Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Random jibberish & The Hyner preview

The ongoing trek towards the 25th annual VT100 has reached a really rough patch over the last month.  I had been on pace and broke my longest streak (65 days) of 2 miles or more from two years ago.  The plan was to continue for as long as i could, even while running snowshoe marathons and fat ass 50k's.

After the reschedule of the Hammy Slammy IV (Recap coming), we had to put down my old cat Mr. Buttons.   This might not seem like a big deal to most people, but he had been my post-run nap buddy for the last decade.  While trying to cope with that, I managed to get one of the worst head colds in my life, that spread to a sinus infection.  After three weeks of zero days with coughing fits, and lack of sleep, I was finally able to get out and hike this past Sunday.   It was the first time I've been in the woods since our group put on the Foxley back in March (Another Recap still in draft form).

Only now, 4 weeks later, can i touch my nose without feeling like I've been punched.   It feels good to be able to be active again, which is great because i'm 3 days from one of the toughest events on my spring training schedule.  The Hyner Challenge.

“Our course is designed to reward those who have trained and punish those who haven’t!”

I'm not confident for this race in the least.  Nor do i expect to set any PRs.  I think my only saving grace for survival is the fact that this thing is a hikers course.  I've always maintained that no, i'm not a good runner, but i'll out hike half of the field given the correct terrain.  Last year was the first year of the 50k addition to the event, and most recaps (1 & 2 , my favorites) on the interwebs state that you can only run 20-25% of the course.  Well now, you're talking right up my alley!

To make things worse, Leah's dad has a hotel room for the night before.  A dry, warm....BED?!?  The running gods frown upon this behavior.  I've learned few things, but as an ultra runner, to pay proper homage to the gods.  You are supposed to sleep in your car or on the ground, in the cold and wet as a pre-race sacrifice in hopes that they will go easy on you on race day.

Ha, I'm doomed.  Bring on the punishment.  I can't wait!

Friday, April 5, 2013

2013 Peak Snowshoe Marathon Recap

Saturday March 2, 2013

Leah and I arrive in Pittsfield as we always do.  A bit groggy from spending the night prior at our home away  from home in Stockbridge at 'The Strong's'  house.  As per usual, amazing food, great wine, and a soak in the hot tub makes for a rough go when you're told you're going to run on snowshoes for a marathon the following day.

Oddly enough i feel more ready for this than i have in any years past.  I haven't really run this race alone in years.  I'd always had at least one or more teammates to keep me company on the trail.  Rik and Steve had decided to start ahead of the pack with Delbac (who'd been going since noon the day prior) about an hour ahead of me.  I was a bit bummed out, but i knew their pace would be much slower, so my goal now was to try to catch them.  Mike warned me that the trails were a bit more narrow and that the pace was drastically slower than previous years thanks to his insider knowledge.   Leah gave me a good luck kiss and took over role behind the volunteer table and I was off.

Lap one was basically a blur.  A long climb up the stairs and then the labyrinth to the top as per usual.  The pack was much smaller this year because they staggered the start for the first time in the events history.  This turned out to be a great asset for me.  I was able to pace myself between other runners that were planning on 4 laps as well  versus the one lap fun runners, that would either blast way ahead, or lag about and chatter with their friends.   I reached the bottom again in amazing time, 1:54:46.  I think Leah was as surprised to see me as i was surprised at my time.  I asked her how long ago Rik and Steve came through, "only 30 minutes ago."   Ha! The chase was on!  I headed back out onto the trail in pursuit.

It was half way to the top at Cabin 2 that I looked ahead and saw too figures, just hanging out at the aid station.  I laughed and thought, how could i have made up that much time so quickly?  It didn't take too long to realize how i had. "I haven't run a step since Pisgah in September."   I shook my head and corrected him saying, "well we did that turkey trot right?"   Needless to say, running hadn't been on either of these guys radars, never mind 13.1 miles on snowshoes.  After 1/8th of a mile Steve was keeping up with me, but Rik was falling way behind.  Steven, a 16 year old coming off spring break grumbled, "this race was over before it started."  Stating that he'd spent most of his vacation on the ski slopes and dominating his first person shooter from the warmth of the couch.  While it was great to catch up, the now slower pace was starting to let my sweat freeze on my fleece.  At the first 50' section that we could trot we did, with a dramatic (in hindsight, hilarious) side effect of once we stopped.  As i turned back to see how much space i'd put between us I saw Steve cramp up and tipped over like he had just been tazed.   I offered him some of my salt tabs only to find out that he can't take pills.  Once Rik caught up, he helped him break the capsules in half and pour them into his mouth.  While I don't recommend this behavior to anyone, it seemed to do the trick and we all marched on toward Cabin 1 at the summit.    At the summit I yelled back, I've got to go, i'm freezing and took off down the trail.

