Winter Plans

The last few weeks have been busy, mostly by my own doing. Lots of events, presentations, and outings. Training has fallen into a nice rhythm that I hope to carry into the winter. I'm looking at running 40 miles per week and including a an interval workout. When spring rolls around it would be really nice to have some base run fitness instead of starting from scratch. 

Mountains. Lots of mountains. Skiing, hiking, running, but hopefully mostly skiing. It really doesn't matter how I end up spending my time outside but if I can get in miles and mountains the rest of my life will take care of itself.

The rest of life - that's going to be spent building the backcountry skiing community through Granite Backcountry Alliance and Ski The Whites. Helping start a non-profit (GBA) entailed a bigger commitment than I anticipated. Pair that with an eager community looking for an organizing to be a part of and it becomes a part-time job. If you're not a member yet and care about backcountry skiing in NH/ME, please join. We're hosting events all through the winter and have big plans to get projects off the ground next summer.

Ski The Whites - starting a business is hard. There's always work to be done, a lot of which I've put off (seriously, who documents all their receipts?). Here's a list of things going on right now:

  • Rebranding - working with Elsa Jenna to get a logo, clothing patterns, and a poster made. 
  • Rental Fleet - mounting skis.
  • Building out the shop - needs a lot of work, ski racks, display shelves, lighting, desk... I'll be spending the next few weeks focusing on that.
  • Inventory - need to keep better track of everything.
  • Legal work - rental waivers.
  • Events -  pre - touring league and morning meet-ups.
  • Merch - once I have brand designs, hats, shirts, and base layer.
  • Everything else I'm forgetting (like creating media, updating the website, blogs).

Races - this is the big unknown. Depends how the shop does but I'd love to get some SkiMo racing in plus hop in the other events I regularly participate in. That will be sorted out in January.

Personal Projects - going to continue making videos in the Whites. I'd love to get over to VT, ADK, Maine this winter but that is all snow dependent. There are a few bucket list tours still on my list from last year plus a new objective I found this summer. Hoping to connect with more local photographers too and keep getting media from the East Coast to the major outdoor brands. 

That's the general update. Next report will probably be after the Killington World Cup. Here are some photos from the past few weeks. 

Hills & Hops 5k

The Hills & Hops 5k is a beast. I clearly remember looking up results for this event when I heard about it in 2014 and thinking that I could smoke it. Turns out getting a decent 5k time isn't really possible. The course has nearly 700' of climbing that rolls over a lot of loose dirt and water bars. The last two years that I've raced the weather has been perfect and this year was no different. 

Leading into the race I was feeling really good. Recovery from the VT50 had gone exceptionally well and I was back into my normal training resuming workouts. Although I had a cold, my fitness felt peppier than normal.

For this year's race I had free entry from winning the previous year. I also was an event sponsor contributing ski poles, sunglasses, and a water bottle from sponsors. It benefits the Attitash race program so it feels good to start supporting this event. 

I warmed up this year like I did in 2015, with a lap on the course. Squall joined and there was only one minor course alteration - over at Bear Peak they had put up the Oktoberfest fencing so the course didn't descend down to the base lodge but side hilled across to ski lift. Probably shaved off 5-10 seconds. Other than that, it was the exact same course. 

At the starting line, Dave Burnett introduced himself to me and said he was training for the Bay State marathon. Not present was Ken Lubin who usually puts in a good effort at this race. And of course, who knows what hot shot kid was going to show up. Regardless, I knew the course and how tough the hills were so there's not much to stress out about. 

We started relatively slow this year. Only one kid took it out fast and managed to hold the lead for the first half mile. Dave was right with me in third but once the course turned for the first descent I broke away and started to create a gap. I had no reference on how I was doing compared to previous years because this was the first year I remembered to charge my gps watch. I kept push and tried to work the long straight away to Bear Peak. On the third climb which is near the halfway point, I had a good lead and worked hard to keep pushing and try and best my course record from '15. On the return to Attitash you face two more climbs which spike your breathing to the point where I was wheezing. With a half mile to go I started to look at my watch to see if a sub 20 was possible. The course ends with a steep descent and I tried to open it up but couldn't break 20 minutes. 

