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

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Greenfield Highbush Half Marathon

Rounding the corner to the finish!
[Photo courtesy Gianina Lindsey]
"Today is your day!  Your mountain is waiting.  So...get on your way!"  -Dr. Seuss

Greenfield, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- My latest venture, the Granite State Trail Series (GSTS), is yet another expression of my passion for training and racing in beautiful wild places.  And it's a tremendous pleasure to collaborate with other passionate and talented folks...like the Greenfield Highbush Half Marathon RD Jen Shultis.  Last weekend Karen and I caravaned with our neighbors the Lindsey's to Greenfield for the 2nd race in the GSTS.  Lately I haven't put in much mileage as I've tried to balance my training (running & cycling) so a 13+ mile trail race would be a big stretch for me.  What I might not have had going for me with respect to miles on my legs I certainly made up for it with being rested and injury-free.  Coming off a recovery week I felt great.  The intel on the race was that it was a big clockwise lollipop on a combination of single & double-track with approximately 1000 feet of climbing up and over Crotched Mountain and her sister peaks.  Knowing that my training was rather sparce for this distance I decided to go out easy, hammer the climbs (my strength), and then do my best to hang on at the end.  With the go command the group quickly narrowed to double and then fairly technical singletrack along a beautiful little pond.  Over the first few miles I held my place and pace pretty well as the race became single file.  I settled in with a small group of 2-3 other runners.  I stayed right behind them allowing them to pull.  On any of the climbs they dropped back and I easily ran past.  Then on the descent they would accelerate and run right by me.  We played this game of leap frog right up to the first major ascent of the day.  I'm guessing it was at least a mile climb...probably more.  Playing into my strength I held my pace and surged past the two runners I was trading places with for the first 10k+.  Because of my conservative early pace I felt great on these climbs.  The ascent was a combination of gravel roads, singletrack, and exposed granite "hiking trails" with very steep, but very short, pitches.  Once on the ridge the next mile or two did put me in mind of the infamous 7 Sisters Trail Race with the constant short and steep elevation changes.  Without any particular pace or place goal I actually stopped to pee on the ridge...and three guys ran by me.  I managed to catch up to two of them and when they missed a turn I was able to sneak by them.  It should be known that I hollered to them that they missed the turn and they eventually got back on course.  Always important to bank good trail karma.  As I started the descent I could spy one of guys I had traded places with the entire first half of the race.  He was probably 20-30 seconds ahead of me.  The final 4+ miles were a gradual descent on some of the best singletrack I've seen.  This section was awesome.  At the ~10 mile AS the volunteer told me that I was in 9th place.  At once it was great news and bad news.  Great news that I was actually in the Top 10.  Bad news was that the two guys who had missed the turn earlier were right behind again...and now I was in a race for the Top 10!  For the first time all day I started to "race".  As I picked up the pace I could hear their back and forth chatter getting softer and softer until I didn't hear it any more.  Thanks to my increased tempo with about a mile to go I actually caught up to the guy in 8th place.  I closed a 100 meter gap to just feet before we hit the first of a few very short (10 feet) but very steep (45% grade) ups at which point both my adductors went into spasm as I attempted to run up.  Grinding me to a very slow shuffle my adversary was able to increase his margin on me in very little time.  I was able to run again on the flats but alas like Superman losing his ability to fly, my "climbing powers" had escaped me.  I peeked back to make sure that my Top 10 was secure and 'limped' into the finish in 2:11:38 good enough for 9th overall and 5th 40+.  As a first year race I must say that the course was very well designed, expertly marked, and fantastically organized.  It's a shining example of what trail racing is all about here in NH.  Kudos Jen Shultis and your entire crew of volunteers!

