Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Hennepin Hundred - 100 Miles to Make a Difference

"You can hurt more than you ever thought possible, then continue until you discover that hurting isn't that big a deal." -- Scott Jurek

Last December Amy and I concocted a plan to take on my first 100 mile race.  We picked the Hennepin 100 as it was fairly flat and would give plenty of time to prepare.  To make this race successful, we discussed how to add purpose, and our Miles to Defeat NF campaign was born.  The last 10 months has been a wild ride and I couldn't have done it without all of you.

To start, I simply want to say thank you.  Thank you,  thank you, thank you. This really was a group effort.

Training Recap
Training for Hennepin started in mid June with a 17 week training plan.  It peaked with a 67 mile run, 114 mile week, and 280 over 3 weeks (twice).  I followed a 3 up 1 down plan and eased my way into the race taking the last few weeks on the easier side.

Some of the notably training runs are listed below:
The Race
Going into the Hennepin I was confident.  Four weeks before the race I ran 67 miles and felt magnificent at mile 47.  Sure my legs were sore, but I was full of energy.  While I had to dig over the last 10 miles, I was able to hold a pace faster then my wildest dreams and was eager to see what I could do at the 100 mile distance.

Amy, Neil, and I headed out to Chicago on Thursday, two days before the race (We left Nat with my parents -- Thank you by the way), and after a night in Chicago (thanks to Dawn / Mark) and a trip to the zoo, we made our way out to Colona.

Race day began early with a 4:30am wake up and a 5:10 bus pickup.  We arrived in Sterling, the race start, around 6:40 and were underway exactly at 7.

My plan was simple; run 9 minute pace for as long as possible and adapt from there.  I figured if I could get to the half way mark without too much suffering then I could take it easy on the back half and still have a great time.

Race morning I posted my obligatory social media update and it was shared multiple times (thank you to Diana, Karen, Henry, and Jeff).  One of the things about tackling events like this is to make sure that you don't give yourself an easy out (or an out at all).  This year has been about so much more then running.  It has been about coping, raising awareness, dealing with uncertainty, making new friends, fundraising, and finding a part of myself that I didn't know existed.  I had a lot riding on this race, a lot of people supporting me, and I would be damned if I let them down.

Mile 32.1
At the start of the race it was upper 60s, with a light drizzle, and near 100% humidity.  As a cold weather runner I was a little concerned, but figured I would just have to work through it. I knocked out the first 10 miles in the mid 8:30 range and felt alright chugging along.

The race takes place entirely next to the Hennepin canal and while it is a pretty sight, the scenery never changes; canal of the left, corn fields on the right.  Still being away from traffic does make a big difference.

By mile 20 my legs started to get a little tight.  While this didn't concern me too much, I was concerned that the extra pop I had in the Coast to Cure wasn't there.  Over this period of time I focused on trying to keep my hydration and nutrition up.  I had a combination of water, Tailwind, shot blocks, and cliff bars.

In 2016, I got a Garmin 235 GPS watch.  The significance of this is that it also doubles as a smart watch.  Every text message, Facebook comment, Instagram like, and most importantly, donation confirmation email, shows up directly on my watch.  Each one induced a smile and enabled me run just a little harder and and a little faster (See Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel).

Mile 32 is where I saw Amy and Neil for the first time.  This was an aid station named "Candyland" which I figured would be perfect for Neil.  I was still moving well at this point (8:48 pace), but my legs were starting to get pretty shot and I was starting to worry that this may become a really long day.  Seeing Amy and Neil helped and I left with a renewed spirit.

By the time I reached Aid station 9 at mile 43 I was feeling pretty spent again.  This was the home of the world famous MILF aid station and there literally was a sign that read "Free MILF hugs."  So I did whatever any normal person would do and said, "Who is giving me a hug!" and aid station captain Christine ran over and gave me a giant hug.

The final miles before the turn around were a real bear.  I muscled through knowing that I wasn't quite half way there.  The humidity had taken a toll, but I wasn't about to let it stop me.  As I hit 50 mile, I broke my 50 mile PR from 2014 and vividly remembered how hard I pushed through the remaining 10 miles.  I smiled just a little and then took my first walking break.

Mile 67.3 with a fresh
change of clothes
After a 5 minute pity party, I regrouped and found a new plan.  If I could hold 13ish pace for the back half then I would still finish right around my plan.

