Summary Nov 10-16

Monday November 10, AM 3 Miles, 151′ 23m16s
Short shake-out type thing. Legs haven’t fully recovered from the previous Saturday’s abuse… I might still be able to grind out a 4+ hour run, but recovering from it is another story.
PM Bike, 47m34s
Local neighborhood bike ride, figured I’d take ‘Zilla out for what is probably the last ride of the season.

Tuesday November 11, AM 7 Miles, 663′ 55m46s
Overall a really desultory local road loop out my front door. I’d been foolishly hoping that a couple of days of light running/XT would give my legs ample opportunity to recover, but the reality is that the ability to grind day in and day out is probably my biggest indicator of fitness, and is sorely missing right now.
PM Climbing 2.5hrs
Headed over to the rock gym with Zach. Spent most of the time bouldering and learning better ways to do a sport that I’m admittedly pretty terrible at (perhaps why I’m so intrigued by it right now).

Wed Nov 12, 10 Miles, 879′ 1h21m
Another grindtastic day. First time in recent memory that I can recall seriously considering walking some road uphills. Suffering from a really general lack of strength, and inability to climb in any way becoming of a runner.

Thurs Nov 13 AM, 10 Miles, 896′ 1h15m
Lunch-time run with Jay. Surprisingly peppy after a few days of grind, especially when I think about how I walked down the stairs in the morning. Sometimes you just need a bit of companionship to get the pop back into your legs.
PM 3.1 Miles, 148′ 27m49s
Shakeout-like modified broken-shin loop with the highlands hashers.

Fri Nov 14, AM 3.5 Miles, 568′ 32m17s
Figured I’d hit up the power-lines with the fresh inch or so of powder on the ground. Awful time gaining purchase on the inclines combined with the shitty legs I’ve had all week made for a much slower than anticipated outing.
PM Climbing 1 Hour

Saturday Nov 15, 13.5 Miles, 3120′ 2h33m
DunCreek TH>Tammany Via Red dot>Sunfish>DunCreek>Tammany>TH. Very mercurial outing at the Water Gap. Legs were a lot less peppy than I would have liked, and the fresh coating of snow made for a lot of questionable footing.

Sunday Nov 16, 3 Miles, 161′ 21m42s
Another shake-out run… I felt really good out the door, but I was reminded of the latent fatigue in my legs within a mile or so… Ugh, failing to recover any sort of leg peppiness is getting tiresome.
PM Climbing 1 Hour

Totals 53 Miles, 6585′ 7h50m

Overall not a bad week. It’s remarkably comforting to be back in the “regular” grind of things, and while there’s still a lot of miles ahead of me, it’s nice to feel like I’m finally able to put some behind as well. I may have been a little over-exuberant in last weekends efforts, at least relative to my body’s ability to recover, an ability whose diminution I’m acutely aware of….



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High(er) Places

Running up mountainsides is what I like to do in my free time, here are some photo’s to reinforce that idea. Regular training updates will return soon, but hopefully these can whet everyone’s appetite for more/better mountain porn.

Slide (4160′) from Cornell (3860′)

Wittenberg (3780′)

Tammany (1526′) Photo: Jayson Kolb
Kolbster trying out the “Moon Boots” on our Tammany>Sunfish Pond>Minsi route
Coming off of Minsi (1461′) Photo: Jayson Kolb

Maine

Saddleback Mountain 4,116′

Saddleback Mountain 4,116′ Photo: Some Connecticut folks…

Saddleback Mountain 4,116′

Descending from Saddleback>Rt 4 Via AT

Crossing from The Horn>Saddleback (AT)

Saddleback Mountain (4,116′) Overlooking The Horn (4,041′)

Saddleback Mountain overlooking Saddleback Pond (foreground) and Rangeley Lake (back left)
Saddleback Mountain (4,116′) in Weather

See above

Ditto

Rangeley’s locational claim to fame
Not a bad base for a few days…

Basically since the dawn of time (according to my families narrative) or maybe it was the 1970’s… but I think the dawn of time sounds way better (nevermind the fact that it precedes my birth… and in many ways, caused it) my family has vacationed in a little lake/mountain town in Maine called Rangeley.Wikipedia describes the area the following way:

 “Centrally located between the headwaters of both the Androscoggin River and Kennebec River, the town lies on the eastern shores of Rangeley Lake in the Western Maine Mountains. Smalls Falls, lying just south of the town on Route 4, is a popular tourist destination. A sign in town notes that Rangeley is halfway between the Equator and North Pole.”

