Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Downeast to the Downeastah: New Gloucester to Portland (5/27/13)


Ride: New Gloucester to Portland (Amtrak to Boston) West End to Winter Hill
Total Miles: 31.5
Pivo Index: 5

I met Grant on the Waterfront in Portland.  And he says: “So, you ran a 30 mile race yesterday and then rode here; are you trying to make me feel bad?”

“Well,” I said, “My friends Kate and Alex are riding all the way to Newburyport (100+ miles) after he ran the 50 mile race.”

"That doesn't make me feel bad; that's just kinda crazy..."

The day before I had run the Pineland Farms 50k, for my first ultramarathon.  So, on Memorial Day I decided - like last year - to go on a ride through Maine that eventually led me to the Downeaster.   I rode 26 miles down Route 26 into Portland and met Grant for lunch.

The owners of Novare Res have a new brew pub called In'Finiti Fermentation & Distillation.  The place was not only a brew pub but carried select high end microbrews from around Portland (and Allagash White for those who don't want to try anything new.) The beers brewed on site - a Black Abbey, an IPA and a Double IPA - were pretty good.  The Oxbow Farmhouse Pale Ale was awesome.

The food was generally meh.  The frites, burger and veggie pita were all middle of the road.  While the pretzels were really good and reminded me of Oktoberfest, they just weren't as large as the real ones (as Thomas demonstrates here).

Afterwards, Grant went to meet his wife while I rode on to the Amtrak Station and caught the Downeaster back to Boston.

More Cowbell!: Mudland Farms (5/26/13)

SRR at the Tent...

Race: Pineland Farms 50k
Location: New Gloucester, ME
Goal Time: 4:45
Actual Time: 5:47:53

At the end of the Pleistocene Epoch (10,000 years ago), the glacier that covered most of modern day Maine receded.  During the glaciation process, parts of the earth’s crusts had been pushed down up to 100 meters. Thus when the glacier had receded, the ocean poured into and flooded valleys of Southern Maine.

In places the ocean received clay sediment or rock and gravel sediment created ridges on the ocean floor.  However in some places, the sediment built up over hundreds of years to build a “glaciomarine delta.”  As the crust up lifted these deltas were raised above sea level.  These silted deltas provide great agricultural land.

Much more recently – Saturday – a huge band of clouds covered Southern Maine.  These clouds were visible accumulated groupings of frozen and liquid water droplets and vapor.  As the droplets condensed in to heavy droplets, they become heavier than air.  Once these droplets and vapors condensed into heavier droplets that were heavier than air, they were pulled to the ground – like Newton’s apple – by gravity.

So many of these droplets were pulled to the ground that they created rain: vast amounts of rain that came down in heavy sheets. These heavy sheets of rain hurdled to the ground and struck the dirt that had been built up by the aforementioned glaciomarine delta.  This water from the rain joined with the dirt on the ground to create MUD.

Even without the mud, the rain on Saturday was bad enough that Tim and I were glad we didn't pick a race and felt empathy for those who did run Saturday's races (10k, 5k, Canicross (doggy) 5k).  The hardy souls that represented SRR in the torrential downpours got our props.




By Sunday, the rain had stopped but the mud stayed on. Over the 25km course (2 loops for the 50km and 3 loops + for the 50 mile), there were vast miles of mud. And all sorts of mud: thin layers of mud in some of the woods, sneaky mud hiding under pine needles, hills that made for mud surfing.  But the worst mud was the fields and fields of ankle deep slimy mud that would continue for up to three miles, completely unarrested except for puddles so wide they could not be jumped.

These unjumpable lakes of icy Spring water were of varying – and unknown - depths.  Two were less deep than the mud.  One was knee deep.  (My first time across, I looked back at the people behind me and yelled: "Watch out that s**t is deep!")


The three-mile stretch from the 5km to the 10km mark was the absolute worst. This slipping and sliding through empty fields with the occasional icy bath for your leg. The first time through I rolled the ankle I twisted in Pittsburgh three weeks ago.

By it was the second time through that was the near death of me – and probably a moment of self-realization that every ultra runner has to deal with and accept. The pain had become so bad in my ankle that I could not get proper stability on the mud.  It was painful to run on it: Hell, it was painful to stand on it.  In these wind-swept open fields from 30km to 35km, I was slipping and sliding in pain on my right ankle as the wind hit in cold blasts at gusts of 20 mph.

