Beginning Winter Training

Last weekend’s Ghost Train was my last scheduled race for this year and after I take this gluttonous, lazy week off, I’m going to start my winter training.  I started having some serious pain in the bottom of my feet, especially my left foot, so I might take a few weeks off from running and start next week with the stationary bike at the gym.  Looking back on how last winter turned out, I’m hopeful that I can add a little more muscle while I burn off some more chub.  Without the lead up to a race, I feel like I can get into a more regular running routine.  I still have the training plan my friend made up for me, and I intend to mix in some other exercises to get through this winter pain free.

I need, like really need, to start writing here again.  I feel better than I thought I would after running 45 miles last weekend, but don’t want to push it before I need to.  It’s a long winter up in these parts and I want to enter it healthy and strong.  This blog keeps me thinking about my training, and I definitely feel like I am deconstructing my running more when I sit down to write about it.  We’ll see, I’ve said this before and rightly neglected it.

39 Miles on My 39th Birthday

Well, this old man turned 39 on Wednesday and I decided to attempt dumping out my age over the course of the day.  When I first thought up this little plan, I also wanted to do different runs with different people that I’ve run with over the past year.  That worked out ok.  My sister and friend Chris were able to make it and my buddy John would have, but spent the previous day in the ER with blood poisoning…  seriously, what is this, 1915?  Get better buddy.

I started by going to bed early on Tuesday and getting up at 2:30 for a 3am start.  I wanted to get at least 13 in before I had to be back at home on account of my wife needing to leave for work around 5.  It felt good running in the dark, it’s been a while since I’ve creeped myself out on a trail, with a headlamp, by myself.  I was able to put in over 13 before heading home and making coffee.  At this point I felt good and was stoked to get a third of the miles done.

After hanging with my daughter at the coffee shop for a while, we went over to my folks place which is near one of my favorite, local trail systems, Drummer Hill.  After visiting with my parents for a bit, I took off, up the hills for a little over 7 miles.  I was a little worried about how my legs would respond, but they were surprisingly springy and I was able to have a great time bouncing around the single tracks and fire roads before heading back to my parents place.  After that, we headed home and I took about an hour before heading back out, this time on the roads to even my overall mileage at 24.  When I got back, I showered, tried to eat something and took a little nap.  Although I was only able to pass out for about 20 minutes, it felt good to lay down.  I then started getting myself ready for the last 15 miles which I was breaking up into 2 runs.

The first, a 3 miler with my sister, who is recovering from a bitch of a knee problem and the second, the last 12, with Chris.  The first run was great.  I haven’t run with my sister in a long time and miss our conversations.  I’m definitely ready for her to get healthy and back out there this fall.  After about 20 minutes, I headed back out onto the rail trail, up about a mile to where Chris lives.  From there we continued up the rail trail for an out and back.  You should know, Chris is a hell of a trail runner and when he takes me on runs, I’m usually following him up stupid climbs and amazing single track.  I felt like a baby, but told him there’s no way that shit was going to happen today.  He had no problem with it and was great slowing to run my pace and keep my mind light with jokes and stories.  If I ever run a 50 or 100, I’ll beg this guy to pace me, he’s great.

That’s about it.  The day ended with beers and burgers at Elm City Brewing Company.  Overall, I feel good about the day.  I wish I had planned out a better eating schedule.  I wasn’t able to eat any “real” food until dinner.  My nutrition over the day consisted of bananas, Honey Stinger Waffles, Huma gels, raw almonds and Tailwind.  Although I didn’t bonk on any of my runs, I definitely need to start taking in regular chow before Ghost Train in November.

39 on my 39th.  That’s how it went down.  Next year maybe 40?  All at once?  Yup.

TARC Spring Classic

Well hell, it’s about time I write something about my first marathon experience, so here goes.  I’m way late in posting this, and I’ve actually run another race after this one, but I haven’t been even close to having the desire to write.  Here I am now though.  With my first marathon in the books, I have a few thoughts about it and some thoughts about my first trail race.  First and way foremost, the Trail Animals Running Club was so superb in every way that I could have imagined.  The volunteers were so pleasant and helpful.  The course was well marked and clean.  The other runners were mostly considerate and fun and the weather was phenomenal.  First, some pictures, then a quick recap of the race.

