Thursday, May 27, 2010

Raymond Ulric Robert

While I'm not big on putting a lot of personal information up online, for some reason i felt like this needed to be shared...

On Saturday May 22nd, 2010, my Pepere' (Granddad/Grandpa) passed away. While i never felt like he was a huge part of my life, in his death he showed me that he really DID in fact play a role. The strong values, hard work and dedication he passed on to his 8 children (one of which obviously my father) inherently became the same values that i got.

While thru hiking on the MS Greenway this week i unfortunately got the phone call that he had passed. And 32 miles in, i had to withdraw from the trail and take part of the service. Unknowing, I was to be a pall bearer, and was actually asked to read the eulogy but thankfully was able to decline to a cousin that did a fantastic job. I write a lot about ultra's and hiking and challenging tasks life throws my way as a history i guess, a log of hard accomplishments. Carrying the coffin of my first and oldest relative has to be the toughest yet.

Looking back, I never really knew a lot about him personally. Only recently have i started hearing more stories of his past. He was the pepe' that had the classic French-Canadian baked bean teeth and would chase me around the coffee table in his modest home in Winooski when I was a young child. The pepe' that would bark out, "eahh?" really loud when he didn't hear you and then say. "whelp, you're/he's/she's a real winnah!" He was apparently part of Winooski's Park Bench Boys, a group of guys that would meet at a park bench and then walk into Colchester around the town. He was always an avid walker, and when i would play hockey at Landry Park as a kid he'd occasionally walk by and stop and watch for awhile. Who'd have thought that my pepe was essentially an ultra runner/walker of his time.

The statement, and my favorite quote from him has given me strength through all of this. And i'd like to share it with you all, because not only does it have a personal meaning to me, it holds the truth that will make it stick.

"Whelp, you never know from one day to anotha..." and he'd fade off.

I'd hear, and I can still hear him saying this to whomever was in earshot. From his arm chair, in the living room, to the left of the bay window overlooking Burlington. You really never know, so today, go out there and make a story, make a tale that you can tell your grandkids. Sign up for a race that you don't think you can finish. A hike that's totally over your head. Go out there and fail if you have to. Whatever it takes to keep moving. To keep the spirit alive, to keep the pen in your life's tale writing. The cliche' and the priest said, it's not the date of birth or the date of death on your tombstone that matters, but the ~ in between.

My story? I'm off to Pineland's to run 2 races with a bunch of great friends this weekend. Then next week in true Team Robert fashion I'm going to be running at Peak with my dad, and for the last 20+/- miles, we're going to be joined by my 14 yr old brother Steve. I can't wait to share the tale.

Monday, May 17, 2010

MMT100 MMT70

So i left VA again with another "Visitors" Rock. Is it a failure? I dunno. I still think it was the right decision to walk away when i did. There was no way i was getting up Jawbone, across Kerns, and then down the 3 mile paved road to the Visitors Center before the cutoff (8.4 miles in approximately 4 hours).

70+/- Miles, 24 hours. It's still the furthest I've ever run. Time and distance wise.
Full Race Report to follow

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mud + Moose x 2 = Double Report

Sunday April 18th - Muddy Moose 14 Miler - 2:58:42
Sunday April 25th - Mud Muck Moose 5 Miler - 48:XX?

(Heather, Dustin, Grant, Myself, Leah and Loni)

"I bet you could run the 14." Like any good ideas it was spawned over many-a-beer. Dustin, Heather, Loni, Leah and I on a Saturday night. Pre-gaming, so-to-speak, for the 11th Annual Muddy Moose Trail run. It had been raining for almost 3 days straight. I was PUMPED for this years run. Last years course was pretty dry and people were talking about the mud, i was excited to see how trashed the course was this time around. We were able to catch up with Grant who we hadn't run with since the Pisgah 50k a few years back.

