Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Altra Lone Peak shoe review

Altra Lone Peak
When the Altra Instinct came out I was psyched.  Finally there was a cushioned zero drop shoe with a fantastic toe box.  You can read my review of the shoe here.  When I first discovered Altra, the shoe I was really looking forward to was the Lone Peak.  After reaching out to Altra and telling them about my PPS they emailed and said that they would like to sponsor my attempt.  They sent me a pair of the Instincts for free and gave me a discount on 2 additional pairs.  I wore them for the Western States 100, the Vermont 100 and part of the Leadville 100. 

As the summer wore on the release for the Lone Peaks kept getting delayed.  I couldn't wait for the additional traction and protection that the shoe promised.  When they finally came out my summer of racing was over.  Altra Co-Owner Brian Beckstead reached out to me recently and told me that Altra would love my feedback on the shoe now that it was out.  Originally they had promised to send me a pair for free when they were available.  For some reason, perhaps because my race schedule for the year was complete, Brian said that I could buy a pair at a discount.  At this point I have been using several other shoes as my go-to trail shoes, most notably the New Balance MT110's and Brooks Pure Grits.  I really did not need to buy another pair of shoes, but I had been waiting for these shoes to come out for almost 6 months and I do love the Instincts.  So I decide to take Brian up on his offer and bought a pair.
Notice how hard I'm pushing on the heel.  The sole feels like it's made out of steel.  It doesn't flex.
For comparisson, my Instincts with similar (if not less) pressure applied at the same point.

When they arrived I was super surprised at how stiff they were.  The addition of a rock plate and the additional stack height had turned the familiar shoe into a very rigid one.  I ordered the shoes a 1/2 size smaller on Brian's recommendation and I'm glad I did, as they fit well.  Once again, the toe box is excellent.  Nice and wide with plenty room to splay my toes.   But wearing them around the house the felt noticeably stiffer than the Instincts.  I put them in the closet where they stayed for a while. 

Much better traction than the Instinct
Finally I decided to give them a whirl and took them out for a 16 mile jaunt.  Within the first 100 feet I knew that they were a different animal than the Instincts.  My foot felt like it was trapped in a container, rather than being part of an instrument meant to enhance running.  My heel was rubbing up and down against the rear of the shoe with every step because the sole was so stiff that the shoe wasn't flexing with my steps.

Great Toebox
As the run continued onto the trails the shoe felt better, but still too stiff.  My foot had no ground feel whatsoever and the lack of lateral flexibility was frustrating.  The increased traction (over the Instincts) was a noticeable improvement.  One thing I noticed right away was that the rudder type thing on the back of the shoe was rubbing my opposite calf a lot and became rather irritating.  If I use these shoes again I am going to cut it off first.  I can't see that it serves any purpose. 

Calf hair remover....
Eventually I ran through a stream and discovered another issue.  The shoe doesn't drain.  More specifically, the insole is made of a squishy rubber that seems to absorb water like a diaper and then holds it against the bottom of your foot for the rest of the run.  It never dries out.  My feet were wet for the entire run, even though I ran through the water within the first few miles.  This would be a fatal flaw for me if I was going to run 100 miles in them.  I can't imagine how bad my blisters would be.

Honestly, I'm disappointed.  I love my Instincts and had such high hopes for this shoe.  It is so over built for my needs and feels just like the shoes I've been so happy to get away from since moving towards more minimal shoes.  Here's how it ends up for me:

Pros -
Excellent shaped last
Tons of toe room
Zero drop
Huge amount of protection from rocks, etc.

Con's -
Stiff sole
Stiff upper
Doesn't drain
Doesn't move with my foot

If you are looking for a Sherman Tank off road shoe with a zero drop this is your shoe.  For me, it's just to much shoe and lacks the elegance that I'm looking for in an off road shoe.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Give it to me one more time! - Bartram 100 Race Report

Welcome to middle Georgia!
 On November 30th I posted on Facebook  "I really would like to run 100 miles...soon."   As much as I didn't want to admit it, I was kind of depressed about how my season had ended. Even though I had successfully completed three difficult 100's the last DNF's we what stuck most in my mind. 

I hadn't planned on doing any more races and I had backed way off my training.  As a matter of fact, I wasn't "training" at all.  What I was doing was simply running for the love of running.   For the first time in years, I wasn't following a training plan, and I was falling in love with running again.  Which lead to me posting that I wanted to race again.   I certainly hadn't planned on doing another one, but I wanted a chance to redeem myself.   I was a little bit afraid that I might be biting off more than I can chew, and the possibility of having to endure another DNF would crush me.  But at the same time, I've never been afraid to challenge myself and doing one more race might give me the chance to end the year on a more positive note.

