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

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Bear Mountain Video

This is of course, inherently self-serving, (but isn’t the point of a blog self-serving anyhow?), but Dave has just posted the video from the NF 50 over at the Highlands Hashers blog.

Thanks Dave!!!

Tammany

I’ve got a fever, and the only cure, is more summits…. This morning Dave and I ventured the 45 minutes West to the Delaware Water Gap to tackle some technical trails, and some of the most condensed vert available within a reasonable drive. The loop to ascend Mount Tammany gains and loses roughly 1165 feet over the course of 3.3 rocky, technical miles, and the view across the Delaware towards Mt. Minsi and the rest of PA is arguably one of the best in the state.

The guide claims that the “hike” should take ~3 hrs to complete, although, through a combination of running/power-hiking, we covered the loop thrice in ~2:17, with the first lap at ~:38. By the end of the first lap however, we began to run into rain/sleet, which made footing more challenging, especially on the more technical terrain. By summit 2, it started to become apparent that I was substantially under-fed relative to my effort, and in spite of my consumption of a gel immediately prior to lap 3, I was unable to avoid the impending bonk. This means that Dave was subjected to a litany of incoherent rambles, songs, and caveman grunting throughout the third loop. Like most runners, I loathe bonking, but I’m more than acutely aware that becoming familiar with this degree of depletion is  important, especially with consideration of my racing goals. Having not hit the proverbial wall in quite some time, it’s nice to know that even when my legs are feeling heavy, and I’ve lost the ability to form complete sentences, my muscle memory can take over, allowing me to continue without a substantial change in pace.. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how far this autopilot can go for!

With ~3500 feet of vert under my feet today, I’m definitely feeling pretty depleted, as well as sore in the leg, making me wonder about the prudence of running the Broken Shin loop this evening with the Hashers… But, what’s another 5 miles!?!?

False Summit

Mt. Minsi

Dave does downhill

Descent!


C.C. Summit pose!

Faces made mid-bonk….
Not as flat as it looks

All photos that I’m in are courtesy of Dave Franz

Week Summary Jan 1-7

Sunday Jan 1, 6.1 miles, 51:37 Ran through Brooklyn and Prospect Park. Started off the year by running shirtless in split shorts, far cry from my usual ice-encrusted beard for the winter months

Monday Jan 2, 6.0 miles 44:19 Running local roads, trying to alternate trail mileage with roads in an attempt to not completely surprise my body with the sudden jump in mileage from last month to this.

Tuesday Jan 3 AM 5.22 miles 55:48 1300ft elevation gain/loss through Schooley’s Mtn Park, would have run longer, but mild ankle issues made the effort cut short after summit #2.
PM. 6.0 miles 43:41 Same route as Monday morning, getting quicker, decent tempo-ish run

Wednesday Jan 4 AM 4.85 miles 43:58 running along local powerline access trails, steep ascent/descent, overall tough run, but within ~1 minute of personal best
PM 4.85 miles 43:30 Rarely do I run a double that includes the same course twice, even rarer that I run the second loop faster… I blame it on the shoes (MT101’s in the Eve, as opposed to uber-minimalist Merrells in the AM) Felt sluggish, but the stopwatch says otherwise.

Thursday Jan 5 AM 10.15 miles, 1:24:55 Hill run on the roads, this point in the week I’m starting to feel the residual fatigue of higher mileage (especially compared to my lackluster numbers in Nov/Dec)
PM 5.0 miles, 40:50 Broken Shin Loop, felt rather anti-social Ran the second half of it with Roadie, first half being Chased by HH, sorry about the moon….

Friday Jan 6 AM 4.85 45:55 Semi-recovery-oriented run over powerline trails considered doubling it on the spot, but prudence got the better of me.
PM 6.0 miles, 50:26 Still in recovery-running mode, legs feeling rather soft by this point

Saturday AM 5 Miles, time: ???? (55??)Freezing Cold Hash

Totals: 64.02 miles 9h20m, Frozen beards: 4, Falls, 0 (hash excluded….)

