Training Log

I've come to regret not tracking my running progress and race training more consistently over the past several years.  Aside from being a valuable tool for gauging personal progress it is a way to capture the memories that come along with the miles. 

I'll be using this page of the X-City Running blog as my daily training log and look forward to comments and feedback from anyone who's stumbled across it.

Many thanks,


Friday November 4th: Eastern Trail 3.32 Miles @ 11:26 Pace (37:58:37)

 This was my first run in three weeks due to a stress fracture.*  I haven't gone this long without running in almost two years and it felt fantastic to be back on the trails!

  I had cross trained consistently while the my foot was healing (mostly by cycling and utilizing the elliptical machine and stairmaster at Planet Fitness) and I felt particularly strong after such a lengthy layoff.  I had committed to running as slowly and easily as possible and I payed very close attention to how my foot felt on every step of this run. This focus on the foot slightly detracted from the experience of being back on the ET on such a gorgeous afternoon and doing what I had been thinking about for three straight weeks but it definitely beat going out too hard and ending up back on the injured list.

 I began to find my rhythm at about a mile into the run.  I hadn't seen the marshes and open fields of the Eastern Trail since me and my partner Xar put in about 9 miles underneath the moonlight the week before MDI. That run was one of the most memorable of all my marathon training and I thought of Xar and of the gusts of warm air that occasionally cut through the chilly autumn evening. It was as though we were present at the precise moment when the seasons crossed paths, summer blowing out and fall settling in.  Just then my Garmin interrupted and let me know that it was time to turn around. It turned out to be a good decision since a slight twinge of pain near the very end of my run forced into walking mode.

 My goal for this run was to make it through an easy 3 miles and assess whether or not I was ready to ease back into running.  ( I was jumping back in pretty early given that the recommended recovery time for a stress fracture is 6-8 weeks. I would not have rushed the recovery process but after meticulously rehabbing my foot for the past three weeks and making it through several days without a hint of pain I felt like I was ready to make a slow and easy go of it.)

 I knew that the morning ahead would reveal whether or not I was ready to come off of the bench or whether there were more elliptical machines in my immediate future. The morning came and went without incident and I am looking forward to the miles ahead and to building the foundation of X-City Running along the way.

(*I had self diagnosed this injury as a fifth metatarsal stress fracture which occurs when the muscles in the foot tire and can no longer absorb the impact of repeated footfalls.  The impact is transferred to the bone which either fractures or breaks.  I had made a last minute decision to run the marathon in my Vibram Five Fingers after the shoes that I trained in tore apart at the seams right before the race.  I have nothing but good things to say about the Vibrams and I've logged 20+ miles in them on several occasions.  I am confident that had I planned to race in them and trained accordingly I could have avoided this injury.)

Sunday November 6th: Maranacook Trails  3.38 miles @ 9:51 pace (33:16:67)
                                         Mt. Pisgah1.81miles @ 16:39 pace (30:03:53)

Yesterday morning Xar, her friend Rosalie, and I went for a hike to the summit of Ragged Mountain in Camden Hills State Park.  The 2.5 hour trek was one of the best hiking experience's that I've had, the views were unbelievable, and it left thinking of how much I'd like to run this trail before winter moves in (and wondering whether I could round up a few other Trail Monsters to join me.)   Following Friday's run and yesterday's hike I feel confident that my foot is on the mend and that I can continue to ease back into my training.  Today's run was a short and sweet 3.5 miler on the Eastern Trail.  After three weeks without a run I feel stronger and better rested then I have all year and I had to resist the urge to pick up the pace. Looking forward to a 5+ tomorrow afternoon.

Monday November 7th: Eastern Trail/Blackstrap Loop 5.77 miles @ 8:51 pace (50:59:69)

The first 5+ miler since MDI felt fantastic!  I headed out just before dusk and ran a stretch of Route 1 before disappearing into the Eastern Trails.  I usually use this loop for my weekly tempo runs and a few weeks prior to MDI I shaved off a full three minutes off of my best time. I felt surprisingly strong again today and, looking at my time at around my 4, was truly tempted to pick up speed and see where how my time stacked up.

I resisted the urge and dropped down to a slow and easy final mile as planned.  One of the many things that this injury has taught me has to do with the rate at which we loose of fitness during periods of inactivity.  It's commonly recognized that it takes several weeks of inactivity before we begin to see a notable decrease in our fitness levels.  But I never really believed this.  I usually feel pretty rusty after missing more than two or three workouts and figured that my first few post injury runs would reveal some serious signs of deconditioning.  Experiencing just the opposite and feeling so completely refreshed added the necessary reinforcement of personal experience to all that I've learned about the process of recovery.

Wednesday November 9th: Maranacook Trails 3.36 miles @ 12:41 pace (42:33:59)

I am just getting back into the practice of running first thing in the morning.  This used to be my standard routine and I appreciated the clarity that these early morning runs added to my day.  A shift in my work schedule last winter had me hitting the gym for strength training in the a.m and running in the evenings.  Along with this shift in schedule came a shift in my eating habits and I've gotten used to having breakfast as soon as I wake up before driving over to Planet Fitness.  Being unused to running on an empty stomach has taken some getting used to.  I am going to come up with a brief indoor warm-up to loosen up the body, get the blood flowing, and ease the transition from warm blankets to frigid pre-dawn morning.  Other than that I'm enjoying my share of sunrises and the peace that comes along with knowing that I got my run in before the day had an opportunity to get away from me.

This morning as I prepared to hit the Maranacook trails for a short run Xar decided that she would join.  I couldn't have been happier to hear this.  As we crossed the frost covered fields and splashed through icy puddles together I felt truly blessed.

An easy 3 today and plans to hit a much anticipated loop for my longest run since MDI tomorrow morning.

Thursday November 10th: Church Rd./Fogg Rd. Loop 7.00 miles @ 9:10 pace (1:04:11)

I've been wanting to run this 7 mile loop in Readfield all week.  The route has a few well placed hills and a nice trail option near the end good for tacking on a few additional miles if need be. 

I headed out just before sunrise and ran along Church Rd, a steady 4 mile climb, in the heavy morning fog.  For the first time since I've been back on the roads/trails I had a hard time finding my rhythm and couldn't seem to get in tune with myself.  This feeling lasted for the first 5 miles at which point I started to loosen up and enjoy myself.  I had originally planned on an easy 8 miler but decided to trade the added distance for speed and ran the last two miles at around an 8:15 pace. 

I think that the sluggishness may have been due to the fact that I've abandoned the post run stretching routine that I adopted during my MDI training.  I found this to be a hugely beneficial addition to my training program and had simply forgotten about it since getting back into running last week. 

Xar and I have been taking a really good Yoga class in Brunswick and I'm going to start incorporated some of the poses that we're learning into a steady post run cool down and stretching period.  And then I'm going to remember to do it after I run!

Friday November 11th: Maranacook Trails 3 miles @ 9:28 pace (28:33)

A quick 3 miler to start the day off.  It's such a blessing to wake up next to a trailhead and to catch the sunrise while rustling through leaves and running across the wide open fields that surround the Maranacook River.  An easy run before a comparatively high mileage weekend.

Saturday November 12th: Church Rd./Fogg Rd Loop + Maranacook Trails 8 miles @9:25 pace (1:15:24)

My second run on this loop and it felt much better this time around.  Aside from casting my gloves into the front seat of my car as I headed out of the house and regretting it for the next hour and fifteen minutes this was a smooth and enjoyable run.  Xar had told me about the sunrise along Fogg Rd. but I'd missed it on Wednesday (ironically due to fog.)  It is truly inspiring to run along this 3 mile stretch of dirt road with the sun cresting over the hills.  This is quickly becoming my favorite morning run and I included a mile of trails near the end for an even 8. 

Sunday November 13th: Cathance and Pancakes 12 miles @ 13:14 pace (2:38:48)

Cathance and Pancakes is an annual group run around the Cathance River Preserve and a host of other trails in Topsham.  It's hosted by Trail Monsters Ryan and Danielle Triffit and their two year old daughter, Sam (no blog yet).

Xar and I arrived a few minutes early and I got a chance to catch up with a few other TM's who I hadn't seen in a while due to the injury.  We got to check out some pretty incredible photos from Ryan and Danielle's thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail a few years ago and get the official race reports from everyone who ran the Stone Cat 50 Miler in MA last weekend.

Soon we were out the door and, as planned, Xar and I hung back and set out to explore the area at a relaxed pace.  We circled a few trails and found our way into a private residential neighborhood where all of the streets were named after birds.  ( Bohemian Wax Wing is about the best bird name I've ever heard!) These neighborhoods usually have access to local trailheads and when we caught up with a woman walking her dog and asked about the Cathance River Preserve she directed us to a nearby access road.

The preserve has a series of loop trails ranging about a mile each in length.  We set out to get about 12-13 miles in and had run about 6 so far.  So with the gorgeous fall morning on our hands and miles of river trails underfoot we headed into the preserve to play. 

The next couple of miles were absolute peace. The trails are soft and winding singletrack and snake down along the banks of the Cathance River. While running across the slick log bridges and through the golden leaves I felt at home.  Turning back occasionally to see Xar smiling right behind me made these moments on the trail some of the best I've ever had.

About a mile into the preserve we heard a rustling in the bushes ahead and out came Rick and Val, two Trail Monsters that I've had the pleasure of running with several times.  Val gave me some valuable pointers on fueling during runs when I had to bow out of a hot and humid 12 miler with her a year ago due to dizziness.  I now take careful stock of my electrolyte and hydration levels and carry all of the long run essentials in my Nathan handheld before heading out the door.

I asked them if they'd mind some company for a few miles and we ended up spending the rest of the morning catching up and exploring the preserve together.  There are always great vibes when you run with Rick and Val.  The same is true for the rest of the TM crew who we bumped into at around mile 10 as they were preparing to head back and attack the pancake stack. 

We all ran the last few miles together until we got back to Ryans place  Xar and I decided to head out for a little cool down and when we returned everyone was hanging out and chowing down.  A little bit off initiative, a lot of pancake batter, and the foresight to move next to a killer trail system made for a perfect morning and 12 miles of great memories.  Thanks Ryan and Danielle!  Looking forward to next year.

Weekly Wrap-Up:

Total Miles: 44.32
Thoughts: A well rounded week of some of the most enjoyable miles that I can remember. Looking back, 40+ miles was definitely on the high side right after an injury but I felt great and stayed in tune with how my foot was feeling every step of the way.  I'm planning on a rest day tomorrow followed by another week of easy miles. 

I'm giving serious thought to entering the Hidden Valley Nature Center's 1/2 Marathon on November 27th if there are any spots still available.  If I race it will be purely to check out what looks to be a great course (no hard training while still in cautious post injury mode) and for the experience of running a race with Xar who registered a few weeks ago. 

Monday November 14th:Rest Day

Tuesday November 15th: Eastern Trail 3 miles @ 8:51 pace (26:36)

I felt a little bit off all day yesterday and when I woke at 5:30 to run I realized why.  I had a slight fever and felt completely run down.  I debated going back to bed and skipping this run but I was wide awake and felt like a few easy miles on a cool fall morning might do me some good.  I was right.  I took off at a relaxed pace and was immediately glad that I'd opted to gear up and go.  I ended up running the second mile fairly hard before dropping back into a slow and steady rhythm and finishing up in 26:36.

The more that we run  the more in tune we become with our bodies.  I rely heavily on intuition when I'm training and it usually leads me in the right direction.  I felt good as I headed up to Readfield to spend the next several days with Xar and I'm planning on hitting the Church Rd./Fogg Rd. Loop for a smooth 7 tomorrow morning.

Wednesday November 16th: Church Rd/Fogg Rd Loop: 7 miles @ 7:39 pace (1:02)

Another unsteady start to a pretty steady run.  I had a hard time getting into groove again this morning and I'm attributing this to several overlapping factors.  First, I've been getting less sleep than usual and it's catching up with me. Until recently I've been able to get by with 5-6 hours of sleep and my energy level as been high.  Lately, though, I've found it harder to wake in the mornings and am experiencing some serious mid-day fatigue. I feel better on nights when I've gotten an extra hour or two of sleep and need to make the time for the extra zzz's.

Second, I still haven't incorporated the post run stretching/yoga routine that I'd mentioned in a previous post and I've been having a hard time loosening up in the morning.

Third, the first 4 miles of this loop are a pretty steady climb and I find myself mentally unprepared for this each time that I run it.  I expect to head out at an easy pace to warm up and find myself working harder than expected in the early miles. 

The road was dark and a fog hung over the morning. Pick up trucks sped by me as I laid the beam of my headlamp across the road.  A mile into the run a dog barked loudly and I suddenly saw two bright green eyes running towards me.  A growling pitbull came within a few feet of me and just as i shouted out to the owners the dog stopped at what must have been the perimeter of an electric fence. The owners shouted a cheery "Good Morning" and I returned the greeting out of habit.  As I ran down the road I could only hope that they realized that their dog was potentially terrifying and could possibly scare someone into running onto oncoming traffic on this tight, winding, and pitch black road.

I began to loosen up around mile 3 and the climb up to Fogg Rd. felt easier than usual.   The sun rose across the hills as I picked up the pace and cruised along Fogg for my favorite part of the run. I was surprised to see that I'd kept a 7:39 pace as this run felt very relaxed.  The frost covered fields looked particularly inviting as I passed the Maranacook trailhead and I would have gladly out in a couple of trail miles if I'd had the time. 

I hit the gym later in the day for some serious stretching action and hope that it makes for a smoother start to tomorrow mornings run- a 4 miler at race pace along the Maranacook Trails.

Thursday November 17th:Sick

The bug that's been chasing me since Tuesday morning finally caught up...and bit hard. I was shivering, shaking, and feeling downright awful all night long.  Skipped this morning's run to recoup.  I'm looking forward to a relaxed 4-5 miles on the trails tomorrow  before some longer runs over the weekend.

Friday November 18th: Eastern Trail 4 Miles @7:12 Pace (29.27)

I still felt awful last night and planned to take a second rest day to fully recover.  But by the time that evening rolled around I was having second thoughts.  I felt like an easy four miles of cool air and dark trails would do me good and, as far as I can tell from the vantage point of Saturday morning, I was right.

I definitely didn't have a speed workout in mind as I clicked on my headlamp and headed down the road towards the Eastern Trailhead.  I usually plan speed work in advance (to make sure that I do it! I love long slow running and have had to be extra diligent about working some speed into my training throughout the past year) but the best speed workouts for me are often impromptu decisions made within the first 1/4 mile of a run when I suddenly feel the need for speed.  Once the decision is made I fully commit to a specific distance and an all out effort.

I've had four fast miles on my mind all week as the Portland Thanksgiving Day Four Miler is coming up in a few days.  I had planned to register and make this the first race that I've run a second time.  I'm in better shape this year year than last and I seriously wanted to break 30 minutes ( I came up short last year at 30:55). 

I won't be running the race due to my pending registration in the HVNC 1/2 Marathon next Saturday ( I'm still waiting for registration confirmation due to understandable confusion on the part of the organizers-the race was postponed due to weather and although it had reached capacity some people may or may not have dropped and a spot may or may not have opened up for me) but I figured I'd go for sub-30 on this run and see what I could do.

My legs began to wear out around the third mile and I could feel speed dropping as I approached the final downhill of the trail.. As I pounded the descent I thought back to a very valuable hill workout that Ian put together on a recent Trail Monster Tuesday Night Run. He talked about the benefit of building speed on descents as opposed to viewing them as recovery points along a run.  I pounded the downhill and was able to pick up the speed in the final stretch for a 29:27 finish.

I hadn't done any real speedwork since MDI and felt absolutely spent after this run.  That said, sub 29:00 is my new four mile goal and if I don't make it into the HVNC race this weekend I will register for the Thanksgiving Day Four Miler and see what I can do.

Saturday November 19th: Eastern Trail 6 Miles @?

I was planning on a few late afternoon miles on the Eastern Trail and texted Xar, who was on her way back from Boston after playing a show last night (she's a brilliant bassist in the Balkin folk duo Cinder to see if she would join.  She met me at the trailhead and we headed out for a very relaxed run to catch up with one another and enjoy what has become one of our favorite routes.

Her shin was bothering her and with her 1/2 marathon debut coming up next Sunday she decided to walk a bit.  I ran ahead for a couple of miles, doubled back, and we ran the last several miles together past the golden marshes and open fields.

An easy run before tomorrow's Snow Shoe Bad Ass with Ryan at Bradburry Mountain. (A bad ass consists of running all three courses of one of the Trail Monster Running Race Series that are held in the park twice a year, the Bradburry Dirt series in the summer and the Bradburry Snowshoe Series in the winter).

Time on the trails/roads with someone that you care about and the ensuing conversation, free from the distractions of the outside world, is what it's all about.  Great run followed by cups of coffee at Scarborough Grounds right up the road.

Looking to wrap up the week with plenty of trail miles tomorrow and hoping to connect with the race director for the HVNC 1/2 marathon to figure out whether or not I'm officially registered so I can next week's running accordingly.

Sunday November 20th: Snow Shoe Bad Ass at Bradbury Mountain 12.50
miles @ 9:32 Pace (2:19)

This mornings Snow Shoe Bad Ass was exactly that; a mean 12 and a half
miles combining all three courses of the upcoming Snow Shoe Series
hosted by Trail Monster Running.

I got an e-mail confirming my registration at the Hidden Valley Nature
Center's 1/2 Marathon next Sunday just as I was headed out the door
for this run. I didn't have time to fully internalize this
information as it related this morning and planned on getting in 12:50
Bad Ass miles as planned and figuring out how to approach the
remaining six days of training afterwards.

There were five of us heading out for a variety of miles. Zach, who
wasn't feeling well and was also recovering from the Stone Cat 50
Miler two weeks ago in which he had a stellar performance, was
planning on a short run. Jim, who I'd run MDI with last October
planned on running for about 5-6 miles. Jeff and I were running the
Bad Ass and Ryan was doing the same with the addition of the 9 mile
Bradbury Breaker, an incredibly hilly race course, in preparation for
his 50 mile debut in Tennessee next month.

As I headed up the Northern Loop Trail, which marks the start of the
3.5 mile Bradbury Squall, I felt particularly glad to be back at
Bradbury Mountain. The park has been off limits due to hunting
season. (although there is no hunting officially allowed on the side
of Route 9 where we were running I don't trust everyone to obey the
rules, and after reading about three local hunting fatalities so far
this year I've stayed clear of the areas where hunting is particularly

The elevation at Bradbury always takes me by surprise when I haven't
run into it in a while. The first course went by quickly and Zach
headed home afterwards to recoup from his cold. We began the 4.5 mile
White-Out and it was on this loop that the hills began to take their
toll. Jim split about halfway into the course as planned and I was
left alone with two very talented and especially fast runners who I
didn't want to hold up in any way. That being said, I believe that
much of the progress that we make in our running comes from turning
off the negative associations that we have regarding our personal
limitations and believing in our ability to test, and subsequently
expand, those limits. A year ago I would have reminded these two that
they could feel free to drop me if need be and would have likely
slowed down during the toughest parts of the run to allow for this

Today I had every intention of finishing all three courses and planned
to hang with Jeff and Ryan until I couldn't hang any longer.

I got a second wind as we were winding down the South Ridge Trail to
finish the White-Out but had it knocked out of me when we ran back up
it to begin the insanely vertical first mile of the Bradbury
Blizzard. Once we reached the summit I felt absolutely cooked and
fairly certain that I would lose the group on this course, but also
pretty determined to not let this happen

Fortunately, the course levels out quite a bit after the summit and
the next few miles were smooth and easy. But with the Blizzard course
consisting of two nearly identical loops the steady climb to the
summit on the beginning of lap 2 was weighing on my mind. When we
reached it I gave these hills all that I had left and, although I fell
behind some, I caught up with Jeff and Ryan after the ascent and
enjoyed the next few miles of level ground with them.

Our final trip to the summit at mile 11 was HARD. I had to power hike
the final section but caught up with the crew as they pounded down the
Boundary Trail to finish the Snowshoe Bad Ass in fine form.

We said our goodbye's and good luck's to Ryan as he headed out for
another 9 on the Breaker course Jeff and I talked a bit before he
headed over to Ed and Lucy's for a couple of their famous home made
doughnuts. I stretched out under a tree for a while feeling
particularly satisfied with the run but completely shot at the same
time. I questioned whether I should have scaled back with the HVNC
race only a week away. Now, as I write this a few hours later, I think
that the hard effort was good for me. I feel that with a well
balanced week of running I'll be pulling into the HVNC parking lot
with Xar next Sunday morning in the best shape that I can expect
following the stress fracture and the crazy virus that attacked me

I'm most looking forward to Xar and I running our first race together
(well, actually our second. But we didn't know each other at the time)
and to checking out the trails in Jefferson. But I would also like to
perform well at this event.

Although I don't have a specific time goal in mind (it's hard to
devise a projected finishing time on an unfamiliar trail course,
especially when there are no previous finishers statistics due to this
being a first time race) I want to run a strong race and leave
everything that I have on the HVNC course. I look forward to seeing
where that effort places me in the rankings.

Great run today and looking forward to the Snow Shoe Series and to the
Hidden Valley Nature Center 1/2 Marathon next week!

