sound is by far the best way to gauge how much the beans are done, and you do this by listening to the cracks. There are two cracks, first crack and second crack:

First crack - these are louder, deeper pops. Like popcorn, there'll be a few at first, then more and more, then it'll wane down to none. Usually takes about four or five minutes. Temperature of your house can have a pretty big affect on the time.

Second crack - these are quieter and higher pitched, and sound more like the wood in a campfire crackling. Beginning of this phase usually takes 7-10 minutes.

After the first crack is done, you have a light roast that is ready to go. The longer you let it go, the darker the roast. You can take it to second crack, and into that phase is when the beans really begin to get dark. Take it much past second crack though, and you basically have charcoal.

If you're not sure how light or dark to go, I'd just follow the recommendations that come with whatever variety of coffee you're roasting. You'll get the hang of controlling the roast color (by sound) pretty quickly. It's not hard.

What I recommend doing is going ahead and charring a batch of beans, so you can hear what first and second cracks sound like and see and smell the process. Seriously, go ahead and torch the suckers to charcoal oblivion, and throw them out afterwards. It's a small sacrifice to make based on what you'll learn from it. Before I did that, I kept thinking I was going into second crack when I wasn't. Because of the decision to let it keep going as an experiment, I was able to unmistakably hear that second crack and knew for sure. Just one of those things that's best experienced.

After the beans are done roasting, I quickly put them in a mesh strainer and move them around to cool them off. After doing this for a few minutes, I put them in an airtight jar. Very important to let them sit at least 12 hours before grinding and brewing.

My grinder is a piece of crap, but I make due with it. Conical burr grinders are best though, and I plan to get one sometime soon. I brew my coffee in a French Press. If you plan on home roasting and own an auto-drip, I'd recommend trashing it. You just won't get the full flavor.

More info on home roasting is on the Sweet Maria's website, including how to home roast with a popcorn popper or even a skillet, but I don't have any experience with those methods.

Hope that gives a basic overview. If something isn't clear, let me know. I'll be happy to answer any questions I can, but I'm still a student to it all (but am having fun learning and am enjoying some killer coffee in the process!).

Beating the Heat

With temperatures supposed to get up to around 90 degrees today with high humidity, and an "unhealthy air quality" alert thrown in for good measure, I was thankful to get an early start on the day today.

This was due primarily to me waking up earlier than expected because of a strange dream that I no longer remember the details of (not a nightmare, just one of those bizarre dreams that makes you ask "what was that about?"), followed by a need to hit the water closet and I couldn't fall back asleep afterwards.

The 5am news started and they headlined with the poor air quality which prompted me to hurry up and finish up my coffee (I roast my own beans, and just got in a shipment of Kenyan AA Hiriga beans that are, shall we say, exquisite) and mow down a bowl of fruit and yogurt to be out the door by 6am to at least beat the heat. Because of the bad air, I decided before I headed out to just run 4-5 miles as a precaution instead of the 7-8 I had hoped for. I thought this might be overdoing it, but it ended up being the right call for a different reason...

Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle was the deer flies. It was already close to 70 degrees when I started and I guess that was enough for them to have a jump start on their day. The little bastards were swarming me throughout the run, definitely among one of the worst bouts with them I've ever had. Glad I got an early start on the day, I can't imagine what they'll be like when it gets even warmer. I may have to stick with running on the roads for a while until I sense they've calmed down. Fortunately, somewhat cooler weather is returning in a few days.

I'm taking the road bike in today for a tune-up. I plan to use it more for running errands and cross training. I'm also keeping my eyes open for a bike that's more commuter-friendly. Gas prices are ridiculous, and it's a great way to stick it to the man.

Ran 4.6 miles @ 9:20/mile pace.
Trails, dirt roads.
Very hilly.
Upper 60s, muggy, hazy.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Run to the River

Capped off a great week of training by running to the Saco River, going for a quick swim, and then running back. It was fun, but today's run was grueling, mostly due to me being under prepared.

