Monday, January 26, 2009

RR: The Boston Prep x2

Frigid Loops
Boston Prep 16 Miler x2
Derry, NH
16 Miles x2
Lap 1: 2:37:13
Lap 2: 2:50:22
Run Time: 5:27:35


The Boston Prep x2 is a tradition I started in 2008 and hope to continue in the years to come as one of my winter training runs. I posted on a few running websites and looked like I had a decent group ready to run with me this year. But as quickly as numbers came, they went.. going from a group of 7 to a group of what looked like 4. As I drove to the morning meeting place for our 6:30 meeting time, I noticed one of the bank thermometers read -10 degrees. I wondered how big our group was actually going to be. Upon arriving at the Derry Village School, the number was a tiny 3 of us. Bob Ayers had driven down from Burlington, VT to join me on both loops and Steve VanOrden from Newmarket had agreed to come out for the first loop only. Their company was greatly appreciated on what would turn out to be a frigid New Hampshire morning, an a great day for a run.

I arrived fashionably late in what is best known as "Sherpa Time" and quickly laced everything up and got ready to run. It was damn cold, and there are only a few times in my life that I've actually been out to run in temps this cold or colder. As we started to head up the hill to the official starting line of the race, the cold air was piercing through my fleece lined gloves and my hands were experiencing sharp and frigid pains of freezing. It was so cold and dry that the skin on my right thumb cracked open and I was soon bleeding. Not a great way to start a long day of running in these conditions but I have work to do.. it's time to get back on track.

Our small group quickly sunk into your typical telling of various ultra and life tales. At a time in my life where it is impossible to predict where my brain is bound to travel , the conversation was nice as it really started to help bring things back into a perspective I've been missing. As we carried on down the frigid roads of Derry we passed over Green spray painted lines in the road, and before we knew it, a nd a few hills later.. we were all ready halfway done the loop. Amazing how much good conversation can help make the time pass. I didn't wear a watch today, so I had no idea how much time had passed. I just knew that the goal of loop one was to take it easy, run when I could, walk the hills and just enjoy the company. This is exactly what was accomplished. I was covered from head to toe in a thin frost that was caused by the condesation of fluids from my body. My hat, my gloves, my fleece neck warmer.. everything had a thin layer of frost on it and Bob joked that I looked like Frosty The Snowman.

As we made our way up "The Hill" at Mile 11-13, Bob supplied me with many quips; one in particular sticks in my mind. "Not bad today... better tomorrow." This would become the focus of my thoughts for the remainder of the day as I would begin to struggle and look for that finish line. As we moved over the crest of the courses biggest hill and began our descent for the finish, my legs and brain started to tire. It was so cold that the fluids in my handhelds were a concoction of frozen protein slush. Eating and drinking on this run was becomming a serious chore and things were unfolding just as I had expected they would. Steve was starting to tired and getting a bit quiet... so was I... I was wondering how a second loop was going to go.. I've done this long enough to know. I needed to really lace it up now if I'm going to complete the day.
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Loop 2: Miles 16.5-33
In returning to the school, I stopped off at my car to get my check book and head inside to register quickly for the race itself. Over 600 runners were lining up in this years edition of the Boston Prep 16 Miler and the small group of us joked if we thought we were "ready for Boston." I doubted it... not sure I'll ever be ready or even really care about Boston. WHATEVER. Ha! After getting my bib number and pinning it to my fleece pants I joined Bob out in the hallway as we said our goodbyes to Steve. I was starting to shiver from the cold sweaty clothes I was wearing and knew I needed to return to my car for a quick change. Bob's girlfreind had brought us many ultra-goodies and I stopped here first to enjoy half a banana, a cookie and refilled my water bottles before heading out to the car. At my car, I stripped frozen layers off, put new warm layers on and then quickly rushed out of the school parking lot with the rest of the crowd. Bob and I ran to the starting line where once we got there, I knelt down and tightened up my shoe laces. It was time to dig deep and really give it hell.