After a bunch of 11-12 minute miles I got back Candyland and sat down for a few minutes.  I was totally spent and still had 33 miles to go.  I had held a pretty solid pace thus far and could easily walk the rest finishing way under the cut off.  But who wants to do that.

One of the things I had heard about the Hennepin was how awesome the volunteers are; and they didn't disappoint.  As I sat there at Candyland they brought me soup, coffee, ginger ale, and even helped roll my legs out.  After about 10 minutes, I finally got up and made my way out.

Over the next few miles I met up with two runners from Wisconsin, or Wisconsinites as they called themselves and was even able to string together 2 sub 11 minute miles.  It was also the first 100 for one of them while second was a seasoned veteran.  It was nice to have a little bit of company for a while.

Around mile 85 I started to become completely unraveled.  I felt nauseous, my legs hurt, my hip flexors hurt, and my feet hurt in a way I have never hurt before.  My run walk ratio was not even a one to one at this point.  As I arrived aid station 18, mile 86.7, all I could do was sit down.  A volunteer quickly came over and asked what I needed and all I could mumble was ginger ale.  Luckily they had some and I downed that, then two ibuprofen, and then a cup of coffee.  He asked me multiple times if I wanted a burrito, but I knew it would have come right back up.  After sitting there for about 15 minutes and just willing the race to be done, I got up.  This was the last time I would see Amy and Neil on the course and I had three more hours of pushing to go.   All I wanted to do was go to sleep.

I started off at a walk and a few minute later my stomach started to settle.  I tried running, but I was so damn tight from sitting for that long I had to stop.  On my third try, I had finally loosened up enough to move into a walk run pace.  I was totally flying blind now as my watch had died and my phone had died.  I ran when I could, I walked when I couldn't.  The moon had come out and the clouds had left.  I just chugged along.

Before I knew it I was at aid station 19 (mile 93.1) and after a quick break hunkered on.  My feet were killing me, but my energy was back up.  When I arrived at the final aid station, 20, with 3.5 miles to go, I simply looked at the volunteers and said I am going to keep moving.

With about a mile and a half to go you run through the center of Colona before the finish where the canal intersects the Rock River.  That finish line pull got a hold of me and I picked the pace back up.  As the finish came into view I shut my head lamp off and simply took in the moment.

-- Finish -- 18:28:20 -- 11:04 / mile -- 10 / 127 Overall --

Mile 100 (Neil was asleep in the car)
For a few minutes I just sat there and stared at the finish line.  This has been a long and hard year and this is something that I knew could never be taken away from me.  When I put on my NF Northeast jersey that morning I knew I was making a commitment; a commitment to do everything that can to raise awareness and funds to combat this disorder.

A Look Back
It is amazing how quickly the pain of a race fades.  I vividly remember how much I suffered in those last 30 miles yet now it doesn't seem that big a deal.  Will I ever run another 100?  Who knows. Do I need a break to recoup and figure out what is next?  Absolutely.

What could I have done differently?  Go out a little slower, train at a slower pace, and definitely eat more earlier on.

The Hennepin was a great first 100.  It is flat, not technical, has amazing volunteers, and isn't a multi-loop course.  Kudos to the race directors, the volunteers, and everyone that makes the race possible.

By the Numbers

  • New 50 mile PR (by 5:07)
  • New 100k PR (by 2:13:03)
  • Longest run ever (by 33 miles)
  • 15th state to complete an event in
  • 14th ultramarathon
  • Raised $522 during the race bringing the year total to $14,482

What's Next

Stayed tuned for some other crazy ideas that I have for 2018 around both running and fundraising.  It will be epic.

- Scot

Strava Activity (Note I manually entered the last 13 miles)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Coast to Cure NF - Finding My Voice Through Running

As a runner and especially an ultra distance runner, you are constantly asked "Why?"  Sometimes it is a direct question.  Other times it is indirect, such as "Are your crazy?" or "I don't even like to drive that far."

Running gives me fitness, the ability to deal with stress, and the feeling of accomplishment.  In addition to simply loving to run, it also gives me a platform to talk about the things most important to me.  Amy and I have both been fairly involved in fundraising through endurance sports since we entered the realm, but Nat's diagnosis has brought us focus and 2017 has allowed us to take it to an entirely new level.

Back in July, I ran the Pemigewasset (Pemi) loop up in the White Mountains while wearing my NF singlet.  During the run I stopped multiple times to explain to people what Neurofibromatosis is, not thinking too much of it.  A week latter while telling the Pemi loop story to NF Northeast Director Karen Peluso at a pizza party, she told me that I have found my role and how key raising awareness is to curing this disorder.  It was at this moment when I really understood what a powerful platform that my running has provided me.

