Are you a MUT?

14 August 2014, 12:00 am
Published in Blog

Are you a MUT runner? Are you not sure? Do you want to be?

Well, what exactly is a MUT runner, you may ask. MUT stands for mountain/ultramarathon/trail. This covers a wide range of running, but it brings together a very unique group of runners. The MUT running community is like no other. You will see people of all different socioeconomic backgrounds at these events. What we all share is a love for running trails, cheering each other on and enjoying each other's company.

This year I had the pleasure to introduce some friends and fellow runners to trail and mountain running. We ran the 1791 Trail Run at Berwick Academy, the Exeter Day 5K Trail Run, Mount Washington Road Race, the Loon Mountain Race, the Cranmore Hill Climb (which also served as the USATF Mountain Running Championship race this year), the Exeter Trail Race and the Kingman Farm Trail Race. Before the year's over, we'll run some more too. As you can see from the races listed, the variation is pretty significant from the Exeter Day 5K Trail Run which was run on double track, non-technical trails to the Exeter Trail Race which was run on single track and technical trails to a race up the auto road (paved and dirt) to the highest peak in the Northeast.

The overwhelming response has been along the lines of "That was great, I can't wait to run more trail (or mountain) races!" When asked about their impressions, they all said that it is so much different than road racing. You might think, of course it is! However, it's not just the difference of running on trails, dodging roots and rocks and being out in nature. It also has quite a bit to do with the atmosphere and our fellow runners.

The MUT running community is very supportive of each other. Yes, people still compete, but just as quickly someone will stop to help you or talk you through a difficult part of the race if you're struggling. We gather around the finish line waiting for the final runners and cheer for them as they cross the line. Typically, it doesn't end there. These races are usually followed by hanging out and talking with fellow runners. As with many races, you start to recognize more and more people, but you also become more and more a part of the community.

Next year I'm hoping to introduce some of these runners (and some new ones) to 'U' of MUT running. There are some great local ultramarathons, and I know that they (and you) would have a blast running them! And maybe we'll become "mountain goats" along the way (check out the USATF-New England MUT mountain series).

If you've thought about MUT running or this sounds interesting to you, let us know. Zosha Training can introduce you to the trails and an entirely new experience. Get in touch with us now to talk about how to get started.

We look forward to hearing from you ... happy trails!

Cranmore Hill Climb

20 July 2014, 12:00 am
Published in Events

Sharing the Joy

8 June 2014, 12:00 am
Published in Blog

Seeing the smile on someone else's face or hearing the joy in her/his voice provides me with the greatest reward.

When I decided to become a running coach, I made this decision based on wanting to help people find the joy in running that I have experienced. Too many people think of running as a punishment, and in many ways, society has taught us this. Many coaches in other sports use running as a punishment for messing up or not performing well. This has even resulted in t-shirts being made that read "My sport is your sport's punishment."

What most people don't realize, however, is that nothing could be further from the truth. Running can be one of the most freeing experiences. It can take away the all the day's stress. It can give time to yourself to think. It can help you make new friends with similar interests, and so much more ...

Don't get me wrong, however, running is not always easy. Sometimes you simply don't feel like it, and you have to convince yourself to go. But in the end rarely does anyone say, "I really wish that I had stayed home instead of going for a run."

One of my jobs as a coach is to help people achieve this, and there is nothing better than seeing this transformation in our clients.

A perfect example of this is a client (and now a friend) who wanted to find motivation to train through the winter and to run a winter half marathon. I started to work with him one-on-one after he had been through a few Runner's Alley's training groups. We ran together and trained a couple times a week over a 12 week period. During that time, we worked on several issues, including running form, running hills and training in winter conditions.

Over the course of training for the half marathon, what happened was not simply that our client became a better runner, but he also began to embrace running and to enjoy running. At one point, we were running hills, and I provided him some coaching on how to become a better hill runner. He began to incorporate this training, and he immediately noticed the difference. He became a more confident and happier runner. There were several of these occasions, and he still reminds me of these when we run together today.

Recently I decided to go on a run for a couple hours on a Sunday morning at Mount Agamenticus in York, Maine, and he decided to come along. This wasn't a coaching run. It was simply a training run on the trails (since I run both road and trail races). He had expessed hesitancy about running the trails before, but he decided to join in and give it a chance.