I have no excuse….

Summary 12/4-12/10


Sunday 12/4 4.1 Miles through local neighborhoods 32:47

Monday 12/5 1 Mile barefoot 10:07

Tuesday 12/6 7.1 miles on local roads with an emphasis on hills. I tried to run this quickly in an attempt to jump start my fitness so that I can return to the local trails with some hill climbing strength, and without my breathing being too labored. total time: 51:19

Wednesday 12/7 1 mile through sleet/freezing rain (shorts were a bad idea) 7:29

Thursday 12/8 Broken shin loop, 5 miles 44:29

Friday 12/9 1 mile 8:29

Saturday 12/10 FINALLY my foot feels almost normal, for weeks, it had taken several steps after waking up for the tightness to go away, and even then, there would be a bit of lingering discomfort, but today, it feels like a regular foot again. 10.62 miles to, and around Schooley’s Mountain. This is one of my favorite trail systems to run, mostly because of its proximity to my house, and despite the fact that it’s roughly 2.8 miles of FLAT to and from the mountain, the trails on the actual mountain are rather unforgiving, requiring very steep ascent/descents, and very technical terrain. This run is by nature slow (my record on the course is somewhere in the high 1:4x:xx range, with an average run taking just shy of 2 hours. Saturdays time was 2:03:56, my longest run (time-wise) in weeks, perhaps a month.

Total: 29.4 miles 4h 39m

So I’m not quite “back” yet, but things are getting better, I spent some time with Mr. Foamy today after a short 4 mile trail run with Brian, and my foot is still a little tender, but runnable. I’ll probably stick with a lot of road running in the next few weeks, working on bio-mechanical efficiency, and trying to get my leg and cardiovascular strength up a few notches so that my more ambitious trail runs take less of a toll on me physically, especially with regard to my energy levels later in the day.

MT 101’s ~260 miles

Ghetto Heel Drop (a la Krupicka?)

Some typical NJ trail

Allamuchy Sun 12/11 Photo courtesy of Brian James

More NJ trail… before my feet went through it
Ice and mud covered feet

When I got to the car, my shoelaces were frozen tied… So enter the shoe dryer

Bumps. Bruises, And Falling On My Face

Alternate titles for this rant:
Using your head to break your falls: A tutorial
Reasons Someone Should Buy Me A Helmet
Rocks: The Foots Natural Enemy

It’s no new story that I have a tendency to fall, in fact I’ve written about it several times, starting with some stories about backpacking through NH this summer, training for a 50k that didn’t happen, running in the snow, and the all to frequent stumble over a benign obstacle, which, for some reason, is the most likely cause of injury for me. Yes, that’s correct, when I take a spectacular digger, think the kind of fall that would make for a great outtakes reel, I never get hurt, but an errant pen cap on a technical trail, now that’s dangerous!

Where am I going with this? Well I had been talking about my tendency to fall on my face/ass more often than I would necessarily like, and was talked into writing a post about it, but with one stipulation, I had to fall again, that way there are some fresh scrapes/bruises/embarrassment to fuel the rant. Today, the trail decided to provide me with exactly that opportunity.

Descending from the mountain, after 4 consecutive summits, feeling good, somehow the idea that “this would be a great time for me to take a digger” slipped into my head, this is usually how things happen, I’m tired, often a little over-zealous, and more often than not, I have the road/my car within sight (yes, it’s ALWAYS this close to the end of the run) and blam! my face, on a rock. Fortunately, today’s digger was uninjurious, excepting the token bump/bruise/scrape, we’ll call those battle scars. Now while still ranting, let me explain why I have a love/hate with falling on my face. The Hate part is easy, falling hurts, usually a lot, every so often you get off scoff free, but more often than not there are at leas some bruises to answer to, and not to be a sissy, it just simply sucks. The Love part however, is a little more complex. For starters, falling is funny, there have been entire TV shows based on this premise (America’s funniest home videos?) as long as you don’t actually get hurt, a fall is never not funny… Also, falling, in my opinion is indicative of improvement. Strange? Yes, it may seem so, but if you think about it, falling implies that the person eating dirt took a risk that didn’t pay off, this is a learning experience, and is simple proof that you’re going out of your comfort zone. Without pushing the limits, we never improve, which easily translates to, if you don’t fall on your ass a few times, you’re not getting faster.

