Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The North Face Endurance Challenge Massachusetts

"A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year" -- Paul Sweeney

The North Face Endurance Challenge Massachusetts 

Location: Princeton, MA
Date: 5/9/2018
Distance: 50 Miles
Goal: Sub 10 hours
Actual: 9:54:56

This past weekend I completed the The North Face Endurance Challenge Massachusetts (TNFEC MA) 50 mile race at Wachusett Mountain.  The race included two summits of Wachusett, over 25 miles of gnarly, rocky single track, another 12ish miles of less technical single trick, and another 12ish miles of fire road.  I had a strong performance sliding in just under 10 hours taking 10th place overall.

After a 3:25 AM wake up and short drive to the mountain, I was able to watch the sunrise shortly before the race began.  After going into Transvulcania so exhausted last month, I was excited to see how I would perform after being rested and sleeping in my own bed.

The Ultramarathon Man, Dean Karnazes himself, kicked the race off with a few words of encouragement (Also telling us he thinks TNFEC MA is one of the hardness North Face races due to the technical terrain).

We started with 700' of climbing over the first 2 miles with a mix of trail and fire road and bounced around some before summitting the Mountain, via Harrington Trail, at the end of the 6th mile.  From there we dropped a few hundred feet and immediately summited again.  I was holding a pretty solid pace, but those scrambles took a bit out of me.

After the Wachusett Mountain climbs, we jumped on the Mid-State trail (a trail that vertically traverses MA from the NH to RI borders) and headed over to Leominster state forest.  For a while now, I have had a goal of running the full Mid-State (92 miles in length), but after spending between 12-15 miles on it this past weekend, I may put it off for a few more years.  The section I was on was overgrown, had short steep climbs, and was quite rocky. 

The Summit
After struggling through mile 15 in 16:22, I was a little worried for what was yet to come.  Luckily, once I arrived at the state forest I was met with some less technical single track that eventually turned in even less technical fire road.  By mile 25, I was in high spirits and had even gotten my pace below 11:30.  This was far cry from where I was at mile 25 at Transvulcania and I was relieved to be half way done. 

Mile 25-30 put on another hurt with some more rocky single track on a trail called "Rocky Pond."  Luckily, following this you were granted a second loop through the state forest, which meant 4 miles non-technical single track, 5 miles fire road, and 5 more miles of "rocky pond." 

I breezed through miles 30-39.  Ok, breezed really isn't the correct word.  First, I questioned why I signed up for the 50 mile and not the 50k.  Then, I questioned what I was doing in the first place.  Finally, I questioned every aspect of the next two years that I have planned out. 

As I stopped at the next aid station, somewhere around 34, I remembered one of the keys to snapping out of my funk at Transvulcania, Coke.  After a few cups, I started moving again and miraculously a few minutes later I was feeling good.  It only lasted for about 3 miles, but I was able successfully repeat this cycle multiple times until I finished the race. 

I have yet to determine what causes this nausea.  Not sure if it is the heat, an electrolyte imbalance, or simply my body revolting against me as I have found a way to push through the pain.  But the key to getting through it appears to be anything carbonated. 

The Finish
As I went back into the woods at mile 39, I knew I had my work cut out for me over the final 11 miles.  Almost all of it was rocky single track.  At this point I had merged back with the 50k runners and was passing them fairly regularly.  Every "nice job", "you look great", and pat on the back had a huge impact on propelling me forward.  In order to hit my goal of sub 10 hours all I needed was to hold sub 15 minute pace on these miles. 

After a hell of a push with a bunch of 13-19 minute miles, completed with both calf and hamstring muscles cramping, I arrived back at Wachusett Mountain and had the finish line in view.  As I descended into the finish and saw the clock, I just smiled through the pain. Ultramarathon number 17 was in the books. 

... and more importantly, I now have my 8 qualifying points for UTMB 2019.  I haven't decided if I want to do the OCC (56k) or the CCC (100k), but I am hoping to make the trip to Chamonix to see the beautiful Mont Blanc and race with the worlds greatest trail runners. 

