Dare Mighty Things

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt

Monday, April 27, 2009

1 Ride=1 Mechanical

Although not quite recovered from the beating I took yesterday, Brayden & I managed a quick 45 minute ride at Mt. Blue Job this afternoon after work/school. I'm always a little eager to put in the first ride of the season and today was no exception. It's a curious endeavor to witness how much riding-specific fitness is lost after a winter out of the saddle. Obviously I don't hibernate, but I actually focused a little more on snowshoeing and a little less (ie. none) time on the indoor trainer this winter. I've actually got two 24 hour mountain bike races planned with the possibility of squeezing in the Horror at Harding Hill Mountain Bike Race again this year. The clock is ticking and it'll take doubles to assure I'm race ready by the middle of July. We rode up to Little Baldy and then over to Big Blue. As I pushed off to ride back down from the summit sitting back on my saddle I immediately felt the seat disappear from underneath of me. The clanking of metal parts on the exposed granite told the story before I lay eyes on the problem...ANOTHER &*^$@# broken seat clamp bolt! As the seat post narrowly missed my delicate undercarriage I came to an abrupt stop, not 2 meters from where I began. Last year during the NH-12 adventure race the same thing happened. Except I was no less than 5 miles from the next TA. With the seat duct tapped to the post I became an anchor to my teammates as level riding became a quad burner (with no serviceable seat!). I had contacted Easton when I returned from the race and explained what had happened. They explained, at the time, that the single bolt set-up was somewhat of a design flaw and that future generations of their seat posts boast two bolts as a standard feature. To their credit, their customer service folks were pretty receptive and offered to send me as many bolt/clamp replacement kits as I wanted. It was that replacement bolt that failed today. I guess the good news is that it happened on a training ride less than a mile from the car. With a bottom bracket and rear hub ready for the scrap heap it looks like my next bike-related expense will actually be a new seat post.

[Photo credits: mountain biking Mt. Blue Job, Duct tape: Use #458; backcountry seat repair]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Xterra Muddy Moose Trail Race

What a day to slog through 14 miles of mud! I raced the 10th Annual Xterra Muddy Moose 14 Mile Trail Race this morning in Wolfeboro, NH. As luck would have it, the past two days here in the northeast have been unseasonably warm as we went from wintah right to summah. The objective today was to use this effort as a training session for next month's Pineland Farms Trail Race. The longest I had run in '09 was 10 miles...on the road. Knowing the conditions would not lend themselves to 7:00 miles I projected a goal finish of right around 2 hours. A strong showing of acidotic RACING teammates turned out including Austin, Liz, John Skewes, Erik, and the ever present Sherpa John. The Muddy Moose is an interesting event with two events happening simultaneously, a 4 & 14 miler. Everyone starts together so the trick, as I've been told, is to not get dupped into pushing hard early with the 4 milers. I did my best to hold back and find a comfortable pace early. Liz was right with me and Austin just behind as we made the turn into the first two miles of mud. Sherpa was just ahead and I watched intently as he seemed to select the gnarliest line choosing to run through the mud as oppose to my line...around the mud. I figured I'd find enough muck as the race progressed so I tried to save my legs. By roughly the 4 mile mark I had passed SJ again and seemed to hold him off for the next 6 miles. During those six we negotiated an interesting (but unknown to me) lollipop. At one point on the lollipop (I went right by the way) a number of strong runners flew past me running in the opposite direction. I deduced right away that it must be an out and back. The 5 or 6 places I had picked up at the 5 mile aid station in my mind had moved me up into the Top 10. As runners kept running past me (in the opposite direction) I lost count at 15. Puzzled, I turned and asked a fellow competitor the course layout. It was then that she informed me of the lollipop with runners having the option to right left or right around the loop. At the 10 mile mark (more or less) SJ hammered past me on a sweet ridgeline singletrack section. He implored me to follow but I could feel him slipping away as his ultra training has definitely put him at a sizeable fitness advantage over me (not to mention the 10+ years he's got on me). I maintained the gap as we raced down a dirt road but I had only one gear...and that one was pretty darn worn. He disappeared for the last time as we hit the 2 mile muddy section. I was definitely impressed by his fitness having a chance to experience it close up. I managed to run the final climb to the finish and taped in 2:06:&change. Didn't bother to find out the place as I lost at least 3 spots within the final 2 miles and was a little discouraged at my finish. My bet is just outside of the Top 20. Carrying the 60 oz of HEED and Endurolytes was key. Other than the typical AT tenderness that dogged me the entire way, I didn't seize up and really only lacked fitness at that distance. I've got a month to get fitter at the 15k+ distance. The clock is ticking.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Paddling with loons

