Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fun In The.... Sun??

Saturday, December 22, 2007
Hike: Mount Lafayette Elevation 5,260'
Distance: 8 Miles
Elapsed Time: 7 Hours
Who: Sherpa John and Sarah

Winter began at 1:08 Am EST here in New Hampshire. And though the frosty landscape would have dictated otherwise over the last month and a half, the season has finally changed. Per the normal for myself and various of my hiking friends, the turn to winter is the official start of "The Game." Peak-bagging NH's 4,000 Foot Mountains in the Winter season. I've all ready completed the lust once and am well on my way to completing the list a second time. Today was a great day for us to begin this ears game on a good foot.

Sarah and I woke early and hit the road making it to the trailhead off of I-93 in Franconia Notch. The skies were overcast with the clouds hanging low. It was cold in the parking lot as we began our hike rather bundled up. The trails were packed out from the previous nights hikers (Thanks Drew and Crew!) so the going was as easy as it could be. Our snowshoes were al ready on and they helped us float on more than 4 feet of powder.

The higher we climbed on the ridge, the harder the wind blew. We were socked in the clouds and wondering if this was even worth it. As we meandered higher on the ridge and poked out into open areas such as "Lunch Rocks", the winds howled, we shivered and spoke of turning back after visiting the AMC's Greenleaf hut. At about 3,500', rime ice had formed on the trees, enhancing the frosty landscape. (See Below: Google Search RIME ICE)

As we reached the hut, we hunkered down in the back seeking shelter from the harsh elements. We grabbed a quick bite to eat before adding additional layers for the frigid journey ahead. We were still a mile from the summit with the most dangerous part of our hike left to go. Before we poked above tree-line, I gave Sarah my goggles and I would brave the sandblasting of snow upon my face from frigid winds. But the most extraordinary thing of the day was about to take place... we were to emerge ABOVE the clouds and view a sea of undercast below. This is a phenomenon we've been waiting to experience for many years. And despite harsh winds, cold temps and a below zero windchill,we enjoyed every breathtaking minute of it. As we reached the summit, we snapped some quick photos and turned back for the bottom.

Sarah and I then returned home to enjoy our Christmas together, exchanging gifts and the like. A very enjoyable day. I want to take this moment to thank all of you who continue to visit my little space on the web. Your support is very much heartfelt, and I appreciate it for all that it is worth. May you and your families enjoy the Holiday, whatever it is that you may celebrate. God Bless! And Now... a final clip from my all time favorite Christmas Movies. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

RR: 2006 R.I. Nifty Fifty

"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning." ~Morrie Schwartz 

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude to me, is more important than facts. It is more important
than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than
failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is
more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or
break a company.....a church.....or home. The remarkable thing is, we
have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that
day. We cannot change our past....we cannot change the fact that people
will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only
thing we can do is play on the one string we have and that is our
attitude....I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you....we are in charge
of our attitudes." - Charles Swindoll 

The Skinny

Length: 50 Miles
Location: Middletown, RI
Race: Nifty Fifty Ultra - New England Ultra-Running Championship
Time: 10 Hours 5 Minutes 44 Seconds
Place: 21st out of 27
Div: (M0-30) 3rd. However, age divisions were only recognized for those over the age of 40.  

I was the 2nd youngest finisher.. someone who was 24 finished right behind me.

And for those who like to read... the report.


A few months back I was focusing on how my running for the year would go. When would I race, how long is the race and how much time to train will I have. It was when I noticed that there was a 50 Miler in Rhode Island the day after my 25th birthday that I knew I HAD to run it. I assembled quite a challenging race schedule, three 50's and a marathon in 3 months. Experienced ultra-runners told me I was crazy. I knew better. It isn't about whats crazy or not, or what is impressive or not... it's about the challenge. The challenge of digging deep and discovering again, who it is that lives deep within my soul. Is there a better way to celebrate a 1/4 century of life, than redisovering who I am? Is there a better way to challenge myself for sheer reflection? I'm sure some have better ideas, but this is what I choose. To run in the 2006 Breakers Nifty Fifty Ultra-Marathon. The New England Ultra-Running Championship.

Friday, October 20th

Today's my Birthday. Work was fun. My students decorated my room before I got in to school and some even brought me treats. I was careful with what I ate with the race tomorrow. But it was cute and fun none-the-less and I thanked them for their thoughtfulness.

