Thursday, December 31, 2009

and of course, The Ugly


Random cold road ride

Lodi Farms



Just Scary!

Happy New Year all. Heres hoping 2010 is everything you want it to be and more.

The Bad

Despite all of "the good" I reported yesterday from the Year of the Ox (2009), the year has not been without its downsides. My complaints of course are given and should be taken with a grain of salt, considering what some have been through throughout this year and so I'll try to keep my whining to a bare minimum. Also, as a (mostly) sport focused blog, I'm going to keep the focus limited to my athletic failures and related disappointments.

First off, my consistency in training. I already mentioned this in my training wrap up a few days ago so I won't really say much more about it. I simply need to be more consistent.

The 2010 Snotcycle Race: I just didn't enjoy trying to race a short course race in these conditions, plain and simple. Oh and I didn't do all that great either...

A goal just missed: I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler for the first (and likely last) time this year and was gunning for a 1 hour 10 minute time, a flat 7 minute mile average. While I didn't miss it by much, just 15 seconds off per mile, it was enough to be disappointed about. In '07 I ran the Baltimore Half Marathon at an average of 7:20 per mile so my 5 second per mile drop just wasn;t all that satisfying.

My not quite as nasty as initially suspected ass of tea kettle crash at Patapsco. I can still feel a bump where the top of my right ear connects to my head from wear it was sliced open a bit.

Attack of the Big Bear: Part II. I don't think I actually like this race anymore. Broken bikes = no fun. I still have not ridden the Scalpel since that race, though it is now ready to ride again once I put some pedals and a seat collar back on it.

Flat tires and lots of parking tickets (yeah I fought that ticket, paid $5 in parking and $20 in court fees and another $5 for using a debit card to pay my fine. I saved $10 and lost a vacation day. I don't think I won...)! Gaaaaarrrrrr! Please leave me alone in 2010!

Accompanying one of my favorite runs of the year was of course my car being broken into. Worse, what was not realized at the time of the incident was just how much of my stuff was in the car and stolen. My newer camelback with spare tubes, lube, CO2 flat repair kit, riding glasses, Mt Hardware rain jacket and a handful of other things that I can't remember off the top of my head; all of course on top of my wallet. Jerks.

My boat sank. This was kind of fun though, despite the uncontrollable shivering.

Here's hoping 2010 brings about no more parking tickets, broken bikes or busted windows!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Good

While the mainstream media has been at it since Thanksgiving, I've just barely started the annual tradition of "the year in review". I looked a bit into my lackluster training numbers from '09 yesterday but today I want to focus on some of the positives from my year. The events, races and training sessions that stood out for me for one reason or another.

In March I managed a few buttery smooth snow rides and got Brian out on his first at Fairland.

After I joined DCMTB early in the year, my first real race as a member was 12 Hours of Lodi Farms. I'd never done the race and had only ridden with my new teammates a handful of times before this race. The race itself went well and the 2 teams we fielded placed well and took home some loot. This was the first time I'd ever placed in a mtb race and the first time I'd ever won loot for placing in anything. That, I have to say was pretty cool!

In May I got out for a great ride (on a pretty sweet bike) down in the Tennessee Smokey Mountains while visiting Knoxville for a wedding with Aimee. This was one of the first big rides I've done on real mountain roads (the trails were wet unfortunately), with sustained climbs and descents. This ride was all about fun, aside from hiding from the lightning and crazy heavy rain...

In June going into the 12 Hours of Cranky Monkey race at Quantico, my team had some fairly low expectations. I was riding the rigid SS Jamis since the Scalpel was still busted from Big Bear and neither Leland nor I really felt like we were in very good form. We managed to ride strong and hold on for 4th in our Category which included the 1st place DCMTB "A" team. The team as a whole did amazing as well with 5 of our 6 teams taking spots on their respective 5 deep podiums and claiming 1st, 2nd and 5th overall! My success was cool, but even better the team atmosphere of having so many DCMTB'ers there and doing so well was an absolute blast!

2 years ago I'd tried to make the Pittsburgh Triathlon my first triathlon. I ended up hurting my shoulder and baling on that one which I always regretted a bit. This year though I convinced two of my closest buddies from college to do it with me and this time it actually happened. The race was fun and the weekend with some of my favorite people in the world was even better. Every time I go back to Pittsburgh I'm left wishing I'd never left it in the first place. On top of the great trip I took first for the first time winning the 25-29 age group with Cole standing next to me on the podium. Awesome!

