Thursday, November 24, 2005

12 Mile Mountain Bike Ride
Thursday, November 24, 2005

This morning I woke up to a light snowfall - very pretty. So I pottered around for a while, prepped a turkey, and popped it in the oven for a slow cooking. Then I packed the bike on the car and headed over to the Pine Bush. There was only about an inch of snow - enough to make the ride interesting, but not enough to make it difficult. Again, no one in sight (despite the two other cars parked at the trailhead) as I zipped around on the trails. About halfway through the ride, the sky got very dark, the temperature started dropping, and the wind picked up... so I stopped and started unpacking my wind jacket, hat, and heavier gloves. Just in time, too... as I was putting them on the snow started coming down with a vengeance and then BOOM! one heck of a loud thunderclap hit overhead. So I rode through the snowstorm - very cool, and I once again wished I had my camera. (Admittedly, my glasses and brakes icing up made the ride a bit more challenging, but not impossible.) After about 20 minutes the storm blew through and I rode for a while longer, until I started getting tired and I ran into a large group of walkers - both signs it was time to head home. So off I went, to warm up and chow down on far too much turkey.

I miss Ann and will be glad when she gets back - but all things considered, I think this was a pretty good way to spend the holiday.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

7 Mile Run in the Pine Bush
Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Since Ann is off in Australia with the karate group, I've had the freedom to spend the first part of this break doing whatever I want. In other words - running and riding!

Today we had pretty good weather - warm (for November) and sunny. So off I went for a short run (90 minutes) in the Pine Bush. It was a good run - quiet and relaxing, with no people in sight. Looking at the sun shining down through the trees I wished I'd brought along my camera.

All in all, a great way to spend the day before Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 21, 2005

Nine Strenuous Weekends - Part 9
Lil’ Rhody Run Around 8 Mile Trail Race
Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005

2005 Lil Rhody Run Around race results
Lil Rhody Run Around race info

2005 Lil Rhody Run Around photo slideshow

Well, once again my plans went astray. Originally I had intended to drive to Pawcatuck, CT (about 20 minutes from Burlingame Park in RI, the site of the race) on Saturday, spend the afternoon and evening visiting with friends, and leave for the race at the luxurious hour of 9:45 Sunday morning. Unfortunately, after I got home for lunch on Saturday I found myself dozing off, and decided a 3 hour drive that afternoon was a bad idea. So I called my friends and made plans to drive straight to the race, leaving at the not-so-luxurious hour of 6:45 AM.

Some pluses to driving straight there: I got to see the Sun come up, and driving through the Berkshires was a treat, with the mist rising up into the air all over the mountains. For the most part it’s a very pretty drive (except for the bits through Springfield and Hartford.) One minus – once you leave the Mass Pike, there are NO REST AREAS or easy places to stop until you’re nearly to I95 in CT, about an hour of driving – not a pleasant prospect if you’re hydrating in preparation for a race!

But, that difficulty aside, got there in plenty of time and with no real difficulties. At 10:15 the parking lot was already overflowing – this is one of the best-attended trail races in New England, with about 200 runners being typical. Hunting season has already begun, so runners are required to wear at least 100 sq inches of orange, and some folks were very creative. Checked in and found that instead of getting a T-shirt, they were handing out orange safety vests that had been screenprinted with the race and sponsors (I would have preferred a T shirt, but so it goes.) Geared up, and noticed fairly quickly that in the high 50/low 60 degree weather my stylish race garb of a long-sleeved technical shirt with an orange tank top worn over top was going to be a bit warmer than I had expected (I knew I should have bought the orange technical shirt!) Still, I’d rather be a little warm than freezing cold… we had beautiful weather for the run!

After a few delays while several thick-headed runners (who apparently didn’t get that the “you must wear orange” instruction applied to them) found orange clothing, off we went on our 8 mile loop around Wachaug Pond. The trails were fairly level, a lot of singletrack, good amounts of roots and rocks, and some interesting bits – mud, boardwalks over some swampy sections, etc. I started out as usual, feeling like I didn’t have a prayer of finishing and doing my best “Darth Vader with asthma” heavy breathing. Thought I was running pretty hard, but people kept passing me. The first half was fairly level (apparently that’s part of the appeal of this race.)

After a brief stretch on a paved road (bleah) we hit the 2nd half, and that’s when the course got pretty cool. Flat turned into lots of gradual up and down, we ran past and around and over big rocks, through a couple of streams, and so on. I also started passing people, which was a pleasant feeling. The last mile took us out onto the paved road around and back into the park – bleah again (but at least the last half mile was downhill.)

This was another race where the announcer called out runner’s names as they finished – cool, finished the last race of my fall series like a real athlete! I also found that while my watch said that it had taken me 1hr, 29min, the official race clock said 1hr, 25min – so officially I ran just over 10 ½ minute miles… a nice bonus for the last race, too. (As it turns out, my watch was right and I ran 11 minute miles, but I’m still pleased.)

After that I hung around for a bit, enjoyed the sunshine and a warm November day in a pretty park in RI, and had a bagel and a bowl of delicious home-made minestrone soup. All in all I’m glad I made the trip down there and ran it – don’t know if I’ll do it again, but it was a good way to end the Nine Strenuous Weekends, and a good way to spend a sunny, warm November Sunday. Life doesn’t get much better than sitting on the bumper of your car soaking up the sunshine, enjoying the pleasant feeling of tired muscles and chowing down on minestrone soup in a really pretty park.

(and after I was done enjoying that I drove over to Pawcatuck and visited with my friend and his wife until early evening… then drove back home. And tried to do some work. And finally went to sleep!)