At home Sarah and I ran soem errands before settling down for a pasta dinner. Spaghetti and bread. Typical pre-race carbo loading. There was no cake, no dessert.. just some "Deal or No Deal" before going to bed at 9pm. The celebrating would have to wait till tomorrow.

Saturday, October 21st - Race Day

We left Dover at 3:30am headed for Rhode Island. It seemed as though we were the only cars on the road and honestly... we were. When we reached Rhode Island we went over various bridges and only the shining moonlight made the water glisten. We watched as shooting stars streamed across the night sky during these pre-dawn hours. We reached the high school where the race was being run from. Retrieved my bib number and proceeded to get ready for the run.

Weather is often a major factor in determining how your run will go. Today's weather was ceratainly going to be a challenge, especially for those of us without "extra padding." Race start was 44 degrees with a 15mph wind and gusts to 30mph. Winds for the race would stay the same and the temp would rise 10 degrees. Eitherway, I was suited up properly and ready to go.

The Race

Just past 7am we recieved the command and off we went. I positioned myself at the rear of the pack so as to not leave the starting line in a "marathon rush" running the pace of much faster runners. After all, I had 50 miles to go and pacing myself is most important.

The course is a loop course. Runners run ONE 10 mile loop then 2 smaller loops for marathoners and 5 smaller loops for us 50 milers. The first 2 1/2 miles of the course meander it's way through quiet Middletown neighborhoods. We then circumnavigate the Norman Bird Sanctuary/Hanging Rocks along the Sachuest Bay area. The scenery out over the ocean was gorgeous. On the first BIG loop we headed out to the Sachuest Point Wildlife Refuge before returning back to the course of the smaller loops.

We ran past the local resevoir before climbing various small hills that wound us back into more expensive neighborhoods. At the 5K to go of each loop, the road ascended a large hill where a very large farm sat on top. We then headed through a llama farm, the towns soccer field, then up a smaller hill towards the school to complete the loop. It was uniquely scenic but quickly got boring. You saw it once... and I thought that that was enough... seeing it 5 more times got a bit monotonous.

The biggest challenges of the whole loop was the large hill and the painful pavement unrelenting pavement.

One To Go!

As we finished the 2nd loop of the day, many of the marathoners were elated to know there was ONE lap to go. As I ran beside and past some, each said it with a smile "One To Go." At first I just smiled but then began responding with, "yup... and then I get to do 3 more." They seemed confused at first before remembering there was a 50 Mile run going on at the same time. But on this last loop of the marathon, I began to sink in and out of reality often times getting lost in another world. I started to walk every few miles and the pain in my knees from the constant pounding was finally starting to take its toll. I was in a LOT of pain but pushed on regardless.

Running most of the race within line of sight, either in front or behind, was a group of men in their 30's. From what info I got, they are used to doing Iron-Mans and hadn't run a marathon in almost 10 years. So here they were enjoying every minute of the race... dressed in various costumes. There was Elvis, a hippie, a football referee and an alcatraz prisoner who was celebrating his birthday. These men were running a comfortable marathon pace and I followed them into their finish.

Challenge Yourself

And so now as I leave Sarah at the start, who was guarding my basket of supplies.. I took off down the road alone. With 23.8 miles to run, I would spend almost the entirety of these miles by myself. This is what I wanted, time to reflect on this life and lessons learned... and so it began. It was getting harder and harder to run, my knees were sreaming in pain, mainly where the IT band meets the knob just below my knee on the outside. I ran when I could and walked the hills. At the aid stations I kept eating what I had all day (Totals: 4 Banana's, 7 Chocolate Chip Cookies, 32 Gummi Bears, 5 small cups of soda, Almost a gallon of Gatorade Endurance and a half gallon of water.) When I saw Sarah after loop 4 I was in a nasty low and then again after loop 5. In fact at the end of loop 5 I was in so much pain all I wanted to do was get it over... I wanted to quit. I decided to not talk, fill the bottles and take off so as to not get talked into quitting.

