Monday, September 17, 2012

Pisgah 50k

Just a quick post to recap a bit of ultra running.  I feel like I'm finally getting back in the training groove, at least on the trail running side.  I couldn't resist a drive over to the lower left corner of New Hampshire yesterday for a "training run" called the Pisgah 50k.  I ran it last year and really enjoyed the course and the weather.  Similar conditions this year, even better actually with beautiful cool temperatures.  John is studying for a solar exam and couldn't make the drive, maybe next year I'll run it again and he can come along.

Last year I pushed hard right out of the starting gate and did great until the last several miles when my legs started cramping.  My experiment at pushing through the cramps didn't work, and I've since learned that slowing way down or walking is an more effective way of getting them to ease off.  I still don't have a solid understanding of why they happen in the first place, but I'm using the idea that it might be insufficient training as motivation to ramp up the training miles.

I had completely different goals this year.  This was a *training* race in preparation for the fall season.  I intended to go out and enjoy myself, finish up a high mileage week, and get a read on my current condition.  I didn't realize until partway through the race, but it was also great mental training in that I frequently needed to remind myself to "Calm the heck down" (CTFD) which should be great practice for multiple upcoming events.

So the actual experience was fun and lovely and went great.  I took it very easy climbing the hills, especially the steep ones, and let everyone around me go on ahead.  Then I'd let loose on the downhills, fly by many of the same folks, and have a wonderful time letting the course dictate the pace.  The trees were beautiful, the sun was shining but we were mostly covered in shade, and the breezes kept us cool and comfortable.  My legs seem to be getting into better "long run" shape after the rude awakening that was the Vermont 100.

I was completely alone for the loop around the lower ponds between miles 20-25 or so.

I walked into the last manned aid station to find 2 guys and 2 women.  I filled my bottle with water and grabbed a "just in case" gel from the table and walked out ahead of them.  Just a few more miles to the end, and I was really careful to listen to my legs and verify that there would be no repeat of the cramping episode this year.  They seemed to be OK so I was ready for a nice, easy, strolling run to the end.

Yeah, until the women charged past me near the top of the next hill.  Hmm... well, I had to fly by them on the downhill because I had been doing that to everyone all day and didn't see any reason to stop now.  They of course marched by me up the next long hill, but I upped the pace a notch to stay close.  My legs were like "fine, whatever you want" and I had a sudden instinct to chase them down.  I decided I would beat them to the finish even if it came down to a sprint on the road.  Nothing like a good race at the end of a training run!  Plus I was hoping to make up just a little for my pathetic limp-to-the-end from last year.

So I took off down the next hill, passed them, and listened as it seemed I was pulling away.  I knew I would make up time on the downhills, but I figured I might have some stored energy for the flats and uphills too.  Let's find out.  I chased down a couple guys, passed another woman on a long downhill, and worked hard on the short remaining uphills.  My body seemed to be responding well.

Last year I'd spent plenty of time walking/jogging this last section, but I was now chastising my former self for not using that time to frickin' memorize the end of the course.  It was long and I just couldn't remember anything past the last trail intersection.  Another little uphill, a bit of a technical section, around a corner, this and that.  Maybe almost there?  Not yet.

Finally I reached a long, long downhill and I flew down to find the gate and the road at the bottom.  No one right behind me, so far so good.  There was a truck parked in the middle of the road and it seemed someone was trying to keep a couple loose barking dogs at bay.  I went by quickly and didn't stop to check, but was thankful the dogs didn't give chase.

Another long downhill run, this time on a dirt road.  I've done some road training lately, I figured I could hold my own here.  No one around to chase nor run from, but I kept moving quickly.

Then the paved road and the short, steep uphill.  Near the top I finally looked back to an empty road.  Time to calm the heck down again!

I ran it in, feeling so much better than last year.  It was a lot more fun, although my slowest 50k ever  :)

Hope your September weather is as good as ours has been!  Time to get outside and go for another run...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

GUR Philly with friends

Last weekend we drove down to Philadelphia for another fun Great Urban Race experience.  This time we were joined by Phyllis and Mary Pat who were doing their very first urban race.  Excellent!