In August I started ramping up my running with my eyes set on completing my first Ultra Marathon before the end of the year. My two long trail runs before the main event were both memorable runs; just me, Cassie and some rain. One at Patapsco and one on the Potomac Heritage Trail itself. I need to do more of these, minus the jacked stuff and busted window.

The Potomac Heritage Trail 50k went better then I could have imagined. Teaming up with Matthew at the start was probably crucial to my run but the atmosphere of the race, the volunteers and fun course all made for an excellent first ultra. Better yet I met someone willing to join me/drag me out on the longer runs and hikes I've been trying to get out for with a home base out near the mountains to begin with.

I've run a few Turkey trots over the years but not too many have been very memorable. This year's was a bit different. I'd been aiming to break 20 minutes in a 5k for a while but the vast majority of my 5k runs have been the tail end of a sprint triathlon and I'd been unsuccessful at sub-20. This year I ran to super-local (less then a mile from my front door) and small, Gobble Wobble to the tune of 19:31 and even managed a 2nd place finish to boot. Thats the first time I've ever placed anywhere near the top 10 in a running only event and while it wasn't fast enough to really be something big, its still something neat to me.

A couple of weeks later I managed to get out to meet Matthew (new PHT 50k buddy) for a long run/hike up the Dickey Ridge Trail in SNP as the snow fell around us. It was great to get out and go out there despite a tweaked knee for Matthew and the heavy and deep near the top snow fall. That was exactly the kind of trip I need to do more of, especially with the climbing falling somewhere in the range of 3000' or so. Compared to my majority dead flat runs around home this was pretty epic.

And, that basically brings us to now. Over Christmas break up the NEPA I got out for 2 runs on the trails of the Delaware State Forest near my folks' house in the Poconos. There was nothing especially noteworthy about these runs on their own but the proximity to my parents house, the technical and rocky terrain and the amount of trails available there all combined to make me very excited about the area. My second run on the 27th especially left me eager and ready for my next trip to see my folks up in the mountains. Well, that and the company of course!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Goals and Milestones

The other week with my regular, easy run down the mall, around the Lincoln Memorial and back, I cracked 600 miles on the year running. It's not a very big number for a year of running; its downright minuscule when compared to the typical ultra runner but for me it seems like a big milestone.
My weekly running mileage chart here shows my lack of consistency. The last 6 or so months has shown some improvement there.

In 2008 I just cracked 400 miles; beginning my training log in late March and not really running with any focus or races in mind. Consistency was no where to be found and my miles just basically came in small heaps throughout the year. Over the last few months, basically since I decided I wanted to attempt an Ultra and began running trails in June, my mileage has ticked up and my consistency has as well. I still have large variations in my weekly mileage but overall I've managed in the 15 to 20 miles per week on average. While this is still far from "Ultra" mileage, for me, it's a start.

Literally, not a single run in January of this year and less then 20 miles in the entire month of May!

For 2010 I've got my eyes fixed on the Bull Run Run 50 Miler, one of the VHTRC main event races. This means I'll need to keep my mileage up as the new year begins and really start to build into the month of April. I'd like to run a strong race and finish feeling better then I did after the PHT 50k so a solid winter mileage base is a must.

I'll be very happy if I can average a solid 20 to 30 for the first couple of months of the year. For 2010 as a whole I think I should expect to break 1000 miles, with hopefully a couple of Ultras under my belt.

As for my cycling, I'm somewhat stagnant, kicking around 1800 miles for the year. In 2008 I hit 1500 or so, probably mostly invested in my tri training, especially the 1/2 IM. This year my miles consisted more of dirt riding with some pretty limited road mileage. I've just found so much more enjoyment in the dirt all around this year. That, I don't expect to change necessarily for next year.

My cycling goals for next year will revolve around a similar principal as this year's racing with one major addition. I want to make my first attempt at the Shenandoah Mountain 100 (SM 100). This alone will require a large boost in my overall mileage and hopefully I'll be able to work in some much longer dirt rides and some long road rides with my DCMTB teammates this year to make it happen.

Call 2010 the year of the Ultra's for me if you will; thats just where I'm at right now. Short course speed races are fun, but I find myself drawn to the long course absolute tests of endurance that go with Ultra distance racing. There is something rewarding in and of itself when finishing long distance races; something that for me is lacking in the short courses.

At this point I'd say I should be doubling my cycling mileage if I want to have even a remote chance of finishing the SM100 and probably quite a bit more if I expect to perform well. Of course if the weather keeps up this amped winter we've already seen my riding may take a back seat to trail/snow running and shoveling!

Or, maybe its finally time to invest in a trainer and actually start using it...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Who needs snow shoes?