You see, my parents actually met in this small New England town while vacationing with their respective best friends, and stories of their vacations throughout their teens and twenties pepper the narrative of both their courtship and eventual marriage, as well as the several years preceding my brothers birth. These stories provided a remarkably solid baseline for the obvious opportunity for adventure that the proximity to mountains, and large bodies of water combined with a relative lack of modern conveniences (internet and cell-phone service even these days are erratic at best) can provide.

For a few weeks every summer since I was a teenager (we did take a vacation hiatus for a while, checking out several different destinations during my adolescence before landing back in Rangeley) My family spent their time floating on the lake, hiking local mountains, and when I got older, drinking whiskey beside a fire pit. These days however, I’ve been much more prone to taking advantage of my families vacation for its proximity to great Mountain running, most notably Saddleback Mountain, which lies only a few miles out of town, and boasts a relief of 2,446′.

While I won’t bore you with the gritty details of the running, I’m pretty proud of the cumulative Vert of 30,200′ in 5 days running, complete with 5 summits of Saddleback Mountain, 2 Summits of The Horn, and a rather dead-legged circumnavigation of the lake (24 miles, 6,300′) in that time frame. Unfortunately, it seems to have been a little more than my body would have liked, and has left me with a few niggles that I’m sorting out at present, but I should be back at full volume in a few days, complete with returning to regular posting.

Summary Sept 9-15

Sunday Sept 9 AM 10 Miles 410′ 1:20 Ran through Parsippany with John, started by hitting a few hills, then running around the lake. Longest consecutive run in months, I’ve hit the distance over the summer, but usually on technical trails requiring at least some hiking, but being on a road leads to really consistent pacing/effort for the entire duration. Knee feels good, also, fantastic sunrise over the lake… should have brought the camera.

Monday Sept 10 AM 5 Miles 740′ :41 Short morning jaunt through the powerline course, the overall run-time is slowly decreasing, and my body seems to be adjusting to the cup of coffee>run>then eat for real schedule.

Tues Sept 11 AM 7.1 Miles 410′ 50:28 Sort of hilly run up the ridge and back down using the local roads. Feeling a bit rough from the get-go after a night hanging out with some orchestra folks. Really content with the time though, letting my stride open up a bit, and trying t get more consistent rhythm/effort over slightly longer distances
PM 1 Mile Barefoot 8:53 Shakeout evening, whenever I’m starting to pile on “real” mileage, the barefooting seems to keep me in-line.

Wed Sept 12 AM 5 Miles 740′ 41:39 Solid effort over the power-lines, sadly it’s taken me this long to feel comfortable/consistent on what is really a very pedestrian course. More importantly, the longer-sustained climbs are becoming relatively easy, and I’m gaining a lot more confidence in my overall foot placement/trusting my right leg to sustain the amount of abuse required for serious trail-running.
PM 1 Mile 8:44 Barefoot When my barefoot miles start to get consistent, I stop feeling like a liar when I tell people I’m a runner…

Thurs Sept 13 PM 5 Miles 360′ 40:25 Broken Shin Loop with John, Bob, and Brian. First time in a while that everyone ran as a cohesive group, conversational at ~8min pace. Pumped up the pace for the last quarter while joking around with Bob, he still has a much better kick than I do.

Fri Sept 14 AM 5 Miles 740′ :41 Another Power Line trip, feeling reasonable.

Saturday Sept 15 AM 5 Miles 550′ 1:14 Pseudo-tempo road-run. I wanted to nail down a baseline 10-mile time/pace on semi-shitty legs so I have an idea of what kind of work I’ve got cut out for myself. Surprisingly happy with the outcome, since the base for this course was in the 1:15 range last April as well…
PM 3 Miles 645′ 28:19 Allamuchy TH>Summit and directly back via yellow>blue blazes. Too nice outside to not get some hill time, even though it was probably ill-advised.