The start location was the same as last year, along the river, and the clue sheet had us heading for downtown so we boogied on over to the subway station to take a ride.  While waiting for the train we took turns working on our "all teammates off the ground" photos.  It took a couple tries but eventually Phyllis captured this one, what a doozy!

Once downtown we hopped off the train one stop earlier than Dave (on the phone with us) had suggested.  That led to Dave rerouting us to a closer checkpoint, although John didn't get the memo.  John took off toward the charity drop-off and managed to get 3 blocks away before noticing that I had not chased him down the street.  I was more confused than annoyed, which I guess is an improvement in my demeanor!

Finally we found each other and then the record store we were supposed to be searching for... but that was not our finest showing.  It's a good thing John could cover the ground back to me as fast as he had covered it in the other direction.

Reunited, posing with 3 album covers, and I must not have been too upset because I'm still smiling:

Back down the street to the drug store where we tried again with the charity drop-off and required photo (confusing the volunteer who had already seen John once):

A few blocks away we located the bar with the Miller 64 can challenge - ta da!

Next we made our way to the Capogiro Gelato place where we greeted Phyllis and Mary Pat, managed to create more confusion with sample spoons, and then took one of the funnier photos of us feeding each other.  I have no idea what I'm scared of, that was some AWESOME gelato!

North across Market Street to the Architect Institute for a photo with a neon sign and some searching for the names of architects who designed various buildings:

From there it was more scrambling to try to locate a Hampton Inn (the most obvious sign was way up high on the top of the building, we're really not good at noticing those).  Mary Pat and Phyllis weren't running quite as fast as we were, but they were working much more efficiently and we were side-by-side with them several times including here.

John chose a box of BBQ worms to eat and proclaimed them to be delicious.  I'm not sure which flavor the ladies picked but they managed to choke them down too.

It was a bit of a long run to the eastern edge of the city for our last set of checkpoints.  Along the way I heard footsteps and it seemed like another team was keeping up with us.  When we finally had to stop for a light I looked back and saw some random woman had just given up on chasing us down.  I don't think she was a racer, just a bystander who thought it might be fun to play along?  I have no idea.  But it was funny (like odd-funny).

We found the Brazen Boxing gym where the biggest challenge was climbing stairs to the 3rd floor after having run many blocks!

We did a quick boxing lesson then got a picture of what we learned - yeah, don't mess with us (??):

Around the corner to a cute T-shirt shop where we waiting to get in and then had to figure out the answer to three clues and get our photos with the corresponding T-shirts.

Rocky was easy:

The list of neighborhoods wasn't hard to spot:

The woman running the shop made a point to let everyone know that the 3rd clue was tricky.  It related to "A team that gets silly while playing baseball for Philadelphia".  We wandered around trying to figure it out.  We got our photo with the three Stooges.  Our crew came up with this logo as a possibility:

But nothing in the store matched that logo.  Finally we decided to get a shot with the "ill" T-shirts and the woman confirmed that this is what we were looking for, although I guess I just don't get how this is silly.  Maybe you have to be a Phillies fan to understand.

Anyway, moving on!

We stopped in an alley to shoot a video of us "moving like Bernie" from the movie "Weekend at Bernie's" and the subsequent dance craze that we have never heard of.

I have no idea whether this link will work (now or indefinitely), but here is our attempt at creating something that would pass inspection as a Facebook video upload:

Around another corner to a theater where we found a room that was empty except for a box of costume accessories and another team getting ready to do a wheelbarrow pose.  We got dressed up and traded photos:

As we were leaving I realized we needed to find a booklet to bring back to the finish line, so I searched around until I noticed in the middle of the empty floor a chair with a box labeled "Booklets" (I think it's actually right behind me in the above photo).  It felt very "Alice in Wonderland"-like.

We really enjoyed a "figure it out yourselves" checkpoint.

