Sunday, July 27, 2008

Crazy Weather

For those of you who remember sitting in the light rain and drizzle last Sunday during the awards for the Vermont 100, I am amazed now to know that that was the "calm before the storm." The last 7 days has been showcase to some of the most severe weather in my memory here in the State of New Hampshire. Keep in mind that during the summer of 2006, our state never hit 90 degrees F and the highest temp recorded that summer was 85 degrees with NO heat-waves. Last year (200&) we saw the return of summer with two sporadic outbreaks of severe weather, one where while at work, the tornado warnings sounded and I was hunkered down in a ditch at work as a landscaper here on the seacoast. Tornado warnings in NH? No, you're not mistaken. Our state averages 1.5 tornado's a year and rarely do they ever cause any significant damage. But what's happened here this summer.. is definitely proof that the earth is changing.

After returning home from the VT100, the seacoast of NH was still bone dry with even some sun poking through an otherwise hazy afternoon. And then the storms rolled in. Once severe storm after another. The thunder rolled all night long where we had nothing but continuous thunder and lightning from 5:30pm until well after 11pm. Then, that surprising finale of a storm that hit around 2 am. The lights flickered and lightning struck so close to our apartment that we were treated to that ever so bright and shocking, "Flash BANG!" I got very little sleep that night, and then the next few days were crap shoots. Monday was hot and humid one more with temps topping out at 92. Then Tuesday it rained off and on all day long which eventually ended with downpours and another warm southerly wind. Wednesday we knew Thursday was going to be a washout, so we busted hump at work to mow as many lawns as we could in an event to stay ahead of this "weather game." Thursday I woke up to an odd day. It was raining buckets all night Wednesday and by Thursday morning it was yet to let up. I was poking around here enjoying another day off due to the weather... and then the TV went to the Emergency Action Message. "Tornado Warning, get indoors immediately. Get in your bathtub and cover yourselves with pillows." Could this really be happening in NH?! The place where just last summer we only had 2 thunderstorms all year. The same place where the word tornado is just another word for, thunderstorm with strong winds?

I turned News 9 on to see what was up and the News was in full swing and would be all day. It was actually happening here in NH; a report of a funnel cloud in Atkinson. I immediately called Sarah on the phone to tell her once again she was missing all the action here in New Hampshire while she was stuck at work in Boston. News 9 continued to report trees down, power outages and reports of a tornado in Deerfield, Northwood, Pittsfield, Barnstead, Alton... What the hell is going on here?! My buddy Pete lives in Deerfield, I'll give him a call. The cell phone call I had with him was nothing more than him telling me he was in Manchester and had no idea what was up but guaranteed Deerfield was spared.. Meanwhile, the line of storms continued to move East and finally settled in over the seacoast. For those of you who have seen the movie "Independence Day." You remember what the cloud looked like before we got our first glimpse of the alien craft... this is what I was looking at from my apartment.

The National Weather service has confirmed that the storm was an EF2 Tornado with winds in the area of 111 to 135 mph. The tornado tore through 11 communities.
Deerfield: 23 buildings damaged, 5 homes destroyed.
Barnstead: 40 homes suffered significant damage, More than 100 were lightly damaged
Ossipee: 1 home destroyed, 50 homes damaged
Alton: 43 homes damaged
New Durham: 1 home destroyed, 3 homes suffered heavy damage, 20 homes had minor damage
Effingham: 5-10 homes damaged
Other towns reporting damage were Epsom, Freedom, Wolfeboro, Northwood and Pittsfield.

In Northwood, NH; a house on Northwood Lake was literally ripped to shreds. Inside a 57 year old grandmother was killed. An infant suffered injuries as did grampa. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families. I took a drive up Rte 16 this weekend to view some of the damage. You know... you see images on TV.. but it doesn't sink in until you see it for yourself. A 1/4 mile wide path of destruction. What I saw today was an entire forest mowed down by the "Hand of God." I was in awe, saddened and frightened. Here are some photo's I took.