I stood there a second and looked back out over these fields: noone near me, no road, no house.  I was desolate and destitute.  I imagined myself in black and white in some Ingmar Bergman existential allegory of death.  I knew that I still had 11 miles left.  I also knew that the next two miles were going to be REAL hard.  I also knew that the 9 miles after that would be comparatively easier. So I gutted out the 2 most painful miles of my running career.  As I put in three miles averaging 17 minute pace, the goals of breaking 5 or 4:30 had not only vanished, but seemed like fools' errands.


Without the ankle issue, I'm sure I would have run near 5 hours.  In the second loop, I couldn't effectively run on the deep mud or on the downhills because it hurt my ankle too much.  This left the 35 meters of flat dry trail and the uphills to be the fast parts.  Yes, let's review, the uphills in a trail race were the FAST parts of the second loop.

Until about 28 km in the race, my ankle didn't bother me too much.  It seemed like I might have dodged a bullet and pulled off something. But slowly into the first mile of the real bad mud, it dawned on me how much my ankle hurt from stabilizing.  Fortunately, I realized that I could only do what I could do.  Once I used a clever gambit of my knight and bishop to fight off Bergman's Död, I accepted my duty.


I just needed to run 9 miles through pain and just finish - DAMN YOU, PLEISTOCENE EPOCH!!!.  While I was passing 50 mile runners (and some stragglers from the 25k), many 50 km runners just blew by me in that last 9 miles.  With every step I cared less about the pain and the mileage in front of me seemed less daunting.  At 48 km, I thought I should start running hard to finish faster.  Then I thought: Why?  So I coasted in the last brutal 2km.

In the last 200 meters there is the biggest of puddles/ mud pits. Over the race a trail had been created around the puddle.  This was now filled with more mud.  I was trying to navigate through two trees off to the side, when a woman tried to push me and said: "Excuse me, I'm trying to finish..."  Well, I sprinted to the end to make sure I beat her.


As I crossed in pain but under 6 hours: Take that Död, I'm not going with your dance.  I was handed the "finisher medal:" a cowbell!


I had once listed the 5 hardest athletic undertakings:

This race moves into 2nd...


Alex White took 3rd in the 10k on Sat on 2nd in the 50 miler on Sun
Brian Tinger took 1st in the 10k and 4th in the 50 miler
D-Fizz took 2nd in the 50k
Kate Hails was 3rd in the 5k and successfully defended her 25k title
Scot DeDeo won his age group in the 50k with a 5 PR (god knows what his time would have been on a halfway decent course)
The SRR-Tree Bien Teams took 3rd overall in the 25k and 50k races
Milly ran her first trail race. 

SCOTT WITH WATER BOTTLE AND COWBELL!!  Click for Scot's blog here

Thursday, May 23, 2013

HAPPY WORLD TURTLE DAY (5/23/13): The Best Turtle Story Ever

Turtle in Argostoli Harbor

In recognition of World Turtle Day, my Red Eared Sliders - Stuart and Ernesto (or "Stunesto" as their portmanteau goes) - felt I should post something about turtles.

This story, called "The Five Most Ridiculous Minutes of my Life" is a repost from my Bikespedition-2009 blog.  It took place in Greece on the island of Kefalonia during the month I worked with sea turtles through the Katelios Group.  Originally written in July 2009 and it took place the night of Jun 30 / July 1 of that same year.  TURTLE POWER!

There is a rule that there is no smoking during night shift on the beach. But, after this ordeal, I broke that rule. I simply said, “uhhh…I need a cigarette after that.” The others laughed.

Quiet had descended upon us. As I took my second or third drag I broke the silence: “Well that was the five most ridiculous minutes of my life.” The other three concurred.

The whole thing had started about 45 minutes before. Lily and I were on Kamina Beach for night shift. We received a text message from the Potamakia team: “Turtle – Come Now.”

Lily and I made our way down the beach, walking at a good clip. We found Ian and Florian looking at a nesting turtle. Both declared this turtle a “dumb turtle.” She had only laid 20-30 eggs before coving up her nest. They had not had time to tag and measure her, which is normally done in the egg laying phase.