We arrived early to the race in Weston, MA.  I really didn’t think it was going to be a problem finding a breakfast restaurant that was open at 6 am, but it was.  I freaked out a little until I found a gas station with a Dunkin’ Donuts attached.  I grabbed a couple of bananas and a packet of 2 Pop Tarts and had at it.  I think it was around 600 calories I was able to get in.  I was hoping for some waffles, but was happy I found anything that didn’t scare me too much.  When we arrived at the race and parked in the adjacent field, I noticed the guy next to us was wearing a DFL Ultrarunning shirt.  If you’re not aware, DFL Ultrarunning is one of the podcasts that I never miss.  I rolled my window down and in between spitting Pop Tarts through my beard, I gave a hearty thumbs up and said I loved the shirt.  The guy smiled and thanked me and that was that.  I walked over to where some volunteers were setting up registration tables and had a look around.  It was a chilly, but a beautiful spring morning.  After sniffing around a little, I went back to the car to start getting my kit ready.  As I got closer, I realized that the guy in the DFL shirt was sitting in the back of his car speaking into a digital recorder and immediately recognized the voice of Eric Sherman, the host of the DFL podcast.  Heh, I’m such an idiot.  When he took a break from his pre-race report, I introduced myself and had a laugh over the shirt thing.  We chatted for a few minutes and I quickly felt that Eric was a real solid cat, who really does care about the community and enjoys talking running.  He asked if I would be willing to chat afterward about my experience during the race.  I agreed and left him to visit with his co-host who was running the 50K.

The next part of the pre-race was pretty typical.  Getting dressed, getting lubed, getting my head right.  There were 4 different race distances, 10K, half marathon, marathon and 50K.  The course was a 10K loop with the half and full marathoners doing a little mini-loop before going out on the main loop.  The halfs did the loop once, the fulls did it twice.  This was the only part of the race where it was a complete bottleneck.  The first mini-loop was nearly impossible to run.  I was a little frustrated, but at the same time, I treated it as my warm up and didn’t really let it get to me.  After completing the mini loops, I set off on the true course for the first time.  It was a series of well maintained trails with only a smidgen of mud and only a few hard climbs that really aren’t all that hard.  I ran the whole course the first time around, but walked the steep hills on loops 2-4.  I used my pack through the second loop, but switched out to a single handheld at the beginning of loop 3 which was plenty for loop 3, but after getting a fresh handheld from my wife at the beginning of loop 4, I realized I should have brought them both.  I was trying to stay hydrated, but around mile 24 I got a bitchy cramp in my left calf that lasted mostly through the remainder of the race.  This is totally my own fault.  The only nutrition I used all race was Huma gels and water.  After chatting with Eric and another friend, I quickly went online and picked up some S!caps.  My final time was 4:43:32 which I’m happy with.  I was shooting for a sub 5 hour race and got it.

I think the day was made special, not necessarily by completing my first marathon, but by how humbled I was that my wife and daughter, sister and brother-in-law, my parents and some friends all drove nearly 2 hours to see me run.  It was such a lift after every loop seeing them all there cheering me on.  It was also really, REALLY cool talking with Eric Sherman and being part of his podcast. I also can’t say enough great things about the TARC community as a whole.  I’m already signed up for a fall race of theirs and might try to squeeze in some more this summer.

Inspired Again

Nothing bad has ever come from tacos and beer.  Last night the wife and I invited a fellow runner and new(ish) acquaintance over for some grilled chicken tacos and Stoneface IPAs.  I recently met Chris at our local coffee shop that we’ve both frequented for years.  After one of the baristas mentioned that Chris was an ultra-runner, I spat out my social awkwardness and introduced myself.  A week later, I was chasing him and his running partner up some hills in Marlborough and last night we broke bread tacos together.  Through all the reading I’ve done about trail running and all the videos that speak to the community, I’m becoming more and more convinced that it’s not bullshit.  They are some of the most welcoming and gracious folks I’ve met since starting this experiment about 10 months ago.  After just a few days, Chris had invited me on a run and never made it seem weird that I was there with them on the trail.  I consider myself a complete newbie to the sport and am still in the stage of laying low and watching the grownups do their thing.  Running with, or mostly behind, Chris and Keith, without being made to feel like I was holding them back, gives testament to the philanthropy of the trail running community.

marlborough_4.4.15_2

Yesterday was a truly beautiful spring day and it happened right when we needed it.  This winter was an especially cold and depressing season so the sunny, 70° weather yesterday was incredibly renewing.  After chowing, we all sat on the porch and chatted about some of Chris’s races and experiences on the trail.  He was gracious in answering what must have been child-like questions and took the time to tell some stories and have some laughs.  I woke up this morning inspired to hit the webs again with this little blog.  I have to remember that as new to this sport as I am, there is always someone who is newer than me.  My hope is that I’m able to pass whatever little bit of knowledge I have, down the line to the next person who will eventually do the same.

