Friday, March 16, 2018

Slaying the Winter Beast

After sticking mostly to singletrack and mountain ultras in 2017, I decided it was time to change things up and train for an ultra that's flat and a hundred percent runnable. The Beast of Burden is just that. It follows the old Erie Canal towpath from Lockport, NY, eastward to the town of Middleport and back. 25-, 50- and 100-mile runners all start together and run the same 25-mile out-and-back to Middleport once, twice, or four times. I had a rough day at this race back in 2016, and knew I could return and improve by a huge margin.

As I've mentioned in a previous race report, I created my own training plan based on guidelines from the book Training Essentials for Ultrarunning by accomplished ultramarathon coach Jason Koop. In years past, I always spent the winter months dabbling in other activities like snowshowing, hiking, and yoga, and running sporadically on roads and treadmills or fumbling around on snowy trails. This winter was different. By running almost exclusively on roads and rail trails, I'd improve my endurance enough that it would carry over to trail running come springtime. The goal of the 16-week plan was

Monday, February 12, 2018

0 Degree Winter Trail Festival

At the end of 2017 I was able to squeeze in one last trail race to close out the year. #TrailRoc's 0 Degree WTF is a low-cost, low-key, no frills trail race, with a similar vibe to most of the FLRC trail races around Ithaca. The course snakes its way around Powder Mills County Park on a 5-ish mile loop, with options to hoof it for 5, 10, or 15 miles. #TrailsRoc holds the race annually to raise money for trail maintenance projects in the Rochester, NY, area, with all proceeds going back to the trails and landowners.

After plans to head up to Maine for the Millinocket Marathon fell through, I signed up for the WTF 15-Miler to run it as a workout. I figured I'd get some quality mileage in amidst a six-week training phase that involved a ton of uphill intervals at maximum effort. Halfway through the six-week phase, 15 miles on dry trails would be a welcome reprieve from shredding my calves on 12 percent road inclines.

December 9 came around—the same day I'd planned to run Millinocket—and thankfully the park was snow-free. It was quite a bit warmer than the advertised 0° Fahrenheit. In fact, it was pretty

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Brief Look Back at 2017

I realized it's been awhile since I've posted anything the on the ol' weblog. Here's a brief summary of the races and places I visited throughout 2017.

Winter Chill 5k. PC: Ian Golden.
It was a year of ups and downs and highs and lows in terms of running. I started off the year getting over a bout of Achilles tendinosis that I'd acquired after trying to return too quickly from the Oil Creek 100 in October 2016. I mostly took it easy throughout January, running lower mileage and dabbling in snowshoe running. The Finger Lakes Runners Club Winter Chill Series, comprised of a low-key 5k every Sunday in January, served as a way to get some speed back after losing fitness due to the injury.

The quality mileage and gradual ramp-up paid off. I signed up for the Cast-a-Shadow 6-Hour Snowshoe Race in early February, but it became a regular trail run when the park didn't get enough snow for snowshoes. I managed 37.5 miles
on the 2.5-mile loop course—more than I'd hoped for, and good enough for my first ever top-three finish. I followed that up three weeks later with a marathon PR, by over four minutes, at the HMRRC Winter Marathon in Albany. This really got my confidence up, as I hadn't trained specifically a road marathon in over two years. I ran the first 20 miles at a comfortably-hard pace, then upped thee ante over the last 10k to secure the PR.

Fast forward a couple of months to April, where things really started to get busy. Adam and I returned to the Springletrack Fat-Ass. The course was shortened to 20 miles after a wildfire forced some major trail closures. Just as well, since most of the course was covered in snow and the scrambles were too icy to negotiate without a legit risk of death. The following weekend I ran Ithaca's skunk Cabbage Half Marathon for

Monday, November 27, 2017

Fall Mileage and Foliage: The Cat's Tail Marathon and Mendon 50k

After three weeks of little-to-no running following Eastern States, I slowly started to ramp things back up. My first true long run, five weeks post Eastern, went miserably, but things started to improve from there. Soon after I began targeting the Mendon Trail Run 50k, for no other reason that it fit well with my schedule and allowed for enough rest and training time leading up to race day.