25 Years of Lessons

I've learned many lessons in 25 years of life. I often find myself looking back to times of old, trying to remember what it was like to be 4 or 5 years old again. But we all know, as we get older, we often times find ourselves forgetting about times gone by. But the one thing.. the BIG thing I remember from my life is the biggest lesson my parents taught me. I've said it before and I'll say it again, "YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO." So many times I hear folks who tell me they can't run a 5K or a mile.... they'll never run a marathon. But the truth is... YOU CAN you just don't WANT to. Desire is another poweful tool, used seldom in a world filled with "lazy" inventions. During yesterdays marathon, I observed as various runners of sex, age, race and disablility completed their 3 laps before I went on to complete 6. But it was ONE man in particular that forced me to shed tears from me eyes. Motivation is a smoke screen, DESIRE is the fire.

As I left to run my 5th lap, this man was starting his 3rd and final lap of the marathon. Sitting in a wheelchair with a form of cerebal paulsy, he sat backwards with his legs touching the pavement. 2 men went with him, one holding a string attached to the front of his chair to help steer him on the turns and control him on the hills. This man, to me.. is superman, and its his testament to life that will forever sit in my heart as a lesson. For 26.2 Miles, he used every ounce of energy in his body to PUSH WITH HIS FOOT. Each push launched him all of 1 to 2 feet... up hills and down, around turns and across the finish line after almost 10 Hours of relentless loops... HE DID IT and all because he knew deep down "YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO." If there was EVER a lesson in life I learned... this would be #1 proved over and over again.

I also learned a valuable lesson about growing. As the quote states above... We are in charge of our attitudes. Through this life, and more so through the last few years, I've learned that I am indeed in charge of my attitude. People will say what they will and do as they must, but in the end it's how I react to those circumstances, positive or not, that will forever dictate how I live each day. I can choose to dwell on the negative or learn from it. I can choose to life with the positive or die without it. Life is a quest, a magnificent journey and one that I am happy to be partaking in. It IS worth living and I CAN do anything and I WILL do at the very least... my best.

The Final Lap

I left Sarah after a quick break at the middle school. I walked down the road as tunes blared into my ears. The sun was setting and at that angle that pierces your eyeballs. As I left the aid, an ultra-runner who had allready finished told me to "run a little, walk a little, run a little, walk a little." OH YEAH! I forgot thats how its done. With this small piece of advice, I began running from mailbox to mailbox, from telephone pole to telephone pole... anything I could fix my sights on up ahead. As I ran down hill into mile 3.. I looked back and thought I saw a runner. Are you kidding me?! There's someone else out here? I thought I was in last for god sakes. Seeing as this was afterall a "race" I wasn't about to let this guy pass me.

I ran into the aid station for a QUICK stop. I then carried on down the road... run, walk, run, walk, run etc. I began to check behind me and with each check this dude was getting closer and closer. By Mile 45 I turned back to see him all of 200 Yards behind me. After 9 Hours of running on this junk... how was he doing it?! I started to run wore than walk and at times... walking proved faster than running whatever it took... I kept him 200+ yards back. As we approached the largest and longest hill on the course I knew I had it made. This guy was walking as much as me, but my hiking typically gives me an advantage on the hills.

As I hit the hill... I remember a song playing on my iPod... and it was GREAT! (Forget the song now though) I motored up the hill as quickly as I could. At the top I ran into the next aid where the race volunteers had just arrived to take down. I asked how far back the guy behind me was and they told me, "It WAS about 100 yards but now its 1/4 Mile." I was pysched and I carried on down the road towards the finish. once again past the llama farm, passed the soccer fields and vineyard and up the last small hill. Then on the horizon was the schools American Flag... a huge smile on my face, the wind blowing strong (still) and it was onto the track.

After 2 1/2 laps on the school track... I finished 50 Miles for the second time with a time of 10:05. I crashed onto the field and Sarah presented me with an Apple Pie.. this is how I wanted to celebrate my B-day and it was so SWEET. Next Up: JFK 50 Miler - Maryland - 11.18.06

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter Wonderland

I woke up early on Saturday after only accomplishing some 4 hours of sleep to get some training in. One of my weakness's is, believe it or not, power hiking uphill. There is no better way to get my hiking legs back than to go hiking. So.. Adamiata and I met up in the AM and headed north to hike in New Hampshire's Southern Presidential Range to do some peakbagging. Our peaks for the day were Jackson(4,052') and Pierce (4,310').