After a change of clothes, some recovery drink, food, and a beer I headed home.  Saturday was my 11th wedding anniversary and the day wasn't over yet.

Amy, thank you for your love, trust, partnership, tolerance, and support in all that I do.  

Celebrating our Anniversary

Until the next one.


Monday, May 21, 2018

Transvulcania - Where the White Mountains meet the Hawain Islands

It has been just over a week since I completed Transvulcania on the island of La Palma and I am still in a bit of daze.  Between the travel (with the kids), lack of sleep, and an effort that took everything I had just to complete the race, you can say I am a bit tired. The whole trip was a wild ride. 

Similar to running the Leadville 50 miler back in 2014, Transvulcania was a good, but difficult eye opening experience.  I am proud to say that I finished a really hard ultramarathon; my first on the international stage. 

Getting There
Before diving in to the trip, you may be asking "Where is La Palma?"

La Palma is the northwest most island of the Canary Islands, a chain of Islands that is part of Spain off the southern coast of Morocco.  Originally when we bought plane tickets, I had thought that I was flying directly to La Palma.  I would later find out that I was flying into Las Palmas, Grand Canaria and would have to catch two more smaller planes to make our way over to La Palma. 

We (Amy, her sister Laura, the kids and I) left Boston the Thursday evening before the race with an overnight flight to Lisbon, Portugal.  From there we flew to Grand Canaria and then on to La Palma with a quick plane change in Tenerife.  From door to door it took about 21 hours in which I was maybe able to get 2 hours of shut eye total.  Not ideal two nights before a race. 

After a hectic check in and some rushed dinner, Amy and I drove to bib pickup and finally got back to the hotel around 11pm local time, just 7 hours before the race.  After a few hours of sleep, I wolfed down some oatmeal and headed to the race start. 

Note to self: Leave a buffer day in the future.  You need more sleep. 

Faro de Fuencaliente (Fuencaliente Lighthouse) - Race Start
The start of the race was like nothing I have ever experienced in an ultra.  As I got off the bus (driving to the start is prohibited) I was confronted with 40+ mph headwinds in a pitch dark setting.  As I made my way over to the start, I ran into my friend Patrick (an elite runner) and quickly said hi before merging into the group of 2000 runners.  I pushed as far up as I could not wanting to get stuck in traffic on the early miles. 

The race started at 6am and we began our 8,000' climb up the volcanoes starting literally at sea level.  As we rounded the first corner we were confronted with fireworks.  All I could think is "This is pretty cool." I looked back to see the stream of head lamps and smiled. 

After a fairly easy first mile on the roads (with a merely 331' climbing), we jumped onto the trail and where we bounced back and forth between running and jogging on the single track. 

By the end of the 5th mile, we had already climbed 2350' as we enter the town of Los Canarios.  It was just after 7am and everyone was out to cheer us through.  It was like being part of the Tour de France as we squeezed through slapping five with every kid we could see. 

The Climb up Las Deseadas and Descent into El Pilar
Shortly there after the grind really started.  The next 6 miles would bring us over 6000' and included a mixture of crushed lava rock with 40-50 mph wind gusts.  Just moving forward at all was difficult. I just pushed on the best I could watching my watch as the elevation increased.  With near 7000' of climbing in the first 11 miles, all I could think was "wow" this is like running up Mount Washington 1.5 times at the beginning of an ultra.  That is pretty crazy. 

Mile 12 began what I like to call the honeymoon section of the course.  After a short steep descent, you work your way out to a fire road where you drop 200-300' per mile for the next 6 miles.  It is the most run-able part of the course and I was able to even drop a sub 9 minute mile there.  By mile 18.6 I was feeling a bit renewed, but in the back of my mind knew the worse had yet to come. 

Around mile 15 is also where you drop off the ~half marathoners and pick up the marathoners.  One of the cool things about running the ultra was that you went through the finish line for the other distances; first the half marathon and then the marathon before finally finishing the race. 