marlborough_4.4.15_1

On to a bit of a training update.  My first marathon is coming up in less then two weeks and I am at the point in my schedule where my weekly miles are shortening.  Last week I hit 40, but this week will be considerably less, probably somewhere in the mid 20s.  I’m still not sold on the whole taper thing, but I vowed to stick to the plan, and it’s been going well so far.  After Sunday’s 13 miler, I had a bit of soreness in my right knee, but nothing serious.  I’m hoping the let-up in miles will set my legs up for a smooth race, but who knows really.  Sure as shit, not me.  What I do know is that I’m still enjoying the run, the trails are thawing out, and if I was able to kick through 18 miles of knee deep snow, I can at least creep through 26.2 miles of trails.

Getting… Better?

It’s no secret I’ve been absolutely miserable over the past month.  It should also not come as a surprise that EVERYONE in New England has been been pretty-fucking-bitchy over the last month also.  This has made for a shitty all around experience for pretty much everybody.  Well, that’s maybe starting to kinda-sorta change.  The last few days have been amazing and I even got to run in shorts a couple of times and that made for a very happy dude.  On Tuesday I went out mid-day and actually busted my personal best times for the mile and 2 mile and nearly my best 5k time.  It feels like we’re finally climbing out of winter, even though this morning’s run was through much colder and windier conditions.  I can deal with the cold, I really don’t have a problem until it get’s down in the 0 to -20 range, it’s the sloppy conditions of the trails and roads that really bug me.  Most of the roads and sidewalks are clear with only some ice left over, but the as soon as the sun comes out, the trails are oozy, sleazy, slushy, slippery pieces of poo.  I signed up for a group fun run this Saturday which was originally scheduled for a 10 mile out and back on the exact trail I was on during Sunday’s 18 mile slog-fest.  The runner planning the run changed it to 6 miles and is starting it an hour earlier to try and get it done before things start to melt and turn to shit.  I hit most of the trail this morning and at around the same time as Saturday’s run and there were parts that were definitely messy, but all around it shouldn’t be too bad.

Things are starting to look up.  March crept in and nudged that runt-bastard of a month, February back to whence it came, hopefully not to be heard from again until next year.  I ended yesterday’s run at my daughter’s dance school and my wife snapped a couple of shots of us enjoying the soon-to-be spring!

one-off tee, but making more?

 

Yesterday I printed the first tee with my new design for the East Keene Running Club.  I’m planning on making some more if anyone wants in.  The shirts will be 100% cotton (printing restriction) for now, but I plan on printing some tech shirts when I get some extra dough to buy them.  The fabric is high quality and has an “athletic?” fit.  I’m also picking up some woman’s tees similar to the cut and quality of these.  Leave a comment, or email me at nat@greyrunner.com for more information or to just let me know what you think!

Front of the East Keene Running Club Shirt

Back of the East Keene Running Club Tee

Broken Month

this winter's broken me.

this winter’s broken me.

I’m going to get right into it, I’ve had a real hard time getting out there and putting in the miles.  It’s a total mind-fuck not having the motivation to go do what I love.  This month in New Hampshire has been, without a doubt one of the shittiest I’ve endured.  I’m not sure if it was any colder, but we definitely had more snow and that’s what has absolutely broken me.  This is the first winter I’ve spent as a runner and it’s crushing to not have the trails or even roads passable.  We’ve had such frigid conditions mixed with a ton of precipitation and it’s making for very icy sidewalks and mostly unusable trails.  Where I live there isn’t a great trail system.  There are mainly a couple of rail trails that the snow mobiles use and some remote areas that are just conservation land that isn’t maintained.  This is great in the spring/summer/fall months when you can pretty much run some decent technical stuff all by yourself without worry of dog walkers and bikers, but in the winter, with the snow up past your knees, it sucks for running.

I’ve had some other runners tell me that they tend to do less running and more snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the winter.  Those both sound great, but first it’s not running and second, I have to save up for a new pair of running shoes, I really don’t have the dough to drop on some seasonal gear.  I was using the gym, but after about 4 miles on a treadmill, I always develop blisters, so long runs are out.  I’ve fallen way off my marathon training without a long run in two weeks and that’s taking it’s toll mentally on me.  I moved my schedule around this week so I can get in a full week of running and that’s cleared my head a little.  I’m planning on an 18 miler this weekend and depending on how that goes, I’ll decide if I’ll still run the marathon I planned on in late April.  I’m trying not to beat myself up about it, but it still stings a bit.