Totals: 52.1 Miles, 4585′ 6h54m
Longest mileage week since May, (although my week in Maine came close in overall time, it was much more vert-oriented, without the actual distance). I think I can begin to consider myself a runner again, as opposed to some sort of recreationalist/hobby jogga type. More encouragingly, if I can continue on this trajectory without re-injuring myself, I should be in much better shape at the turn of the year than I was last year. With the temperatures cooling, and the leaves starting to change, I’m really hoping that I can stay healthy, and begin to enjoy what’s certainly my favorite part of the year to be on-trail.

Pursuing direct lines

Spending some time in the Pine Tree State running the local mountains… I’d forgotten how much fun, and how challenging running directly up a big mountain can be. For the sake of brevity, and my (still) lack of trust in my right leg, I’ve been choosing the most direct lines to the summit, to reduce the amount of actual mileage, while still getting myself above treeline, which has amounted to pretty short trips (~45 mins) but with maximal effort throughout the entirety of the trip.

Only a few short months ago, I would be frustrated going for a run where the overwhelming majority of my time would be spent hiking. In fact, it seems that hiking, despite its inherent necessity in mountain running, (especially at the ultra-distance) hiking is often under-appreciated. The reality of the situation is that these more direct lines, while shorter in mileage, more than make up for their brevity by requiring a backbreaking effort throughout. Nothing can compare to an extended incline session with your nose to the ground, hands on your knees, and breathing heavily with every planting of the foot. Sure, it’s not a run, but it’s still the most efficient way to move quickly through the mountains.

 This past weeks worth of serious vertical abuse has helped me to successfully regain a lot of the lost trust in my right leg. In spite of the brevity of my sessions (the longest being ~1h46m) I managed to really attack some vertical gains and losses, and contrary to my expectations, my knee/ITB feel great, even after bombing down scree, leaping over boulders, and generally being reckless. Perhaps more importantly to me is the fact that I was able to consistently get above treeline almost every day this past week (I did take a day off for prudence, and one for travel). and if the sunburn on my shoulders is any indication of summertime mountain-efforts, I’m doing pretty well.

Saddleback in the fog, Photo courtesy of Snake-Girl

Wearing the ITB strap… for prudence

Summit Proper

Return from the Horn

Finding the groove

Finally. It’s now been long enough since I’ve had any knee pain worth mentioning that I actually can’t remember the last time things flared up. (note: I have a short memory) I’ve managed some modest trail running (~5 miles at a time) hiked in the White Mountains (with poles/small pack) carried a full load through the Kittatinnies, gone barefootin’ barrelled down techy trails at full speed, and even got 3 (small) runs in today on a variety of terrain… and…. no pain. If I’m not actually out of the woods right now, then I can definitely hear the cars on the road.
While my running times are terrifically inconsistent right now, in the past several days I caught glimpses of the runner I was before the injury. I’m not making any promises about upcoming race plans, not at least until I can string together a couple of serious training weeks. But honestly, I don’t care, all I know is that right now, it looks like I’ll be able to actually run through August, and try to make up for some lost trail time in June/July.

Oh trails I miss you
Dirty feet and muddy legs
My shoes look too new

Little Haystack, Weather kept me from traversing the pass

Weather…
Setting up Camp
Camp

Schooley’s Mtn this morning

 

Enjoy the Mountains

No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength. — Jack Kerouac

I understand that it’s unbelievably clichè to begin any posting by quoting an author, and even more trite to do so by quoting Jack Kerouac, but he makes a very valid point in this quip from Lonesome Traveler. Kerouac is emphasizing the grand importance of not only self-reliance, but the joy of the wilderness, and this was in 1960. If Kerouac had to emphasize the importance of the outdoors then, well before iPads, iPhones, Wireless internet, HDTV, Xbox, and the litany of other technological distractions we’re privy to in the current generation, how are we to encourage the importance of life outside?