At the time of writing this, I have numerous friends on Facebook, followers on Instragram, and connections on Strava, and a majority of them all know what Neurofibromatosis is now.  While I know this is not enough, it is a start, and I am going to continue to do "Crazy" things to get my message across and hopefully someday we will be able to stop the affects of this disorder.

Coast to Cure NF Recap
Stage Fort Park 1:59AM, 9/9/17
Last summer while training for a 100k we came across the Coast 2 Cure NF Charity bike ride.  Fairly new to the community, we were eager to jump in and get started.  I saw the 24 mile option and decided it would be a perfect training run.

Jump head to 2017 (after completing the 24 mile option and a 100k last fall), we had to raise the bar.  I decided I would tackle the 66 mile option (really ended up being 67.3) as a training run for my 100 miler I will be tackling at the beginning of October.

So we got to work.

  1. Come up with a plan
  2. Find people to drive me up / run with
  3. Convince others to do the ride
  4. Fundraise
My Coast to Cure NF day started at 12:45am (It was quite strange to set the alarm that early).  My friend / ultra runner partner in crime Keith picked me up at 1 and we arrived at Stage Fort Park at 2.  Fellow ultra runner Patrick, met us there and we quickly hit the road.

It is totally surreal running that early.  Most of the roads were well lit, but every once in a while you would hit one that was totally black (luckily Keith was smart enough to bring a head lamp).  Around mile 8 as we passed through the center of Manchester, I pointed out the Dunkin Donuts I had stopped at during my birthday run.  Not a soul was awake in the little town.

30 miles in with Patrick and Keith
Beginning at 4:30 and continuing through the day my watch beeped with words of support; from "You got this", to "Stay Strong", to "You are an Inspiration".  It all helped.

Around mile 25 the sun finally camp up and a few miles later my sister in law, Meryl met us for
breakfast.  Huge shout out to Keith and Patrick who kept me going for the first 30 miles and Meryl for bringing breakfast, driving them back, and then going on to bike the 24 herself.    There were no words I could possibly ever say to express my thanks for this.  It really did make all of the difference.

The next 18 miles I spent with myself.  For me, running really is a form of meditation and it gives me time to work things out; stress, logistics, work, and even problem solving.  You can ask my co-workers; I often come back from a lunch run and am like, "I figured it out."

The majority of these miles were on scenic back roads of Boxford and Georgetown along state parks and ponds.  As a few runners came the other way and said "Good Morning" I smiled back, thinking I am already over 5 hours and 36 miles in.

I reached one of the official aid stations (Mile 47) in the center of Rowley, MA.  This was also where my friend Mike (yet another ultra runner) was joining for the final 19 miles.  As the stop came into view, I got a huge surge of adrenaline.  After a quick bite to eat and some pictures with the volunteers, we were off.

Unfortunately, a few miles later I began to fade.  Luckily for me, Mike was right there saying "I bet you are too low on calories" and we were able to rectify the problem quickly with a Gu and a Cliff Bar (about 340 calories total).  A few minutes later I was able to get back into a groove and sailed right into the final aid station (Mile 58).

After more food and some fun chatting with the volunteers we were off.  The bikes finally started catching us and it was great to see how many of them were out there.  It gave me the desire that I needed to fight through and the ability to hang on.

Mike joins mile 47
As my watch beeped for the 62nd mile, I smiled and told Mike we are now in unexplored territory.  If I am going to be able to complete a 100 mile race, then I could not let this break me.  We were back on Route 133 heading east, directly at the water on rolling terrain.  Each uphill seemed to last forever, but each downhill brought relief.

With 2 miles to go, Amy and Laura biked by shouting for me (I would later find out they were hammering to make sure they finished on bikes before me) and then shortly thereafter my parents passed by.  I had gotten a hold of the final pull of the finish and I picked the pace up as I closed in.

As I came up the final hill into the finish there was a huge crowd yelling.  There was no official finish line as this was not a race, which in some ways was perfect.  While the run was a success, the fight is still not over.  There are still tons of people affected by Neurofibromatosis that need our help and I will continue to use running to strengthen my voice to make sure they can get it.

A few minutes later (and after a powerade and water -- thanks Diana), I migrated to a table and was given a victory beer.  After chatting with bunches of people we have met in the community in the last year and some new ones, we made our way home.