I was a mess today having forgotten one of my plastic boots at home... we found a fix though and I was good to go. Adam forgot his snowshoes and it was too damn cold at the car to keep my hand out of a glove long enough to pour water into my camelbak. So.. in a deshevelled mess, we saddled up and headed into the woods a barrel of laughs. Adam and I made our way up the snowy slope of Mount Jackson. Near the base we encountered 2 feet of snow which got deeper the higher up we got. Above 3,500' snow depths were around 3-4 feet with drifts of 5-6 feet. The picture above is a picture of me near the summit, posholing through some deep powder! And Below is a photo of my on the trail in this winter wonderland. The tree's looked like snow people!

As we reached the summit we mingled with some friends of ours we had ran into along the way. And we were greeted by guest appearances from some other friends, The Gray Jays. These birds are the "tree rats" of the mountains, following you along the trail, begging for food I won't get into specifics of how they survive the winter up here and what happens to them biologically.. but I was very happy to feed the guys. They land ON YOUR HAND (yes.. wild birds land on your hand) and eat from it. I fed them pieces of bread.

So.. from Jackson, shiverring in bitter winds (it was 5 below on the top with a 20mph wind.. windchill was COLD), we headed to Pierce where we ran into some other acquaintances at Mizpah Hut. Its always nice to run into old friends. Adam and I had a great time in the mountains, playing in the snow and enjoying each others company. We make a good team out there.
Here are some photos of us on the top.

After looking at these photos, its hard believe that those same mountains got ANOTHER 2 FEET OF SNOW in today's nasty Nor'Easter. I'm beginning to wonder when I'll ever get to run in the mountains again and as the saying in New England goes... "So much for that global warming huh?" We got burried here in Newmarket with a fresh foot of snow followed by sleet and freezing rain thats still falling outside. We got 8" on Thursday and all of this added to the 3 other storms we've had recently and we now have over 2 1/2 feet of snow on the ground. Below is a picture of the snow bank at the end of the driveway I had to dig out to park Sarah's car.. and yes... that IS higher than the cars.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Blue Hills - Skyline Traverse

Blue Hills Reservation
Braintree, MA
22.48 Miles
12,205' of elevation Change
6,153' Gain/6,053' Loss

I met up with Dot Helling, Brenda Phillips, Kim Trainer, Greg Stone and Nate Sanel at the Shea Rink in Quincy, MA at 8:30am on Saturday. Our activity for the day was a training run in the Blue Hills just south of Boston, Ma. Kimmie and Dot are training for the HURT 100, so we organized this day to allow them to get in their last long runs on terrain which closely resembles Hawaii. Of course, Hawaii won't have a crust of freshly fallen snow, but the slick mud of the rain forests coupled with roots and rocks will create their own level of technical difficulties.

A fresh layer of snow laid silent across the landscape as we moved through the crisp morning air. Greg started 2 hours earlier out on Rte 138 and met us at the start. Per the norm in the Blue Hills, the group went slightly off track and it tooks us awhile to catch our mistake. Once we found the trail again, we moved along at a relaxed pace, sure to be careful of the slick rocks and very technical trail. On the top of each hill, we were awarded with GREAT views of Boston, the Ocean and points all around.

As the day wore on the temps rose enough to melt a good amount of snow. The trails stayed slick with slush, mud and running water. Our feet were soaked but warm so long as we kept moving. Later in the day, as the sun began to set, temps dropped back below freezing and the slush started to turn to crunchy ice. The skyline traverse is tough enough, nevermind the addition of snow and ice.

We ran/hiked the skyline trail from Shea Rink all the way across to Rte 138 in Braintree at the Blue Hills Ski Hill. The first trip there, we ran down the mountain, around the base then back up and headed back for Shea Rink. Back at the Rink, Nate, Kimmie, Greg and I reloaded and headed back for more as Dot and Brenda decided to call it a day. The four of us ran back to Braintree again, ariving at the base of the ski-hil just as the sun finally set and darkness encased the world. We wanted to run back but agreed that the mix of wet runners, increasing winds, dropping temps, and the risks of fidgetting with it all in the dark were not optimal. We ended our day here. Tired, cold and sore. So.. we completed the day by running the skyline traverse from Beginning to End to Beginning to End. ;)

I had an awesome time! Good luck to Kimmie and Dot in Hawaii!