Next weekend I’m attending the Outdoor Nation summit in NYC, courtesy of Merrell, who have chosen me to be among a small handful of delegates attending these summits across the nation. So myself, annd approximately 70 other 20-somethings will find ourselves camping in Central Park, getting to know each other, and brainstorming. Fundamentally, the purpose of these regional summits is to gather young people to generate ideas and projects to encourage our peers to spend more time in the outdoors, reaping the benefits of the woods and mountains, and helping to preserve what is left of our great unadulterated forests.

John Muir once said “Climb the mountains and enjoy their good tidings.” In going outside, and participating in true outdoor distraction-free travel, we can as individuals, discover our strengths, our weaknesses, and more importantly, come closer to the realization of what it truly means to be human.  About a year ago, I decided to backpack through the White Mountains, into the Mahoosuc’s via the Appalachian trail. Compared to the folks who hike the entirety of the footpath, this was a miniscule trip, but by dumb luck, I found myself placed inside of the “bubble” where the Northbound Hikers (who typically start in Georgia in March) and the Southbound Hikers (who start in Maine in June) cross paths. This, by default gave me the opportunity to converse with a wide variety of hikers, all there for their own personal reasons. While the hikers were as individual as could be, they all had a handful of things in common: their love of the woods/mountains, a huge amount of pure guts, and that joie de vivre that you can only get by spending the vast majority of your time outside.

In running, I’ve found similar traits to be prevalent. Trail runners, when they come across each other on trail, seem to always acknowledge each others presence, often stopping to chat for a bit (something I’ve never experienced on the pavement…) and moreso, even within a race, the sense of comraderie is a huge contributing factor to the overall vibe. Outdoor people seem to all know that we’re part of some sort of club, while our activities may vary, the intention is the same, a pursuit of peace, both inner and outer, and the overwhelming desire to embrace our humanity by submitting to nature.

“In every walk in nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” (John Muir) So go out, run, walk, hike, kayak, climb, do whatever you can to get yourself outside, and reap the benefits, they’re free, and will always give you more than you’re seeking. In fact, do one better, and take a friend with you, preferably someone who’s unfamiliar with whatever activity you chose, be it hiking, running, kayaking, or climbing, they’ll thank you for it.

Take a Buddy!

First day back on the hill in 6 weeks…

Pre-Race Report

Just a little update on the numbers regarding my training/conditioning with regards to tomorrows NF 50 race.
Since January 1st, I have accumulated the following:

Training Miles: 1,211

Tracked Vertical Gain: 89,000′

Also, for the Physical Stats:

Height 5’11”

Weight 152 lbs

Body Fat 8%

I’ve collected my gear, which mainly consists of a pair of split shorts, my MT 110’s, a couple of Handheld water bottles, 20-something GU’s (both regular, and roctane) S! caps, and Cyto-max powder (sports drink). Gene Dave and I plan to scope out a bit of the course this afternoon, and eventually we’ll be met by Sean, the Parakeet of Protection for carbo-loading, and a couple of winks of sleep before the 5am start.

Why I run Pt. 2

In the past several days, I’ve been questioned by several people as to how and why I run as much as I do, and in spite of my best efforts, I often feel as if I fail to properly explain myself. The following is my attempt to reconcile this, and articulate my thoughts with regard to the run. This is, in fact, my second attempt at articulating this point, the first can be seen here.

Why run? To the best of my understanding, the world we presently live is abundant with complications, and as time continues to pass, the list of life’s complexities continues to mount. Many of these things are good, such as the high speed internet I’m using to post this, or the electricity that helps me make my morning coffee, and powers my refrigerator helping me store food for longer than it would keep otherwise. Unfortunately, in my opinion at least, we as a culture are becoming increasingly dependent on these technologies to maintain our level of happiness/contentment. More so, in the days of smart phones, constant e-mailing and facebooking, the individual is afforded little to no time to truly be alone, in silence. Without this solitude it’s increasingly difficult to develop a sense of self-reliance, self-worth, and independence. In addition, there is an alarming rate of entitled recreation. As a society, we’re increasingly obsessed with ease of recreation, assuming that avoiding work is better than doing work, thus increasing our time in front of the TV, consuming the simplest forms of entertainment, and pursuing recreational activities that require less and less from the recreationalist.

