Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back in the gym

Before yesterday, it had been just over three weeks since I'd lifted. I think it's good to take a break from the gym every once in a while, although I hate my first couple sessions back, when I'm weaker than I was before, and I end up sore from workouts.

Because my legs are still sore from the relay on Saturday, I did all upper body work:

Bench Press: 5x5 at a higher weight and 2x10 at lower weights
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown: 3x10
Sitting Incline DB Press: 3x10
3 Point DB Rows: 3x10
Bicep Curls: 3x10
Skull Crushers: 3x10

My upper body is sore today and my legs are also still a bit sore. I'm going to do a short easy run in the heat after work today, and then lift again tomorrow.

I was hoping to run a 50K with my wife in October, but it looks like she has a scheduling conflict. So we are trying to find another long race for this fall.

Monday, August 30, 2010

100 on 100 Relay

I tried to post a video of my wife running the start of the movie, but gave up after Blogger spent over 3 hours allegedly processing a 40 second movie. Hopefully this photo of her finishing her last leg at the bottom of the Killington access road will work.

The 100 on 100 relay is a six-person relay event that starts at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont and travels south through the state to Okemo Ski Resort. Most of the race is on route 100, although the course deviates from route 100 a few times for safety reasons.

This past Saturday marked my 3rd time running this event in the past 4 years. Regretfully, I'm not in the kind of shape I was the last two times, but I still had a lot of fun, even if I was slower than in the past.

Three years ago, I was on a fairly fast team and I was probably the second fastest runner on the team then, but I was also suffering from a cold on race day. I believe we finished 14th overall with a time around 13:30.

Two years ago, we lost half of our team in the days leading up to the race. One person suffered a "cardiac event" and was not allowed to run. Another called in at the last minute with a "dead family member" story (It was probably true, but it sounded suspicious to me for some reason). And, a third team member got stuck in an airport and didn't make it home in time to run. She sent her boyfriend to run in her place, and we found one other last minute replacement runner. Despite our best efforts, our five person team fell behind time-wise, and we had to skip two relay legs to finish under the cut-off (allowed, but you are no longer an official finisher). I ran four legs that day, and had a great running day, but our team struggled as the day wore on.

This year, we lost one runner about a week or so before the race. But, we were ready with an alternate this time - my wife. I think she had only agreed to be an alternate because she never believed she'd be pressed into service. Luckily, she really enjoyed the day and she would like to do the relay again. She even suggested she might train next time.

The race uses a staggered start based on speed estimates from runners. They ask each runner to list their estimated 5 mile race pace. I had raced 5 miles only once recently, and I was ridiculously slow, but that race was in high heat and humidity. I estimated myself at 9:45 mpm, slower than I've been for years, but it was a realistic estimate.

The earliest start time was 6:00 a.m. and our team was assigned the 6:30 slot. Every team must finish by 11:00 p.m., and if you are too slow after the 15th stage, they bump you ahead to get you to the finish line on time. The race is a charity event and while they recognize the competitive aspect of the run, they also want all teams to cross the finish line. This is different than other relay events that I've done in the past.

So, at 6:30 a.m., my wife took off on the shortest leg of the event, a 2.5 mile, somewhat hilly trail loop. Next, Jack did a mostly downhill 10K or so (I don't remember the exact distances, so if I list all 18 of them and they don't add up to 100 miles, it's my faulty memory), and then I was next in the number 3 slot. To be honest, I'd asked for #3 because it's the easiest of the six and I'm not in great shape. There are no huge uphills and after a 7.0 mile first leg, the day gets easier.

I hit the one mile mark in 8:07. Uh-oh. That was stupid. I settled down, but continued to run sub-10's, which made me pretty happy. I did struggle late in the leg with two short but steep hills, and I finished in 67 minutes or so. I was happy to run that speed over that course at this point in time.

The next runner was Christy, who had some tough uphill miles and then a screaming descent to Harwood High School. She was doing a 7:20 pace when she finished and she ran really well all day - better than she gives herself credit for. Next, Brad had a mostly flat 5 miler to Waitsfield elementary school, and then Kristen took off on one of the tougher legs of the day - almost 6 miles with a very long climb to start and only one real downhill. When she finished that stretch, everyone had done one leg.

My wife next left on a 6.6 mile leg that went downhill for 3+ miles and then mostly climbed along the headwaters of the Mad River. We stopped to get some food while she ran and then met her a couple times along the way to offer water. It was now after noon and things were getting warm. My wife mixed some walking in with her running, but finished her run with a smile on her face. But, the heat was starting to be an issue.