The trails at Mount Agamenticus can be challenging at times. There is climbing and technical single track mixed with non-technical double track trails. Our run started off with a climb up Mount A followed by a descent and some rolling hills around the mountain.

After a couple hours, we ended back at the parking lot. And he had really enjoyed the run and the challenges that it had brought. Once again, it was great to see the smile on his face and to have introduced him to a new aspect of running.

Zosha Training can do the same for you, regardless of what you're looking to accomplish. Let us introduce you to new experiences and show you the joys of running!

Now, let's run!

The eighth running of the Pineland Trail Running Festival took place on May 25 and 26 in New Gloucester, Maine. The festival is comprised of a series of trail races. On Saturday, a 5K, barefoot 5K, 5K canicross and a 10K took place. On Sunday, the 50 mile, 50K and 25K races were held.

I signed up for the 50K, which would be my first ultramarathon. From everything that I read, Pineland Trail Running Festival would be a good entry point. The trails are wide and non-technical, but there are still challenging, but runnable hills. My only concern was that it was scheduled two weeks after my first marathon.

One of the biggest wildcards going into the race was what the weather would turn out to be. Memorial Day weekend in New England can be cool and rainy or it can be hot and muggy. The week leading up to the race was pretty rainy. We received notification from the race director that when the first course marking were put out on Wednesday that the course was wet and the grass (part of the course crosses through mowed farm fields) was slippery so that we should plan on having wet feet for the duration of the run. But the rain only continued from there, and on Saturday, it rained all day through the 5Ks and the 10K. Plus temperatures were getting lower and lower. The projected temperature for start time was the low to mid-40s with a high for the day in the low to mid-50s. Some places in northern New England actually got snow over the weekend.

When I went to bed on Saturday night, I went to sleep with the assumption that we would be running through mud and that we’d be running in the rain for the duration of the race. I also knew that this was going to be a slow day for me. If you read my Delaware Marathon race report, you’ll recall that I was recovering from peroneal tendonitis (my ankle) for the four weeks before the marathon, so I had not run for those last four weeks leading up to the marathon. For the two weeks in between the marathon, I had managed to squeeze in a few runs and had run a total of about 21 miles (some of them on pretty dead legs). So my goal for the day was not to get a DNF and to enjoy it the best that I could. Beyond that, I threw out all my previous expectations that I had when I initially registered for the race.

So now I had to figure out how to prepare for the race with no experiences to draw from and no friends who are ultrarunners to talk to. Luckily, I had discovered Ultra Runner Podcast months ago and had been listening (and relistening to) it obsessively. [As a side note, I was originally looking for a fall race, but it was this response on March 3 from Eric or Scott of URP that made me choose something sooner: "Nice job on jumping into this wacky sport. I'd always recommend choosing an event sooner than that, but that's me."] Based on the interviews with nutritionist Sunny Blende and my marathon experience, I felt like I had a pretty good sense of what I would need nutrition-wise to be successful. My biggest concern was that I knew that my feet would be very wet and that I was concerned about blistering and tearing up my feet. Eric and Scott had interviewed Dr. David Hannaford (a sports podiatrist and ultraunner), who had recommended John Vonhof’s book Fixing Your Feet: Injury Prevention and Treatments for Athletes, which I had bought. So I spent some time reading his recommendations (one of which was a coating of Desitin Maximum Strength Original Paste).

The schedule for Sunday was the 50M would start at 6:00 AM, the 50K at 8:00 AM and the 25K at 10:00 AM. Since I live just over an hour’s drive away, I woke up early Sunday morning and prepped myself. In addition to the standard preparations of Band-aids to prevent nipple chafing and Vaseline to prevent chafing elsewhere, I applied a layer of BodyGlide liquid powder to my feet followed by a generous coating of Desitin. I then slid into a pair of Injinji toe socks (my sock of choice for long runs) and put on my New Balance MT110 trail shoes (this would be by far my longest run in these shoes so I hoped for the best). I then hopped into the car and drove north, arriving around 6:40. Thankfully the rain had stopped and it seemed like it would be a cool, overcast day for the race.