Weekly Wrap-Up:

Total Miles:32.50

Thoughts: The virus that I caught mid-week set me back a bit in terms of mileage but it was a pretty decent week nonetheless.  A good combination of speed work, hard miles, and relaxed, recovery runs left me feeling as prepared as possible for the HVNC 1/2 Marathon next Sunday. 

My plan for this week is to take it comparativley easy in lieu of any official taper and to prioritize going into HVNC feeling fresh and strong.

Monday November 21st: Rest Day

Tuesday November 22nd: 4 miles @ Pace ()

If the posts in this training log had titles this one would be called " A Little Jog".  I had planned on two laps around Back Cove after work for 7 mile run at a moderate pace.  But, when I woke this morning to a familiar pain behind my right shin I had to reconsider.

This is definitely not the ideal time for me to me dealing with shin splints considering all of the other variables affecting this Sunday's 1/2 Marathon -but, it's never the ideal time to get injured and I'll just have to work around it.  With 4 training days left there is very little that I can do to impact Sunday's race other than to assure that I'm feeling well rested and relatively injury free at the starting line.

I dropped the distance for today's run down to 4 miles and dropped the pace to an all-out jog. This would be my first run in the Vibram's since MDI and I chose them to offset the impact to my right shin by reinforcing a short and gentle stride and using a slightly different group of muscles than the ones that one's that I've been pounding on lately.

By the end of the first mile I felt a very slight strain in my left foot (where I had suffered the stress fracture).  It didn't hurt, but felt instead as if the muscles in this foot were significantly weakened by the injury and unconscious shift in body weight to my opposite foot during recovery.  I didn't feel that I was in danger of re-injury but wanted to remain extremely in tune with how I felt throughout the run and ready to stop at the first sign of pain.

The entire run felt like a delicate balancing act between my left foot and my right shin, both reinforcing my plan to run super slow.  An unexpected trail closure at mile 3 of the Back Cove loop forced me onto the streets and caused me to drop the pace even lower to compensate for the extra mile of pavement.

Despite the focus on potential and actual injuries the run was very peaceful.  Without any thought given to pace or effort I was able to really connect with my surroundings and enjoy my first run on Back Cove since a 1.5 mile post MDI shake-out over a month ago.

I'm planning on seven miles at a moderate pace tomorrow if the shin is cooperating.  If not, I'll do the most that I can and plan the rest of the weeks training accordingly.

Wednesday November 23rd: All around Portland 8:50 miles @ ? Pace

So...wrote a long and involved post about today's run, saved it, now it's gone.  Might have temporally lost the internet connection at the cafe where I was writing so the post never published.  Such is's the gist of it. 

Everything about yesterday's run made today's run what it was.  I hit my favorite Portland loop for a slushy, sloppy, fun run at a decent pace.  I got my 7 miles in plus an extra mile and a half for good measure.  I went on to debate the pro's and con's of entering tomorrows 4 Mile Thanksgiving Day Race-cons weighed out and I'm running an easy 5 mile around the city and planning the course for the First Time Runners Run before heading to Readfield to spend the weekend with Xar before our HVNC race. 

Thursday November 24th: Route planning for the First Time Runners Run Just under 4 miles @ ? pace

I headed out to plan the 1.5 mile route for the X-City's First Time Runners Run taking place on December 17th.  I had hoped to time this so that I could watch the start of the 4 Mile Thanksgiving Day Race and cheer on the runners.

I'd initially envisioned the Eastern Promenade as the starting point for our first group run, mostly due to the accessible parking, traffic free route, and easily identifiable meeting place.  But Monument Square has always been the heart of the city and a convergence space for residents from different Portland neighborhoods.  And, the truth is, that running in the city almost never involves easy parking or traffic free routes, just the opposite.  And this is an urban running group after all.

I think that I've found the perfect route for this run.  We will start at Monument Square, run past the shops in City Center, turn right on Temple St. for one major road crossing before cutting through the cobblestone enclave of Wharf St, cut right on Dana to reach Commercial St. and run to the start of the Eastern Trail which presents an opportunity to point out various routes that are accessible via the trail.

We will then turn around and take India St back to Congress.  Stopping at the post office will bring us to just over 1.5 miles and allow everyone to cool down on the walk back to the Square. 

I ran this route twice and made it to City Center just in time for race start.  With the blast of a cannon several hundred participants (some dressed as Turkey's, most dressed as runners) headed down Congress St for the 30th running of this Portland T-Day tradition.

I'm happy with the route I've planned for 12/17 and am preparing to head up to Readfield for Thanksgiving diner with Xar and some potential snowshoeing (there's still a foot or so the white stuff up in her neck of the woods!)

5 miles tomorrow...3 on Sat....then HIDDEN VALLEY NATURE CENTER HALF MARATHON on Sunday Morning!

Friday November 25th: Fogg Rd. 5 miles @ ? pace

This morning Xar and I headed out for the perfect snowy morning five miler.  It wasn't actually snowing but it was the first time this year that I've seen the ground covered in a clean coat of white while on a morning run.  Smoke billowed from the chimneys, birds chirped, the sun shone-just a perfect run.

We kept the pace nice and easy and stopped to take a few pictures of snow covered stream crossings and all the points along Fogg Rd that had been transformed by the recent storm.

Xar suggested that we hit the large hill that usually serves as my easy descent before the final climb on the Church Rd./Fogg Rd loop.  There was a nice hill climb waiting for us on the way back as well (a few laps between the two would make for a pretty solid hill workout one of these days) and it added just the right amount of resistance to this relaxing pre-race run.  I'm planning on three easy miles tomorrow and look forward to playing in the snow( reportedly, there is about 8" on the HVNC course right now!) with Xar and the other fifty or so folks running the half marathon this Sunday morning.

Saturday November 26th: Fogg Rd. 3 Miles @

Short and sweet 3 miler.  Ready to race!

Sunday November 27th: Hidden Valley Nature Center 1/2 Marathon 10:50 miles @ 8:05 pace (1:40:38) (Shortened to 10.5 miles due to trail conditions)

This morning I ran the HVNC trail race in Jefferson, Maine.  Originally scheduled to be a half marathon the course was shortened due to the effect of last Wednesday's snow storm on the trails.  This was a smart decision on the part of the race director as the sections of course that were removed would have posed serious risks for the runners. (This race was directed by Ian Parlin of Trail Monster Running.

TMR hosts some of the best trail races anywhere. Period. This is a group that I'm proud to be a part of and I run with them every chance that I get.

Due to the modified distance and the very snowy trails I had no projected finishing time in mind.  My plan was to  stick with the lead pack for as long as I could, gain a position that I felt capable of maintaining for 10.5 miles, and hold that position until I crossed the line!

Over 40 people in all manner of winter running gear lined up at the starting line and with an "On your mark-Get set-Go!" from Ian we headed off into the woods.  7-8 runners immediately broke away from me and another couple passed me in the first mile.  I wouldn't see them again until I reached the finish line. 

I was able to put some distance between myself and the pack behind me and I found myself running solo for the next 4-5 miles.  The course was so tranquil that I felt as though I were on a snowy winter run as opposed to a race.  In fact, it surprised me to suddenly find three runners directly behind me.  I told them to speak up if they wanted to pass and I soon found myself solo once again.

The miles passed slowly but in the best possible way.  Each mile marker was a surprising reminder of how little ground I had actually covered.  But in truth, I was in no rush to end this beautiful winter run.

As I passed the starting line to begin the second half of the race I heard Trail Monsters Ian and Emma cheering my name. This type of support goes such a great distance when you are in the heat of a race and I reflected on how deeply I value the sense of community that these races, and Trail Monster Running in particular, foster and develop.

I caught up with one of the runners who'd passed me earlier  following a very steep climb at mile 7.  Incidentally,this race made me realize how much I neglect hill training.  The Watchung Winter Ultra, and MDI Marathon, and the recent Snow Shoe BadAss (a group run where we ran all three courses of the upcoming Bradbury Snowshoe series) made me realize the same thing.  More hill work from here on in!

I hadn't planned to take a GU during this race (I don't usually eat anything until after the 2 hour mark) but I felt as though I'd run through my pre-race bagel by mile 8.5 and was in need of some fuel (and a few milligrams of caffeine!).  12 ounces of Cliff Mocha Gel did the trick and I felt ready to run strong towards the finish.

The last two miles of the course were truly gorgeous.  I raced downhill through a stretch of technical trail and came upon a stunning lake with it's still winter waters mirroring the brightly shining sun.

The runner who'd passed me earlier was within view but I didn't think that I'd be able to reel him in.  And honestly, I didn't think about reeling him in. I assumed that he would come in ahead of me and I was focused on picking up speed to put additional distance between myself and anyone making a final mile charge. (Maybe I need to hone my competitive edge? Or maybe I was just grateful to have run what I felt to be a strong race and to have discovered the incredible trail system at HVNC that I plan to fully explore this winter)

Either way, I found myself getting closer and closer to him and when it became clear that I could pass we shared words of encouragement and I ran the rest of the course at a strong and steady pace without another runner in sight.  This kind of camaraderie is one of the many things that I have come to value

The crowd at the finish line must have spotted me coming down the trail. I heard the metalic clang of the cow bell before I saw the large group of runners, volunteers, and HVNC staff members cheering me in. 

I can't end this report without a word about the volunteers on the course.  From sincere words of encouragement, to details on what position we were in and what terrain we could expect ahead, to warm smiles and great vibes, these folks are the heart of any successful race.  Many, many, thanks to all made this mornings race such a positive experience!

I wouldn't (and couldn't) have done anything differently this morning.  What I could have done is altered my training to better prepare for the elevation gains and for the possibility of snow which I never considered until a foot of it fell down on us last week! I ended up finishing in 14th place out of 41 runners and 20+ miles of new trails to explore when I'm in the Jefferson area. Overall, a great experience and an excellent precursor to a winter of serious trail running!

Weekly Wrap-Up:

Total Miles: 34.50

Thoughts: A lot of fun on the roads/trails this week.  I got an opportunity to enjoy some of my favorite Portland runs,had a great time at the HVNC trail race, and am confident that I've found the right route for the New Runners Run on 12/10.

I'm planning on taking it relatively easy this week as I figure out how I want to aproach my winter running. I've been giving some serious thought to my race goals for this winter/early spring and will either be ramping up or toning down my December mileage accordingly. 

Monday November 28th: Rest Day

Tuesday November 29th: Eastern Trail 4 miles @ 8:49 Pace (30.29)

I had planned on a relaxed 6 miler on the Eastern Trail after work but got there later than expected.  Pressed for time I turned this into a 4 mile tempo run (which turned into an all out speed workout about halfway through when I wondered whether I could break 29 minutes...)

Having run the first mile at around an 8:30 pace without the sub 29:00 goal in mind left me with a lot of catching up to do, and in the end I came up pretty short. 

It's always good to make the most of a run cut short by circumstance-but lately I'm finding that most of my speed sessions occur in this spur-of-the-moment- mid -run -free- for- all which makes it hard to track my progress. 

Speed work will likely take a back seat this winter as I am gearing my training towards several ultra-marathons. I will be focusing on increasing the time/distance of my long runs and training on the most rugged terrain that I can find.  But my experiment with speed, brought about by my training for the MDI marathon, has made me more curious about my potential and I don't want to let the gains that I've made completely slip away. 

Wednesday November 30th: Bradbury Mountain 5 Miles @ 11:46 Pace (1:01)

I was thinking of my racing plans during work today and decided to focus my training on two upcoming ultra-marathons: The GAC Fat Ass on January 7th and the McNaughton 50 miler on May 12th.
I am beginning classes at SMCC this January and would like to both kick-off and end my first semester with a race.  With the GAC 50k only 5 weeks away my training starts NOW. I plan to follow this race with a very easy month of running (this will be my first semster of college-ever-and I plan to drop the mileage down while getting into the routine of school and go into a February through May training cycle to prepare for McNaughton, my first 50 mile race.

Just as I made the decision to begin training for the GAC 50k the production line at L.L Beans where  am working seasonaly began to slow down. It would be an early day. The beautiful weather (combined with the fact that I may not see daylight for the next several weeks due to the anticipated volume of Christmas shipping orders) drew me directly to Bradbury Mountain with easy miles on my mind. 

Mudsplattered and glad to be at the Brad!
The record high temperatures and resulting snow melt left the Bradbury trails muddier than I've ever seen before.  I decided to follow up on post HVNC commitment to more consistent hill training by tackling the meanest hills that could find and running them hard.Sinking ankle deep on the Boundary Trail and sliding across slick rocks on the South Ridge descent was just what I needed....what a great run! 

Headed out to Coffee by Design in Freeport afterwards to meet Xar and finalize flyers for the New Runners Run.  Early day well spent.

So, my week of "easy" miles began with yesterdays speed workout and 5 miles of hills this afternoon. With GAC on my mind I'm throwing "easy" out the window and plan to amp up my training through the month of December.

Tomorrow and Friday will likely be 4-5 mile recovery runs in preparation for my first 20 miler since MDI this Saturday morning.

Thursday December 1st: Route One/Blackstrap Rd 3 Miles @ 7:45 pace (24:28)

Chilly morning!  The first day of December (and the first pre-dawn run in a while) reminded me of how important it is to lay out gear the night before.  The alarm went off at 4:30 and as I scrambled around for my gloves for so long that I had to shorten my run!  I'd planned on going out for 4 miles but by the time that I gave up on gloves and clicked on the headlamp it was clear that I'd have to cut the run short to make it to work in time.

What was scheduled to be an easy 4 miles quickly turned into a temp run because a) I wanted to make the most out of the shortened distance and b) my hands were cold!

Gear (gloves included) is laid out for the morning.  The plan is 4 easy miles before work and a lap or two round the New Runners Run route afterwards.  Then flyering for the run!

Friday December 2nd: New Runners Run route

I had planned on 4 miles before work but somehow twisted my knee in the middle of the night (weird!).  I woke at 4:30 feeling rested and ready to run it the knee was still bothering me quite a bit. With my longest trail run in months planned for tomorrow morning I decided to hold off this morning and see how it felt throughout the day.  One of the only negative aspects of early morning running is that you don't have the time to get tuned in to your body beforehand. Minor aches and pains can manifest themselves as serious injuries mid-run and, after the stress fracture, I wanted to play it extra safe.

By evening I felt fine and headed out to run the New Runners Run route with Xar,.  I wanted her feedback on the route before heading out to flyer the city.  The streets were bustling with the action of the First Friday Artwork  and the spirit of the holiday season.  We ran under the city lights and past horse drawn carriages full of Christmas carolers. A holiday train ride had just gathered it's passengers and was headed down the tracks along the Eastern Trail. Positivity abounds this time of year and I look forward to plenty of downtown miles in the weeks to come.

This short and sweet run was a memorable for many reasons.  Looking forward to going long on the trails tomorrow and to more city miles throughout the week.

Saturday December 3rd: Bradbury Mountain 16 miles @ 12:36 pace (4:00)

I arrived at Bradbury for a Trail Monster Running Group Run with slow mountain miles on my mind. Xar and I had baked up a batch of pumpkin/walnut/chocolate/raisin cookies to share with the group and as you can see from the pic they were much enjoyed! By 8 o'clock 15 or so trail runners had gathered in the parking lot to head out for a variety of distances, a great turnout for the first TMR run at Bradbury since the beginning of hunting season.  Plenty of new faces and plenty of face time with some people that I hadn't seen in a while.

We were supposed to meet Xar's friend Luette in the parking lot but a miscommunication found her waiting at Pineland Farms instead.  The group took off in one direction while Xar and I planned a short loop that would bring us back to the lot in time to meet Luette.  Thirty minutes, four soaked shoes, and two smiles later we met up with Luette and headed back into the woods.  The miles went by easily, Luette is great company and the three of us talked our way through about an hour of running before heading back to the lot to regroup.  Luette decided to head home and Xar and I talked with Ian and Jamie for a bit (just long enough to cool down a bit more than we would have liked-it was cold this morning!) before heading back into the trails.

Ian had drawn us a map to a hidden trail that lies beyond the river and we set out to find it.  The next hour and a half went by quickly as we explored the Boundary Trail, found the hidden path, attempted (and failed) to cross a river, caught up with one another, and stopped to enjoy the occasional trail kiss every now and then.

We got back to the lot after a total of two and a half hours of running to find many cookies eaten but (thankfully) many cookies to left to eat!  I'd had some fueling issues mid run and this was just what I needed before heading out for the next, and last, ninety minutes.

Xar had to leave for work so I headed out alone. After running with such great company all morning I had hoped to find a couple of Trail  Monsters to join me for the miles ahead. No luck but I got into a pretty good groove and picked up the pace as I explored some trails that I hadn't run in over a year. I finished my run at 4 hours on the dot with 16 miles behind me.  I had hoped to cover more ground but was also prepared to sacrifice the distance for the technical terrain and measure my time in minutes as opposed to miles.

With a six day, sixty+ hour work week awaiting me from now until the GAC 50k these long runs are going to be the base of my training- and I need to make every one count. This was my first 4 hour run since MDI and my first long trail run in even longer. I had planned to run at a very relaxed pace and I am satisfied with this mornings run on many  different levels. But if the trails at Bradley Palmer State Park (the site of the GAC race) are anything like the terrain that I covered today it's clearly going to take a lot of work to reach my goal of a sub 6 hour finish.

 I need to find a way to work more trail miles into my schedule this month if I want to reach this goal.  I will be exploring local trails that are open to night time running and may need to break out the headlamp, shake off the workday, and get into the late night groove if I want to suceed at GAC.  I will be taking a close look at my schedule and working to identify every opportunity to train intelligently and efficinelty for this race that I am increasingly excited to run.

Sunday December 4th: Rest Day

Monday December 5th: Eastern Trail 3 Miles @ 7:59 Pace

Impromptu tempo run on a planned rest day.  The moon was wrapped in clouds in an otherwise clear sky.  The trail was quiet and the run felt good.

After assesing my work schedule for the five remaining weeks before the GAC 50k I've had to make some serious adjustments to my training. I haven't included my other activites such as weight lifitng, cycling, occasional yoga, and plyometric exercises in this training log because I wanted to keep the focus on running.  But as we reach the peak season at my job it is clear that I'm going to have to scale back a bit and I want to be careful to do so in a way that is balanced. 

I'll be cutting down my strength training to 3 sessions per week where I will focus on whole body workouts, power lifts, and core conditioning.  I will also scale back my running to 5 days per week and focus on quality workouts including a speed session, hill workout, 6-8 mile tempo run, and long run with an easy recovery run in between.

So today was not a planned running day...but I happened to find the time and the spirit moved I ran.

Will do my best to make it to the Trail Monster Running Tueday Night Run after work tomorrow and am eager to check out the trails at the new location: Pratts Brook Park in Falmouth

Tuesday December 6th: Hill Repeats in Freeport 6 miles (5.5 miles @ 9:08 pace ) .5 mile cool down (53:15)

I had been hoping to run with the Trail Monsters in Falmouth tonight.  I've have wanted to attend the Tuesday night runs more regularly for some time. Now that Trail Monster Running president and RCAA certified coach Ian Parlin is leading targeted workouts on these runs I really didn't want to miss out.  But my work schedule didn't allow so I hit Freeport with hills on my mind.

I had planned to do hill repeats on the road that runs from Maine St out to Brunswick (not sure the name of it but I did plenty of 15 milers on it in preparation for MDI and it's become one of my regular running routes).

When I got to the parking lot in downtown Freeport I geared up for the run and got ready to tackle hills hard!  Then, about a mile into my run along the pitch black and road at the height of rush hour, my headlamp batteries died.  This is a seriously dangerous situation to find yourself in and a reminder to keep an eye on diminishing brightness and other signs of low battery and stay on top of things before you end up on a dark trail or busy road.

A few minutes before the light died I spotted a dark but quiet side street with a long slight incline.  Determined to get as much hill work in as possible despite the setback I turned around and did hard repeats on the only safe hill in town for the next 1/2 an hour.

All in all it was a good run.  Downtown Freeport is all dressed up for the holidays and it was nice to cool down with a short run through the shopping district before heading home.  I'll be sure to pick up headlamp batteries tomorrow for a planned 8 miler out to Mackworth Island with Xar

Wednesday December 7th: Back Cove to Mackworth Island 8.5 miles @ 11:14 pace (1:34)

I got out of work a little earlier than expected and met Xar in Portland for our Mackworth Island run. A light but cold rain was falling steadily as we headed out along the Back Cove trail..  We hadn't seen each other in a few days and the early miles passed quickly as we got caught up in each others company.  There was more traffic than I anticipated along Veranda St and combined with the darkness and the chilly rain it was far from the relaxing running experience that I'd envisioned.  But that's ok with me...I admit that I like the craziness of bright lights, wild weather, and rush hour running from time to time and I particularly enjoy the run out to Mackworth in the rain. 

The contrast when we turned down the quiet, suburban streets toward the bridge to Mackworth was truly disarming.  The absolute opposite of the early part of our run, a perfect stillness and absolute quiet enveloped us as we crossed the slick wooden bridge and approached the Island trail.  I was really looking forward to the 1 mile loop around the island (Xar had never been here before and I was especially excited to show her the trail) when a guard at the gate informed us that we needed to turn aroung.   The trail was closed.

Although we were dissapointed we did a good job of sucking it up and enjoying the run back in to town.  We still got over 8 miles in as planned and headed home afterwards to dry off, stretch out some pizza dough, and have a nice dinner together for the first time in too long.