Next, Jack had a really tough leg - the longest of the day. Previously, this leg had been second longest, but the loss of an exchange area pushed this leg down the road a bit, making a tough (but very scenic) leg even tougher. Jack's 8.3 miles took him further up the headwaters of the Mad River to Granville Gulf, the dividing line for the Mad River and the First Branch of the White River. After 2+ miles uphill, Jack passed through the gulf and started downhill along the headwaters of the White River.

When he handed off to me, he was soaked with sweat and looked beat. Next, I had what should have been the easiest leg of the day - a flat 3.5 miler. But, the heat really affected me and it took me 36 minutes to finish this leg - no fun at all. The next few legs were flat, but the heat was taking its toll on everyone. Christy ran really well to the Rochester Elementary School, re-passing the team we'd designated as our arch-rivals.

It seems that every year, a team finds itself running close to another team. I'm not sure when this other team started in the morning, but at the end of the third leg we were really close. As the day progressed and we stayed close, they became our targets - something to keep us all motivated. They were faster than us in leg 1 and 3 - the girl who ran their leg #3 passed me on my first two legs and I started behind her in leg #3. We were faster than them on legs 4 and 6. Legs 2 and 5 were fairly even, although we seemed to have a slight edge.

After I'd gotten smoked on my 3.5 miler by the other runner, I was shocked to see that Christy had re-passed them. Next, Brad took off on a long, mostly flat leg, exposed to the sun most of the way. He told us after his leg that another runner had passed him near the end, decided he'd had enough, and simply said "F*ck it. I'm done". I don't know if he really quit or not, and he was only half a mile from the end of his leg.

Next was Kristen for a 5+ mile leg. She'd been fighting a headache most of the day and hoped that running would make her feel better. Given the 8:09 pace she ran and the smile she showed at the end of the leg, she seemed better.

Suddenly, we were starting our last legs. But, runners 1 through 3 have very interesting finales. My wife had a 6.7 mile uphill run that climbed a net 800 feet. She was tired and estimated that she'd run 1:30 to 1:45. I thought the 1:30 might be realistic, but not 1:45. We stopped to give her water twice and she was doing great. She ran 1:20 said later that she'd felt really strong. I know I could not have gone that fast at that point in time.

Next, Jack had another major climb to a parking lot at the Killington Ski Resort. He averaged about 8:40 per mile on this final leg - a great run considering that he had been fighting an injury to his leg all day long. On Sunday, he could barely walk, but Saturday evening, he cruised up this tough four mile leg. From there, I had a 4.5 mile leg with a net downhill of about 1000 vertical feet, but with a couple good-sized uphills in the first couple miles, I probably did at least 1300' of descent. According to my Foreruner, my pace on this leg varied from 5:58 per mile to 17:20. At the 5K mark, already on the final descent, I was right at a 10 pace, but it was all downhill from there, and I was able to push pretty hard those last couple miles. Today, I can't really walk down stairs without holding a handrail, but I'm glad I pushed hard on those last miles.

At this point, it seemed that every van in the race was a mix - three runners were done and they were drinking beer, and three runners still needed to run, and they wanted to finish so they could have a beer soon. Many of the team vans were decorated and many of them made reference to beer. Beer seems to be the primary fuel of relay runners, or at least the preferred recovery drink.

Next, Christy took off on a fairly flat 10K leg, and it was now getting dark. Every runner was required to wear a reflective vest, a flashing red light on their back, and a flashlight or headlamp. Christy ran another very strong leg and once again, she caught our "rivals". They probably never knew we were gunning for them, but it kept us motivated. As I'd done my last descent, my only thought was to keep us close enough for Kristy and Kristen to finish them off.

After we got back to the "van" (our van was actually a huge rented SUV) and headed down the road, we were surprised to see that the rivals had just about caught Brad. We started telling Kristen she'd have to run six minute miles for us to win. It turned out that Brad got passed, recognized the rivals, and refused to give in. He gave Kristen a lead of about a minute heading into the final leg of the race.

As we drove past Kristen running that final leg, Jack told her that the rivals were behind her. That was accurate, but sort of misleading. She had a good lead, but Jack thought she needed some motivation. Something worked, as Kristen averaged a sub-8 pace to the finish line. We "beat" our rivals by about seven minutes, finishing in 15:17, vs. a projected time (estimated by race officials) of 15:00.

We had some dinner, some beer, and then quickly found our rental condo for the night. We'd all been up for a long time and sleep was needed.

On Sunday, people were in various states of tiredness and soreness. Jack's leg was really hurting. My quads were beat up from the last descent. Of course, all three of our female runners would barely admit to being tired and no one was in pain. Just the guys.