Once I arrived, I picked up my bib and t-shirt. I then began the waiting game (which is always the worst part of the day). Slowly, more and more runners began to show up (there were 206 finishers for this event). Finally, it was time to start. We were called to the start line for a quick briefing, and then we were off.

It wasn’t long before we got to see the trail conditions that we would have to deal with for the rest of the course. The course is two 25K loops, so after our first loop we’d pretty much know what to expect for the second half of the race. Within the first mile, we were already ankle deep in mud and puddles, and it was clear that there wasn’t going to be any way to avoid it (no running around the edges to avoid them, etc.). It was time to accept the conditions and to embrace them the best that we could.

At times, the mud would pose some significant challenges, especially on the downhills where it was more like skiing than running. Even if I hadn’t set aside any pace expectations prior to the start, it was very evident that today would not be a day to expect a PR.

At the beginning, I felt pretty good, slippery mud and some pretty deep puddles along the course were definitely taking their toll on me. This was compounded by the fact that the course has a fair amount of ups and downs (see the elevation profile below from my Garmin, which also showed an overall elevation gain of 2,270 feet and elevation loss of 2,267 feet). Going into the race, I had made the decision that I would walk any significant hills (at least for the first loop) to save some energy for the second half. So I followed that strategy and trudged forward.

Pineland Farms 50K

Overall, most of the way through the first loop, I was feeling pretty good. It was at that point, I heard another runner behind me greet me by name. It turned out that I knew another one of the runners. She was running the race with a friend, so I ran with them for the rest of the first loop and the beginning of the second loop. They appeared at a time when I needed a little bit of push, so I was very thankful to have them there. Part way through the second loop, however, I dropped back and continued the rest of the way on my own.

Just under six and a half hours later, I was nearing the finish line. When I was approaching the end, I was greeted by the cheering of my wife and youngest daughter who had drive up to cheer me on after my wife had run a 5K earlier in the day near home. Once again, it was that extra push that I really needed. I crossed the finish line at 6:34 (134 out of 206). Given the trail conditions, the fact that I had run my first marathon two weeks prior and that fact that I was coming off an injury that had prevented me from running for four weeks, I was pleased with my results.

Overall, this was a great event that I would recommend to anyone in the Northeast. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Wide, runnable trails — I never felt like runners were blocking me and I couldn’t get by (even in the beginning)
  • Well organized — I have no complaints from registration through completion
  • Good number of aid stations that were well stocked (although it would have been great if they had gels so I didn’t have to carry any)
  • Well maintained trails
  • Hilly, but the hills were manageable (especially if it hadn’t been so muddy)
  • Cool cowbell and a nice water bottle for the finishers
  • T-shirts, hats, etc. were optional so that registration fees could remain reasonable
  • Many “repeat” runners who had run the event in previous years, which is always a good indication of an event worth running

Like many other ultrarunners, I spent the few hours of the race thinking that this would probably be my first and only ultramarathon. Now that it’s a day later, however, I’m sitting here writing this report thinking about the possibility of my next event. I’ve already registered for a fall marathon, isn’t it time to register for a fall ultra too?

As I was posting my race report for the Market Square Day 10K, I realized that I never wrote a report for the 1791 Trail Run 5K at Berwick Academy. So here it goes …

Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to run this race. There were a few factors that were going against it: (1) I had run the Pineland Trail 50K the previous Sunday and (2) my youngest daughter had a day-long softball tournament at school on that same day. However, I was interested and I wanted to support some friends that were helping to organize the run.

As the morning of the race rolled around, my body was feeling pretty good (issue #1 eliminated) and I found out that my daughter’s first softball game of the day didn’t start until 10:15. Since Berwick Academy is located a couple miles away from my house, this would give me time to run the race, go home, take a shower and then get to my daughter’s school (issue #2 eliminated). So I got ready for the race and was on my way.

This was the inaugural running of the race, and the field was small (48 finishers). I arrived about 45 minutes before the race, paid my $20 (which got me a t-shirt and a cinch bag). Most of the runners were students or parents with a smattering of other runners such as me.