If you miss the tagging part, you are to grab her while she walks to the sea. Then, you stop her and tag-and-measure. Ian and I developed a simple plan:

Jesse – move first grab and stop the turtle
Ian – move in second grab her rear left flipper
Florian – move third and tag her rear left flipper
Lily – come in last and measure the carapace of the turtle.

It was quite simple and could have been effective. Any military man will tell you however, plans work well until you make contact with the objective. After that, who knows?

Well, the first part of the plan worked flawlessly. I moved in first and grabbed the turtle. It was the stopping her that was the issue. I held her for a few seconds as Ian moved in. Then however, it all went to hell.

The Mediterranean Sea Turtle can be over 100 kg (larger than me). She was surprisingly strong. As she pulled me a bit forward, Ian let go of the flipper and dove on her. I then slid down to the flipper.

“Tag her, tag her!” I yelled.

Then in a remarkably measured and calm voice I heard Lily say: “he’s lost the tag.”


Sure enough, there was Florian looking around about the sand for the tag that had dropped from the “tagging gun” [see “Meeting K206,” below]. 

“Grab another tag!”

“Shit, I can’t hold her.”

“I got another tag.”

“She’s getting away.”

Now, as Florian was busily trying to get the new tag into the tag gun and head off the turtle, Ian and I were trying to hold her back. “Shit, she’s almost to the sea.”

Ian then stood up and calmly said six words I probably will never forget: “That’s it, we gotta flip her.”

I stood; Ian pushed while I pulled from under the carapace. In surprisingly well timed work, in concert Ian and I grabbed and flipped the turtle over in one easy motion. So easily that, we almost flipped her 360 degrees back onto her feet! 

In the commotion the turtle had slapped Ian across the face. Later he was to say, “Well I did flip her over; I guess I deserved it.”

Now, we had this mammoth sea turtle on her back at the edge of the sea. She was flailing all four of her flipper and flinging sand everywhere. (She also gave Ian another slap.)

I grabbed her back left flipper (which was actually her right one as she was upside-down). Florian was able to fight through the mini turtle-created sand storm and clip tag K209 into her. 

We then flipped her back onto her feet and hastily measured her carapace and released her from our research. She walked back into the sea to probably tell the other turtles: “Fuck that shit, I’m never going back to that beach.”

This is not K209; this is the Dawn Visitor from the night before.


Tino Pai and Happy World Turtle Day to you and your turtles,

Jesse, Stuart and Ernesto

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Back on the Rails Again: DNF'ing the CRW Metric Century (5/19/13)


Trip: CRW Spring Metric Century
Distance: 52 miles cycling, 40 miles on train, 2 miles walking
Sights: Harold Parker State Forest, Groveland, Clipper City Trail, Newburyport

Corey was impressed I was so confident about what the Newburyport train schedule would be.  Well, I had just ridden it for Paddle Prattle and Saddle Skedaddle, yesterday.

Corey and I had met at the Dunkin Donuts in Davis to start the ride.  After grabbing coffee and chocolate donuts (breakfast of champions), we made our way through Winter Hill and East Somerville and then the three M’s (Meffa, Malden, Melrose) to Wakefield High School.  The Century started there.  (I am still working on my CRW triple crown, riding the Spring, Fall and Climb to the Clouds Centuries: maybe I’ll try for all in the same year next year…) 


I grabbed the cue sheet and wrist band, and we headed out.  Quickly, Corey and I – along with a third guy – got behind a group of two couples who were pulling a pace line pretty good for the first few miles.  At mile 8, the road was dug up and a little cyclocross was needed.  Somewhere in that two mile stretch, we lost the third guy.

Around Mile 10, we hit the first real hill.  One of the women in the couple dropped behind Corey and I.  This is where Corey and I probably have an advantage over group riders.  Since, he is training for Ironman Lake Placid and I just love attacking hills, we normally train alone and appeared more ready to ride the hill.  Maybe they were doing the Full Century and saving energy, or maybe they just take the hills easy and make up time on the hills and flats(?).  Whatever it was, Corey and I moved like Contador and Schleck past them up the hill.

Once we got over the hill, I just started to push it and over the next 7 miles we flew past groups while we were doing 25-28 miles an hour. 

