Monday, March 2, 2015

Kingman Farm Snowshoe Race or Wrong-Way Ferreira Strikes Again!

Kingman Farm Snowshoe race is one of my favorites. And that's not just because I seem to somehow end up on the podium every time I do this race. Admittedly one year(2009?) was due to a dog attack on an unsuspecting Bob Jackman, another(2011)  because the group of racers ahead of me all took a wrong turn and a third(2010?) because there was no snow and it became a trail race. The real reason I like it so much is that it's just a plain fun race. Chris Dunn of acidotic RACING puts on a great event, it's always a challenging but fun course, there's a great post-race raffle and good food and it's run at night! It's just a good time all around.

This year I lucked out and was able to get in on the wait-list after the race was postponed due to weather. I hoped to possibly podium on my own this time. When I got to the race, I quickly disabused myself on any such thoughts as I saw 4 or 5 guys including Jim Johnson, Chris Mahoney, Jackman and Eric Narcisi who could handily beat me. Oh well, I guess I could just hope that they all would get lost:)  Apparently my wishes somehow got lost in translation(more on that later).

After saying hi to many fellow runners who I hadn't seen in at least a year(the opposite of last week's Amherst race where I knew next to no one), I warmed up with Lisa Ransom before the start of the race. 
The widest part of the trail-before the sun set
The race was originally set to start at 6pm but Chris wanted to make sure it was dark enough before we started. The front of pack of guys were all chit-chatting as Chris went through his pre-race course description. Having done this race several times before I wasn't terribly concerned about it. Apparently he said something about making sure you take a turn at the two way junction. Not sure though.
Pre-race: TNT and CMS in the front with Danny in lime-green
I love running in the woods and this race with the snow reflecting moonlight and the little make-shift latterns that Chris put out on the course, I opted to go headlamp off. Plus it forced me to keep up with the guys ahead of me. Which I soon found to be challenging.

Chris sent us off with a quick "go!" and, like always, Jim Johnson sprinted to the front with Chris Mahoney, Robert Jackman and Eric Narcisi right on his heels. I settled in behind Eric with another runner right behind me.

The thing I find challenging about snowshoe racing is that the pace never seems extraordinarily difficult but if you try to pick it up at all, you become anoxic almost immediately. It's about finding a balance that will keep you going fast enough without blowing up. I settled into a comfortably hard-ish pace but soon was slowly being gapped by the four ahead of me.

Luckily I was wearing a reflective vest or you wouldn't be able to see me

A fast start

Moment of honesty here:  Probably within the first two miles I was starting to feeling pretty lousy. There was probably a 100 foot gap that had now separated from me and the three ahead of me(the fourth: JJ had created his own little gap on those three). My right binding on my snowshoes was starting to come loose. And here's the confessional: I got excited about it! Here was my chance at a good excuse to have a bad race. So I told myself, just keep running until your binding comes totally off. But the darn thing never did!

In that time though, I did catch back up with Bob Jackman who suffered a pretty hard fall on one of the climbs. He graciously let me and my shadow(no sure who it was) pass. We slowly started closing the gap on the two now ahead of us, but I could see by the lights of civilization we wouldn't be able to close the gap in time. Just then we pass Chris Dunn who was marshalling the course and he told us we must have missed a turn.

Sure enough we had come into the finish line from the wrong side. For a moment I was panicked-thinking that I had led people astray without my headlamp on but Chris and Eric had also taken the wrong turn and were now finished up right ahead of us. I probably would have been content with just finishing there too but my shadow turned around and started running back towards the way we just come. Grudgingly, I took off in hot pursuit. We ended up back-tracking quite a while before realizing where we had taken the wrong turn(at the two-way traffic point), and then started picking off runners who were now ahead of us. I ended up getting jammed up a bit as the course became more single track and my shadow slowly faded out of sight. Oh well, I finally crossed the finish line about 15 minutes later in my first non-podium finish at Kingman Farm. I jinxed myself!

But the fun didn't end there! Chris had solicited my help as a judge for his first annual chili cookoff, so I was soon was shoveling back copious amounts of various types of chili. It's tougher than it sounds! I had to pick the top three which meant I had to taste all of them, narrow it down to five, narrow it down again to three and then rank those three first through third. All I can say is that I was glad to be driving home alone after all those beans.