It was a great race and I love getting this effort in to start October training. Hoping to keep up with more hill & track work to keep improving my running through the rest of the fall. 

Vermont 50 Miler Run

Just had to scratch that ultra itch.

The Vermont 50. 

The Vermont 50. 

The VT50 wasn't a priority race this year but it's one that's hard to let pass by. My goals were loose as my training has been all over the map this summer but I thought it would be a great opportunity to get redemption on last year's race, continue to learn how to race the 50 mile distance regardless of fitness, and catch up with some friends who were also racing. Add in "learn how to run in unseasonably hot temperatures".  It was a valuable experience that taught me more about ultrarunning but also pushed me into some dark places. Here's how it went down: 
*if you want to dive down a rabbit hole, here are the reports for 2015 & 2016

Pre Race: Things were very relaxed with no expectations. A few changes I made this year were to load up on electrolytes the night before and morning of the race (calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium supplements) with the intention of topping off on vitamins / nutrients that may help reduce cramping. Did it work? Too many variables to tell, but not once did I get those debilitating cramps as previous years. The race plan was to go out fast as comfortable and take some extra time at the aid stations to stretch out muscles that showed early signs of wear and tear. All other race strategy remained the same. The crux would be Blood hill (Mile 31 - 36) and from there I'd have a good indication of how the rest of the day would pan out. I was still feeling some soreness from Reach The Beach and I knew I didn't have the specific training to hang with the podium this year, especially in the heat.

Race: I felt much more comfortable this year going out with the lead pack but also racing my own race. That meant stepping out of race mode and hanging out a little extra at the aid stations as well as walking to take in nutrition and let my stomach process with the added stress of the heat. The temps at the start were comfortable in the low 60s but sweating started on the first climb. I was able to hang out and run with Kanoa King for the first few miles. He was really fit and I encouraged him to go catch Brian Rusiecki. This could have backfired on him but it was the right move. It was Kanoa's first 50 miler and he had trained really well all summer so he had fitness and motivation to do well. After Kanoa disappeared I ran with a relay racer (Adrian from RI) for a bit before running with Tim Witton. Tim and I cruised into the 12 mile aid station together, with another 50 miler (Jim Deng). I took my time to stretch and let them go as Adam Wilcox passed me as well. I caught up to Adam and on the long climb out of Skunk Hollow and ended up running with Jim Deng for most of the Climb up to Garvin Hill. It was nice to bounce around with different 50 milers and help pass the time on the non-technical terrain, perhaps the best part of ultrarunning. At Garvin (18 miles) I was feeling good but had to stop for a couple minutes to keep on my stretching race plan. As I was leaving, I saw Ben Bruno arrive - lots of 50 milers immediately in front and behind me. The heat wasn't an issue at the point and most of the course is in the shade. I was drinking a bottle of gatorade between most aid stations (~4.5mi) and a cup or two of ginger ale at the aid stations. For food I had some Clif Bloks and gels and supplemented with aid station food (banana, watermelon, and gummy bears). 

From Garvin things started to get difficult. It's a long rolling descent down to Cady Brook (mile 22 aid station), and a difficult long slow ascent out. I was feeling better than last year but not fresh and from here on out I just focused on getting to the next aid station. I was running with mountain bikers as Tim was now behind me and Jim well ahead. At Margaritaville I was starting to burn up and sat down while I drank some soda. I was able to get some ice and put in my hat which made a huge difference. I shuffled out alone and was concerned how slow I was running. The combination of the ice and recent nutrition help lift my spirits and I was rolling again with my sights set on Greenall's (Mile 31). 

