Follow by Email

01 July 2012

DCR Response to my e-mail

For those interested, here is Mike Nelson's response to my e-mail. Mike obviously didn't understand where I was talking about, because I double checked both items on the trail today. There is still an orange blaze on part of the redirected trail (the DCR has now split Skyline and Reservoir, where they used to be combined. Reservoir now sticks to the lowland fire road, while Skyline continues to use the higher trail -- clockwise, there is still no marking or signage pointing out the trail has changed, but the blazes have been changed. Of course, if you're used to the trail, you wouldn't even notice, because, without signage, you wouldn't expect the trail to change.) I do appreciate the work that the SCA is doing, and they're only working on the plans given to them by the DCR.

On a related note, I ran the new trail counterclockwise yesterday and clockwise today (only because I knew where it was) and it still does provide a good challenge as far as running goes, the rerouting sticks to a much-more "runable" uphill section than the old one did. Ditto to the new switchback a little farther on beyond Sheepfold, where the SCA stripped out the old footbridges (which got REALLY slippery in the winter). It's marked well, but I'm a little afraid as to what will happen after the rain.

Also, it's starting to get really confusing as to where biking is permitted now, as it seems like a larger portion of Reservoir is off-limits, and the section which is now only Skyline is obviously off-limits, where as before I assumed biking was permitted on this section (maybe only because I saw them so frequently)

Anyway, let's all keep each other posted..

dfg

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Mr. Gray,

Thank you for your email. The DCR, working the Student Conservation Association (SCA), put a lot of planning and work into the trail re-route that you are referring to. (6 members of the SCA crew spent 10 days on the work, and DCR staff spent an additional 3 days working on the project after the SCA had gone.) As such, the staff was dismayed and concerned by your email, thinking that some of the recently completed signage and work must have already been undone, leading to confusion on the trial. DCR staff headed out to the area to fix and replace any missing or damaged signage, but found all signage still in place. (2 images of the trail signage are attached.)… If there is a location on the trail that you find confusing, please let us know specifically where that is, and we can add a signage to fix the problem.

I do regret to hear that the newly closed segment of the Reservoir Trail was your favorite portion of the trail. That said, whether or not we all agree on park management strategies, the recently completed Fells Resource Management Plan was very thorough, and involved widespread solicitation of input from stakeholder groups and the public as a whole. The DCR is now in the process of implementing the new plan, and this trail re-route is just one small part of the greater whole.

Please accept this email as confirmation that the signage and trail markings that now exist on the Reservoir Trail indicate the official layout of the trail. Any use of the (newly closed) former trail segment is now considered “off-trail use”, and is by definition a violation of the DCR rules and regulations.

As you correctly point out, the DCR (and state in general) is struggling with budget and staffing shortages. It adds strain on these limited resources when the staff needs to spend time re-doing work that has already been done. Please help us by obeying the posted signage, and by leaving the signage and the brush that impedes the closed trail segment in place.

Respectfully,

Mike Nelson
Deputy Regional Ranger, North Region
Department of Conservation and Recreation

24 June 2012

Dude, Where's My Trail? (Middlesex Fells Reservation)

Below is an email I sent to my "friends" at the DCR as well as Friends of The Fells, along with my state representatives. There are probably typos, but when I saw the live branches snapped today, it just got me FUMING!

dfg

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To whom this may concern;

Imagine my surprise yesterday when out on a normal run along the Reservoir Trail in the Fells when I suddenly realize I'm lost! The trail I usually run on is gone! I actually ran past it TWICE while trying to find it, and finally, after looking for a landmark (the big tree) I find the trail. Apparently, some hooligans had completely covered the trail with brush, leaves, branches and trees! Not only that, but they tried to make it even more dangerous by pulling rocks out of the ground that had been there for years!

So, before bushwacking my way up one of my favorite sections of the Reservoir Trail (the stone staircase), I walk back to the split and notice that someone has gone so far as to paint over the words "Reservoir Trail" on the signpost and put up some kind of sign saying that some trail somewhere was closed, but lacking any clear direction as to where to go. Boy, at least the hooligans had managed to point out the trail was closed -- they must think that people only walk/run/hike in one direction on this trail. Hmm, now this was getting odd. So I bushwacked my way along the trail as normal, taking care to move a lot of the branches and brush off the trail as I went, trying to undo the damage to the trail, wondering what had happened..