We shoot the breeze for the first mile of the course before it turns onto the snowmobile trail. You can hear people screaming around the upcoming corner as we hit the first of the mud. Everyone backs up and starts single filing around the edges of the mud. In years past i would have followed suit. Normally by mile 10, people would be giving me crap because I've barely got a spot of mud on me. For some reason this year was different. I plowed straight through, my feet sloping shin deep on my first step. I laugh and look behind me at Grant and say, "well friend, it's going to be a long 13.75 miles." By the time we get to the 2 mile water stop, the turn around for the 4 milers, we're soaked. I chat with the RD for a bit as Dustin, then Leah, come up the hill and make the turn back toward the school. Heather comes up the hill and says, well lets go. She was going to do it. The full 14! Grant and I look at one another and go "well alright!" and we all trot off down the road.

After climbing up the escarpment Heather is a little hesitant on what else she has to expect in front of her. I joke and tell her that if she's going to hike the LT this summer, this should be a cakewalk! She agrees and pushes on, relatively unscathed by the steep climb. The mud was sloppy, the water was deep, and the sun was out. It couldn't have been a better day. I joke to Grant and Heather about how deep the Beaver Pond is going to be and i was NOT disapointed. It was mid thigh deep going straight through the middle. Heather calls out "really josh? really?" and i laugh and respond, "yep, straight on through."

After we finish up the beaver pond loop and on the climb back to the Escarpment there is always a huge deep puddle. This is the puddle that Sherpa went into last year and ruined his camera. The two volunteers directing runners had encouraged me to go straight through on the way out. And i promised i would on the way back. So of course, i plunged in. Knee deep, a few more steps, mid thigh deep, a few more steps. Holy balls it's waist deep! They are hoopin' and hollarin' and i laugh and start running in the now waist deep water causing splashes everywhere. What a rush. I'm glad they conned me into it.

With 2 miles to go Grant gets that spark in his eye and is off like a flash. I stick back with Heather who's finally hitting her wall. I was quite impressed. For someone who hadn't trained for this in the least, and for never running further than seven miles it took until around 12.5 for her to finally start to come unglued. As she treks along at her own pace i go into child mode and run from puddle to puddle splashing the water and mud as high as i could make it. Another volunteer spots me in advance and encourages me with a "YEAHHHH!" I couldn't have been happier. With a few more turns to go Heather picks up the pace ever so slightly. A voice in the back of my mind starts going. Oh man, she's going to sprint the end of this out isn't she. Crap. Luckily for me, she had just the right amount of gas and we were able to trot across the line together.
Heather and I on the home stretch
Heather, Dustin and Mr. Seamus

After congratulations all around i hear, "Loni's still out there." So of course i go, "well ok then, back in a bit." And headed back into the woods to track her down. Luckily for me she was only a mile or so back and i was able to run the rest of her first Muddy Moose 14 as well.

The Mud Muck Moose is Held on the Bear Mountain X-country trails up in Bartlett NH. It's another low key, low cost, low frill race that's put on by the White Mountain Milers. I had witnessed how crazy this race was a few year ago when I watched Loni run in it. That year there had still been 6"+ of snow on the ground and the river crossings were at least waist deep. Sadly this year, with the warmth, there was non of that.

Loni and I scoped out one of the crossings before the start of the race and it hardly seemed deep at all. Mid calf deep at most, yet there was still ropes crossing. That seems pointless i thought. Even though during the run half of the people seemed to use the ropes. It gave me plenty of opportunity to fly past them by just charging through the cold refreshing water. I think i passed at least 6 people in the streams all together. I felt like i had gone out WAY to fast on the first lap but with some smart placed ultra-style climbing in the steep sections i was able to pull away from the runners around me and reel in the runners that had been eluding me up to that point.

There really wasn't too much to report on the race. The course was a cross country ski trail so it was pretty wide most of the way through, with a few short sections of single track. What i learned from the run is that when i run with wild abandon i'm a much stronger then i think. I was running along a guy that was easily a superior runner then I. It was proven by his ability to pull away from me whenever we got to sections of gravel double track. What he didn't have was the downhill muddy, rooty, single-track speed i did. So i used that to my advantage and took off with a couple of miles to go and never saw the guy again. I totally destroyed my estimate on time which i think i put down 54 minutes and change. But six minutes in the favorable way. I was very happy with my time, grabbed some water and headed back out and then ran the last 3/4 of a mile in with Loni.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Shamrock On!

