Friday, July 30, 2010

Panthertown Valley

(click on pictures to enlarge)

The Sexton-Walkers have been in Highlands/Cashiers, NC with my parents and sisters and their families. We're staying in a big house on Lake Glenville; the same house we stayed in three years ago. My family used to spend a week at my granddad's cabin in Shooting Creek about 1 hr. west of here, but the whole area has many, many more summer residents than when I was a kid.

The National Forest Service has developed a wicked nice multi-use recreational trail system in Panthertown Valley, which is a couple of miles east of Cashiers. It's a mix of old logging road, old school trail, and singletrack. There's a nice map, which is really necessary to have because the area is big and there are multiple trails that exit the official Natahala National Forest boundaries.

The marketing around here calls Panthertow Valley the "Yosemite of the East". I've not been to Yosemite but I suspect there is a reason that Yosemite is a National Park and Panthertown Valley is not. Actually, other than a small knob called "the lookout" there really are not good views of the valley.

Nevertheless, the trails are exceptionally...runable. Many of the trails are rated for mountain bikes so the climbs on these are quite easy. There are a few short steep climbs on the hiking-only trails and the climb out is a bit cruel after a long run, but otherwise, the terrain is stunning and perfect.

The map above shows my three runs in the forest, which included
1. a 7.6 miler (plus a 1.4 mile hike out with Cacky, Tom, and Will) in red
2. a 9 miler in green
3. a 16+ miler in cyan.

Most of the trails in the middle of the map and the north end of the forest are old logging roads. The trails on the south end are more hiking/single track. In general the trails range from packed dirt to loose rock and are generally (but not entirely) free of the nasty roots we have in Maine. The rocks are also flattish and not sharp and jagged like a typical Maine trail rock.

The long run this morning was beautiful. My average pace over the whole run was an easy 9:30, which is way faster than I could do on mountain trails in Camden or the Mahoosucs or the Whites. But yet it was much more of a moutain feeling than Bradbury (and Pineland of course). I'd love to have this trail network in my backyard.

After my long run, my cool down was a sweet 2 mile hike with the family along the Whiteside mountain cliffs, which I think are the highest cliffs in the east (1000 ft). Super easy hike and gazillion dollar views. Plus a pair of nesting Peregrine falcons flying at eye level made it even betterer.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mahoosuc Notch "loop"

On Sunday, Bob Poirier guided us through creeks, thickets, rocks, mud, and alpine meadow on the infamous Mahoosuc Notch "loop". Loop is in quotes because you won't find this on any AMC trail map. But the loop is there, you just need to know how to find the AT from the old logging road past Frenchman's Hole at the end of Sunday River Rd. We did the loop counter clockwise, so we began on the logging road which eventually became a poorly maintained footpath with a number of blowdowns. The footpath then became a moose trail with moose droppings about every 5-10 feet (really!). The moose trail then led us to the beautiful mountain creek that flows through Mahoosuc Notch, but we weren't too the Notch yet or a trail of any sort so we walked up the stream for about 3/4 mile until we reached the Appalachian Trail at the North (East) end of the notch.

Mahoosuc Notch lived up to expectations. It was a lot of this

and thisand this

The notch is a very narrow ravine that is basically filled with car sized boulders. There really isn't a trail and for a mile we rarely touched dirt. The rocks have sharp edges and the surfaces were not just wet, but were usually angled steeply enough to make boulder hopping precarious. In short it was, SWEET! There were many pockets of very cool air (otherwise it was 80+ outside) and we found the last remnants of winter, including small pockets of ice and snow and a beautiful, glassy icicle that was about 8 inches in diameter. This despite this being the hottest spring and summer on record in Northern New England.

We headed out of the notch up Fulling Mill Mountain and then to the three Goose Eye peaks. The peaks included lots of open (bald) ridge running through dwarf forests and alpine meadow. There were some deep mud holes that swallowed the bog bridges and twice, Floyd.

Atop West Peak of Goose Eye
The trail down from Goose Eye including more ridge running before finally dropping back into deciduous forest. The final two miles followed a beautiful stream with many fine swimming and fishing holes that should be explored soon. As the trail became less gnarly, our speed picked up and we did our last mile in probably close to 6:30. The total loop length was about 12.5 miles. I'd say we ran about 8 miles of this.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bradbury Scuffle Race Report

Moderate temps but humid air bathed 147 runners in the 3rd Bradbury Scuffle, the first of the Bradbury Mountain Trail Running Series. 147 runners? That's a wicked big trail race for these parts! Must have been all the kewl schwag donated by the gear sponsors, including Nathan, Smartwool, and Smuttynose (is beer gear?).

The scuffle course is 6 miles of rolling singletrack and snowmo trail. No big climbs and no scary descents. The singletrack is of the twisty-turny-tight modern mountain bike type, which makes Bradbury the local mecca for those folks. The snowmo trail is snowmo trail, but not rutted up by the ATV hooligans like most other snowmo trail in southern Maine.