A Long Way to the Top
Just after mile 19, you hit the aid station at El Reventon and the climbing resumes.  As you go around the first corner and the climb comes into view, two guys were playing guitars and in thick Spanish accents yelling "Its a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll." I gave them a thumbs up and pushed on by. 

Running above the Clouds
This section put a severe hurt on me and began the internal questioning of my decisions. "Why did I book my flight so close to the race? Why didn't I just sign up for the marathon?  Why was I doing a race with so many people?  Why was I even here?"

As marathoners and a few ultra runners went by I would repeatedly get smacked with their tracking poles.  Between this and the built up fatigue of travel and the first 19 miles I was going to a really bad place mentally.  The terrain felt like a mishmash of the White Mountains with some lava rock mixed in.  We would summit, drop a few hundred feet and repeat.  It felt very reminiscent of my Pemi Loop run last July. 

Finally, I reached the Pico de la Nieve aid station, found a chair and sat down.  I was not sure I could continue.  I put my head on my hand and decided I would close my eyes.  Maybe just 10 minutes could make the difference.  As I jolted back awake (yes, this is the first time I have ever taken a nap in a race of any distance), somewhere around 10 minutes had passed.  I guzzled down a cup of Power Aid and began the next climb.  I was now over 7 hours into this race and over 7500' above sea level. 

I started to flash back to my DNF at Big Horn in 2016 where I quit with 16 miles to go after completing nearly all the climbing for the day.  On one hand I was mentally done.  I didn't know if I could push on.  On the other, there way was no way to bail.  I was in a non English speaking country with no means to communicate back to Amy.  For better for for worse, the grind continued. 

Pico de la Cruz and Roque de los Muchachos
The next 5 miles were hell as I climbed up and down the ridge.  I ran bits of it, but largely hiked just trying to maintain any forward progress I could.  I don't know if it was the lack of sleep, the elevation, or the mixture of the wind and heat (a dry 75), but I just felt awful. 

As I began the ascent up to Roque de los Muchachos and surpassed 8000' for the first time I had to take a minute and sit on the side of the trail. As the runners passed, they patted me on the back and what I assume, asked if I was ok (in Spanish).  I also got a few offers of agua (water).  After a minute, I regained my composure, I got to the aid station, drank and ate a bit and moved on.

The Descent to Puerto de Tazacorte (The Beach)
A long way back to the sea
Finally by mile 33 we began our 8000' descent to the beach.  While I was happy to be descending, it was still fairly technical and I wasn't moving very fast. Finally at mile 37, as I dropped back under 6000' and I caught a second wind.  With under 10 miles to go I now knew that I could do this.  I began passing runners again.

Throughout the course, the support from the locals was amazing.  You could barely go around a corner without seeing someone and hearing them yell "Vamos Chico.  Venga Venga. Animo!" In some places you thought, "how did you even get up here?"

Switchbacks to the beach
As I continued to descend, I kept an eye on the elevation my watch displayed.  At some point I was going to have a whopping descent over a couple of miles. At mile 41, I was still 2000' above the sea and was wondering how we would get there.  After a couple of steep road sections, we began a series of switchbacks (29 to be precise) with over a 1000' drop in under a mile.

I had reached the sea (again) and as I crossed the marathon finish I slapped five with everyone I could see.

Los Llanos de Aridane - The Finish
Three miles to go. I knew they would not be easy.  The race literature said that there was a 500m climb from the beach to the finish.  Something I was not looking forward to. 

Shortly after the beach you were routed into a dried up river.  All I could think was you got to be kidding.  This continued on for a little over a mile on the loose rock, but minimal climbing. Finally you begin a series of switchbacks up from the river climbing nearly 1000' feet over the next mile.   

Shortly after this you hit the main road and the finish is finally in view, but it is at least 3/4 of a mile a way.  I got it back together and ran the entire way into the finish, where Amy, Laura, and the boys were anxiously awaiting my arrival.