One of my Facebook friends recommended that I check out the Bartram 100 in Georgia, only two weeks away.  Only in it's second year, Bartram is a loop course with the competitors running a 6.25 mile loop 16 times.  The few pictures I could dig up on Google showed nice single track and woods running with only about 300 ft of elevation gain/loss per loop.  After talking with Amy and getting her blessing I decided to go for it.

Hometown feel, its like the Anti-Leadville

I checked in and picked up my race number Friday night and was pleased to meet a bunch of very friendly nice people.  The start/finish line was right next to a covered area with picnic benches and a great place to put my bag of supplies for the race.   I went back into the town of Milledgeville and checked into the hotel.  After seeing that it had a microwave and fridge I went to the Piggly Wiggly and bought dinner and breakfast for the next morning.  After a nice dinner of rice and avocado I retired early in hopes of getting a good nights sleep.

You'd think I'd be able to take a clear picture with an automatic camera.

I arrived at 6:30 the next morning just in time to set up my support bag and be ready for the 7am start.  Since they had an aid station set up about 1/2 way through the loop it meant that all I had to carry was a handheld bottle.  My strategy was to eat a gel at each aid station or every 30 to 45 minutes.  For fluids I would drink the Gatorade that was provided at both stations.  I filled up my bottle, ate a gel, put another in my bottle pocket and was ready to go.

Start/Finish Line on left

Without any fanfare or pretense the RD sent us off and just as the sun was rising we were on our way.  Let me do my best to give a course description.  Since I was so focused on doing my best here I didn't take any pictures, so this is from memory.  After 16 laps of the course, I know it like the back of my hand.

Starting line reservoir

The course starts off around a tiny resevoiur and then bears left onto a hardpacked singletrack.  Shortly the single track goes uphill for the steepest climb in the 6.25 miles.  It is easily run and does not go that far.  At the top it goes left through a field then bears right, all at a slight uphill, through a small cultivated forest.  Next is a junction where you head left for the short out and back section.  This is the place on the course where you can check out how far ahead or behind your competitors are.  After you go into the woods it comes to a dead end where you go around three cones and then head back where you came from.  At the junction you bear left where you follow some powerlines.

Halfway up this hardpacked dirt road it becomes a little hill that goes for about 1/4 mile.  At the top you bear right onto some grassy trails that goes downhill.  This part is a little tricky because what looks like nice soft grass has 2-3" sharp railroad type rocks scattered about.  After it goes down hill for a ways it goes back up.  Again, this incline is easily run.  The trail turns left for a short ways through another cultivated forest where the trees are in perfect rows, like the tombstones at Arlington.  At the end of this section you take a left.  At this point you can actually see the start line strait ahead, but it is still a couple miles away if you follow the course.  This is where the midway aid station is located.  There is a table with gels, heed, gatorade and water.  Throughout the day new surprises showed up on the table, like bowls of Mike and Ike candies.  There is also a porta potty, which I never had to use.

After a left through the woods and a short uphill, the trail turns right and goes downhill thorugh a nice grass trail into the woods.  A short woods section complete with man made bridges eventually puts you out to the last climb of the trail, again, easily run when you are fresh.  At the top of the hill you bear right and go down a long open exposed road where there are more stones to watch for.  Then you take a right back into nice single track trails for a while until you get back to the start/finish.

For the first 3 or 4 laps I was finishing each lap in about an hour.  I knew that there was no way that I could keep up a 16 hour pace, but I didn't see the point in purposely slowing down any since I was running easy and very comfortable.  My fueling strategy was working very well and I was feeling excellent.  I had a feeling early that it was going to be one of those days where I was strong.  I spent quite a bit of time in the early laps talking to Tony Portera.  Tony is from NY and it turns out we have a lot of mutual friends.  He was running very strong and looks poised and relaxed.  He was great company and we frequently reminded each other that we were going out way to fast.  But we both still kept running all the hills...For most of the morning we were running in 4th and 5th place and we couldn't believe the pace of the two front runners.  The leader was putting at least 5 minutes on us per lap!

Eventually Tony said that he just had to purposely slow down his pace so he dropped back a bit.  I started to walk in 4 places, but never for very long.  Just long enough to change up the muscles that I was using.  I decided that my strategy would be to try to not walk any more than I was doing on those laps and see if I could just keep up the pace.

