I didn't plan to run twice today, but my aunt offered to walk Finn down to the playground at lunch and I took the opportunity to go for an easy run on Grist Mill Road in Keene.
AM: 3 easy road.
It was over 90 degrees in the sun, so for my evening run I decided to hit the trails for the shade and breeze up high. The Nundagao Ridge isn't very runnable but it's close to home and I was OK with a slow pace. Still, every time I do it I forget how overgrown and not conducive to running it is. Better as a leisurely hike.
PM: 5.5 easy trail.
I'm psyched to be feeling this good in my "recovery" week. My mileage should end up being around 60, which is more than I'd planned, but with only two more weeks until the 10-day hiking camp I think I can afford to push myself.
Total Miles: 8.5mi
Weekly So Far: 40mi
Racing the Patch Sprint.
Total Mileage: 39.5mi
Elevation Gain: 4400'
Goal: Taper and race Patch Sprint on Saturday.
There's not much to say about tapering: I based each day's workout on feel and ended up running a little less than I'd planned but I guess it went well because I felt great on race day. I'll let my Patch Sprint race report speak for the rest of this week.
Looking Ahead: My next race is the Wakely Dam ultra on July 27th. It's 32 miles, so I need to start increasing the length of my long runs and continue to put in moderately high weekly mileage. June is a very busy month for me and it will be difficult to run as much as I'd like--this will be my biggest challenge in the next few weeks. A 10-day backpacking trip later in the month will offer great cross-training but no running. I hope to get some quality workouts in before the trip.
Descending Rattlesnake. Photo by Jim Kobak
I ran the Patch Sprint in Willsboro, NY for the first time this weekend, and came away with the feeling that this is one of the best running events I've ever attended. The story of the day was the weather, but the real story for me is the way this small, little-known race/run/hike has turned into something truly extraordinary. And I didn't even get to experience the summit party, which would have likely been the highlight of the day in nicer weather. I can't wait for 2014!
The event: The Patch Sprint is a race (or fun run/trek) to climb four small Adirondack mountains. It has a long history, but in short the race started as a small private competition in the late 90s and opened to more runners in 2000 as a charity event. It has grown steadily since then, with nearly 100 racers starting the 2013 edition.
This is a camp Pok-O-MacCready affair. Sure, there are a few outsiders like me, but it feels more like you're at a family reunion than a race. In addition to 100 runners there must have been another 100 volunteers and spectators, most of whom are part of the extended Pok-O family. I felt privileged to be welcomed into this family for the day.
The race directors, Tim (Skip) Singer and Greg Henderson, do a remarkable job. As race director for a small event myself I know it's a lot of work. These guys do twenty times what I do. A glance at the web site will give you an idea what I mean. The web site, and the organization of the event itself, rivals that of much bigger trail runs that I've been a part of. Singer even goes so far as to make predictions on the finish time of every racer, complete with a short description or anecdote to explain his prediction. He picked me to win and set a course record, so the pressure was on!
Training: I trained hard specifically for this race for two months. Tagging along with a small crew for six short Thursday evening "races" on the course taught me everything I needed to know about the terrain, and how it feels to run it fast. Five longer days on the course honed my body and mind for racing the full distance, including running the entire course at a moderate pace and two very race-specific workouts during which I ran both halves of the course at my projected race pace. A look back at my training log tells me I spent nearly 24 hours and covered 132 miles on the course in April and May. I owe a big thanks to Jay Fiegl, my main Sprint training partner, and Jim Kobak, organizer of the Thursday training races, for teaching me the course and giving me the motivation to get out and run it.
In addition to running on the course I put in a bunch of easy road running to average 55 miles per week for a strong aerobic base and ran intervals on the road or track once a week to build speed and strength on the flats (even though this is a mountain race I'd say flat, fast terrain makes up about 1/3 of the race by time and nearly 1/2 by distance).
Race day: With five days to go the weather was looking great for race day. Rain mid-week was supposed to taper off on Friday, leaving cool temperatures and cloudy skies on Saturday. To the dismay of most racers (especially those who came from afar with only shorts and t-shirt, like winner of the last three Sprints and course-record holder Cole Starkey) it continued to rain all week, only increasing in intensity on Friday and Saturday, with temps dropping below 40 for the day of the race.
The weather on race day was tough, but the real issue was the terrible footing caused by multiple inches of rain from Wednesday to Saturday. Descents were treacherously slippery, ascents turned to riverbeds in places, and flats were often muddy or flooded. After running the course in near perfect conditions all spring it was definitely a wake-up call when both feet became completely waterlogged about 3 minutes into the race and remained soaked in water or covered in mud for the next two hours.
I went out comfortably hard, hoping to gain enough of a lead on the Bare ascent to run alone for the duration of the race. I was worried that running neck-and-neck would cause me to go too fast early on in the race as I fed off the energy of another racer. This worked in theory: after summiting Bare with maybe a 20-30 second lead (in 9:25, 20 seconds ahead of my split) I felt confident enough to settle into my planned pace and run my own race. I had used my two most race-specific workouts to establish split times that I felt were realistic on race day after a good taper, and as I turned around to descend Bare I still hoped to hit my splits.