I really didn’t think about how the winter here would disrupt my running.  We had such a mild November and December weather wise and then blammo, January and February were the worst, but I’m starting to see the end now.  I’m starting to feel the sun coming up earlier and we get to turn the clocks forward next week, which should help.  It almost feels like the worst is behind us and I’m looking forward to having a full season of running.  The good news is that I’m already miles ahead of where I was when I started last year.  I’m just going to try and make it through the rest of this crap and exhale as soon as I can.

Altra Lone Peak 2.0

Just a quick post about my first run in my new Altra Lone Peak 2.0.  After running in the One² for a week and having them blister the piss out of my toes, I sent them back and ordered up a fresh pair of trail shoes.  I’m really sick of being a kept man, stuck on a treadmill.  I was a little worried about taking a brand new pair of kicks on a 14 mile run, but my worries were quickly squashed.  A mile into my run, my feet felt great, the traction was fantastic and I was able to settle into my first long run in a while.  Hopefully I’ll feel the same after tomorrow’s 7 mile pace run.  I’m still working through some ideas for the second part of my winter running monologue, but until then here are some pics of the new kicks.

Cold Weather Motivation or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Treadmill (part1)

weather 1.29.15I know it always turns into a pissing contest when folks talk/post/tweet about their local weather.  I am fully aware that it is colder/hotter/snowier/wetter/whatever where you live, yet I will continue.  This is my first winter as a runner and although I have been out in some truly shitty weather, I would say the majority of my mid-week runs have been on a treadmill.  I’ve been trying to get outside for my long runs, but during the week, on the 3-6 mile runs, I’ve been heading to our gym.  Today is looking to be a bit warmer, which is nice.  I’m always excited when the needle gets above freezing, but the temperature isn’t my only concern when it comes to the winter and my motivation to do anything besides drink beer and play video games.

I’ve always had a hell of a time keeping a healthy mind during the winter.  The shorter days and cabin fever tend to put me in a pissy mood and now, I’m realizing, sucks the motivation to run, right-the-cuss out of me.  I’m keeping with my training, staying on my miles, but before I would wake up with excitement to hit the road.  I would fall asleep thinking about what route I would take.  Now, I’m oversleeping and putting off my workout until I absolutely have to go.  I love running first thing in the morning.  My running schedule during the non-winter months was great.  Up at 5, eat a banana, drink some OJ, run at 6.  I loved it.  Now, with it not being light until 7, and the roads in my area not being well lit, and lack of proper cold weather gear, and the temperatures at that time of day usually at or below 0°F…  I know, you can always find an excuse not to run.  I have been running though, just more times than not, at the gym.  I’m not sure if having more gear would make it easier to get out there, but unfortunately, I don’t have unlimited funds dedicated to running gear.  I would love to have road shoes and trail shoes and backups, but I can’t afford it.  Living shoe to shoe here.  I own 1 pair of heavier tights that my wife gave me. 2 long sleeve tech shirts, no running jackets 1 tech hat and some mid temperature running gloves.  I don’t own cold weather socks, I just double up.  I don’t have cold weather pants, I throw sweatpants over the tights.  I’m not trying to bitch here, just wanted to give some insight into my winter kit.

I do try to get outside for my long runs.  It will take a pretty horrible day to get me on a treadmill for 11+ miles.  Last Sunday I ran some local hills and did a bit of hiking through some more slippery climbs near and around a local dam.  There is a fire road that runs along the reservoir that during the dryer months is one of my absolute favorite places to run.  It was a bit slick and mushy with snow, but still a nice place to be mid run.

otterBrookDam

After running through the state park at the end of the fire road, there is a nice little trail that leads to a steep climb through the woods which on Sunday, I had to hike.  The trail is an old road that has since been closed off to vehicles so under the 3-4 inches of snow, there was pristine ice.  It was a pretty shitty climb, but it had it’s views.  The following photo was on a little bridge right before the climb.

otterBrookDam2

Even with these outside runs sprinkled in, I’m feeling like more and more of this winter is being spent on a treadmill and I’m learning to be ok with that.  It’s tough not being able to do my “normal” morning running routine that I fell in love with this summer, but it’s better than sitting on my ass feeling sorry for myself that it’s too cold to run.  Today after I drop the kiddo off at school, I’ll be rocking a short 3 miler and strength training.  We’ll see if I can keep my mind right as we enter the balls of the winter.  I hate February with an unreasonable passion.  Here in New England, it’s always the month that teases you with the idea of spring, all the while dumping snow on you and freezing your nuts off.  So, fuck you February, I’ll see you at the gym.  You better wear your cup, because I fight dirty.