Sunday, February 24, 2008

RR: Run The Kanc V3.0

“The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.” -Robert Cushing

Map: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=1649511

Saturday, February 23, 2008

6pm Lincoln, NH – As I drove up I-93 I was treated to a spectacular sunset to the west. Darkening skies faded to purple, blues and oranges as the sun set behind the ridges beyond. I arrived in Lincoln and pulled into the White Mountain Visitor center right off the highway. The parking lot was bustling with snowmobilers coming off the trail and a few heading out for a night ride. It’s pretty chilly in Lincoln but it could be worse. I see Nate Sanel and Greg Stone getting ready to go next to The Shuttle Connection van, a shuttle service usually catering to hikers as a transport from trailhead to trailhead.

Flashback – Our original plan for this day, was a 40-mile run across the ice of Lake Winnipesauke. But after a series of sleet storms and a recent snowfall of 6+ inches following a few days of warm temps, we knew the ice wouldn’t be safe. On Wednesday Nate and I knew we needed a new plan. I came up with 3 or 4 other runs we could do at night and running the Kancamagus Highway was my last resort. After reading my e-mail over a gin and tonic, Nate signed up for my last resort as his first and only choice. My reply? “Ok dude, you asked for it!”

6:15pm Shuttle Van – The three of us piled into the shuttle and headed east joking and laughing away, psyching ourselves up for the unique journey run we were about to embark on. I couldn’t help but flash back to the two other times I’ve run this 35 Mile Road, both times during the daylight hours of Labor Day Weekend in 2005 and 2006. I’d completed the journey before and know what it entails; Nate and Greg really had no idea. On the other side of the pass, we asked the drive to stop at The Pine Bend Brook Hiker trailhead so we could stash some liquids in the woods. This is the perfect spot for a drop as on our way west, the climb really starts here. I stepped out of the van to stash the bottles and man… was it ever cold!

History: The Kancamagus Scenic Byway passes through the heart of the White Mountains while traversing the flank of Mt. Kancamagus, filled with scenic areas and overlooks. The road meanders through vast forests, old logging roads, and Indian hunting paths."The Kank," is a 34.5 mi (55 km) long two-lane road that runs, east and west overall, through the White Mountains of New Hampshire in New England. Part of New Hampshire Route 112, it is generally considered one of the most scenic drives in the region. It has been designated a National Scenic Byway by the United States Department of Transportation. The twisting, rural highway is occasionally closed for short times during winter due to snow. The highway, which opened in 1959 after two dead-end stretches of road were connected, runs from the Pemigewasset River in Lincoln, and along the Swift River from Kancamagus Pass (elevation 2,855 ft) to New Hampshire Route 16 in Albany

The highway is named after Kancamagus ("The Fearless One"), who ruled as the third and final Sagamon of the Panacook Confederacy (sometimes spelled Penacook) of Native American tribes in what is now southern New Hampshire. In 1691, due to fighting with English settlers, he made the decision to move north into upper New Hampshire and what is now Quebec, Canada.

7pm USFS Saco Ranger Station, Albany, NH – We piled out of the shuttle laughing at what the drive must think of us. We had to explain to him a few times that this was just a training run for us as we run 50 and 100 mile races. He’s used to getting hikers from a trailhead back to their car, not dropping folks off in Conway so they can run back to Lincoln. As he drives away we are now stranded. It’s a frigid 19 degrees in Conway, the snow banks are 7-8 feet in height and the snow behind the banks is just as high. We’re all ready talking about the chil in the air and we can’t help but be nervous. As we wait for Nate’s Garmin to hone in on a satellite signal, we do our last minute rituals and think about what it is we’re about to do. 35.5 Miles from this point to our end location in Lincoln. We’ll climb 2,372 feet of elevation from here to the top of Kancamagus Pass at mile 21. We have no car to aid us anywhere on the road. We have no escape plan. Our plan is to run to our cars 35 miles away and pray that if anything were to go wrong, god forbid, we could easily flag a passing car down. Nervous? Yes we are, but there’s no time for that in our game. Off we go…

The Run – The road leaves Conway/Albany pretty mellow. A light snow was falling from a light wind shaking the flakes from the boughs of tall fir trees. At this point in our run there are quite a few cars coming and going from each direction, skiers and hikers heading home from their days long adventures. Every so often we’d pass by a driveway with a cabin buried somewhere beneath all the snow. Sometimes there’d be alight on, and most times it would be some place closed until Spring. Though the road feels flat., I know better as we have all ready began our 1% incline towards the top of the pass. Its 22 miles away at this point, and the road is deceiving.