As I went out on another run this morning, I kept an eye out to see where I could have possibly gone wrong. Everything seems to go tipsy-turvy around North Dam Rd., or so I thought, because as I continued as usual, I started to notice that there weren't orange blazes on the trees anymore, but -- oh wait! -- there's an Orange Blaze! Certainly the DCR isn't so mismanaged that it would miss removing a blaze when rerouting a trail, right?

So I continued onward, again, never seeing any sign that the trail had been rerouted. The good thing is, this time I was able to go straight up the stone staircase, moving more brush and small trees out form the middle of that path that some inconsiderate people had thrown there (again, this was an impressive amount of work, something that the DCR surely couldn't manage to do. Since they can't spare enough man hours to patrol for off-leash dogs or mountain bikers on the Skyline Trail (both of which were very hard to ignore, as usual, this weekend.))

The icing on the cake is that whoever decided to re-route the Reservoir Trail, for whatever purpose (again, I doubt it was the DCR, since I can't find any information on their web site, and the Fells maps along South Border Rd. would SURELY have been modified to show this change) -- whoever did this decided that snapping the branches on LIVE TREES and leaving them to hang, still attached to the trees, across the "closed" trail in order to provide cover/obstacles. Now that's just plain wrong. I honestly can't believe that the DCR, as incompetent as it has proven itself to be in the Middlesex Fells, could POSSIBLY be THAT incompetent!

No, that's just plain impossible, right? They wouldn't do a half-assed job. They wouldn't have decided that destroying a trail for reforestation by demolishing the eco-system already in place would be best done by digging up rocks, dragging dead trees through the woods and then ripping the branches off live trees would be the best way to serve the public, right? I mean, this is an organization that isn't staffed enough to enforce it's own rules, so how could it possibly waste so much effort on something as mind-numbingly useless as this?

I digress. What I really want to get to the bottom of, is who actually did this? These hooligans should be caught and punished for doing damage in the Fells! Don't worry, I'm going to get together a small group of people to help clear the trail and repaint the blazes, but who's to say this whole fiasco won't happen again?

Thanks for looking into this, I know we're all on the same side!

n.b. - After further research, it appears that Friends of the Fells has noticed this problem, too! (http://fells.org/). Boy, now I hope the DCR notices it as well!

sincerely,

Douglas Gray
Medford, MA

15 May 2012

Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 – Attempt #1

Fair Warning -- This post is fairly long and ended up being more about me, and less about the course, sorry about that. Let me know what you think..

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Even though I dropped at mile 87.9, this was unquestionably, the best run I’ve ever had, so let’s start with that. At 4 a.m. on Saturday, I was the most nervous I’ve ever been at a starting line, because after taking a week off from running, you start to wonder strange things, like what if your legs suddenly don’t feel right 10 or 15 minutes into the run? Not to mention the fact that you know you’re going to be out here for a long time, and you’re starting on only 4 hours of sleep and.. the list goes on.

But my legs felt fine, and after the slog up the dirt road that begins the race, when we finally hit the single track trail, I felt great! I’ve never done any pre-dawn headlamp running before, and it’s a challenge – especially on hilly and rocky single track. It forces you to keep your pace down, which always comes up as a blessing later. It was awesome though, and one of the coolest things about MMT is hearing the whippoorwills announce the dawn, the dusk, and the next dawn – they seem to be silent the rest of the time.

I was a little worried about how the cut off times were going to be, but by the time I hit the Woodstock Tower aid station at mile 20, I knew I was going to be fine, since we’d probably already had 3,000 feet of elevation gain by then, plus, the breakfast of French Toast and bacon at this point gave me an extra boost!

My stomach was feeling really confident at that point (and I was starting to pass people on a pretty consistent basis between aid stations), so I really didn’t even think about it five miles later when I chugged two cups of Gatorade and chased them with an entire can of Yoo-hoo. Great idea, right? My stomach spent the next 30 minutes or so trying to decide if it wanted to send that one right back up to me, but in the end, I kept it down.