No running tomorrow,  I'll be focussing on strength training for the day with a 4 miler planned for Friday and the New Runners Run followed by 20 miles at Bradbury on the agenda for Saturday morning

Thursday December 8th: Rest day

Friday December 9th: Eastern Trail miles 5 miles @ 8:35 pace

Not much to say about this 5 miler except that it was schduled to be a very easy 4 and turned into a 5 at a decent clip. Looking forward to a strong day of running tomorrow with the New Runner rin in the am and 20 miles at Bradbury in the afternoon.

Saturday December 10th: New Runners Run 1.75 miles @ 10:38 pace (18:34)

Brian, a former Portland native and current Westbrook resident, came to the New Runners Run this morning.  We had a great run through the center of the city and down to the waterfront aswe talked about ideas for getting more community members involved in X-City Running.  Great to meet Brian and looking forward to more rruns with him in the future.

Bradbury Mountain: 20 miles @ 12:08 pace (4:33)

Following the New Runners Run I headed up to Bradburry for a planned 20 miler.  I saw Trail Monsters Ian, Val, and Mindy heading back into the parking lot from their run out to Pineland Farms via the Connector trail which I have yet to find and eager to explore.  We talked for a few before I headed up the Mountain Trail and on to an afternoon of solo running. I decided to take on the roughest terrain that I could find for the first hour and then aim for a long and steady run on Eastern side of the park.  The rough running went well and I even attempted to cross the river beyond the boundary trail by jumping from wet slippery boulder to wetter, slipperier, boulder...I got very wet.  Soaked to my waist I headed back up the Boundary and pounded down the South ridge before making the trip Eastward for the next 15 or so miles.

The second hour was surprisingly tough.  I think that the lack of sleep that I've been getting during the peak season and the fact that I was running through lunch and relying on powders and Gu's for nutrition (I always do my long runs first thing in the morning following a big breakfast of slow release carbs) hit me hard.  I struggled through the miles at a very disappointing pace but, as David Horton says " It never always gets worse" and after grinding to a halt on the Ginn Trail and chowing down on a Pro-Bar I felt a little better.

By hour 3 I was still struggling but determined to get in a solid 20 and to use this opportunity as preparation for the Peaks Ultra, where I'm sure to have some tough moments that I'll need to power through.

I usually do my 20+ milers on roads or the ultra-flat Eastern trail and am just beginning to bring this distance to the "real trails".  By mile 19 I was honestly beat and just seconds from my car but I turned down the Knight Woods trail instead for one last mile.  

A tough run but I feel recovered already and looking forward to another 20+ at Bradbury next week.  And directly after the run, while enjoying some much needed vegan minestrone soup at Royal River Natural Foods I officially signed up for the Peaks Ultra Race.  It's on!!

Weekly Wrap-Up:

Miles: 44.50

Thoughts:  With the time constraints of my current work schedule and the GAC 50k fast approaching I need to make the most of every run...and I feel like I did that this week.  From Monday's tempo run to Saturday's 20 miler I pushed myself to go faster, longer, and harder, then I had originally set out to.  The recovery runs mid week, headin out to Mackworth Island with Xar, and the New Runners Run on Saturday morning balanced out the week in  terms of volume, intensity, and perhaps most important, experience. And it's experiences like those that I've shared with others this week that I'm chasing after when I run.  Very excited, and admittedly a little bit intimidated, by the McNaughtn 50 miler that I registered for this week.  It's going to be a winter of strong coffee, the beam of my headlamp shining throuigh the dark mornings and late nights, plenty of tough trails! Looking forward!

Sunday December 11th: Rest Day

Monday December 12th: Rest Day

I rarely take back to back rest days but felt very run down at work this morning and wanted to head into an important training week feeling strong and fully rested.  Great strength training session at the gym today and planning on a good, hard effort tomorrow night.

Tuesday December 13th: Route 1 Freeport 7 miles @ 8:53 pace (1:02)

Headed down my favorite section of Rt 1 for seven miles on the easy side today. (a little too easy...I was surprised to see my pace following this run and felt like after two back to back rest days I should have kicked it up a little bit)  I got out of work a little earlier than expected and it was nice to begin my run with the sun still out for a while.  I could tell immediately that the two days off had been good for me, I felt rested, relaxed, and grateful to be on the road with time to sort out my thoughts.  The first few miles flew by and by the time that I switched on my headlamp I was really in the rhythm of the run.

I usually check my pace post run and have found myself surprised by my progress in the speed department lately...exact opposite of tonight and I'm not sure why.  Having to cut back my running during these last few hectic days at work will mean eliminating the short and easy recovery runs that I usually throw into the weekly mix as well as the speed workouts which aren't as relevant to my next race: the GAC 50k which is just over three weeks away.  Strength training tomorrow followed by a 6-8 miler on Thursday, 9 miles on Friday, and 20+ at Bradbury on Saturday morning.

Wednesday December 14th: Strength Training

Just a quick workout after a very long day at work.  Many miles to cover over the course of the next three days!

Thursday December 15th: Prom to Prom 9 miles @ 9:09 pace (1:22)

Headed out to the Eastern Prom after work to plan the route for the upcoming Resolution Run.  After playing around in the area for a while and deciding on the first and last portions of the route I decided to do a prom to prom run and finish mapping out the second section the following night.

It was a perfect night for a cross city traverse-misty but not raining, chilly but not cold, and a bright moon shining through the thick and swirling clouds.  I haven't run in the west end in a while and it felt good to be back in my old neighborhood.. The pace and distance were just what I was looking for tonight. Planning on a an easy run tomorrow to finish route planning followed by 20 or so at bradbury on Saturday morning.

Friday December 16th: Route Planning for Resolution Run  Roughly 5 miles at moderate pace

I met up with Brian tonight to finish planning the route for the Resolution Run.  I got to the prom a little earlier than expected and went out for 2 easy miles along the eastern trail before heading out with Brian to plan the route.  We had a very good run at a moderate pace and Brian presented some  great suggestions for the route.  Roughly 5 miles tonight and going long at Bradbury in the a.m (Running the connector out to Pineland Farms for roughly 16 miles and then likely running another 5 or so on the other side of the mountain.)

Saturday December 17th: Bradbury Mountain to Pineland Farms 21 miles

The snow was falling gently on the winding backroads as I drove to Bradbury Mountain this morning. A few other Trail Monsters were running an out-and-back run to Pineland Farms via the connector trail for a total of around 16 miles and I was planning to join them and possibly tack on 5-6 more miles once we got back to the Brad.  I arrived in the parking lot at the same time as many of the other TM's including Xar who'd followed me up and was  planning on a long run of her own on the eastern portion of the trails. 

As the dozen or so Monsters gathered to discuss the various routes, paces, and distances for the morning I spotted Joe Wrobleski strapping on a Nathan Hydration looked like he was going to go long. I'd met Joe briefly at Cathance and Pancakes a few weeks back but knew him best from his incredible recounts of recent 100 milers on the Trail Monster Running website.  He'd just completed the Maine 100 Mile Wilderness in epic fashion (an unsupported trek across the roughest 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail  aided only by his own foresight.-Joe had hung two caches of food at miles 30 and 70 a few days before the run.

It turns out that Joe and I were both thinking of 18-20 miles and decided to link up for the trek to Pineland and back.  We planned to keep the pace easy and put in a few miles on the rolling hills of the Pineland Farms trails when we arrived.  Ian led a small group of us out to the connector trail and across the powerlines where he pointed Joe and I in the right direction before heading back with the others.

I love running the trails along the powerlines. There is a distinct beauty to this stretch of rolling,open land and this was the first time that I'd seen it covered in snow.  Joe and I ran along what felt like an endless mile of railroad tracks- and for all of the best reasons.

When we arrived at Pineland Farms we had the opportunity to run side by side for the first time all morning (the only drawback to singletrack is that you find yourself staring at the backs of someones legs or slightly aware of the labored breathing and trail rustling behind you depending on your partner and your pace.)  Having a chance to connect with someone whose accomplishments have really served to inspire me and to solicit all of the training advice that I could get was another valuable aspect of a truly great morning out on the trails.

We got turned around a bit on our way back to Bradbury and after several unsuccessful attempts to connect to the Boundary trail from Trion Mountain we decided to run the roads back to the park. With 18 miles behind us and the damp cold of the morning setting in we were ready to wind down this run (and head for least I was).

We were unsure of the route back and ultimately decided to pull out the cell phone and give Xar a call to see if she was still nearby.  Within 15 minutes we were sitting in the welcomed heat of her car recounting the details of our 21 miles together and planning a potential carpool to the GAC 50k which Joe is running as well.

Couldn't have asked for a better run or a better morning! Planning on one more long run with a focus on time as opposed to distance before GAC.  I'll be running for 5 hours at Bradbury next Saturday morning and then taking down the mileage looking forward to 31 miles at Bradley Palmer State Park on January 7th!

Monday December 19th: Bradbury to Pineland Farms Point-to Point: 9 miles @ relaxed pace

An unexpected day off allowed for another trek to Pineland Farms and another incredible run along the connector trail.  I have wanted to run this trail with Xar for the longest time but wasn't comfortable enough with the route until this Saturdays semi-successful out and back.  We began the run with a kiss and headed out into the still and chill of the trails.  The first few miles flew by and before long we were navigating the tricky stretch of backwoods trail near Trion Mt.  This was the one section of the run that I was still unsure of and I was anxious about getting us turned around so early on in the run.  I am always impressed by Xar's trail instincts and the natural way that she moves through the woods.  Her keen and clear observations reveal her experience as an avid hiker and her general intuitiveness to all things-they also reveal my almost complete lack of "nature knowledge" and my generally haphazard approach of running in whatever direction feels right regardless of how lost I will likely get.  For this, and many other reasons, we make great running partners!

 Once we cleared the Trion trail we ran across the frozen fields and out to the powerlines.  The run across the lines presents many of the challenges that I've come to appreciate-icy patches, broken bridges, lengths of wire stretched across the trail, and frozen sinkholes were accentuated by the biting wind that blew across this open and desolate stretch of land.  I hoped that Xar wasn't too bummed about trading the quiet peace of  soft and rolling singletrack for this other worldly traverse across a frozen construction zone for this long a stretch (she is a total wood nymph and just as comfortable as she seems surrounded by trees and streams and engulfed in the soft sounds of the forest she seems equally uncomfortable on the high traffic roads and semi-sketchy runs that she's accompanied me on.

Once we hit the train tracks we got a chance to run side by side and really talk for the first time all morning.  We mostly joked around and  it reminded me of how truly grateful I was to be spending the morning with her.  I watched her run ahead to search out the access point to Pinelands. Once we came across the large wooden cross that marks the descent into the gully only a few bushwacking, branch-breaking seconds separated us from the clear and rolling trails of the gloucester hill loop.

We had run, I mean fun, exploring Pinelands despite the inaccurate trail signs leading us in chilly, hilly, circles before pointed us to the warmth of the Welcome Center.

After the run it was on to Coffee by Design in Freeport and a really relaxing afternoon in each others company.  Had some tightness in my Achilles tendon heading into the run and although it's not bothering me right now I plan to take tomorrow as my second rest day of the week and tailor my training around the successful completion of my most important GAC training run-a 5 hour stomp through the woods on Saturday morning.

Tuesday December 22nd: Rest Day

Wednesday December 23rd: Freeport Back Roads 5 miles @ 9:27 pace

After a long and draining day at work I pulled into the parking lot in downtown Freeport for a planned 6 miler.  An icy rain pelted the streets and the impending darkness loomed over every second spent struggling into tights and searching for gear in the front seat of my car.  I wanted to do anything but run.  When this happens I've learned to focus on forward motion-dressing, locating gear, and hitting the road as soon as possible while the voices of resistance, weakness, and self-doubt do their thing.  You will NEVER regret going for a run and will ALWAYS regret backing out.  A simple rule that I remind myself of on days like this.  Couldn't find my gloves or hat or headlamp-poor planning all around- so cut the run down to 5 miles to  beat the sunset and headed out in a hooded cotton sweatshirt for 5 miles of relatively joyless running.  A good test for the Achilles which has been bothering me since Sat. and a good reminder that one out every dozen or so runs is going to be tough one that never turns around for you. All part of training and the odds are with me for a series of great runs to end my highest mileage week and begin a slight taper before toeing the GAC starting line on January 7th.

Thursday December 23rd: Eastern Promenade: 4 miles @ 8:32 pace

I met up with Jim Wade who'd joined X-City on our site for a run along the promenade.  I had hoped to get in a Prom to Prom tonight but Jim had plans following our run and my Achilles had been bothering me all day 3-5 sounded like a more sensible alternative.  We headed out along the Eastern Prom and got to know each other while enjoying the unseasonable warmth preceding tomorrow's impending storm.  Got in 3.5 at a decent pace before Jim split and I continued for a half mile to round the run to an even 4.  Hadn't planned on a tempo run this week and with a 13 miler planned for the morning and the 5 hour Bradbury trek set for Saturday I think that this was a good addition to my training week.  Great to meet Jim and looking forward to seeing him again at the Resolution Run next week.

Friday December 23rd Maine 1/2 Marathon Route: 12 miles @ 8:30 pace (1:42:08)

The relatively light week, mostly spent in recovery mode, left me ready for a good, hard, run this morning.  This 12 miler down the Maine Marathon route had all the characteristics of an epic run-woke with a lot on my mind, grabbed hat, gloves, jacket, and nearest pair of shorts, and headed out for 12 hard miles into the mouth of a winter storm-but it didn't leave me with much to say other than that I got in a solid (and much needed) run at race pace and am looking forward to a morning in the woods tomorrow on my last long run before GAC.

Saturday December 24th: Bradbury Mountain 22.5 miles (5:15)

For the past several weeks I've run long at Bradbury Mountain in preparation for the GAC 50k on January 7th.  When training for a race I usually alternate long runs (20+ miles) with mid-distance runs (13-18 miles) and try to avoid running for 4+ hours on a weekly basis.  With the abbreviated training cycle for GAC I had to abandon this approach and by the time that Saturday planned 5 hour run arrived I was a little burned out on long, cold, mornings in the woods of Pownal, Maine.  I had expected this to be an extremely challenging run, both mentally and physically.  Due to the excellent company of my friends Ian, Val, and Rick, and my partner (and closest friend) Xar the morning flew by and I ended up with 5 hours of great memories before heading up to Readfield to do this X-Mas thing with X and her family.

Hip flexors were really sore but aside from that I felt strong and ready to run all day.  Lot's more that I'd like to say about this run but it looks like I need to either shorten these posts or lengthen the day...and until I figure out how to do the latter I've got to put the former into motion.

Much love to the Trail Monster crew for pulling me through a tough training cycle and to Xar for incredible support, inspiration, and romantic river rendezvous over the past several weeks. Ready for GAC all the way!

Sunday December 25th: Eastern Trail 20 minute shake out run

After yesterday's long run I went out for a quick 20 minute shake-out to loosen things up.  That's all! 

Monday December 25th: Eastern Trail 5.5 miles @ relaxed pace

Left my Garmin at Xar's house so couldn't track exact pace/distance...which is good every now and then,

Headed out early for a snowy and relaxing run along the Eastern Trail.  I love the ET in the winter (brings back memories of my training for the Watchung Winter Ultra last year ) and I enjoyed crunching the first footprints of the day into the freshly fallen snow.  My body is pretty beat up after a tough training season and I'm looking forward to some much needed recovery over the next two weeks as I taper for the GAC 50k.  Rest day tomorrow and likely another on Thursday followed by a good weekend of running (TM Group run on Sat, Resolution Run on Sunday, and something good for Monday because I'm off of work...maybe the trails at the Cathance River Preserve or a Portland Prom to Prom).

Tuesday December 26th: Rest Day

Plyometrics and weight training at the gym but no running.

Wednesday December 27th: Route Planning for Resolution Run 7 miles (1 mile at warm up pace en route to RR starting point. 6 miles @ 8:55 pace

Left from Planet Fitness after early morning weight training session to re-run the route for Sunday.  I've been considering some modifications that might make things a little more fun for all who show up.  I switched up the second stage of the run and added a nice section of trails to the final 2 mile leg.  Glad to get in a brisk 7 miler before picking up my daughters for two days of r&r.  Happy with the changes to Sunday's run! Planning on a rest day tomorrow complete with hot stacks of pancakes, a hike up Mt. Pisgah with Xar and the girls to catch a chilly sunset, and a slow and easy day with the people that I love.

Thursday December 28th: Rest Day

Pancakes are good.  Mt. Pisgah was cold (but beyond gorgeous). Day was slow, easy, and awesome as planned.  My body felt stronger, more flexible, and more thoroughly rested than it has in a long while...a reminder of the absolute importance of balancing your training with a healthy dose of r&r every now and then.  Going out for 5 easy miles tomorrow to get back into the swing of things before plenty of running over the 3 day weekend.

Friday December 29th: Resolution Run Route Planning 5 @ 9:30 pace

After some much needed recovery time this week it felt great to be out running in the snow again.  I took it easy as planned and tightened up a few loose ends for the Resolution Run on Sunday morning.  A really nice run followed by weight training at Planet Fitness and (fingers crossed) a relaxing night of writing, stretching, and catching up on misc. projects while time allows.  Meeting the Trail Monster crew for a group run in the a.m and considering checking out the 3,2,1 Crossfit facility in Brunswick for one of their free Saturday classes..

Saturday December 30th: Bradbury Mountain  6 miles at relaxed pace

The last day of 2011 was an ass kicker.  It began with a 360 degree spin-out and near crash that left me in a pile of bushes on the side the road.  This happened on my way to the Saturday morning Trail Monster group run and really shook me up.  As I drove to Bradbury to meet the group my running mojo was admittedly low.  When I lost control of my car on the icy roads and found myself sliding directly into the path of a telephone pole (missed it by inches!) I immediately envisioned myself paralyzed and unable to run/walk again after the crash. Needless to say I was glad to reach the parking lot and meet the other monsters with everything intact and my mojo restored. 

I got a chance to catch up with Nate who I hadn't seen since he ran The Lookout Mountain 50 miler a few weeks ago..  This was his first 50 mile race and he seemed fully recovered and ready for another!  I hope that the McNaughton 50 in May leaves me feeling similarly recovered and anxious for more ultra's a few weeks later.

I was only planning an an hour long run and Blaine who is running a marathon in Boston tomorrow was thinking the same.  We ran some trails that I've never been on before and and had some great conversation as we slipped, skidded, and slid all over the frozen mountain.

A series of personal challenges unfolded throughout the day and overall the last 24 hours of 2011 provided a rough ending to a pretty great year.  Looking forward to ringing in 2012!

Sunday January 1st: Resolution Run 10 miles

I met up with Brian, Jim, and Kevin for X-City's first New Years Day Resolution Run this morning.  We stopped at the scenic overlook on North St (the 1/2 mile mark). to quietly reflect on our resolutions for the upcoming year before heading down to the Eastern Promenade trail and up Munjoy Hill to wrap up a nice 3.5 mile run.  After the group left I headed out to explore the Bayside Trail that Jim mentioned being recently extended to connect with the Stroudwater and Fore River trails.  And, for the first time since I can remember, I just went for a run.  I had no destination, pace, distance, or route in mind.  I just ran.  Sometimes I ran fast and other times I ran easy.  I went down whatever street, trail, or path seemed appealing and ended up on some trails near the Western Promenade, running through the Western Cemetery, sprinting down Danforth st. devising a future X-City run called The Runner Pull where I head out to find a set number of people to run with me for at least 1 mile and don't stop until I do, cruising along the Eastern Promenade trail again, running up the huge set of steps that I've always wanted to run up, and finishing with two hard hill repeats on the Eastern Prom for a total of 10 miles.  Happy 2012!

Monday January 2nd: Rest Day

Strength training at Planet Fitness but no running.  Took the day to stretch, get in a long weight training session, rest up, and head into a week of relaxed runs before GAC this Saturday.

Tuesday January 3rd: Route One/Blackpoint Road 4 miles @ 8:43 pace

I had planned on getting in a 4 miler in Freeport after work but woke up at 3:30a feeling inspired and ready to run.  It was COLD out this morning! Fortunately, I'd recently picked up some new gear and this was as good a morning as any to test it out.  Both the warm clothes and the fires of inspiration surrounding the advancement of the X-City project kept me warm and I found myself back in my kitchen making coffee before I knew what happened.  A good short run today and another rest day tomorrow (really listening to my body this week and, with a solid 2 months of training behind me, focusing on rest and recovery before Saturday). Planning on 5-6 miles on Thursday, 3 on Friday and then....It's GAC time!

Wednesday January 4th: Rest Day

Great strength training session, lot's of stretching, and ready to run tomorrow morning!

Thursday January 5th: Pineland Farms 7.5 miles @ Relaxed Pace

I got to Pineland Farms with 6 easy, pre-GAC miles on my mind. Back to back to back weekends of 20+ mile runs at Bradbury have left me feeling confident in my strengths while increasingly concerned about my weaknesses.  In particular, my achilles tendons and hip flexors on both sides have felt as though they're on the verge of snapping.  I've picked up my mileage pretty rapidly following the stress fracture in preparation for this race and my approach has been to run until a) my body tells me to back off or b) I'm crossing the finish line at GAC.  Well, following a 5 hour training run on X-Mas eve the body said to back off and I'm reluctantly obeying.

