Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Trail Monster Tuesdays at Twin Brook (pics)

Trail Monster Tuesdays @ Twin Brook have been rocking the last couple of weeks. It has been especially nice to have more lady runners man up. It's also good to see the various pace groups. The racing side is, of course, in excellent shape, even with the deluge we had this past weekend. This is partly due to the huge work over the past few years to elevate the trails and increase drainage but also due to some new fill that was brought in sometime in the last week (can't have racers running through mud!). Regardless, the Craig Cup course is running fast. But the back (dog) side still has mud.

The creek is down so even I can jump it. Nevertheless, I caught Mary, Kelsy, and Dora feeling the waters before jumping.

Speaking of the muddy backside, check out Ian's racing stripeHeading over to the race side
Trail Monster
Peter taking it easy after his monster Bradbury Breaker race

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Camden Hills Pictures

Some lovely pictures of our Camden Hills run courtesy of Peter Buchanan (which is why he's not in any of these). Click to enlarge!
Foursome atop Maiden's Cliff overlooking Megunticook lake

Mary and Emma contemplating a jump in the lake (hey, it was hot and muggy). The cross was a good reminder that they likely wouldn't make it.

Sun, fog, and runners on the climb up Megunticook

Enjoying the view of Penobscot Bay

Our little version of Scottish hill running (with a few stops to eat blueberries)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

National Trail Running Day

Trail Monsters Ian, Emma, Peter, Mary, & I celebrated NTRD with an easy pace cruise through Camden Hills State Park. The forecast was for showers turning to thunderstorms but we had lots of sun instead. And humidity. We started at the base of Maiden's Cliff, then climbed to the Megunticook ridge, then down Zeke's/Sky Blue trail (Sweeeeet). Our pace had been leisurely to this point but the humidity was 200% and our water supply was low. So we decided to bag the Megunitcook ridge loop and do Bald Mtn. instead. Fast. What a great trail to run up as it is steep but not too, if you know what I mean. And the top has the money view of Penobscot Bay. All of it. Thick air prevented us from getting a clear view of Acadia though. When we arrived on the Bald Mtn. summit, there was no breeze in sight but the breeze picked up a little while we were there. We needed it. After a lengthy rest, we headed back down and took the Cameron Mtn. trail. This trail probably started out as a logging road but was essentially a straight stream the last two times I've run it. Well, the park staff has gotten in there and returned it to road. I have mixed feelings about that. It's very easy to run on but I miss the trail. Still, it will make a killer ski loop this winter (from Youngstown Rd. trail head, up multiuse trail, fork right on Cameron Mtn trail, down sky blue trail back to multiuse trail). We ran to the top of Cameron Mtn. and then spent some time gorging on blueberries and the occasional blackberry. Having little water left or energy to get back up and over Megunticook, we decided to take the long but flat route - which is out to Youngstown Rd, then to Rt. 52 along Megunticook lake. Following the run we had a nice swim in the lake before heading into town for Colorado BBQ Bacon Burgers from the Waterfront. I didn't take my camera so I'll rely on Ian and Peter to post pictures.

Equipment. This was my longest run in my NB790 and they held up great despite the lack of inov8 sticky rubber for all of the exposed rock. I love running in these.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Falmouth Trails

Picture above: The Piscataqua River Trail (about 4/10 of our total trail run today)

The Town of Falmouth has big plans for Open Space and trails. Part of this plan is a trail/conservation corridor along the Piscataqua River from where it joins the Presumpscot River to Community Park and beyond. Bob Shafto, the Ombudsman for implementing the Town Open Space plan founded the Falmouth Conservation Corps to help build the trail. The FCC has been busy these past two summers and the the Piscataqua Trail is nearly complete - only two uncut sections and a bridge remain. The Piscataqua Trail also links to the Presumpscot River Trail, which is now part of a big "Sebago to the Sea" vision.

Anyhoo, the Piscataqua River Trail now makes it possible to do a tour de Falmouth (at least W. Falmouth), nearly all on trail. Unfortunately, from the Community Park trails to the Blackstrap Hill Preserve Trails, the connector is a snowmobile trail that crosses private parcels. While this trail is open in the winter, there has been no effort to keep this accessible year round.