A fun raffle after ended the night and it definitely made me want to get back into the snowshoe/trail running scene again. Thinking about it yourself? Check out acidotic RACING's website or join Runner's Alley at Red River tomorrow night for a Trail Running Film Festival.

Up Next: Women on Wellness March 14(Amber); New Bedford Half Marathon March 15(Danny) and Ironman South Africa March 29(Amber)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Trail Running Film Festival Comes to Concord Next Week!

On March 3rd, the Red River Theater in Concord, NH will be hosting the Trail Running Film Festival sponsored by Runner's Alley of Concord. If you haven't checked out their new store, you definitely should as it's the only local running shoe store that actually has good racing shoes. And friendly/knowledgeable workers who are runners themselves.

 Rainshadow Running's photo.

The doors open at 5:30pm and according to the website it will be: "An evening of the latest and greatest full length and short films showcasing the challenges, beauty and community inherent in the world of trail running. From world class filmmakers to the best works made by weekend warriors The Trail Running Film Festival takes the audience on a virtual run through forests, up mountains, beyond emotional obstacles and across the finish line. It’s a night filled with friends, fun and inspiration."

Sounds like a good way to spend a Tuesday evening and get some motivation for the upcoming trail season. I plan to go if I can make it out of work in time.

Oh! Since it's sponsored by Runner's Alley, you automatically get entered into a raffle for some cool stuff and everyone gets a $5 gift card for your next running purchase(even if it's just socks!).

Disclaimer:  I actually started my ultra-running career after watching a documentary on the Badwater ultra-marathon so you may not want to go just in case :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Amherst 10 Miler- Rude Awakening or Promising Start?

After Half at the Hampton was canceled this past weekend due to a "weather event"(despite temperatures in the 40's), I signed up for the Amherst 10 miler to help the Gate City Striders race in the New England Grand Prix. When I say help, I mean support, not provide points for the team. With the best runners in New England toeing the line, this is a race where I'd be lucky to break the top 100.

I went into the Amherst 10 miler this weekend unsure of what kind of shape I was in. I had done some pacing at a half marathon, marathon and an ultra but haven't done a race of my own-except for the Mill Cities relay- since the Jackson Hole Marathon(which didn't go the way I had hoped) in September. And nothing in about a year at the pace I was attempting to run Amherst. To compound matters, between my fun winter trips and the lousy weather, I really hadn't put in the mileage I was hoping for. In fact, looking back at my training log, I hadn't run outside in over two weeks. Oh boy, this ten miler was going to hurt.

Before the race, I spotted Jim Pawlicki of the Central Mass Striders. When I'm in really good form, I try to stay with him, but judging by some of his recent performances, I knew that it wouldn't be happening this race. At the start of the race, when looking around, it occurred to me just how long I'd been out of the local running scene as there were only a few runners that I was able to recognize. Or it could just be my failing memory as I also vaguely remembered this race from 2012 where I had run a 58:53 and thought that it wasn't as hilly as everyone made it out to be.

Side-bar: As a physical therapist, I often see patients with poor balance or weak muscles who invariably say I used to be able to do that! shocked that they were not able to stand on one leg or lift a weight overhead. That's the beauty and the crux of the problem with the human body: it will adapt and adapt following the path of least resistance without us even knowing until one day something breaks. As we age we give up so many little things over time in such small increments that we often don't notice we're even doing it. This happens in the mind(called patterning) and happens in the body where we flock to a set number of activities and often then neglect other key elements of our health and wellness. Runners, however, aren't likely to arrive at their old(er) age surprised because they are on a daily, monthly and yearly reminder of their performance declines as that once sub-60 ten miler now takes a bit longer. But we are not always aware of our decline until we check back in our logs and see the evidence of a faster version of ourselves. But at the time we view ourselves as the same.

Which was the case with me this past Sunday, where I went into the race thinking of myself as that 2012 runner and the race as a moderately fast and flat one. I went through the first two miles in 12 minutes flat where I had settled in just in front of some fast female runners like Christin Doneski and Heather Mahoney and just behind some fast Masters runners like Craig Fram and Paul Hammond and was content not to push it.  And then came mile 3. That is where the hills reside. It seemed that every time I thought it would taper off, it actually got a little bit steeper. I finally went through mile 3 in 19:26 running almost 1 1/2 minutes slower than the previous two miles. Yikes! This was not the race of my memory and not being run by the runner of my memory. This was going to be a long day!

