Monday, August 22, 2016

Philadelphia Marathon Training

Marathon training started 6 weeks ago. Can you believe I've gone 6 whole weeks without really mentioning it here on the blog? (Instagram is a different story) I had intended to do weekly recaps, but decided I would wait until after I finished the base building phase. Base training isn't particularly impressive. I have been diligent with getting ever run done, but the paces have been slow.

Boilermaker was the kick off for fall training!

I alternate between time on the trails near the house and my usual SUNY Albany loop. A few times I've done some miles in my neighborhood and a nearby one. But mostly focusing on getting out there 5-6 days a week putting one foot in front of the other.

I can feel that I'm getting stronger (even if my paces are still slow, that'll change when fall arrives) I have been able to run 5 days in a row without feeling beat up. All of these are good signs since I am following the Hansons Marathon Method.

There are so many different training plans for marathons these days, its hard to know which would work best for me. I've tried following 'custom' made ones from Runners World & Hal Higdon several times since my marathon debut in 2008. Usually I made it to the long run of 15 miles and struggled to recover and ultimately either DNS or dropping to half marathon distance.

I know there are many things that I did wrong during those training cycles, more than once I tried to use a marathon as a way to get back into running after a long break. (close to a year break.) My body wasn't ready for that kind of abuse nor was my head. In the past I would get really frustrated if my runs weren't faster each time that I went out.

During my previous attempts, planning runs longer than 15 miles was difficult for me, they include lots of roads or laps, water access, etc. This past fall marathon season, I ended up following a few runners on Instagram who were using Hansons Marathon Method. After seeing their great success (strong finish, positive review, &good race time) I ordered the book online and gave it a read. Naturally I finished the book feeling inspired and decided that I'd use it as my guide for the Philadelphia Marathon.

With the longest individual run being at 16 miles I'm not as overwhelmed. (that & despite the book not encouraging it, I'll be using 2 half marathons as training runs - mostly for the course support) I am a bit overwhelmed at how I'll fit in all of the running once school starts up, but since I'm also canceling my home internet & cable, I suppose it'll fill the time gap between school and sleep!

In the official plan, it calls for 5 weeks of base building, I added a week because I was anxious to start training and to give myself an extra week to bump up the mileage after my restful May and June. The first 6 weeks have gone well, I had missed 3 separate runs due to camping & hiking but was able to make up most of the mileage (and hike roughly 36 miles)

Next week I'll throw in a training recap as speed workouts and tempos are now on the schedule. I'm excited to see how I can grow as a runner through this plan.

Marathon training miles to date: 115

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Catskill Mountain 100k Relay

Back in June I was asked if I wanted to join a team for the Catskill 100k Relay. Without any additional information (distance, cost) I checked my calendar and agreed. With 4 Ragnar events under my belt I wasn't worried. Later in July I finally asked our captain what the mileage looked like per person (truth be told I could have learned this from the website, but I wasn't sure how many runners we'd have on our team.) Each leg of the Catskill 100k is roughly 10k, with our team of 5, we would each tackle 20k total. (12ish miles).

After boilermaker, my running has been consistent, although I hadn't ran double digits in one day, I still felt prepared to tackle the relay. What drew me into the event, was that it was a single day relay. Ragnar races are great (I am doing one in 2 weeks)  but they take quite a bit of coordination and packing. For the Catskill 100k, I threw my bag together the evening before with an extra running outfit and a set of clean clothes to wear post race. Everyone on our team has dogs, so we opted to leave early Sunday morning to alleviate any need for dog care. This did cause for an early alarm and a moment of panic when I set the alarm at 1030pm only to be told I'd be getting 4 hours of sleep.

3am came quickly but since I had packed everything the evening before, I let the dogs out (mine and a friends that I am dog sitting) and was ready to go with plenty of time to spare.  As I was driving to meet with my team at 3:45am, I realized that the bars hadn't yet closed for the evening, how different my life is from 21 when I'd be closing them down.

We rented a suburban which allowed for a lot of extra room, I claimed the back row and took a rest, I listened to the others talk but didn't join the conversations. We arrived at the start with about 10 minute to spare. In an average road race, this would have stressed me out, but today there were 18 relay teams running and 12 ultra runners.  To say this was a low key event would be an understatement. There was a tent and a banner at the start but no bathrooms (we knew this so it wasn't a big deal, but future runners....)

Our first runner was laced up and ready, she took the start line with the 3 other teams assigned to our wave at 6:30 am.  Our plan throughout the day was to follow along with the runner, offer water, and check in every few miles. I was the last runner of the group, which meant I had a lot of time before it was my turn to run.