I had been dreaming about this trail for the last 9 years and today we did it. We is me, Ian, Emma, Peter, and Mary. We started at the Blackstrap Hill preserve parking lot and ran counterclockwise (south) to River Point (the start/end of the Piscataqua Trail). Some of the snowmobile trail was heavily grown over with vegetation. Some of it was beautiful and very near another large, newly purchased Open Space parcel (can you say mo' trail, mo' trail mo trail?). The newly cut trail is beautiful in sections, rough but runnable in sections, and (like I said above), flagged but uncut in sections. And we had to cross the west branch of the Piscataqua the old fashioned way. After exiting the Piscataqua trail on River Point, we joined the Presumpscot River trail which the mountain bikers ride regularly. Tall and dense vegetation lines the trail for most of the length. The vegetation is about shoulder high and the path is about shoulder width! This could use a little manicure to make it more runnable.

So, I apologize to Ian, and Emma, and Peter, and Mary for all the little cuts on their limbs (mine are all the way up to my shoulders, of course) but I've really been salivating to run that route for years and only since yesterday (or maybe last week) has that become possible.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bradbury Breaker fartlek filming

Trail Monster Running threw down another well marked, well organized, and wicked fun trail race Saturday, the Bradbury Mountain Breaker 9 Mile trail race. The weather cooperated if hot and steamy is your style. It's not mine so I'm glad I decided to not race it but instead, run it fartlek style with my new flip video camera (trying to not aggravate my piriformis too much). Two major problems with this plan: 1) even though the camera is easy to use, I hadn't really familiarized myself to its operation and 2) It only holds 30 minutes of video and I forgot to dump the approximately 15 minutes that I had on it before the race (although I hadn't thought about this until mid-race).

I started the race maybe 1/3 of the way to the front and ran in a thick pack of bodies for maybe 1/4 mile. The pack started to thin out and I just cruised along, filming both in front and behind me. About the point where the boundary trail turns SE (where it starts to climb), I picked up the pace quite a bit to see how close to the front I could get. The goal was to film the faster runners in the mad dash down the S. Ridge Trail. I caught up with the first place woman (Catherine Sterling) and then stopped to film runners do drop #2 (picture above). I filmed for a while, dropped downhill a little further and filmed more, only to discover that I hadn't been filming during my 2nd stop. One problem is that I thought you hit the little red button twice to start and stop filming. Once is correct. My other problem is the little red button is in the middle of 4 other buttons that sit at the major compass points (N, E, S, W) and my thumb is too big too hit the red button without hitting these other buttons (and I have gracile thumbs!). I'm not sure what the camera was doing; maybe playing an old video. I discovered this and started to film but there was a big gap between the runners that had just passed and those to come and I got bored waiting around so I ran again. Fast. So I could catch up.

This brought me to the hill. Yes that one. The summit trail. I stopped at the aid station at the base to drink some water and then decided to run the whole way up, with the camera rolling. This resulted in 1) really boring video of me passing racers walking up the hill (everyone walks that hill) and 2) one really hot, exhausted cameraman at the top. Indeed, running the hill after the hard run to the downhill section took away my mojo and I just kinda cruised for the next 3-4 miles. It was somewhere coming down from the hill that I noticed that the camera screen stated that I only had a few minutes of video left and I realized that I had forgotten to dump the old files. Ugggggh #1.

On the gradual ascent back to the top on the Northern Loop Trail, I was hot, sweaty, exhausted from running the summit trail, and disappointed about not having any memory left in my camera. Then I hit a root and went down hard. Kinda hurt everywhere, especially the knee, but no Camden-esque gashes. I felt a bit like a shaken baby so I was running pretty easy and Randy W. caught and passed me. I thought he was also running easy but he must have turned on the turbo at that point because he had a nice finish time. Give that my camera was out of action (I wanted to save the last few minutes for the finish) I handed off the camera to Emma just before the descent on the switchback. Bad move because that would have made great footage filming the runners descend back and forth from below. I briefly thought about running back up to Emma and grabbing the camera but my good sense had not been knocked out by my fall so I pressed on.