The last two miles into Greenall's went by slow. It's rolling and windy singletrack but once you hear the aid station a half mile out, you get a little surge. I was running well into the aid station with no signs of cramping and no red flags. I saw Jim who was having cramping issues and that motivated me to keep moving. I really should have taken an extra minute here and get some ice but race brain said otherwise. As I left, Jim caught right back up to me and we ran together for a bit and soon another 50 miler - Neil Clauson from CT - caught up with us. I unknowingly also passed Neil at Greenall's and he was running very steady (not walking the ups but not hammering the downs). This was the start of my yo-yo race - for the next 10 miles I would walk the ups and roll the downs and I was able to keep up with Jim and Neil through Blood Hill by catching back up on the descents. Jim stopped with massive quad cramps and I thought he was done. At this point I was out of gatorade but heard the music playing at the house that always had beer. I thought beer would be great and stopped for water then poured a UFO blueberry heff into my water bottle. I ran with Neil to Fallon's (Mile 37) and was in 4th.

Leaving Fallon's I was still moving well but could no longer "roll" the flats or down. I was shuffling and walking more frequently. The main concern was not to overheat as the temps continued to rise. This next stretch to Stone's (Mile 41) was really tough. I was yo-yo'ing off Neil when out of the blue, Jim comes out of nowhere and was looking fresh. He came back from the dead and attributes that to bacon he got at Fallon's. Bad ass. Jim and Neil led the way to Stone's as I trailed behind a bit but kept them in sight. Even the gravel roads were getting tough to run at this point. I focused on Stone's and went into the pain cave. 

At Stone's I once again took my time. Jim didn't waste any time and was out as I came in. Neil was a little slower but not too far behind. I got some ice, put down some fluid, and got a nice rinse with the hose. The next section of the course takes you a half mile across a field completely exposed. As I left the aid station I saw Ben Bruno. Damn, the hunt is on. With just 8.5 miles left, this is where runners start to close and you always have to be looking back. Also, I didn't notice, but the women's (Larisa Dannis) leader blasted through Stone's while I was busy cooling off. 

From Stone's to Johnson is 10k and mostly downhill. I tried to make a move and passed Neil and put a nice little gap on him. I came up on Larisa and started to yo-yo off her when we hit the next ascent. This killed my "move" as it I found myself settling into her rhythm which was an unbreakable shuffle no matter the terrain. Just behind me Neil and Ben started to close the gap as I'd see them looking down the switchbacks through the trees. Mentally I was fading and they passed me. All three started to put a gap on me and I just did what I could. On the descent though, Neil pulled off with cramps and I watched Ben and Larisa slowly go out of sight on another climb. I was gassed and my quads felt like they were on fire. A new level of fatigue I had yet to achieve. So much so that I was starting to walk on some of the descents. 

A bigger issue was the heat exposure. I was starting to feel sleepy and even walking felt like too much effort. It was a constant battle to shuffle and not walk. Another 50 miler came flying by - Kevin Hartstein - so now I was officially broken and in survival mode. I didn't care about my place and knew I could walk it in if I needed too. I painfully jogged the last mile to Johnson's (9 min pace) and took another break to prepare for the last push. 

More ice in the hat and I was off walking up the mile long field. Exposed with a slight incline and I was reduced to a slow walk. I looked back and saw no one but 50k'ers. Neil was still at the aid station when I left and I was sure he would catch me. I almost hoped he did so I'd have a reason to run. I hung out with 50k'ers for the rest of this section, running for just a short moment in the shaded woods. We popped back out to the field and I was stuck walking again. The good thing was we got most of the final climb out of the way and started to sidehill in the woods to the finish. It wasn't until 1.8 miles left that I had had enough and was motivated to get this thing done. I surged and was running well once again, fatigue was momentarily subdued, and I found myself hammering to go sub 8 hours. When I entered the ski trails I had 8 minutes to get to the finish and I knew I had it if my mileage was correct. I was able to get back to 7 min/mi pace on the switchbacks to finish in 7:58:03. 

