Sunday, January 31, 2010

THE STREAK!


On New Years Eve I wasn't sure what I was thinking. The beer and hard liquor from a night of celebration had been talking to me, putting crazy ideas in my head. A few what ifs... I don't knows.. maybes. An then the clock hit twelve... and as 2010 turned into being one hour old.. I found myself running through snow coated streets in one of America's Oldest towns... drunk and wobbling my way to my buddy Pete's house. The first mile of 2010 had been run... and the idea to run a mile or more EVERY SINGLE day of 2010 was born. And then later that day, when the liquor wore off and the hangover raged on... I knew I might be biting off more then I could chew. So I decided to kick it down a notch and simply try to run every day in the month of January... and initially, given my track runner since.. oh.... since I started running... I thought this in itself would be impossible.

24 days in.. I find myself running a 50K through the streets of Hillsboro, NH being fed ideas about running a naked mile on the 31st... if I made it. With giddy excitement, and a little disbelief that I'd make it... I agreed to appease the running faithful.. sure, I'l run a mile naked.

So here I am, 31 days later, sitting down at the computer with a nice cup of hot chocolate. Typing this while in my boxers, socks, long sleeve shirt.. still a bit chilled.. thinking about all that has happened in the last 31 days. After all... 31 days isn't that long a time frame... or is it? I think about my two weeks in Pinkham, running in sub zero cold.. and hell.. even a few days here on the seacoast running in sub zero temps. Snow, rain, ice.. bitter winds... snow blasted face... Running in the winter in New England is no fairy tale.. no joy ride.. but to prepare for the year ahead it must be done. I started the year feeling like a sloth.. up 10 pounds... and now after 31 days of running, I'm 4 pounds lighter then that, I feel great and running strong. This is just the beginning.. One month down... just 11 to go... one mile at a time, one mile a day. Impossible is nothing... anything is possible.

For those of you who chickened out last month.. creating your own streak.. and assembling your next pile of excuses.. I dare you once again... START TOMORROW..2-1-10... The streak begins again. Day 31 turns back into day 1... And now.. for your viewing pleasure... the streak!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hammy Slammy in Hillabammy

1-24-10
Hammy Slammy in Hillabammy
Hillsboro, NH - Henniker, NH
32 Mile Run
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I love traditions and there is none better then the tradition started a few years ago by myself and a few friends then to run at least a 50K in every month as possible. Typically we'd start the trend anew in january and see how far it would carry us. The original plan was to run the Boston Prep 16 Mile in Derry, NH.. twice. A stunt we had managed to pull of the last 2 years previous. But a visit to the races website just 2 1/2 weeks out showed the race as all ready full with "no exceptions." Last year, after the race had filled, I contacted the RD and managed to weasel myself in. I didn't want to go through the trouble this year with the "No Trespassing sign" clearly sitting at the races front door. So I contacted Josh to get a feel for a new plan and what I got in return excited me, "I'm ahead of you Sherpa.. 16 mile loop here in HIllsboro.. Run it twice.. at our pace." It sounded great.

So in typical Sherpa-style I arrive for our predetermined 9am start at 9:45 hoping Josh and the gang had waited. Indeed they had. I quickly assembled my needs, readied myself and we stepped out the front door. Temps held steady in the lower 30's, Josh and myself trotting slowly down the dirt road and Leah on her bike. I didn't care how fast or slow we went.. I only cared about the miles. No word of a lie.. I was nervous as hell. Even though my running streak was now up to 24 days.. I hadn't completed a long run since some time in November. Could I hold up? Can I still do this? What if I bonk or peter out and want to quit?... ah yes. It's that same level of uncertainty, that level of risk involved in thee adventures that lures me to them. And without a second thought, I was running down a long road.

Josh designed a route for us using the mapping software on runningahead.com and google maps. I really liked what he had in store for us. We meandered out of the neighborhood he currently lives in, ran under Route 9 (RANH Route) and ran down a road just parallel to the highway yet offers a much more scenic offering. I quickly realized how much more I would have enjoyed this stretch of the Run Across NH if I had taken this road instead of Route 9. We ran along side the Contoocook River all the way towards Henniker. The river ran smoothly, gurgling every so swiftly towards the Merrimack Waterways. We on the other hand enjoyed the great conversation in getting caught up.. and catching each other up on those we know. Yes.. we be gossipers for sure.