What a day! While I didn't end up camping out in the snow like I was thinking I might, I did still get out to SNP with Matthew and our dogs for a long trail run/hike in the snow. It was raining when I rolled out of Greenbelt at 5:30am Saturday morning and snowing by the time I got to Markham where Matt's house was; a good sign for our run since a rainy started would have made for a much colder day on the trail. The dogs got along well from the get go and we made our way to Front Royal and the start of Skyline drive where we hooked up with the Dickey Ridge Trail around 7:30.

Once on the trail we settled into a steady jog over what was maybe a quarter inch of wet snow on the ground. The trail essentially parallels Skyline up to the AT, climbing almost the entire way from the starting point around 600 feet above sea level. We kept up a good pace heading up, running when we could and hiking when we couldn't. The snow was beautiful and I found myself surprisingly comfortable in the cold conditions.

The snow kept falling the entire way and was building fast on the ground as we broke fresh tracks along the deserted trail. Early on I saw some sort of animal which we decided was a coyote after coming up on some small paw looking tracks though we later decided it must have been one of the dogs' tracks and a deer, with the dark brown winter coat that I had glimpsed through the snow. The climb was otherwise uneventful though beautiful with the fresh snow blanketing everything in sight. At the only lookout point of the day the view was unfortunately blocked by the snow and fog surrounding the mountains but the continuous scenery we passed was good enough to make up for it.

Upon reaching the intersection with the AT, Matthew made the suggestion we not bite off more then we can chew and head back down the trail to the car. Realizing he was right and that going on any further would be somewhat foolish, we turned around and began heading back down the trail. We topped out at around 2500' and since somewhere around 1700' before a tough, steep and technical quarter mile climb to our meeting point with the AT things had gotten substantially colder.

We grabbed some food and then picked up the pace a bit to try and warm up again, which we succeeded in doing after dropping back down the long climb. The warmth lasted for a bit before a breeze came through and kept us cool for the remainder of the trip down.

At the point we turned around we'd probably been shuffling through about 6 inches of snow and the whole way down it was building, continuing to get deeper. It was a pretty cool thing to be out in this snow, and with how fast it was coming down we were making fresh tracks both up and down; our previous tracks having been buried almost entirely in fresh snow.

After dropping below about 1200 or so feet we hit some recently traveled snow, a large number of deer and dwindling snow accumulation. By the time we crossed over Skyline a final time before getting back to the trail head the trail was more of a slushy, muddy, well traveled mess. Apparently the locals know the Dickey Ridge Trail well but mostly just stuck to the first little section of it; the only other person we saw was a guy walking his dog up that short first section of the trail before heading back down along Skyline.

Back at the car we were both pretty chilled so we got a bit of a change of clothes and quickly headed back to Matthews' house with the ideas of hot showers in our heads. A power outage and well water quickly dispersed those hopes but theres nothing wrong with a little camp stove boiled water for tea and wearing more clothes inside then we did outside! After a couple of cups of tea, snacks and beer, and some pasta I eventually mustered the up the energy and motivation to head home. I knew our big down comforter, memory foam mattress topper and a warm shower at home would be well worth the long drive home in the dark. I think I was in bed by 8 that night.

A couple of additional things:
-Matthew tweaked his knee at some point during the climb. He toughed it out for the rest of the hike but towards the end I could tell it was really hurting. Once back to his place it stiffened up pretty badly on him to the point he wasn't even bending it. Hopefully its doing better now but kudos to him of toughing that out with barely even a mention of it.
-I wore a thin pair of technical somewhat fleecy Cannondale gloves for this run. For the majority of the trip they were perfect though once the wind was blowing through the soaking wet fabric my hands got seriously cold. Next time I'll need to find something a little better. Even just a thin, lightweight outer shell would probably be enough, just to block the wind.
-I wore my (10+ year old) Under Armour winter gear tights and top as a base layer.
-I picked up a basic pair of Nike DriFit running pants, similar to my DriFit shorts of preference, at REI which I wore over the tights. They were perfect until the snow was getting deeper and then the snow started building up on them around the ankles to where I had at least baseball sized balls of snow hitting my ankles every step.
-On top I wore my Celtic Solstice 5 Miler fleece over the UA and my Salomon wind/rain jacket over the top of that. That combination was surprisingly perfect, kepping my core temperature well regulated throughout the run. With a better glove combination I would have been comfortable the entire run I believe.
-Of course I wore a pair of my DeFeet Woolie Boolies along with my Montrail Highlanders. This actually worked; the socks kept my feet warm enough despite being soaked for most of the trip and the shoes handled the circumstances relatively well. Not an ideal shoe for the conditions but they got the job done. Other then some spikes or even snow shoes I'm not sure what would really do better though.
-My thin, vented running hat from finishing the Shamrockfest Marathon was perfect; keeping snow out of my eyes and keeping my head just warm enough.
-The route with elevation. This puts it a little shorter then what I think we did. The trail markers had us at 9.5 from Front Royal at the start of the Dickey Ridge Trail which includes a short little (less then a 1/4 mile on google pedometer) section of trail. We're saying 18 miles total.
-It was disappointing coming home to just an inch or two of slushy snow back in Greenbelt. I'm glad I got to enjoy a real snowfall before returning to the king of slush - DC metro region.
-I need to spend a lot more time running/hiking out in the mountains. As much fun as they are to run, there are no real "climbs" on my usual stomping grounds.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Welcoming winter, done right