If it's possible to have a favorite waterfowl, then I'll take the Common Loon. While paddling Bow Lake after work I had the privilege of seeing no fewer than a dozen adults. There's something magical about this bird. From it's sleek black & white coloring to it's haunting call, to me it epitomizes the wild and wonderful parts of this great state. As I prepare for my first ever kayak race, the Upper Ashuelot Kayak Race in Keene, NH next weekend, I really needed to get the boat in the water today...despite the rain drops. A downriver 9 mile paddle isn't that big of a deal, but I'd really like to race it as much as possible. I put in near the dam and decided to paddle for 30 minutes out, and then return getting in at least an hour. Turns out I managed to make it nearly the entire length of the lake. The water was like glass without as much as a zephyr of a breeze. Despite the precipitation, just a perfect afternoon to paddle. My abs were a bit fatigued as I finished, but all in all I think my paddling fitness is decent. More than likely I'll get at least one more paddle in before race day. I bet the loons will wonder where I've been.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dirty Moose Adventure Race

As outlaw "adventure races" go, this one went pretty well. Originally conceived as a team "adventure run", like many things that go bump in my brain it evolved into something much more involved (and interesting...I think). Eight pairs of acidotic RACING teammates (plus one team of 3) raced against the clock and each other in this two part two hour training session. An initial 40 minute prologue familiarized the group with the trail network and prominent features of my own training playground...Mt. Blue Job. The race began on the summit of Little Baldy with teams given the following riddle to solve;

More powerful than God;
More evil than the devil,
The poor have it,
The rich need it,
If you eat it, you'll die.

What it is?

The race "began" for teams as soon as they solved the riddle. During the prologue, the answer to the riddle was actually revealed to all the teams. The answer, written as a word jumble appeared on a sign near an important feature known as Porky's Cave. Some teams astutely took note of the clue (before it was revealed as a clue) and memorized the letters. When teams correctly solved the riddle they were able to proceed on to the first section of the race, a geocaching game of Worst Case Scenario. Several teams answered the riddle within moments of receiving it including Brent & Tim, Ri/Austin & Sherpa, and Nick & Justin. Following closely behind them were Amy & Dana. Three teams choose to send a 'mate down to the base of Little Baldy (approximately 200 meters) to find the answer; Jim & Brayden, Jen & Carolyn, and Erin & Jake. Teams then spent the next 60 minutes finding a series of seven geocaches. Each geocache contained a question and series of possible answers from the game, Worst Case Scenario. Points were awarded for 1.) successfully finding the cache and 2.) correctly answering the scenario. For instance, the first cache contained the following question;

A. Eat a concoction made from willow leaves and bark.
B. Lying flat on your back, place a smooth cool stone against each temple.
C. Eat raw grasshoppers; they contain salicin, which is a substitute for aspirin.

Each cache contained the directions to the next cache. Three of the caches included additional *BONUS* tasks that teams could choose to perform for extra points including lifting information from a old family graveyard in the woods, a rock wall scramble leading to an animal print identification, and a ledge strewn bushwhack contouring rope tying challenge. In the final part of the race teams had to carry three short logs, a medium sized rock, and a 5-6 foot log (weighing from 15-35 lbs) over a roughly 1.5 km bushwhack leading back to the summit of Little Baldy. Once teams arrived at the summit with their "materials", one teammate was blind-folded while the other climbed a 2 meter glacial erratic and cued their "blinded" teammate in the assembly of a specific pattern with the logs and stone. The final "catch" were the forbidden words that the cue giver couldn't say. Naturally, they included words like "long", "short", "log", and "rock". The winners were determined by the total points scored with finish time as the tie breaker. Although Brent & Tim were the first team to reach the summit and successfully assemble the pattern, the trio of Ri, Austin, & Sherpa scored the greatest number of points...followed closely by Brent & Tim.
After the event many of the contestants joined Karen & I at the homestead for a BBQ and "beer festival". The beer was provided thanks to our great friends at Redhook and featured a couple of my new favorites, Longboard Island Lager and Fire Rock Pale Ale from Redhook's sister brewery Kona Brewing Company. Everyone had the opportunity to take home "door prizes" in boxes of 6...know what I mean? Although still recovering from her minor setback, Sarah was a trooper and scampered around taking video of much of the action. As soon as she sends it along I'll try to post it on this blog. What's the answer to the question and riddle? A and "gniothn"...it's still a word jumble.