It wasn't long before i started catching all of the fun runners at the bottom.  Somehow i was passing them in leaps and bounds.   I had managed to finished the second lap sub 2 hours again (1:59:03).  The trouble this time is that the finish line was packed with one lap finishers.  It was a mad house. I had Leah put in only half of the water because i wanted to get out of there and off i went.  How big of a mistake this was...

I reached cabin 2 to find Thomas spooning out hot vegetable soup from a Gatorade jug.  "Would you like some soup?"  "BOY WOULD I!"  I responded enthusiastically.  This was just what the doctor ordered.  I was in one hell of a slump.  A typical lap 3 for me.  The joy of the first two laps over, the knowledge of having to do this AGAIN still looming.  With the warmth and food in my belly I make quick work to get to the top.  I take a few big gulps of water and then hear the dreaded 'burble' of the camelbak.   For those that own and use one,  you know the sound i just described.  The sound of, you have about two sips left before you run dry.   I spend much of the remainder of this lap alone in the woods.  Not even seeing any forms of life ahead or behind me on the trail.   I was dehydrated, alone, hungry, just plain miserable.  Even though i made it back in 2:14:22, the look on my face explains where i was mentally.  

Leah takes charge of her crewing duty like the pro she is and restocks my pack while I change my snowshoe, socks, shoes, the works.  I wolf down two large cups of the same veggie soup and Leah suits up to join me for her 'fun run' on my lap 4.   She fills me in on her day of volunteering, I mumble some words about how nice the trails have been even though i'm still fighting out of my gloom and doom of lap 3.

While i trudge ahead just trying to finish this bloody thing, Leah stops and takes photos any chance she can get.  Looking back her enthusiasm was greatly appreciated.  At the time however i'm pretty sure i didn't feel that way.

With about a mile ago the trail starts to really stay at a downgrade, and Leah says she's going to run it in.  To which of course, I take as a challenge and try to match her pace.  The only hope i have is that I know where the course turns and climbs so i'm able to save my energy for the spots where i can make up the most ground on her.   I'm sure she was going easy on me as I was able to catch her by the temporary bridge.

Leah and I walked across the finish line in 8:41:57.  A respectable time indeed.  Had I not been foolish with my water, nutrition, and gear i think a sub 8 hour would have been achievable.  The trail conditions were far better than they had been in the last few years.  I'm already excited to return to Amee Farm in June for my tour in the nettles of Bloodroot.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

2013 - Who We Are - Part 2

The Family:
You all know Rik, the ever stubborn father of the group and reason we're out there. Steven, who ran the last 16 miles of the Peak Ultra last June, and has spent countless hours crewing for Rik and I. Kate, we're still trying to get out and run a race with us, but you've probably seen her at an aid station or two.

Rik, the patriarch of the team, continues to be the veteran and senior voice.  He's been passing on his wisdom of minimal training, maximum suffering on race day to Steven, the youngest member of the team.  Rumor has it that Rik is going to test Steven's spirit this summer at the Peak 50k. 

The Moose:
Greg got this name based on how he is when we hike. Always plodding along and crashing thru the brush, but generally happy to be out there. Like moose, you rarely see them run, but when you do, you make sure you get out of their way. Often times, pie is used as an incentive. His wife's love for Moose helped with the nickname.

Greg joined his wife (Mandiee) in March of 2012 and ran his first ½ marathon.  Two months later faced a year old pinky swear and ran his first 25k in May with “Tink” at Pineland Farms.  He’s currently the most and least dedicated of the group, hating it so much in-mind pre-run, but happy with the accomplishment once finished.    His greatest weakness is that the group all knows that he’s easily swayed away from a run with a frosty beer or perhaps a Scorpion Bowl.