This finish with Nat
Huge thank you to all of our friends and family; From Keith, Patrick, and Mike for running with me, Meryl for breakfast / transport / biking, Amy, Laura, Becca for biking, my in laws Betsy and Dan for watching the kids, my parents, Susan and Gary, for coming up to see us finish, the Coast to Cure NF Committee and NF Northeast for putting on such an awesome event, and all of you who have contributed through donations and / or words of support.  We truly appreciate it.

Nat
You may think the highlight of my last week was completing this run, but you are wrong.  Nat had his semi-annual checkout with his neurologist last week and was given a clean bill of health.  While his future with NF is still uncertain, you take it one appointment at a time, and celebrate good news every time it is given.

Next Up
- Hennepin 100, my first hundred, in just over 25 days.

What I have really learned is that when people say "You are crazy" they are really saying "This is awesome." Ultrarunning truly is a team effort.

- Scot

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

37 Years Strong: Run Your Age, TARC Summer Classic, and the Falmouth Road Race

The past two weeks have a been a little bit of a whirl wind with my training, racing, and fundraising heating up.  It all started the week beginning August 7th when I began my first campaign to complete a 110 mile week.  It kicked into gear on Friday when I ran 37 miles to celebrate my 37th birthday and then moved into an all new gear the next day when I completed the TARC Summer Classic 40 miler (yes 77 miles in two days).  Over the past week I flipped from volume to speed and ran the Falmouth Road Race representing NF Northeast.  Below are some details and lessons I learned from these experiences.  

Run Your Age Year 3

Stage Fort Park After the Run
For the third year in a row I successfully ran my age on my birthday.  This year I started in Belmont and ran up to Gloucester via Malden, the Northern Strand Bike Path, and Routes 107, 1A, and 127 through Lynn, Salem, Beverly, and Manchester by the Sea (way too long of a name for a town).

All and all the run went really well and I really enjoyed the cool breeze and picturesque landscapes along the ocean.  I finished in Stage Fort Park and the cold water felt wonderful on legs.  

The Cold Water of the Atlantic Ocean
To celebrate Amy picked me up and we stopped at Cape Ann Brewing for seafood and drinks before heading back to reality.  

The TARC Summer Classic

Location: Medfield, MA
Date: 8/12/2017
Distance: 40 mile
Goal: 7 hours / Finish
Actual: 7:02:23

As I lay in bed the night of my birthday, I began to stress a little bit about the next day's race.  Was this really a good idea?  I had never attempted back to back 30 milers before, forget a 37 and a 40.  

I arrived at the race around 6:30 the next morning.  I wasn't feeling particularly great, but I wasn't feeling awful either.  While my legs didn't feel like they had a lot of pop, they also weren't sore. I figured after a 37 mile run, mostly on roads, that is pretty damn good.  

The race was located at the Shattuck Reservation in Medfield, MA.  The course consisted of 10 miles with a number of small loops with lots of switchbacks.  The terrain was mostly rolling with one good climb around mile 8.  The total course had about 1000' climbing and for the 40 mile race you traversed the course 4 times.

I started off around 10 minute pace and was able to speed up a little after the first mile, but my legs just didn't have any energy to go faster than that.  I finished the first lap in just over 1 hour and 40 minutes (10:07 / mile) and intentionally slowed down knowing I still had a lot to go.

Pic compliments of Edith Dixon
For the next lap and a half I ran with another runner whose name also happened to be Scott (but with two t's).  We just chugged along biding our time knowing at some point the race would begin to wear on us.

Around the mid point of the third lap I found a second wind and began to pick the pace back up.  This also coincidently happened when my GPS lost its mind and told me I was running 14 minute pace.  Around mile 28 I caught up to my friend Chris who I did the Pemi loop with two weeks earlier.  Unfortunately he was suffering from sharp quad pain so his pace was falling off (He went on to finish in 7:32 for his 1st 40 miler).

As I finished the third lap, I knew I still had something in me.  Coupled with passing two runners at the aid station (my TARC race trademark) and moving into 3rd place gave me the motivation to push harder.

The longest I have ever run in a day is 62 miles, but that involved a set of hiking.  The longest I have "run" without walking at all is 31 miles.  With 30 miles run under my belt on the day (and 67 over the last 28 hours), I decided it was time to see how deep that I could dig.

I was able to finish the final lap in just under 1 hour 50 minutes and ran every bit of it.  I finished the race in 7:02:23, 10:33 / mile, 3rd overall.