When I got to just about the 50k mark, right before Elizabeth Furnace, after a monster downhill, I got to my first drop bag and completely hit the wall. Miles 33 through 41 were probably the roughest mentally, also, by this point my IT band was acting up a little, and the only way I can really get it to loosen up for some reason is to lie flat on my back and pull my knee up. Needless to say, the only thing more awkward than taking off my pack and lying on the ground to stretch it was trying to find a spot on the course that was flat enough to let me! At one point I had to stop in the middle of a descent because I finally found a rock that was big enough to fit my back on it, so here I am, lying on the ground, stretching out my IT band, when another runner comes by. He (Paul) stops to look at me and asks if I’m alright (I’m not sure if he meant physically or mentally). I assure him I’m fine, and every point I see him from then on he makes sure to tell everyone (including his wife and children at mile 54) – “When I first saw this guy today, he was lying flat on his back on the trail – Look at him now!” Paul was a great buddy to have on the trail.

By mile 41, I had blisters on both feet and BOTH IT bands were acting up, plus, my right foot was becoming irritated whenever it flexed up and down, so downhills were becoming increasingly difficult. I had the blisters lanced and taped at the aid station and realized that the lacing system on the Salomons was not working too well on the rocks. Whenever a rock would give me a slight “flat tire,” the lacing would loosen up just a little and let my foot rub, causing the blisters. I decided to just push on and change into my (aptly named) Montrail Mountain Masochists, which were in my drop bag at mile 54.

Miles 41 through 50 were touch and go, and when I reached Indian Grave at 50.1, I stopped and had a delicious cheese quesadilla with some olives and some cheese and injected my insulin. (Since I was running solo, I had to keep my basal insulin with me, because I need to inject this every 24 hours – anything shorter than that, I don’t carry anything. The only downside is that the heat can break down the insulin, but since I had it in my hydration pack between the water bladder and the outside, I assumed it was keeping it cool enough). The stretch between 50 and 54 is straight down a farm road, where I saw the only wildlife I saw during the entire race, a rattlesnake curled up in the middle of the road. When I got to Habron Gap, I changed my shoes and socks (the IT band and blister issues immediately went away, but the pain in flexing my right foot only slightly subsided) had a hot dog and an ice cream sandwich and began yet another crazy climb, trying to put as much of the ascent behind me as possible before dusk.

I loved this section! 9.8 miles starting with a monster climb, then a gradual downhill, then on a nice trail beside a river, then another monster uphill to Camp Roosevelt – the aid station full of music and lights that just exploded out of the dark forest like something out of Apocalypse Now. Truly bizarre, it was. The night really plays with your mind in the mountains, too, because since I didn’t know the terrain, sometimes I would see a headlamp ahead of me that looked like it was about 20,000 feet above me, and I’d start dreading the climb, but eventually I realized that trying to judge elevation and distance by the appearance of a headlamp was completely impossible and often disheartening. The whippoorwills were already silent, and the only company on this section of the trail was the deer scat on the ground (first I tried to avoid stepping in it, but eventually I realized that it was only the best ways to avoid twisting on a sudden rock – aim for the scat!).

At Camp Roosevelt, I had a couple of cups of soup, stretched my IT band a bit, popped a No-Doz and swapped Garmins. My 310XT had just died at 18:30 – short of the 20 hours I wanted, but I had the audible mile alert on for the first 50 miles, which probably took some power. The data from the 310XT reads – 63.23 miles, 18:30, Average pace 17:33, average moving pace 14:59, elevation gain/loss 10,800 feet. At this point in the race, in order to have a sub-30 hour finish, all I had to do was run the next 37 miles in less than 11 hours and 30 minutes, I was more than confident I could do it – it wouldn’t even have to be a negative split!

All that changed at about mile 68. After another crazy run through a couple of really muddy sections, followed by another hellish climb, I was ready to tear down the hill for the last mile to the aid station. This is where the wheels came off. On the downhill my right foot decided it couldn’t flex downwards without shooting a debilitating pain through my entire foot and shin, just as I was beginning a steep decline. The pain was so bad I sat down three times just to try to figure out an alternate way to get down the hill. I ended up taking steps that were smaller than baby steps with shooting pain each time my right foot hit the ground. The last ¼ mile must have taken me at least 20 minutes. I limped into the aid station, popped three advil and dropped into a chair near the fire pit while a volunteer tried to figure out what was causing the pain and iced it up. At this point I was also shivering under the blanket they gave me, because stopping to ice something in shorts and a t-shirt on a cold night is not usually a good plan.