Damn, that is one of the hardest things that I have ever done. 

I am both happy and a bit disappointed with my performance.  I know I didn't compete to the best of my abilities and I had to dig a lot deeper then I had intended.  I am happy that I made it, but I definitely need to improve my logistics and planning in the future.  The course was also significantly more technical then I expected and am really glad I got in all the running at the Middlesex Fells and Blue Hills this Spring or I would have been in for an even bigger world of hurt.   

We ended up staying near the race start on the south of the island.  La Palma is quite a bit more rustic then some of the other Canary Islands and I think we would have been better off to stay near the finish (which was in a city). 

We really struggled trying to navigate around without cell phones and without much ability to speak Spanish.  On our next trip, I think we are going to have to pony up an international plan for our phones and make sure we truly do our due diligence in planning before getting there.    

I am happy I did the race, but I don't think I'll ever be back for a second try.  

Grand Canaria
A couple of days later we flew back to Grand Canaria where we stayed for a few more nights.  We hit up beaches and hiked volcanoes and got in a bit of relaxation.  All and all we had blast and really enjoyed showing the kids (and ourselves) a bit more of the world. 

Roque Nublo

In three weeks I get back on the horse to race North Face Massachusetts at Wachusett Mountain.  I am eager to see how I can do rested, after sleeping in my own bed, under circumstances with less challenging logistics.

Transvulcania was my first set of points for Ultra Trail Mont Blanc Festival 2019 where I am hoping to race either the CCC - 100k or OCC - 56k (The North Face will give me the remaining points). 

The bigger question is "What do I want to do next?" Over the past year I have really enjoyed the ultra training, but a few of the races have really taken a toll on me. We will have to see how it goes and only time will tell.

- Scot

PS Thanks for all the support on race day. 

Swing for the Clouds

Friday, May 4, 2018

A Series of Fortunate Events

The Plan is the Plan Until it Changes
In life, things rarely go as planned.  We are forced to re-plan and sometimes re-re-plan.  We must adapt as things change and hope that we prepared ourselves enough to deal with those changes.

Over the past three weeks I ran 267 miles (2nd most in a 3 week span ever), 3 miles short of my goal. This training block was not without problems.

I started the block with a 5:30am run of the Skyline trail at the Middlesex Fells and was already at 36 miles by lunch on Wednesday.  Running a major negative calorie count mixed with a few glasses of wine and I almost missed Thursday all together.  I rallied and knocked another 10 the following day with nearly 4000' of climbing.  I closed the week out (literally at midnight Monday Morning) with 89.7 miles running part of Henry's Boston Quad.

The Sun Rises in the East
Week 2 began with a 15 mile run during the monsoon on Marathon Monday (aka the Boston Marathon).  After backing off a bit for a couple of days I had another big vert Thursday (~3500') and then put in a 29 miles, mostly at the Fells again, knocking full loops of the Skyline Trail, Reservoir Trail, and an out and back of the Cross Fells trail. The week / run was going great until mile 26 when I tripped over a small stump going down hard.  Luckily my Go Pro was nice enough to automatically turn on and record my moaning for a good 60 seconds.  I slogged back to the car with a throbbing big toe and called the week at 87 miles.

The third week started off with recovery day (3 miles) followed by two big days.  On Wednesday evening I got out for the 16 mile Museum of Science loop and probably would have fallen asleep had it not been pouring (again).  I still needed one more big run to complete my training cycle so I went all in with a trip to the Blue Hills Friday evening.  After struggling to find a place to park and having to go back for my phone in the car, I finally began ascending Great Blue just after 8pm.  As I got about 400' above sea level I entered the fog and could barely see 10' in front of me. My pace slowed to about 18 minute miles and only got worse going down hill.  A couple of miles later / the next side street, I bailed and headed home.  Still determined to make this work, I doubled down on a plan for Sunday.  The plan was to get up at 4am to run 24 miles followed by the 1 mile kid run at the Becca Pizzi race with Neil and chased with a 5k. 