There was no gun shot, I didn't even hear a go. All I experienced was a wave of people all moving forward in unison and just like that, the second loop was on. The temp was probably around 10 degrees now which of course felt more like 30. The mass of runners head down the road, bottle necking one another as we stretched from snowbank to snowbank. The pace was comfy, but I could tell Bob was wanting and ready to run a bit faster than I. I was in the middle of a tough spot and was hoping to snap out of it. We giggled and rolled our eyes as we collectively listenned to the various conversations happening around us. Then we started looking at what people were wearing as many were dressed for arctic mountaineering expeditions rather then your 16 mile run. As I glanced over and noticed a guy in what looked like rain gear, running with a hiking pack on.. We chuckled as I looked closer... and i said, "Hey, that looks like Bogie D." Surely it was, and Bogie and I broke out into sarcastic and fun conversation. Bogie is an area Ultra RD and ultrarunner, just out for the race.

Around Mile 3.5 I stopped to relieve myself in the woods as Bob took off. I'm kind of glad that he did as it was obvious he was interested in running a different pace then I was for the second loop. Bob is in much better shape than I and I know he was really enjoying the day. After coming out of the woods, he was no where to be found and I was no struck with a sense of urgency as I was about to take on the final 12 miles alone. But I suppose this wasn't a bad thing because I was finally being given some time to challenge my mind in ways different than that in which I have implored as of late. I put my head down and started to struggle... what mile is it? Oh yeah... 20.. and that wall was right in front of me.

My bottles are completely frozen now haven been out in the cold for well over 4 hours. My gels are hard as a rock and I'm sure that I'm not squeezing out all of the gel that rests inside. I'm really struggling now. My legs are tired and so is my brain. I've been thinking for miles now. How did I ever run across New Hampshire? In a phone call post run Nate reminded me that currently I am dealing with depression, lack of motivation, recovery from a surgery that I haven't yet been cleared to run after yet and a severe lack of training. It's funny because I was thinking about all of the above factors around Mile 10 of Loop 2 (Mile 26) and thinking about quitting the run. Quitting the run... are you KIDDING ME?! I had just run a marathon, 10 more miles than all of these people will run today and I'm thinking about quitting. I stop and walk and manage to crack a bottle open to slurp down some slush. I'm hungry, my stomach is gurgling and I just want to be done. I'm sore. I haven't run an ultra distance since running across New Hampshire in the middle of October 3 months ago. "I can do this.... I can do this,... one step at a time John... one step at a time."

Yes... ultra running really is like life. One step at a time. Horrible now but maybe better later. I kept running when I could and for stretches shorter than I would have liked. I was like a wobbling ship on the verge of sinking in rough seas. From left to right, speed up, slow down. It must have been a gruesome sight to see. Where is everybody? Wouldn't someone come out to cheer me on? Anyone? No.. too damn cold... I'm all alone.. and just simply running. I wanted to quit, and then I started thinking, Well how did I make it across New Hampshire 3 months ago? Oh Yeah! I ran the flats when I could, and I walked all the hills... and I just enjoyed the journey. And so it was as well on this frigid day in January, that I churned my gears when I could, and walked more than I would have liked. When I ran I pushed at levels I should only exude in 5 and 10K's... I was on a mission to finish. There is no quitting.. there is no DNF... this is a tradition. Relentless Forward Progression.

As I crested that big hill one last time, and started to run the stretches for home, my calves began to cramp. One of the race staples is warm gatorade. I cooled it off by dumping a bit of cold water into the cups, and sucked down a few S! Caps to curve the cramps. I could barely run now, it was more like a shuffle. I could feel the chaff burning between my thighs and in my groin. I'm in rough shape now... I need this to be over with. I started playing "phone pole." I...walk...I...run....I...walk...I...run... etc. Anything to get to the finish line. This was at one point a race. I was trying to keep up with people in my general vicinity. I was trying to stop being passed, but with 2-3 miles to go, I could care less if anyone else was running at all. I just ran, with purpose when I could, and am determined to get this ship back on track. Mentally, physically and spiritually. I'm going to get there.