I've been resting and icing all week and hoped that this last trail run (easy 3 mile X-City run through Portland tomorrow night for the First Friday Art Walk) would reflect the benefits of all the R&R.  No dice...

I felt the familiar sting in my hip flexors and the pull in my achilles by the end of the second mile.  As I tried to enjoy the cool morning air and the icy fields/trails at one of my new favorite running spots I couldn't shake the question that my body continued to raised: Should I back out of GAC?

I've put a lot of work into preparing for this race and, more importantly to me, I've placed a great deal of significance on it as a kick-off to my beginning college in two weeks.  (With the McNaughton 50 miler in May serving as the "finish line" of the 1st semester.)  This is dangerous business as it can lead to unnecessary risks and, ultimately, to  more elliptical machines and TV monitors at Planet Fitness while rehabbing an injury that I could have avoided.

Aside from the achilles/flexors acting up I feel stronger than I ever have.  I decided that I'm going to head down to GAC with the goal of completing the 50k, while prioritizing both the upcoming group runs that I've committed to leading and the February through May training cycle for McNaughton which will be this year's "big race", and stop if I feel like something is going to snap.  Otherwise, I'm planning to cross the GAC finish line tomorrow afternoon, with my sub 6-hour goal still in mind.

The trails at Pineland offered just enough elevation, technical running (snow shoe trail was great), and unstable footing (frozen fields and consequential bush wacking when getting confused by the crazy, conflicting, ass backwards signs pointing back to the Welcome Center and trying to get back to my car!) to test my body on rougher terrain than the streets of Portland have been able to offer.

My 6 miles turned to 7.5 when I couldn't find my way back to parking lot but I was in no real rush and took the extra miles extra easy. 

As an experience I'm looking forward to GAC in every way.  Can't wait to get out in the woods with everyone and dig some new trails in MA.  As a race....I don't think that I'm looking at it as a race anymore.  My goal is to complete the 50k course, injury free, with miles of memories from the woods of Massachusetts.

We'll see how it goes!

Friday January 7th: First Friday Art Walk 3.5 miles at relaxed pace

Laura and Elizabeth joined me for a run through the First Friday Art Walk in Portland.  Turns out that the festivites don't kick off until later in the evening (we started running at 5:30 with plans of hitting the Arts District at 6) but it was a nice run and a good chance to get to know each other a little bit.  Achilles was sore from mile 2 on...had me second guessing GAC all night.

Saturday January 7th: GAC 50k 30-31 miles 5:05

As I pulled into the aid station at mile 24, grabbed two slices of "vegan ultra pie", and prepared to begin the fifth and final lap of the GAC 50k it was hard to believe that, just last night, I'd considered backing out of the event entirely.  (Well, not entirely. I had committed to going down to MA with the other Trail Monsters....and I'd made a I was southbound either way.  Just not sure if I'd be able to run.)

My Achilles tendon, the main reason I'd reconsidered running, didn't so much as twinge during the race.  A reminder that the third factor in running a good race, aside from physical preparation and mental fortitude, is the alignment of the stars on race day. And every now and then they all fire at the same time....

When I woke in the morning and felt the familiar pain/stiffness in my Achilles I considered registering for the Marathon distance as opposed to the 50k ,and I wrestled with this decision halfway down to MA.  Ultra running offers incredible insight into the workings of the human psyche...ultimately to the point where it becomes more and more difficult to bullshit yourself!  I told myself all of the things that should have made dropping to a marathon an easy decision. " If this race is a kick-off to my upcoming school semester wouldn't a safer, more sensible, decision be a better reflection of my progress and development over the past year?"  "Wouldn't taking an unnecessary risk demonstrate a lack of commitment to the development of X-City Running and the group runs that I'm gping to be leading?"  " Running a trail marathon is still pretty damn tough! It's much harder than, say, sitting around, eating pancakes, and blogging all morning...that's it, I'm dropping down!"

Ultimately, though, when faced with this mostly sensible stream of logic, the words of a wise, old, trail running buddy, took precedence over all: "You've got to risk it to get the biscuit!"  Funny how the mind works...

I picked up Nate at Back Cove and we talked about our running over the past year on the way down to Topsfield.  I told him that I was wrestling with the decision to drop down to a marathon, and for a minute or two, you could see us both considering the possibility and making further justifications for it. It would make sense since we were carpooling...

I ended the mental wrestling match once and for all by proclaiming that I'd rather DNF at the 50k then succeed at the marathon.  There's no going back from that one!  My reason was as follows: If I attempt the 50k I'll likely run at least a marathon but if I register for, and complete the marathon, there's no way I'm heading back out to unofficially conquer the 50k.  Decision made and ready to race!

It was warmer than I expected and I changed into a pair of shorts minutes before race start. Good choice!  I jumped into the suddenly moving pack of trail runners ( soft-spoken race director? ) and headed out for the first of five  6.2 mile loops with sixteen sheet metal screws still screwed into the soles of my shoes. Bad choice!  (I had prepared for patches of ice, much of which had apparently melted, and for 31 miles of trails, much of which was apparently pavement! An exaggeration...but there were more roads than expected.)

By the end of the first loop I felt one of the screws pressing into the sole of my foot.  My ability to complete the race depended on my finding a trail runner armed with a screwdriver...and soon!  Luckily, trail runners are a generally resourceful and fortuitously prepared bunch (except me who could have packed one in my drop bag...) and I was unscrewed and on the move by mile 12.  Thanks guy in the Nipmuck marathon shirt packing the uni-tool! You saved my race!

I knew that the first three loops would pass easily and that I needed to focus on controlling my pace, staying hydrated and well-fueled, and enjoying the unbelievably gorgeous morning filled with warm sunshine, rolling golden fields, and peaceful single-track, before fatigue began to set in.

I was prepared for the mental and physical challenges of the fourth lap and knew that once I completed it, and successfully headed out for the fifth, that the 50k finish was a sure bet.  I pulled into the aid station at mile 18 and swapped out my hydration pack for a hand held bottle and a Pro-Bar. (These are amazing 4 by 4 inch blocks of nutritionally dense and easily digestible fuel that I discovered I could not only stomach, but actually eat while in motion.  They are 370 calories of all natural and raw ingredients (nut butters, dates, rolled oats etc. and provide a literal lunch on the run.  I'd recommend the original flavor for starters and the Pro-Bar line in general)

I knew that I had to guard against the 26.2 temptation that this lap would present.  I found myself faced with the same challenge at last years Watchung Winter Ultra, and the option to stop running and end the day with a respectable marathon finish and an afternoon of hanging out at the aid table rings strong by mile 25.  I hit a low point halfway through the lap as anticipated but by the time that I ran through the start/finish for the fourth time I was feeling strong and ready to run the distance. 

I had entered the race with the goal of breaking 6 hours.  When I approached the clock at mile 24 and saw that it read 4 hours on the dot everything changed...

What was going to be an slow and (relatively) relaxing final loop had become my opportunity to break 5 hours in a 50k. Armed with two slices of "ultra pie" a Cliff Gu, and this new goal in mind I raced up the trail.

" I was clicking off 6:20's! I didn't care if I blew up!" - Michael Wardian, second place finisher at the 2011 UROC Ultra Championships

Well, it was more like clicking off 9:50's....but they felt blazing fast and I kept the pace up until mile 28...then I stopped.  Completely.  My legs had worn out on me and I knew that a short, brisk, walk break, a driving power hike up the steep single track ahead, and a steady run towards the finish was the only option to avoid slowing to an all-out crawl.

On the last stretch of road, a well utilized and very public walking path complete with children, strollers, joggers, bikers, and all manner of locals out enjoying the day, the peculiar sensation of suddenly finding yourself in the middle of someone's casual Saturday afternoon after running in the woods all morning was amplified tenfold.  I realized that I must have looked absolutely exhausted while running at about a 12 minute mile pace and raised the question: "Why is that dude so tired?" in the minds of everyone who took notice.

As I approached the last quarter mile, my sub 5 hour goal extinguished by the 5:02 reading on my Garmin, but my sub 6 hour goal crushed and thoughts of my friends, the pie, and a strong cup of good coffee on my mind I felt fantastic!

I crossed the line in 5:05 to find Ian, Nate, Jamie, and Joe waiting for me.  It was great to kick it with friends and share in the post race, endorphin fueled, back slapping, food fest, which is the real reason we run these things to begin with!  Great race and a definite do-again in 2013.  (With sub 5 in mind!)

Ian, Nate, Me, and Jamie at the finish line of the GAC 50k

Sunday January 8th: Rest Day

Resting up after GAC!  Shake out run tomorrow and easy running all week.  Looking forward to a balanced month of running while building a more functional and efficient strength training program that will a) leave me feeling recovered and ready to begin training for the Peaks 50 Miler in February and b) experiment with and establish a weight training program based on short, intense, and total body metabolic conditioning (Met-Con) workouts that I can sustain throughout the winter despite the challenges of balancing work, school, family, and training for my first 50 mile race.

Monday January 9th: Back Cove 4 miles @ 9:11 pace

Short brisk run.  And I mean brisk like COLD!  I left Planet Fitness to grab my sweatshirt from the car and head out on an easy recovery run around the 'cove.  As I stepped outside the sun was shining down and my shorts, t-shirt, Vibram combo seemed fine for a quick 4 miles.  It wasn't!  As I approached the water I realized that I was going to freeze some..

Despite the chill it was a good run at a faster pace than I'd planned on.  I remember what I felt like a year ago after running my first 50k (stepping off of a NJ Transit train and awkwardly inching down the long stairway to the subway platform below, every muscle below the belt just aching in pain). Although both the course and the conditions were much tougher last year I was really surprised to find a set of tight calves and flashes of warm trail memories serving as the only remnants of Saturday's race.

Weight training and possibly a couple miles through the city tomorrow.  Turnout looks good for the group run on Wednesday night and I might run through the West End and do some pre-route planning, route planning.  Leaving this one up in the air...

Sweats and a Hoodie: 4 Miles through the Streets of Portland

  I used to live in Bloomfield, NJ, a concrete grey, working class town, next to Newark. I remember waking up in my bright,third floor apartment with the dreary view, and dressing for cold morning runs down Bloomfield Avenue.

  Thermal undershirts, thick cotton hoodies, wool caps, and strong cups of coffee got me out the door and into the frozen streets. I was rehabbing an inury at the time and these runs were slow, steady, and run mostly in a pair of heavy construction boots over slick sidewalks covered in snow. (I was boxing in a little gym on West 16th St at the time while discovering the classics of "fight" literature on subway cars and city cafe's. I'd read that Muhammad Ali ran in boots to avoid twisting an ankle before a fight and I figured that if it's good enough for the champ it's good enought for me.)

  In the years that have passed running has taken on a new role in my life. It is my "sport", my meditation, my recreation, and my release. I no longer run in boots. I race frequently. And, as I realized this morning on a slow and steady recovery run, I no longer run for the sake of running.

 I've been training for one race or another since early spring when I registered for the Bar Harbor Marathon and culminating a solid performance at the GAC 5ok in Topsfiled, MA this past Saturday.

  With my longest and most challenging race to date, the Peaks 5o Mile Ultra-Marathon on the calendar for early May, I committed to scaling back my running for the month of January to allow for physical and mental recovery before beginning an intense three month training cycle

  Slowing down when you're body is used to running 40-50 miles a week isn't easy. But, I knew that this would be my last chance for a solid block of rest and recovery before toeing the line at Peaks on the 12th of May.

  I left the gym this morning in my sweatpants and my hoodie with no time, route, or distance in mind. I ran through the trails at Deering Oaks Park, turning down any path that looked or felt right. I ran through my old neighboorhood, across the playground where my daughter went to school, and past old haunts, corner stores, and personal landmarks where memories waited and ran along with me awhile.
  At one point near the end of my run I caught my reflection in a window -a hooded figure in baggy sweatpants running slowly through the winter morning, and I thought back to those days on Bloomfield Avenue

. I thought of the person running through the frozen streets of North Jersey and the person running along on this mild January morning in Portland,Maine.. And I thought of the many miles that lie between them.

  Through all that has changed in my life over the years my running has been a constant. I've used it to measure personal growth, to maintain strengths while eliminating weaknesses, and to make and mark the memories that we build up on our journey through this world.

  These are the thoughts that passed through my mind this morning, and, unlike lap splits and distances, I find that they are still with me long after my run has ended. So I wanted to share them with anyone who may have come across this, and anyone who may need to break out the sweatpants and the hoodie and go for a run.

Wednesday January 11th- Route Planning Run 3 Miles at "Planning" Pace

I met up with Brian at Local Sprouts to do some route planning for the weekly X-City Runs beginning in February.  A few others were planning to attend but several last minute posts on the meet-up site revelaed that we were down to a duo.  This worked out well as it gave Brian and I a chance to catch up with each other and plan a decent 3 miler through the neighborhood.  It goes something like this-head out from the cafe and up Pine St into the West End, cut down Brackett and through the Reiche School playground taking Spring St out to the Western Cemetary, run the cemetary trails to the Western Promenade, heads down Danforth to the funky side street turn-around and up this cool little street who's name I always forget, bang a right onto Park St. and back to the cafe for coffee, hot eats, and all the rest.   Looking forward to Feb!

Thursday January 12th: Breaking the Routine

Routines can be a double -edged sword. For me, a steady routine is essential to staying on program and not missing work-outs when life gets crazy. I'm always up for a spontaneous run/gym session if time allows but the core workouts of the week are written in stone and I don't miss them. Period. As far as the routine inside the gym-mix it up, mix it up, and mix it up again.

The body has an incredible capacity to adapt to increased physical demands. Have you ever noticed someone working a physically demanding job while remaining out of shape?  Most jobs that I've had in my life emphasized brawn over brain and I know the challenge of committing to a workout after an "eight hour workout" all too well.  I used to think that pushing a concrete filled wheelbarrow, tossing boxes out of the back of a truck, or applying a shovels edge to the frozen ground ,like, a thousand times a day, would be all the "workout" that I needed.  And for the first few weeks of each of these jobs, it was. I noticed gains in both muscle mass and muscular endurance.  I shed excess weight easily due to the high caloric burn and the increase in my resting metabolic rate from the extra muscle I'd put on.  And then, slowly but surely, my body got used to the workload and the fitness gains slowly ground to a halt.  Then rolled back down the road. 

I'm writing a longer piece on avoiding plateau's and breaking the law of diminishing returns over the next few days.  But for purpose of the training log here's this mornings workout in a nutshell:  I felt well rested and ready to rock this morning.  Focussed on more body weight and functional strength excersises (pull-up's, dips, kettle bell swings) and wrapped things up with 3 back-to- back  rounds of jump rope (5min,3min,3min) mountain climbers (25) and burpee's (15) with no rest in between sets.  Got a good sweat in and dusted off some muscle groups that I've ignored while training for last Saturday's 50k.

Planning on a 6 mile tempo run tomorrow and a high intensity weight training session before the CPR/AED class on Saturday morning.

Saturday January 14th: Strength Training

A solid, high intensity, weight training session followed by a few sets of box jumps and body weight squats on bosu ball.  Looking forward to a chilly ten miler on the trails tomorrow morning!

Sunday January 15th: Bradbury Mountain 10 miles @ 9:32 pace

I arrived at Bradbury Mountain this morning to find the parking lot empty, the woods quiet and still, and the sun shining brightly across the fields of frozen snow. The temperatures were in the single digits and the air cut through my jacket, tights, and warmest baselayers without effort.  I headed down the snowy path toward Hallowel Rd and onto the bright stretch of trails packed clean by snowmobiles (and by my Trail Monster Running buddies who'd passed through this way on a group run yesterday morning,)

I veered off the snowmobile trails to explore the Lanzo and Island Loop sections of the park. I found Lanzo to be highly runnable and before long I was locked into a trail-trance, my thoughts as still as the snow covered bridges and the icy streams. On the Island Loop I followed a pair of lone footprints and my thoughts turned to the unknown runner who'd enjoyed the solitude of this trail before me.  The snow began to deepen and soon I was sinking to my ankles, the frosty edges cutting into old bruises that I'd gotten while training for last weeks 50k.  I decided to turn back toward the snowmobile trail and run a few miles before circling around to the parking lot to see of any other Monsters had arrived.

I saw glad to see Val and Rick's car parked next to mine and two shadows still inside.  I'd run for an hour at this point and planned on one more before calling it a morning. I followed Val down the same path that I'd just run, the company and the conversation making the familiar trail seem new again.  I really enjoy running with these two and hesitated to turn back after a half hour as planned. But, the backs of my hands were beginning to burn from the cold and the ten mile/ two hour distance seemed like a good plan, and in perfect alignment with my month of "easy running" before three months of training for the hills of VT and the trails of the Peaks 50 Miler in May. 

Good run with great company and an easy afternoon of coffee drinkin', studying, and writing ahead.

Monday January 16th: Weights and Stairs at Planet Fitness

This morning was a low-intensity weight training session followed by a 20 minute stair workout.

In the eyes of many strength expert's intensity equals power. The terms are used interchangeably and based on the the following formula(s):

Power=Force x velocity



I'm not a formula guy and appreciate the ability of a teacher/trainer to bring these stale equations to life.

The Power=Intensity concept, when applied to weight training, was best relayed to me through the following series of questions: How much did it weigh? How much did you weigh? How far did you move it? How long did it take you? That's how you define your level of intensity/power.

Definitions are subjective. While I think that this is a solid concept it's not exactly what I'm referring to when I label a weight training session as high or low intensity.

I'm talking more about the overall experience at the gym. My level of motivation. The rest intervals between sets (not based on the NEED for extended rest periods for the purpose of specific physiological gains, but because I'm gazing out the window, reluctant to resume the workout) Whether I was checking my Facebook on my phone or shaking off the last set while focusing on the next.

Defined in this way this morning's weight training session was a low-intensity affair. I hit the weights hard when I hit them but was disinterested and unfocused in between sets. 

I felt most engaged when trying out some new exercises that focused on body weight resistance and functional movements that can be applied to my experiments in Parkour and the upcoming Cross-Fit classes that I'll be taking.  This program variance is just what I needed and I'm looking forward to incorporating a fresh approach to fitness and conditioning to my training for the Peaks 50 Miler this coming May. 

I've started to tack on short, high intensity, intervals to the end of my weight training sessions. Today it was a fast and hard 20 minutes on the Stairmaster-and the most enjoyable part of the morning's workout.

Again, when things get dull you've got to mix it up!  And I'll be mixing up a blend of fast, furious, and functional workouts along with a series loooong, loooong runs on the snowy trail to the Peaks 50 Miler!

Tuesday January 17th: Less Running is Working

My plan to cut down my running mileage for the month of January in preparation for a February-May training cycle is having the effect that I intended-I want to run! 

I wasn't looking for an "easy" month or a "month off", in fact it's been just the opposite, I've upped the intensity of my workouts significantly.  What I had hoped to gain was a physical and psychological break from constant running and several back to back race training cycles.

My work/life schedule while training for the GAC 50k didn't allow much time for "fun runs". Every run had a purpose whether it be speed, distance, or recovery.  I created a successful training plan for both of my "big races" this year, the Mount Desert Island Marathon and the Gac 50k and reached my goals at both events.  Now I'm looking forward to the freedom of running to run, taking the time to explore other areas of interest such as Cross Fit and Parkour, and heading into a February-May training cycle with fresh legs and a fresh perspective.

Worked chest and back today followed by 30 minutes of intervals on the treadmill.  Can't wait to get outside for a 6 miler with Mindy tomorrow morning and enjoy the snowy city streets on a Prom to Prom run!

Wednesday January 18th: Prom to Prom with Mindy5.5 miles @, slippin', slidin' pace

This mornings slippery trek through the streets of Portland began at the Eastern Promenade and flew by in an icy whirlwind of inspiration.

Mindy and I met up at 9 as planned and within minutes we were sliding down Congress St (I didn't anticipate how icy the streets would be-should have worn screw shoes for sure!) while sharing our thoughts on the transformational power of running and how it can be applied to individual as well as community development.

5.5 miles flew by as we fell seamlessly into conversation about issues that were clearly close to our hearts.  As we exchanged ideas and shared perspectives we came upon a dog that had gotten loose near the Western Prom.  We stopped and helped a utility worker get him off of the street and closer to home.  As we climbed the slick stairs near Fort. Allen we were able to assist an elderly woman who'd was cautiously ascending the icy path to the Promenade.  This is one of many things that I love about running in the city-the opportunity to interact with others and to be part of the moving, breathing, living environment that a community creates.

Before I knew it we were back on the Promenade and ready to part ways.  The free-flowing and inspired exchange of ideas shared on this mornings run is the true lifeblood of any project, pursuit, goal, or vision and I valued every minute of it.

I am looking forward to meeting with the directors of several organizations to discuss the project during the following week and to taking the next steps to engage and involve the community. Also very much looking forward to more runs with Mindy as we train for the Peaks 50 Miler and to the continued insight, creativity, and guidance of all who've expresses an interest in the development of X-City Running.

Thursday January 19th: Pumpin' Iron and Skippin' Rope

Have to keep this one short and sweet...and the title of the post might just suffice.  High intensity weight training and 20 minutes of skipping rope.  I love skipping rope...

Hooked up with an old friend afterwards and it felt great to re-connect after several years.  Hope to go for a run with him one of these days!

Rest day tomorrow and plenty of running this weekend

Friday January 20th: Rest Day

Got in a short, efficient chest workout in the weight room at my job,  Aside from that it's a rest day...