Now for a recap of some of my favorite spills/diggers/opportunities to eat shit from the past year.

July: Mahoosuc mountain range, descending a steep dew covered rock face with a 30 lb pack on my back, I lost my footing, and fell face first into the dirt. The only thing that stopped me from going over a ledge was my forehead conveniently connecting with a rock. I proceeded to take 6 or so more diggers in that day alone, but the first is always the most memorable.

July: Same day as before, Mahoosuc Notch, Bouldering with a 30 lb pack, after stowing my trekking poles, I leaped off of a rock, and lost my balance on the landing, narrowly avoided slamming my head on a rock (this may be a trend) and subsequently fell on my butt, Another benign landing, but it certainly made me think twice.

August: Schooleys Mountain, On a second ascent towards the overlook, a slip caused me to roll my ankle and land sideways on a few rocks. Not a particularly spectacular fall, but the ankle twist affected my mileage for several weeks afterwards

November: Powerline trails, I tripped on an errant piece of wire, landing directly on my knee, keeping me off the trail for several days… this would be a prime example of embarrassingly simple obstacles laying me out for a few days.

December: Today’s fall.. Near the end of the trail, I tripped on what I think was a rock… All I can really say for sure is that my left shoulder, knee, and chin took the brunt of the impact, I think I laid there for a few minutes simply stunned at the absurdity of it, and surprised that I was completely fine

So fortunately everything is behaving normally, although I expect a little soreness tomorrow, but for now, I think a solid smoothie, some Yerba Mate, and a couple of delicious beers should wrap up the day pretty well.

Slowly, but surely

My stomach virus ended up keeping me off of my feet as far as running is concerned for a whopping 10 days consecutively, excepting a hash, which sort of counts as running, but the exertion seemed to retard my recovery another 24-48 hours, but, c’est la vie. Since then, I’ve been trying to get myself back on my feet, and feel like a runner again. With the combination of hurting my foot on a recovery run several weeks ago, a solid  head cold, and the most recent illness, November has been the lowest mileage month of the year. The rest hasn’t gone completely to waste, and without any races looming in the immediate future, I don’t feel too guilty about it, but it’s nice to be starting to feel like a proper runner again, as opposed to the pseudo-recreationalist/couch potato that my logbook demonstrates for November.

As I’ve returned to the roads/trails I’ve noticed that my fitness has certainly diminished some, but in ways I didn’t quite expect. My endurance is understandably down, but more noticeable, is my erratic pace-rhythm. I’ve always been subject to positive splits, sometimes dramatic, sometimes understandably subtle, but in the recent days, I’ve found that positive splits are running my life… Part of this is likely derived from my abundant excitement to be running again, resulting in my heading from the car at ~7min pace on technical trails, which in my current state (or even when I’m very fit) is typically a ticking time bomb for walking, or at the very least, slowing down dramatically. Strange, however, is the fact that my body seems to be adjusting to this haste out of the gate, allowing me to crush former best times on many of my regular courses through the first 7 or so miles, which is when things seem to begin to fall apart, yielding mediocre overall times. So with some luck, I’ll be able to continue to push the boundaries, and eventually start knocking some serious time off of my regular runs, especially once i re-acquaint myself with the necessary pacing-distance ratios.