I rounded the turn and sprinted up the final incline to the finish line, finishing the actual race with a time of 2:50:22 my worst time here EVER. I placed 596th out of 655 finishers (803 Starters). Not the best results ever but I'm more than glad I got out there. After crossing the finish line I received my "finishers award" a hand towel from the 2007 Boston marathon... Left-overs. I went into the gym to get some food and drink... plenty to drink but all of the food was all ready gone. But that was ok.. I hopped right into my car, went to my mothers house and loaded myself up with some of her home made chicken noodle soup. That always cheers and warms you up. Thanks Mom.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bondcliff

Hike to Bondcliff
17.6 Miles
9 Hours 30 Minutes


I posted on a hiking forum to see if anyone would like to join me on a hike today. However, people were more interested in correcting the date I posted for Tuesday than actually considering hiking. Then I messaged my classmate Alex about the idea and he accepted the challenge. Alex arrived just after 5am. I was pretty much ready to go and was eager to make the drive up north. I needed to hike, especially to this place.. Bondcliff. I've said it before and I'll say it a million times, "If the mountains are your church, Bondcliff is the Altar." It is indeed a powerful place, at least to me, one of few spiritual places in my life. A place I know I can go to to dive deeply into my soul and try to figure things out. We arrived at the trailhead at 7am and we were on the trail for 7:20. Local thermometers ready -2, another great day in New Hampshire. The sun is still rising from the valley to the west as we took off down the gray and white colored trail. We step onto the bridge (see above) that ushers us and welcomes us into what I call "The Holy Land" better known as the Pemigawassett Wilderness. As we crossed the frozen river, chills ran up and down my spine from more than just the temp, I was once again home.

The Lincoln Woods and Wilderness Trails are very similar. Old railroad logging beds built in the late 1800's and early 1900's to drag countless amounts of timber from these woods. We walked briskly in just our boots through the endless tunnel of evergreens covered in white pillows of snow. It's always nice to have a good hiking partner. A good hiking partner is someone who knows when to talk and someone who knows when not to talk. Alex was one of those people as we moved briskly towards the Bondcliff trail. The river weaves too and fro from our vantage point on the trail. At times we hear its rushing sounds as it weaves its way through the frozen and unfrozen sections of itself.

We finally had to stop to throw our snowshoes on. While most of the trail up till now has been broken out for us, it is still powdery snow, slick and hard to manage. I had to wait for Alex to figure his snowshoes out, adjust them and strap them on. I ate and cold pretty chilly but he didn't take too too long. It gave me an opportunity to stop and pose for a picture.

From here we made our way onto the Bondcliff Trail. The 4.4 miles to the summit is home to a relentless climb, in fact.. almost all climbing. We followed a neatly packed out single track trail which was marked up by the snowshoes of the last passerby. For a time we observed the tracks of a wayward moose, whose tracks were huge and whom we hoped to not run into given the enormous size of the hoof marks. It was great to see the moose weave in and out from the trail to the deep powdery woods. The snow is 2-3 feet deep and getting deeper the higher we climb. The moose prints disappear and we monitor prints of either a bobcat or coyote. We climb higher and higher and begin to feel the temperature drop. The winds pick up from the south and snow begins to lightly fall from above. My plans of bagging 3 peaks today are beginning to dissipate, but thats fine. I've been here before. We continue on, cautiously negotiating a snow slope.

As we climbed ever higher towards the summit of our 4,000 foot friend, the winds continued to pick up and gust. Snow began falling a bit heavier now and the wind was knocking the large plumes of snow caught in the trees towards the earth. It was becoming hard to stay both dry and warm but we pressed on. We arrived at the Hillary Step and I motioned to Alex that it's a good time to stop and eat. So we stopped and added some extra layers of clothing and got ready for the wicked weather that was awaiting us on the summit and in this summits small Alpine Zone. Alex sat comfortably on a rock and ate hummus, crackers, cheese and who knows what else. He brought enough food and supplies for a small army. Me? I just ate from a bag of pepperoni and a small bag of trailmix. Stonyfield Farms yogurt smoothies are great energy as well.


After stashing our food back away, we loaded our packs back on and we made our way onto the summit area. We climbed the Hillary step and entered a world known only here, and the arctic regions of our world. Rime ice encased itself on the small trees known as krumholz. Views? There were no views, the summit was socked in and the clouds brought visibility down to about 50 feet. Winds whipped across the summit. What I remember vividly as warm summer winds the brush across my skin, are now frigid winter winds that chill me to the bone. The temp was around 0 with the windchill at around -15. It was cold, nasty and violent. We walked across the summit cliffs, following each cairn carefully from one to the next and then.. finally.. there it was...