Earth Day Celebration
Nat and his tree
Last Saturday morning Amy, the kids, and I participated in an Earth Day celebration at Lone Tree Hill in Belmont.  We planted a hand full of Pine Trees along a trail named Pine Allee.  This area is one of my favorite trails and I generally run there 2-3 days a week almost year round.

The kids had a blast and over the past few months Neil has really started to show that he understands the world is so much bigger than him. 

Becca Pizzi Kids Run and 5K
After my 24 mile warm up run Sunday I got to the Belmont track and checked us in for our race.  The kids race started at 9am and was four laps on the track.  Neil had been talking about this race for about two weeks and had even picked his outfit out, his Team Leyden shirt and NF hat, over a week before the race.

Neil and I finishing up lap 4
We started the race at just over 9 minute pace as kids went flying out in front of us from every direction.  By end of the first turn we were already passing people and continued to do so for the entire run.  Other then a minor walking break just before the end of the third lap, Neil ran the whole thing clocking a 10:30 mile.

Twenty minutes later the 5k started and before I knew it we were flying around the track again.  My plan for the 5k wasn't overly ambitious, but I was interested in seeing who my competition was before I settled into a comfortable pace.  By the one mile mark I was in sixth place, but still within striking distance of third.

Right around 1.2 miles in, the two leaders blew through a turn and as we approached I could hear the volunteers yelling at the other runners to go right.  Funny enough the three guys in front of me decided they would follow the leader rather than go the right direction.  Having run this race before and living in Belmont, I knew where I was going.  Not sure what the end result would be I just kept plugging away.

As I completed the second mile I was feeling pretty good and picked the pace back up a bit.  As I entered the track I heard the announcement that the first runner was on the track so I picked it up again and flew through the finish.  I was a far cry from my 5k PR, but happen to have come out on top none the less.  I guess it pays to know where you are going.

[Add on from Amy: I have to add that as Scot approached the track Nat started chanting Daddy and I was sure he was mistaken. There was no way his daddy who had just run 20+ miles that morning and was going to be running an ultra in 2 weeks would be in the lead. Turns out the kid was right]

267.7 miles over 21 days complete.  Taper time.

Nat and I accepting our award from Becca
18,000 Miles
This past week I logged my 18,000th mile since I began tracking my mileage back in 2006 (Note: well over half has come in the last 4 years).  Over that time I have burned somewhere in the vicinity of 2 million calories and climbed around 1 million ft.  It has been a wild ride thus far and I can't wait to see what is next.   

Up Next: Transvulcania
The big race is just over a week away now and I am excited to see how it goes.  I have never climbed 14,000' ft in a day before and I have never run above the cloud line.  It is races like this that I live for.  All I can hope is that the training was enough and when the time comes I am ready to handle anything that is thrown at me. 

As Phil Albert of Townson University would say, "The hay is in the barn."

- Scot

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The 122nd Boston Marathon

As an ultra runner living in the Boston area, I have developed a love hate relationship with the Boston Marathon. Frankly, I have little interest in the marathon distance and even less interest running that far on roads.  I would much rather be on the trails or in the mountains any day.

But, the Boston Marathon literally is the race.  The race everyone loves and everyone wants to run.  As a local runner, it is expected that you run the race and you are asked countless times every year if you are running.

My past experiences have been a little less then ideal; suffering from the heat both years.  I did get to truly experience the power of the race last year by running on a charity bib.  It was very uplifting and for that I am truly grateful.  You can read about them here: 2016, 2017

This year I did not run the Boston Marathon.  Instead I decided to cram in over 50 miles in the days surrounding the race.  Luckily, there is always a lot going marathon weekend. It all began with the "The Boston Run" which included my first (and failed) attempt at GPS art.

Should have turned the GPS off before running back to the car.