After about a half hour on ice, I came to realize it was not going to feel any better than it already did by that point, so I set back out, heading up Jawbone for the first time with a runner from Fredrick, VA and his pacer. They were great company, and kept my spirits up. The next four miles were tough going, as my foot was only a little better, but still do-able. However, I was doing them at a 34 minute pace average, which is not where I wanted to be. It was around the end of this section when I ended up picking up a walking stick that I was using to take some pressure off my right foot. I kept that stick with me until I dropped, and as funny as it seems, I walked with it AND ran with it (I did manage to put in a couple of sub-20 minute miles during this death crawl). When we got to the unmanned water station, I refilled and drank a ton. This is when the other wheel came off. About an hour before I reached Visitor Center at mile 78, I suddenly realized that I had urinated about 8 or 9 times in one hour – not normal, and DEFINITELY not normal during an ultra. (Sorry if this is TMI!) Unfortunately, for a type-1 diabetic, this can only mean one thing. I was hyperglycemic.

My blood sugar was high, and because I didn’t have enough insulin to turn it into anything useful (energy), my body was trying to get rid of it through urination. The only possible reason for this was that the insulin I had carried with me in my pack for the first 14 hours of the race had gotten to hot and broken down, losing much of it’s potency. Once I realized what was going on, I was terrified to take in any more carbs, because things only get worse from there, and my body couldn’t turn it into energy anyway, so it would have been futile. I ran nearly the last 20 miles of my race on nothing but water. When I reached Visitor Center, I realized how slow my pace had become and I was terrified that I wasn’t going to make it to the finish line before the 36 cut-off. Plus, since I wasn’t taking in any carbs, there wasn’t any reason to stick around, so I just refilled my water turned away my drop bag and headed up on the next climb. The initial climb went fine (I could still push a decent pace on the climbs all the way until the end, because my leg muscles were fine, and you don’t really use much foot/shin muscles on really steep rock climbs), but when it evened out at the top, the going got tough again. (This was also where the exhaustion/exertion hallucinations got really fun – I would think I saw something in the distance – a full size Winnebago and an old man at a picnic table feeding birds were my favorite – and although I knew they were just rock formations, I would continue to see the apparitions until I was standing right in front of them. Keep in mind, this was way out in the middle of the forest, so these things could not possibly have been real). I was really getting annoyed by this point, because I knew I should be making great time on these flat surfaces and downhills, especially when it opened up wide, but I couldn’t even move at a normal walking pace.

By the time I got to Bird Knob, I knew I was done, but decided I still had so much time to make the cutoff that I wouldn’t let myself drop before Picnic Area, 6.4 miles away. That last section was the most painful time I’ve ever spent on my feet after the first climb, my left foot suddenly began to feel just like my right, and I could barely move forward. Every step was agony, but it was an amazing personal and spiritual journey. That was the most emotional part of the entire run. When I dropped out at mile 87.9, I still had over six hours to finish the last 16 miles, but the three previous miles had taken over 40 minutes each. There was no possible way I could make it, and at this point I was still hyper-conscious of being hyperglycemic, and legitimately afraid of pushing myself into a serious injury, or I would have forced myself to crawl across the finish line.

Overall, it was easily the best race I’ve ever run, despite the fact that it was my first ever DNF. While it may sound odd to some, dropping from a race at mile 88 doesn’t make me wonder whether I can finish 100 miles, it did the opposite. I’m positive I can finish 100 miles (and this is “the toughest 100 miler east of the Rockies” we’re talking about here.)

Two days later, and I can still barely walk. My feet are the size of balloons, and I’m still not sure if the hyperglycemia had anything to do with it – I could have been taking too much salt and retaining water. I did notice that my hands were swollen during the race, and afterwards there is bruise under my wedding ring from where my hand must have been swelling. I’m thinking that if my shoes were tied tight and my feet were swelling, it could have been pushing against the nerve where the foot meets the calf, cutting off blood flow to the tendon that controls the foot flexing up and down.

Anyway, that’s how it went! I’ll be back next year, but as for now, I’m just hoping the swelling in my feet goes down before the 50k at Pineland Farms in two weeks! If anyone has any specific questions about my experiences, the course specifics, or anything else, please reach out to me!