While this definitely wasn't the hardest race I have ever run, it did teach me a great deal.

Huge shout out to everyone at TARC for putting on another great race.  This was my 4th TARC race and I have never had a bad experience.

Splits
1:41:17
3:28:51 (1:47:34)
5:12:55 (1:44:04)
7:02:23 (1:49:28)

The 45th Falmouth Road Race


Location: Falmouth, MA
Date: 8/20/2017
Distance: 7 mile
Goal: 43:45 (6:15 / mile)
Actual: 43:42

This past weekend Amy and had the luxury of running the iconic Falmouth Road Race representing NF Northeast and all those affected by Neurofibromatosis.

The family before the Race
Pic compliments of Diana Flahive
If you are familiar with the 70's running boom and road racing in the United States then you probably know about Falmouth.  Falmouth is only second to the Boston Marathon for historic races in Massachusetts (and probably the Northeast).  The race started 45 years ago in 1973 by runner / bartender Tommy Leonard as way to get more people to come to the Cape. The course is a bar-2-bar (similar to point-2-point) run and starts in Woods Hole at the Captain Kidd and goes to Brothers Four (now closed) in Falmouth Heights.  The majority of the course hugs the sea line, has rolling terrain, and generally is quite hot.

The day started with a 4:45am wakeup as we stayed at our friends house in Harwhich (which was a little too far away). We met up with our NF Northeast teammates at 6:30 for some pictures before we caught the bus to Woods Hole.

One of the major highlights of the day was meeting a few others running for NF Northeast and hearing their stories. It really helps to hear NF stories that are not horror stories.  The first was a women running for her 17 year old friend that has NF and the second was a mother of an 8 year old who has NF.  While both are monitored regularly, neither have any major problems.

The race started just after 9am and while I had pushed most of the way to the front, I still had a good chunk of people to get around (325 over the 1st 5k to be exact).  By the 0.2 mile mark I was out of traffic and I even clocked the first mile at 5:58.

The next two miles I backed off closer to goal pace and took in my surroundings.  I pushed up the climbs and flew down the descents.  There is something about sprinting down a hill running directly at the ocean that makes you feel like you can fly.
Nat and Laura cheering on the
NF Northeast Runners.
Pic compliments of Diana Flahive

By the end of the third mile the honey moon was over and I knew it was time to start focusing on sticking to the plan.  It was also getting really hot at this point and you are out in the open sun on a road that has been heating up for hours.

Around mile 4.5, I passed the NF Northeast cheer zone where Laura was hanging out with the kids.  It gave me a smile that I was able to hang onto for the next mile.

By the 6th mile I was really starting to hurt.  At this point in the race you run around the Falmouth Inner Harbor before heading back to the beach.  I really wished they just let us swim across instead.

As I finished mile 6, I knew I could still make my goal if I could just hold strong for one more mile.  As I struggled up a minor ascent, a guy passed and yelled / waved come on at me.  It was just the push I needed to get me back on pace.

With .2 miles to go you have a nasty climb that leads to a straight downhill finish.  I pushed with everything I had (getting my HR up to 191) an then sped up to sub 5 minute pace into the finish.

While not my best time, I was still pleased with the result.  Placed 135 / 11,026 overall, 10 / 540 in my age group, and beat my goal time by 3 seconds.

Neil greeting Amy
Pic compliments of Diana Flahive
Amy finished a little later successfully completing her longest run ever!

Huge shout out to Diana from NF Northeast for organizing us, taking pictures, and being super supportive, Laura for watching the kids allowing us to both race, the Mullins family for loaning us their Cape house so we had a free place to stay, and all of those of you who have donated and been supportive of our cause this year.  

My Splits

Lessons Learned

Over the past two weeks I have learned a lot.  
  1. My training is paying off
  2. I know I can simply just keep running.  
    • 40 miles of rocky rooty switchbacks is not that easy to navigate
  3. It convinced me that I am ready to run 100 miles
  4. When I put on the NF singlet, I am invincible.  

Next

On September 9th I will be back Stage Fort Park for Coast to Cure NF where I will be running the 66 mile option. This will be my longest run ever and only the second time I have taken on anything over 50 miles.

To be successful in this event, I am going to need your help.  Below is a tentative schedule of where I expect to be when.  You are all invited to come run a portion with me, bike the event yourself, or meet us at the BBQ.