The race took place on Saturday, June 1, which turned out to be very warm with a touch of humidity. It had rained a little bit during the week, so we would expect to find a little bit of water on the course, but not much.

Let’s talk about the course. It was not a traditional trail race. It was (not surprisingly) a cross country course. What do I mean by this? Some of the course went along the soccer field and along the lawns of the campus as well as through trails in the woods. But no complaints from me. It was all very runnable.

The trails were well maintained and non-technical. There were a few spots with some incline that posed a challenge to runners as well as one area with a slightly aggressive downhill. In places there were some roots, but for the most part, the trail was flat and packed with very few rocks and roots to get in the way.

I had not great expectations for my performance for the day. I ran an 8:44 pace (which placed me 12th overall and 2nd in my age group), nothing stellar but it was a good recovery run.

At the finish, there was plenty of water as well as a nice selection of breads other things to eat.

If you’re curious about trail running or new to trail running, I would definitely recommend running this race next year. Assuming no schedule conflicts, you can expect to see me there too!

Race Report: Loon Mountain Race 2013

18 July 2013, 12:00 am
Published in Race Reports

When I told people that I was going to run the Loon Mountain Race (LMR), the immediate assumption was that it was a trail race around Loon Mountain. When I told them it was a trail race up Loon Mountain, this immediately changed the tone and nature of the conversation. The typical response was along the lines of “better you than me.”

Quite honestly, the LMR was not on my original list of races for the year. However, it did enter my radar (ever so briefly) earlier in the year when I first heard about the race. But then I set any thoughts of running it aside and went back to my original race plans.

As the date of race approached, however, LMR resurfaced. I had some friends who would be running, and I decided a couple weeks prior to the race to join in. Based on this timeline, it’s easy to see that I had not been actively training for a mountain race. Even though I have been increasing my mileage and am training for a fall marathon, a mountain race is a completely different beast. I hadn’t even been running very big hills (maybe 300-400 feet of elevation gain on an average run). And I somehow convinced my wife to join me too!

The race was held at the Loon Mountain Resort (a ski resort in northern New Hampshire) in Lincoln, NH. After getting up early and driving a little less than two hours to Lincoln, we picked up our bibs and settled in on the banks of the Pemigewaset River before the 9:00 start time.

Around 8:45, we all gathered around the start line and tried to hear the pre-race announcements (which were unintelligible for the most part from where we were standing). The race started, and we were on our way.

The course starts off with some winding trails with a small amount of incline and quickly changes into a climb, much of it runnable (if you have trained for it). Since my wife and I were in it just to have fun for the day, we had to keep reminding ourselves to look around and enjoy the views (whether it was the beautiful vistas or the wildflowers or the wild strawberries along the course).

There were a few points when we thought that the course couldn’t get steeper (even though we knew it would). But then there was just enough leveling off or downhill to take our minds off of it. That is until we finally hit the Upper Walking Boss trail which was saved for the very end of the race. Upper Walking Boss is a double black diamond ski trail with an average 40% grade over the course of approximately one kilometer (0.62 miles). Upper Walking Boss was a challenge to even walk up, but we did it!

After an hour and thirty-eight minutes on the trail, we finally crossed the finish line … approximately 5.5 miles and 2,700 feet later. There were some great runners who had already finished the race hanging out at the finish line to cheer on the rest of the finishers, and it was a great welcome!

After rehydrating and hanging out at the summit for a little while, we got into the gondola and rode down to the base. We stayed around for the awards ceremony and the raffle. I had been told that there is always a great raffle. There were quite a few prizes given away, including free pairs of Scott running shoes, supplement powders and maple syrup. And I ended up winning a pair of Scott running shoes (which I will review once I spend some time running in them)!

Overall, acidotic Racing did a great job with race. Everything went smoothly, and there was a great group of runners. If you haven’t run any trail races or spent any time with the trail running community, I highly recommend that you do so as soon as possible.

After the mental fatigue of running trails up Loon Mountain wore off, I realized how fun mountain races can be. I even signed up for the Cranmore Hill Climb (race review to follow) on July 21.

1791 Berwick Academy Trail 5K

31 May 2014, 12:00 am
Published in Events