I’m not feeling much like a runner at this point. My legs are tired and its very hard for me to get into a groove. Its petty cold out. For clothing I’m wearing a techwhick long sleeve under top, a short sleeve techwhick shirt, a long sleeve techwhick shit from the Disney Marathon (mmm.. warm temps!), we’re all wearing our Stonecat 50 techwhick shirts as well. I have a pair of fleece arm warmers on under all of that and a pair of gloves. I’m wearing an ibex winter beenie and a neck warmer/buff. Down low I have fleece running tights on, followed by techwhick under bottoms and then a pair of fleece pants. 2 pairs of socks and my trail runners. In my pack is a down jaket, extra hat, gloves, neck warmer, balaclava, 32 oz of Gatorade, 8 oz of water, gels, cliff shots, cheese, trailmix, a knife, wallet, phone, keys and that’s about it. No wonder I feel bogged down.

We continue on our journey west. About 4 or 5 miles in a car comes up from behind us and the driver slows down and rolls down his window, “Now THAT is what I call dedication!” We eplain we’re running to Lincoln and he asked if we just wanted a ride. We decline and thank him for his kind offer before he drives off. As we take to the series of sharp turns in the road, the wind picks up and whips down along the frozen swift river. Its really cold out now with the wind yet we have no choice but to keep moving forward.

We use our headlamps early on to try and pick out black ice on the pavement below. We stopped many times to answer natures call and even take a few walking breaks. Finally at mile 7, tired of feeling sluggish, I stop and take a gel. It didn’t take long for it to kick in and I finally start to feel like a runner. We settle into a slow groove and push on. The cars are now passing less frequently. The night is very quiet, there is no longer any wind and yes.. it’s still pretty cold out. We run through various pockets of air, sometimes it felt warmer out, other times it was downright frigid. The liquids in our handheld bottles were turning to slush. Greg’s later froze nearly solid and Nate’s camelback tube froze to the point that he was not just carrying 2 liters of liquid and unable to drink it. Perspiration froze on our clothes, my hat was frosty white and Greg had an ice beard.

As we pass the Champney Bolles Parking lot, we smell the burning of a campfire. There are no longer and houses or cabins on he side of the road and Greg concludes that, “Some crazy guys are camping out here!” I laughed at his statement because there were also some crazy guys RUNNING out here. Never in my life did I ever think I’d be running this highway at night… especially in the winter! The further in we got the bigger our smiles got. It finally began to sink in how cool this journey was. To think, that to our knowledge, no one (or not many) had ever done what we were currently doing. Such a cool feeling as we knew this run was truly, Epic.

Every time a car was coming from ahead of us we could see headlights flash in the snow. As cars would come from behind we could hear the rushing sounds of the tires followed by light illuminating us from behind. I notice this illumination effect happening and as I looked back there was no car and no sound. Puzzled I deducted it could only be one thing. A little further up the road the light was truly bright now and I told the guys to look back and there it was. Rising from above the trees was a huge full moon. Our headlamps turned off as we no longer needed them. The light of the moon reflecting off of the snow all around was enough to light our way to our journey’s end. It was truly an amazing and breathtaking sight which caused us to stop and reflect at how lucky us 3 men really are.

At mile 16 we reach our drop spot. I climbed the snowbank with a little help and grab our bottles. We stopped to drink, eat gels and other foods. I changed my hat and neck warmer to a drier pair and we tried to get some liquid in our handhelds as opposed to our slush. The Gatorade in my pack is still relatively warm from when I filled it at home but my water was starting to freeze up. The temperature was easily around 6 degrees so standing here long was taking its toll on me. I started to shiver, my hands hurt from the cold so I began walking.