Maybe they should replace the guys with some tougher runners next year.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Settling back into the routine of being home

Anybody know the song "Birth School Work Death" by the Godfathers?

Well, my vacation is over (which category does a vacation fall into anyway?), so I'm back to the Work mode. Better than Death, I suppose.

After a lot of eating and drinking in CA, I'm back to trying to pay more attention to my exercise and my nutrition. Tomorrow, I'm part of a six-person relay team running 100 miles on the roads here in VT. Each runner does three legs, and mine vary from 4.0 miles to 7.0. This will be my third time doing the 100 on 100 relay, and it's always been fun. But, I've been more fit the two previous times, so we'll see how this one leaves me feeling.

Starting Monday morning, some of my workout schedules will be changing. Students are back in college here in VT, and I use a gym in a college for my lifting. This means early morning lifting to avoid the peak crowds in the evening.

When I've been at my highest fitness levels, I've been exercising in the mornings. When I exercise in the morning, it means I'm not staying up late the night before, doing things I shouldn't be doing. With the days getting shorter and work days seeming to go on pretty long these days, getting back to morning workouts seems to be the way to go. In reality, I want to try to work out in the morning every day, not just lifting days, but I seem to have given that up about 16 months ago and I haven't gotten back to what's worked in the past. So, it's time.

Let's see if I'm still saying that by the end of September. Or next week.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Today is the last day of my vacation. I have managed to run a few times, but mostly I've just relaxed and enjoyed great food and wine with many friends. The list of amazing wines that I've had over the past two weeks would put many restaurant wine lists to shame. I have only eaten two dinners in restaurants and everything else has been at the homes of friends.

Tonight, I catch a red-eye from SFO and by tomorrow afternoon I'll be back home in Vermont. After all of the heat in CA, it will be nice to be home for cooler temps in VT.

This coming weekend, my wife and I are running on a 100 mile relay team (6 runners), which should be a lot of fun. After that race, we only have six or so weeks until the Maine Track Club 50K, which will be my wife's first ever ultra. It will also hopefully be the race where I extend a 25 year streak of running at least one marathon or ultra (usually way more than one) per year. If I don't finish that race, the streak might end this year.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Great weekend

After the race on Friday night, despite how slow I was, I decided to give the legs some rest on Friday. I did an upper body lifting workout on Friday night and then headed home to do some cooking and cleaning.

On Saturday, we headed to my in-laws' camp in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. I was planning to cook a nice dinner for everyone and open some nice wines. During the afternoon, we visited Vermont's newest brewery - Hill Farmstead. They are making some really amazing beers right now and I'm planning that the next beer I have on tap at home will be from this brewery. We tasted a few beers and then purchased a growler of the Everett Porter to go.

After that, I spent the rest of the day cooking and serving a nice meal. We has some sparkling wines, a 1986 Bordeaux (Meyney), 1993 Forman Reserve Cabernet from magnum, and then 1988 Chateau Riussec for dessert. All of the wines were very good and the dinner turned out pretty well too.

After sleeping in on Sunday, my son and I went out for a lap around Lake Parker in our canoe, and then we spent a few hours fly fishing together. But, the weekend was drawing to a close, so after an early dinner, we had to head home.

Tonight, I have a lot of packing to do as I prepare to leave on vacation for a couple weeks. I feel bad taking a trip without my family, but our plans for the summer didn't go quite the way we'd hoped, and by the time some other plans fell apart, I had a plane ticket. So, I'm heading to CA to visit friends for a couple weeks while my wife holds down the fort at home. I feel guilty about going without my family, but I certainly need a vacation right now. And, my wife agrees with that sentiment. I've been working hard and despite repeated offers to stay home for my vacation, she has pretty much insisted that I take the trip I've planned.

Depending on the weather after work (potential thunderstorms), I'll either run tonight and lift tomorrow, or vice versa.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Race" report

Berlin Pond 5 miler:

2005: 39:29 a few weeks after a 93 mile DNF at Western States
2008: 36:29 while training for a marathon, shortly after Western States was cancelled due to fires

2010: 52:43!

No, that is not a typo. I'm just in horrible running shape right now. Compared to 2008, I'm fatter, my injury status is worse, my mileage is lower, and oh yeah, it was hot and humid last night. And, I'd done a 5 hour hike/run the previous Saturday.

But, this was a new low for me.

So far, I've only raced twice this year. One was a DNF (timed out) and the other was the slowest time I've ever done for a particular distance.

