Sunday, June 28, 2009


I was googling piriformis and roller skiing yesterday because I thought I might go out for an inline skate (don't have roller skis) instead of a run. I came across this page, a personal testimony of how one guy (thinks that he) solved his piriformis injury. His logic is here.
Pretty speculative. Regardless, it did remind me how good my butt felt the morning after my Mt. Washington race. So instead of inline skiing, I went incline running. That is, to the Costello Sports Complex at USM's Gorham campus to do an inclined treadmill run. I've boasted alot about how I never run treadmills and the only way I'll run is outside, the way running should be. Oh well, I've surrendered.

[I wrote a bunch here about my first treadmill experience but used the less than sign which blogger thought was html code so managed to delete everything. So I'll just say that I ran about 20 minutes at 10% and 20 minutes at 11% then played around with going up to 15%]

time: 41 minutes
elevation gain: 1850 feet
distance: 3.52 mi

The time is 20s more than my Mt. Washington 1/2 split but the elevation and distance are a little less. I didn't have my HR monitor on which is too bad because I would like to have seen how much work I was doing. My only reference is my breathing rate, which was 3 cycles/breath, which is typical of a fast aerobic pace.

This morning my butt is slightly better than yesterday morning, so it's no worse for the wear. Don't know if I'll continue to do inclined treadmill running this week, or pool running, or trail running.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

pain in the arse, why?

Last week I posted about how humans infer causation; this is a follow up. But first, some running history.

The week of June 7, I only ran once, the TNR at twin brook. I had taken 8 days off before that. Felt piriformis soreness immediately, so took rest of week off.

The week of June 14, I ran 4 days in a row, starting at Great Glen, then a 4miler on the road, then the TNR at Twin Brook, then I paced Lily at Back Cove and ran the 5K @ 6:45 pace, then took Thur & Fri off and ran Mt. Washington Saturday. My piriformis felt pretty good all week, even following the runs, and felt awesome on Sunday following Mt. Washington. No pain or soreness at all.

This week I took Sunday off, then ran 5.5 slow miles on mixed singletrack and road, then TNR at Twin Brook, then I did 5X400m repeats at Back Cove 5K (which paled in comparison to Kevin's trackwork). I don't remember how my arse felt monday morning, but it was noticeably sorer the evening after my mixed road/singletrack run and on Tuesday, and even more noticeably sorer yesterday (wednesday) (back cove 5K is at 6PM, so this wasn't an issue).

So, yesterday I spent a great deal of energy doing what humans do, that is, tabulating all the activities prior to this augmented soreness to try to infer the cause. Mt. Washington? Maybe except that it felt awesome the day after. Plus I ran hard one day last week and didn't have any increased soreness after that. Twin Brook - maybe except I ran there last week without any augemented pain. Road? also did that last week with no apparent effect. Singletrack? Ah - didn't do that last week. Was it the single track? Clearly the uneven surface of the singletrack made my pirformis, which is a hip stabilizer, work extra hard. And the singletrack was the last run I did before I really noticed the augmented pain. What I've just done is what humans do - we justify inferred causes backwards, with "explanations" that make sense.

This backward justification is a terrible way to gain knowledge. Humans are very, very creative animals that can construct reasonable stories to explain anything. Novelists exploit this capacity, and psychologists have a fun time devising experiments to show how delusional we all are (an especially stunning example of this of this is the split-brain work from Michael Gazzaniga).