From here the real work begins. Nate asked, “Is this where the climb starts?” Technically it started when we started but a short ways up the hill, the pitch of the road gets steep and the work begins. Greg takes off ahead of us and Nate and I enjoy the views as we begin to walk the hill at mile 18. Its 4 miles to the top from here with 1,196 feet of elevation gain. The 1% grade we’d mostly followed for the last 18 miles is now at a crushing 8%. As we walked and walked and walked up the road, very few cars were passing now. A short ways up the road a car heading our way actually pulled over and stopped to ask us if we were ok and if we needed a ride. We thanked the driver for stopping and declined. Though we were NOT surprised that more car’s didn’t stop, we found it pretty interested that more people didn’t. Think about this, you’re driving down a mountain road at midnight. You’re about 13 +/- miles from the nearest town when you come across a couple of guys running. Wouldn’t YOU stop and check on them? Simply amazing at how many cars did not. In fact! Most of the snowmobilers who drove by, did so at an alarming speed, honking horns to startle us and one driver ever swerved in a way that his trailer actually swerved near us! Simply appalling! We even had a cop drive past us!

As Nate and I continue up the hill with our headlamps off, the views become more spectacular. The moon is completely illuminating the valley all around us. We can see all the way back towards where we started this journey. The mountains popped up from the land as black silhouettes, the snow on their sides glowing like the brushstroke of an immaculate painter. In fact, in all my years running and hiking in these hills, I know there is an immaculate painter, and I thank him for the beauty he bestowed upon us.

As we crest the pass and reach 2.800 feet, we all give a sigh of relief at the hill FINALLY being over. But as we run over the crest and start to run downhill, our legs begin to protest. After using our “up muscles” for the last 22 miles, we now have to pound our way down 13 miles of down hill losing 2,300’ of elevation back to our cars. Our feet hurt from the pavement and our knees began to click and act funny. Such is the life of an ultra runner.

The views of the western valley are far more dramatic and spectacular than our views to the east. The Osceola’s and Franconia’s stood out in the night sky. At first the Westerly wind blew in our face, not a friendly occurrence when the temp as dropped to –1 degree F. It was cold before, but now its REALLY cold. My cheeks hurt and my clothing was freezing to my body. The warmth of my car isn’t so far away anymore. However, as we stopped at the hairpin turn to get some fluids in us, it was evident that Nate’s frozen fluid situation was not good and we needed to find hi some water. We all shared what we had as we continued down hill.

At times as a small breeze brushed across our faces, we could smell a musty stench coming from the woods, evidence that a Moose was not far from our position. All along the way we’d been admiring the footprints of the various animals who make this land their home. At Mile 30 we reached Lincoln Woods parking lot, where there was a bathroom I knew would not only be open but is typically heated all night. Thankfully if was both on this night as we stepped inside. The cold was making our muscles tighten up, stiff and rebelling against us. The welcome warmth from the kerosene heater was a welcome pleasure at this point in our journey. As we used the heater to thaw out our liquids to a point where we could actually drink, it was also an opportunity to warm up our legs and get them loose again.

As we stepped out of the bathroom, the cold air shocked our bones as I shivered a bit on the restart. My feet are very sore but my legs feel fine. About a mile down the road, the tube Nate had thawed out and the other drinks we managed to deslush.. were all ready frozen again. Down in the valley the temp was 19 degrees with a windchill of 8. Much warmer than the –1 at the top of the pass and the biting wind that accompanied it. We ran past the Loon mountain ski area, marveling at the groomers working on the trails. We pass a sign that says, Welcome to Lincoln, resorts and time shares line the roads and soon we’re inside town running past the various shops. We made it! We did it! We ran 35.5 miles in bone chilling cold, no longer were we warm blooded mammals but cold-blooded warriors. We felt great. Nate ran the last 50 yards with his arms in the air. What an adventure as we finish just after 2AM. As cold as it was and how challenging this run was, it was well worth it. I thank god that we all made it to Lincoln safely and we had all came well prepared. I wish I were in some of the cars that passed us as drivers scratched their heads wondering if they were hallucinating.

A huge thanks to Greg and Nate for joining me on this amazing journey run. I feel well prepared for my upcoming snowshoe marathon and later the McNaughton 150 Miler in April. This journey through running has changed my life and invigorated my soul. I again challenge anyone who reads this to dip into their souls and reach for a new beginning. Dig down and reach for the impossible and make it possible. Your body is an amazing instrument, one that is not to be left unused. Use it and use it even if only for your own personal good. The soul building you’ll achieve is worth more than any over priced “thing” you could ever buy.

“Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” -Joshua J. Marine

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

RR: 2006 Vermont 50

"... Perhaps the genius of ultra-running is its supreme lack of
utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers
to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame,
frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and
philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life
than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively.
And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They
understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit
will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing
distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being --
a call that asks who they are ..." ~David Blaikie 

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

I woke up this morning, still feeling sick, but I had a new feeling with it his day. I’ve been sick with severe diarrhea and stomach pains for the last 2 weeks and limped through it with a cold. My only hope is that today I can hyper hydrate properly and keep fluids going during the race tomorrow and not fall into renal failure. This is my biggest and only concern. But the weirdness I feel this morning is for a different reason.

In April, my grandfather passed away from Cancer. Last night, I finally dreamt about him for the first time since. He was sitting in a wheelchair as my Uncle Steve, Moe’s brother, (Who passed away 1 week ago) stood with him. My grandfather never came to one of my races, but this morning I felt like, yes he had. In my dream he sat street side of a long race waving an American flag with a smile. I cannot express to you in words the feeling this dream gave me, but we’ll say my confidence is up. I am humbled and I am ready to go. Today would have been his 86th Birthday, which makes this race EXTRA special to me and the mental game will be pressed.

Unfortunately, one of falls signature events in New England is coming in from the west. A HUGE storm system that has plagued other parts of our nation is about to sock it to us. Rain, severe thunderstorms and nasty winds are forecast to effect tomorrows race. While some worry, I’m excited. FIFTY (50) MILES. As if that isn’t challenging enough, Mother nature will suck the life out of every man and woman that steps foot on tomorrows course. Dirt and gravel roads will turn to a soaking mess and the stress put on each runners legs will increase with the sloppiness of mud on the trails uneven slopes.

Sarah and I drove to Woodstock, VT where we found Drew watching the local high school football game. His son (hozzy) used to play on the team and he is very much still a faithful fan. As soon as the game ended we headed down to Ascutney Mountain Ski Resort to pick up my race packet. As we drove into Brownsville, I was excited to see the many signs welcoming runners and bikers to the event. I also got a little nervous as a lump formed in my throat. All I could think about was, “What the HELL am I doing here??” We found a place to park and headed inside to check in. As we entered the Cunningham building, it was easy to find where runners checked in. The line for Mountain Bikers was LONG… I would eb the only one in line for runners. I gave my name and got my bib number and freebies. A shirt, nice ibex wool hat, some elecrolyte capsules and a ticket to the BBQ at events end. We wondered around for a bit, enjoying the band and taking in the sights and sounds of pre-race jitters. I looked over and noticed Charles Dona (VFTT – Youngblood). His girlfriend Melanie who I have hiked with before, was taking part in the 50 Mile Mountain Bike Race. She won 24 Hours at Great Glen in the spring and we all convinced her to move from Sport Veteran to Expert Class for tomorrow’s race. After we introduced them to Drew we all enjoyed some great conversation before heading for Drews.

When we got to Pittsfield we were welcomed warmly to Camp Drewski by Drew’s wife Judy. Judy made us a wonderful Spaghetti and meatball dinner complete with New England Apple Pie. The leaves outside are chaging and they fall as the rain picks up again. After dinner I did the dishes and thanked Judy for her hospitality, Sarah cracked jokes about me being so homely, and we relaxed around the TV with College Football before bed. I’m anxious to get this thing over with now.. but first I need some sleep. At 8:30pm we all hit the hay and I dream once more of the day to come.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006 – RACE DAY 

At 3 Am I woke up, WIDE awake. I simply could not sleep anymore and was excited to get going. After a quick shower and some breakfast, we all got in the cars and headed for Ascutney. It was still very much dark out when we reached the resort and we parked in the same lot that many competitors camped out in last night. I got my gear together, clothes, lubed up, waterbottles filled and was ready to go. I went to the check in table and checked in for the race. I waited in the now short (short lived) line at the porta potties and started prepping for a LONG day. I’m very nervous but I know I have a job to do. Though the task at hand is rather large, I am confident that I will at least finish. But the MAIN goal of the day is to finish the race… not in just the 12 Hour time limit.. but in Under 11 Hours. Finishing the race in under 11 would qualify me for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. The WS100 is the countries “Super Bowl” of Ultra Running and qualifying for it is a HUGE deal. And for those who read my blog, you know it is a dream of mine to go.

The stage was set, the goals are clear, Sub 11.. Max 12. I began my stretching as the Bikes lined up and started by Class. The 1st group left at 6:15 and every other group left in 5 minute incriments after that. We lined up on the starting line at 6:32 AM. It was easy to see that us runners are a different group. Unlike the bikers who looked as if they were a hoard of fierce competitors, us runners milled around the starting line, joking and having a good time. It was very lax and this helped me to be of sound mind. 6:37 AM… GO!