As we entered the town of Henniker we both stopped for a bio-break. I walked off of the side of the road and began to do what I do.. when I did what I tend to do. I was not happy as I dashed off into knee deep snow for cover from traffic rushing by and yes.. even the local police station about 200 yards away. Josh went ahead as did Leah while I tended to myself. I gave my gloves to the ultimate sacrifice, left the snow encrusted woods, and caught up to Josh to fill him in on the hold up. Within minutes I had a few new nicknames the likes of Poo Poo Picasso and Doo Doo Da Vinci. After rounding the turn in Henniker we were now all ready half way through the first loop. The work is now really ahead of us as the larger and more frequent hills on the route lay before us. With an equal amount of straight aways along the way, it was easy to pick up some time. Soon we made it to the Emerald Lake Area. This final 4 mile stretch to complete the loop was mind numbing and slow. The roads are dirt.. now mush from the rising temps now in the low 40's, filled with potholes that resemble the likes of a mine field.. and after almost 16 miles of running.. the boys are getting tight and tired.

After loop one we duck into the house to clean ourselves up, to refuel, to get reorganized and to pick up Loni. Loni seemed on the fence about joining us earlier in the day and I was most excited to see her ready to go upon our return. After snacks and drinks (some of us literally), we stepped back outside and began to run once again. With fresh legs in the group and after a short rest, we had some spring back in our step as we plodded along, though I feel like as a whole the group was more tired then anything else. I know I certainly was but I also had a bit of drive to push the envelope a little bit. So as we took the turn back onto the road parallel to Route 9, I opened up the gas a bit and fell into rhythm. Having the iPod blaring helped, and with leah by my side to keep my mind occupied, I pulled away from Josh and Loni for a little bit to allow my body to finally experience a little flow.

As we reached Henniker.. all that Jazz had come to a screeching Halt. Loni was thinking of turning back to home a few miles early though we wouldn't let that happen. Josh and I were tired enough that our running turned into faster walking with a few moments of impressive shuffling thrown in for the hell of it. Either way, we were still laughing hard enough to make our faces hurt. The once sunny skies were now overcast as the temps continued to rise ever so slightly. A chilly wind graced our faces every so often and as one cohesive unit we made our way back towards the farm. Emerald Lake was even longer this time then it was last.. or so it seemed.. yet we survived. We dragged our feet across thawed out roads and arrive once again at the residence of Ms. Loni.

A HUGE thanks goes out to Josh for hosting the first 50K of the new year and for waiting for my butt to get up there. We really did have a great time laughing and yucking it up the entire way. This is what it's really about. No one wore a watch, we had no expectations or constraints... we simply ran.. and had fun.. and enjoyed it for what it is.. Always an Adventure. It's always nice to know you've still got it. As endurance athletes we sometimes take advantage of our base level of fitness... but we also sometimes forget just how far that level of fitness can carry us. On this day.. it carried me 32 miles.. on day 24 of the streak.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 22...

Streak Day 22 and I'm still heading out for a run. There is no doubt that I'm feeling rather tired but it's still up for debate if it's because of a lack of sleep or if its from the constant struggle to run. Yeah.. I'm a runner and I struggle every day with a lack of motivation. Hard to hear that from a guy who has now run for 22 consecutive days, all of the days of 2010 and the new decade. Every day before I even lace up my shoes I say to myself, "Maybe this is the day I'll take a rest.. this is the day I'll take a goose egg." And then I remember, that one rest day easily turns into 2 and 3.. and I'm back into that other vicious cycle. I'd much rather have a cycle of movement, of exercise and well being.. then a cycle of slothery and laziness.

I am feeling MUCH better then I have in previous months. Happier, healthier. My pace has picked up averaging 7:50-8:05 miles as opposed to the usual 8:45-9:30. My leg turnover rate is much improved as my pace stays below 10 minute miles while running up long hills in the neighborhood. I've had a good time exploring new roads and new routes here in Epping. Not far from my front door, maybe a half mile up the road are a cluster of large and expansive horse farms; the smells that emanate from this area reminds me so much of the Vermont 100 and as the road turns to dirt and gravel I cannot help but slip into memories of races past. I get excited and I get hungry... hungry for that finish line once again. New buckles, new people, new places.. I have been reminded why we train.. why there is this time of year in New England. While I certainly hate winter.. I enjoy throwing myself to the elements and testing my mental toughness. I've run in rain and snow. Under sunny skies and star lit skies. I've trotted down icy streets, through frigid puddles and been stood up straight in ferocious bone chilly negative zero winds. All in 22 days... and yet I remain in constant motion.