First off, I left around lunch time and had only eaten breakfast. I also only brought a single bottle of water with me, when I should have brought my double water bottle carrier. Not smart in this kind of heat and humidity, especially with how much I drink. I also didn't bring any gels or food. Felt fine on the way to the river and during my swim, but a few miles into the trek back I was hurting. I had drank all of my water after my swim and knew I needed to resupply.

I saw a family in front of their house and asked if they minded if I used their outside faucet to fill up. The woman insisted on me taking an ice cold bottled water from their fridge instead. I couldn't turn that down and thanked them profusely, and emptied it into my bottle. Man, that water tasted great. I downed it within a few minutes and felt my energy returning and made it home slowly but feeling fine.

Had a great week of training, and with the two week taper going into the Vermont 100, I'm feeling like I'm quite ready. Looking forward to it.

Ran 14.5 miles @ 8:20/mile pace.
Paved roads.
Very hilly.
Lower 80s, partly cloudy, humid.
Shorts, singlet, cap.

Weekly recap:
Total miles: 70.7
Elevation gain: ~15,500'
Hours: few minutes over 19 hours.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Pineland Run

Great run today at Pineland with the gang. Goal was to get in between 10-15 miles and I ended up with 13. Felt great doing so. Good run.

I've gotten in a great week and a half week of training since finding out about the Western States cancellation. I was able to take advantage of the taper I had been in, get in some more final training but still leave ample room to recover during a two week taper leading up to the Vermont 100. 17 hours on the trails this week, much of it on some buttkicking mountains, with still one more day to go. I'm feeling good heading into that race.

After today's run, we all convened at James' house for a little WS100 cancellation pity party/VT100 here we come party. Thanks for hosting it James and thanks Stephen and family for the killer sweatshirt and goodie bag! It was a great time and fun hanging out with everyone.

Ran 13.0 miles @ 8:47/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 141/165
Very hilly.
Upper 60s to lower 70s, sunny.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Running the Baldface Mountains

Great way to start the 4th of July by running the Baldface Mountains located in the White Mountains with Ian, Jim and Erik. Felt great. For the past two days my legs have felt creaky from the Pemi-Loop run but after a few miles I loosened up and felt fine.

Thank goodness for the cold front that moved through yesterday. It didn't put a huge dent in the temperatures but it definitely wiped out the humidity we've been experiencing. Most welcome.

Not far from the finish is a great swimming hole known as the Emerald Pool, where we jumped in and cooled off. Great to soak the legs in the cold water afterwards.

On the way back, we bought jewelry from a little girl who had a stand set-up in front of her house. We saw her last year but didn't stop, only later that day to be reminded by Jim's girlfriend, Shauna, that you should ALWAYS stop to buy from little kids who set up stands. Heather, if you're reading this, you have a new bracelet.

Ran 9.9 miles in 3:02:37, including stops on the summits.
Insanely hilly.
Upper 60s, sunny.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Battling Heat and Humidity on the Pemi-Loop

I need to get in a good week of running before I begin a shortened taper for the Vermont 100, and running the 33.3 mile Pemi Loop in the White Mountains seemed like a great idea. I was joined by my buddy James Demer and together we tackled the loop. A somewhat unexpected obstacle was some pretty darn brutal heat and humidity throughout the trek, even on the ridges above treeline. The wind was relatively light up there and provided some relief, but not much. Made for some good heat training.

I must say James is fantastic company. We had a blast throughout despite the tough conditions and we were pleased with how it all went. We pushed each other throughout while engaging in our always entertaining conversations that ranged from existentialistic musings to fart jokes.

Route: Did it counter-clockwise starting from Lincoln Woods, and added the side trips to West Bond and Galehead.
Time: 11:57:11
Total Miles: 33.3
Total Elevation: 9760' gain (19,520' gain + loss)
Peaks (in order): Bondcliff (4265'), Bond (4698'), West Bond (4540'), South Twin (4902'), Galehead (4024'), Garfield (4500'), Lafayette (5260'), Lincoln (5089'), Liberty(4459') and Flume (4328')

Here's a quick play-by-play followed by some pictures.