Henry's Boston Quad
Last year (March 2017) my ultra running friend Henry Ward tried to tackle the Boston Marathon course four times, dubbed the Boston Quad.  He was treated with some of the gnarliest weather we have ever had with sleet, ice and rain. Ultimately he succumbed after three marathons.  Most of us disappeared with hypothermia far before that.  It prompted me to write this post, which came quite in handy this weekend. 

This year he completed the Boston Quad and used the official marathon for his fourth and final leg.   We started at noon Sunday in Boston and I tagged along for the first 10 miles (until we reached Route 95) before running the 7 miles home from there. Henry finished his first marathon in about 5:30.

Henry and I at Mile 7, the John Kelley Statue

I caught back up with Henry later that evening and ran back into finish with him and then turned and ran back out (another 14 miles).  I completed this second run after 1am.

Henry got back up to Hopkinton early morning and then went on to finish the race in 4:48, completing his quad. Huge shout out to Henry as this is one huge accomplishment.

Checkout an official write up at:

An American Woman Wins
This year's Boston marathon was shaping up to be the race to watch.  An American woman had not won in the last 33 years and this year we had three major contenders. 

I watched the race from the comforts of my living room until about 11:30am when I decided it was finally time to head over to the course.  At that point, not much was happening in the race.  Little did I know shortly there after Desiree Linden was about to make a definitive move and drop the entire field.   She would go on win buy over 4 minutes and prove that grit truly is a world class talent. 

As an ultra runner, I thrive on races like this.  It brings us back to the days of Prefontaine - "A lot people run races to see who is the fastest.  I run races to see who has the most guts" - where people pushed so hard they collapsed within site of the finish line. 

My Future in the Marathon
To tell the truth, it is unknown.  My marathon PR was set back in 2014 and is still just a smidge over 3 hours and doesn't line up with most of my other PRs.  So eventually I'll get back there, but when I do it is going to be a full on effort.  You won't catch me trying to slide in just under the Boston qualifying time.  

But until then, "The mountains are calling and I must go." (John Muir)

- Scot

Monday, March 26, 2018

Making Every Day Count

This past Saturday, I had a full day.  I took on my 15th Ultramarathon at the TARC To Hale and Back 6 Hour and then took the family to the "Leyden Cup" Boston Children's Hospital fundraiser that evening.  I was a little worried that I was over committing, but it turned out I couldn't have asked for a better day.

TARC To Hale and Back 6 Hour

Location: Westwood, MA
Date: 3/24/2018
Distance: As Many 5K Loops as you can fit in 6 Hours
Goal: 31 Miles
Actual: 30.6 Miles, 5:25, 3rd OA (Loops were really 3.4 miles)

Pic Compliments of Chris Wristen
I wasn't quite sure what to expect at the TARC To Hale and Back 6 Hour.  First, I have never run a time based event like this before, second, running a bunch of loops really isn't my thing, and third, 95% of the trail was covered in snow. 

I started the race at the front of the pack and even tried to push the pace some over the first couple of laps. The first lap was pretty slick with the snow and the ice, the second and third laps were the best as the snow was packed hard, and then it deteriorated from there.  By the 5th lap it was slush and then gobs of mud there after. 

My favorite part of the whole course was descending a single track section under the power lines.  Every time through I just bombed down willing myself to stay on my feet. 

As I came to the end of the 8th lap, I heard someone approaching from behind.  At this point I had been running in 3rd overall for 4+ hours and really didn't want to relinquish my position.  Once the runner finally did catch me, I realized it was none other then Joe McConaughy, aka thestring.bean and current Appalachian Trail FKT holder.  I laughed a little as he went by.  Hey, if I was going to get
Pic Compliments of Chris Wristen
lapped at least it was by someone who really knows what they are doing.

I completed my last lap, 9, just over 5 hours and 25 minutes into the race.  It was unlikely I could fit another in so I grabbed some food and plopped down by the fire. 

I honestly have never had a bad time at a TARC event.  This was the fifth one I have done and between the feeling of community, the course support, the superior stocked aid station, and an unbeatable price, I will continue to to come back.  Sincerest thank you to the whole organization for putting these races on.