[Photo credits: Ri, Austin, Sherpa with Jen & Carolyn at the Warden's Cabin on Mt. Blue Job; Amy & Dana on the summit of Little Baldy; Tim & Brent at the start; Jim & Brayden rushing back from Porky's to solve the riddle; Snakes on a Mountain]

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dairy Cow 10 Miler

I have no idea why, but for some strange reason I've gotten into the habit of defining my long runs by the animals I encounter. Today was no exception. From this point forward the new loop I ran today will be known as the Dairy Cow 10 Miler. It's actually half of an existing route we run with a little diversion. That "little diversion" is actually Meaderboro Road. And wouldn't you know it, Meaderboro Road climbs for almost 3 miles before the turn onto Reservoir Road! Yeah, I know it's hard to believe, but it's true...a 3 mile climb! Just as you near the crest of the hill you catch the intoxicating aroma of Scruton's Dairy Farm. There's nothing like the smell of a dairy farm. I can't wait to run this hill in July. A common theme for the past 3 long runs has been a headwind. Thankfully, it was directly in my face the entire climb. With my jacket as a sail I slowed to a crawl feeling the precious minutes I had banked in the first 5 miles slowing slipping away. The objective the past month has been to run Pineland Farms race pace on the long runs. To this point, I've actually been slightly faster than the 7:15's I anticipate needing for a top 10 finish on Memorial Day weekend. At the 3 mile mark I was a little over 2 minutes up and at 5 miles I was 3 minutes up. I had driven down Meaderboro Road in the past, but distant past. I could tell from the mapping software that it was a climb, but I really didn't appreciate how long of a climb. At the 8 mile mark (and the top of the climb) I was still surprisingly ahead of my 7:15 pace. Although dirt, Reservoir Road graciously descended for approximately a mile before the final 1.04 mile push home. The loop finished up a jeep road with enough blown down, mud, and rocks to satisfy any trail runner. Thanks to the last 3 weeks of preparation I felt surprisingly fresh and pushed for a sub 70 minute loop. I clocked in at 1:09:13, good enough for 6:54's. Once again, given the course I am thrilled. Pineland Farms 25k is hillier, longer, and run in warmer temps but I'm quite a bit ahead of where I was last year at this time. Great way to end an "on" cycle. Tomorrow is the first day of my "restorative" week. I'll weigh-in and measure my body fat. The Muddy Moose 14 Miler is in two weeks. Right now I'm planning to run it with friends and enjoy myself.

PS. Congratulations to my teammates Ri and SJ who both finished the 100 miler at the McNaughton Trail Races this weekend in Illinois. -Dare mighty things.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Nope. It didn't happen today. I've been denying this cold since Thursday. The Merrimack Rivah Trail Race was really an add-on to the schedule. I need to run long this weekend, but racing today just didn't seem to make a lot of sense. Like many, I don't know what it means to show up to an event and "run easy". Had I gone this morning I would have tried to kill it and likely would have paid the price. I'm heading into a restorative week, but I'd rather not spend the energy getting over being sick...I'd rather spend the energy recovering from the last three weeks of training. Believe it or not I actually took a zero day yesterday because I had still planned to race. Before heading over to CBNA to talk to the T&F program about nutrition I stopped to Bow Lake and threw my boat in the water for a quick paddle (in this case, zero referred to running). Although the lake was windy and choppy, my technique felt solid and my upper body strength right where it needs to be. I'm going to rest today and plan a 10 miler tomorrow.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Donkey Hill Almost 10k