Trails at Bradbury tomorrow morning if my calf/achilles is up for it (been experiencing some pain and tightness all day) and more trails Sunday before volunteering at the Bradbury Squall, the first snowshoe race of the year!

Saturday January 21st: Maine 1/2 Marathon Route 12.5 Miles @ 9:23 pace

I've said it before but one of the things that I value about running is that it that it slowly and steadily reduces your ability to bullshit yourself.  I felt like running this morning but more like 5-6 miles.  A year ago I might have found a way to talk this run down to half of it's intended distance.  Two years ago I might have just gone back to bed.  But this morning I recognized it for what it was, moved past it knowing that I'd enjoy the snowy morning on the 1/2 Maine half marathon route, and headed out the door for a great run.

I had planned on 12 miles and got in just a little extra because I wanted to see the snow falling on East Beach.  Tomorrow is the Bradbury Squall snowshoe race at which I'll be volunteering.  Plan is to hit the weights at Planet Fitness in the morning then head up to Bradbury with an old friend help out and check out the whole snowshoe-scene.  Looking forward to it.

Sunday January 22nd: Weight training, volunteering at the Bradbury Squall, and 1 mile with an old friend.

Good morning workout with plenty of pull-ups and bar swinging in preparation for Parkour adventures in the weeks ot come. My friend Jordan and I headed up to the Bradburry Squall to volunteer at the race.  Looked like everyone had a great time and I'm considering racing at the Bradbury WHite-Out on Feb. 12th, although I'd be just as happy to volunteer again.  We ended up in downtown Freeport afterwards where Jordan picked up a new pair of trail running shoes.  Didn't have a lot of time but a new pair of shoes always warrants a break-in run so we hit the Knight Woods loop on the way home.  A day well spent with a close friend  and an afternoon of studying, schoolwork, and attempting to finalize the X-City Running flyers for several meetings taking place throughout the week.

Monday January 24th: Complete Rest Day

I recently read a study that connected the failure to actually rest on planned rest days with the ability to effectively "bring it on" during hard training sessions.  I'm not sure when the last time that I took a "complete" rest day was without stopping by Planet Fitness for a short workout or going for a quick run and today felt like the day to do it.  I had planned this rest day regardless of how the day unfolded but ended up getting somewhat of a workout by unloading two full tractor trailers at myself in one of the more physical days at work that I've had in a while. Still, the pyschological break from going to the gym or completeing a planed workout along with some extra time to rehab a recently twisted knee was worthwhile and a good choice all around.  4-5 miles planed for tomorrow as I start to ease back into my regular running schedule and begin to prepare for a race season that I'm increasingly excited about.

Tuesday January 25th: Black Point Rd and the Eastern Trail 5 miles at 9:15 pace

The warm morning air, the patches of green near my doorstep where ice and snow had been the night before, and the creeping fog that would add a surreal element to the mornings run,in particular on the quiet, frozen path of the Eastern Trail all called for something longer than 5 miles. But, my knee wouldn't allow me to answer this call. I've never dealt with a knee injury before and although it doesn't feel like anything too serious I am approaching with caution as I prepare to amp up my mileage for a series of upcoming races.  I'm hoping to get in a good 9 miles tomorrow and join the Monsters for a 20 mile Snow Mobile Trail Adventure on Saturday-but all depends on how the knee feels. 

Wednesday January 26th: Portland to SoPo 6 Miles @ 8:50 Pace

What a gorgeous day to run! I left the parking lot of Planet Fitness and headed into the city with 6 miles on my mind (originaly planned on 9 but my knee was still sore I'm being careful with it). I ended up near Commercial St and decided to run across the brisge into South Portland to check out the Greenway for the first time. It's been a long time since I've run across the bridge to South Portland and with the warm temps and the sun shining across the water I couldn't have picked a better day to revisit this old running route.  My knee started to bother me around 5 miles into the run.  Still nothing serious but I'm keeping an eye on it.  Jordan and I are meeting up for a short run tomorrow morning and I'm planning on something longer (8-9 miles) on Friday.  I'll be using these runs to see how my knee feels and gauge how much of the 20+ mile Snpw Mobile Trail Adventure planned for Saturday morning's Trail Monster group run I'll be able to hang for.

Thursday January 26th: Eastern Prom Trail:  4 miles with a friend

After a brief warm-up to loosen up my knee I arived at the India St CBD to meet Jordan.  It's been great to reconect with an old friend through a new medium-the thought of running together never crossed either of our minds when we first met a few years back.  We had a nice, short, run along the waterfront, scrambling up the icy trails to the top of the Promenade, and ending up back at CDB with 3 miles behind us. Planning on a run out to Mackworth Island in the a.m-and, lke the past ten times that I've run this route-it's going to be a wet one.

Friday January 27th: Portland to Macckworth Isalnd 9 mile tempo run

I woke up ready to run.  The rest and recovery after the MDI/GAC training cycles was hugely beneficial and as I sipped my last cup of Frosty's Favorite (CBD's holiday blend) of the season I found myself  looking forward to the trip out to Mackworth more than any run in recent memory.  It was raining, just like the last ten or so times that I've run this route, and I had to wonder if it rains because I run it or if I run it because it rains...

The rain fell steady and the wind blew strong as I crossed the Martins Point Bridge. I reached the Island anticipating a quiet mile along the secluded trails, but I quickly I realized that the uneven, frozen, terrain was putting a ton of strain on my knee and I reluctantly backed out  and returned to road. 

I had planned to join the TM crew for a long run at Bradbury tomorrow but after the Mackworth trail trial I am considering taking a rest day and hitting a long, flat, stretch of road on Sunday morning for 15+ miles instead.  Can't wait to get back out there with the crew but want to don't want to sacrifice the rest and recovery that I got this month by hitting the trails too soon with a shaky knee and hitting the elliptical machines at PF for the next month regretting it.

Saturday January 28th: Crossfit

The plan was to rest up my knee today and check out Crossfit 321 in Brunswick for their Saturday morning free class.  I've been meaning to do this for a while and the experience was everything that I had hoped for.  The facility was top notch. The trainers were professional and thorough in their demonstrations of the techniques we would be using to complete the workout of the day (WOD).  And, most importantly, they created a supportive and welcoming atmosphere for everyone who participated. This morning's class was a great demonstration of how a WOD can be scaled to meet the fitness levels, physical limitations, and personal goals of participants. It began with a clear demonstration of the squat, the forward lunge, the push up, an ab exercise that I forget the name of, and the fireman's carry with a set of kettle bells.  Once everyone was warmed up and familiar with these techniques we moved into the WOD. Splitting into three teams we took turns doing the fireman's carry with a set of kettle bells across the length of the gym while our teammates cheered us on.  Once we got back to our starting point everyone on the team performed 10 push-ups before the next member grabbed the kettle bells and headed across the floor.  We repeated this cycle, alternating the four movement foundational movement patters that we'd covered, for an intensely sweaty 15 minutes.  A great workout all around.  I'm  looking forward to the 4 week foundational program which begins on Tuesday and to applying this short duration (most WOD's are 15-30 minutes) high intensity approach to total body fitness to my training for the Peaks 50 Miler this May.

Sunday January 29th: Maine Marathon Route 10 miles at relaxed pace

I met Elizabeth in the Back Cove parking lot for a run along the Maine Marathon route this morning. Liz is planning on making this her first marathon and we planned on covering the first half of the course together.  It turned out that this would be Liz's longest run to date and although we didn't get the full 13 miles that we planned on she completed her first 10 miler in fine form.  It is a real honor to accompany someone as they push, and subsequently expand, their personal limits and reach their goals.  A very valuable run for me personally and a good test of the knee as I figure out how to best approach the week ahead.

Monday January 30th: Freeport Run 4 miles @ 8:50 pace

Quick run after work!  Looking forward to begining the Crossfit 321 fundamentals program tomorrow, easing into some longer runs throughout the week (knee is still bothering me-a lot), and hopefully making it up to Bradbury for some much-missed trail running this weekend!

Tuesday January 31st: Crossfit Fundamentals and Workout of the Day (WOD)

This mornings fundamentals class at Crossfit 321 in Brunswick was absolutey awesome.  After warming up with some dymanic stretching, plyometrics, and 500 meters on the row machines we completed the Workout of the Day.  Todays WOD was:

300m row
40 air squats
30 sit-ups
20 push-ups
10 ring pulls

Time: 5:23

These workouts are done for time and although Crossfit has been criticized for it's emphasis on competition it is one of the aspects of the program that I enjoy the most.  There is a reason that we don't workout in a vacuum-we are social beings and many of us thrive on healthy competition.  Seeing that I was among the last to complete the air squats made me push myself during the sit-ups and push-ups. The experience was similar to the last stages of a race where you are neck and neck with someone and going all out to reach the finish.  The atmosphere at Crossfit is absolutely top-notch and I'm looking forward to Thursdays class.

Hit Planet Fitness for a short workout on my way back into town.  Completed 3 sets of pull-ups, bench presses, dips, and kettle bell swings (someone was kind enough to bring a 35 lb kettle bell into the gym-thought for a minute that PF finally got on the ball and added this to the weight stacks but not so...)  before hitting Fed Ex to print out flyers and pamphlets for the upcoming X-City Winter Runs.  Good day of strength training and kicking off Peaks 50 miler training cycle with a 10 miler along the Eastern Trail in the morning.

Wednesday February 1st: Peaks 50 Mile Training Cycle Begins!  10 miles on the Eastern Trail

The first 10 miles on the road to the Peaks Ultra were run along the snowy white paths of the Eastern Trail. Beautiful run...wish that I'd brought a camera.  Knee is a little sore afterwards but hoping that after a day of Crossfit tomorrow and a 6 miler on Friday morning that I'll be ready to roll with the Monsters at the Saturday morning group run.

Thursday February 2nd: Crossfit Fundamentals, WOD, and 3 mile run

Todays Crossfit Fundamentals class focused on front squats, overhead squats, and box jumps.  The Workout of the Day was a Tabata set of air squats and it brought me back to my days at the Academy when I was first introduced to this type of high intensity interval training.  Created by Dr. Izumi Tabata following a study that he conducted on the effects of moderate intensity endurance and high intensity intermittent training at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo,Japan.

Tabata sets are essentially 20 second intervals of high intensity exercise followed by ten seconds of rest performed continuously for 4 straight minutes. They are always fun to do with a group but can be easily applied to any solo workout with the use of a stopwatch or, for the tech-savvy, fancy phone owners among s, by downloading the Tabat app on your smart phone.  I personally prefer the old-school wall clock but thats just how I get down.

The workout was great and the education into proper squatting technique was invaluable.  I followed this up with an easy 3 miler to shake the legs (throughout the last 3 Crossfit sessions I came to realize that I had never in my life performed a 'real" squat-I've always leaned forward on the balls on my feet instead of sinking backward with my weight on my heels.  Needless to say, my legs are sore as hell but it feels great to be activating and utilizing muscles that I never knew where there and many that I've neglected throughout all of my training (hello, hamstrings!).. This will undoubtedly improve my running performance and I'm looking forward to more Crossfit, hitting the trails at Bradbury this weekend, and to the choosing the next race to train for while keeping the Peaks 50 in sight on the horizon.

Friday February 3rd: Eastern Trail 7 miles of speed play

I awoke to the swirling purple hues that signal warmth, green grass, and melting snow.  The sun shining across the blacktop  invited me to leave the gloves and windbreaker behind as I headed out for a 7a trail run.  My thin skin of my knuckles cracking in the winter wind seven miles later would teach me not to trust the sun...or to watch the weather...or to stick gloves in my pocket just in case until at least April.  Despite the frozen fingers I had a nice run and incorporated what is commonly, somewhat archaically, and definitely awkwardly, known as fartleks. (I almost think that people don't do these enough because of they don't want to say, or think, fartlek).  Either way, this Swedish word for speed play involves incorporating bursts of speed into your run and is a fun way to to spice things up.  It's also a good opportunity to incorporate speed without sacrificing distance and I find it particularly useful for ultra-training where you're logging plenty of slow to moderate miles but don't want your body to forget what fast feels like.  It works like this-set your eyes on a tree, trail sign, bridge, or broken branch in the distance and run all out until you reach it.  Ease back into your relaxed pace and repeat as often as you like.  In other words-play.  This is another reason that I prefer the translation-it reminds me to be playful, enjoy the bursts of speed, and do as much or as little speed play as I feel like.  My knee began to bother me at the turnaround so I cut out the speed work on the return portion of my run and enjoyed the rippling waters and snow covered marshlands of the Eastern Trail at a modest pace.  Good run followed by good coffee from Lois's Natural Market and morning of schoolwork.  Bradbury trail run  and Crossfit in the am and a long run on town for Saturday morning.

Saturday February 4th: Bradbury Mountain 6 miles with the Monsters and Crossfit WOD

Got in 6 miles with Ian and Zach along the Snowmobile trails this morning before heading over to the Crossfit gym for the Saturday class.  Thick white flakes fell heavy on the trails as we ran through a brief and unexpected snowstorm.  Zach and Ian were going long (20+ miles) but I could only join them for 3 before heading back into the storm alone for a solo 3 mile trek to my car and to Crossfit.  It was nice to catch up with both of these trail running beasts as I haven't been able to make a group run in a while.

Crossfit was no joke today!  We warmed up with a series of dynamic exercises including burpees, standing long jumps, bear crawls, and a number of other total bodyexercises before breaking into teams of two for the following WOD.  A 20 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of the following: 5 pull- ups-10 push-ups,15 air squats. While the other team mate was performing the set you had to complete tow burpees for good measure.  Me and my partner did well completing 19 sets-the last of which was a down to the buzzer, all out effort, to complete the last couple of squats as the clock ran out.  Including the pull-upsthat I did prior to finding out what the WOD was (I would have seriously reconsidered this had I peaked at the board and seen what was in store!) My numbers for this morning are as follows: 65 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 150 squats, and   10 burpees.  I am beat!

Meeting up with X-City Running member Laura for a ten miler to Mackworth Island tomorrow and tacking on an extra 3 before or afterwards for a total of 13 Sunday morning miles

Sunday February 6th: Mackworth Island and a few miles around town 13 miles @ moderate pace

What a day for a run!  I met up with Laura at the Back Cove parking lot and we headed out towards Mackworth Island at an easy clip.  I mentioned in an earlier post that it rains EVERY time that I run out to the island so the warm sun on the waters was a welcome change. Laura and her husband just moved to Maine from New Jersey and I wanted to show her the trails on Mackworth as well as some options for the extendeing the Back Cove loop into longer distances (I remember Back Cove being my Portland running destination for the longest time before discovering all of the great runs that Portland has to offer.)  The weather was gorgeous, the company and conversation superb, and the trails on Mackworth in perfect running condition.  The sight of dark brown earth where snow and ice had given way to the sudden spring weather reminded me of the trail running adventures that I have planned for the upcoming year and of just how much I'm looking forward to them.

Laura and I wrapped up a perfect ten miler and parted ways at the parking lot with plans to run together soon and possibly hit the Crossfit gym next Saturday morning. With 3 more miles in mind I grabbed my trusty orange Craig Cup gloves and headed into the city, along the trails of Deering Oaks park, and up into the West End to run a section of the Monday Night Group Run route before hitting Congress St and shooting down to Forest Ave  'en route to the 'Cove.  I picked up the pace for these last 3 miles, invigorated by the Sunday morning-in the city-scene that was I was suddenly running through.  Couples strolling along with cups of CBD coffee in hand, people out walking their dogs, and traffic moving slow and easy stretching out a Sunday morning before the week day rush ahead all added to the good vibes of this relaxed 13 miler.

Tomorrow will be a strength training session at PF in the am and the first of our weekly group runs at night. With so many great races coming up it's been difficult to chose which to set my sights and focus on my training around.  The one definite is the March 31st 50k to culminate Blaine's I more Mile Challenge. The rest are up in the air but I'm thinking trails, trails, and more trails on the road to the Peaks 50.

Monday February 6th: Winter (?) Run!

Tonight was the first of the X-City Winter Run weekly group runs (nothing "winter" about this run except for the name).  Anna, Beth, Jordan, and I got in 3.5 moonlit miles throughout the West End and had a great time kicking off what I hope will be a long standing Portland tradition of Monday night X-City runs!

Tuesday February 7th: Crossfit Fundamentals Class and FRAN

This morning's fundamentals class covered the shoulder press, push press and push jerk-all of which are overhead lifts with a straight barbell.  A shoulder press is a standard lift utlizing the muscles of the shoulders to force the weight up and overhead in one motion.  The push press utilizes about a 2" knee bend and a slight thrust of the hips to provide additional momentum when lifting a weight that is too heavy to rely on the shoulder muscles alone.  The push jerk adds a short pounce into the basic squat stance to this push press sequence allowing you to incorporate the muscles of the lower bidy into your overhead press.  Noelle did a great job of introducing us to these fundamental movements. Then came FRAN...

FRAN deserves a post of it's own. I ask anyone who's stumbled across this section of the blog to check back soon for the full disclosure of one of the most humbling workout experiences that I have ever had and one of the most chalenging benchmark workouts that Crossfit has to offer...

Wednesday February 7th: Eastern Trail 10 Miles

If anyone actually reads this thng and is waiting in suspense for the full length FRAN's on it's way, but not today. In short, FRAN is  one of Crossfit's benchmark workouts and it's a killer. It consists of 27-15-9 pull-ups and thrusters meaning that you perform 27 pull-ups followed by 27 thrusters (think rapid overhead squats with a bar bell up-down-up-down powered by the hips and thrusting the weight high overhead) then 15 pull-ups/thrusters and so on...

These workouts are done for time and you can probably imagine the difficulty involved in performng FRAN withut rest between sets.  If you can't imagine it visit and look at the video clips on the exercise demonstration to see people performing FRAN at the competetive level

I wanted to write more about this and other benchmark workouts through which you can measure your progress, explain where these workouts come from, why they are named, and why they are so beneficial building real world, functional fitness but am pressed for time.  So soon...

For now it was a strong ten miler on the ET this morning, Crossfit in the am tomorrow another 15 on the ET planned for Friday.

Thursday February 8th: Crossfit Fundamentals and WOD

This mornings class covered deadlifts.  One of the initial reasons that I signed up for the fundamentals course was to gain a thorough understanding of the basic power lifts before incorporating them into my life.  Essentialy, you are learning how to pick up heavy things and put them down again, something that we used to have to do on a daily basis for the purpose of survival and is now typicaly reserved for the unlucky day when you find yourself helping a friend move out of their apartment because you couldn't think of a good enough excuse to get out of it.

The class was hugely beneficial and the WOD was an INTENSE lung burner built around wall balls and burpees.  The progression was a descending ladder (10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1,) meaning that you thurst a 10 lb ball roughly ten feet overhead from a squatting position ten time followed by ten burpees, 9 times, 8 times, etc.  I never imagined that a 7 minute and 34 second workout could kick my ass so thoroughly but I've got to admit that I'm officialy ass-kicked.

The short duration, high intensity workouts that formthe basis of the Crossfit program are exactly what I needed to prepare for the ultra marathon on May 12th in terms of efficienacy and full body fitness.  Feeling stronger than ever and the mountain on the horizon that is the Peaks 50 Miler seems a little smaller and a bit more surmountable with each passing day.

Friday February 10th: Eastern Trail 12 Miles (11.5 @ moderate to fast pace-gotta check the Garmin when I get home- + 1/2 mile cool down)

Blaine Moore joined me for a 12 mile run along the Eastern trail this morning.  Running with Blaine forced me to push the pace more than I would have on a 12 miler and this is just what I needed.  It is easy to get into a comfortable place and stay there a bit too long.  Inviting faster friends to run, avoiding the self-deprecating "sorry I'm so slow, hope you don't mind running with me" crap and simply running as fast as you can, for as long as you can, and being honest when you've got to dial it back is the way to become a stronger and faster runner.  We shared a great conversation while traversing the icy trail of the ET which Blaine had never run on before.  A good tempo run today and  4 miles of race course marking followed by 1 hour of Crofitting planned for Sat.

Saturday February 11th: Course marking for the White-Out and Crossfit WOD

Jordan and I hit the White-Out course with Ian and Jim this morning.  With wooden arrows in hand we got to check out the revised course which is on the opposite side of the mountain and includes some of my favorite trails.  4 miles and 20 arrows later we were back in the car and Crossfit bound.  Today's WOD consisted of breaking into teams of 4-5 with each member performing the following:

1000m row
40 box jumps
40 wall balls
40 sit-ups
40 burpees
40 kettle bell swings

It was an intense workout but the ability to choose how you spaced out the movements added some respite compared to the wall ball and burpee combo from Thursday (my lung are still feeling that one!)

I had planned on a long pre-race run at Bradbury tomorrow morning but it looks like running local,enjoying a post-run shower, and being comfortable at the race before a day studying and online test taking is the way to go.

Sunday February 12th: Planet Fitness and Volunteering at the White-Out

Hit PF for a quick but intense uper body strength training session (Pull-up's, dips, overhead presses, and some weights) before heading over up to Bradbury to volunteer at the race.  Man It Was Cold! Other than that I had a great time setting up, making sure that no snowmobile's cam plowing through and running over our runners, and cheering everyone on at the finish.  All of this not racing makes me want to race!  I'm giving serious thought to a couple of races at this point but my focus is on Blaine's 50k culmination of the 1 More Mile Challenge and on Peak's in May.