Training was a seven-week block, where all but one week totaled between 50 and 70 miles. Adam had previously asked if I'd run the Cat's Tail Trail Marathon with him and pace him to a finish. I agreed, but had to wait until almost the last minute to sign up. I couldn't commit too early until I knew that Hayley would be okay three weeks after her knee surgery.

I sent in the application—by snail mail only, no online registration—just after the race had sold out, thinking I'd try my luck with the waitlist. After a few days in limbo, RD Mike Siudy let me know I was in. (He'd tell me at the finish line that "You were in right away, but I wanted to make you sweat about it for a few days." Haha, thanks Mike!) So anyway, I drove down

Friday, September 1, 2017

Eastern States 100: The Call Of The Pennsylvania Wilds

[This is Part II of my Eastern States experience. Part I is about the injury and recovery leading up to it and can is found here.

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artists, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter. - Jack London, Call of the Wild. 

It was way back in January that I heeded the call of The Wilds and pulled the trigger on Eastern States 100. I could hear those mountains howling my name, taunting me, daring me to commit to this monster of a trail race with 20,000 feet of gain and loss over the steep and rocky trails, historically horrendous weather, and a three-year average finishing rate of something like 33 percent. Upon reading the course description for the umpteenth time, I defiantly left-clicked the mouse, not without an air of bravado, bringing a sense of finality to the question "Am I really stupid enough to pay for an entire weekend of mid-August masochism?" I imagine Jack London was rolling in his grave at that very moment, as his protagonists fared worse than this daily just to survive. Two days later, Eastern States 100 was sold out.

Eastern States has no official affiliation with the Western States 100 other than serving as one of the latter's qualifying races. The top man and top woman each receive an engraved, fully functional wood axe as a prize. 2017 was the fourth year of the race, and interest in the event has been growing annually. I think it's the single-loop format and the overall rugged nature of the course that have made it a hit with ultrarunners. The 103-mile loop traverses the rough and rocky terrain of the PA Wilds—a conglomerate of state-managed parks, forests, and game lands in

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

From Zero To A Hundred In One Month

"Let's see three hops on the left foot, then three on the right." I complied by lifting my right foot off the ground, hopping six inches straight up and down with the left, and then repeating two more times.

"Okay, same thing on the other side." I lifted my left off the ground and hopped in the same manner off my right foot. The pain was so severe and so deep it felt like that single jump would cause a huge impaction fracture down the length of my femur.

Dr. Getzin then had me lay supine on the exam table and performed a fulcrum test. This involved using his forearm as a point of resistance as I attempted to extend my hip and press my femur down toward the floor. The pain was significant, but not as bad as the hop test. After an x-ray ruled out anything obvious in the bone, and an ultrasound ruled out any soft tissue pathology, there was only one explanation left—a mid-shaft femoral stress fracture. I had been training for and looking forward to running the Eastern States 100 since January, and now, only one month before race day, I was faced with the reality that I'd have to forgo the race and take a DNS—Did Not Start.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Rim to Rim at the Inaugural Many On The Genny

I’m not sure when exactly it was that #TrailsRoc cofounder Eric Eagan said "Hey, why isn’t there a race that circumnavigates Letchworth, like a rim-to-rim race around the Grand Canyon of the East?" When I first caught wind of the race last fall, I was beyond psyched. After a rambling adventure run around the park two years ago, I had a vague notion to organize a fat-ass run that circles the gorge and covers all of the most scenic park trails. The fat-ass idea never made it any further than thinking "Yeah, it would be cool to see the whole park in one day."

Many On The Genny is a point-to-point trail race that starts at the Mt Morris Dam Visitor Center on the northwest side of Letchworth. The course follows several different trails and a little of the park road southwest down to Lower Falls, crossing the Genesee on the only footbridge within the park. The aid station just before the bridge marks the halfway point of the course. After crossing the bridge, runners take some side trails and a dirt road to reach the Finger Lakes Trail Letchworth Branch, then follow the FLT northeast to the Visitor Center opposite the gorge from where they started. The start and finish are about a quarter-mile apart as the crow flies, separated by the Genesee River and a 500-foot-deep canyon. The quickest way to travel from the start to the finish is to