Wednesday, February 27, 2008

50 Mile...RELAY this year

The mountains of New England could be calling again. Hard not to want to get back there! The White Mountains of New Hampshire, view from Osgood Trail.

After the JFK 50-miler this past fall, I promised myself and my wife that I would lay off the really long stuff for a year. My running/racing plans for 2008 are based around 10-milers and half-marathons. Running 50 miles is not on the radar screen... unless, that is, it is done as a 3-person relay.

Mike Keene is in triathlon mode this winter and spring. He is a mad man swimming, biking, and running, working up to the Eagleman half-ironman in Cambridge in June. He was talking to a product developer at Ibex (unpaid plug, they make some of the most comfortable, coolest clothes on the planet for running, backpacking, biking, you name it; I ran JFK in just a short-sleeve Woolies t-shirt and Zephyr zip t-neck up top, 11+ hours from 29 to 42 degrees; and they are having their winter sale at the moment), who gave a hearty endorsement of the Vermont 50 races--50 mile mountain bike, 50 mile run, 50K run, 50 mile relay. Without really giving it much thought, we had a co-ed team willing to toe the starting line.

The course for the relay is three legs: leg 1 is 12 miles, leg 2 is the hilliest and longest at 22 miles, and leg 3 is 16 miles. Keene draws the second straw with me running anchor. Not sure this is going to happen, registration opens in May, but it looks like an absolute blast, with the start and finish at a mountain resort in Vermont, which means family can come along and enjoy themselves.

If you plug around the website and look at the course topography, there is some substantial elevation change, which you would expect in New England. So stay tuned, and maybe even think about pulling a team together for late September.

In news closer to home and present, I have only been averaging one or two runs per week, in the 8-10 mile range. My running times are staying in a reasonable zone: I did a 10-miler two weekends ago in 1:26:14 and my 7-miler this past Saturday in 59:20, without pushing hard, so keeping in the 8-9 minute mile range over middle distances. Looking forward to getting a trail run in this weekend.

A special shout-out and get well soon to our boy Stephen Bardsley, whose consecutive day running streak had topped 400, and who was only stopped by appendicitis and an emergency appendectomy. Stephen is an inspiration--I will NEVER run every day for more than a year, or even half a year--and was training to go sub 3:30 at the B&A trail marathon this weekend, which the smart money says he would have done hands down. I can only guess that Stephen is an impatient patient, who is antsy to get back on the road and trails. You'll be out there soon, ace. A speedy recovery and much needed rest to Bardsley.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Woody Sighting: Austin Marathon Report

James "Woody" Woodring (right), a thru-hiker we met on the Appalachian Trail who had St. Michaels connections, is now a marathon man.

Readers of the 4-1-Run may remember the encounter Keene and I had with Woody, the AT thru-hiker whose grandmother lives in St. Michaels. We were inspired by Woody's quest, his mentality, his humor, and his stories. We were even more surprised when he called us on his way to St. Michaels, and shared dinner with us at the Keene residence in Wittman.

Well, Woody has gone and run himself a marathon. The Austin Marathon in Texas, to be exact. He recently e-mailed a report to friends and family, which I happily pass along below. As far as we can tell, Woody did not strap on his 20-pound backpack before the race.

Austin, TX

"I awoke super early, around 4:45, stretched, ate a light breakfast of oatmeal and grapefruit, and hopped on my bike. I pedaled downtown, arriving an hour before race time. Much excitement and energy in the air! After a futile attempt to rendevous with my cousin Natalie, who also ran the full marathon, I found myself being left behind as the crowd surged forward at the start of the race. I jumped a divider fence and began the run with what I figured was my pace group.

"What a stampede it was! As we made our way south on Congress street, slowly breaking up like thawing ice floes, the street went lower and lower in until I was in kind of an elevation trough, where I could see 12,000 people in front and back of me. Amazing! I was exuberant at the beginning, emotions and endorphins running amok. I remembered what I had read about starting off too fast and burning out too quickly, so I made an effort to find my pace despite being caught in the massive flow. It was at this time that I realized I had jumped in the line far ahead of my pace group, when a pace runner ran by waving a sign that read 3 hr 30 min. Too fast! As I was aiming for a 5 hr pace, I slowed wayyyy down and before long found my happy place.

"As the sun rose, the street became littered with hats, gloves, shirts, and warm ups people shed in an attempt to cool down. Before long, the half-marathon-ers split off from our group, and the runners spaced out considerably. Some people began to converse, others grimly set their jaw and looked straight ahead. At every mile marker or so, volunteers had set up tables stacked high with cups of water and sports drinks to rehydrate runners as they pounded by, not to mention the medics who handed out bits of vaseline, of which the importance is not to be underestimated when running long distances. There were also many bands, singers, drummers, and cow-bellers along the way, setting a rhythm and boosting spirits with their energy. They played a marathon of their own. What a blessing to have so many supporters lining the roadsides to encourage us, or at times, to keep us herded in the right direction ;)

"I stuck to my plan, hitting up every hydration stop, as well as slowing to walk at least once every mile, 30 seconds on the odd miles, 1 min on the even miles, which worked superbly. I pushed myself harder than I ever have before. At the end, when the experience was most intense, I seemed to be detached, running on a cloud, albeit a painful one, and as I went down the home stretch, the noise of the crowd and announcer was like a muffled ocean in the background. All too soon, it was suddenly over. At 11:37, I crossed the finish line, making my chip time 4:33. Not bad, when my goal was simply to run and finish.