Monday February 13th: 5 Chilly morning miles on the Eastern Trail and 7-8 relaxed ones at the X-City Monday Night Group run

I woke up ready to run today.  Despite the low-temps and biting winds I enjoyed a fast 5 miler on the Eastern Trail at around 7a. After a day of studying in various coffe shops I was ready to get back out and ob my feet for our group run.  I got to Portland at about 5:15 and ran a several easy miles to loosen up my quads from Saturday's Crossfit clas and to shoot some video around tow for the X-City Running funding proposal that I am submitting to the League of Young Voters Launch ME initiaitve. I met up with Beth, and Blaine (quite a few others called in sick-that time of year for sure) and we ran the 3 mile loop through the West End.

While running we dicussed the potential benefit race up Munjoy Hill for theMilestone Foundation or the Preble St Teen Center this summer. This raised the following question "How long is Munjoy Hill-exactly?"

Following our standard three mile loop we set out across town to do some "official" measuring.  A friendly bet ensued on the way to the 'hill and it turns out that India St. to the Munjoy Hill Neighboorhood Association is .44 miles, that Beth has the best sense of distance estimatin' ablity, and that there was a film festival taking place at the State Theater that a few Trail Monster's were attending.  We learned a lot last night.

It was a truly fun run and I'm looking forward to next week already!

The Rest of the Week: Catching up after a crazy couple of days!

Busy week!  Here's the scoop on the training side of things: Tues. 2/14 Crossfit WOD: Jump rope reps (150,120,90,60,30) and sit-up reps (50,40,30,20,10) Wednesday 2/15 8 Miles on the Eastern Trail: Running mojo was unusually low but it happens, and you run through it, and that's that.  A decent tempo run along the ET. Thursday 2/16 Crossfit WOD: Thruster Met-Con (Metabolic Conditioning workout incorporating 6 rounds of 60 second high intensity work with 90 seconds of rest.  Performing thrusters which consist of a full squat and an explosive overhead lift with a barbell my reps were as follows (8,8,9,9,10,12) with a 65lbs on the bar.  Good workout!

Friday February 17th: 5k Tempo Run @ Back Cove  and Strength Training at Planet Fitness
7:22 Pace (23:48)

Eliminating "junk miles" from my weekly workouts was a necessary sacrifice when approaching the challenges of balancing school/work/50 mile race training over the next few months.  Not running every day took some getting used to but replacing these "recovery runs" with Crossfit workouts was definitely the way to go in terms of efficiency and overall athletic development.  Not running makes you wan to run-hard!  I felt great as I headed out for a 4 miler and used the first 3.1 mile as a  tempo run to see what my 5k pace looked like these days. Not to bad when compared to last year at this time. Although this was not an all out effort it was a good indicator of where I stand at the moment after almost no speed work leading up to and following the GAC 50k. As I begin to incorporate sprints and speed work into my running through the Crossfit WOD's I'm interested to see what I can do in a 5k at the end of the summer (or at the height of Peaks training when I'll be running like crazy and game to charge at any finish line that I see before me.) INTENSE workout at PF afterwards and around 20 miles planed for the Fat Ass at Val's in the am!

Saturday February 18th: Mockingbird Fat Ass 20 Miles

I wish that I had more time to write about the awesome day of trail running at the the 3rd annual Mocking Bird Fat Ass.  Val, Linda, Rick, and the many Trail Monsters who helped put this together made for an unforgettable 50k run/race through the snowy fields and trails of Lisbon.  For the sake of brevity I will try to wrap up 20 miles of hardcore trail running in one paragraph:

Went out with the lead group, slipped early and slipped often as we crunched, skidded, and post-holed our way through the first 5 mile lap.  Stayed with the pack for the second lap as well before backing off the pace and running a quiet and reflective third lap through the bright and snow covered fields (wish that I was on those trails right now...) Accidentally cut the course short on this lap and didn't realize it until I pulled into the driveway/aid station and saw checked my watch. I had planned on a 20 mile run so I left for the fourth and final lap with room to explore and play on the trails. Saw the pack (Ian, Zak, Emma, and Jeremy, and Jamie) cruising around a corner and jumped back on the train for a few miles(looping back to the section that  just ran through to make up the miles I'd missed on lap 3).  This was my first 20 miler since GAC and the first really rugged terrain that I'd run since the heavy training runs at Bradbury in Nov/Dec and by this time I was admittedly hurting and hit a wall on the last climb up the power line hill.  Lost the group (or should say chased the group because the only drawback to the course was that it was impossible to back off gracefully and do your own thing as you ran  in s patterns across the field just a few feet behind those who were in fact a mile or so ahead of you). Got my full 20 in, was bloodied, bruised, and happy, really proud of the many accomplishments that took place on the trails that day, in particular, my friend who completed her first 20 miles on some very bad-ass trails! Missed a helicopter ride ?!?  (that's the last time I don't finish a TM Fat Ass-that's for sure!) and regret not having the time to do a better and more thorough write-up of this truly awesome day of trail running.  Next year!

Sunday February 19th: Rest Day (No complaints)

Usually I struggle with rest days, convince myself that I'll just go over to the gym to stretch a little, and end up working out. Not today...

After a very tough week of running and Crossfit I was ready for a full day off.  Enjoyed it thoroughly and ready for action as I a) integrate from the fundamentals class to the regular group class at Crossfit this week b) get back to the trails as often as possible this week for some rough and tumble trail running c) prepare for a very busy week of school/ACE certification course studies for Friday's test/trip to NJ this weekend/ and start of a new job on Monday morning.

Monday February 20th: X-City Group Run (8 miles at varied pace)

Got in a good total body strength workout at Planet Fitness in the morning and spent the day studying before the evening group run.  Arrived in Portland a half hour early to head out for a few miles and try out both the Merrill True Glove and the New Balance MT20 Trail Minumus shoes that I picked up on a crazy sale at Cabella's earlier in the day.  Got in a mile with each shoe and determined that the NB's would be my new running shoes and the Merril's would be best for Crossfit or as an all purpose 'around the city shoe. 

Met with Allyson, Jill, Rebecca, Victoria, Kevin, and Rebecca's bad-ass trail running dog blossom and headed out on our Monday night route through the West End.  Good conversation as everyone got to know each other and great to see the group getting bigger as these runs progress.  Shortly after  passing through the trails of the Western Cemetery and heading out to Danforth St. I noticed two runners coming towards us, one of them wearing a familiar reflective vest.  It turned out to be Jordan and Beth who'd showed up a few minutes late and cut across High St. to head us off mid-run and jump on board.  Very cool to be at the point where people know the route and can do something like that!  After returning to Local Sprouts, snapping a group pic, and parting ways with the others, Beth, Jordan, and I pulled out the video camera and shot some "on-the-run" footage for the video that I'm making for the Launch ME Initiative grant proposal.  After Beth split Jordan and I decided to run across the Casco Bay Bridge to South Portland and to run it hard.  All around this was a great group run and I'm looking forward to a summer of memorable Monday nights!

Tuesday February 22nd. Crossfit Ass-Kicking

At this mornings Crossfit Class we figured out our 1 Rep Maximum Deadlift weight then launched dinto the Workout of the Day. It was a killer and it went like this:

100 Double-Unders (or 200 regular jump rope reps)
80 sit-ups
60 Burpees
40 Wall Balls
20 Shoulder Presses
10 Good Morning's (Back extensions)

These were performed in sequence (no skipping around like the Metcon workout at the previous Saturday class) and by the last Good morning I was officially toasted. I love Crossfit.

Wednesday February 23rd: Bradbury Mountain 6 miles

Slippin' and sliding all over Bradbury this morning.  Jordan and I tried to run along the Connector, slid straight down the ski trail, headed to the other side of the mountain, and busted our asses along the Lanzo, Island Loop, and snowmobile trails. Exactly what a February trail run in Maine should be!

Thursday February 24th: Crossfit WOD

21-15-9 reps of ring dips, back squats, and lunges.  Modified the ring dips with resistance bands....went lower on the squat weight than I would have on a rack because we had to clean the weight overhead before and after.  I enjoyed this workout and want to replicate it with a squat rack soon.

Friday February 25th: Eastern Trail 7 miles

Nice 7 on the Eastern Trail before the ACE test. Aced it!

Saturday February 25th Bradbury/Crossfit Circuit-Whew!

Met up with the crew for a 6 mile romp through the woods before hitting Crossfit for a burpee/sit-up/squat/row circuit at the Saturday free class. The trail run/crossfit circuit is a tough one and I'm feling it as I sit here typing tonight.  20 miles on the Eastern Trail planned for the am and a rest day (except for the group run) planned for Monday.

Sunday February 26th: Eastern Trail 20 miles

Met Laura and Mike at the Southern trailhead of the ET and drove to the Northern lot to start our run.  Mike is recovering from an injury and we wanted to be near his car at the 3-4 mile mark and figure out the rest of the morning running plans from there.  I planned on 20 miles and was glad to have the great company of these two NJ ex-pats for the first few at least. Trail conditions were varied, all sun and dirt on the North end but treacherous in the south.  We got in 5 miles together before I headed solo down Pine Point Rd, out to the beach to catch the sun shining across the cold, dark waters, and back up to icy stretch of trail that lay before me.  Following a particularly rough stretch of ice and snow I opted to hit the road for some speedier miles along my old Watchung Winter Ultra training route.  I planed to turn around at mile 13 which would have me back at my car with a solid 20 behind me.  At the turning point I stopped in the parking lot of a beachfront motel to stretch for a second and have a Cliff Mocha Gu. As I took off running again  felt a sharp pain in my left knee.  It worried me for a minute but by the time that I turned reached the trail and locked into treacherous terrai navigation mode again it had come to pass. As I reached the bridge at mile 17 and the stretch of warm, dirt trail that the morning suns had continued to clear I felt strong and ready to run the last miles at a good clip.  I reached the car at mile 20 satisfied with the run and of to take a psych test at Coffee by Design, which has become my second home these days. Not a bad place to live...

Monday February 27th:  Strength Training Circuit at Planet Fitness and X-City Group Run

Walked into Planet Fitness for the first time in a while this morning. I've been enjoying the atmosphere, sense of community, and engagement with the trainers at Crossfit 321 so much that I've taken the drive to Brunswick as often as I could.  Still good to get some gym time in this morning.  The X-City Run went very well.  Great mix of new faces and returning runners as we headed up Pine St 11 deep and looped through the West End once again.  Good to see the group growing and hoping that the Launch ME Initiaitve will get some neighborhood youth involved in the project this spring.

Tuesday February 28th: Re-thinking the Judgement Free Zone Part.1

So...after singing the praises of Planet Fitness for years I'm beginning to change my tune.  No surprise right? Dude starts going doing Crossfit, gets certified as a personal trainer, and suddenly critiques everything in sight that doesn't involve jumping onto boxes, flipping tires, and doing burpee-broad jumps to warm up for the Workout of the Day which leaves you flat on your back in a pool of sweat while swimming in a sea of endorphins.

Sort of right and kind of wrong. I've always been skeptical of products/programs that burst onto the scene, make someone stinking filthy rich, then end up in the recycling bin of the ever revolving (as opposed to evolving) fitness industry only to reemerge repackaged a few years later and trick us all again. I am a results oriented person.  I view the concepts of fitness, diet, and exercise as integral components of my lifestyle and practice them in a fluid way based on my ever changing interests, goals, and passions. When I feel strong, have a high level of energy, can think clearly, and, most importantly, feel happy, I know that I'm onto something good.  When I'm run-down, stressed-out, and miserable,it's time to reevaluate the way that I'm living and alter accordingly.

That said I've never felt better than I have since starting Crossfit and this seems to be the general consensus between those who just got on board and those who've been Crossfitting since 2002 when Greg Glassman started the program.  If the day comes that I don't feel great doing it- I'll stop. But one thing that I am sure of is that I'll never go backward. I won't pump dumbbells up and down until my arms are about to fall off, run and only run and then run some more, or prioritize the way that I look (weight/body composition/muscle mass) over the way that I feel (capable/strong/healthy/happy)

So three paragraphs into why I'm not a fan of Planet Fitness these days and I'm find my blogging time cut short by the demands of the day.  Will post a part 2 to this entry to talk about the benefits of the "judgement free-zone" contrasted with the highly dysfunctional and often dangerous fitness practices that I see on display every time that I walk through the door. The reason for the post is not to simply slam PF in favor of CF.  It's purpose is to examine the role of professional responsibility in the fitness industry and the practice of taking someones money in exchange for the use of increasingly complicated "fitness equipment" without any guidance in how to use it or any intervention when someone is demonstrating a potentially (or inevitably) dangerous technique. Finally, I'd like to question the practice of banning "grunting" and "dropping weights" as opposed to banning poor lifting techniques that could potentially cripple someone.

6-7 miles on the ET tomorrow morning and part 2 of Re-thinking the Judgement Free Zone soon.

Wednesday February 29th: Run down
I've been feeling run down the past two days and after a quick review of my training log I relaized why. Although I haven't been running huge mileage the posts read somehting like this: Crossfit ass-kicking, 20 miles on an icy trail, new 1RM on my deadlift, exhausted after Crossfir/Bradbury circuit and revealed that I haven't taken a rest day in a week and a half. I went out for a very easy 3 miles this morning, mostly to clear my head before a morning of school work, and took it easy the rest of the day. A great reminder of why it's important to keep a log! 

Thursday March 1st: 5 miles of complaining, I mile of ass-kicking

Really wanted to make it to Crossfit this morning. The WOD was a 20 minute push-up, kettle bell, sit-up circuit and it would be me last chance to get a group class in this week.  Woke up to rough weather and despite the allure of collapsing on the floor with a sweaty group of Crossfitters I couldn't take a chance of driving 45 minutes in a blizzard to do so.

I settled for a 5 mile run in Portland but the stinging ice blowing in my face, the zipper that broke on my tights leaving my one leg half frozen just as I started my run, and the cars that were fishtailing like crazy and nearly killing me all detracted significanly from my already low mojo.  As I wrapped up my run I remembered that today was the kick-of to Blaines 1 More Mile Challenge.  This was good inspiration to make something out of a sub-par run and I opted to do a hard, fast, mile of hill repeats up and down Chestnut St. Felt great afterwards and looking forward to a weekend of hard training after yesterdays much needed day of rest.

Friday March 2nd: Rowing, rope, and a surprise WOD

I drove up to Brunswick this morning to look at a potential house share. I made it to the gym after spending the better part of the early morning with my soon-to-be roommates in a beautiful home that we'll be sharing come May 1st.  I could not have envisioned a more ideal living situation and arived at Crossfit feeling great and ready for a workout.  Didn't have anything heavy planned for this morning but wanted to work up a sweat on the rower, jump some rope, and break out the boxing gloves for the first time in way too long to work the heavy bag for a spell.

After a 5000 meter row and some rope I dug the bag out of the corner where it had been buried under weighted vests, gloved up, and started swinging.  It felt good to be doing something that was once a much anticipated and regular part of my routine many moons ago when I was preparing to take on an amateur fight.  Half way through my planned bag work I noticed a few others beginning to set up for the Workout of the Day.  I didn't realize that anyone was going to do this as it wasn't a scheduled class time.  I immediately took off the gloves, jumped in the WOD, and got my ass kicked. Thoroughly, totally, and completely,,,and not in a round of sweaty hugs, high-fives, and "Way to Tough it Out!'s" but in the humbling way that these workouts sometimes/often do.  I couldn't complete the WOD in the prescribed time  and still had to lower the weights on both the barbell and the met balls half-way through. This is what I love about Crossfit...the program makes no bones about pointing out your weaknesses and identifying the elements of your fitness that you need to improve upon.  Take note that I said "the program" not "the people".  There is no judgement in this gym and any time that someone needs to scale down or stop a workout they are met with nothing but full-on support from the crew.  But the program itself has no such policy..,it's just you against a series of functional physical tasks and it's abundantly clear when you've met your match and lost a round in the battle.  Then it's back to base to strategize, train, and prepare for the next time that you meet this workout, or one similar to it, with a greater knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses....and with something to prove to yourself.

Saturday March 3rd: 6 miles and Crossfit Group Class

Jordan and I hit one of my old running routes in Freeport for a pre-Crossfit, hilly run in the rain.  6 miles later we were at the gym for a WOD that included, among other things, many, many box jumps.  These are so good for the hip flexors and I'm glad that we had a chance to do way more of them than Iever would have done on my own accord!  Good round of running and jumping in the am balanced by a solid round of school work and coffee in the afternoon.

Sunday March 4th: Out to Prouts Neck 12 miles

I never post time and pace anymore because I never have my watch when I write these...I should change that.  Either way, I headed out for a planned 15 miler this morning but an immediate twinge in my sore knee let me know that I'd be smart to scale it back. Ran out to Prouts Neck- can't believe that in all my time in the area I've never done it before! It's a really nice route and the views of the water are spectacular.  12 miles later I was icing my knee and appreciating my slowly developing sense of foresight.  Easy day tomorrow with some strength training in the morning and the X-City run at night

Monday March 5th: Strength Training and X-City Group Run

I was looking forward to both a morning of straight weight lifting and to the evening group run with the ever expanding X-City crew. The morning at PF offered a decent but bot particularly blog-worthy workout except that it served to deepen my critique of the gym and reminded me to write Rethinking the Judgement Free Zone part. 2 in the not too far off future. 

I hit the city in the early evening with a night of running on my mind.  Got in a fast four miles before meeting the 14-15 runners who showed up for our Monday night group run.  It was great to see everyone partnering up and getting to know each other as we made our way through the city streets.  The trails on the Western Cemetery are always awesome as they are now lit by a dozen pairs of headlamps and greeted with (mostly) pleasant surprise by the newcommers while traversed with increasing confidence by the returning runners. The mix of new runners and returning runners is always rewarding. Great story: While putting up flyers in the neigborhood a few weeks back I spotted a car with a Runner Girl bumper sticker parked on Congress St and stuck a pamphlet under the windshield wipers.  Last night I met Amanda, who found an X-City pamphlet under her wipers a few weeks back, has been meaning to come out and run, and is now switching up her schedule to make Monday nights a regular part of her running routine. Very cool.

Tuesday March 6th: Crossfit WOD

I was looking forward to this workout because it included a chance to work on my deadlift with Ginny observing/correcting my technique.  (And an opportunity to hammer out some kettle bell swings which I haven't done in a while.)

I learned alot about my DL and feel much more confident about my form as I head back to the gym later in the week for a 1 Rep Max effort.

The Workout of the Day (WOD) was 5 rounds of 10 push-ups/15 kettle bell swings.  I went heavier on the kettle bell weight than I had initially planned on and really challenged myself to complete this workout. I ended up sacrificing full range of motion, but not form, to compensate for the heavier resistance during the last set. Because I was able to maintain my form and thereby negate any increased risk of injury from my choice of KB weight I was left asking myself the question of whether I detracted from, or added to, the workout by sacrificing full ROM for increased load.

I'm still debating this.  As my interest in the neurological and hormonal response to exercise increases (always been very interested in the hormonal response to exercise/nutrition and am absolutely fascinated by what I'm learning in Spark: by John Ratey) I find the metabolic pathways that the body uses to provide energy for human action to be of increasing importance as I evaluate the effectiveness of a workout.

Here's a quick overview:

The phosphagen pathway is utilized for high powered activities (those lasting 10 seconds or less.) The glycolitic is the pathway for moderate powered activities (those lasting several minutes), Finally, the oxidative pathway dominates low powered activity (those in excess of several minutes).

In short, the work spent in each pathway produces a different neuroendocirne response. The question of whether I would have gained more from a purely physical standpoint from performing a full-overhead kettlebell swing than I gained from a metabolic conditioning standpoint (was thoroughly taxed after this high intensity workout) seems to answer itself. I'm glad that I went higher/harder in the workout although I could no longer swing the bell overhead near the end.

We finished up by with a slow and controlled 200 meter carry while holding "something heavy". I chose a heavy bag, hugged it hard, and walked the floor for a good finisher to todays Crossfit session.

Wednesday March 7th: Blackpoint Rd. 5 miles

Again, no watch at the moment to record pace but I wasn't flying. The pace on this mornings 5 miler was steady but I was still feeling yesterdays workout and used this run mostly to shake things loose. In the afternoon I got my bike on the road for the first time this season and took a nice easy ride to continue stretching out all that ached and to enjoy the Portland waterfront on a gorgeous afternnon.

Thursday March 8th: Crossfit WOD

For time:

Bench Press 30 reps
400m run

Bench Press 20 reps
800m run

Bench Press 10 reps
1600m run

I was looking forward to this one....and it didn't disappoint. We paired up to a) conserve benches and b) to spot each other and this worked out well for several reasons. For starters, my partner Bobby opted to go heavier on the bench than I had planned to. As a result I put up more reps at close to 75% of my body weight than I thought possible (you're tougher than you think you are, you can do more than you think you can...always) Second benefit was having a spotter. What a difference when you know the weight isn't going to crush you.....

Another great workout at Crossfit321.

Rushed re-cap of a crazy couple days...
Friday March 9th: Ran 6 miles at Bradbury, started on the trails but hit the roads die to crazy ice and need for speed. Had a lot to say about the impact of crossfit on my running and planned to write all about it at Maine Coffe Roasters-then my car died on the way home.  What followed was four hours of absolute insanity that I don't feel like writing about...Good run, bad day.