New Balance MT110s

I was wearing my New Balance MT110 shoes with my favorite Wright socks.  This is the exact same combo that I used for the first 70 miles of Leadville.  Again I was perfectly blister free and happy to be so!  I hit the 50 mile point in 8 hours and 33 minutes feeling good, but the shoes were starting to get thin under my feet and my hips were getting very tight.  I decided to do a quick sock and shoe change.  I changed into my Brooks True Grits and took off.  I might have spent 5 minutes at that stop.

Brooks Pure Grit

The sole of the shoe felt much better and offered way more cushioning and protection from the rocks, but it wasn't more than another couple of miles that I knew that I was going to have a problem with the toes on my right foot.  Two of them were rubbing on the top and front of the shoes and I realized that my feet were probably larger than normal due to swelling.  I hadn't anticipated that!  I made a vow to myself at that point that I wasn't going to change for the rest of the race and I would simply stick it out no matter what type of shape my feet were in.  I was super focused on moving forward at all times and and not wasting any time.  I even continued to walk when I had to pee.  It sounds stupid, but looking back at what happened at the finish line (eventually I'll get to that) it was a smart decision.

With my music blasting and the sun setting I continued to put in the laps.  The hardest part was running a 2 mile stretch where there was no place to walk.  Every lap I continued to push myself to not walk in this area even though I was getting more and more tired.

Somewhere around the 10th-12th lap I started to feel very sick to my stomach.  I was completely repulsed by the gels I was eating and by the Gatorade I was drinking.  I knew that I had to eat at all cost but even the though of eating a gel grossed me out.  As I was starting one of the climbs I was completely overwhelmed by a need to throw up.  Damn, I hate throwing up.  My attitude was still good though.  I actually laughed as I stopped and started to dry heave.  I have never puked during a race before and I felt like it was a right of passage.  After three hard heaves the feeling went away.  I didn't throw up.  I have no idea why not, but I kept moving and ate a gel as soon as I could.

As I got to the midway aid station I decided to try a cup of heed.  Most runners I know stay away from the stuff as they say that it bloats them and makes them sick.  At this point I had to try anything other than what I was doing.  I drank a cup and instantly felt better.  It wasn't sweet and it settled my stomach.  I was psyched.  Major problem solved, at least for now.  I dumped the Gatorade out of my bottle, filled it with heed and took off to finish another lap.

When I got the start finish I asked if they had any turkey.  They did and I took off for my next lap with 4 or 5 slices.  My new secret weapon.  Turkey and Heed.  Hey, it worked!  I started to feel very good and was moving well.  I kept putting in the laps and with about 4 to go I asked how far the leader was in front of me.  He was 55 minutes ahead and I was in second place.  I put my head down and just kept hammering.  With two laps to go I asked again how far behind I was and I was told about 35 minutes, but the leader was slowing down.  I told them I was going to make a race of it and took off.

I was feeling good and just doing my best to keep my pace up.  I had the bit between my teeth, but honestly was more concerned about breaking 20 hours than winning.  I could be pretty happy with second place!!  On the last lap I was still feeling good so I decided that I should give it everything that I had.  I ran every single step and all the hills.  About 2 miles from the finish I came upon a runner who was stopped and holding his legs.  I asked if he was ok as I passed by and he said yes.

He didn't look familiar to me.  Could that be the leader that I just passed?  Holy crap, was I in the lead?  I became really motivated to not let him catch me if he was.  I was running scared and flying.  Shortly after I passed a slower runner and his pacer, a person that I recognized as one of the race directors.  They asked me if I had seen a guy earlier with a white jacket.  I said that I had, he was just a little ways back.  I asked if he was the leader and they said no.

I was pretty bummed, but there was no reason to slow down.  Since I was flying, why not finish strong and get the best time possible.  The pull of the finish line was in full effect and as the finish line came into sight I passed another runner who was moving pretty slowly.  As I blew by him I quickly realized that he was sprinting to catch me.  It was the leader!!!  I ran as hard as I could and crossed the finish line before him with a time of 19:19:43.  His time was 19:19:45.  I won by 2 seconds and set a course record.  I still can't believe that after 100 miles only two seconds separated us!!!