My greatest adventure yet.. had just begun. The Vermont 50 MILE Endurance RUN

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The Run 

Its hard to sit here now and type a trip report for every waking mile of this race. There are some miles I rememeber, yet to type about it would be too repiticious. The course wound itself through Vermonts rural countryside. We ran through pastures, up and downs hills, through farms, across babbling brooks, on gravel and dirt roads, etc. I hope to do my best to depict for you some of the moments that stick out in my head and some thoughts I remember having during this event of great endurance.

After running down 3 or 4 miles of gravel road, we finally entered the woods for a short time, before re-emerging on road and into checkpoint 1. There I heard a cowbell and a loud “Lets go Sherpa John!” It was Andy all ready out there cheering us on. We had run the first 4.3 Miles in a meer 47 minutes. Not too fast or too slow of a time but still a testanment to the hills we had all ready encountered. The entire 50 Mile course had an elevation gain of 9,600’ and we would feel EVERY push more and more the further along we went. I had hooked up with Joe Desena, Drew’s neighbor who was also running in the race, and the man who I was supposed to pace at the VT 100. Joe is an experienced tri-athlete and adventure racer and has also run in the worlds TOUGHEST ultra marathon, the Badwater 135 Mile Run. I figured I was in good hands if I could stay with him.

After a quick pit stop and some cookie consumption, I refilled my water bottles and we continued on down the road and onto the trails for quite a long stretch. From here the trail follows along very hilly terrain on ATV and Snowmobile trails for almost the entirety of our run. And for the most part we were follwing single track left behind by the 650 mountain bikers that took off before us. 2 Hours and 17 Minutes into the run we reached mile 12.5, Skunk Hollow, 21 minutes ahead of schedule. We are a quarter done.

At Garvin Hill, Mile 20.6, the checkpoint crew prided themselves on being parrot heads. As Jimmy Buffet played in the background I told them how I could go for a cheeseburger in paradise. Before I knew it I was handed a cookie that looked like a cheeseburger. 2 thin mints inbetween two nilla wafers with cocnut around the outside painted green to resemble lettuce, plus and unidentifiable yellow substance in the middle to resemble cheese. I scarfed it down as if it were the last cookie on earth.

At Cady Brook we reached the halfway mark and were in some serious need of water. The checkpoint was situated next to a beaver pond and we swore that is where the water for the checkpoint came from. It REAKED of sulfur and even tasted like it. For the next 6.2 miles I would hardly drink at all. Sporadicly my body would sing between highs and lows and I was beginning to question my endurance. Could I really make it all 50 miles? The bad water is setting us back but we continue to push on. The hills are getting steeper and longer it seems. My quads are starting to burn and I’m tired of going UP. But I must push on.

When we got to Smoke Rise, Mile 31.9, I ran up to a horse trough and used it to clean out my water bottles. As I scooped water in, swished it around and dumped it out, a checkpoint worker said, “uhhhh, I’m pretty sure the horses drink outta that.” ANYTHING was better than the sulfur water we just dealt with and I could have drank from the trough no problem. They refilled my bottles and off I went. No time was wasted at checkpoints at all. As we left here and continued on up yet another hill, we heard a rumble of thunder, then another, then… we were in the middle of a thunderstorm. It rained buckets on us for the next 30 minutes as we pushed on up the rain slicked gravel roads. We began to pass mountain bikers who had a rough time maintaining traction in the mud. When we entered the woods, soaking wet, the trails were a muddy mess. There was only one way to run now and it was to run on the leaves on the shoulder of the trail and hope to not slip and fall. Things were a mess and the mud was tiring our legs.

Mile 35, Dugdales, we saw Sarah and Drew again as we emerged from the woods a muddy and rain soaked mess. I got some ramen noodle soup to suck down for sodium and warmth. Sarah helped me at least change socks. We stayed in this checkpoint a bit too long. After we left, I had to keep stopping to get rocks out of my shoes… I need new gators in a bad way. Now that the rain has stopped, the sky was turning sunny and blue. The colors of the folliage are glowing brightly and as the wind picks up it now starts to rain leaves. I had just also set a new personal record for 50K distance of 6 hours 36 Minutes.