Saturday March 10th: Strength Training Worked on power lifts at PF

Sunday March 11th:Maine Marathon Route Tempo Run 13.1 miles at race pace

A solid 13.1 while thinking about my friends on the Midcoast Half Marathon Course. They killed it. So did I. Wish I'd made it up to Lincolnville and ran as strong as I did today....could've finally put that 13.1 sticker on the back of my car!

Monday March 12th: Strength Training Powerlifts at PF again. Getting my deadlift form down tight...and loving it.

Tuesday March 13th: Bradbury Mountain 6 miles

6 muddy mountain miles on my way home from work. Felt great to slip on mud in stead of ice!

Rushed Re-cap of a crazy couple of day...again

Life is getting crazy busy-in a good way. This means either running without time ot blog or blogging without time to run.  I chose the first one...

Wednesday March 14th: Bench Press and Dips at PF Yeah...just what it says.

Thursday March 15th: FRAN Fran is one of the benchmark Crossfit workouts and it is a true killer: 21-15-9 of thruters and pull-ups. I wasn't able to join the class for the Workout of the Day due to the high number of box jumps and my twisted knee so I did Fran instead. There's something wrong with doing FRAN on your own-without music-in a room full of people stretching out after a high intensity workout. So it goes...

Used a green band and a 65 lb bar and completed the workout in 5:45. Still far away from a decent FRAN time but you gotta start where you are to get where your going!

Friday March 16th: Bradbury Mountain 7,5 miles

Jordan and I tackled the connector for a 7,5 miler. Great run!

Saturday March 17th: Power Lifts at PF

Deadlifts, Squats, and Bench Presses. Pull-ups, Dips, and Firemans Carries. How many? How much weight? Good questions...I need to start tracking this info to gauge my progress and will be picking up a notebook this week to do so!

Sunday March 18th: Eastern Trail 20 miles @ 7:52 pace
                                    Back Cove with Xar 3.5 miles at  relaxed pace

Great run with Jordan along the ET! Shorts, bare trails, and a shirtless Jordan tearing open a bannana on the run at mile 12 are the memories that come to mind as I write this.... There were many more that I can't cover due to time but am grateful to have made. A truly awesome morning with a great friend!

Got a text from my Xar just as I was getting ready to hit the stove for some dinner prep after tackling homework for most of the afternoon at CBD. She asked if I wanted to run a few miles...absolutely. So good to see her and catch up over a relaxed loop around Back Cove.

Monday March 19th: X-City Group Run 7.5 miles @ shake out-pace.

Got to town early to plan out an alternate route for tonight's run.  I was looking to add some more trails and a hill...think I nailed it. After 3.5 miles of route scouting I met with the group, raised the idea of tacking a the new route and working as a team to attack the hill, and enjoyed the second lap of a route that is sure to make its way into the Monday night route rotation while enjoying the sunset with a great group of runners.

Tuesday March 20th-Friday March 23rd:

Did two killer Crossfit Workouts ('Jackie" a benchmark workout consisitng of a 1000 meter row, 50 thrusters @ 45lbs, and 30 pull-ups for time 9;30 and 5 reps of 400 meter rows, 5 split jerks (85lbs) 15 push-ups, ring dips (blue band) for time 19:35.

7.5 mile run at the Brad 5 @ race pace 7:50

3 mile run on Greenbelt slow and easy

Saturday March 24th 23.5 miles at Bradury @ 11:34 pace

Got to Bradbury at 7 with a plan of running 24 miles-knee permitting. I had some serious pain shooting through it following last nights run and hoped that it would hold up and allow me to get in some much needed mountain miles.

I met Xar, Val, and Mindy and we ran an easy four miler before meeting the large group of Trail Monsters assembled in the parking lot for the Saturday morning run.  My knee started to bother me during the first mile and I was reconsidering the distance...but it was so nice out, I was feeling strong , and I was in awesome company...23.5 miles later I'm at CBD writing this post.

Xar and I teamed up to tackle the first 12 miles-so good to hit the trails with her again. Some sweet memories from the GAC training runs came to mind as we tackled the Connector, invented a variation on rock/paper/scissors (road/fields/trails), scrambled/charged up/summited Tryon Mt together for the first time, and shared a beautiful morning on the trails together.

After Xar left to go to work I ran solo for a bit before hooking up with Nate,Val,and Mindy again. I was 14 miles in and had considered calling it at 20 because my knee was hurting through a 3:30 hour induced endorphin rush-a bad sign. When the crew said they had 10 in mind along the Bruiser course I planned to jump on the train for 6....but calling it quits during an increasingly epic run is hard to do.

Hit a rough spot for a mile or so late in the run but some slated nuts fixed me up and we reached the parking lot with 23-24 miles behind us at around 1:30.  I definitely didn't plan on a 5 hour 35 minute run today-but it was good prep for next weeks 50k and for Peaks which I AM AMPED to run!

I really valued the time on the trails with everyone this morning. Great memories, epic run, huge bowl of soup afterwards, all the good stuff.  Looking forward to the Blaine's 50k on Saturday and to running my first race under the Trail Monster Banner: The Merimack River Race in MA on April 14th.

The week of 3/24-3/31 in one long sentence: Ran trails and jumped on boxes, learned the power clean and did it about 70 times with a bunch of burpees in between, ran more trails, ran some roads, lifted heavy things and put them back down.

Saturday March 31st: 1 More Mile for Sunshine 50k 32 miles 5 hours 32 minutes

Haven't had time to write lately but want to cover this race....soon.

No posts -just stats until May

It's crunch time. Until the semester ends and I'm living nearer to my job it's either train and don't write or write and don't train. Choosing the first one.

I regret not tracking my workouts in these critical weeks before the Peaks 50 Miler because of the time crunch so it's going to be stats 'till May and hoepfully more writing afterwards (starting with a ten page report on the Peaks race...)

Here's what I've been doing since the 50k last Saturday to get ready for the mountain on May 12th.

Sunday April 1st: Lifting at P.f (shoulder press/deadlift/chest press)

Monday April 2nd: X-City Group Run 7 miles

Tuesday April 3rd: Rest Day (sick as a dog)

Wednesday April 4th: Crossfit WOD

3 Rounds of:
800 meter run
3 rope ascents
25 hand release push-ups

Thursday April 5th: Crossfit WOD

1 mile run
2000 meter row
1 mile run

Time: 20:57

Friday April 6th Dips/Chest Press @ work

Saturday April 7th: Pineland Farms 8 miles @ 7:50 pace in the am and a few miles on the ET in the afternoon

Sunday April 8th: Eastern Trail 10 miles @ relaxed pace. Strength and skill at Planet Fitness (Deadlift-new RRM of 205-Chest Press-drills for shoulder press/push press/push jerk and power clean)
Monday April 9th: X-City Group Run 3 miles hard/3 miles easy

Tuesday April 10th: Crossfit WOD All that I remember is burpee box jumps...lots of them

Wednesday April 11th: Beans to Bowdoin 5 miles at race pace

Thursday April 12th: Crossfit WOD 3 rounds of 30 box jumps, 20 push presses (75 lbs) and 30 pull-ups (first round with blue band. subsequent rounds with green band

Friday April 13th: Easy pre-race 3 miler

Saturday April 14th: Merrimack River Trail Race 10 miles 1:19:04

Sunday April 15: Russian Easter Run 12 miles

I had planned on a 50k this morning but my knee wasn't in agreement. I left the house at 7a with a fully loaded cammelback and a plan to run the 11 miles to the Russian Easter Run, run 10 with the crew, and then hit the road for another 11 to get home. A few miles into the run I had to turn around die to the sharp,shooting pains in my knee. Got in 5 solo miles in the morning, ran 4-5 with the monsters at Russian Easter, then hit the ET for 3 more miles of slow flat running. A setback in my Peaks training for sue needed a long run following last weeks back-off week and with next weeks Crossfit Seminar limiting my time on the trails.

Monday April 16: X-City Group Run 3 miles easy

Tuesday April 17: Crossfit WOD Fran 21-15-9 Pull-ups and Thrusters(7:29 w 75 lbs and green band) Heaviest weight yet for this workout. Foccussed on slow, controled descents and solid form as opposed to speed. Great test for the legs heading into a few hilly runs later in the week.

Wednesday April 18: 10 miles of hills at the Brad

Picked a fight wth every hill that I could find. One some, lost some, hit the hills for a solid two hours and going back for more on Friday.

Thursday April 19th: Bench Press/Strict Pull-ups and 100 push up-s at PF. Chest is sore...Deadlift 205 max (attempted dice)

Friday April 20th: 6 miles of hills at the Brad. Ran on very tired legs after Wednesdays run and week of deadlifts and thrusters. 10 miles planned for Sunday, 20 for Monday, and a final 50k next Saturday before taper time. Can't wait to get out in those mountains on May 12th.

Saturday April 21st: Crossfit Level 1 Trainer Course/3 miles at relaxed pace

I miss having the time to much that I'd like to say about this weekend but I'll have to cut to the stats for the sake of time. 3 miles at relaxed pace in the morning. Skill work on squats, presses, and cleans at the seminar followed by an intense round of FRAN. Went with 65 lbs and jumping pull-ups to assure good form in a very high intensity environment.

Sunday April 22nd: Crossfit Level 1 Trainer Course/ 6 miles at fast pace

Jordan and I hit the Presumpscot River trails for 6 hard miles before the Crossfit course. The WOD at the course was a 20 minute AMRAP of 8 push-ups, 10 med-bll cleans, 12 sit-ups. Great day at Crossfit MF and (fingers crossed while waiting for official test results) a huge feeling of accomplishment to have attained my L! trainer certification.

Monday April 23rd: Crossfit WOD

10 dumbell cleans

10-10-10 dips

3 rounds of:

1 minute push press 45lbs
1 minute air squats
1 minute sit-ups
1 minute ball slams
1 minute burpees
1 minute rest

Tuesday April 24th: Bradbury Mountain 15 miles

15 miles of hills at the Brad this afternoon. Great run and looking forward to the final push before Peaks, a 26.2 on Saturday and a hilly 10-12 on Sunday.

Wednesday April 25th: Rest Day

Thursday April 26th: Bradbury Mountain 5 miles of hills @ race pace

Friday April 26th: Strength work at Crossfit (Deadlift/Power Clean/Push Press/Kipping skill work/Pull-ups
Saturday April 27th: Bradbury Mountain: 21 miles

Had planned on a 26 mile run but an overview of my recent mileage and an honest assesment of how my knee is feeling caused me to reconsider. I reviewed a lot of the 50 mile training plans that are available and found myself to be in better shape than I thought...missing the planned 50k the day after Merrimack  took a much more significant toll on my irrationaly shaken confidence level than it did on my conditioning for the race. I stressed over that more than i should have.

Scaled back to a 20 miler to reflect my current training volume and to prioritize feeling healthy, rested, and recovered, with my knee in working order at the starting line in two weeks. Lot's to say about this run and planning to write an overview and analysis of my entire Peaks training cycle at some point this week....

Sunday April 28th: Bradbury Mountain 6 miles

My knee was hurting this morning and forced me into super-slow/recovery run mode for 6 miles at the Brad. Had hoped to get in a solid 10 and head into taper mode with a strong back-to-back behind me....unfortunately going easy was the only way to go. Time to taper, rest the knee, and focus on logistics for VT!

Monday April 29th: X-City Run 3 miles

Tuesday May 1st: Crossfit WOD

10 min AMRAP:

5 handstand push-ups
10 burpees
50 double-unders

Wednesday May 2nd: Bradbury Mountain 7 miles

Just an awful run...knee hurt like hell, coming down with bad cold, and just felt terrible. It's not often that I have a bad run and glad to get it out of the way....on the plus side I had only planned on 5 miles and tacked on the last two just to practice running while feeling like shit (I'll need it for the inevitable low points at Peaks in less than two weeks...) Worried about my knee but optimistic that it will be in working order for the race as long as I treat it well over the next two weeks..

Thursday May 3rd: Crossfit Deadlift PR

215lbs...finally! I've been shooting for this for weeks but have been stuck at 205. Felt good to feel that bar roll up my legs!

Friday May 4th: Crossfit WOD


Kettle Bell swings 30lbs
Wall-Balls 20lbs

Saturday May 5th: Pineland Farms 8 miles

8 miles with Nate at Pinelands this morning. Good run and my knee felt surprisingly strong on the hills. I had consigned myself to the fact that I would be running Peaks on a bad knee but this morning left me cautiously optimistic...

Headed out for a super easy run around Knight Woods in the evening before setting up camp at the 'Brad. Spent a relaxed night feeding the fire and digging the "super moon" from my quiet spot in the woods.

Sunday May 6th: Strength Training at PF

Planned on a relaxed run with Jordan this morning (waking up at the 'Brad and not running? Never even considered it before this morning...) When I woke up I noticed something strange in my knee...the absence of any significant pain. Since twisting it on the ET a few months ago and re-twisting it at Merrimack I've felt shocks of pain each morning as I wake up. But after yesterdays hilly run at Pinelands and an evening loop around Knight Woods my knee felt surprisingly good leaving me to consider the possibility of running Peaks pain-free (pre-existing knee pain that is...)  Decided to take a walk around Knight Woods with Jordan and talk logistics for next weekend before heading down to PF for a some foam rolling, stretching, and a quick triplet in the weight room. After tomorrow's X-City run I've got a 5 miler, a 3 miler, then a 50 miler up a mountain... Can't wait to get to Pittsfield!!!


Push-Press 65lbs
Bench press 135 lbs

Saturday May 12th: Peaks 50 Mile Ultra-Marathon

 Writing this report on the Peaks 50 Mile Ultra-Marathon has been almost as challenging as running it. The experience that I shared with my teammates in the mountains of VT was nothing short of epic and the task of capturing it in a way that does it justice seems as tall as the trails along the Blood Root Loop and as hard as the final miles. All that I can do is approach it the same way that I approached the race itself: I'm going to break it down piece by piece and give it hell.

                Disclaimer: Reading this report in its entirety is a feat of endurance unto itself and I would make the following recommendations to avoid a race report DNF. Build your reading base to the point in which you are digesting whole novels in single sittings.  Read War and Peace in its entirety two weeks before you plan to attempt this. Taper the week before by avoiding all printed word……now READ!

                Training: I registered for Peaks following two back-to-back training cycles, the first for the Mount Desert Island Marathon in October and the second for the GAC 50k in early January.  Following GAC I forced myself to scale back the miles significantly for the month of January and head into a three month training period where I would make the following changes to my training plan: The first was to eliminate junk miles. Up until this point I was running 6 days a week with a mix of recovery runs sprinkled into a mix of race specific speed work, hill workouts, and long runs. The plan for Peaks was to focus on quality over quantity, avoid burnout and overtraining, and arrive at the starting line feeling strong, rested, and ready to run 50 miles up a mountain. The second change was to begin incorporating Crossfit, a core strength and conditioning with an emphasis on functional movements, constant variance, and short duration, high intensity workouts. Crossfit works to build increased general physical preparedness and because the description of the Peaks course couldn't be more general "scenic but very demanding" "rugged trail" I wanted to be damn sure that I was physically prepared. 

                From February to May I performed innumerable burpees, jumped on boxes, climbed ropes, and lifted heavy things. On alternate days I ran the most rugged trails that I could find (when my knee allowed) and focused on time on my feet on the flatlands when it didn't. On weekends I ran long amassing a handful of 20-25 mile runs, one 32 mile run (my longest to date and the result of me going off course at the 1 More Mile for Sunshine Challenge, and an average weekly mileage of between 40-50 miles. This worked out well for me and the only concern that weighed on my mind the week before the race was how good I felt-wasn't used to this directly prior to race day and was anxious to see if the reduced running volume and heightened emphasis on cross training would help me or hurt me down in VT. That and my left knee which I'd twisted on one of my early long runs and had caused some serious worry right up until race start. The training plan would either work out or it wouldn't. The kn ee would hold up or it would give out. And, the answers to these questions were waiting for me in the mountains of Pittsfield. VT. On the evening of Friday, May 11th I headed south to find them…

Packed for peaks....
Fuel for the weekend!

"It never always gets worse"-Ultra-running legend David Horton

"I could be dying, and the next minute…I'm flying"-Badwater 135 competitor Nick Palazzo

                These two quotes have pulled me through some rough "trail moments" over the years. When the body is racked with pain and the mind is skillfully reducing your goals by the mile quitting the race can seem perfectly justified. But at some unidentified point-it could be a minute or it could be a mile-things will almost always turn around.  The legs will get a little lighter, the slow walk will evolve into a painful hobble, then grow into a something that resembles running. And not knowing when exactly this moments will come we grit our teeth, hang tough, and relentlessly press forward until it does. This race redefined tough moments for me, both those that I experienced and those that I witnessed others overcome with indomitable will and an unbreakable spirit. 

                Pre-Race: My friend Jordan had offered to provide crew support and potentially pace me for the last ten miles of the race. As we packed the car on Friday evening and began the drive to Vermont I reflected on the sacrifice's that friends and family have made to support me in this effort and the endless encouragement from all of my Trail Monster Running teammates in the days, weeks, and months before and a sense of gratitude overshadowed the pre-race anxiety that I'd expected to hit at any moment. We pulled into Pittsfield at close to 10p and settled into a little motel much like I'd envisioned my "pre-ultra" accommodations to look like. Frill-less to the max, the unmistakable "hotel smell "hanging heavy in the dampened hallways, and a small and dingy lobby where I convinced the manager to lend me his toaster for my pre-race bagel. We settled into our room, went over logistics for the last time, and turned off the lights at around 11 for a solid 5 hours of pre-race slumber.  I awoke minutes before the alarm was set to go off and began the pre-race ritual. Toasted bagel with almond butter and bananas and the darkest of dark roasts in the French press, showered, dressed, and out the door. By 4:45 we were en route to Amee Farm and the starting line that I'd envisioned countless times  along the rocky, root strewn, road to race day.

                We arrived at the farm just as Andy and crew were setting up the registration tables. The morning was chilly, a fog hung heavy in the air, and the week of rain rose pungently from the dark and muddy ground. I scanned the crowd for my Trail Monster Running teammates and found Zak who had just arrived as well. He looked strong and ready to rumble as did Chuck, Ian, Val, Mindy, and Jeremy who soon showed up on the scene. I was proud to line up with these bad-asses  all decked out in our team colors and prepared to take on the meanest mountains that Vermont had to offer.

The Trail Monster "Ultra" Team
The pre-race directions were a blur. I packed away all the essential information regarding course marking and aid stations while mentally focusing on that moment when it all begins….when the pack begins to move… when the experience that you've visualized, poured over, trained for, and found yourself consumed by for so long  begins to come alive right before your eyes.

The First Loop:

                5,….and it begins. The race started with a series of mild climbs that most people were power hiking. I understand the logic of super-conservative starts during ultra's but the distance that you can put between yourself and the field in these early stages is extremely difficult for anyone to close later on. Building as large a gap between the majority of competitors as I could while my legs were fresh seemed like the best way to go.

The first section of the race was an overwhelmingly gorgeous loop covering the golden fields and secret backwoods trails of the Green Mountain.  I had been nursing, rehabbing, and generally stressing out over the knee-injury that I'd sustained early in my training and these early miles would serve as my first indication of how it would hold up  to the distance of the day. (I had already resolved to finish this race regardless and was prepared to walk the 50 miles if that was what it took ….but I came to run and wanted as hoped to hell that this wouldn't be the case.) 

The second steepest climb of the race was located at mile 7, and it didn't disappoint. This was going to be the real deal, and in truth I wouldn't have had it any other way. I had mentally prepared for a course that was beyond tough and was prepared to get what I came for.

                Following the back country beauty of the past several miles I found myself running alone along a winding road past quaint little farmhouses and  modest homes that seemed perfectly at place in the hills of a small New England town.  I had resolved to leave the GPS off for this race because a) the battery can't go the distance that I can (I always tell people that you're officially bad-ass when you're outrunning fully charged batteries-mostly as a joke but …hey, it's true and b) I didn’t want to focus on time, splits, and pace and instead wanted to approach this as a day out in the mountains using the aid stations to mark my progress along the way. So, when I realized that I was approaching mile 12 instead of mile 9 like I  thought it was a nice surprise. There would be many surprises to come over the next 13 and a half hours and very few of them could be called nice-so I appreciated this one to the fullest.

                Seeing Jordan and the crew at the ABBA aid station was reassuring as I knew that this small red tent with dozens of drop bags piled nearby and tunes blaring out of the open windows of a parked car would take on a vastly different shape throughout the day. And we all would.  As each of us engages in our pre-race routine there comes a moment when we glance into the mirror and realize that the course of the day would drastically alter the image that it holds. The freshly washed race-gear would be caked in mud, snot, and most likely blood. The confident yet anxious eyes would be hardened into a stare of determination. And the unforeseen and unforeseeable carnage that would be inflicted on our bodies would stand clear in the light of the following day…. it was good to see the aid station in place at mile 12 because this shit would matter at mile 37!

                The next section of the course was a 6 mile out and back that would find us back at the aid station before beginning the 20 mile Blood Root loop. It was on this section that I got my second, and next to last, "nice" surprise of the day. I was power hiking a steep section of trail when I noticed a woman in a bright green tank top, rainbow gators, and a big pair of HOKA's doing the same in my ever present race rearview (I wasn't racing this one competitively-just don't pass me!). We were clearly taking the same approach on this section, walking even the milder climbs and running the flatlands easy and enjoyably for what may be the last time before the killer hills of Blood Root took our legs out and removed the word "easy "from the day's vocabulary.