My Estimated Schedule

  • Add your name to run with me
  • We will work out the logistics
  • We will have cold beer waiting at the finish

Sign up for the ride (24, 66, and 100 mile options)

Sign up for the BBQ (Click register and select BBQ -- Did I mention there is Beer :)

Additional support is always welcome as well.

Thank you

Year 37 is looking to be a great one.

- Scot

Racing through the NF Northeast Cheer Zone
Pic Compliments of Diana Flahive

Monday, August 7, 2017

New Heights, New Challenges, and Raising Awareness

Today I begin phase 3 (of 4) of my 100 mile training plan.  The first two phases served as the build up to get to this point and phase 2 replicated some of the best training I have every done in my life.  From here I enter an area I have never been in. The next three weeks I will prove to myself that I have what it takes to succeed at the 100 mile distance.

Before I dive into the specifics of the next cycle, I have to take a step back and explain why I am doing this.  If you read my last post you probably noticed that I wore my NF singlet during the Pemi loop.  I did this to invite questions, further the dialogue, and raise awareness.  NF is still a little known disease and one of the best ways to further research, support, and find a cure is to simply raise awareness.  I left the Pemi loop with a few more people knowing what Neurofibromatosis is.

Most people literally cannot comprehend running a 100 miles.  I routinely get: What?  Why?  For whom?  Expect to see a lot more of this jersey moving forward.

Phase 3
Run your age year 1 (2015)
Long Lake, Naples, ME
This coming week I will be doing two things for the first time.

  1. Tackling a 110 mile week (my previous high in a week was 101)
  2. Putting in back to back runs over 30 miles
Run Your Age
The fun starts on Friday, my 37th birthday.  For the third year in a row I will run my age. This year I plan on leaving Belmont at 8am and running up to Gloucester (details below), the site of the Coast to Cure NF ride in September.  Anyone around is welcome to join and / or support me.  There is no donation that is too small.  In honor of my birthday, suggestions include: $37, $19.80, and simply $3.70.  Click to donate.

Details
Start: 8am
Finish: 2pm (estimating 9ish / mile)

We will be stopping at Cape Ann Brewing after the run.  

TARC Summer Classic
The very next day I am taking on my 13th ultramarathon, a 40-miler at the TARC Summer classic (Yes 77 miles in two days).  While I am a little concerned about this volume, I am excited to see how my body and mind deal with the stress.  My last two 30+ mile runs I felt fully recovered within 3 days.  I also have never had a bad race at a TARC event.  

Falmouth Road Race
The following weekend Amy and I will be tackling the storied Falmouth Road Race (7 miles) as members of the NF Northeast team.  We are super excited to be doing this event and super excited to be running this representing NF Northeast.  Yesterday we had a team pizza party and received our official race singlets.  This will be Amy's longest run ever.  Click to donate.

Trip to Maine
Amy and I are taking a much needed vacation.  In honor of our 10 year anniversary we are getting away just the two of us for a few days.  No trip is complete without a long run so I am aiming to get a 40+ mile run to cap off phase 3 while we are there.  I may even run a lap around Lake Sebago.  

If I hit all the planned mileage for phase 3 then I will be at 280 / 3 weeks. 

Wish me luck.  I am going to need it and keep an eye out for the NF jersey.  
Scot  




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Pemi Loop

The Pemi Loop
This past weekend I got out and completed my second major traverse of the year, the Pemigewasset loop, or better known as the Pemi loop.  This has been on my radar for a while and serves almost as a right of passage for New England based ultra runners.  In NE we don't have the highest of the mountains or the longest of the climbs, but we do have some really gnarly rooty rocky terrain.

The Pemi loop is somewhere around 31.5 miles with over 9000' of climbing.  It starts in the Lincoln Woods right off the Kancamagus highway in NH.  In 2005, Backpacker magazine named it the second hardest day hike in America.  The loop summits 10 peaks of which 8 are over 4000': Flume, Liberty, Little Haystack, Lincoln, Lafayette, Garfield, South Twin, Guyot, Bond, and Bondcliff.  For more details checkout http://www.davidalbeck.com/hiking/pemiloop.html

I ran the loop with a couple of other ultra runners, Patrick, a 20 year fenom, who probably could have done two or three loops if inclined, and Chris, a very experienced hiker who is somewhat new to ultra running.

Mnt Flume
You start on an old dirt rail road trail before turing off about 1.25 miles in.  The next couple of miles you climb up to the Franconia ridge trail where it gets a little steeper with each step.  By the fourth mile, you are literally going straight up (I clocked it at 1,073' of gain). Just after the 5th mile you hit your first peak, Flume (~4300'), and at this point you have already knocked 3000' of 9000' for the day.