"My cousin Natalie was right behind me the whole race, though I didn't see her until after we both had finished because I couldn't hobble back up to the finish line in time to see her cross. Although it is a wonderful thing to run with someone, as opposed to alone, we each have our own race to run, our own battle to fight, and we were both very happy to share our individual experiences afterward.

"Now I must rest my body, and look forward to new goals. Luckily, my cousin Eric made that one easy on me today, and proposed the idea of the Beach to Bay Marathon in Corpus Christi in May. What can I say? I'm hooked."

Congratulations to Woody and his cousin Natalie! What a great accomplishment. We will try to boondoggle Woody into coming up to Maryland for a race. Who knows, he might turn into one of those nuts who wants to do 50 marathons in 50 states.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Tuckahoe 10-Mile Challenge

A washout at the bottom of the Turkey Hill trail made crossing over to Little Florida a wet affair, with three log crossings and a fast-water fording to boot.

Sometimes you get more than you reckoned out of a run. Perfect temperature, in the low 50s, sunshine, and a perfect scene for a trail run. I had determined that I was going to do our 10-mile loop, knowing that conditions at a water crossing could be tough. Tough was a washout, turning one log crossing into three, and the normal scamper into a thigh-deep river fording. It couldn't have been more fun.

And while I was running, like a breakaway touchdown in Oxford churchlot football, a challenge came to me. A gauntlet that needs to be thrown down. So here it is, with particulars.

The Gauntlet: The Tuckahoe 10-Mile Challenge

During the last couple years, I found, and a number of us have developed, a GPS-measured 10.1-mile loop, with great singletrack, views, terrain, hills, and a water crossing that can be made with or without the scamper-log. I am issuing an open challenge to run the Tuckahoe Ten, with a group, or on your own, any time during 2008. Let's laydown a course record and have a beer-beque, pint party at the end of the year, for everyone who completes the challenge, with a special award for the person(s) who own the course record at year's end. Some trail runners' honor will be involved, and I would encourage those who haven't been to do an orientation run with someone who knows the ropes.

The Course

Recommended parking is by the lake, or at the recycled-tire playground. The start is Tuckahoe Valley Trail, which encompasses the first 4.5 miles of the course. Notable here, you need to take the Creekside Walk spur, which adds some scenery and distance. And you want to take the full TVT, not the high-water pass, which takes you away from the bridge.

At the end of Tuckahoe Valley, you simply follow the trail through a field trail, along telephone poles, until you reach the Creekside Cliff Trail (one of my favorites). You take Creekside Cliff from end to end, taking a hard left onto Turkey Hill Trail, which takes you down into the bog. Most of the time, this is easily passable, with one water crossing, again generally shimmy-able along a large, downed tree, but crossable without in thigh-high water.

Turkey Hill connects to Little Florida, which winds to Griener's Fishing Road. The dirt road for about 75 yards, takes you back to the river and Pee Wee's Trail appears to the left. Take Pee Wee's, making sure to take the sections of the trail with the horse circle-slash (Stephen Bardsley takes the horse section, which cuts the course short) sign, out to the road.

Hang a right on the road and you will be completing a loop back to where you started. The finish line is the far side of a wooden bridge, next to a dam, where there is generally folks fishing.

The trails are all well-marked, with not too many places where you have to make a decision. At decision points, there is adequate signage to keep you on track. Having said that, I am going to make a run down there with some eco-friendly, sustainable means of marking the course, with paint/flags, signs, etc.

The Rules

Start your watch at the beginning, stop it at the end. NO STOPPAGES during the run, not for bathroom, not for equipment adjustment, not for going off course, not for running into someone and chatting. The conditions are the conditions, so you get what you get. A case in point, today I ran the course as quickly as I can recall. But because I spent 10-12 minutes with stream crossings, picking the trail back up where it was submerged, taking pictures, and re-tying my wet shoes, my end of the day time was 1:47:55. Not one of my faster times, despite running hard. The conditions dictate your time. It's all part of the course.

You've got to run the full course, then either post your time on the blog as a comment, or email me or one of the yahoo groups (Annapolis Trail Runners, Talbot County Tri, whatever), so I know to both include you as a Tuckahoe Ten Challenge finisher, and to keep track of whatever course record comes out of the challenge.


Versus a road run, the course is a challenge. It's got just about everything a good trail run could ask for, and it's a reasonably well-kept secret here. Today, I passed a few mountain bikers, some trail horse riders, and dog walkers. Depending on time of year, there may be hunters, and there are often folks fishing. For you roadies, it is a chance to get your shoes muddy and run like a kid. For those already running trails, it's a new trail to tackle.

Haven't decided on the swag, though we will find something cool for the course-record setter, perhaps chip in for shirts for all those who complete the challenge. And a fun, end of year party with pints of good beer and cheer. And the journey itself is the thing.

Gettin' To Steppin'

For those interested, who want to have a crack at the course with someone who has run it, you can holler at Mike Keene (Wittman), Stephen Bardsley (Stevensville), or me (Easton). I'm happy to get a few group runs going. And we could even think about a Fat Ass rules race out there, one loop, or two.

To give some reference points for course records, I have a log-book note that Keene, Bardsley, and I ran our first group run for this course in 1:36:46. Pierre Bernasse and I ran it over the summer, in really dry conditions, in 1:39. Mike Keene and Jim Crowley ran the course last weekend in 1:41 and change. I think I would have challenged the record today, with different conditions. If Bardsley drops the hammer, I believe he'll be down around 1:30, or high 1:20's. I'm not sure what's gonna stick as a record this year, but I look forward to finding out, and to the challenge.