This Sunday is the first 50K run of the year, returning to an old tradition of running at least one ultra distance run in each month of the year. Josh Robert is hosting this weekends run, two 14+ mile loops in the town of Hillsboro, NH. After the two loops, a tiny trot down some snow covered trails to bring the run up to 50K. If any one would like to join for one or both loops.. please by all means let me know. It is never too late to test yourself and it is never too late to start your own running streak. Even if it is only 1 mile a day... it's better then ZERO miles a day.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Now Accepting Nominations..

Friends,

I am now accepting nominations for this month's "Hero of Running." What I'm looking for is someone in your running circle, or someone whom you know about that continues to explore their own Human Potential above and beyond the realm of your weekend warrior. I'm NOT looking for someone who win's races, top 10 runner and the usual ad nauseum... I'm looking for those that continue to inspire others through the basics: LEft, Right, Repeat.. a lot of heart.. and a great story.

You can nominate your Hero of Running by sending me an e-mail: Sherpajohn@gmail.com

The winner will appear here next week as January's HP Hero of Running.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Streaker...

Sounds like a movie title I'm sure. I've finally returned home from the great white north an accomplished man. I completed and passed the SOLO Wilderness First Responder course and so I am now officially a WFR. I"m very excited about this because now I am back on track with my schooling and going in the right direction.

On top of that, the streak is still alive. I have run 15 days... all 15 days.. in 2010 totaling one mile or more. This has been tough to do given the environment I lived in over the last two weeks as well as the traveling to and from home. However, these are small sacrifices to make in order to keep the drive alive. I am starting to feel good again. My pace has quickened, my legs are turning over fine and now I just need to get back into the longer runs for the endurance. On Sunday the 24th..I plan to run 50K in Hillsboro, NH with Josh Robert to seal the deal on the month of January and to have officially kicked off the 2010 training on a good note.

And of course... while staying in Pinkham Notch, I had a great time on Wednesday night hiking under the light of my headlamp once again. This time.. it was Wildcat "A."
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Pinkham's Grant, NH
Wildcat "A"
19 Mile Brook to Wildcat Ridge and Back


The plan to hike Wildcat "A" on Tuesday night came to abrupt halt after forecasted winds were for 75 mph with higher gusts. With temps dropping and a windchill advisory in effect, we decided to make the decision to move the hike to the following night. As Mike Innes and I left the car off of route 16 at the 19 Mile Brook Trail trailhead, it was a balmy 20 degrees with no wind at all. With our headlamps dawned once again, we made our way into the quite night as we listened to the waters of 19 Mile brook babble all along the route ever higher.

Mike is a professional guide for the AMC's Highland Center having moved here from Colorado following guide duties out there. And now, we worked along side for the WFR course and enjoyed each others company on our way to the top of another winter peak. Down low, the valley is coated by 2-3 feet of snow. The trail was hard packed from snowshoe traffic creating what we like to call a "highway." We moved steadily ever higher, crossing over the smaller brooks that feed into 19 mile, all the while listening to what water rage underneath that we could. As we reached the height of land where the Appalachian Trail intersects our route of ascent.. the wind picked up and the temps dropped into the single digits.

We beared right and immediately started to climb to the top of Wildcat "A" from Carter Notch. The trail begins to rise immediately and begins to give us trouble. Recent high winds has blown copious amounts of snow across the Wildcat Ridge Trail creating drifts that in a few places were chest deep. Lifting the leg high enough to break down into the snow was trouble in itself, never mind the slippage that happened from there. I blazed the trail through this final .7 mile stretch rising 1000' easily in a short period of time. Snow was everywhere, at least 4 or 5 feet in the woods and with the snow covering the trees it was as if we were marching through a tunnel of white.

Reaching the summit, we were treated to sites of grandeur. The towns of Conway, Glen, Jackson and Gorham all silent and lit up below while a canopy of stars twinkled above. Not a sound could be heard aside from a calming breeze that tickled the frozen trees. Below us was the humble lights of the Carter Notch Hut, illuminated by the seasonal caretaker. After a short break we returned to the woods having stepped away from the jagged edge and removed our snowshoes. We walked back onto the trail where I sat down in the snow and glissaded back down towards the notch. We bare booted the final 4 miles to the car, drove into Gorham and enjoyed a greasy BK Bacon Double Cheeseburger for dinner. The entire 9 mile trek took us 3:45 and we returned to the lodge with enough time to shower and read our books before dozing off into serendipitous slumber, dreaming of more summits to come..
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And now I am home.. where streak day 16 has come and gone.. still on task... training for Project 2010.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pinkham's Grant

For the past week and the next week to come, I've been staying at the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center in Pinkham's Grant, NH taking a Wilderness First Responder Course. At the completion of the course I will indeed have (hopefully) received my WFR Certification necessary for my work in the Outdoors. I'm very excited about this prospect and I've been not only learning much about Wilderness Medicine but have been enjoying the savage landscapes as well.