I've driven on these roads several times to hike the Catskill high peaks & fire towers, and they are gorgeous routes. Leg 4 included a giant climb up a mountain and I was able to benefit from all of their hard work with a nice rolling course for leg 5. The temperatures were hot, but luckily I had shade for most of the run.

I couldn't get a signal initially for my GPS, which drove me crazy. Being in a new area with no music or watch, I had nothing to reference how far I had run. I kept asking every van that passed by if they knew how far we were hoping to get an idea of how much I had done.  I never realized how discombobulating it is to be racing and not know.

Through interrogating everyone else, I had learned that my watch was about a mile off. Eventually my watch did connect, so I could at least watch my pace for however far I had left. My watch was spitting out insane numbers for me. I don't hold my GPS as gold, but man did it feel awesome to see those numbers.  The past 5 weeks of running have been sloooow and steady that I was mildly concerned that I had lost some of the athletic gains I had made in the past year of consistent running.

I high fived our runner one and was done with my first leg. Since my watch didn't connect for the first mile I don't know my exact time but for the 5.25 I did track I ran it in 48:14 for a 9:11 pace!

The rest of the afternoon was driving through the Catskills semi melting. It was hot and so humid. Every runner needed a lot more water than I think any of us initially thought. Per my usual relay standards, I had only met my teammates once before the race, so we spent a lot of time chatting and joking around. Runner 4 had another tough leg where he had to run past streams and streams of people walking to a swimming hole.  I had never seen parking/congestion such a mess there before (note to anyone planning to hike Peekamoose or Table - parking is very limited on the weekends!!) My legs still felt pretty good, I was looking forward to running my second 10k. I knew that by completing it, I'd run my most mileage in one week ever ( and beat out my friends on Nike +)

I ditched my shirt for my last leg, its not something I do often, but it was SO hot.  I also re-wore my shorts from earlier in the day because they are my longest pair. Normally a fresh pair is my go to- but the heat had me worried about chaffing (my arm pits have been a victim of chaffing for the past few months which is painful enough). My watch was a bit questionable when picking up a signal, but I decided to press start anyways, hoping to at least have a clock to look at to give me some reference.

I ran with my handheld so I told my team to find the halfway point and wait there. My first mile was a bit of an incline and then the next was a very steep downhill. My garmin tells me I lost 1300 feet over that mile. (my quads tell me this is true)  By 2.5 it mostly leveled out, although I did manage to fall while trying to give way to cars passing. The shoulders were narrow not leaving a ton of space for 2 cars to pass with a runner on the road. I channeled my inner Mo and bounced up and kept running. A moment later I saw my team. Said hello and continued along the way. The clouds had rolled in and a breeze had picked up. After I passed them, thunder could be heard in the distance.

The rain started to fall, gently at first. It felt awesome after being so sweaty all day. By mile 4 it was pouring and thundering. I had my hat on (thankfully) and was mostly looking at my feet, so if there was lightening, I didn't see it. Around this time, my team switched back to check in on me.  I was a bit concerned they'd force me off the road, but they didn't. Although in no way did they make me feel like I had to run in the storm.

They trailed behind me for about a mile making sure that I was okay before I waved them off to the finish. The finish line is just past a pavilion that had plenty of teams inside that had already finished - I could hear them cheering for me and was able to keep up the pace to finish strong.

I turned into the finish to find that the banner had been blown over, so I jumped over the finish line to make my team official finishers. I had run that 10k in 1:04 for a 10'17 average, not bad for the second run in 4 hours!

The post race was a bit of a disappointment.  The food was already eaten and while I'm all for low frills races, there were no medals so our finish was a bit anticlimactic. I drank half of a rootbeer, we took a team photo, and then I wrestled off my wet clothes to replace them with dry before we loaded back into the car to head back to Albany.

I would definitely do this race again.  It is very low key - unlike the party atmosphere of Ragnar events, this is you and some pals running 100k on country roads. There are no bibs, no formal bathrooms anywhere, and the exchanges are marked with spray paint on the road. Two days later and I'm still high off the paces I saw during tough conditions. My quads feel a bit more human today, and I'm eager to get back on the road and running later.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Saranac 6er - St. Regis Mountain and Baker Mountain

When we got to the campsite the evening before, Joe went to work cooking and I set up the tent.  After shoveling delicious quesadillas down, we went to bed shortly there after. We didn't set an alarm but figured we'd be up early to tackle 3 more peaks the next day.  

(I mentioned in my previous post that our plan was a bit ambitious right?)  