Post Race: Compared to years past, with no falls, cramps, or other major issues, my body was in good shape. I was able to recover at the finish area and walk around relatively pain free. It was super encouraging to cover the distance in the heat and still finish within my goal time. I figured 7:30 would have been the fastest I could have finished in these temps so ending up where I did wasn't too bad. The huge accomplishment was not cramping and I don't know what exactly to attribute that to. Supplements, stretching, or pacing, it was nice to not have that be a limiting factor. The problems I faced this race were heat and lack of drive. I didn't want to push myself any harder than necessary but it sucked being passed so late in the race. One of these years I'll be able to close a 50 miler! Another thing to note was nutrition. I was probably behind a little on calories but thought I did a good job walking to take in and process a gel here an there. There was never a bonk but tiredness that I'd attribute to the heat. 

I have to give a big thanks to all the runners I ran with along the way - Kanoa, Tim, Jim, Neil, and Larisa - and congrats to all those who sucked it up and finished on such difficult conditions. Around mile 48 I vowed to never race this race again, but I'm sure the "ultra amnesia" will kick in soon. 

Results

Reach the Beach 2017

Reach the Beach was never on my radar - it seemed a like a logistical nightmare that was more of a team building activity than a race. Well Jimmy Johnson changed all that when he set out to create a super team with the sole mission of winning. He rattled of a bunch of really fast runners, now we were cooking. In February, I blocked off my weekend for this race and was committed, regardless of my road fitness. Looking back at my training leading in, I was good to compete but certainly not breaking any new ground with my speed. Mostly endurance runs on the back half of the summer had left my legs strong but slow compared to the studs joining the CUTTERS.

Friday morning I drove down to Hampton to ditch a car at the state park. That was easy and I met up with the team to drive the minivans up to Bretton Woods, the start of the race. Easy. We checked in, got our bibs, and had plenty of time to relax. Our wave wasn't until 3:30, the last five teams to go. The start was uneventful and Matt Veiga took things out conservative but hammered the last climb up the ski trail. He came down with a nice lead and handed off to Jim Johnson. From there we never really looked back. Our lead grew from 20 seconds to 5 minutes over the course of our first six legs. After that we were catching teams that started hours before us and there wasn't any way to keep tabs on those behind us even if we wanted to. 

My legs were easy but not really. The fist one was from the Highland Center in Crawford Notch down to the Willy House. A short 2.9 miles but with a 1.5 mile section that was 13% grade, it was a crusher. I was rolling 4:30 pace and my road flats were not the ideal shoe choice. If I had realized how steep that descent was I would have definitely gone with some cushion. Too late, damage was done and when I handed off in 14:35, I kicked my shoes off and had blisters. Sweet. I spent the rest of the legs getting video and taking photos. It wasn't the best sunset / golden hour but I still got some good content (video below). Our other van continued to crush legs, throwing down average paces in the 5:20 - 5:50 range. 

With the other van running so fast, we had time for a quick meal at Subway before heading to the next exchange in Tamworth. I loaded up on cookies and other desserts and tried to take a nap. We had at least an hour of downtime but since it wasn't too late, sleep wasn't really happening. From Tamworth we cruised through the night and had a lot of fun in the process. My leg started with a solid climb which took its toll on the rest of my running. Getting the second leg done though felt great and I knew my last leg wouldn't be too bad since it would be daylight and half the vertical. 

After our next van exchange we drove 45 minutes to Bear Brook where we got an hour of sleep. This was where things got tough - waking up from a deep power nap with tired legs. Our last legs went great. Our entire team performed without any hiccups. My blisters weren't a limiting factor which was huge but in the back of my mind I could help but think of the following weekend, the VT50. Was it worth it to ding up my legs more than necessary? The last leg for me was 5.7 miles - the first two miles were fast, the next three were incredibly challenging (not the terrain, but physically), and the last 0.7 I could smell the barn. 