For those unaware, PInkham Notch is the trailhead for the famed Tuckerman's Ravine at the base of Mount Washington. Home of the world's worst weather not to be outdone during the winter months. This time of year, hikers from all around the globe descend on Mount Washington to try and hike many of the mountains storied routes; some as preparation for summer attempts on Everest. Though I have yet to make it to the summit while on my stay, I have continued to extend my streak of daily exercise.

Monday I ran 3 miles on Route 16 heading North just past the Wildcat Mountain Ski area, turning around and heading back.
Tuesday I ran 3 miles on Route 16 the same route as the night before and followed the run up with a 1 mile hike of the mountain which concluded with a suicide sledding trip down the groomed slopes.
Thursday an easy mile in the notch and Friday saw an easy mile here in Epping upon my weekends return.
Running on Route 16 is tough. Not only am I at 2000+ feet elevation, but I fight constant snow in single digit temps with winds blowing over 40 mph not only causing the snow to sting but dropping the windchill to well below zero. It's been tough to get out there and run everyday.. but even if for one mile.. just 8-10 minutes.. I'm making it happen.

But Wednesday is where the real story was. There was no run.. but I did enjoy a wonderful trip to the summit of Wildcat Ski Area known better to the peak-baggers about as Wildcat "D" Peak. Marion, from UNH, drove the 2+ hours to join myself and 6 others from the WFR course on a night hike of Wildcat. We met at 7:30pm at the PNVC, drove the half mile to the ski slopes parking lot, suited up in a stiff 40+ mph wind, dawned our headlamps and began our climb of the mountain.

As soon as we hit the ski slopes the wind whipped the snow in circles, shook the trees hard enough to hear the clatter of branches collide against each other with a faint whistle and moan. It was a damn cold night yet the higher we climbed and as the ski slopes wound their way over ridges and into sheltered area's, we enjoyed many moments of calm to no wind with just an ever dropping temperature. About 1/3 of the way up the mountain, the snow guns were blasting a mix of water and chemical into the frigid air causing a constant snow storm for the next few miles. These guns are loud as the high pressure hose shoots water out. There was no way of hearing each other and out group had begun to truly spread out. I am not that great a hiker in the mountain, slow and steady I get there.. not without a slow slog and some infinite complaining.

As I marched higher and higher, I continued to move on without my shell on. Thankful for the thought of layers, only my outer most short was caked in ice to the point that not only was it soaked but frozen. I couldn't straighten out my arms as ice covered me from head to toe. My pants were stiff and the snow-guns covered me with icy spray.. my headlamp had a solid half inch of ice on it making it very difficult to change the modes on the light or turn it off... yet we continued on as I started to pick up those fast few who took off out of the gates.. just like in a race, I caught those who were a bit over confident at the beginning.

Emily was struggling. Only wearing one shirt she was soaking wet, slowing down quickly yet in high spirits. Feeling "out of shape" she continued to push on to the summit regardless. Her hair was encased in a layer of white armor, ice from the snow-guns had clumped her hair together. She stopped at about the 3800' mark and asked if her ear was white. Upon looking, I was indeed surprised to see the early signs of frostbite occurring on the top of her ears. Her only hat was a knit hat attached to her pants, filled with snow and wet, she took out her neck warmer and placed it on her head instead. Trying to encourage her to put her shell on, she refused with the top in sight. We continued on..

We finally made it through the snow gun's after struggling through knee deep heavy wet snow close to the guns turned into mounds of new powder on top of frozen groomed trails. Now that the guns were behind us, the trees grew smaller in height and the winds returned. Wet, tired and slowing down, the winds chilled us to our core. As we reached the top of the ski slope, the temperature read 4 and the winds howled out of the WNW at 40+ mph making the windchill around -20F. We all huddled inside the ski lift station, still warm from the days ski operations. We all took off our soaked layers, and put on our down jackets, goggles and face protection. We marched out of the lift house and made our way to the Appalachian Trail, walking the last 50 yards to the summit tower.