As a runner, philosophically, one must refute that which our society has told us is the best way to enjoy oneself. Instead of pursuing ease, the pursuit is a challenge. More so, the runner does not actively pursue a variety, but rather chooses to indulge, often (as in my case) abundantly in one, very simple activity. Running. But, Why? I’m sure that there’s some sort of chemical reaction going on that leads to the addictive nature of the activity: endorphins, the runners high, whatever you want to call it, but that’s an infinitesimal part at best, in fact, I’m not entirely sure that it’s a part you should consider.  The reasons to run, to me at least, are a lot deeper than the simple pursuit of a buzz.

It begins, with freedom. There is nothing like running up a mountainside, unencumbered, the wind in your hair as you come across a wide panoramic view, brow dripping with sweat, legs aching, and heart pumping out of your chest. It’s an ineffable degree of freedom, known only to the runner. Often I’m asked why I don’t pursue other mountain/outdoor sports, such as kayaking, mountain biking, backpacking (I do on occasion backpack) and the answer is simple. I don’t want to have to deal with that much stuff. The more stuff I need to carry, the less in touch with myself and my surroundings I feel, in fact, this reluctance to carry anything is a large factor in my minimal clothing choices with regard to summer running, as something as simple as a shirt, if deemed unnecessary in the climate can infringe on this primal experience in nature.

Bipedal travel in itself is freeing, forgoing all technology to cover distances on foot. I’ve traveled some pretty substantial trail with pack, at a hikers pace, but having the sensation that I could do more, mileage, faster, forced me to eventually leave the pack at home, and pursue the same terrain as a runner. Once the gear is reduced to its most basic requirements, of foot protection and clothing, the experience on trail becomes vividly different, more alive, fewer ties to the world from whence you came, and a full-on immersion into the present. Additionally, on trail, at high speed, the mind is inherently preoccupied with navigating the technical aspects of the run, avoiding roots and rocks, negotiating the pace, and regulating the breath. This forces the runner to constantly be truly in the present, something that in my experience is often lacking in day to day life.

It’s also a pursuit of simplicity. As our lives become more complex, an opportunity to relieve one of the anguish of decision making is paramount. The run is simply binary, run, don’t run, there are no other decisions to make. This may sound boring to many, and I think is often why people choose to provide distractions (ipods etc) when they begin running (as I once did as well) but in reality, the simplicity is part of the joy, it’s an escape.

The challenge cannot go unspoken either. While the act of running is fundamentally basic, the act of running fast, especially over greater distances is a constant challenge. The beauty of the challenge is that the rules are set in stone, distance over time, no curveballs, and no last minute game changes. With this consistent challenge, there is inspiration, as the stopwatch reads a smaller number, and the legs feel less sore, progress is abundantly evident. However, greater challenges are always availed, and regardless of physical conditioning, a hard struggling session is bound to show up unannounced. Not to sound masochistic, but as much as the high points are elating, the low points are really where the beauty happens. While many people may not think that finding yourself miles from your home, depleted and dehydrated is a positive thing, it’s the place where inner strength is tested the most, and lessons regarding strength and weakness are truly learned.

I am not a masochist. I certainly don’t run to hurt myself, and wouldn’t actively pursue depletion, if I didn’t think depletion had something to teach me. The run, to me, is the most basic thing I can find, and there’s a certain degree of sustainability in that. All I need is a pair of shoes, and enough clothing to cover my naughty bits, and I can pursue a degree of aliveness that few other activities even come close to. Yes, there are downsides. Yes, it’s indulgent, selfish even, and occupies a tremendous amount of my time and energy. In fact, I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that running, be it mine, or a significant others, has cost me meaningful relationships on more than one occasion. That said, the pursuit of mileage allows me to feel free, unencumbered, and truly human. It grants me access to the deepest parts of my spirit, and constant bipedal travel really puts distance in perspective, making me more aware of how much energy is required to sustain our daily lives. So while it may seem a little bit crazy (and perhaps it is) to think this way, I know that the soreness in my legs will go away, my belly will again be full, and when I return home from the mountain, peel off my shoes, glance at my calloused feet, and treat myself to a hot shower, I feel an increased sense of self, and know that tonight I will sleep well, that my time with a book in my hand is well earned.

Accessible only by means of bipedal travel