At mile 17 we came over a slight hill and I was pushing it down at around 30mph.  I yelled something along the lines of “CRAP!!!”  as I slammed across a pothole that was maybe 2 foot by 1 foot and a mile deep.  I popped the front tire.  After a slow change and warning other groups (one of whom lost one when he popped), Corey, the new guy and I started out with me in the lead.  That’s when I noticed the back wheel.  I had f’ed up that really bad.

So over the next 8 miles, I dropped off and took the wonderful speedy looking downhills at like 15mph (Damn you Mariana TrenchPothole!).  Corey and the other guy disappeared.  I figured I’d meet them at the water stop.  Corey met me about halfway to the waterstop. 

At the Waterstop, I got a spoke wrench and attempted to “fix” the wheel.  It was “fixed” enough to be ride-able (at least, temporarily).  By the time we got to West Newbury, it was done again.  Corey mentioned the train.  If we got to Newburyport we could take the train to Boston. 


Since I vaguely knew the weekend schedule and it was only 11:00, it was a good plan.  We rode toward Newburyport and found the Clipper City Trail (Newburyport is home to the shipyards of the great Yankee Clippers that ushered in the American Era).  We grabbed lunch (and I a shake) at a Fifties diner next to the station and caught the 12:49 train back to Boston.


The hour train ride gave us time to compare and contrast enlisted and NCO ranks in the Army and Air Force and discuss Corey’s tour in Iraq.  I caught the Orange line to Sullivan Square and walked broken Ajax Telemon back through East Somerville and up Winter Hill.

Doctor Jack prescribed a beer; I had two Hop Noir, blackIPAs.

Paddle Prattle and Saddle Skedaddle: A Trip to Ipswich (5/18/13)



Distance: 16 miles cycling; 8 miles canoeing
Location: Ipswich, MA
Sights: Bradley Palmer State Park, Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary

As Urvi described it: it was one of those mornings you don’t want to get out of bed, but you knew it would be worth it once you did. I got up and made us some lunch while allowing her to sleep another half hour or so.  Then, I got her up and we got packed and ready for the day.  We left Winter Hill; and down through East Somerville and East Cambridge, I took her my new back way through the Riverpoint Park and over the Commuter Rail, through the locks and BAM into the Avon Walk to North Station.  Rare for me, we got there with comfortable time to spare.  I had 20 minutes to buy tickets and get oriented and what not before the train out to Ipswich.


As the Ipswich Train Station and the Canoe rental place are on the same street, it should be easy to get to.  AND, basically you have a 50/50 chance of heading the right way.  Guess which way we headed…

Fortunately you realize in seconds that you not heading “into the wilds” but into the quaint center of town.  A quick 180 and Urvi and I were off in the right direction. In the three mile ride from Ipswich to the Foote Brothers Canoe, Topsfield Road changes from quaint town center, to exurb residential to about as rural as you can get in Eastern Mass with horses and all~


Over the past 12 years I have done this trip maybe 15 times.  I have gone with various people and groups of varying sizes.  There was the time Johnny’s paddle broke and always the driver Joe refused to let him use the only working one so Johnny spent an hour just sitting there doing nothing.  There was the time Gabe’s mom came with us.  In 2008, there was the “Pirates of the Ipswich” trip where maybe 15 of us went.  In 2010, 
we had a fun group that is recorded on this site.

But the most memorable was probably 2004, when Jason and I flipped the canoe into the freezing water that I once memorialized in verse:

An Unexpected Icy Swim

Early in the season –
A sunny warm day the reason
To make an early run.
The Ipswich runs high and fast,
Winter’s melt flooding
The banks
And flowing the cast.
My cousin and I float
Along the steady stream
In our boat.
But a gaggle of kayakers
Cut off our angle.
And into an oak flood we get tangled.
With branches and brush
My paddle and arms get mangled.
We splash and we sploosh
And flip into the Ipswich
In a big KAPLOOSH!
We save the canoe
While watching the gorp
Float from view.
Then I swim against the stream,
And wailing,
With the fever
Of unholy fervor
And the PFD
Holding me back.
I attempt to cry out:
“Oh my God it’s cold!
Oh my God it’s cold!”
But it merely projects:

But now I got to take Urvi on another of my favorite trips.  (Ranked #8 on my Top Trips list, as of this writing).  As we waited for the canoes to be loaded aboard the trailer, we walked around the sight of Willowdale Dam.