Luckily the course is a loop so you have to lose the elevation you gained in mile 3 and over the next five miles, it seems like it was either all flat or downhill. Also luckily for me the great photographer, Ben Kimball, decided not to plant himself mid-way up the tough hill but instead on a nice long flat.

Northeast Race Photo's photo.

I ticked off fairly evenly paced miles all around 6's primarily out of fear of another photographer lurking around the corner if I decided to slow down. As you can see from the picture, the terrain wasn't the best but I'd estimate it probably only slowed me down 2-3seconds/mile. Those middle miles definitely can fool you into thinking that Amherst is a flat course, but a slow 9th mile brought me down to earth. I was still  able to finish 109th with a time of 61:51. Not exactly the race I was hoping for but those middle miles were comfortable and hopefully I'll be able to pick up the pace a bit at the much flatter New Bedford half marathon next month. I may not be the runner that I was a few years ago but there is no reason for me not to still see improvement if I can tweak my training habits and increase my mileage above 20/week.

And based on how sore my quads are feeling this morning, I guess I better get myself back outside to get them used to running on pavement again.

Up Next: Another race for Danny? Yep-doing the Kingman Farm Snowshoe race. This will be my first and only snowshoe race of the season but after having not done it for a couple years, I'm excited about doing this night time race again this year. Chris Dunn of acidotic RACING always seems to put on a good race and this year this is a chili cook-off contest. While I'm not participating, I'm sure I'll be sampling.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Have Shoes, Will Travel

If you've ever seen me out and about you know I don't spend much money on clothes(see Smile Don't Stockpile). Nor do I have an expensive car, watch, or television. In fact, if someone broke into my apartment, they would be sorely disappointed unless they wanted outdoor equipment, shoes of various states of wear or dogeared books.




While things don't excite me much, experiences do. I absolutely love to travel and do so whenever I can. I'm always looking for new places to go. The 50 state marathon challenge has been a blessing because I don't know if I would have gone to places like Cincinnati or Jackson, Mississippi if I didn't have an excuse. But each and every place has had some memorable moment that made the trip worthwhile.

Even though I spend minimal amounts of money on "stuff", costs do tend to add up quickly. I've compiled a list of some pretty easy ways to help reduce costs and get out and explore. You may think you cannot afford to travel, but I would argue you can't afford not to.

Join Airline Loyalty Programs. Seriously. Even if you don't think you fly enough on one airline to make it worthwhile, it is. You'd be surprised how many airlines collaborate so that you fly US Airways and get credit on American or Lufthansa and credit on United. Minimally, I'd do the big three: United, American and Delta and you'd be fairly well-covered. Since joining, I've already gotten a one way flight to HI, Alaska, Vegas and my round trip to Ireland paid for with miles. Well worth it.

Consider 2 One Way Tickets. When looking for flights to Aruba, the cheapest flight was over $600. However, I was able to go there this past week for about $400 because I flew out of Boston on United and returned into Manchester on Southwest. Yeah, it took a little more Internet surfing but was definitely worth it.

Bundle. I'm not sure how this works but for some reason if you bundle a hotel and flight on some websites your costs go down. A lot. Best example was the first time I flew to Kona. A round trip ticket was $975. However, on expedia when combined with a 2 night hotel stay(we weren't staying for just two nights I was just playing with ALL of the variables), I was able to get the entire thing at $700! Yes $275 less including a two night hotel stay. Like I said, I don't know how this works but I usually can save over $50 by bundling a hotel with a flight although this usually only works with the more expensive flights for some reason.

Don't be too picky where you stay. It is really easy to want to stay at the Four Seasons on every trip, but you need to evaluate how much time you'll really be spending at the hotel. A good trip for me means that the hotel will be used only for sleeping and the occasional shower. I'd recommend finding out what you cannot tolerate and then pick the next cheapest place. A good way to cut costs(besides couch surfing or camping) is to look at multiple sites like Priceline, Homeaway, AirBnB etc. to find the place the best matches your budget and pickiness.