Joe was all but pulling me now. All I wanted to do was walk. We walked MORE uphills and as things flatened out or went downhill all I wanted to do was walk some more. I’m getting very tired and my quads are killing me. Joe would turn around and say, “ready?” and without time enough for an answer, we would start running again. We hit a section of switchbacks and it was rather steep. The mud was ankle deep and very slick and it took all we had to stay upright without falling downslope into the woods. We passed more bikes who looked to be in rough shape and all but calling it quits. They were pushing their bikes because they couldn’t ride the mud. Many of the bikers had all ready finished. We lent whatever encouragement we could.

Mile 41, Goodmans, as we exited the woods and onto another gravel road, I’m in rough shape. My quads are ripping from the bone and I’m running only by leaning forward and letting gravity take me. I thought the checkpoint was Mile 43, and when Sarah said 41, I was mad. I was in a low and quite angry and snapped at her. Ahh yes… the cranky runner. She forgave me and ran a bit with me. After running 1 tenth of a mile with me she says,”damn, that hurt my legs.” I told her to multiply it by 1 billion and we’d have a talk about pain later. I’m in a state now I have never experienced before, I’ve run 6 miles MORE than I had ever run before and yet.. this race is about to change dramatically.

As we left the checkpoint we re-entered the woods and all of a sudden I came out of the low. I felt like a million bucks and the end was near. Though my quads still hurt, I put the pain behind me and carried on. Everydown hill and flat section was run. Every up-hill was walked and even some of those were run. Something we like to call “Relentless Forward Progression” was now taking over. There was no more “If I finish…” it was when. We ran down the trail which crossed many gravel roads before we finally emerged to run downhill on one. After a left and a right we ran through a landowners farm land. Then past another farm where Drew was waiting at the edge of the woods. As he ran into the woods to get ahead, he slogged through a mud hole and asked how we were. “Andy, I’m in a lot of pain..but I feel great.” I set a fast pace out of the woods and took a rest to walk a bit on the next road. Across the river I see the next checkpoint and I yelled to Sarah to get me some Gatorade and e-caps. We round the corner, cross the bridge and we’re at the final checkpoint, Mile 47. Three Miles to go.

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The Finish 

From the final checkpoint the last 3 miles are some of the toughest on the course. We hike up Mount Ascutney for 2 miles, run across the mountains slope for a half mile and then run a half mile down the ski slopes to the finish. One look at my watch and I was getting a bit choked up and emotional. Joe was done running for the day and led for a time. But I was anxious to finish. I took the lead and pushed up the last BIG hill. I was in the zone and on a mission. I thanked Joe for hanging back with me. I think he could have finished an hour ahead of me but he insists otherwise. I thought of many things through this section. Though I was focused, my mind wandered.

Its been a year and a half since my first painful ultra. The 2005 Wakely Dam ultra where I hobbled across the finish. From a failed attempt at the Fitch 46 to a failed attempt at running the Kancamagus Highway. To redemption by coming in 3rd in Pittsburgh this year to running the a second try and completion of the kanc this past Labor Day. Much can be said about those who fail, but much more is said for those who are resilient. Its been a long road to this day and I’ve learned so much more about the person inside me.

We cross the first slope and cross out onto the second. The trail turns to head down hill. We hear music and cheering and see the finish. I well up inside and begin to cry. I’ve just run 50 Miles… FIFTY Miles… a distant that even as I write this now, I cannot fully comprehend. Despite my aching quads and throbbing feet I run down the slope as fast as I can. I smile and thank god for the strength. I wish my grandfather a happy birthday, run over the final rise and see my Crew… and more.

Standing on the finish line was Sarah, Drew ringing his cowbell, my personal trainer Corrin who made a surprise trip with her friend despite moving to philly and my best friend Sam and his mom. I was so happy to see everyone. I smiled, pumped my fist and ran across the finish line. I thanked Joe one more time, looked at my watch and trealized the impossible… I did it!

I ran 50 Miles in 10 hours and 32 Minutes. 17 Minutes faster than my planned pace and good enough to qualify me for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. My name will now be entered into a lottery where I hope to be chosen. I am beyond happy and life is certainly good.

Next Race.. THIS Saturday 9/30... The NH Marathon, 26.2 Miles... seems like a jog now.