Believe it or not, I hadn't decided what to run until I was at the end of the driveway this morning. Although it's only the 2nd week of the cycle, it seems like the 3rd. I'm not really tired, it's just a general sense of apathy I get when I'm overreaching just a bit. I had run 6, 8, and 9 miles over the past three Sunday's and because I'm planning to race the Merrimack Rivah 10 Miler next weekend I was in a little bit of a quandary as to what to run today? I'm neither interested nor physically capable of pounding out the miles week after week. That's why I decided to cut back today and run our family favorite, the Donkey Hill loop. This just shy of 10k loop (6.04 miles), rolls over the mostly hilly terrain of Strafford passing a pen of donkey's (and goats too) for which the loop is named. Either direction you run it you've got to finish uphill. I decided to run it clockwise today for no other reason than I ran it counterclockwise the last time. This would mean the run would finish with a gentle 2+ mile climb. For the past few long runs I've made an effort to run them just a little quicker than my 25k pace target of 7:15's. Without a real pace plan today I decided to take advantage of the dry weather (see last Sunday's post) and see how I felt. As has been typical since the beginning of the year my left AT is a little cranky for the first few minutes and then graciously warms up. When I reached "Donkey Hill" (the first significant climb) I felt really strong as I powered up the ascent. Turning onto Jodi Lane I felt like I was easily running well under 10k race pace, then it happened. Buddy. I hadn't noticed him there before. This male lab mix decided I looked much more entertaining than the kids he was playing with in the driveway. He had an "Invisible Fence" collar on but ran right out in the road barking at me. I stopped, like I always do. He stopped, like they usually do. The faceoff lasted about 30 seconds before his owner finally came out to grab him. She actually looked at me like it was my fault. I thanked her (for some strange reason) and continued on trying to regain the pace I had set early on. No less than 5 minutes after meeting up with Buddy I began the final 2+ mile climb of the run. As luck would have it the wind was directly at me. I tried to settle into what I felt was sub 7:00 min/mile pace and try not to let the climbs crush me. When I finally spied my watch I noticed I was just under 33:00 with a little less than a mile to go. Hammering the final climb and turn onto the home stretch I thought for a moment that a sub 36:00 minute loop was a possibility...the fastest I had ever run in this direction! Reaching the driveway I stopped my watch at 36:44. Indeed the fastest time I had looped Donkey (6:05's) and easily my PB at almost the 10k distance (previous PB at 10k was 6:24's). With one week left in the cycle and the Merrimack Rivah 10 Miler due next weekend I'm feeling very good about my running-specific fitness at this time. Now I've just got to find a way to get in my kayak in the next few weeks to prep for the Upper Ashuelot Kayak Race at the beginning of May. The joys of a multi-sport endurance athlete!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Off the beaten path...

It struck me the other day when I was bushwhacking around Mt. Blue Job, that while I love to run in the woods...I really love running through the woods. Maybe this is why I'm drawn to adventure racing and orienteering? As I reflected about the difference between running in the woods and running through the woods I thought about how running reflects life. Before I discovered trail running I ran on the roads like everyone else. In my naivety I thought I could run anywhere. The reality was, I could only run where the road took me. It was an illusion of freedom. I thought the world was mine to explore and discover. In fact, I wasn't an explorer but rather a mindless drone following the path that someone else determined for me. Then I discovered trail running. Asphalt and car exhaust were replaced with roots, dirt, and the intoxicating smell of balsam fir. Now I was free. Or was I? Thursday as I crashed through a tight hardwood sapling stand I realized that I had once again been lulled into a false sense of freedom. I had traded roads for...trails. Again I was following the path chosen for me by someone else for no other reason than it was easier. There's really no growth in following a path, be it made of pavement or dirt. Growth comes from learning and learning comes from getting off the beaten path and really exploring. During my hour long bushwhack expedition of a place that I had run (and mountain biked) several times a week for the past four years I found treasures there I had never imagined. No less than 50 meters from a trail I've run a hundred times I found a small cave with a generous amount of scat kicked to the entrance. I generally have a pretty wild imagination and my heart immediately began to race when I remembered the black bear (and cubs) I had seen near Mt. Blue Job last year. As I moved away from the cave I noticed a 10 meter high rock wall scramble that I had never seen before. After a moment of risk:reward analysis I decided to see if I could make it to the top. With a running start I bounded up the face, perched on a small shelf, hopped to a rock ledge, and made my way to the top. So exhilarating was the challenge I actually climbed back down and did it twice more! How many times in our lives do we get (or take) the opportunity to get out of the "commuter lane" and follow our own path? And what is freedom after all? I saw and experienced many other treasures during that run this week and none of them would have been revealed if I had "stayed on the trail". I'm going to make an effort to explore Mt. Blue Job more by getting off the path and going where I want to run.

Oh, and by the way...it wasn't bear scat after all. It was my friend the porcupine's leavin's. I looked it up on the internet. You know the one...the information super-highway.