It was a bit of slow moving out of our campsite and by the time we ended up at the trail head for St. Regis, it was already 10am. The trail for St. Regis is great - while we were hiking we discussed how some people do these 6 mountains as 'ultra' - within 24 hours - it would be a huge challenge for me to ever make that time cut, but this trail could be jogged to a certain amount. Like all the hikes I've done with Marcy dog, she dictated our rest stops and splashed along wherever she could find water to cool down.  

It took us an hour and a half to reach the summit where we met up with a guy & his dog (off leash). I was prepared for this, so I had already let go of Marcy's leash so she could greet this dog in more polite fashion. 
per usual picture of Marcy from the top of the firetower

The views were fantastic!  We sat up there for a while and enjoyed a Saranac beer (I'm confident we aren't the first ones to do this...) After a solid rest/lunch/views enjoyed, we made our way back down the mountain. It was a bit busier with people coming up, but still relatively quiet for a mid-day hike. By then my feet were sore. I've been having a hard time with my boots since the end of my 46rs journey. I couldn't quite place what was wrong until more recently - my already wide feet, but have gotten wider. My toes ached, random blisters arrived, and my foot strike was funny to protect how sore my feet were. I had promised Joe that I wouldn't make a decision about the 3rd mountain for the day until after we had lunch but I could tell that 3 mountains was pushing it. We also started to do some of the math, since we had started so late if we did in fact make it to the 3rd mountain we'd be strolling into the campsite late again with no chance to actually enjoy it.  

Both of us were wavering at the thought of hiking the third mountain, but neither one of us really wanted to be the one to pull the plug. So we kept up the plan that we'd eat lunch in Saranac, hike Baker and then decide. We stopped in town grabbed sandwiches and ate by the lake. There was some detouring for Pokemon stops (and helping out the Team Yellow gym) before we made it to Baker.  

Baker is nearly in the middle of town with a quick (but steep) climb to the summit. I switched into my keens and ditched my pack and off we went to the top. I had read a trail guide that said to go left at the fork for the less steep option -- but I think they've reroute the trail that its a lolipop at the top - climbing goes right, descending goes left. By now my watch had died, so I had no idea what time we started or how long it took us, but we plugged a long and found ourselves at the top within 45 minutes (or likely less-- there were no water stops for Marcy dog)  

There was a big group on top that seemed to love Marcy- they were hanging out at the true summit so we went off one of the million side trails to an overlook. We drank all the water (and poured some onto a rock pool for marcy to have) and enjoyed the view.  We had officially decided to skip the third mountain of the day, stop by the grocery store to buy some meat and head back to the campsite so that Marcy and I could swim and Joe could fish.

Knowing we were done for the day made the hike down a lot more enjoyable. We connected with a group that either has family that lives in Saranac or they visit frequently as they told us about the best place to find ice cream and talked about some favorite hikes. We could have passed them, but they didn't mind us walking & talking with them and I like to hear other peoples hiking stories too.   After a few more pokemon stops & a grocery run, we made the drive back to Rollins Pond. I immediately changed into my swimsuit and was in the very warm water with Marcy.  As much as Marcy loves to swim, she was exhausted when we got back and spent most of the time sleeping on the bank.  

Food was cooked and we enjoyed hanging out by the fire until we finally went to bed.  The initial plan was to hike one more mountain before driving back to Albany, but my logic was that if we weren't going to get all 6 there was no reason to torture ourselves to just get 5. Instead we slept in enjoyed our coffee and took our time breaking down camp in the morning.  

We stopped in Lake Placid so that I could have my favorite sandwich and walked along the street, Joe had never been. We also decided to stop at a new brewery just outside of Lake Placid -Big Slide-  I was excited for this (and if I liked their logo more I would have bought some merchandise since Big Slide was my final peak for the 46ers.) The beer was great - I had a gose and took home two crowlers to be enjoyed later (Maple Brown Ale and Bean to Stout both great!) After we made the drive back to Albany.  

I've rarely had the time to just enjoy lunch and such in Lake Placid, I was glad that we didn't hike that morning. Marcy dog was a expert at camping, this was our first outing so I was a bit worried but she took to the trails like a pro (which I knew since we've done several mountains together now) and completely understood that the tent was for sleeping. She did get a bit confused when she tried to chase a chipmunk and face smashed into the screen, but she didn't panic or use her nails, so the tent survived just fine. I'm excited for more adventures!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Saranac 6er - Haystack & McKenzie

I've openly admitted that I am a peakbagger. I like to slay mountains and when given a choice, I'll always choose a new mountain. In terms of repeat mountains - it's a very small list (6 mountains I can think of) What helps fuel my peakbagging nature, are the abundance of hiking challenges in upstate NY (46ers, Fire Tower Challenge, Saranac 6ers, Chester Challenge, Catskill 3500, etc) 
Not only do I like lists, I also like some instant gratification, so I decided to plan a camping trip up to Saranac to bag all 6 of the Saranac mountains.