A couple of weeks ago when Aimee told me she'd be house sitting (and taking Homer) over this coming weekend I quickly decided it'd be my time to get out for some winter mountain fun. I got in touch with Matt from the PHT 50k to see if he'd be up for some biking or running. Saturday looked good for him so we planned a trail run/hike for the day.

Now, after early week projections showed sun and at least mid-40's for the day, we're looking at some pretty certain snow fall and what looks like it'll be a pretty fun way to welcome in the official winter. Unfortunately I won't have my camera but I will definitely be enjoying myself out there. Its likely I'll be camping out on Saturday night as well, even if I just set my tent up in the bed of my truck. It'll be better then the long drive home after a day of running and snow plowing...

For those interested, worried or looking for me if I don't return in a timely manner, our route will look something like this, with a possible different ending point around where the AT pops out of SNP.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Races to Remember

I did my first running race as a kid at the Peachtree Jr Road Race in Georgia when I was probably about 8 years old. My Dad was into road racing, especially the Peachtree Road Race, and I would sometimes go to the local high school track to run with him (when I could get myself up for the 5 or 6 am departure time). I remember one early run with him where he was just so impressed after I completed the entire 4 mile run right with him. I must have been beaming that day.

In those Peachtree Jr races I'll remember running and seeing my parents along the course cheering me on. I'd always pick it up when I saw them and do my best to look serious and hide my huge grin, although I doubt that ever worked. Really, I still do the same thing today when I see my family during a race, only now I don't try to hide the gr
in. I ran probably 4 or 5 of those races before we moved away from the area; unfortunately the old t-shirts are probably lost for good by now.

Another race I'll always remember was a 5k at a local school; still in Georgia. It was probably one of my first 5k's and I think I was in 3rd grade at the time. There was a kids race, probably a mile long that went off before the 5k and I remember watching with pride as the other kids did the short race while I waited with my Dad to run the big one. Turns out I probably should have done the miler after all as I finished the race behind even the clean up vehicle picking up the cones on the course, a solid DFL if I ever saw one. In the end though I won the raffle prize of a new boys bike from a Roswell Bike shop sponsoring the race. I believe to this day that "raffle" was rigged for the poor kid in last place.

Now, to add to my list of memories from meaningful races, I have one of the opposite end of the spectrum. I have an actual placement in a strictly running race!

On Thanksgiving morning Aimee and I walked the mile over to the greenbelt youth center for the annual Greenbelt Rec Dept's Gobble Wobble 5k. First of all, being able to just roll out of bed and walk to the race course was just great! I could get used to that. The race had a record turnout (150 strong for the race/walk event!) and was kicked off with the wobbling warm up led by a sergeant of some kind, which I swear was really just some low key tae bo.

I started in the second row, just behind the turkey lead off man and a couple of 7 year olds ready to sprint for the hole shot. After a couple hundred yards I was settled into 2nd, right on the heels of the tall fit looking guy I'd labeled as the winner before the start of the race. I stuck around for a lap then he slowly pulled away finishing up in just over 19 minutes. I managed to hold onto second AND more importantly came in at 19:31 for my first sub-20 minute 5k! (Hopefully the measurement of the distance was true though I'm not necessarily holding my breath on that).

Thats the Turkey in the middle, me on the left and the top Male and Female runners and husband and wife pair of Paul and Cara on the right. Nice folks who live just down the street from Aimee and I. (Photo from the News Review blurb)

To top it all off I'm in the local Greenbelt News Review (blurb on page 5) this week, both in picture and in name! Looks like my star hasn't set just yet since my high school days of (local) "fame" (the picture of me watching helplessly as a star CB for a rival high school football team intercepted a pass in front of me being my last big "claim to fame"). Eh, something like that. At least I set a new PR and had a good time supporting a local event with Aimee.