So I have no idea why my my soreness is worse. Maybe it has nothing at all to do with any of my running activities (riding in the car to/from Mt. washington???). But I'm going to implicate the singletrack as a working hypothesis - not that I'll be able to test the hypothesis in any robust way.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ocean Ave. Single Track

Last week we had a discussion somewhere about exploring local singletrack and snowmobile trails. This morning I needed to pick up my car at my sister-in-laws so had Cacky drop off the dogs and I at Back Cove and we took off toward Ocean Ave., where we dipped into the woods on an old road of sorts, lost the trail, then found some sweet single track. We worked our way over to what will become (or maybe what is) the Ocean Avenue Recreation Area, but skipped lots of intersecting single track along the way. Once I got to the old dump behind the dog park, I knew where I was so we worked our way through Lalumierre (owned by the Falmouth Land Trust) then crossed Ledgewood road into the Pleasant Hill Woods trail. The section from the woods to Allen Ave is a mess but the rest of the PHW trail is spectacular. Were I going home, I would have taken the Presumpscot River trail all the way to Blackstrap rd. but instead I needed to stick to the roads to get to my car at the inlaws.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mt. Washington Road Race Report

Today was my first Mt. Washington road race. I was not very optimistic given how little I've run over the past month following my butt injury. Cacky, Danielle and I drove with Pete and Mindy following. Ryan spent the night at the mountain. We all met at Great Glen then Ryan, Mindy and I sent Cacky, Danielle, and Pete up the mountain, then we hung out in Ryan's office until close to race start.

We went for a short warm-up just before showtime, got in the crowd at the start, were told there was only one hill, then took off at the canon. The base of the mountain was 60F, low thick cloud cover, and 100% humidity. The first mile was crowded but it thinned out after that and I could stick to the road's midline like glue. This path was longer than cutting corners but the corners are substantially steeper (they have to be since they rise the same elevation over a shorter distance). We quickly ascended into a thick cloud. Lots of strategies out there including some who seemed to walk on schedule and others who seemed to walk when they got tired. I walked about three steps during the 2nd water stop so I could drink and about 3 steps on the hairpin (a really steep turn) but really didn't feel the need or desire to walk.

I hit the 1/2way sign at 40:36 and the 5 mile mark at an 11:01 average pace. I was past what I thought was the steepest part of the climb but then I hit the hairpin, which I was prepared for. Near the top of this, I slowed to a walk for about 3 steps, thinking this might be a better strategy, but then didn't feel right about this so I just kept running. What I wasn't prepared for was the steepness of the hill above the hairpin. It was here that I started thinking "OK, if I walk the rest of the way from here I can still make it in x:xx:xx". It's always a good sign to think this sort of thing because if you're not, then you're not running hard enough!

Somewhere around the 5.5 - 6 mile mark, we busted out of the clouds to a really gorgeous sunshine, mid 50s temperature, and no wind. I wasn't enjoying the scenery but was just focusing on the race in front of me. I wanted to put the hammer down with about 1 mile to go but this was tough. I caught a women (Abby Mahoney from Holyoke MA) with about 1/2 mile to go and when we passed a spectator he said she was #5. We turned into the wind which was small but significant and Abby tucked in behind me for a minute, and I was happy to help. But the #6 women (Lisa Goldsmith from Nederland CO) caught us on the final little climb before the really steep climb at the top, so Abby took off after her (but it was too late). I worked hard on that final, steep (22% grade!) climb and put what ever hammer I had for a strong finish. I was quite nauseated from my finish and thought I might blow chunks, which is also a good sign because if you don't feel this way at the finish then you've left too much on the course!

My time was 1:25:05, which I'm quite happy with, but it would have been fun to have had 1:24:59. That was good for 82nd overall (tied Abby at the line), 77th among men, and, 11th in AG, and shockingly, 1st from Maine!

It took about 5 minutes to catch my breath and then I did a little cool down at the top, then joined Cacky and Danielle to watch Mindy and Ryan finish. Mindy had an awesome race. Ryan decided to enjoy himself, which was smart since he had a great race last year, and it was good to seem him come through with a big smile.

Pete drove us down and after a brief lunch in the big tent, we all went to Mote for some sliders, bbq, and beer (this seems to be a common way to end my blog posts!).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mt. Washington prelude

Mt. Washington road race is Saturday. Weather looks to be decent for running (50s, showers) but not watching (Sorry, Cacky, Danielle, and Pete). Having never run a hill climb, I think any race prediction will be sketchy, at best. But here goes...