It was an ambitious plan, but Joe was up for the challenge to join me, so we packed up the corolla and headed north. Our plan was to hike Haystack & McKenzie before driving out to our campsite. I had hiked McKenzie once and didn't enjoy it, but I don't remember much other than I wasn't an active hiker at the time and got my butt kicked.

It wasn't quite as early of a start as we had initially planned, but the drive up was uneventful and we we were on the trail at 10:30. While researching this hike, I couldn't find a lot of information about these two hikes together, other than they can be done together.  We decided to do Haystack before heading over to McKenzie. The first 2.5 miles are a nice gradual climb. There it splits for a mile where the majority of the gain is done. It was a bit steeper than I had anticipated, but Marcy dog and I did a nice job climbing together. We reached the summit around 1:00 and enjoyed a long break enjoying the view. Haystack was the busier of the mountains (and nicer views) 

Despite how steep it seemed climbing up, we made back to the junction fairly quick. Once back on the main trail, we were able to pick up our pace again as we approached McKenzie. Based off of what we had read and the topo maps, we knew we were in for a rough .5 climb. We were feeling good once we cleared the steep mark we were in for a bit of a surprise when we still had another mile to the summit, which included losing a decent chunk of our hard work to reach the true summit.  

I was feeling very anti mountain climbing at this point. But true to Adirondack form, while the col looked forever away, it wasn't long before we were finally on the summit of McKenzie. 

We didn't hang for as long since we still had a ways to go to get back to the car. We also still had to drive out to Rollins Campground.  My spirits were up quite a bit knowing we were heading down, but it was a haul. Once we reached the intersection with the jack rabbit trail, the trail flattened out a lot. And once we passed the turn off for Haystack, the trail seemed like a nice treat after all of the large rocks.  I don't totally know why I didn't like McKenzie back in 2007 but it didn't make me a fan today either.  I do however think that Haystack is a worthy hike, not as long and much much better views.

Mountains: Haystack (elevation 2874) McKenzie (elevation 3,861)
Mileage: 12 ish
Time: 7 hours (not including breaks)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Mount Marcy

Over 18 years ago I hiked Mount Marcy for the first time. (when did I get so old that I could make statements like that?) It was my second high peak and was done during my first backpacking adventure. I can still remember bits and parts of that hiking trip, it was on that trip that I first learned of the 46ers club. I hadn't returned to Marcy in the past decade primarily due to my own desire to hike 'new' peaks. 

A long time friend Mark invited Marcy dog and myself to join him in tackling the peak, despite my lack of long hikes this year, I decided to go for it anyways. We left Clifton Park around 6 and made our way up to the ADK Loj. It took us a few minutes to get situated and then we were on our way.  
We had great weather and a good time hiking- Marcy dog mostly dictated our rest stops, demanding a mid hike swim in any body of water that was larger than a puddle.  Also sometimes only the size of a puddle.  The trail itself was bone dry - I had remembered a lot of mud from the first time I had hiked it- but with little snowfall or rain this year, the trails were in fantastic shape.

The summit was busy, but not crazy. Especially since it is wide open- we sat and enjoyed a long well deserved break before taking all of the necessary photos. On the way down, Mark decided to skip ahead to hike Tabletop - since Joe and I have already hiked it, we opted to take our time and enjoy a long break back at Marcy Dam. Our timing worked well - and shortly after we returned to the car, Mark came powering out of the woods. The extra mountain only added 2 miles to his day & put him over a quarter of the way towards all 46.  The weather had cooled, so we decided to stop at Noonmark dinner (and kept Marcy dog sleeping in the car)  before heading back down to Albany.  

When I did it ages ago, we looped it into a 3 day backpacking trip - where we based camp near Johns Brook Lodge on day 1, hiked Marcy on the day 2, and broke down camp and left on the 3rd. Mount Marcy is not a beginners hike it is the highest point in New York State, but it is not technical. It requires planning for food and water & to have the endurance to hike for an entire day. That said, it is a great long hike to do. 

Mountain: Mount Marcy - ranked # 1 at 5344' 

Mileage: 14.5ish

Total Ascent: 3166'

Time: 8ish hours

Gear usedDueter Backpack, Nalegene (2),  topo athletic trail sneakers, oiselle shorts, and smartwool socks, janji singlet