06 May 2012

A fundraising plea before my first 100 miler!


As some of you know, I’m a runner, running almost exclusively on trails, and mainly in races of 50k (31 miles) and longer. As some others of you know, I was also diagnosed, to my surprise, as a type-1 (insulin dependent) diabetic just over two years ago. Surprisingly (to me), those two things ended up coming together to partially define who I am today. Even though I have to take insulin shots 4 times every day, and monitor my glucose levels to adjust the dosage on those shots, it hasn’t slowed my down. In fact, since my diagnosis I’ve set personal bests in every distance I’ve run.

That being said, the reason I’m bringing all this up now is that I’m running my first 100 mile race (Massanutten Mountain Trails, in Virginia) on May 12th. At this point, my goal is simply to finish the race before the time cut-off, but based on the training I’ve put in over the last 5 months, I’m also hoping to feel good doing it.

Now, I’ve never really been good at fundraising, but here I go! To coincide with my first 100 miler, I’ve set up a fundraising page for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). You don’t have to give now, you actually don’t have to give ever (see why I’m not a great fundraiser?) That being said, if you do have any funds that you’ve targeted towards donating for a good cause, this is a great cause, and one that I strongly believe in. Type-1 diabetes is hereditary, it cannot be controlled or eliminated through a change of diet or any other environmental factors – the body simply stops producing insulin, and without injections of synthetic insulin, sugars just build up in the body, causing all sorts of problems. While I’m fortunate enough to have a lifestyle that helps me keep my blood sugar levels low, many type-1 diabetics don’t have that opportunity and – as they say – insulin is NOT a cure.

  As for type-1 diabetics who have run 100 mile races, I still can’t find a figure, but I can’t imagine more than 100 have ever done it, and I’d guess the number is actually much lower than that. Maybe 25 people? Ever? So help me raise awareness for this great cause, and thank you very much.

My fundraising website is located at http://jdrfevents.donordrive.com/campaign/dfgray

I promise I’ll post a race report on my blog after the race – whatever happens!

Thanks!
dfg


07 February 2012

Letter to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)

After reading over my blog post again, I decided it probably made more sense to add the whole letter. I sent this to the Governor, the mayor and police (animal control officer) of the City it happened in, the DCR, my representative in the State House, the Boston Herald, The Boston Globe, and the non-profit "Friends of the Fells" (of which I am a member). I got a response from the Chairman and Executive Director of Friends of the Fells expressing concern over the issue within 24 hours, and a few hours later I heard back from the DCR Ranger who is in charge of the area. As I said, it was great that he responded, and he was serious about addressing the issue, but we'll see if they follow through...

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To whom it may concern;

I have been running in the Middlesex Fells for about a year now, and in that time, I have watched the number of off-leash dogs increase exponentially. The problem has increased to the point where, in the last few months, when I get chased by an off-leash dog and confront its owner, I have been told numerous times that I am absolutely incorrect. "Everyone knows the Fells is an off-leash park!" "This is the first I've heard about it," or, my personal favorite -- "It's illegal for you to even confront me about this!"

Today, on a typical two-hour run on the Reservoir trail, I stopped counting off-leash dogs when I reached 30. At one point, there were two dogs sitting on one of the narrow bridges, completely blocking me from passing, with no owner(s) in sight. I had to wait until they became bored and trotted off on their own accord before I could pass, and I never did see the owner(s).

On the final stretch of my run, as I was in the Winthrop Hill area on the Skyline Trail, I saw a woman standing on the trail throwing a tennis ball far off trail for her German Sheppard to fetch and return to her. Both she and the dog saw me approaching. She took the ball from the dog and threw it down the hill (away from the trail) for the dog to fetch, and I ran by. Suddenly, just as I passed her, I heard the dog came charging out of the woods barking at me and growling while she yelled at it to stop. I kept running. Before I knew it, the dog was immediately behind me. I felt the dog nip my skin and claw at me through my shorts, then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped and ran back to the owner. I stopped, noticed the owner's (male) partner sitting on a rock typing on his phone. He said (and I can't tell you how many times I've heard it before) "Hm.. She's never done that before." I lifted my shorts and said "She just bit me -- am I bleeding?" He looked, then said, "Nah, she just jumped up on you. Just keep going."