The quickest and best predictor is your previous Mt. Washington time. I don't have one. The next quickest is 1/2 marathon time. I haven't run a 1/2 marathon since Fall 05, when I first started running seriously, so I don't think that would be a useful predictor. But I can use a 10K race to predict my 1/2 marathon time. The McMillan predictor predicted my Fall 08 5K and 10K races perfectly (although, I was pacing myself based on the prediction so there is some circularity there!). Were I in fall '08 race shape (39:03 10K), my predicted 1/2 marathon time would be 1:26:54. The official Mt. Washington race predictor using my fall '08 10K gives me a low-high range: 1:21:25 - 1:26:18. The Mt. Washington predictor is a little optimistic based on the better runners who typically beat their 1/2 marathon times by a few minutes.

Of course I'm not well trained for the 1/2 marathon distance, and it's spring and not fall, and I've got my piriformis injury and my training has been extremely depressing for the last month. So I think a more realistic, optimistic 10K time might be 40 minutes which would give me a prediction of 1:29 (McMillan) or 1:23:24 - 1:28;24 (Mt. Washington predictor) and a more realistic, pessimistic 10K time (given the sore arse & sub-sub-sub optimal training) of 41:30 10K would give me a prediction of 1:32:21 (McMillan) or 1:26:31 - 1:31:43. This of course assumes that I don't bonk or have a sidestitch.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New route at TMR TNR

Tonight we had a big group at Trail Monster Running's Tuesday Night Run at Twin Brook, including the usual suspects as well as Tom Whitaker who I have met at races but hadn't seen at the TNRs and Four Hewes, who I met at my Close to the Coast ski race this winter. Lots of others out running the trails; I'm sure the town of Cumberland (and the Coastal Nordic Ski Club) is happy to see these trails being well used. The map above shows the route we ran tonight (red) on the back cloverleaf section compared to the usual route (green). Several trails are closed and they routed us through some of the interior (on trails that have always been there) and one new parallel trail that was recently cut. Regardless, nearly all of this part of the trail system is extremely muddy. But it still doesn't touch the shoe sucking mud of the trail entering the creek crossing. By contrast, the trail on the Tuttle road (the Craig Cup) side has drained the rain beautifully.

Some thought-provoking links

I just posted these links on my other blog and a few comments on "bad advice". I don't think the NYT articles will be free for long...

Gina kolata on bad advice from health professionals

On placebo

on alcohol and health

Monday, June 15, 2009

Running the rockpile (at least the bottom)

Ryan just couldn't get enough of tour guidin' so after taking Danielle, Mindy and I on a runner's tour of the Mt. Washington auto road, he took us on a tour of the ski trails and single track at Great Glen. I already told you that, but I wanted to upload images of the path.

The rockpile & Evidence-based medicine

Ryan, Danielle, Mindy and I had a great recon mission to Mt. Washington yesterday. We saw a mother bear and two cubs just as we were exiting the woods onto the fields at the base of the auto road. One bear cub was climbing a tree and less than 20 feet from our car and at eye-level, since the base of the tree was well below road level. It scooted up, saw us, thought for a few seconds, then scooted back down. Everyone had their camera for mama, which had been in the road, but we were all too goo-goo eyed and soft in the brain to take a picture. It looked pretty much like this. But Danielle got a nice picture of the mum.

Following the recon, we ran about 4 miles of the sweet ski trail and single track at Great Glen. The ski trail is very much like Pineland, but it's great fun to mix it with single track. Note.To.Pineland. Then of course we went to Mote and ate too much. Thanks Ryan & Danielle for driving and the tour. And thanks for not playing any Motley Crue.

And this morning, I wrote my prelude to evidence-based medicine based on my piriformis injury (the doctor thinks my injury is the piriformis and not g. maximus because the former is common in runners. The piriformis runs immediately deep to g. maximus. When I message the site of injury I'm massaging both the g. maximus and piriformis).