Section: Lincoln Woods to Bondcliff
Miles: 9.1
Time: 2:14:35
Notes: Started about 6:15am. James and I ran the Wilderness trail which is a flat and pretty boring 4.5 mile section you have to get through before reaching the Bondcliff trail that leads to the summit. We enjoyed the climb and got above treeline to the summit. Noted that the wind was non-existent and we were already sweating like pigs. Stopped to take some pictures at the summit.

Section: Bondcliff to Bond
Miles: 1.2 (10.3 total)
Time: 34:01
Notes: Steep uphill, so we power-hiked it the best we could. Tagged Bond and rehydrated on the summit and had a snack. Filled one of my water bottles with Clip-2.

Section: Bond to West Bond
Miles: 1.0 (11.3)
Time: 29:55
Notes: Gravity on our side for much of the hike down Bond and the spur towards West Bond. Reached the summit and snapped a few pictures but didn't linger long. The sweat was flowing from our pores like fine wine.

Section: West Bond to South Twin
Miles: 3.3 (14.6)
Time: 1:10:01
Notes: Pretty uneventful trek over. Reached the summit and two female caretakers from the huts were goofing around at the top. They were quite entertaining.

Section: South Twin to Galehead
Miles: 1.3 (15.9)
Time: 36:54
Notes: Very steep and rocky downhill. Went past the AMC hut and tagged Galehead. No real views from the summit, so we didn't waste time turning around heading back to the main trail on the loop.

Section: Galehead to Garfield
Miles: 3.4 (19.3)
Time: 1:51:55
Notes: Stopped inside the hut after coming off of Galehead. Refilled water and ate some sandwiches we brought. Then made our way to Garfield and the heat of the day was really beating down on us now, not to mention the humidity. Drank a lot of water, and we had become worried we might not have enough for the rest of the trek. Fortunately, the spring at the Garfield campsite was flowing strong. Refilled again here and drank some more.

Section: Garfield to Lafayette
Miles: 3.5 (22.8)
Time: 1:40:28
Notes: The section from hell. The speed bumps between the two peaks were annoying. Sun continued to beat down on us and we were feeling like one-legged cats trying to bury turds on a frozen pond. Grinded our way to the top and rejoiced when we reached the summit, our highest of the day. Unfortunately, not much wind up here and the heat and humidity were still unrelenting.

Section: Lafayette to Lincoln
Miles: .9 (23.7)
Time: 20:01
Notes: Quick and uneventful trek to Lincoln. Scurried towards the end to break 20 minutes to the peak but missed it by a second. Oh poo...

Section: Lincoln to Liberty
Miles: 2.9 (26.6)
Time: 1:05:13
Notes: Trek over seemed long and the stagnant humid air was soupy as heck. We were still having fun though.

Section: Liberty to Flume
Miles: 1.2 (27.8)
Time: 31:36
Notes: One more peak. Pushed up strong but was feeling beat up because of the weather.

Section: Flume to the Finish
Miles: 5.5 (33.3)
Time: 1:22:30
Notes: Very interesting thing happened here. I was feeling weak and was even wobbling a little while trying to run/hike. Breaking 12 hours for the day seemed out of the question. Decided to stop and take a rest and get some more food and drink in me. Mowed down a bunch of pretzels I had here and after around 5-7 minutes or so we were off again. The energy returned just as we hit a very runnable section. Those pretzels really did some magic, I don't think I've ever had that dramatic of a turnaround. James and I ended up flying through those last three miles at a very good clip. Breaking 12 hours seemed possible but we'd have to work. And work we did, and we broke 12 hours by just a few minutes!

We were very stoked with that. Then cooled off in the river and washed up before heading into Lincoln for pizza and eggplant fries, which were amazing.

Thanks James for a killer time. Darn good workout.

Link to photo album.