On the flat section of the boundary trail during lap 2, I was moving pretty slowly and even, gasp, walked the first tiny little uphill. Lily caught me at this point, which surprised me because I thought she had been ahead of me. Apparently she went for a tour of some other trails not on the race course. Anyway, we both seemed to not have much racing mojo. Karen S. caught me and I thought briefly it was her but then convinced myself it wasn't. It was. When the boundary trail started to elevate, I got some mojo back and ran a little harder on the uphill, passing Lily and Karen and some others. I took it really easy back down the S. Ridge trail to try to spare my buttocks. Lily passed me back. 2nd time around I decided to walk the summit trail to the top, even after a really long water break at the aid station and chat with Stephen W. When I got to the top, I had to dash off course for about 50 yards to retrieve my camera from Emma, dash back up and then re-enter the course. Thanks to Dora for keeping those behind me from following me off course! Down the Tote road at an easy pace (no hard pounding on the downhills!) but when I started to climb again on the Northern Loop trail, I picked up the pace and passed Nate P. and David D. but never did catch up to Lily. From the top, it was a nice, fast descent to the finish. I loved this section last year when I successfully held of James from passing me (woohoo), but like the rest of my descents today, I took this one pretty easy. I also wanted to get the camera rolling again. I started filming and ... within about 5s the camera read "memory full". Ugggh #2. So I stopped and figured out how to delete some of the old files so I could be sure to film the finish. Nate and Dave passed me yet again. And I think Karen passed me here too. I deleted a couple of files and took off again at an moderate pace, successfully passed bee corner without adding further bee toxin to my body, and finished the race in 1:28.xx, about 11 minutes slower than last year.

I'll make a video at some point. It won't be what I was hoping for. And about 1/2 of it will be sideways. I noticed that when I rotated the camera 90 degrees, the view on the screen rotatated, ipod like, so I thought the camera always knew what up was. Nope, filming sideways produced sideways video. Ugggh #3.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Camden Hills

Few trails scream "run me" more than the trails in Camden Hills State Park. My sons (Sam, Tom, Will) and my dogs (Sasha, Rodney) and I did a fast hike across the Megunitcook Ridge on Thursday. No stopping to rest, other than to snap a few photos. We started at the base of the Mt. Battie Trail and climbed Battie in 16 minutes. Then we took the Tablelands trail to the Lookout Trail to climb Megunticook. Mt. Battie and the Lookout have stunning views of outer Penobscot Bay. From the Lookout, we took the Ridge Trail along the Megunticook Ridge. Most of this is in the woods. But the Scenic Trail continues along the ridge line and much of it is pretty open with views over Megunitcook lake toward and to the Georges Highland Trail on Bald and Ragged mountains. It is this trail that simply can't be walked. Sam was running back and forth like the family golden retriever. The open ledge whoopdeedoos are wicked fun to run up and down. Even Tom and Will ran them, just after Tom said "Dad, none of my friends on the xc team think running is fun!" After a short break at the cross on top of Maiden's cliff (marking the spot where a little girl fell in the mid 1800s), we descended down to our camp on Megunitcook for a short swim.

Friday morning, Cacky and I went for a 1 hr row on the lake. It's a beutiful lake for rowing and paddling. We had a nice look at a Bald Eagle soaring over Fernald's neck. After lunch on the harbor, I went for an "easy' run on the multi-use trail in Camden Hills SP. This is a dirt road and is more fun to ski (because of the 1+ mile of solid downhill on the way home), but is the perfect choice for keeping it easy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Grafton Notch Loop - west side, part deux

Here is the google terrain map and profile for the west side of the Grafton Notch Loop. I unknowingly stopped my watch sometime during mile 2 and discovered this after about 1/2 mile (this occurs frequently when I scratch my back). I think RunningAhead corrected for this as the mileage is about .4 miles different from my watch's total distance). This mileage includes the 0.6 miles from the Puzzle Mtn. parking lot to the trail head (as does the official AMC distance). The RunningAhead corrected elevation is 5708 ft gained and 4937 ft lost over the 15.75 miles. This is 25% more elevation gain than the Camden Hills loop which was 4490 ft gained over 15.0 miles. Note the official AMC distance of the West loop is 17.5 miles. How do they compute their estimates?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Grafton Notch Loop - west side