We had a perfect weather (70's with a breeze) and once we got up about the tree line you could probably see for a 100 miles.  After a couple of pics and quick break we kept on moving.

Over the next 4 miles you drop in and out of the tree line a few times before reaching the summit of Mt Lafayette, the highest point on the loop at 5249'.  After a painful technical descent for 2.2 miles and over 1500' of drop, you go straight back up 800' / .9 miles as you ascend Garfield.

At this point you are not even half way through the loop but have already done over 75% of the
Mnt Lafayette
climbing.  But don't let it fool you as technical descents are just as hard as the climbs.  While I knew I had the endurance to get through the loop, my speed was really starting to suffer.  My inability to move quickly on technical terrain was becoming more apparent as Patrick and Chris would put a gap on me the more rocky it got.

At mile 16ish, we reached the Galehead hut and took our first prolonged break of the day.  We were also able to refill out packs / bottles.  I don't think cold water and PB & J sandwich ever tasted so good.

From here, you have the nastiest climb of the whole loop as you ascend South Twin.  You climb about 1000' / 0.8 miles on some of the steepest rockiest terrain I have ever seen.

After a few more summits you reach Bond Cliff and then begin your descent back down to civilization (with about 8 miles remaining).  As we bombed by hikers they laughed at us wondering how on earth we were able to move that fast.  We laughed even more to ourselves as we were moving around 16 minute / mile, a far cry from our normal running pace.

With just under 5 miles to go, we hit the eastern end of the railroad trail and our pace immediately went back down under 9s.  With about 2 miles to go I decided to drop the hammer and sprint it in.  As the bridge to cross the Pemigewasset river came into view I pushed it into one final gear and flew by one last set of hikers to the finish.

End of the Loop
East Side of the Pemigewasset River

Talking with a few other runners and hikers afterwards, we all agreed that is one hell of a run / hike.  In my years of ultra running, I have only ever covered that much climbing in a day once before (Virgil Crest) and that was spread out over 20 more miles.

All and all had a great day and looking forward to tackling other events like this in the future.

- Scot

For more details checkout my Strava activity at: https://www.strava.com/activities/1107722177

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Wapack

One of my goals for 2017 is to get out and run some new trails.  On top of this, I have a goal to run the entire trail systems when possible.

Southern Trail Head - Mnt Watatic
Last August I got a taste of the Wapack trail in north central Massachusetts / Southern NH.  This past weekend I got back out and ran the full 21.5 miles.  The Wapack starts in Ashburnham, MA, first climbs Mnt Watatic, then Pratt Mnt, New Ipswich Mnt, and through Windblown CC Ski area.  The second half of the run climbs Temple Mnt, Holt Peak, and concludes with ascents of both Pack Monadnock and North Pack Monadnock.  It has some gnarly terrain and weighs in with over 4700' climbing.  This is not your beginner run.

In order to make this run work with our schedule, I had to get up at 4:30 Saturday morning.  That got me to the trail head by 6 with a 5 hour buffer to complete the traverse.  While it was a little wet from Friday's monsoon, it was fairly cool out (55-60).  The first mile was tough one with nearly 600' climbing.  I did a combination of running and hiking trying to keep my HR in check.

Windblown Ski Area
The next few miles weren't too bad until I arrived at the climb for Pratt Mnt.  It wasn't that long a climb, but when you are scrambling on all fours with a 35+% grade, it is difficult to move fast.  Pratt to Ipswich, to Barrett, to Windblown is mostly ridge line with a few hundred feet of rolling technical terrain.

The following four miles presents a nice break with a less technical flatter section.  The honeymoon
ends at mile 13 as you begin the Burton peak ascent.  This mile packs another 570' of climbing.  Going into this climb I had gotten my average pace back under 12 minutes per mile after a couple of 15 minute miles early on.

From here on out my pace started to suffer.  Not sure if I was getting tired or just mentally burnt from all of the technical terrain.  I also knew I had another 7+ miles to go and needed to keep some in the tank.

North Pack Summit
Just after mile 17 you cross route 101 and pass by the parking area for the southern ascent of Pack Monadnock.  As an ultra runner, I always get a chuckle when I pass through a lot like this and see people out for their hike when this represents just a small chunk of my day.  From here, Pack Monadnock is under 2 miles with about 600' of gain.  If you continue on North
Pack it is another mile and half with another 400+ feet of climbing.  Not too bad a day hike.