The Nine Strenuous Weekends are over! 9 races/events in 11 weeks! No more races for a month! (And no crazy Pine Bush run to wrap things up with TEN Strenuous Weekends... I'll just do that crazy run for fun sometime.)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Nine Strenuous Weekends - Part 8
After the Leaves Have Fallen 20K
Sunday, Nov. 6, 2005

2005 After Leaves Have Fallen race results
After Leaves Have Fallen race info

2005 After Leaves Have Fallen photo slideshow

Well, so much for this being the last of the Strenuous Weekends… yesterday I mailed in my registration for the Lil’ Rhody Run Around, an 8 mile trail race down in Rhode Island which has the advantage of being about half an hour from the home of an old friend from grad school. So as of right now, there are nine strenuous weekends – 11 weeks altogether, from Sept. 11 through Nov. 20, with only two weekends “off” in that time period. 95 miles of biking and 75 miles of running over 9 weekends. (Not to mention riding and running during the week…) After the last two weeks (13.1 miles last week, 12.4 this week) it will be nice to “only” run 8 miles. (And it’ll be nice to see my friend and his wife, too.)

On to the After the Leaves Have Fallen 20K, at Lake Minnewaska State Park, one of the most beautiful places on Earth…

The short version:

Very little mud and no rain… but a few more blisters and two VERY tired, sore legs. Finished in 2:34… not bad for 12.4 miles with a blown knee.

The (much) longer version:

I almost didn’t go. Woke up with my right knee feeling better than it did yesterday (it went out on Friday night during iaido class) but still knew that running 12+ miles on it wasn’t the best plan I’ve ever had. Added to that was a puddle of antifreeze under my car, which had me more than a bit concerned about driving 90 miles to the Shawangunks. It wasn’t totally clear I was going until I got on the Thruway in Coxsackie – at that point I had stopped and checked that I still had coolant several times, and the temperature gauge was registering normal driving temperatures, so my stubbornness won out over good sense and I went. (Instead of spending part of the day under my car trying to figure out what’s leaking. That’s later this week. Wahoo.)

Weather on the way down was great – warm and sunny. Got to the mountains and found the clouds, as well as a stiff wind that made it pretty darn cold. Strapped myself up, debated over what to wear, and finally settled on a shirt that ultimately was a little too warm but manageable. Soon after that – we started (a plus to all the delays getting there – not a lot of time to wait around!)

As usual, I couldn’t hear the race director describing the course (why people in the back won’t shut up and listen to that kind of thing is beyond my comprehension... after all, it’s us slow people who are most likely to end up on our own and wondering if we’re on course!) Was briefly passed by the person running sweep, but he dropped back and ran for most of the first two hours with me. (More on him later.)

As always, the route through Minnewaska was gorgeous. The sun came out right after we started and stayed out the whole time. This year we ended up taking a trail I’d never been on before – VERY cool! Not quite as many cliff top views as the usual trail, but still some great sights. The first 3-4 miles were almost totally uphill – THAT was a challenge, and made this course more difficult than the route we ran 2 years ago. (Of course the weather was beautiful today and in ’03 it rained the whole time… guess there are tradeoffs all around.) After that it was downhill, level, or gradual uphill until the last 2 miles, which was mostly uphill. LOADS of fun after running 10.5 miles to get to that point.

After the 1st bit until the last 2 miles, I didn’t see another runner except for the sweeper (well… not totally true. When we were running around Lake Awosting I could see other runners on the opposite side of the lake.) 2 miles from the finish I passed two other runners who looked to be having a tough time. And at 2 hrs 33 minutes I hit the finish and got to hear the end of the awards (I thought I should get the “dumb enough to run with a freshly-blown knee” award, but since the awards were boxes of donuts it’s just as well I didn’t.) Then I hobbled back to the car, packed up, and said hi to the nice troopers running a reg/insp checkpoint out on the road down the mountain. Also stopped a few times to snap some pictures of the ridge… it was pretty hazy, so don’t know how those will come out. My pictures from the course should be good…

The sweeper was a guy named John McGovern, who turns out to be one of the top amateur duathletes in his age group (40’s) in the USA. (And it sounds like he’s pretty good internationally, too…) Apparently he had a bad race at the World Championships (in Australia, a month ago!) and took a month off from training, so he agreed to sweep today figuring it would force him to get in some time running without pushing real hard. Little did he know he’d be pushing hard to slow down to my pace! Anyway, I got to hear some fairly interesting stuff, and he was very gracious about running at my pace (I told him several times that if he wanted to run on ahead, I’d be fine. All he needed to do was let the water stop volunteers know what I looked like so they’d know when the last person came through. He stuck with me until just under 2 hours, at which point he said his family was waiting and that he’d told them he’s be back after 2 hours and I assured him I’d be fine so he could leave with a clear conscience. (To give you some idea of his speed… I ran the Summer Solstice 14k run at Minnewaska in 1:33, which was one of the best runs I did all summer. He finished in 3rd place in 52 minutes.) Master Hillicoss might have enjoyed talking with him too – apparently he’s really into good wines. Anyway, he seemed like a good guy (though I doubt I’d want to compete against him… I suspect he’s not so nice then) and probably pushed me to run a little faster than I would have otherwise.
So all in all, I’m glad I ended up going to this. Would have been nice to do it without the blown knee (which didn’t bother me running, but I must have put a lot of extra stress on my left leg, because my left calf is very sore) and maybe finish in a little less time, but realistically that might have saved me at most a dozen minutes or so… I still finished in less time than 2 years ago, and that was on an easier course. And I got to go to Minnewaska, which is always worth doing.

Next weekend – a much needed weekend off from races…