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Rode the pseudo-quasi-toy cyclocross/touring bike (aka the early 90s Bianchi Volpe) for my longest ride to date - 44 miles! I now have total respect for tri-dudes that ride 112 miles following a 3.2 mi swim and just before a 26.2 mi run. There's a sweet old farmhouse for rent on S. freeport rd. - would like to buy it. I think I rode by Chuck's house on the way out to Bradbury. Went in the parking lot then exited the trail crossing to the non-mountain side (woohoo, cyclocross!). Headed to Pineland and had to get out of the saddle to climb some steep hills on the way (I essentially never leave the saddle). Stopped at the Visitor's center at Pineland to get a tiny tube of very expensive sunscreen and 2Xdebbie's cookies, which just fit in my seat bag for a post-ride treat. Had to fight a small wind on the way home. Now I'm ready for a 50+ miler.

Distance 43.8 miles
Moving Time 2:36:00
Total Time 2:47:47 (stopped at Pineland)
Moving Speed 16.8 mph
Elevation Gain 3004

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The pool has no hills

Is a strained muscle self limiting without stopping running? I put a call in to my sports medicine doctor but didn't get a return call until after I had left to the Riverton pool. My pulled glute really doesn't hurt to run and it doesn't hurt after or the next morning either. But it's now been 3+ weeks and doesn't seem to be getting any better, even after 8 days of not running. So I'm going to deep water pool run until I can find out otherwise.

1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 minute ladder with 1 minute recoveries. Total time: 60 minutes. The high intensity is done by really high turnover. The first minute of these feels right but after that my form begins to deteriorate and its hard to keep up the high turnover.

Rapid River

Following the Hell repeats, I took 8 days off from running, although I did get some biking in before going to the Rapid River. After class Thursday, Stephen Pelsue and I drove up to the Rapid River to meet neighbor John as well as three other spring fishin' buddies for a long weekend on the Rapid River. Unable to bike, and choosing not to run, this was 4 days of solid rest (that was continued into a 5th day on Monday). I ran a modified TMR TNR at Twin Brook last night - I stuck to the fields to avoid any steep uphills. It felt great to run again but even after 8 days of rest (and 5 of complete no exercise rest), my left glute was immediately sore.

The Rapid River is a beautiful river in the western Maine mountains that flows between Lower Richardson and Lake Umbagog on the Maine/NH border. It is only about 3 miles long and is split about 1/3 of the way down by Pond in the River and the iconic image of fly fishing in Maine, lower dam (which was unfortunately removed about 3 years ago). The river has never been stocked and contains huge native brook trout. Smart ones, not the stupid hatchery misfits. There are also landlocked salmon in the river but these were introduced into Rangeley lake in the late 1800s so are not truly native although landlocked are native to Maine (Sebago lake, for example). The river is fly fishing only, catch and release all brookies and 2 salmon over 12 inches can be kept (Maine Fish and Game is managing this river as a premeir native brook trout stream).

Our access includes a 10 mile drive on an active logging road, a 1/4 mile hike down (and back up) a steep singletrack trail through lots of mud with the canoe and all the gear (coolers of beer), and 20 minute paddle to our campsite. This weekend we had about 2-6 guys camping across the river from us, so in total there were about 6-12 guys on this section of the river, depending on the day. Not bad.

After stopping at Barbecue Bob's in Bethel, Stephen and I got into camp and quickly geared up to fish by about 6:45PM. We fished the big pool below the last fall by canoe. Everyone else was there too (the rest of our crew had been there all day). There was a monster hatch going on with bugs flying all over the place. But no fish rising. We were skunked the first evening, which is very mysterious given the hatch. Everyone else had had a hero day earlier but were also skunked in the evening.

After a bone-chilling night (I have a 40F sleeping bag), we had a beautiful day for fishing but again, the fishing was slow, which is fish-speak for being skunked. That afternoon I finally caught a 8" salmon (too small for dinner) and a 10" brookie, both of which were too small to put up much of a fight. At lunch, three of us walked the Cary rd. (an ancient logging road that is now closed) on the opposite side of the river to visit the famous pools. We talked to other fisherfolk who had the same experience: great fishing Thursday morning but slow Thursday evening into Friday. We learned the water flow had increased 25% (the flow out of middle dam changes regularly and is used to maintain lake levels, etc.) and in our experience this change in flow always disrupts fishing (either it spooks the fish or dislodges so much food in the water that your little fly is overwhelmed by real, smelly food).