(Note: I came in 4th out of 9 runners in my age group which is 0-29 years of age. It’s a real challenge to run in the minority group of ultra-runners but am excited for the days when I am in the “PRIME” group. Much practice to be had! 67th out of 130 Runners overall)

"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit." - George Sheehan

"Far away, there in the sunshine, are my highest aspirations. I may
not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in
them, and try to follow where they may lead."
- Louisa May Alcott

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Hancocks.. Again.

Saturday, February 16, 2008
North and South Hancock
9.8 Miles in 4 Hours 33 Minutes
Weather: COLD! 8 Degrees for a high
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A group of friends from www.rocksontop.com had organized a group hike up and around the Hancocks for this past Saturday. Originially, Sarah and I were to join them, but the forecast of extremely cold temps kept Sarah inside for the day. ONe of our friends had also flown back to NH from So. Cal to pay her respects to her deceased grandmother. This altered my plans quite a bit for the day. I went from wanting to join the party, to planning a snowshoe run in order to make it home in time for dinner.

I met up with my good friend Charles Donna in the frigid parking lot off of the Kancamagus Highway east of Lincoln, NH. The snowbanks here and on the side of the road tower over every vehicle that travels this road of frost heave shimmy shake. Charles was ultra-light and perhaps under-prepared while I, a bit slower, was toasty warm and ready to go. A we took off down the trail, Charles charged ahead at lightning speed. I'd like to say it was only the Northern Lights Ultra Light snowshoes he was wearing, but as my friend Tom Ryan would later profess, "The dude is all Tendon." A few times Charles stopped to wait for my slow and sluggish butt, only to finally tell me he had to go ahead without me otherwise he'd freeze to death.

We started passing the small groups, all part of the large group, of hikers along the way. All parties started at staggered times this morning, in order to ensure the trail was never over crowded. First we passed Lawn Sale and his group, then Unfrozencaveman and his group of ladies. From here on we had to maneuver through a trail of barebooted nightmare! I was pretty upset to think that even though we have over 5 feet of snow on the ground, people choose to CARRY their snowshoes rather than wear the damn things. The integrity of the trail had been vastly neglected and my ankle rolled more than my fair share of times. As I caught up to Hikerbob's group, I ran into the culprits. I don't know who they were but I made sure they knew that they had made my travels a little more difficult, to which the response I got was, "What? We're not sinking in." Well... it does't take much to ruin a super highway of a trail. The 2-3 inches that they WERE sinking in was enough to drive me nuts and make me work a little harder than I or anyone else needed to. I carried on without argument as I think my tone said it all. My appologies if I offended you folks... BUT WEAR THE DAMN SNOWSHOES!

As I continued to move up the trail, Charles came running towards me. "You done all ready?!" Charles determined that it was much too cold for him in his unprepared state. He was opting out of the hike at 4,000' to do some running on the Lincoln Woods Trails. I wished him well and carried on. I passed Cumulus and the Steve eventually catching Drew and Tish who were in the lead, breaking trail for all of the parties behind. HIking with Drew is always a pleasure as we certainly know how to get into trouble. We chatted away as we climbed the steep steep slope of North Hancock. As we reached the summit, I started to get rather cold from the slower hiking and now being stopped. I had to bid farewell and continue on before I went crazy with pain in my frigid feet.

I was now alone and in the lead. As I made my way from North to South Hancock, I was the trail breaker.. but also the trail finder. There was so much snow up there that trees in places that would normally tower over my head, I was now walking above or at chest level with. Pushing through the jungle of firs, getting lost a few times and scrambling up slopes of deep powder made for quite a workout. I left all kinds of messages in the snow along the way (some of the usuals) and as I reach the top of South peak, I took in the views on this gorgeous yet frigid day in the whites.

The other party was hiking these peaks as part of a sledding mission. As I began down the luge run of South Peak, I had no sled and knew conditions at this point were unsafe. The trail was still unbroken and as I started to break it up, I sunk through a level of hard sleet and ice crust which wreaked havok on my shins. I was not a happy camper, clinging to trees avoiding various face plants and broken appendanges. Once I made the bottom it was clear sailing out. On the way out I ran into Tom Ryan and his Dog Atticus. Tom and Atticus are attempting to hike all of NH's 4,000 Foot peaks TWICE in one winter on behalf of the MSPCA - Angell Animal MEdical Center. Please visit their blog to read more about their amazing friendship and adventures!: http://www.tomandatticus.blogspot.com/ It was great to talk to Tom beofrs currying back to my car. I floored the pedal and made it home just in time.