Today the severe weather continued again as a strong line of thunderstorms swept from west to east. As I was driving through Manchester, I was shaken a bit by numerous cloud to ground strikes and more of the "flash bang!"
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I finally got back to running on Friday when I took a trip to Wakefield, Ma to check out the 24 Hours Around the Lake event held there every year. This years edition was the 12th Annual. I mainly went down to help my friend Hans Bern Bauer a little bit with his running of the event. Hans has won the 48-Hour event at Across The Years the last 2 years running and is a master at these timed events. It was a rather cool evening on Friday night with a light breeze coming off the Lake. I actually shivered a little bit as I watched Hans take a few laps.

Upon initially arriving at the event, I immediately set to helping fellow Ultra-Runner Chris Martin with setting up the main aid station at the Start/Finish Area. We set up the banquet tables under the tent that had been set up over a grassy area. Thursday's heavy rains that hit the area flooded the grass area and the aid station was now set up over a small swamp. Runners going for aid were all but guaranteed to get their feet wet. We made some rhyme and reason to the aid station. Soon the race organizers showed up... the "Somerville Road Runners." This pretty much says it all... "ROAD RUNNERS." I've said it before (and pissed some people off in saying it) and I'll say it again.. Road runners are a different breed. Typically high strung, high stress individuals with a lack of communication skills. After spending a good hour helping set things up; I went over to finally introduce myself to the Race Director. I told her my name was Sherpa John and I was volunteering a bit. She lightly shook my hand and completely snubbed me like my volunteerism didn't matter to her. I was ticked by this as a fellow Race Director. If someone helps me for even 30 short minutes in Pittsfield, VT... you bet your ass I'm going to shake their hand and make them feel like a part of the team no matter how busy I am.

I then elected to take a HUGE step back and let these people work their magic. What I saw was probably the most unorganized 12th year event I have ever seen. Cars driving through the parking lot that the start/finish was at.. hel.. Cars driving ACROSS the course with runners trying to pass through. There was a water only aid station about 2 miles in to the 3.14 mile loop. I brought Hans' Cooler over there and told the volunteers what I was doing.. they could have cared less. I'd be surprised if no one stole some of Hans' drinks. As runners ran in on each loop, they had to figure out what side of the shute to be on. Marathon runners to the left, 12 and 24 hour runners to the right. As they ran in, I got to see an absolute melee and myriad of runners all yelling their numbers at once. IN the mean-time, race workers yelled the numbers back in return while other people yelled out their time. You can imagine the unorganized chaos this looked like. And the aid station I helped set up... it was so far back off the course that as of 4 hours into the event I was yet to see anyone even remotely acknowledge its existence!

I finally took 2 laps with Hans clocking my very own 6.28 mile run. My legs were so tired and tight that I ended up chasing Hans the entire way around the Lake twice. I was beat! After the run I went home for some much needed sleep as I continue to recover from the VT100. I have not talked to Hans yet but I did get a phone message from him. Hans had dropped early and did not win the event. He sighted race related issues with nutrition and non-race related issues.. and issues with the race. Hmm. Hope everyone else faired well in Saturdays 90 degree heat on that 3.14 mile paved loop. Either way, I showed up contemplating running it myself. I am glad I saved my $85 for something else more worth it.
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Saturday Night I met up with Adam at Bear Brook State Park around 8:15pm. With headlamps and flashlights we ran 10 miles in the night around the woods. I had a great time with Adam but it was pretty clear that my legs and body are still very much tired. For some reason I was VERY paranoid in the woods Saturday night. I felt like we were being watched, followed and... something just didn't seem right. When I was afforded the chance, I ran hard in an attempt to get to the car faster. I ran so hard at times that I got the side stitch pretty bad. After finally getting in the car, I was still paranoid on the way home. Everything was freaking me out.. even light poles.

I don't know what's up... but I think I am in need of some rest. Thankfully the next 2 weeks will afford me plenty.

Happy Trails!