Shamrock Marathon Weekend - March 20-21, 2010

You couldn't have asked for yet another perfect race weekend in Va Beach weather-wise. Treated to back to back 60s-70s days with sunny blue sky's and just a slight breeze. On the first day we got to meet up with Leah's friend Pocket who just happened to be in the area for the race as well. She had concerns of being able to "go the distance," and was afraid "she'd slow us down" but it didn't bother us in the least. I'd be attempting my 2nd road marathon and Leah her first 1/2 marathon the following day, so no records were to be broken today anyways. While they chatted away I just trotted ahead, people watching. Listening in onto what other's are listening to through their blaring ear-buds (even though they are banned). After being worried about being slow, we cruised in well below our expected time. It's amazing what good converstation and/or just running with someone can distract you from how far and fast you can go. As we crossed the line they called our names out, which came as a surprised to them.
(Pocket, Leah, Me)

Several beers later, followed by a pair of spicy drinks, my dumb ass decided to run 2 miles barefoot down the (concrete) boardwalk to grab our fleeces because the breeze was picking up. My feet were almost scorched from the hot surface, but it was kind of fun non the less.

The Marathon itself didn't have the new-ness it had last year. I wasn't concerned about the long stretches like i was last year. I knew exactly where the water was, where the DJs would be, where to take my GUs. I felt ready this year. I was well trained, perhaps by my standards, OVER-trained. I knew i could just truck on and cruise in sometime around lunchtime. Enjoy myself 4 or more beers and relax in the sun. It's such a different beast, road running. There's no wash outs, no mud, no trail detours, no chance of running into a wild animal, the threat of slipping or tripping on a root or rock and getting hurt. It's just put your head down and shuffle along.

And shuffle along is all that i did. As the miles ticked past several times i tried to chat with fellow runners. "Hey, how are you feeling?" "Where you from?" "Have you done a marathon before?" Each and every time i recieved a grunt, or a one word answer. Or sometimes none at all, one woman was running with a single ear bud, but apparently must have been deaf in the ear where there wasn't one. Kind of depressing if you ask me. I mean, I'm not fast by any means, at the pace i run you SHOULD be able to carry on a conversation. And it wasn't like i was picking out the people that were struggling and didn't have any air to spare. I suppose part of it is my own fault. I KNOW people that run on the roads are generally solitary and aren't half as friendly as the folks i meet on the trails. I guess i had just been blessed last year to be able to run with so many friendly people that helped the miles pass.

At mile 12 i wonder if Leah's finished already. If I'll be able to see her before i head out on the second half of the figure 8 shaped marathon course. I scan the crowd as i jog along. Then i spot someone jumping up and down with a huge shamrock metal on her neck. Leah had done just fine, after being all apprehensive at the start, turns out she had an amazing race. (RR here)
I smiled, darted over to her side of the road quickly stole a kiss and raced back down the road with higher spirits. I forget how long this stretch of the course is and quickly settle back into a typical ultra shuffle. I pass people, people pass me, hardly a nod. The lack of companionship on the road is really starting to bum me out. Luckily the "tight butts" banner was flying again and that brought a smile to myself that carried me right up to the beer tent at mile 19.

With less then 6 miles to go you could see people starting to hit their "walls." I'd try to offer them words of encouragement, but just as before, all upon deaf ears. Hell even when one guy was 'peg-legging' (a term i use now based on the fella at the VT50 in 09) and i offered him salt and a drink from the water bottle that i hadn't even touched yet during the race he declined. "OK man, good luck." and i never saw that poor guy again. God knows he could have been one of the people i saw being removed by the ambulance a few minutes later.