One to go!  We ran down the street to the Fireman's Hall where we searched and searched for a hand drawn horse cart.  Phyllis and Mary Pat caught up to us again and found it in a couple minutes (nice!) then we traded photos at the fireman sign:

Time to run to the finish line!  We took off down Race Street (how appropriate) and then up the road to the finish line.  First ones back, all photos good, and Mary Pat and Phyllis were close behind for second place!  Rock on, ladies!

Very exciting, and huge congratulations to Bob's Girls on their fantastic finish.  They were well prepared and they ran a well-executed race.

On the way home Sunday we stopped at the Mohonk Preserve for some running and sightseeing.  It was our first time there, and wow what a neat place.  First the trail map had me drooling (you could put on a trail orienteering event with all those options).  Then all the technical trails through the rocks were so much fun - we couldn't help checking out as many as possible, from the Crevice to the Labyrinth, Humpty Dumpty, and the Giant's Playground.  The neat tower and smooth carriage trails and little benches to sit on, beautiful views in all directions, so much to see.

To top it off, we managed to arrive in the middle of the "SOS" race which involved swimming in three lakes and running in between them, finishing at the tower across from the Mountain House "castle".  Watching the runners and swimmers and finishers, what a hoot.

Oh, and then there were the long cliffs and all the rock climbing activity to gawk at.  We didn't get nearly as much running in as planned, but spent several fun hours amusing ourselves.  Guess we'll just have to go back and run some more  :)

Farm-fresh sweet corn and other veggies on the way home!

Another excellent weekend.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Olympics sites at Lake Placid

I've been looking forward to coming back to Lake Placid with John ever since I found out that you can tour many of the Winter Olympics sites.  I'm a big Olympics fan (currently working my way through many hours of DVR coverage from the London games).  And this is the biggest "show me something about the Olympics" town we have found so far.

With our "Passports" in hand, we started with a drive up Whiteface Mountain and several stops along the way to learn about the area.

Checking out the drainage system that keeps the road from washing away:

Checking out the culvert under the road!

Only John can turn this into a rock climbing expedition:

Gorgeous views from the 5th highest peak in NY state:

Ready to climb up to the top:

Lake Placid view from up high:

Fun trail up to the summit:

And a neat elevator/tunnel system as an alternate way up or down:

Around to the base of the ski area, we hopped on a gondola for a ride above the downhill ski/mountain bike trails:

Yep, John could sleep here:

Another nice view of Lake Placid:

Whiteface Mountain top:

Hints of fall color here and there - this was the brightest tree we saw (photo taken from the gondola):

On the way back to Lake Placid - I guess John could sleep here too...

I just liked the sign:

One of the venues that is still open and hosting training and competition - the ski jumps.  Including aerials where they practice with skis, ski boots, and wet or dry suits, skiing down a wet ramp and doing aerial maneuvers to land in the pool!  We were stoked to get to watch this, very cool:

Taking a chair lift up to the big hill, where they also have summer training (just not that day):

Go Team V!

Jeepers, that is a LONG way down:

What are these people thinking?  And who is the first person that decided this was a good idea??


John spotted the site of the Olympic flame from 1980 so we had to go visit it:

Final stop that we had time for - the bobsled/luge/skeleton track.  This one is open for rides!  We opted not to pay for it, but on our tour we found out that the winter version is way more awesome than the summer experience, so now we have to come back and try it.

View from the top - this venue is also still being used for training and competition, and it's considered pretty challenging:

At the end of the tour we were given the option to "walk down the track" - yes, actually walking on the track for a mile all the way to the bottom.  Heck yeah!  How awesome is that?

Pretty dang awesome:

I haven't decided if John is practicing for skeleton or answering the question of whether he could sleep here:


The end!

At least for now... we will be back for sure.  There is still more to do!  I love this town and how they keep the Olympics alive.  Tourists, sports fans, athletes, potential athletes, hikers, summer, winter - just a neat place in the middle of the mountains.