Photo courtesy of Tim Singer.
Unfortunately I immediately began to see the effects of the conditions, as my slipping and sliding "controlled fall" down Bare to the 1812 Homestead was slow by 12 seconds. I would lose another 1m15s by the time I was back at the Homestead after the second peak (Rattlesnake), even with the added incentive of seeing fellow newcomer Cullen Roberts hot on my heels coming off the summit. Running on pavement was a nice reprieve and I finally hit another split on Reber Road, but I arrived at the half-way mark of the race almost one minute behind my goal pace despite having run significantly harder than I'd planned.
I felt like I flew up Sugarloaf, but elected to hike some of the slicker sections down low that I normally run (split: 35 seconds slow). The 'Loaf descent was in surprisingly good shape, and the dirt road and flat trail (Fiegalley) that follow the descent were fine too aside from the foot-deep stream running over the road at one point. I pretty much nailed those three split times. I got a big boost of energy as I approached the Poke-O trailhead on route 9, with lots of runners and spectators (including my friend Patty) and some great cheers from the aid station. Turning off the road I checked my watch: 1:39:30--1m30s behind schedule--still time to break two hours if I could just hit my last split up Poke-O.
I took ten strong bounds up the steep trail with the cheers of the aid station behind me, feeling optimistic and ready to give it my all for another 20 minutes. I was on top of the world--and then I started walking backwards.* Immediately I knew that 2hrs was out of the question. Could I still break 2:02 (the course record)? The rest of the climb was a blur. I hiked until I was about to pass out, then stopped for a breath or two (in one moment of weakness I took three) and hiked again. I pushed hard, knowing that I could be passed at any minute. Breaking into a run again above the chimney, I asked my legs for whatever they had left. I passed a spectator who started cheering my name and following behind me, letting the crowd at the summit know I was coming.
Cheers from the top rang out as I took my last strides and stopped my watch, hugging Skip in relief and happiness and noting to myself that I'd managed to break the record with a 2:01:43. I took a few steps over to my mom, who had carried my gear to the top, and my wife, who had brought a friend's gear. Stripping off my wet clothes and getting into warm layers was the only priority. A short time later I noticed that the spectator who had cheered me to the finish was Robin Gucker, a good friend who was one of the first people I got to know in the Adirondacks. I hadn't recognized her in her winter gear. Cullen Roberts finished second a few minutes behind me and immediately collapsed on the summit rocks in his shorts and singlet with a volunteer quickly attempting to wrap him in a space blanket.
Shivering almost uncontrollably in my three layers and space blanket, I vaguely hugged my family, thanked the volunteers and asked Cullen his name, congratulating him on a good race. Then I made my way off the summit to seek warmth in the trees, carrying a bottle of chocolate milk in one hand and a partially eaten protein bar in my pocket in the hope that I'd warm up enough to take in some calories. After an unsuccessful attempt to eat some more I asked my mom for the car keys and started hiking faster, needing some artificial heat as soon as possible. I saw a few friends on their way to the finish and got to cheer them on, then made a beeline for the car. By the time I neared the bottom I had warmed up enough to walk and chat with a fellow runner, Kurt Schuler, who had finished in a very good time. The car was a welcome sight, and after a while with the heat on high I felt good enough to eat and drink, then headed home for a shower and more food.
My mom and I returned for the banquet and awards ceremony at Pok-O later in the evening, and I was once again extremely impressed by the community that the event brings together. Next year's race is already on my calendar, and I hope it's just as epic as this one! Thanks to Skip, Greg and all the volunteers who came out in the cold to make it happen. If you're reading this and the Patch Sprint is new to you I strongly suggest you mark your calendar for March 2014 when registration opens. This is one race you shouldn't miss!
*Walking backwards: The running sensation in which it feels like every step is taking you farther away from your goal. This feeling is not uncommon among first time Patch Sprinters, I'm told. "One must leave extra fuel in the tank for the grueling final climb." "More than one racer has been passed on Poke-O." "Most people take about 25 minutes up on race day." Blah blah blah. So said my Jedi masters at the BEAST training sessions. I ignored them: maybe they were susceptible to this kind of weakness but the force is strong in this one.
My Best Results:
7/31/16: Escarpment Trail Run 18mi
1st place, 3:01:12
7/18/15: Wakely Dam 33mi
1st place, 4:45:01, Course Record
6/21/14: Manitou's Revenge 54mi
1st place, 10:50:34, Course Record
4/21/14: Boston Marathon
10/13/13: Mohawk Hudson Marathon
11th place, 2:49:49
9/29/13: Vermont 50
3rd place, 6:40:29
5/25/13: Patch Sprint 12.5mi
1st place, 2:01:43, Course Record