This weekend, I'm planning some running, hiking and lifting and maybe some fly fishing. I'd rather just lay on my couch and drink beer, but that's not going to improve my race times.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More than a week this time

Not only am I posting less frequently than in the past, but many of the blogs that I read seem be suffering the same fate. And, almost all of those blogs are written by people who are also Facebook friends. So, I'm left wondering if things like Twitter and Facebook are killing blogs. Do we have such a short attention span that it makes more sense to use other "micro-blogging" or social networking apps to keep up with people and let others know what we are doing?

Perhaps people don't even read blogs anymore (other than me) and I'm simply writing down what I'm thinking, and no one will even notice - trees falling in the woods kind of stuff. Or maybe, we all got tired of writing. Maybe blogging has a lifespan - getting started and being excited, with most people eventually finding themselves bored by the whole exercise.

Just wondering...

Anyway, back to life. My training has been sporadic, with one notable exception, but I've been busy with things beyond training.

My well seems to be dying. At least, it's got problems. The color of the water from our well has ranged from cloudy to looking like something spewing from a BP well. After problems earlier this summer with my oven, both of my lawn mowers, my lawn trimmer, a chip in my windshield yesterday, the last thing I need is a huge bill for fixing my well, but it seems imminent anyway. So it goes. (Unlike Vonnegut, I'm not using that phrase to indicate the death of a character. I hope.)

The new roof that I planned to put on this summer seems to have been preempted by emergency fixes. I hope the roof can make it one more year and that our deck lasts two more years.

Last week, I took my children and one of my daughter's friends to PA for a few days. We spent a day at Hershey Park, a place I've been visiting for at least 40 years. I take our children there almost every year now. Regretfully, my daughter's friend didn't feel well, so she didn't have a lot of fun at the park. I promised her a repeat trip for next year. I got to spend some time with my uncle as well, which was nice. I saw my brother and niece. And, I even ran (part of) an ultra.

Earlier this year, my friend Deborah told me she was planning a vacation on the east coast around this time of year, and suggested we do an ultra together. After going through calendars, we settled on the Catoctin 50K in MD on 7/31. But, as the season progressed, my motivation was low, my injury issues continued, and I simply didn't train enough. The course is an out and back with a 4:15 cut-off at the turnaround. The cut-off isn't strictly enforced, partly because the race is closer to 33 miles than 31, but I doubted I could do that much distance in 4:15 at my current level of conditioning. But, I'd signed up and I wanted to spend some time catching up with Deborah.

The weather was perfect, and after a few equipment problems (leaky bladder in my hydration pack, forgotten clothing), we were off. We were instantly near the back of the pack, waiting for a logjam to clear at some stairs. The course was more down than up on the way out, but I found myself struggling to make good time on some of the downhill sections.

The terrain reminded me very much of the terrain where I grew up in PA and the terrain on the Appalachian Trail in southern PA. This shouldn't be surprising, given how close we were to those locations. But, the type of terrain was familiar to me and it felt like I should have been moving faster.

A few miles into the race, I lost my footing while crossing a stream and went down hard. I still have bruises, but no real damage was done.

About mile 6, my Forerunner showed that we weren't moving close to fast enough to make it to the turnaround in time. I tried to get Deborah to go on without me, but she said we'd just do it together and take what we got. And then, she started to get mean! Instead of leading, she dropped behind me and kept telling me when to run. Around the 9 mile mark, I took another fall when I tripped on something.

By the aid station at mile 9.5 or so, it was clear we'd never make the turnaround. But, Deborah kept pushing and I kept trying to run. All spring, I'd been telling her I was fat and out of shape, but she didn't believe me until last Saturday. She believes me now.

We kept moving, hoping that maybe the cut-off at the turnaround was very liberal. But, about a mile from the turnaround, we encountered the sweep runners heading the other way. That guaranteed that we would be done at the turnaround.

The sweeps going our direction ran the last half mile or so with us and suddenly we were done - 16.3 miles in 4:58 according to my Forerunner - just over 18 minutes per mile, when we'd needed to average closer to 15 minutes per mile to make the cut-off.

Deborah barely got in a good workout, but the truth is that I got worked by the trail. Four days later, I'm still sore.

The day after the race, we drove home. Monday night my wife and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary with some nice Champagne. This weekend, I'm going to cook a nice dinner for my wife and her family at her family's camp in northeastern VT as a second anniversary celebration.

And then, next week, I'm going to abandon my family for two weeks while I take a much needed vacation trip to California. I'm going to visit with old friends, drink some nice wines, eat some good food, relax as much as I can, and do some hiking and running.

At the end of this month, I'm on a six-person relay team for Vermont's 100 on 100 race, so I need to do some training to get ready for that one.