The trail was bone dry but we had a little rain last night so I chose to run with the Inov8 Mudroc 280 to take advantage of the gnarly lugs on the twisty turny and potentially slippery turns on the single track.

After a moving tribute to Chris Douglass and a big shoutout of support for the Douglass family, there to both race and volunteer, we were off like banshees. I'm not sure why we were off like banshees because the trail is wide for the first 1.3 miles and the pecking order is long sorted out before the course made the first turn onto singletrack.

I did nothing to taper for this race, other than run 4 instead of 8 miles yesterday, so by mile 2.5 (not coincidently, not long after the bat cave trail) I was feeling ...not fast. I was hanging on to Andy Kiburis who was hanging on to David Roberts and I didn't see anyone in front of David. I did hang on to them through the end of the singletrack, passed the aid station, dumped two cups of water over my head and was ready to race the snowmo trail back to the finish. That seemed like a good plan but Andy and David also thought racing was a good idea and they slowly pulled 10 yards, 20 yards, 50 yards ahead. At about the high point of the snowmo trail, Andy and David caught Christian Muentener. On the long downhill, all three had more wheels than I and I lost them. I was hoping that all three were so caught up in racing the downhill stretch that they'd forget the 1/2 mile climb to the finish. Didn't happen. Except that I did catch Muentener on the climb - he was toast at that point. I also was catching up to someone else but ran out of trail before the finish. That someone was Peter Keeney who took AG 1st (in my AG of course). I huffed and puffed across the finish line in 7th. Andy kicked past David at the end - they finished 4th and 5th. Blaine Moore finished 1st and Stephen Wells finished 3rd (nice races guys). All the other Trail Monsters had great races and major props to Linda Douglass for 1st in AG! Wooohooo!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Running with the Buffaloes

Reading Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear is like, well, running with the Buffaloes. Specifically, the 1998 University of Colorado (Buffaloes) Men's XC team. The star of the 1998 team, Adam Goucher, is not the hero of the book. Neither is the coach, Mark Wetmore. The hero, if indeed there is one, is really the training. Lear organized the book like a really detailed training log interspersed with short biographical segments of Wetmore and the varsity runners, including Goucher. But there is too little detail of the personal lives and thoughts of the runners to get to know them. In this sense, the book differs from Mark Halberstam's The Amateurs, a short but wonderful tour of the mind of America's elite singles rowers. How can reading about 3 months of training be at all exciting? By elevating the training to be the protagonist of the story, my emotions at least rose and fell with the successes and failures of the training. I was eager to follow the progress! Indeed, the buildup to the climax - the 1998 NCAA Division I XC Championship - was made truly exciting by these ups and downs. The downs included the frequent bad days of the overworked runners, the pile (upon pile) of injuries, and worse (no spoilers here). The bad days and plague of injuries were the result of Wetmore's training philosophy, which can be summed up as 100 mile weeks in mostly singles with 4 hard runs per week. Given the competitiveness (and high testosterone) among the 18-22 year old male runners, even the easy days were rarely easy. But the many, many downs were somewhat balanced by the ups, which largely consisted of faster times in specific training runs and some successes in the occasional races leading up to the NCAA Championship. But the training was specific for the final race, so the results of the early races, including the conference and regional championships, did not and could not take away any of the excitement from the climax. So how did the Goucher and the Buffs do at the '98 Champs? You'll have to google the answer or read the book. I'd recommend the book.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Steppin' up

I've decided to step up and run a marathon this fall. This will be my first. My training is going well and I'd like to see what the distance is like. I was thinking about MDI but it closed Tuesday. Then I thought about Green Mountain and while a weekend in Vermont in the Fall would be nice, I don't want the whole weekend to be spent stressing about my first marathon. So I'm going to stay home and run the Maine Marathon. Its a nice course with a good crowd and I should know folks all along the whole route.

I'm doing MP runs every Friday. The map above is today's: 8 at 6:46/mi, 10 miles total. The target was 6:50/mi. The route is Rt. 88, which is the bulk of the Maine Marathon course. Plus this section is the hilliest section, so the rest should be gravy, right?

Based on my Mother's Day 5K, my MP is actually 6:41 but there is no way I could do that on this course running only 50 miles per week and with zero marathon experience. My initial plan was to just go run at my "easy" pace (recognizing that no pace is easy over 26 miles) but that is really not how I like to race. If I'm going to race it I'm going to race it. So my goal pace is actually about 6:52/mi, which is what I need to dip under 3 hours. This is ambitious and I recognize the likelihood of bonking is high. We'll see how the training goes.

The "plan" that I am following is Hanson's, which really doesn't differ much from how I run anyway. Longest long run of only 16 miles. Long runs every other week. Two other hard runs per week are also pretty standard: three miles of interval work at 5K pace + MP run. Later in the program 6 mile tempo runs are substituted for the interval runs (many plans have that the other way around). That's pretty much what I've been doing this spring except I've been doing hills instead of the intervals. I'm using Back Cove for my interval work. I'll continue to use that section of Rt 88 for my MP work, so I should get very used to running the course.