Monday, July 27, 2009

White Mountain training, week #1

OK, So Deb and I (and Tucker) began our serious training for MMD and the Bear 100 yesterday in the White Mountains and we had a great day!

For starters, we drove up to the Cog Railroad parking lot to hike Mount Washington on the southern side, by way of the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail with the plan to return by way of the Jewell Trail, which is much more runnable than the Ammonoosuc. This makes a nice loop of about 10 miles with 3800 feet of elevation gain and loss and you pass by the Lake of the Clouds Hut, then reach the summit with it's vast assortment of food to purchase at the restaurant.
Here is a great write-up of this loop.

We started the climb at around 9:30 AM and reached the hut at 11...our plan was to just continue on by it, but we heard some great music coming from inside, so tied up Tucker in the awful weather and went in to listen and to put on our jackets. I wore only my Wasatch Speedgoat jacket, which is a Golite Ether Wind jacket. This super thin jacket is incredibly warm and it packs into a fist sized package for easy packing.

The music inside was two members of the crew playing a guitar and fiddle to an empty house. This might be the first time there was no one inside the hut in my 40+ years of visiting my favorite hut!

One side note I want to mention is my shoes....and a particularly aggravating knee injury I've had since the late 70's. Patella Tendinitis is the injury and it has bee aggravation me since I ran a marathon last fall. Well, my team has La Sportiva's as one of our sponsors so I've been trying their shoes. The shoe that was recommended to me is the LaSportiva Fireblade. Well, I've been wearing these mostly just during races because they are low profile, low heel, close to the trail shoes and I thought that maybe I shouldn't wear these "all" the time. Well, they are so comfortable that I've begun wearing them all the time and the knee is feeling the best it has in years! I think that maybe running in these, I am "closer to the trail and thus getting less side to side movement.

The weather below started out as humid and some sun breaking through the clouds, but as soon as we reached treeline, the clouds moved in and with that the rain and wind. The visibility was so bad we could hear the hut, but couldn't see it until we were right beside it, so it was nice to get in out of that weather, even if it was only for about 10 minutes.

After our brief stop there, we headed outside to continue on to the summit of Mount Washington. Now the winds were becoming such that you could not remain on your feet. Our eyeglasses were also covered in water from the fine mist blowing about. We couldn't see a thing!

I took a couple of videos of the conditions and posted them here.

Just before the Mount Washington Summit

We were hiking up on the Crawford Path, but had to stop to closely look at the signs to not miss the turn up to the summit. It was easy to get disoriented in this thick cloud and wind. We passed a group teenage Girl Scouts that didn't see too happy, they were hiking up in soaking wet blue jeans and here are two older folks in shorts gliding right by them ;-)
Tucker didn't know what to make of all of it, but he stuck close by and loyally followed us to not get lost. He looks at us every now and then and I think he must be saying to himself "What the heck are we doing now?"

Just after we summitted

In the restaurant we grabbed some food and a Coke because we had a long day ahead of us...I tied tucker up outside and I guess he was frightening some of the people in their clean dry clothes and flip flop sandals who drove up the auto road. Here is this soaking wet, very wolf like looking dog trying his best to get to everyone to get a pat. Next thing you know we hear over the loudspeaker for the owner of the dog tied outside to please remove him. The guy was nice, he showed me a spot out of the wind and away from the clean people....but Tuck didn't like that, he barked and barked, so we had to eat fast and get going.

The weather was actually getting worse as we fumbled our way to the sign in the thick cloud and wind to find the sign for the Gulfside Trail that will take us to the Jewell Trail and back down into the warmth and sunshine. Before we reached the trail intersection the wind was so strong it would stop us in our tracks, you literally could not move forward!

Cog Railway parking area from the Jewell Trail

We finally reached the Jewell Trail and got below the clouds and weather. We also knew that nice downhill running was coming once we got through the initial rocks near the top and it did....we reached the bottom after being gone for 4hours and 45 minutes, about 45 of which was spent inside buildings. And Just we thought, it was warm and sunny down at the Cog railroad base station.

Looking over at the Cog railway from the Jewell Trail

...BUT, we just didn't feel like it was enough, so we drove around the corner a bit and hiked up the Skookumchuck Trail to the Franconia/Lafayette Ridge, which is about 8.5 miles round trip and has a little over 3o00 feet of elevation gain and loss. Our plan was to hike until we reached 5PM, then head down because of the forecasted thunderstorms with lightening and hail.
Lafayette Ridge is not place to be in that type of weather. I knew the top was around 4800', so kept an eye on my altimeter to watch our progress and when we reached 5PM, I knew we didn't have far to go and we also didn't hear any distant thunder, so continued on to the top,which we reached a little after 5. The weather up top was calm, but very hazy. I did take several pictures, which didn't come out that great. We'll be passing this spot again next Saturday when we do the Pemi Loop.