Another great day of training in the Whites. I hope to get a few more in over the next month before winter Ends. It hasn't been the season I had hoped, but its been fun none the less.

For photos from other folks visit the ROT thread and click on their appropriate links! ROCKS ON TOP REPORTS

Happy Trails!
SJ

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Half at The Hamptons


When: Sunday, February 10, 2008
What: Half at the Hamptons
Miles: 13.1
Time: 1:58:01
Why: Pacing - 9 min milers
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My training continues towards my 2008 ultra-running season opener at the McNaughton 150 Miler in Pekin, IL this April. Along the way through these brutal winter months in New Hampshire, I have the need to find ways to motivate myself through another week. This week, has been by far, one tough week, earning every mile I ran. The weather this week has been stormy, with mother nature showing us a wide array of weather. Today would be no different.

From time to time it is nothing short of a STELLAR idea to do something that gives back to the running community around you. These days, not only do I find myself directing a race in Vermont, and sitting on the race committee for 4 others, but I decided to give back locally. I volunteered to be a pacer in the Inaugural Half At The Hamptons at Hampton Beach, NH. I offered to be the 9:00 minute man, and lead runners to a 1:58 half marathon, sub 2 hours.

I showed up not knowing what to expect. I had only paced in an ultra previously, at a time in a race where speed was not an issue and survival was. Today would turn out to be much different and more difficult than I had anticipated. As I strolled out for a 2 mile warm-up at my normal pace, I realized that the GPS watch I brought with me to provide the pacing, had low batteries. 6 Minutes into the run, the watch died. I knew right then that this could be interesting. I returned to the hotel to talk with a few other folks I have met in races previous and stay warm before the start of the race. I wandered outside and stood beside the road, spoke with other runners about "human potential" and then headed for the starting line.

The race as a whole was a truly classy affair. They played the National Anthem before the start, gave every runner a quality tech shirt, medal, and what I like to consider "minimal aid" for a road course. Either way, it was a fantastic event. I highly recommend the race to any first time or veteran runner. As the gun went off, I settled in to what I felt was 9/min miles... only to find out at Mile one that I was actually running 9:30's. CRAP! I'll now need to pick up the pace over the rest of the course to ensure everyone sub 2 hour finish. At mile 3, I was still running 30 seconds behind. This was rather frustrating to me.

Let me tell you how tough pacing was. Not only did I not have a watch and would ask out loud for the splits at mile markers, but every time I would pass someone, they would speed up to get back in front of me. This set me off into race mode and I'd hunt them down, this was not good because I felt like it was to the detriment to other runners.I tried my hardest to run my own race, keep it slow, catch up steadily... it was hard work for sure. Immense pressure to say the least. But I enjoyed it. I had a small contingent of runners who stayed with me, and it was a pleasure to have them.

As the race wore on, what little sunshine we had disappeared. At mile 7, an older gentleman had collapsed to the road and was slipping into shock. We later heard the medical staff arrive. The winds shifted and picked up, the sky darkened and it began to snow and rain pretty hard for the remainder of the race. The race directors asked me to run the first 5 miles at 8:55 min mile pace and then ease off. Not only had I failed at doing this, I was kind of glad I had seeing as I do not agree with this mentality of running. I'm a neg split kind of guy. Start off easy, settle in.. kick in, head for home. This is how I ran the race. As we slowly covered the course, those 9:30 miles quickened to 8:45 min miles with 2 or 3 miles to go. The ocean was a gorgeous green as waves crashed against and splashed over the sea wall. It was beautiful for sure.

It was incredible to cross that line at EXACTLY 1:58:01 and manage to get these folks to their 9:00 Miles. I watched as a few rose their arms in victory celebrating their accomplishment. Even a few "I did it!"s were heard. I turned around and gave high fives to the very last of the sun 2 hour runners. The headed inside to warm up and eat. I enjoyed a harpoon beer and some soup. A few of the runners I paced, came over to thank me. How very cool it was. As an ultra-runner, I often tend to forget that a few short years ago, I was in this mass of runners, just having finished a race of this length, thinking there was no further than that. The accomplishment in and of itself was HUGE. Even though now it seems lack luster and just another run on the training schedule... It was great to give back and to help share strength and courage with many others. Run strong folks!

If you haven't given back to your running community yet... think about doing it.
Happy trails!
SJ