........BONDCLIFF........

Bondcliff, a place where all the world seems lost and all that matters in the next few moments.. are you. The altar, the place where mind over matter doesn't matter because you're all ready there. As we walked towards the precipice, I fell into the snow and rested my back against the rime covered rocks. The wind gusted briskly and soon rime ice began to form on my pack, my poles, and even my frigid face. As I stared across the void the clouds rushed by and as we sat in silence my eyes played tricks. The powerful draw of the rocks almost appeared to be apart of a tv set, where static fills the screen. I handed Alex the camera, and I walked around the the cliff itself. I've been here many times in winter, never having stepped to the edge for fear of falling off, fear from slipping on the ice. Today, I had no fear, nothing else mattered to me but the chance to get on the cliff and do what I had yet to do over these last few months. As I walked out to the cliff face, I dropped to my knees in a drift of powdery snow, I reached my hands out to the ground and I crawled across and onto the cliff. I stopped and stayed there kneeling, the wind and ice crystals sandblasting my face, my eyes squinting, I closed them and stayed there, in one moment, the whole world seemed to drop from existence. There are no views here today, yet then again there is. When the winds and clouds shroud the views of afar, you are forced to view within. So as I kneeled on the cliff, I finally did it I asked god himself for forgiveness and to provide me with the courage and strength to continue on my journey. I told my grandfather I missed him and I spent a few moments looking within, the only view that was afforded on this day of arduous journey.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sword In The Stone


I stand upon the rocks, mercy in my soul
I grasp the handle of the trusty sword.
I pull with all my might,
the sword emerges from below.
I've got my weapon,
off to find that troll.

I jump from the rock
and dive deep into my life.
Where are those demons,
its time for a fight.

Not one, not two but three maybe four,
the demons are everywhere,
they make my life a whore.
I'm tired, and scared, its awfully dark in here,
no escape, time to fight,
can't take it anymore.

The demons come out,
they surround me on all sides.
I raise my sword, grit my teeth,
I stare confidently into the dark.
But as the demons approach,
I get scared, weak.... it's time to fight.
I must find the strength to fight on...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Boston Prep x2


Sunday, January 25, 2009
Derry, NH
6:30AM


The Boston prep 16 miler is said to be one of the toughest road races in New England. The very hilly course is appropriately dubbed as Moderately Challenging.

Last year we started a new tradition of running the BP, twice on race day.

Here is how it works.
We show up at 6:30am and run the course once as a group. The first running takes around 2:30. We return to the start/finish area and go into the school to retrieve our bibs. We then head back outside after a 45(+/-) minute break... and join the rest of the crowd for the actual race and it's 10am start. We then run the actual 16 mile race at our own pace.
Total Miles: 32

If you want IN.. you must let me know ASAP. You are responsible for signing up for the 16 miler. Once you do, I'll take your name and give it to the events RD who will hold our bibs for us for easy access after our first loop.
You will receive all of the benefits as the other 16 mile runners, pre and post event.

Who's in?!

SJ

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Aid Station Thinking


The sherpa flags are hung, but the wind isn't blowing. There is no flapping in the breeze. With a cup in my hand, I drink delicately from the waters of life... but nothing happens. I feel awful, sick to my stomach. I'm covered in mud, grit and soaked with salt saturated sweat. My feet are tired, sore and blistered. My muscles ache.. my mind is numb. I'm still just stuck in an aid station.

All of my life I've taken things to the extreme.. and every time I sit and ponder, "Why do I do this?" Why... why anything? Nevermind why... how about who? Who am I? Who I am? I have no friggin idea. Or do I?