Signs at the top of the Skookumchuck Trail

Looking over at Mount Garfield from the Ridge

Ok, time to get down, weather is not going to took us 2 hours to reach the top, so I was guessing an hour run down, but it actually took us 1.5 hours due to very slippery boulders and very tired legs.

It was a great first training day in the Whites. We got some 4 hours of climbing and almost that much descent, most of which we ran to pound the quads. The total mileage we guessed at 17.5 miles.

This weekend was a good warm up for some real long training with lots of climbing. Next weekend we are planning on doing the 31.5 mile Pemi Loop, and the following weekend we'll go up to Maine for the Grafton Notch Loop. The distance, as I was told, is around 26 miles, but runs about the same time as the Pemi, which will take us anywhere from 10-12 hours. The weekend after that is the tough MMD50K in the White Mountains, which will take us anywhere from 16-20 hours.

So as you can see we have some great training runs coming up with the goal being the Bear 100 on September 25th. After MMD, we'll take a breather weekend and do something locally to rest the old bodies, then most likely go up to the Whites one last time in early September for at least one last long hike before we start tapering in mid September.

Next week I'll post photos and a report on the Pemi Loop...

Until then, happy trails!
Steve and Deb

PS: It is always fun to mingle with "civilians" after a hard run or hike. We stopped on the way out of town to get food. We were both covered with mud, dirt, grime, salt, etc. etc. (there's been lots of rain lately and the trails were a slopfest). I (Deb) went to the ladies' room to at least wash my face and hands (no towels, just those air dryers.. grrrr). A lady in there tried to steer way clear of me...I could tell. She had neat little capri pants and clean feet. She stared at the mud that was calf deep on my legs. I might have had branches stuck in my hair too. And some blood. There was probably blood somewhere on my shin...Just saying, it wasn't a Vogue moment for me. She stared again while we were waiting in line for food.
Finally, she smiled and said, "We're supposed to go hiking tomorrow. Is that what I'm going to look like when we're done?"
Steve answered, "If you have a good hike, you will!"

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pacing at the Vermont 100...

...or how to adjust when things don't go as planned.

First thing that went wrong was the person I was to pace. I was asked a couple of months ago by Patty Duffy if I would consider pacing her at the Vermont 100. This basically means that I would run with her for the last 30 miles, helping find the way and being the thinking person to remind to eat and drink.
Patty and her dog, Caymus at Camp Ten Bear

She had found out I was interested in pacing a first time 100 mile runner and she had read my story in the book Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon by Neal Jamison, so asked through our mutual friend, Michael Hall. I agreed, but her body didn't. She ended up with a tibial stress fracture, which was probably more from the training for and running of the Boston Marathon, which she did run in 3:40, a great time. But the damage was done and all the rest wasn't helping and with the demands of training for a 100, it began to show signs of worsening so she withdrew 2 weeks before Vermont and instead signed up to volunteer.

So, the plan now was to pace my friend, 58 year old Bob Dunfey of York, Maine (who found out I was available) to a sub 24 hour finish at the 2009 Vermont 100 mile. Bob is very much able to run this and faster having run a 3:25 Boston Marathon at age 57 and a veteran of many ultra trail races...but the plan was to buckle, which Bob had done a couple of years ago. But!....

Bob Dunfey coming into Stage Road

The day for me started on schedule, getting up around 6:30 on Saturday morning and driving up to the race after I had breakfast with Deb to meet up with Bob at the Stage Rd. aid station at mile 30. I got there a little early and the hope was for him to stay on a relaxed pace all morning and to not be too far off of his projected time. We knew he'd be a little quicker, but I didn't want to see him come in at a sub 20 hour pace. Anyway, Bob came in at around 10:18, which is just under a 22 hour pace. It was a little quick, but not disastrous. He seemed to be doing well, was in good spirits and I just helped him get some fluids and said to stay relaxed.

Stage Road aid table

After staying around and seeing many other friends come and go, I headed over to Camp Ten Bear, the large central aid station which the runners hit twice, at miles 47 and 70. It was beginning to get hot on this day that was projected to be cool, overcast with possible showers. A perfect running day was coming apart and my sunburn shows that. Many runners were already coming in looking like things were falling apart. When Bob came in, he looked ok, about what I would expect at that point in the race. Again I told him to drink lots and keep the calories coming in and to "stay relaxed". That was the theme of the racing!

Bob coming into Camp Ten Bear

I had a good time at Camp Ten Bear seeing many friends, some I haven't seen in many years.

The infamous Jim Garcia

Jeanne Peckiconis (knitting) and Patty

Now it was time to move on to Tracer Brook to help Bob and to then get ready to pace him through the night....but things don't always go as planned. I did go to Tracer Brook and hung out a bit with the Gil's Athletic Club crew and Patty Duffy, watching the horses come in and then as runners came and went the crowd started to thin. Bob was due in around 4:30 and it was now after 5PM and no Bob. Those he had been running with had come and gone long ago...