We had two more legs and made our final handoff to Van 2. Their legs were short making it tough to follow but we got some more footage and headed to the finish. Ragnar was still setting up the finish when we got there, definitely not ready for us. Kevin Tilton ran in the last leg and we joined him on the beach for the last 200 yards. It was a ghost town and we got our finishing medals then really had no choice but to leave or just wait an hour for food. The next team was over an hour behind us and I had a wedding to go to in Portsmouth. I don't think anyone stuck around. I made my way to Portsmouth and spent the next seven hours on my feet, hobbling around with tight calves and sore feet. 

Recovery didn't go so well. Blisters were a non-issue by Monday but those calves were absolutely shredded. I did my best to roll and stretch but here I am a week later and I can still feel the soreness. Should make for an interesting race tomorrow (VT50). 

Chad Denning Memorial Run

Right on the heels of UTMB which was equal parts hiking and running, I harnessed some of that energy and applied it to the first week back in NH. 16 hours, 17.6k' and 100 miles - my biggest "run" week to date. This included the Millen Mile (not much to report here, managed to run a 5:04) and the Chad Denning Memorial Run - CDMR - (Tour du Moosilauke) which I'll highlight below. The following day I ran eight miles to hit 100 and while my legs were tired, they felt "hardened" in a good way. 

The CDMR wasn't on my radar because I thought I had a conflicting event. Friday's Millen Mile certainly wasn't an excuse to bail on Saturday's long run so I told Jerimy Arnold (the RD) that I was in. I reached out to the elusive Tristan Williams and sure enough, he rolled in around 6:45am, right behind me, at the Ravine Lodge. There were several others running who I knew online but hadn't met in person. It was an overcast morning with low-laying clouds providing cool conditions. I had only been on two of the five main trails that the course follows so a lot of this was redlining for me. We started off slow and spent the first climb up the Ridge Trail talking and keeping together as a group. Chris Dailey was the only runner to take off at more of a running pace. The rest of us met up at the first intersection before spreading out. The descent down the Benton Trail put a few of us out of sight and the long and relatively flat Tunnel Trail offered up excellent running. Tristan and I headed out on our own and made the most of the easier terrain. We still kept it easy but were making great progress. By the time we hit the first aid station (peanut M&Ms) we were 2:45 / 13 miles into the morning. The next ascent was where we flipped into race mode, climbing the Glencliff at a good clip. We reached the col junction with the Carriage Road at 3:50 and were relieved to descend on a nice jeep trail for 2.4 miles before sidehilling back towards the Lodge. Along the way we kept asking hikers if they had seen Chris and the reports varied from 5 to 15 minutes. It was fun to have someone to chase down. We made it to the soda aid station where we fueled up on ginger ale and coke. The next climb up Gorge Brook Trail was a more mellow and a direct approach to the summit which the course dances around in the first two ascents. We caught Chris about 20 minutes into the climb and hung with him for a bit. Tristan started to have stomach issues so I took off ahead. At the summit, it was a bit of a circus, compounded by Flags on the 48. The clouds had lifted slightly but still cold enough to warrant a windbreaker. Five minutes later Chris and Tristan reached the summit. I said hi and bolted because I was meeting Hilary at 2:30 in Lincoln. The trail coming off the summit is slow with mini climbs and many boulders to navigate. Once we turned back down the Ridge Trail, things were runnable once again. I'd run out of water a ways back but was ready to get this done. Little did I know the Al Merrill loop at the end had a mini 300' climb that slowed things down considerably. After that climb it was a smooth and fast descent (2 miles / 1k'). I reached the trailhead and bee-lined it to Jerimy's car where the good beer was stashed. I grabbed one for the road and took a moment to appreciate the route I had just run. I never knew Chad but I couldn't think of a better way to honor him than this 50k.