That's exactly what I did. I don't know what I was supposed to do, but I really didn't feel like confronting a guy with a dog who just attacked me, who witnessed the whole thing and still didn't feel like he needed to even stand up to apologize. I have no doubt in my mind that if I had fallen, the dog would have bitten me somewhere other than on my butt.

When I got home and took a shower, I found a six-inch scratch where the dog did break the skin, and a tooth shaped bruise where he bit me, but didn't break the skin.

Here's my question: Why can't the DCR do its job and enforce the leash laws in the Middlesex Fells? I'm so tired of hearing that it's because of staffing shortages. The tickets alone would easily fund the position, instead, irresponsible dog owners know that the DCR doesn't care, so it breeds exactly this kind of attitude. If there were teenagers drinking in the woods, or god forbid, someone swimming in one of the reservoirs, I'm sure the DCR would be out there in a flash, but when it comes to this, nobody seems to care. I pay my state taxes, I pay my taxes in the City of Medford, but nobody wants to take care of this problem.

Over 30 off-leash dogs on a single February day on the narrow trails in the Fells. Not the Sheepfold, but the Skyline and Reservoir Trails. Nobody wants to do anything about it. At the very least, advise us (especially runners) on what kind of weapon you would prefer we carry when we run. Please, stop with all the excuses and get in there to DO YOUR JOB. There is no point in having rules if you're not going to enforce them.

Sincerely,

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I don't think I was too harsh, but I'm still waiting to see if I get back even a form letter from anyone else.. I'll keep you posted on this if anything does happen.. 

Frozen Fat-Ass, new shoes, and a dog bite!


Ok, I'm getting better, but I'm still admittedly not quite the blogger I desire to be. I'm still working on budgeting time so that I have a regular blogging schedule, but as I haven't reached that point yet, I've missed writing blog updates on three topics I wanted to touch on: The Cape Cod Frozen Fat Ass 50k, my first runs in NB101s and finally, being jumped by a dog last weekend on the trails. Now, since I don't really want to bore anyone with an extremely long blog post, I'm reduced to touching on them all briefly.

1) The Cape Cod Fat Ass 50k. What a race! All the race reports are true, this is one hell of a race. Two rough "figure eights", with the first (smaller) loop being a five-mile run down the beach before looping back through the low dunes and hitting the aid station, before going into the longer loop. The longer loop is a short jaunt down the driveway and a sharp left into the dunes/marsh area for about six miles, then you end up back on the beach and fight the headwind for four miles straight down the beach, where you start it all over again. First, running on sand for 50k is a lot tougher on the legs than I thought it would be (silly me). Second, struggling with even the ability to run is mentally exhausting. Third, I should not have worn trail shoes. If I do it again next year, I'm going to do it in racing flats. The treads on my NB800s kept breaking up the sand, even when it was semi-packed and I was landing mid-foot. Finally, I overdressed from the start and was exhausted and drenched in sweat before I even reached the end of the first little loop, where I dropped my gloves, hat, and jacket at my car, put on a dry long-sleeved tech and ran the rest in just that. I ran the first 25k pretty well, and I think I was on course for around a six hour finish, which would have been fine, plus, I knew there were a bunch of people still behind me. As it turned out, the people behind me were running the 25k. I ran almost the entire second 25k by myself. Completely exhausted, wind-blown and sapped of all energy, finishing the race in exactly 7:00. It was certainly a personal worst, but it was a hard-earned personal worst. Overall, this was a great race -- I hated running it with my hydration, but 10 miles between water stops made it necessary. Great race, great runners, and a great RD. I think I'll do it again next year.

2) NB101s. I like them! They don't have a lot of tread compared to my NB800s, but they have a really thin rock plate that holds up well, and other than that, there's not much too them! Feather light (in my opinion), but they hold up well, and I'm getting used to the tread. One thing though -- I took them out for six on the trails in the snow -- probably 3 to 5 inches on the ground, and some trails I had to blaze, but not too much -- the shoes didn't hold up very well. I don't know what I was expecting, but they did slip more than I expected. When I took them out again last weekend on the mostly dry trails, I put in a good 12 miles, and really liked the way they felt, I found myself feeling surprisingly confident in them, despite the fact I was still getting over the fear that their sheer minimalism was going to break me. I think I'm a convert -- stay tuned for more..