Trail Monsters Ian, Stephen, and I joined Bob Poirer and a gang of trail runners from western Maine, NH, and Mass for the Grafton Notch loop. 13 runners total but only 8 or so did the whole 38 miles. My track and elevation profile are here. A detailed description of the west side, which I did, is here.
The top picture is exposed ledge near the top of Stowe Mtn. Below that is the summit of Sunday River Whitecap. The summit is a beautiful bald with lots of exposed ledge and alpine plants. Stringers are used to keep hikers off the foliage. The top of Sunday River Whitecap is worth a day hike because of the bald top, alpine foliage, and spectacular views.
Still atop Sunday River Whitecap, we're looking at (top) Old Speck, the final summit of the west side (and morning half of the loop), and (bottom) the Bald Pates, the first two summits of the east side. From Old Speck to E. Bald Pate requires descending 2600 feet in about 3 miles then ascending 2200 feet. Both ascent and descent are steep and rocky. You can also just see the stringers on top of SRW that keep you off the alpine flora.
The top of Old Speck isn't very special; (top) some of it has been cleared and looks like a blast zone. But if you climb the tower, you get a spectacular 360 degree view of the White mountains, Sunday River, the Rangeley Lakes, Sugarloaf, and (bottom) Puzzle mountain, which was the end of the east half of the loop. I can't recommend hiking Old Speck just to hike it, unless you're peak bagging. It's a very steep, rocky trail, although there is a cool creek that falls on bare ledge for the middle 3rd of the trail. I felt like Natty Bumpo in Last of the Mohecans.
From the top of the tower on Old Speck looking at the Whites.

My run: I gave everyone a 15 minute head start and wanted to catch up so I ran the first two climbs pretty hard and didn't drink any water. By about 8-9 miles, I was slowing considerably and figured that I was probably dehydrated and hungry. I drank lots of water and chowed on my trail mix but I cannot say this helped much. The three miles up Old Speck were a slog, even though it wasn't really steep at all and quite runnable. I just didn't feel like running. Very different from Camden where I really felt motivated to run the whole time.

Anyway, thanks to Bob for pulling together a fun and diverse group of runners. It was good to meet everyone on the trail. Especially Bodie, the (Portuguese?) water dog, who paced me on part of the descent down Old Speck when I couldn't keep up with the lead pack, including Ian and Stephen.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Western Maine Mountains - Day 1

On Saturday I was supposed to take our rowboat up to Megunticook Lake in Camden but it took too long for me to get the trailer ready and I abandoned plan A. I had already planned to meet Ian at Pat's Pizza in Bethel at 6PM, then spending the night at Neighbor John & Sarah's camp in Hanover; only 10 miles from the trailhead for the the Grafton Notch Loop run. After futzing around, I finally decided that I'd go to Evans notch and combine a short trail run and flyfishing. Getting to Evans Notch in the summer is not much fun. Rt. 302 simply sucks. It was a beautiful day and everyone was on the water. Standing room only at the Sebago public launch.

I finally got to Evans Notch and was deciding between the Mud Brook trail up Caribou Mtn. or the Highwater Trail along the Wild River. The appeal of the Mud Brook trail was the little native Brookies in Mud Brook - I'd seen them on a previous hike. But I was going to be doing a long mountain run the next morning so I was looking for a more flattish, easy run. Plus the 6 inch brookies wouldn' t be much of a fight on a 5 wt. rod.

That meant the Highwater trail, which I had never been on. I packed my camelbak with my fly reel and my flies, and I carried my fly rod in hand. My rod is 8'6" and is four piece. I have a soft sleeve to hold the pieces and this rolls up into a very carryable package. The Highwater trail was exactly what I was looking for. It has a really small, shallow hill somewhere in the first mile but was very flat after that. And in great shape for running. 