After another chilly night, we decided to move camp, packed up, paddled and hiked out, then drove to the Magalloway R., which we got to a little after noon. The little brookies on the Magalloway were absolutely slamming the elk hair caddis dry fly. In three or four pools I would get strikes on nearly every cast (only hooking about every third strike) until about 3-4 fish were caught and I'd move on. These brookies ranged from 4"-8", and while there was some excitement, the thrill didn't last so long. After my 15th netted fish, I switched to a gray ghost stream chasing an olive hare's ear nymph combo. I continued to get stikes but at a much, much slower rate. I caught a super-hyper salmon on the nymph. The salmon jumped probably twenty times before I netted him. Given the fight, I was surprised that the salmon was only about 12" according to Stephen's pole (I would have said 16" at least) but he was fat for 12" so put up a good fight. After a short deliberation, I decided to not keep him (I wasn't even sure of the length limit in the Magallaway). I caught another small brookie on the nymph and then fishing slowed for the next hour as I moved back up stream. Dave, John, and Stephen had similar stories although I think John's 20 netted fish won first prize. We decided to call it an evening and go eat burgers and drink beer at the Sunday River Brewpub.

Monday, June 8, 2009


I whined recently about getting a side-stitch at the Pineland Farms 25K. As also mentioned, I tend to stitch in races when I'm running at my limit. But I frequently get cramps in my left rectus abdominus/intercostals after running or skiing hard (always after stopping and usually while bending over to take off my shoes/boots). And I sometimes cramp in my toe abductors, for example after the Camden Hills run (remember that?).

This pattern of cramping fits in very well with some interesting recent research on the cause of cramping by a guy name Martin Schwellnus, who is part of a big sports science research group at the University of Cape Town. That group tends to be the thorn in the side of many traditional explanations of exercise phenomena such as muscle fatigue, which you can read about in Tim Noakes book the Lore of Running. And they've done a little work on the chi/pose method of running to avoid injury. Anyway, I think there is some decent evidence that hydration or electrolytes aren't going to prevent cramping, but there are other good reasons to maintain hydration and electrolyte levels, such as avoiding hyponatremia.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Checking out the country

My plan was to do lots of pool running (no, not aqua jogging) this week to stay in running shape for Mt. Washington. Of course this plan was concocted last Friday after a week of rain when the pool seemed to be a nice place to be. But starting Saturday I just couldn't do it. It's been too damn nice outside. I don't live in Maine to run in pools. So, other than the Blackstrap hell repeats, I've been biking. These rides have been fun. The countryside outside of Portland is really beautiful. I'm attracted to the many connected farmhouses that I ride by. I'm also attracted to the large tracts of rolling woodland that are ripe for xc running and skiing development! I did manage to make it to the TMR TNR but by bike and only long enough to say hi. The four rides since Saturday are mapped above. Three of the rides were about 20 miles each, the Yarmouth/N. Yarmouth ride was 35 miles, which is a big ride for me. I did 3 sets of 5X1 min intervals on the Cumberland TMR TNB loop (so the stop at Twin Brook was a nice break in between the 2nd and 3rd set). One thing though, most of the roads around are warped, cracked, and potholed. Range Rd. in Cumberland is particularly craptastic. It's a roller coaster with short steep ups and downs requiring hard shifting all the way up then all the way down and the surface absolute sucks. I'm glad I'm riding my $200 mid 90's Bianchi Volpe pseudo-quasi-toy cyclocross bike with burly tires.

Runner's High

Do runner's get high?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Against Chiropractic

I was going to post a link to a skeptical look at chiropractic here but instead decided to post it here.