Also, and an extra shout out to Chris Wristen at Mass Ultra for being out their, taking pictures, and supporting the event. 

The Leyden Cup

A few hours, a shower, and a cup of coffee later, and we arrive at Game On for the Leyden Cup.  Neil keeps telling us that we need to bring him to a fundraiser so we finally made good on our word.  

My friend Melissa is running the Boston Marathon in memory of her daughter, Leyden.  While Leyden's life was tragically short, Melissa keeps her memory alive and ensures she has a lasting impact by running and fundraising for Boston Children's Hospital.  To read more about Leyden, Melissa, and to make a contribution go here:

Fundraisers for Boston Children's Hospital are something that we can always get behind.  Between our experiences there and countless stories we have heard from others, it is an incredible place of support and hope for many families facing the toughest of times.  

The Leyden Cup is a combination of a raffle and a corn hole tournament.  Since we had the kids with us, we just scouted the tournament as we plan on holding one ourselves as a fundraiser later this year.

In between each round, Melissa gave a short speech recognizing many people that had supported her and made this event possible.  During one of the breaks, she helped us tell our story and even introduced Neil and Nat to the crowd.  

At this point Neil was hooked and announced that he was officially joining "Team Leyden" and even made Melissa promise to get him a kids size "Team Leyden" singlet.  
All and all we had a blast at the event and they raised nearly $3000.  Neil is hooked and can't wait to figure out how we do more.  

Special shout out to Melissa for including us as members of "Team Leyden"

Neil Front and Center Showing his Support for Team Leyden
- Scot

Friday, March 16, 2018

Snowshoe Nationals and a Training and Fundraising Update

Snowshoe National Championship
Location: Woodford, VT
Date: 3/11/2018 (Amy's Birthday)
Distance: Half Marathon (Really 11.2)
Goal: Survival
Actual: 7th OA, 1st AG

Before the race
This past Sunday, I took on the half marathon at that Snowshoe National Championship in Woodford, VT.  This is the second time I have competed in a National Championship (The previous was the Duathlon Nationals back in April 2009 before this blog even existed).  Woodford got over three feet of snow in the week before the race, so I had no idea what to expect.  With the deep snow, the course could be nearly impossible. 

Amy and I headed up to VT late Friday afternoon for a kid-less weekend where we crashed with our friends Scott and Julie (Thank you again for hosting us).  Saturday morning we headed over to Prospect Mountain, the site of the race, to watch the Men's and Women's 10K races (top 5 in each race automatically get membership on the National Team).  As we watched them descend a switch back in the deep snow they looked tired.  I was a little worried about what I may have gotten myself into.  A little bit later we watched the top finishers come through the finish and they looked strong. 

The sprint to the finish
Snowshoe running is an interesting sport.  I think the best thing you can compare it to is really technical mountain running.  You have to find your line and your effort level is significantly higher then running normally.  In the runs I have done in the past, my pace has been anywhere from 2-4 minutes per mile slower for a given effort level. 

As luck would have it, the clocks changed the day of the race.  After a 6:45 wake up (which felt like 5:45) and a quick breakfast we headed back to Prospect Mountain. Our friends Greg and Lauren joined us.  Greg was taking on the marathon distanced while Lauren was running the half.

Luckily the race director was kind and made the race a 5k loop instead of the originally planned 7k which had much more vertical gain. Each loop had just under 400' of climbing with the majority of it in the first mile.

As the race started, I picked a spot in the middle of the pack not quite sure what to expect.  As we entered the first climb, I passed a few people.  On the second climb I passed some more.  While my heart rate (HR) was pretty high, I felt good.  After the first mile the course flattened out and I found a pretty good rhythm.  As I completed the first loop, I was in 7th place and still felling solid. 

During the 2nd loop I was able to catch the guy in front of me, but was also passed by the guy behind me.  At the half way point I was averaging 10:10 per mile and had set a new goal; run the entire race without walking.  While this may not seem like an intense goal, each climb got significantly harder and harder as the race went on and it took my HR longer and longer to settle. 