As far as the foot is concerned, it’s still not quite 100%, but I think I’ve figured out what’s exacerbating the discomfort, and how to change things so that it can both heal, and keep me running. I’ve returned to running roads, not exclusively, but substantially more than trails, which seemed to be aggravating my foot the most, and noticed that my cadence/balance was different on the road than it was on the trails. Part of this is the obvious necessity of negotiating roots/rocks/other technical aspects, but I think to an extent I had allowed myself to become formally lazy, since I wear a more built up shoe on the trail than I do on the road (more on this later). My trail shoes are still what most people would consider a “minimalist” shoe, but they’re still much more built up than my typical road shoe. Now I’m not an advocate of overly minimal trail shoes, as they simply don’t offer enough protection for the speed/distance/technicality of my regular runs, but the more protection, the more it hides form issues, this of course, is the trade-off. So running some in my road shoes has discouraged over-striding, as well as increased my turnover rate, which yields less impact on my sore foot, in addition, it’s facilitated a more mid-foot oriented strike, which i think is better balanced than an pure forefoot, thus engaging my calf more, and the foot a little bit less. So right now, the plan is to run a lot on roads to regain some fitness, and hill climbing strength, with the hope that when I return to mostly trail running, I’ll have the stamina to maintain better form throughout the run, and subsequently subject myself to fewer rough landings.

Last weeks summary:

Wed 11/30 1 mile 8:05
Thurs 12/1 AM 3.2 Miles up and down Allamuchy 38:00
PM 5 Miles Broken Shin Loop 44:28
Fri 12/2 4.85 Mostly power line trails 43:06 (near my record time.. ~1 min slower)
Sat 12/3 8.4 miles Schooleys Mountain. 1:40:20 I started out way too fast ~7 min pace, and made it through 3/4 of the loop before things started to break down, undernourished, under hydrated, overdressed, but it felt good to run some familiar trails again, and my splits for the first ~5 miles were way ahead of record pace, of course after that point, the positive split monster came out hard

View from Allamuchy

Delicious beer from Adams Beer Garden (it’s good for you, I swear)

Weekly Update 11/6-12

Sunday 11/6
7.03 miles 59:20 Ran around the local hills on the road, nice to get out and see the area on foot.
Monday
AM 4.85 miles 46:23 Often when I don’t have a lot of time to run on a particular day, and want to get on trail, I’ll run the paths for the power lines local to my house. They’re surprisingly technical, covered in medium sized rocks that challenge my running technique, and the paths right by my house essentially go straight up, and down hill. I did however, take a rather hard fall tripping over an embarrassingly small obstacle, which resulted in my knee being sore for a few days, and my foot still being sore today.
PM 1 mile 10:54 slow, almost barefoot(vibram) mile to shake out the stiffness from the mornings fall
Tues 0 Knee and Foot very sore
Wed 0 Foot very sore, limping noticeably (still!)
Thurs 4.85 46:45 Ran the same power line trail as Monday, foot still feels awkward landing on technical downhills
Fri 6.2 miles 1:40
Ran to High Point with Brian mostly through Appalachian Trail, we decided beforehand to take it rather easy, and split the difference between running and hiking, particularly with regard to my sore foot, I’m not sure how much we ran, and how much we hiked (i figure 1/3 hiking 2/3 running). As a runner, we spend a lot of time training in solitude, and it’s nice to have the chance to be social again, especially since my rehearsal schedule has prevented me from our usual Thursday runs with the Highlands Hashers.
Sat 0
Came down with head cold, probably for the better to keep me off the trail, as my foot is still substantially sore, and negotiating rocks/roots isn’t the best game plan to recover.
Totals:  23.93 miles, 4:25 Looking forward to my foot healing some, and getting myself back into the 60’s 70’s/wk

Here are some photos from High Point, Brian and I both decided to wear hydration packs, a deviation from my usual “bring nothing” M.O. With the mercurial weather predicted for the day, it seemed prudent to bring a couple of extra layers, especially knowing that our pace would vary, and that it wasn’t terrain that either of us were intimately familiar with. So, while I prefer nothing more than a handheld water bottle (and boy did the sloshing of the bladder annoy me) sometimes, bringing more is the best plan

Winter Running

If you read any of the running blogs from the Mountain time zone, you’re well aware that they’re already beginning to experience the joys, and perils of winter running, and here on the East Coast, as a result of an unprecedented October snow storm, we have as well.