NEXT UP: Barnstead Firefighters 5k

Sunday, August 19, 2012

24HoGG | 2012

Keepin' the rubber down.
[Photo courtesy of Gianina Lindsey]
"Discretion is the better part of valor." Shakespeare

Gorham, NH -- acidotic RACING has been built on the famous words of Teddy Roosevelt..."Dare mighty things...".  But at some point as Kenny Rogers sang, "You've got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them.".  The 2012 edition of the 24 Hours of Great Glen (24HoGG) was yet another incredible weekend of aR fellowship and racing.  It really is the highlight of the racing calendar for my family and I.  Unfortunately for me however, the course conditions would make my 4 laps around the 8.5+ mile loop an exercise in futility as the tire sucking mud and slippery conditions would spook me into long stretches of hike-a-bike.  I really, really enjoy riding my new GT Zaskar 9er Expert.  The bike is amazing and absolutely everything I've always wanted.  I'm just not a strong mountain biker in general and technical rider in particular.  In most years though the 24HoGG course is 100% rideable for me thanks to the great work by the Great Glen crew to improve the course.  Two and a half inches of rain on Friday afternoon would stretch the limits of any course and crew however and the singletrack and off-road double-track became a quagmire of 6-8 inch deep mud.  The following is a brief synopsis of my four laps;

Lap #1
Time of day: 2:10 pm

As the designated third rider I took my first turn on the course.  Having pre-rode the day before (in a driving rainstorm) I had the lay of the land including some of new singletrack on the Blueberry Hill side of the course.  I managed to ride the first set of climbs up past the Honeymoon Cottage before taking the turn on the new singletrack off the Aqueduct Loop. By the this time the course was already beginning to get chewed up and I cautiously picked my way through the muddy singletrack dabbing here and there and walking some sections.  Once on the nordic track I made the conscious decision to ride conservatively and attempt to save something for the 2nd day.  Although I felt physically prepared, my history of epic physical collapses here are always in the back of my mind.  I rode all the carriage road climbs but was already off bike on most of the sections that were either underwater or sketchy, muddy, rocky descents.  Lap time: 1:06.12

Lap #2
Time of day: 6:33 pm

With a very easy pace on the first lap I was more than ready for my second lap.  The rain had been on and off for most of the afternoon but seemed to hold off for me on this lap.  Once again I rode the switchbacks on Blueberry Hill and up past Honeymoon Cottage.  But the singletrack off the Aqueduct Loop was beginning to fail miserably.  The trail crew were already diverting past unsafe sections and doing their best to fill in the muddiest spots with boulders...slick wet boulders.  I walked this entire 1/2 mile + section.  Mountain bike racing for me becomes a big head game when I'm off bike and pushing.  Walked the same spots on the festival side of the road...slowly.  Lap time: 1:11.10

Laps #3 & #4
Time of day: 2:40 am

As planned, Ri started our doubles at 9:07 pm.  That would give me roughly 5 hours before Andy returned from his double.  For some odd reason I didn't feel like lying down and instead opted to stay awake and watch the race.  Camp aR got very lonely after 11:00 pm as most were either lying down or riding.  I relaxed in my recliner (yup...I have one for the 24HoGG) and attempted to rest as hard as I could.  My hydration and nutrition were spot on and I felt very good physically.  Around 1:00 am I made myself some Starbucks VIA with my JetBoil and tried to get my gear ready for long wet muddy slog.  I typically treat the overnight laps as an adventure race.  Being mentally prepared to be out there for up to three hours in the darkness is really important.  Andy handed off to me at 2:40 am and I set out.  Anticipating a 3+ hour ride I was concerned that I'd have enough lights to make it to morning.  I spared my handlebar light and burned my Exposure helmet light on the medium setting.  Same general description of the course conditions but as can be expected that had continued to deteriorate.  The combination of the darkness, rain, and mud made even walking on sections of the course very hard.  Resigned to very slow laps and long stretches of hike-a-bike I put in two 90+ minute turns.  My estimation of a 3+ hour "adventure race" was pretty good.  Lap times: 1:35.22, 1:33.22

And that would turn out to be the end of my race.  Due in large part to my very conservative approach in very difficult conditions I managed to spare both my bike and my body.  No significant equipment mechanical or physical injuries although I witnessed many riders who were not so fortunate...from busted derailleurs to puncture wounds.  Although there would have been time for me to take one last lap before the cannon fired I choose to pass.  I had had my fill of hike-a-bike.  There would be no glory lap for me this time.  My aR-GREY team (Ri, Andy, myself, and Kurt) did manage to complete 18 laps which was good enough for 16/25 in the 4-person Sport Class.  We had a stretch of four great years with respect to weather and course conditions so it's hard to complain too much about this year. 

NEXT UP: Greenfield Highbush Half Marathon (trail)