As I entered the last big climb on the final loop I knew I could hold to the plan.  As I fought through, my HR peaked at 192, but I was able to settle it once I crested.  I picked up the pace for the remaining two miles and sprinted through the finish. 

-- 11.2 miles -- 1:54:21 -- 10:11 per mile -- 7th OA -- 1st AG --

Lauren telling Greg he can't catch her
Having only run on snowshoes a hand full of times and only raced on them twice before, I was very happy with my performance.  Even more this was affirmation of my training.  Looking forward to trying another one of these sometime. 

Huge shout out to Greg and Lauren who each took 3rd overall in their respective races.  

Training Update
Five weeks ago I started my training plan for Transvulcania.  Transvulcania is a 45 mile race with over 14,000' of climbing and descent.  I knew I had my work cut out for me, so I derived a training plan that was primarily vert based. 

Over the first phase of the plan (A phase is three weeks followed by a recovery week), I was able to get in 20,000' of climbing.  It started with lunch hill repeats, my group runs - Scot's Hills of Pain, and literally anywhere I could get just a bit more of vert in. 

By the third week (in the first two weeks I did an out and back of Blue Hill's Skyline as well as a lap and a half of Fell's Skyline) I was exhausted just trying to find hills to run, so I broke my cardinal rule and jumped on the treadmill.  While I still hate the treadmill, man you can rack up the vert quickly.  In two runs I have climbed 2900' over just 6.5 miles. 

I am currently in the midst of a 8000' week with plans to get to 10,000' in the third week of this phase.  I'll either get there or die trying :). 

Fundraising Update
My fundraising for the year is also starting to pick up speed.  I am happy to see my new employer, Salesforce, first corporate match of the year already being dispersed.  Special thanks to Mehdi, Ben, and Emma being the first to contribute to this years fundraising campaign.  We have already raised $912 and we have barely begun.

Next up is our 2nd Annual Comedy Night to Beat NF scheduled for April 20th. 

Amy and I have also just put in an order for NF running hats with the help of John Ryan at Impress Graphics.  We will be selling them as a fundraiser, $20 each or 3 for $50. Message me if you are interested. 

What's Next
I take on my first ultra of 2018 and first timed event ever next week at the Hale and Back 6 hour.  While timed events are not really my thing, this is a perfect excuse to get our for a 6 hour run, even if it is trudging through mud and snow.

Until next time,


Greg, Lauren, and I after the race

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

What Motivates You?

At work the other day I took a Agile Software Development training class (For more on Agile, click here).  About half way through the day, the instructor showed us a short video called, "The surprising truth about what motivates us." While I wasn't completely surprised with what was presented, it was really nice to be able define it in such simple terms.

What the below video shows is that for tasks above rudimentary cognitive skill, simple monetary rewards don't work.  It continues on to say that the three main motivators behind what we do are autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

I really enjoyed this video because it is the link between my professional life as a software engineer and my personal life as an endurance athlete.

As a engineer, I want to be a master of my trade and build high quality software that makes a difference in people’s lives.  Having the autonomy to control my own destiny is essential to being successful.  And as one of my friends once said, "I care more about the quality and features I deliver then what they can be sold for."

In running, the same applies.  I love running because I love trying to master something.  I enjoy long distance running more as it is something that you can continuously improve at. Running gives me great autonomy and the ability to chose my own adventure.  All I need is a pair of sneakers and I am ready to go.  I can run in the morning, I can run at lunch, I can run in the evening.  I can run on travel, I can run at the airport (though I recommend minimizing that).  Running has also been the cornerstone of my fundraising over the last couple years which has lead me to find my purpose.  The two now go hand in hand.

As life goes on, I am excited to see where else I can apply these simple principles.

What motivates you?

- Scot

Lombard st, San Francisco, CA
The Most Crooked Hill in the World