We all huddled on the tower as the wind whipped and howled through the summit communications tower, a small metal structure barely hanging on and once blow over by hurricane force winds during a nor-easter. Below us is 2 to 3 feet of unbroken snow. Original hopes of hiking the ridge a few miles to Wildcat "A" were dashed upon our inability to locate the Wildcat Ridge trail. Since the last big winter storm.. no one had been across making that trek a few hours longer then normal.. if one could even locate the trail during the day never mind at night. So.. we all turned around and returned the way we had ascended the peak. Headfirst into ferocious winds.. I had to stop and put on my goggles as my eyelashes began to freeze shut. I was so cold yet smiling brightly.. embracing the harsh environment and the extreme's of being at over 4000' once again.. at night. I took out my sled, sat it on the groomed slope and zipped down the ski mountain at speeds approaching 25-30mph at times. With nothing but a headlamp to light the way and having to constantly wipe my goggles clean it was a suicide run in not having much of the ability to see... the world rushed by as even the darkness seemed to move. What an amazing rush as plumes of powder filled the air behind me..

As I return to the great north again next week.. I look forward to sharing tales of more great adventures with you.. and I also look to continue my streak of running and hiking.. day 10 awaits!

GO PATS!
SJ

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Here We go..

MId week last week I got an e-mail congratulating me on getting into The Barkley Marathons. I was confused as I had heard nothing from the actual RD of the race. Upon further investigation, I discovered that I am indeed #6 on the events waiting list. Given that 6 are sure to drop out.. it looks like I'll be headed to Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee some time in April to try my luck at the Barkley. What is the Barkley you may ask??

The Barkley Marathons is a 100 Mile Run and a 60 Mile Fun Run held annually in Frozen Head State Park near Wartburg, Tennessee in late March or early April. The course itself, which has changed distance, route, and elevation many times since its inaugural run in 1986, currently consists of a 20-mile (32 km) loop with no aid stations except water at two points along the route and the runner's parked car at the beginning of the loop. Runners of the 100 Mile version run this loop five times, with loops three and four being run in the opposite direction and loop five being runner's choice. Runners of the 60 Mile Fun Run (considered to be harder than Hardrock) complete three circuits of the loop. With 54,200 feet (16,500 m) of accumulated vertical climb, the 100 Mile Run is considered to be one of the more challenging ultramarathons held in the United States, if not the world. In addition to running, competitors must find between nine and 11 books (varies per year) and remove a page from each book as proof of completion.

The cut-off time for the 100 Mile race is 12 hours per loop, and the cut-off for the 60 Mile version of the race is 40 hours overall, which averages out to approximately 13 hours and 20 minutes per loop. Since the race's inception in 1986, only eight runners (Mark Williams 1995, David Horton and Blake Wood 2001, Ted "Cave Dog" Keizer 2003, Jim Nelson and Mike Tilden 2004, Brian Robinson 2008 (course record 55:42:27) and Andrew Thompson 2009) out of more than 650 have completed the 100 Mile race within the official 60 hour cut-off. In 2006 nobody finished even 60 Mile Fun Run in under 40 hours. Best woman achievement is Sue Johnston's 66 miles (106 km) in 2001. More than 30 competitors failed to reach first book (2 miles).
The race is limited to 35 runners and usually fills up quickly the day registration opens. Potential entrants must complete an essay on "Why I Should be Allowed to Run in the Barkley." The course was designed by Gary Cantrell. His idea for the race was inspired upon hearing about Martin Luther King, Jr's assassin James Earl Ray escaping from prison, and making it only 8 miles (13 km) after running 55 hours in the woods. Cantrell said to himself "I could do at least 100 miles." Thus, the Barkley Marathon was born.

So I guess the officially means that with racing ultra season coming earlier then planned, I now need to officially get off my butt and I'm getting off it by challenging myself to a streak. I hope to run at least 1 mile every day of 2010. Now of course I'll run many more miles on quite a few days, but regardless.. the idea is to give my body at least 7 or 8 minutes of exercise, every day, guaranteed. With that being said... I challenge all of you who read this blog to assemble your own challenge.. your own streak.

I'm not sure how someone prepares for Barkley but my mission is to simply prepare by doing what I love to do. Climbing mountains, running long miles and stepping off trail for some bushwhackin' good times. So stay tuned for upcoming days in Pawtuckaway with a map, compass and snowshoes.

My lord... what have I gotten myself into!
SJ