Four hours is a long time to just be alone in your own head. And it was starting to wear on me. I downed another dixie cup of beer at the beer aid station again. Even those guys didn't seem too friendly this year around. I start to wonder if Leah had drawn a swastika on my face while i was sleeping or something. I certainly felt like an outcast.

As i come down the last stretch of boardwalk the heat was starting to get to me. I start to go into tunnel vision, without thinking about it i had given that guy a couple of miles back the last of my salt. I see Leah about 1/2 a mile from the end. Jumping up and down and yelling for me. I start to choke up. Then my legs start to cramp, then i started having a hard time breathing. I told myself, "if you pass out here you dumb bastard i'll never forgive you." So I forced a smile onto my face and gritted out the last few steps to the finish line. I was WAY off of my PR last year, but i didn't care. I just wanted to finish.
(Notice the guy behind me, he ran the whole marathon in his Vibrams. When i talked to him at mile 26 he said they felt amazing and had no qualms. I don't know if I'd ever be up for running that far on pavement with so little cushioning.)

Rocking Leah's Devil Horns in the final stretch

Smile for the camera
After making my way through the masses of people and into the beer lines i found Leah, we proceeded to drink the afternoon away with many of the free Yuengling beers.

One of the highlights of the trip had to be in the Aviary of the Virginia Beach Aquarium where a pair of pelicans were half asleep and watching us walk by with nervous glances. I encouraged Leah to jump around and wave her arms. Of course, she did so and these, once very calm beasts start going crazy. They perk up all big, wings flapping, clapping their bills and gasping for air. It had to be one of the funniest things I've seen in a long long time. That and of course Leah's freaking out.

When we left VA Beach this go around it wasn't with a promise to return next year. I think a year away might help re-spark what wasn't here this time around. Perhaps a big centennial year will bring out some happier runners, and with any luck, some fancier schwag. Neptune, you will be unchallenged by me next year, but I'll be back in 2012.

8k - 51:49
Marathon -4:30:42
Combined - 5:22:31

Friday, May 7, 2010

April Recap

April was a really hard month for me. After all of the traveling in March i was burned out. I'd lost my spark for running all together. No matter how much i'd convince myself to get out and run. I found that cracking a beer, popping in a movie and laying on the couch with the cats was the better alternative. I found and then put in an offer on yet another house, only to have that also fall through. At least this time i didn't lose any money in the process, just more time. As springtime has bloomed around me and my friends have started packing in the miles I've done nothing more then spiral into a funk.

The only silver lining of the month physically is that Floor and Roller hockey are back in full swing and that keeps me somewhat active two nights a week. Additionally I'll be jumping into our corporate softball league when they need a sub as the early summer months roll on. So even if I'm not in my trail runners I'll hopefully retain some residual fitness.

The highlight of the month had to be the week between the Muddy Moose and the Mud Muck Moose when Leah, Loni and I decided that we were going to start a small running club to get the "club discount" at the then upcoming EMS Club Day. This "club" spurred some trail work in Fox Forest, with some clearing of existing trails and building of some rock bridges. Then we added the Puma Trail (0.1 mile) in the lot next to Loni's, and the Wandering Wolf trail (0.25 mile)across the road in Fox forest. They are a blast to run and were even more fun to make.

May is going to be a rough one. Massanutten is looming in my back of my head and keeping me up at night. I know i'm not ready, i'm not even close. Granted, last year, i had 1/2 of the training and still was able to leg it out for 64 miles. The thought of being 1 year older, 1 year slower, can i do it again? Can i go further? Will i actually ever walk away from one of these things with a buckle?

Only time will tell...

Book List:

Another bad month for reading, i think i read a total of 20 pages on the month

By The Numbers:
Miles Run: 36.3

# of Runs: 10
Average Miles: 3.6

Month Starting Weight: 170 Lbs
Month Ending Weight: 172 Lbs
Weight Change: +2lbs

Race Results:

Muddy Moose 14 - 2:58:42
EMS 5k - ??
Mud Muck Moose - 48:20

Upcoming April Events:
Massanutten 100 Miler
Pineland Farms Barefoot 5k
Pineland Farms 50k