3) Finally, I was jumped by a dog this weekend on the trails. Despite the fact that the State Park has a "strict" (read: unenforced) policy that all dogs must be leashed, I saw over 30 dogs off-leash on the single-track trails before one finally decided I was too close to its owners and jumped up on me, literally nipping me in the ass and scratching my leg. It made me angry, but it made me even angrier that I couldn't confront the owner, who wasn't even bothered to stand up and stop sending his text once the dog ran back to him. I may be crazy, but I'm not going to confront a guy with a dog that has ALREADY bitten me once, right? Long story short, the scratch broke the skin, the bite did not, and I emailed the head ranger of the state agency that oversees the parks, and received a reply promising greater enforcement that did make me feel a little better... If only I hadn't heard it all before!

The day after the dog jumped me, I also ran my first road race in a while, The Lynn Stew Chase 15k. I ran just under a nine-minute pace, putting me about 45 seconds slower than the last time I ran it (two years ago). I felt great running the first half, I even pulled a couple of 8:20 miles before the big hill, but then I crashed during the second half, and was forced into a run-walk style that, unfortunately, I have become all too familiar with, so I can surge for 20 seconds, and fast walk for 30 seconds, over and over and over again. It's mentally exhausting, but hey.. it gets me across the finish line. I really do need to work on it, but hey, it makes my road races look really funny when I transfer the data over from my Garmin..



I'll post another update soon..

10 January 2012

Back to blogging in 2012


I’ve resolved to devote more time to my blog, so it seems like a race report of my first race of 2012 would be as good a place to start as any. The GAC Fat Ass 50k was Saturday, and it was my first 50k since October, and the first long run without any knee pain since the irritation started at mile 30 of the Vermont 50 back in September. I’ve been trying to take it easy since then, and it’s been hit or miss, with the pain picking up sometimes, then dissipating just as quickly. However, now that I’m officially registered for the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 miler in in May, I really need to start focusing on my training. This past weekend served as a semi-official kick off (although I’ve already got a pretty good base), with the GAC 50k on Saturday, followed by a 10-miler on Sunday.

This was the first time I’ve done the GAC 50k, a course on a 10k loop in Topsfield, and I picked the right year to do it! With practically unheard of temperatures reaching just upwards of 50 degrees (in January, in New England!), it seems that almost everyone I heard from who was really going out for it had set a PR for the distance. Even me, although I was really trying to take it easy and keep the pressure off my knee, I still came in under 6 hours, which is better than I expected. The course itself was a nice break from the TARC races and Vulcan’s Fury that I’d been running up to this point, it reminded me of Pineland Farms, albeit with pavement, which Pineland doesn’t have. The loop started with some singletrack into the woods, then broke off to some gravel, then took on a nice wide singletrack through a field. Aside from two stretches of pavement, one uphill stretch in the middle of the loop, and another flat one at the end of the loop, the terrain was great, and the fields and the forest offset each other nicely. By far my favorite part of the loop was the section that broke off the fire road to turn up a hill into some beautiful singletrack with just a little bit of roots, into some great switchbacks, down the backside of the hill, across a bridge, then back up the next hill. Beautiful. And even though the iced-over marsh from the first loop had turned into a shoe-sucking mud swamp by the final loop, the most amazing thing about the course was that there were no rocks. I mean, not a single leap over a ridge, or a scramble up some boulders, or even a downhill with some randomly scattered ankle twisters. This was the big difference between the TARC races, my standard runs in the Fells, and this race, and that’s probably why I kept my knee in good shape.  That’s why, rather than heading out for a double loop on the Reservoir trail in the Fells on Sunday, I decided to take to the streets instead, running down to Harvard Business School and back. Amazingly enough, I ran the 50k in a pair of cheap New Balance all-terrain shoes, which I’d only taken out once before, for a short six miles in the Fells.

Great job to Topsfield’s GAC for putting on a race with over 125 “registered” runners for the 50k, with many, many, more showing up to run a few loops. I like the method too – you register by giving them your name, they give you a number, and when you complete a loop, you just yell out your number and they record your split.

Not bad, over 40 miles in two days. It’s good to be back!