Many of my friends, both casual runners, and non-runners often ask me how I maintain mileage over the course of the winter, especially as a trail runner, and since last weekend I remembered just how awesome winter runs can be, as well as the oft forgotten downsides of running in sub-freezing temperatures.
So, since many runners I know tend to reduce their mileage, or go towards the treadmill during the winter, I figure I’d try to explain as best as I could, how I maintain my mileage through season. First, attire, everyone has a different approach to cold-weather running, and much like my summer runs, I try to keep things very simple. A pair of tights (yes tights) lightweight baselayer, and a running wind breaker seem to be the most I wear during winter months. A lightweight pair of gloves, and a hat also are helpful. Many runners tend to overdress for cold weather, and end up actually being too warm. The downside of dressing as I do, is that you WILL be cold for the first few miles, the purpose is comfort in the long run, not in the first few miles.

Now, winter runs have their upsides and downsides, the most obvious downside being the negotiation of temperature/wind, hence the windbreaker and other attire mentioned above. The other, less obvious downsides are the shrinking roads as a result of snow (they get so much thinner!) which of course, makes avoiding cars much more of a problem (run trails). Trails however, get faster it seems, especially in the snow, which seems to fill in the changes in terrain, making for fast downhills, and less worry regarding rock avoidance with the extra cushioning. There is, of course, a lack of traction. I’ve found that on normal circumstances, I fall every ~300 miles or so when running technical trails, usually as a result of some mud, wet rocks, or a concentration lapse. On snowy trails, I fall roughly 1.5 times for every 10 miles, this obviously is a result of poor traction, and i expect the ratio to go down as the season progresses, and I get used to it. 
So why run in Winter? Well, here:

Trail Head
Tights and my Merrell Mix Masters
Snowy Bridge on Columbia trail

Blurry Picture, Deer in Snowstorm

Trail heading up Schooley’s Mountain

Long Valley

My Head

Summary 9/25-10/16

Okay, loooong mileage summary here, hoping to get more scheduled with this soon, but for now, a brief listing will have to do.
9/25 AM 1 mile, barefoot, 9:47
9/26 AM 10 miles, Mt Allamuchy 1:34:10 (PR)
9/27 AM 10 miles, Mt Allamuchy 1:52:42 (recover run)
9/28 PM 1 mile, 9:50 (barefoot)
9/29 PM 20.2 miles 2:44:39
9/30 PM 1 mile, 9:42 (barefoot)
10/1 PM 1 mile 8:23
10/2 PM 1 mile 10:23
10/3 PM 1.31 13:06
10/4 PM 1 9:57
10/5 PM 1 9:13
10/6 PM 5 44:07
10/7 AM 9.66, Mt. Allamuchy 1:57
10/8 PM 1 8:29
10/9 PM 1 9:43
10/11 PM 1 9:08
10/13 PM 5 38:48
10/15 AM 1 8:29
10/16 AM 26.2 3:27:16(Atlantic City Marathon race report soon)
This fundamentally covers my last long run, and major taper going into the AC marathon, in the final week leading up to the marathon, a few super-long music days caused me to inadvertently break my streak, which is a little upsetting, but I’m okay with it, I’ve been running strong since May, without any major injuries, and very much looking forward to some upcoming autumnal runs through the mountains, especially once this lingering soreness from the race disappears, and I can resume my rhythm of a summit tag a day.

Also, all of the single miles mentioned above are done barefoot, in the literal sense, typically slowly for recovery, or form-work.