                Having spent the past few hours running solo I slowed down a bit to see if this was someone I'd be down to run with or someone that I'd need to run away from (you meet some interesting  people at these things and there's nothing worse than an evenly matched but all-out crazy "ultra-friend" that you can't seem to shake). Turns out that Larisa, a highly skilled runner who was preparing for her third VT 100, offered some excellent trail company over the next 4 miles of the race. We had a lot in common including our love for bushwhacking and a shared interest in Ancestral health and Paleolithic nutrition,(we had the most passionate discourse about sweet potatoes …ever.) The miles flew by (literally, she's really fast) and we ended up back at the aid station packing our bags for the descent to Blood Loop. I was in and out of the station before her, eager to see for myself what this notoriously brutal trail was all about.

Armed with melon and ready for Blood Root

                Blood Root: The start of Blood Root was similar to being thrown into a Lions Den-not a bad looking place if it weren't for the lion that would assuredly pop out at some point and tear you to shreds. I couldn't remember at what point the climb was supposed to begin and as I tried to extract this information from the pre-race instructions that I'd received this morning I heard a rustling on the trail behind me. It was the Kona's and their very fast owner Larissa cruising down the trail. As much as I enjoyed Larisa's company I had looked at the Blood Root experience as one that would test my deepest limits as a runner and I prefer to suffer alone. Besides, she was running at such a strong pace that I couldn't have held onto her for long before falling back with the energy that I'd conserved for the final miles long since spent. (She ended up crushing the course in 11 hours for a 2nd place women's finish). I dropped back and she was soon out of sight. 

                Shortly before reaching the start of the climb I felt an unfamiliar twinge in the side of my knee-suddenly it bit down on a nerve and into the inner meat of my left leg in a full blown cramp. I stretched my leg until it passed and mentally readied myself for what would assuredly be the toughest hill that I've ever faced off against. It was not as sharp a climb as I'd envisioned but it seemed to stretch on endlessly and with each passing minute a new group of muscles gave out and began to shake in spasms of intense pain. I had never experienced cramps this severe and about halfway up the climb I found myself unable to bend my legs, first one then the other, and had no choice but to stop, wait for the cramping to stop, and begin to push myself to the top of the hill. When I saw the trail leveling off I half expected this to be a plateau and to find myself at the base of yet another hill. But it wasn't. I had arrived at the highest point of the course and the approximate halfway point  and was able to smile through the pain as sat down to stretch the best that I could and begin the second phase of the increasingly difficult journey.

The trail leading back to the base of Blood Root is as steep a decline as you can imagine. I would have loved to bomb down this but the spasms in my legs slowed me to an awkward hobble. I remembered Larisa describing the second half of this loop as a beautiful stretch of mountain bike trails and, yet, I remembered Andy describing them as "a war zone". I knew that I was in for either one extreme or the other, but most likely or a combination of the two.

                Super cramps, thirsty dog, and the Nuun tab that saved my life:  You head into these things knowing that there's going to be a low point. One that stands out above all other challenging moments and calls on you to dig deeper then deep and out all of the tools in the mental shed to turn it around and continue the relentless push towards the finish. Mine came at mile 28 when shortly after regaining my stride and reducing what I had assumed to be electrolyte induced cramping with a couple of Nuun tablets that I'd added to my water. I'd never used Nuun before opting to go the natural route with coconut water. I inquired about them at the Maine Running Company and Seth, who I've gotten to know a bit through my many trips into the store, offered me his nearly full pack of coconut flavored tablets to try out for the race. I really appreciated this gesture and now, at the mid-way point of my first 50 miler they were literally saving my race. I thought about this as I began to get my legs back and sink into the comparatively comfortable groove of the flat and lush green section of trails that I found myself suddenly blessed by. Then it happened….all this thinking of Nuun and electrolytes, and water got me thirsty and when I went to take a pull from the hose of my Camelback I got nothing but air in return. I tried again-nothing. The pack was bone dry. I had traded in my heavy old MULE pack with the 100 oz bladder for a 70 oz alternative and thought that I had more than enough fluid to last me until mile 31 where Jordan would be waiting with lunch and a coconut water. It turns out that I was pretty far off the mark. I began to get nervous considering the likelihood of the cramping returning and the affect that this would have on my pace and ability to get to Jordan before the increasingly present sunshine and whatever elements of a "war zone" the rest of the loop presented got to me.

                Deep in thought and considering my almost empty pack I tripped on a root and slammed into the ground face first. I landed in such a way that my left calf muscle was pulled into hyperextension and the intense pain of a Super Cramp gripped my whole body and left me yelling out while grapping the throbbing muscle and pounding on it to stop. Each yell that escaped my mouth was louder than the last-partly because the pain continued to grow to an unbearable crescendo and partly because in the back of my mind I secretly hoped that Jordan was somehow near enough to hear me and would come running in with my brown bag full of food and cold, sweet, coconut water. No dice.

                It was at this moment that I realized, for the first time in any race or run that I was in real danger. The sun was beating down on me, I was nearing dehydration, and the cramping was slowing me down to the point that I couldn't calculate how long I would have to run in this condition. On top of that I didn't know exactly how far I was from the aid station or what challenges lie along the trails ahead. Something resembling survival instinct kicked in and I locked my eyes on the trail, cleared the fear and doubt from my mind, and replaced it one thing: focus. In a moment of desperation and a fear of a severe electrolyte imbalance resulting in even worse cramps I took out another Nuun tablet, and reluctantly popped it into my very dry mouth. I began to gum the thing until it finally dissolved like a hot fizzling pile of coconut flavored pop-rocks against my swollen tongue. Low point for sure…

                It was in this state that I covered the next 30-45 minutes of trail before emerging on a road. A man was standing about 100 yards away and as I approached him his dog began to snarl and bark at me…I was in no mood for this craziness and shot him a look that told him so. But, when he mentioned that I was less than half a mile away from the aid station I couldn't help but smile with relief. I could taste the cold coconut water and the thick black bean and corn soup that was waiting in my bag. I could see Jordan's reassuring smile peering out beneath his bushy beard. I could see a turning point in this race when I needed it most and I ran as hard as I could until the big orange water coolers of the mile 31 aid station came into view. I must have looked awfully scary and halfway deranged as I tore open the brown paper bag and collapsed on the grass to taking deep gulps of coconut water between bites of a classic pb&j ultra sandwich from the aid station. Over the next five minutes  I ate a can of soup, two sandwiches, a plate of Lays potato chips (my first in over three years) and washed it down with a can of Coke (my first soda since mile 30 of the Watchung Winter Ultra back in 2010.)n Then slowly it happened-I…came…back…to…life!

                Two people had passed me during my ten minute "lunch-break" and as I thanked Jordan and the volunteers for being there and packed an "emergency apple" in my pack I wondered if I could catch them.  I ran out onto the road feeling surprisingly strong and saw one of them a quarter mile up the road. He was walking and would likely have preferred to keep it that way until he spotted me in his rearview and began shuffling his legs back back and forth in an awkward but undeniably admirable attempt at running and disappeared behind a turn in the road. He was soon out of sight and I had to put him out of mind if I wanted to reach mile 37 feeling strong and ready to rock the last 13 miles. Despite a tougher than tough climb that took me by surprise and induced the super-cramping in full force the next 6 miles went by smoothly. The trails were gorgeous, the finish line was on my mental radar, and I looked forward to the next and final stage of this journey and the solace of reaching the last loop and knowing that I would complete my first 50 mile on either side of sunset in just a few hours. I didn't remember the descent into the Blood Root Loop being so steep-the climb up and out to the ABBA station was a tough one but the colorful signs and banners posted along the trees by the volunteer crew kept my spirits high as I climbed my way to the final stop before the finish line.

Aid station at mile 43
                The Final Miles:  Mile 37 included a quick shoe change, and another PB&J washed down with Sprite while Jordan helped me stock restock my pack. I cruised down the three mile stretch of road feeling strong and eager to see what this 10 mile loop that the longer races were held on was all about. I pulled into Amee Farm and with the encouragement of Andy and Jeremy's amazing partner Allison  I prepared to seal the deal with a ten mile trek to the finish. Jordan and I headed out fast but I explained that I would be taking the 3 mile climb ahead slow and steady and then running hard when I could, power hiking when it proved faster than running, and maintaining forward movement at all costs no matter how slowly that movement took place. The climb to the final aid station at mile 3 was steeper than I anticipated and the huge amount of respect that I had for the efforts of the longer distance racers only continued to grow with each hands on knee push off towards the little hut in the sky. When we reached the station we met a man camped out in a chair and looking to be in rough shape. He explained that he was dropping out of the 100 "if he could just get himself off of this mountain". I offered up some of my Gu's which he eagerly accepted and wished him well as I took off down the trail.

The next few miles passed slowly but with a surprising ease as the sun shone between the thick pines and lit the trails in a late afternoon glow before beginning its slow descent. For some reason I thought that we would have to pass the aid station again and climb down the steep trail that we'd powered up about two hours earlier. But suddenly Rick and Pete appeared in the distance just in time to watch me plow down face first on the trail. They were headed in to find Val and Mindy and I realized that I didn’t have 4 miles to go-I had about 1 and a half.  This news was like a shot of pure adrenaline and I began to run at a pace that I never expected to hit again during this race. I bounded over a field of rocks that lined the riverbank and through a log ridden, bushwhacking, and butt-sliding section of trail that brought the rickety homemade bridge leading back to the farm into sight.

Finish line at dusk...
Finish line at dusk
                 Across the bridge, up the hill, into the fields as the the light of dusk illuminated the pink arrows painted on the ground and the image of the finish line burned in my mind. A quarter mile away from the farm I spotted a runner dressed in black and moving slowly along the trail. I recognized his stride…I had seen it as he pulled into the mile 31 aid station while I sat eating and once again as he disappeared around the corner on that stretch of road so many hours ago. I almost hated to do it but I didn't have much choice. After all this was a race and I knew that I had it in my legs to pass him…I ran with every ounce of strength that I had and blew past the man in black as I approached the final climb out of the trails and across the finish line.


                Post-race props, a moonlight hike, and the morning after: I waited at the line to congratulate the runner that I'd passed, embraced Jordan with the sweatiest, smelliest, and most appreciative bear hug that I could squeeze out, and scanned the field for my team who I couldn’t wait to see. Within minutes we were all sitting around a camp stove with packed plates of food and trading war stories…and as I saw the shared respect and mutual admiration that was evident in each of our eyes I was nothing short of overwhelmed by the power of this moment. As we set a strong pot of dark coffee on the stove and the sun sunk down over the mountain's all thoughts turned towards Val and Mindy and Jeremy.

                All throughout the day I thought of my teammates out on the course. It would be ridiculous to think that they were "having fun" out there but I truly hoped that each of them was getting the experience that they came for. Though many similarities exist there is something deeply personal that drives every individual to the starting line of an ultra-marathon.  I sincerely hoped that everyone on our team was having an experience of equal value to the one that I'd just been blessed by. Soon four sets of headlamps appeared in the distance and we all rose to greet what we hoped would be the last members of the 50 mile team. The first to come into clear view was Rick and my heart jumped when I saw the bad-ass two some of Scout (Val) and Squirrel (Mindy) come up the hill and cross the line. Hugs, congrats, and big plates of food abound as we celebrated the days success. Just then Jeremy came running across the line after completing his 5th lap…my focus shifted immediately from post-race celebration to mid race support for a member of our team whose efforts in VT have inspired me beyond words and impressed me beyond measure.

                I spoke with Andy about camping near the aid station to be close to Jeremy throughout the night and he provided directions for us to park and hike into the trails from a nearby access road. He also mentioned another small cabin near the trailhead that we could use if need be. We packed the car, said our goodbye's to everyone who would be staying near the farm and supporting Jeremy throughout the night, and headed for the hills. Jordan parked his car next to the trailhead and planned to get a few hours of sleep in the backseat before our 4 am departure.

                 I packed the stove, some coffee for the morning, and a few essentials and strapped on my headlamp en route to the aid station via the directions that Andy had given me. I hiked up along the steep trail that he had described and turned right at what I assumed to be the juncture that he mentioned. I continued up the trail for 15 minutes but saw none of the markers that would signify me closing in on the station. Soon I found myself a half hour out from the car with no clear idea of where I was going and exhaustion beginning to set in on me. It was close to midnight and with the knowledge that the rest of the team would be there for Jeremy throughout his journey towards a 100 mile finish I reluctantly turned around. Back at the cabin I laid my sleeping bag under the stars, reflected on all that I had experienced that day, and dozed off for a few hours of shut-eye in the dark hills of the Green Mountains.

                I awoke two hours later and took Jordan's car back to the Farm in the hopes of catching up with Jeremy and the rest of the team. It turns out that I had missed him as he headed out for his seventh h lap but seeing the TM mobile out I the lot and knowing that others were pacing him out there and would be out in full force until he finished eased my mind. Over the next two hours I experienced several moments of "ultra" proportions. I saw runners come into the station with headlamps blaring and suck down quick cups of soup as I refilled their bottles-then back and out into the dark without a word. I saw runners drop out of the race and others who were bloodied and bruised by recent falls wrestling with themselves about whether to head back onto the course or pack it in. I saw a couple who were tethered together by a harness finish their race, untie the rope that had bound them together for the past day and a half, and hold each other tight, I saw the human spirit stripped bare and standing before me in the iridescent light of headlamps and headlights and the eerie glow of the aid station at close to 4 in the morning.

                The time to depart approached and with a last mug of coffee poured, two chicken wings and a banana to present as a gift to the sleeping Jordan who I would soon wake for our trip back north, and a final look at the Farm where so many memories were made I pulled out of the lot for the final time.

For me, the race didn’t officially end until later that morning when I saw the following Facebook post from fellow Trail Monster Ryan Triffit:

That. Just. Happened.

Jeremy at the finish line with belt buckle in hand

                That was it, the race was over, the team was in, and now…sleep.


Much respect and much love to everyone who participated in the Peaks 50 Miler and to everyone who made this unforgettable experience possible. Looking forward to the next one…

Week After Peaks:
Sunday 5/13-Rest Day Absolutely nothing. Whatsoever. At all.
Monday 5/14-Back Cove 3.5 mile walk I don't think that I've ever walked around Back Cove before. This was an excellent opportunity to reflect on all that happened over the weekend. I incorporated some deep lunges and some very light jogging into the mix and felt fantastic afterwards.
Tuesday 5/15- Bowdoin Trails 3 mile shake-out run An easy 3 on some new trails that I found by the college. Also stopped by the gym for a set of chest presses, pull-ups, and dips.
Wednesday 5/16-Bradbury 6.5 miles I couldn't wait to hit the 'Brad after work for a relaxed 5 miler. Hit it a little harder and a longer than planned and paid for it with an extra sore knee on Thursday. A reminder to be smart, remain grateful that my knee held up for the race, and focus on a solid week of active recovery.
Thursday 5/17-Crossfit Deadlift at 50, 60, and 75 % RM. I came up a bit too quickly from the last lift and felt a twinge in my lower back. The result of my mind being elsewhere, probably in VT. I meet so many people who view the deadlift as dangerous and I always respond that while danger exists in any activity that we pursue there is nothing more dangerous than not training this fundamental movement that we will continue to utilize as long as we remain mobile creatures that pick things up and put them down. I would pay for this lapse in attention with a mighty sore back for a few days the same way that I pay for a fall on the trails while I'm running in one direction and my mind is running in another. But when I talk with some of my co-workers in their 50's who pull their backs out regularly while simply putting on their shirts in the morning or tying their shoes I am reminded of the value of this trade off-I'll take a few sore days here and there with the hopes of lifting heavy things and running ultra'a into my eighties by training fundamental movements consistently throughout my life. Followed this with a 21-15-9 repetition scheme of kettle bell swings and handstand push-ups. Scaled back to a 35 lb kettle bell to avoid further back pain and focus on metabolic condiitoning as opposed to strength. Scaled the HSP's with a 24"box.
Friday May/18th-10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1: Pull-ups, Dips, Push-ups, Squats Since obtaining my personal training certification I've taken a ton of pleasure in designing simple workouts that focus on functional body movements and testing them on myself. This descending ladder was one of the best that I've come up with! More challenging than I initially thought it makes a great workout for  low intensity strength days and can be intensified by completing it for time and consistently attempting to reach new PR's. Next time I'll try it ascending 1,2,3, etc

Squirrel and Linda
The happy pappy:
Mr. Blaine Moore
Saturday May 19th: Jack and Jill Fat Ass 7 miles Ran one lap of the J&J Fat Ass with my Peaks partners Scout and Squirrel. It was great to a) share our experiences from last Saturday in person b) be back at the Brad and c) run some trails that I rarely hit with two Monsters  that I always find myself talking, blogging, and facebooking with but rarely connecting with on the trails. We had a great run along the "Bruffle" course designed by Christine Racine and others and some memorable trails moments for sure. Enjoyed seeing Linda, Ian, Nate, George, Joe, and of course Blaine and Erin who the shower was held for and who are sure to be some of the coolest new parents ever.
Sunday May 20th: Bradbury 7.5 miles Headed out for an out and back to the powerlines and after seeing no Monsters in the lot I ran a loop of Knight Woods and called it good. I felt great on this run, hit the hills hard, and spent most of the time thinking about my running/racing goals for this year. I love to train for a race as much as I enjoy the two to three weeks between training cycles when I get out into the woods and run like an animal-no thoughts of pace, no planned distance, nothing but pure enjoyment at being out on the trails on such a gorgeous morning. Aside from the Bradbury series I've got one race that I can't get out of my head....logistics are near impossible...cost is a major issue...but god I want to run it! We'll see what happens...

Monday May 21st: X-City Group Run 4 miles Our second run from the Preble St Teen Center. Strong effort by everyone in the group, some interest from the kids who frequent the center,and a surprise appearance by a friend. Good night all around.
Tuesday May 22nd: Crossfit WOD
500m row
Bench Press Body Weight 30 reps (Scaled to 70% of body weight)
1000m row
BP 20 reps
2000m row
BP 10 reps
Wednesday May 23rd: Crossfit WOD
400m row
10 sumo deadlift high-pulls 53lb kettle bell
20 goblet squats 35lb kettle bell
30 kettle bell swings 35lb kettle bell
As many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 30 minutes
This was prescribed as a 400m run but I bruised my foot on Monday night and wanted to give it another day of rest so I opted to row. Had to scale back to air squats from the third round on due a some pressure in the left knee...being super sensitive to all that aches and focussing on a quality persiod of active recovery before training for a series of races this summer. I didn't count rounds because I'd made so many modifications to the RX'd workout. I found this to be an excellent marker of overall conditioning and plan to add it to the mix on a regular basis.
Thursday May 24th: 4 miles @ Bradbury Relaxed run with Xar at the 'Brad. Great day to be out on the trails and nice to hit fox loop for the first time in a while.
Friday May25th: 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 Pull-ups, Dips, and Push-ups I'd mentioned trying this as an ascending ladder this week but reconsidered. Why? Long story but one that I'll post in the future as I like this workout a lot, have given some thought to the benefits of descending reps, and plan to repeat this with the inclusion of air squats, as a time challenge on a regular basis. (Eliminated squats from the cycle today due to tight hamstrings from Wed's WOD). Planning on some easy running this weekend and looking forward to seeing the TM team and all the participants of the Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival that I'll be volunteering at on Sat and Sun.

Man, I miss writing...
Now that my schedule is starting to stabilize I'm hoping to update the blog/log more often. As the X-City project continues to develop I'd like to see this blog focused on, and utilized by, everyone involved in the group.  A new blog for my personal writing/training log is underway as I  hope to make this site more representative of the individuals who collectively comprise X-City Running.

March 26th -April 1st: (Active) Recovery
A close look at my training load over the past several months and my goals for the upcoming year made me realize that a period of active recovery was deeply needed. You can't be "in training" 100% of the time and expect to make the gains that only come from the opposite but equally valuable side of the training coin-the physically and psychologically restorative period of active recovery. As I write this and see loads of kettle bell swings, pull-ups, and mileage on the Concept 2 rower I might have stressed the "active" over the "recovery-but each of these workouts was done a less than crazy pace and focused on technique over intensity. Most importantly though,I took almost a whole week off from running. This was caused by a mild stress fracture in my right foot which is slowly but steadily on the mend. Best thng that could have happened...By the time that it heals I'll have given both body and mind some time off from the trails and be ready to approach a strong racing season with some ambitious and exciting goals in mind.
Monday March 27h: Rest Day I went out to the Teen Center to meet some new runners coming out for the first time but Beth led the run. She just registered for the Maine Marathon and I'm looking forward to training with her as she approaches this goal with all of the enthusiasm and kick-ass spirit that she's brought to our group runs over the past several months.
Tuesday March 28h: Crossfit Wod 20 minute AMRAP
500m row
10 Thrusters (75lbs)
Wednesday March 30th: Strength
5 sets of:
10 bench presses (105lbs)
20 pull-ups (blue band)
Thursday March 31st: Crossfit Wod
20 minutes of:
15 kettlebell swings (35lbs) on the even minutes
15 ab mat sit-ups on the odd minutes
Followed by a 1600m row