Two problems though. 1) it was 3:30PM and I had to meet Ian at 6PM at a location that was about 25-30 minutes away. Given that it takes about 10 minutes to get the rod, reel and line all set to fish, that didn't leave me much time for running *and* fishing. 2) I don't have a NH fishing license and the Highwater trail quickly crosses from Maine into NH. I took a look at a map and it looked like the trail dodged away from the River for a good section at the beginning and returned to the river right about the NH line. I got to that point after about 1.8 miles and I wanted to get a 4 mile run in, so I kept going into NH. It was really hard to turn around because I was enjoying the trail, the river, the temperature, the terrain, the.. but I turned around at 2.8 miles and ran back to the 1.8 mile mark and called that Maine.

The Wild River at this point was a beautiful set of riffles with some shallow pocket pools. I started out with terrestrials (beetles and ants) because I have these and never catch fish with them but have been told that this is the time of year to use them. I didn't catch any fish with them. I switched to an old standby dryfly - a royal wulf - and worked my way down to what looked like a big pool downstream. At this point I had been fishing for about 30 minutes ad had about 10 minutes left to fish and still had 100 yards to the pool, so I skipped all the lower part of the riffles and set up right where the riffles go to slack water. Boom - small trout hit right away. It was a beautiful rainbow trout, about the length of my forearm (15 inches). It was skinny relative to a Rapid River brookie of the same size and didn't put up a fight that a 15 inch brookie would have. Still, it was a sweet fish for Aug 8. A small hatch was occurring but I didn't have time to match it. A few more failed casts and I had to close up and run the 1.8 miles back to the car. On the sweet trail. (in looking at the gps track it looks like I wasn't quite back in Maine. Oh no guilt!).

Ian and I had a beer at Pat's then went to BBQ Bob's for pulled pork. Perfect day!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Orange spotted green leech

While waiting for gIANt, Gnarls, Mindy, and Valerie to return to station #3, I snapped a few photos of this little beauty who was merrily swimming around the edge of the pond. Leech swimming is very, very cool both to watch and study. Did everyone check for leeches at the end of the B2B?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bitch to Bacon Course Map

The Bitch to Bacon had no set course. The minimum length to finish the race was something just above 4.14 miles (the "Optimal" path in the picture). It is above this because the racers were required to take the first turn but I didn't when I ran the "Optimal" route. Both Ian and Mindy submitted their gps tracks of their race. You can see where they went off route and the total distance traveled by each. They would have gone off route much more had it not been for the shots of coffee brandy. That's quite the paradox.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Bitch to Bacon Results!

The first annual Bitch to Bacon trail scramble was raced this morning at 9AM sharp. Instead of starting on the Three Bitches, as was the original plan, racers ran the "old dump" side of Hardy Road. But there were still three bitches to deal with...

Bitch #1: The trails are a confusing network
Bitch #2: The west side of the trails are overrun by a series of logging roads that were created in the past year
Bitch #3: The race course was unmarked

Indeed, other than the first turn, racers chose their route. There were three numbered stations on the course; each station was marked by an orange flag skewered through sheets of paper with that station's number. When you found a station, you had to pull of the number and run with it to prove that you had been to that station. All during the race, I was running around with a bottle of Allen's Coffee Brandy. I gave the runners helpful hints if they had a shot of the Brandy. Multiple shots (and hints) were encouraged.

The optimal path to get the numbers and return to the finish was about 4.2 miles. The runners with gps watches tended to run 7 to 7.5 miles. It took me about 50 minutes to run the 4.2 miles and set out the stations, and that includes taking 10 minutes to clear brush from one of the trail intersections. Four Hewes won the race in about 1:20 minutes. He was followed by Ryan and Carter. Carter was ahead of Ryan but Ryan made the decision to run through the pond while Carter was taking the trail around it (not realizing that the trail through the pond was the shorter route to the finish). I called Carter back through the pond so I could get a good picture. Valerie, Mindy, Emma & Ian were not far behind. Jamie helped support and took some video, which we will upload soon.

The number of shots drunk was directly proportional to how much you ran into me out in the woods, which was proportional to how lost you were. Ryan had the most shots but still came in 2nd!

We followed the race with a brunch and awards ceremony on my deck. In addition to plain bacon of course, Ryan upped the bar on bacon donut combos, including boston cream bacon and jelly bacon donuts. Thanks to Carter for supplying the awards - Butternuts Pork Slap pale ale.