I can trace my life back to when I was younger.. when I spent time with my grandfather after kindergarten. Every day we did the same thing. He'd pick me up and I go with him to work or back home for snacks and some time outside. We spend the summer evenings together. Regardless of the weather or any other eliminating factor, every night he would take me out for ice cream. Like clock work, we never missed a date... it was our time together. It's what we did. At age 14 my grandfather fell ill and it became my job to take care of him no. Instead of him buying me ice cream or toys, I washed him, bathed him, helped with the chores inside and out. I assisted him with his bowel movements, and every night I lifted him from his wheel chair and put him to bed. It was the very least I could do for a man who took such great care of me, my siblings and my cousins. He deserved the respect in return. But what I didn't know then I half suspect now, that these actions... this willingness to care for one another is part of what makes me who I am today... someone who takes everything to the extreme.

After taking care of my grandfather I moved on to soccer. I had always played, but I never obsessed about it like I had started to in High School. Major League Soccer was the new league on the scene and I was in 100%. I was pen pals with the league commissioner. One year, my mother and step father took me to Florida to an all star game. While sitting in the stands, I looked over and saw Doug Logan, the Commish.. I rose up, walked over and asked him if he had a pen pal in New Hampshire. The man turned, extended his hand and said, "It's a pleasure to finally meet you John." Just as I had been about my grandfather, I was now in love with soccer. I had the team pennant of every team in the league hanging on my bedroom wall. I had Jerseys for more than half of the league and wore them to school, switching teams on a daily basis. I lived, breathed, played, watched and ate soccer.

After soccer it was Backyard wrestling. I've yet to really talk about this on my blog but its true. I was a backyard wrestler for more than 5 years. All that I did for 5 years was talk to my group of buddies about wrestling. Planning our matches, story-lines, and in effect.. planning our friendships out. We practiced together, we wrote together, we laughed together. And once or twice a month we got together on a weekend and had weekend long camp-outs where we kicked the snot out of each other, power-slamming each other to the hard turf, hitting each other with steel chairs, garbage cans, ladders and baseballs bats wrapped in barbed wire. We put tacks into our faces and head.. we bled... we "lived" a wild life. But I was obsessed with wrestling. I owned action figures at 18, I went to all of the local PPV shows, even appearing on TV a few times in the audience. Life was all about wrestling.

After wrestling was done I moved on to hiking... I loved hiking. Being outdoors, fresh air, views, people. It was great. I obsessed about hiking. I hung lists around my room of peaks to bag. I kept tallies, and still do, of how many times I've climbed each peak and on which date exactly I had. Which trails I took and from which direction I sumitted in winter months. I even went so far as to making a documentary film about hiking and sold hundreds of DVD copies of the film to raise money for charity. But something happened to me while hiking.. I needed more.. I need to test myself a bit more.. this wasn't enough. I learned that it wasn't the hiking that I was obsessing about.. it was the challenge itself. The prospect of pushing myself to inconceivable limits and the idea of proving to others that I can do anything you say that I can't.

Or was that really what I intended? I started running between peaks.. then running at home. I honestly hate running. I train about as little as anyone I know and manage to do OK as a mid-pack runner. Am I obsessed with running like I was with everything else? No... I'm not. I'm obsessed with pushing the limits.. I'm obsessed with proving to others what I can acomplish.. and I am obsessively scared of rejection... of failure. Despite the many things I have accomplished in my life.. to prove to myself that I CAN ACCOMPLISH anything.. I still can't help but feel like a total failure. Deep down inside I know that one of the most important things in life, LOVE, is what I mess up the most. I mess it up because like everything else in life.. I become too overly obsessed with it.. and I push people away in the end. I'm my own worst enemy.. sabotaging myself and getting in the way of my own happiness with others.

I am still standing with a great opportunity before me. An opportunity to reshape my life and I am scared to death. For years my life has been pre-planned, laid out in front of me.. the ideas in my head were always in motion. And for the first time I can remember.. I am without a plan. I am scared shitless without it as well. I don't know where i am going or what I am doing. Who am I though.. who am I? I'm an obsession junky, and I'm stuck in the aid station and I can't get my ass out of the chair. I just want to love and be loved. I want to care about and be cared about. I want to hug and kiss and all the like. I just want to be.. but some days its just hard. Its hard to even get out of bed... its hard to stand up and face that guy who is looking back at me in the mirror. If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island, what and who would you take with you. I guess right now my answer is.. I'd have to leave myself at home, that guy in the mirror is better obsessing by himself.

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You Found Me - The Fray