Carry-on. Not checking a bag saves you money with the airlines, but also means you're more likely able to rent a smaller car, not be charged for excess fees with a cab and will be able to immediately start exploring when you land. Very rarely do I end up running out of clothes by the end of the trip and if you have access to laundry then you need to pack even less. Even if you really do run out, you will likely still be saving money as compared to having to check a bag. When we got "stuck" in Miami for two extra nights, I went to Marshalls and was able to buy myself a full outfit for under $30. Granted it resulted in Amber querying: "Did you just rob that homeless man and take his clothes?" But you get the point.

Stay Local. When I first started racing in and around New England, I was amazed with how many places, cool places, I'd never been to. I soon realized that I didn't have to travel far to see new things. I just went to the Salem Witch Museum a couple of weeks ago even though my brother has, for years now, lived ten minutes away. It's easy to overlook things close by but you've got to think every tourist destination is close to someone. I now try to make a point of finding a new activity or sight every time I travel(even locally) to a race. I've done New Bedford 3 or 4 times and I still haven't been to the Whaling museum but plan to do that this time.

Eat the Local Food-At Lunch. I love exploring new places and eating a lot of new and delicious foods. Whether it was in Shanghai or New Orleans the lunch menu is almost always the same as the dinner but cheaper. This is a great way to sample local foods without being hit with as large of a bill.

Take up running. What does running have to do with traveling in expensively? Do I expect you to eschew motorized transportation and run everywhere? No, but... The times I've felt I've really seen and explored an area has been when I've been able to run it. You see the intricacies of the city, the slight changes of neighborhoods, and experience the smells(both good and bad) that you cannot in a car and which take too long walking. Plus, you have the opportunity to find yourself. Lost. Like when I was in Munich and wanted to run a large loop thinking that the road I was on ran parallel to the road my hotel was on. However, it turned out that the two were diverging lines and only were getting further apart rather than parallel. After taking the turn thinking I'd come across the street in a block or two, I realized how far off I was. So instead of backtracking(which I hate), I just continued to plug along trying to find my street. 45 minutes later and still not finding it, I finally stopped, in very broken German how to get back. Apparently the only way was to walk about 10 minutes and then hop a train back to the correct station which resulted in my planned 60 minute run to turn into an 120 minute run with a 20 minute illegal train ride.  Bottom line? Always carry some local currency when running and backtrack if needed.

Pick A Few Destinations. For my last trip, I knew I wanted to go somewhere warm to escape this endless barrage of frigid weather. I didn't have a particular place in mind so I had the freedom to check out flights and rates at a few locations and found the best deal. That's my plan for my winter marathons. I have several warm weather states I haven't done yet and I'll price them out and pick the best option.

For a Long Weekend-Fly Direct.  If you're going for a long weekend trip, don't skimp on a flight with several layovers. This just is an invitation for flight delays and missing connections which surely will end up costing more in the long run. Beyond the extra money you spend eating crappy food at the airport, the opportunity cost of not being experiencing your destination is not worth it. Flying from Paris to Washington to Boston saved us $100 off the flight but when our flight was canceled and we had to rent a car to drive from DC to Boston our rental car and gas ended up costing us significantly more.

Bring a friend. Having a travel companion won't halve all of your expenses but will markedly reduce some. Hotel and car rentals drop by 50% but even things like eating out where you split an appetizer all help out. Downside? You need to realize that their goals for the trip are similar to yours. Otherwise you may find yourself not enjoying your trip at all or missing out on things you really wanted to do. Research your destination but also research your friends to making sure you're compatible. A good co-pilot is imperative to a good trip.

Find Free Activities. There are a lot of cities that offer free walking tours, admission into certain museums, and free live music. A little research before you go will usually result in some fun free experiences.

Sucker Someone Else into Paying. Okay so this hasn't happened since I was taking family vacations, but if you can get your company to pay for a business excursion, take advantage! Or maybe a wealthy friend who wants you to pace them?

Grab a Groupon. This works really well after marathons. I get a discounted massage by buying a groupon ahead of time. Sight-seeing tours are another good thing to buy in advance. Also works well with restaurants but I wouldn't do too many because you also want to explore.

But Don't Hesitate to Spend On the Important Things.  Remember why you're traveling in the first place. Don't skimp on the things that are important. It's easy when you're on a tight budget to think that you cannot afford some things but if you're in New York, you need to see a show, like if you're in Colorado, you need to ski. At least I do. Find what works for you.

Happy Travels!