URVI and I at the DAM

Once we got driven to Salem Road and the boats into the water, Urvi and I tried to quickly get away from the large group that had shared the van ride with us.  Then, we were out in nature: just the two of us enjoying the soft paddling on the river and the plethora of geese about. (Seems the Canada Geese have taken to the region over the past two years).  While we didn’t get any classic herons standing in the water, we did see a few flying.





Outside of the flock of Vietnamese who were having problems – exacerbated by their groupthink navigation – we didn’t run into any problems.


We pulled into Foote Brothers and bid our farewell to Canoe #9 before hitting the road back to Ipswich Town Center.



With two hours until the 6:00 train back to the City, Urvi and I had a late lunch and a couple of pints at the Choate Bridge Pub.  I got home in time to get some rest for tomorrow’s adventure: CRW Spring Century.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

That's all folks: Pittsburgh (Half) Marathon (5/5/13)

Team Hair: Jesse "He Hate Me" Morrow and Seth "Seth Tank" Maleri get ready to race

Race: Pittsburgh Marathon
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Goal Time: 3:10:00
Actual Time: 2:16:04

I heard a large cheer and looked back.  It was the leader of the marathon coming down the last few blocks.  With less than two blocks to go for me, I thought: "I should at least try to beat him."  And I started to run. But, two problems came up:

1.  If I didn't have a badly sprained ankle he probably would have been able to run 4 blocks faster than I could run 2; and,
2.  I had a badly sprained ankle.

Quickly I realized how dumb that was.

The day had started awesome.  Corral A was filled with SRRs:  Me, Dan, Anthony, Tommy B, John, Lino, Larissa and Tim Harden.

Dan and I determined to run with the 3:10 (7:15/mile) pace group.  That would have been a mistake.  By the end of mile one, Dan and I had run a 7:05 and the 3:10 pacer was GAINING on us.  By mile 3, I never saw him again.

At mile 4, we were able to get cheers from the girls: Urvi, Shark Tank, Rachel and Remlee.

We had crossed the 10k right on 3:10 pace.  Both Dan and I felt great and motored toward mile 7.  Right after mile 7 I got myself trapped on the wrong side of a median.  Dan was on the right and I was on the left behind a woman running much slower than us.  I decided to hop over the median.

That's when I twisted my ankle.

I stepped on the curb and it was over.  Within a couple of steps I knew my race was over.  But, 5 months and 1000 miles of training, I wasn't about to just quit.

So, I continued with Dan for another 2 miles.  At mile 9, I knew even the charade was over.  I told him to go on.

The split between the marathon and the half marathon was at mile 11.  After making the full marathon loop on the Southside back to the bridge crossing the Monongahela, I walked over to the half marathon side of the bridge and resigned myself to walking the rest of the half.

Walking in at 2:16:04, it was a personal worst half marathon.  I got my half medal but was placed - with 326 other people - on the list of "Did not Finish Declared Event."


SRR Shoutouts
Bradley broke 3 hours
Tommy and Anthony ran in the 3:03 range to each qualify for Boston
Larissa won the 5k
Daphne had a PR
Seth had a PR
Pam finished her first marathon.

Friday, May 3, 2013

RaceMenu Thursday Night Series #1 (5/2/13)

RaceMenu's Race #1

Goal: Don't do anything stupid
Real Time: 22:06

3 Days til Pittsburgh!

Blasting out 2.88 Miles: Spring Classic 5k (4/28/13)

Race: Spring Classic 5k
Location: Cambridge, MA
Goal Time: 19:00
Actual Time: 19:31

I pretty much listen to whatever Joe O'Leary says to do with any race and training.  One of his things is to "blast out a 5k the week before a marathon."

So, when the Spring Classic came around, one week before Pittsburgh, that's what I did - sort of.

I did really well for most of this race.  I didn't take off too fast in the first half mile;  At the 1 mile I was at 5:55 - not bad.  Then, through the second mile this 19 year old and I kept pushing each other and reining each other in when needed.  We crossed mile 2 at 11:51.  Mind you there were a few times in high school I didn't finish the 2 mile in that time.

We got to 2 and a half and I knew I was in trouble.  It was a third of a mile of telling myself: "don't vomit; don't vomit."

At 2.88, I vomited.

I recovered and ran in the rest of the way for a respectable time... but not the PR or sub-6 min/mi, I had had a chance at...