Horses getting a drink and cooling off at Tracer Brook

Soon at around 5:18 Bob came staggering down the road looking not too well. He told me he knew he was getting dehydrated and needed to spend some time here to regroup. So that is what we did...

Bob coming in to Tracer Brook, mile 57

First I got some water in him, several cups. He had absolutely no desire to take in any fuel which I understood, having been in this situation many times. Along with dehydration is nausea. After the water I asked him about maybe drinking some Coke, which he made a face about, but agreed to try. After all it is fluid and about 150 calories to at least get his brain functioning properly again. He sat and sipped the Coke and decided he felt good enough to keep going. This was a huge turnaround in Bob's race. He may have stopped I was his brain until he got some sugar to his own brain! Bob left Tracer Brook around 6:30PM, about 2 hours later than planned. Trying to be optimistic, I told him that he really was still on a 24 hour pace, so keep that thought and try to keep moving as best as possible and to also drink some Coke at every aid station if that is working! I also told him that time no longer mattered and again to try to stay relaxed, hydrate and fuel or the evening would not go well. I also had to give him my backup light, which was a Petzl Tikka Plus because he had not planned on coming to Camp Ten Bear in the dark.

So I then headed to the start/finish area to drop off my truck, get changed to run and take the shuttle back to Camp Ten Bear. I grabbed a sandwich on the way to have for my dinner and got to Camp Ten Bear around 8PM. The original schedule was for Bob to be there at 7:30 for me to start with him to the finish, but now I added 2 hours to that, making it 9:30.

9:30 came and went and no Bob, when he finally did come in, it was closer to 10:30 and he told us how he and several others had gone off course for at least an hour, which explains the time. He said he was feeling good, did look good but when we got going I had trouble getting him to move much. It was more of a slow shuffle, which first he told me he felt dead on his feet I gave him a No-Doz, which picked him up quite a bit. He then told me his legs felt stiff, so I gave him a couple of enteric coated aspirin, against his will mind you. He said he didn't like to take anything during races and I explained that like anything they can be overdone....that it is the runners who take more than the prescribed dose, take them prophylactically or do not hydrate that run into trouble. He decided it was worth a try as long as I watched the time in order to not take anymore too soon...about every 3.5 hours I re-fed him a No-Doz and a couple of aspirin.

This picked him up a lot! He was now beginning to run down the hills and when we got the Zeke Zucker's aid station, West Winds, he actually ate a grilled cheese sandwich and had 2 cups of soup. This was turnaround #2.

Bob at West Winds/Spirit of '76 Aid (mile 77)

From this point on Bob was doing more running than walking and was running faster than he was running before Zeke's. The great thing here is we were beginning to no longer get passed by runners and were starting to see lights come back to us! This got Bob excited, which got him to move even quicker. We started talking about how all the runners in front of us were low hanging fruit ready for picking. Some were so low that they were not only ready to be picked, but were about the fall on the ground.

Some runners we had just gone by

One example of some of the incredible early morning views

We soon got to Bills after passing about 6 runners in a field, where Bob grabbed a couple of Hammer bars and refilled his bottles. I stopped to take a picture and he was gone! I had to run fast to catch up to him! We started a game where we counted all the runners we passed and got up to 28, then realized that probably half of them were pacers, so adjusted the numbers down. The passing of runners didn't stop all the way and we even went by a runner and his pacer about 200 yards from the finish. We figured that he ended up going by around 25 runners (and 25 pacers) since mile 88 at Bills. He ran that section in 2:53 (about 12 hilly miles) and ran the paced segment in about 11:23 (30 hilly miles).

Jeanne Peckiconis pacing Karston Solzheim
(low hanging fruit)

At the very last unmanned aid station at 97.7 miles I looked at my watch and said to him that his goal now is to no longer catch and pass runners, but the time. If he could run the last 2.3 miles in 45 minutes, he could get in under 29 hours. At first he said no problem, but then we started to hit hill after hill and he was getting worried. At the one mile to go sign, he had 14 minutes to go and started to run harder than he had run all day. He ran every hill and flew carefully down the downhill segments. We passed a couple of runners just before the finish and all I heard back there was "that was sweet", then seeing a spectator who said we had 150 yards to go, We kicked it in even so I could get a picture of him finishing and he to be sure he was under 29 hours.

Bob finished in 28:55...and was smiling ear to ear :-)

Vermont 100 spectators, Jim Garcia and Don Allison

Bob getting his award plaque

In summary I had a great weekend. I wished Deb could have joined us, but she was having a better time with our two granddaughters back home.
Both Bob and I learned some things this weekend, which is about all you can hope for in these events. Many ran really good times and there were plenty of smiling faces the awards.

To see the rest of my pictures I took go here:

Results can be found here:

So up next is some training in the White Mountains and then MMD 50K...but first time to catch up on my sleep. 38 hours, no sleep and I didn't run the whole 100! ZZZZzzzzzz......

Until the next time...