As I began the ascent I caught a group of early 40 something yr old men decked out in hiking gear complete with trekking poles.  As went bombing by them one of them yelled, "Out for a morning jog?" and retorted with "Yeah, started at Mnt Watatic" and watched his jaw hit the floor.

Northern Trail Head
After crossing mile 20 and knowing the end was near, I was confronted with a crazy technical descent.  I dropped over 600' during the 21st mile and had to be extremely careful on the wet rock before finally making it to the trail head.


In general, I am really happy with how the run went.  I never really bonked or had trouble continuing. 

Things to work on
- Ascending and descending technical terrain.  I just don't do it enough.
- Fueling and hydrating.  I drank 1.5 liters of Tailwind and only consumed about 60-80 calories per hour.  I need to get this up closer to 200 once the longer runs come in to play.  
- Enjoy the scenery.  I spent to much time trying to make sure I keep moving forward even though this wasn't a race.  

At no point during the run was I interested in running back, but maybe I do the race next year.  

What's Next
This run was a test to see if I think I am ready for a single day Pemi Loop, a traverse that has been on bucket list for a while now.  The Pemi packs 29.5 miles with a over 10,000' of climbing.  Date still TBD, but I think I will be ready for it in July sometime. 

- Scot

Monday, June 12, 2017

100 Mile Training Starts Today

Before I get into my 100 mile training plans I must briefly recap the first 5 and half months of this year.

Charity Update
On December 31st, Amy and I set a goal of raising $10,000 in 2017 for NF Northeast for research
Fundraising snapshot - June 2017
and to help those coping of NF.  At the time, we thought this was really aggressive, but decided that if you are really going to go after something you need to go big.

I am happy to say that with the help and generous donations of our friends, family, and my employer's (Cisco) matching gift program, we have achieved that goal and it was roughly 7 months ahead go schedule.

Amy and I are not stopping now.  We have both committed to run the Falmouth Road Race (August) with NF Northeast / raise another $2000 and we both will be participating in the Coast to Cure NF Bike event (September).  We are greatly looking forward to these.

26 X 1 Club Challenge
Location: Medford, MA
Date: 6/11/2017
Distance: 1 mile
Goal: 4:59 
Actual: 5:00

In June of ever year my running club, SRR, holds a race called the 26 X 1 Club Challenge.  The concept is quite simple, you have a relay team of 26 people running 1 mile each (1 additional person runs the difference so that relay is a full marathon).

In 2014, I crushed my PR (by 17 seconds) and broke 5 for the first time.  Going into the race this year, I simply wanted to prove to myself that I still had a sub 5 minute mile in me.

Post race libations at The Pub
Over the past 3-4 weeks I have been attempting to dial in this pace and have done a number of track workouts: 1000 meter repeats, 400 meter repeats, and even a few 200 meter repeats.

Going into the race today I was ready.  The plan was the same as always: start out in the low 70's, try to remain under 2:30 at the half and 3:45 at the 1200, and the finish with a strong kick.

I started out a little quick with a 69 second first lap and was at 2:27 at the half.  Pretty much right on target.  I slowed a little too much during the third lap and was at 3:47 at the 1200 and had my work cut out for me.  I closed with a 73 and handed the baton off in exactly 5 minutes.

While I would have loved to have gone sub-5 again, I am happy with the result and happy to know that I can really kick it into gear when I need to.

100 Mile Training
Since the Boston Marathon I have not been following a training plan. I was trying to keep it simple; get in some speed work, a long run here and there, and have some fun while keeping the weekly milage between 30 - 50.  For the most part I obeyed this.  I got in some good speed work (see above), a few good train runs (The Fells and the Western Greenway), and a long run of just under 24 miles.

While I enjoyed this brief back off, I am eager to get into my next cycle.  Tomorrow I start my 17 week ramp up for the Hennepin 100. It is broken into four blocks with a recovery week every fourth week.  This plan has me reaching a new weekly high of 117 miles and a new longest run of 66 miles. It has me tackling three sets of gnarly terrain with major league back to back runs.

While I am a little scared of this plan, I am also excited about it.  I tried to incorporate everything that I have learned about endurance training over the past ten years into; balance of speed, volume, consistency, race specific training, and to keep it interesting and fun.

While it is doubtful that I will hit it exactly, you have to start somewhere so you mind as well dream big.

- Scot

The Hennepin 100 Training Plan - V1