The Gazelle:
A name that fits Mandiee perfectly, in pink obviously. Her long legs gives her amazing speed and the ability to bound over objects on the trails. After years of telling her that she had the build of a runner and should give it a shot. We got her to finish her first 5k in July of 2010.

While Mandiee still thinks she’s not the best runner of the group, her ability to ‘bound’ down the trails still amazes us.   She brings the core strength to the group due to Pilates and line dancing making the rest of us humble during ab work outs and yoga nights.  After finishing her a first 10k in May of 2011 she pressed forward finishing her first half marathon in March of 2012.   To ensure a much needed break from running, she and the moose are currently expecting little Barkevious Mason in the spring of 2013

The Puma - "NHPuma":
Loni's been known as Puma to me for as long as I've known her. While she may not be as quick as a puma in a sprint, but her feline like ability to silently watch from a distance, survey her surroundings and will wear you down with her un-slowing pace.

Loni is the first Non-“Robert” member of Team Robert joined in crewing and pacing for many years before finally participating.  In true team form and jumping in with both feet, she decided her first race should be a triathlon.  In the summer of 2006 she finished the Contoocook Carry and has continued to move on to bigger and better things.  She’s responsible and the host of most of our Fox Forest Fat Ass Summer Series Trail Runs and knows the woods of Fox forest better than anyone I know.  Having finished countless 5ks, ½ marathons, road marathons, trail marathons, and 50ks she still has her eyes set on breaking the 50 mile mark.  In the fall of 2012 she set a personal best of 47 miles at the Vermont50.  She hopes to finally get the monkey off her back in 2013.

The Ferret - "Tink": 
Common characteristics of the ferret are; curious, persistent, and fearless. All makes perfect sense to me. Leah's fearless hockey playing is what attracted me to her in the first place. Her curiosity is what got her into running with me, and if you read her blogshe's very persistent in her research amongst other things. A once non-runner "unless being chased" is really coming into her own finishing a half marathon on the roads and in the woods in 2010.

Leah's come a long way in two years.  Along with many shorter runs she's finished a road and trail marathon.  Section hiked on the MS Greenway, Long Trail, and Appalachian Trail.  Climbed the infamous Mount Katahdin in the deep woods of Maine.  Dawned goalie gear for the first time and has led her team to only their second championship in 15 seasons.  In true family form she’s teamed up with her father to run the Vermont50 relay...twice.  And has crewed me and the team at countless events.  

The Rabbit - "Taps":
Grant, being a brewer of beer and having 5 beers on tap at any given time made the moniker an instant hit. He's taken the enthusiasm that he has for making beer and put it into running. The rabbit name character was an instant fit as he continues to be the fastest of the group holding team fastest times in most distances.  

Since 2011 he's finished several 50ks including setting a PR and Team-Best at Pinelands in May of the same year.  He finished his first marathon at Stonecat later the same year.  Hiked the entire Belknap Range in one day, and this fall finally eclipsed the 50 mile mark at the Vermont50.  He's currently training for the VT100 in July and the most important race he’ll ever run, his marriage to “Wicks” in June. 

The Wolf/4-Leaf:
Always the leader of the pack, Josh's token, fittingly, is the wolf. Sometimes playful and bounding with joy, sometimes all-business hunting through the woods with a purpose, but always looking out for each member of the group. The four-leafed clover paw pad on the wolf is a nod to Josh's trail name, earned when he found the lucky plant on the Long Trail. (Although I've been running with a 4leaf clover on my water belt for the better part of 2 years prior)

In 2011, I finished 3 more 50ks and another 50 miler.   Following that up with 6 50ks and and 50  miler in 2012.  While i feel like i'm the leader of the pack, i'm often the most lost.  With training ranging from 2 miles a day for over two months, to weeks on end in a endless run of Zero Days.    I go from streaks of endless energy to days where i can't seem to put on my shoes.    I am certainly a person of extremes.  I suppose this is why I went from a 5k to a 50 miler all of those years ago.  I think, like most ultra runners we all have a flame or spark that pushes us on in the rough times of a race.  Right now, my flame is faint,  I've got a lot of work to do before July...