I felt terrible for him, but at the same time I had just won my first race!  I tried to keep the tears from coming but I did get pretty misty eyed after.  I was in shock.  I had a very tough time getting to the car when I tried to pack up an hour later.  My left hip flexor was so tight that I couldn't lift my leg to walk!  The next day at the airport I looked like a penguin walking.  My feet were bruised up from smashing on the rocks.

Earlier this year when I DNF'd at the Bear, I learned my most important lesson from all these races.  If you don't want it bad enough then you won't do your best.  I wanted to do well at this race so badly that it was worth the risk of another failure. All week before the race I spent time imagining doing well and erasing all doubt from my mind.  I was focused and driven. When things got tough I was able to push through.

This was a great race with nice people and a real home town feeling.  For my win I got....nothing.  No buckle, no finishers award, no medal.  And that is perfectly alright with me.  The feeling of satisfaction that I got out of it is better than anything anybody could have given me.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Brooks Pure Grit Shoe Review

In March I ran across a post on about the Brooks Pure Project.  As I was training for my Potentially Painful Summer I was contemplating what shoe I would use for tacking all these 100 mile races.  I wanted a shoe that had a minimal upper, less than 4mm heel/toe differential and sufficient cushioning and protection to run 100 miles.  The Brooks Pure Grit grabbed my attention.  On paper it looked like the perfect candidate.

I did everything I could to get a pair of pre-production shoes, but I just couldn't make it happen.   Finally early last month I got my hands on a pair of them.  Because I like lots of room for my toes I normally buy a size 11 in my running shoes, even though my foot measures more in the range of 10-10.5.  I got a pair of 11's and did a few short runs before my run across NH.  The shoes were simply to large for me, but since I did end up wearing them for over 40 miles of paved roads that day.  They turned out to be a really good road shoe with sufficient protection for long pavement runs. 

 A few weeks ago I ended up giving them to my younger brother, who loved them.  I bought a pair of 10.5's which fit my entire foot much better.  I used them for pacing my friend Adam for the last 32 miles of the Pinhoti 100.  I was in them for 10 hours.  I then used them last weekend for a 28 mile run that consisted mostly of pavement, but also had 15 miles of rocky rail trail.

I never encountered anything that technical during either one of those runs, besides some rocky single track at Pinhoti.  So when Pete from asked me to do a shoe review I decided that I better try them for a more technical run to better analyse them.  So this morning I headed out on a 15 mile trail run on the local snowmobile trails to put them through their paces.

I started with a mile of paved roads before I ducked into some of my favorite trails.  The trails were rocky and covered with leaves for the first couple of miles until I hit my first steep climb.  As I continued with the run I threw everything I could at them.  One thing I hadn't tested yet was their ability to drain.  I am glad to report that I ran through every waterhole, stream and puddle that I could and these shoes are remarkable at shedding water quickly. 

Post-run.  Ended up in a swamp buried up to my crotch.  All in the name of testing drainage...

I am a little bit mixed on my feeling on the traction.  I actually ended up ass over teakettle when I tried hit an off camber section.  The side traction isn't awesome.

Unique traction pattern.
I had no trouble with normal climbing and descending.  Over the course of the run I encountered loose leaves, pavement, rocks, mud, sand, water, swamps and nice sticky single track.   I even ended up stuck in a swampy bog up to my crotch.  It only looked like a puddle...

All that being said, here are my personal Pro's and Con's of these shoes.


Toebox.  I'm not sure if I have unusual shaped feet, but the toebox in the big toe area is very pointed.  It looks like it has been extended, perhaps to fit in the Brooks cameltoe thingy.  To illustrate my point, here is a picture of my feet on the footbeds. Because of the rapid slope of the toebox my outside two toes end up rubbing slightly against the front of the shoe.

I wore socks to spare you the horror that are my bare feet.
Arch support.  I have become very use to shoes that don't have arch support.  As a result I no longer have PF.  The arch support in this shoe has started to aggrevate it.  Not a good thing.

Too much arch support for my tastes.
Nav Band.  It just doesn't do anything.  I do have a low volume forefoot, so perhaps those of you with weird gangly tall forefeet will love it.  For me it is simply a nice place to tuck in the long laces.

Nav Band is too loose to do anything.

Overall Fit.  They don't wrap around my feet the way some of my favorite shoes do.  The New Balance MT110 is still the gold standard which I measure all trail shoes against as far as fit.  The Grits allow my foot to twist in the shoe when side traversing.  Its not severe, but it is still there.

Comparison in shapes.  PG insole, NB MT110, my foot.


Cushioning.   The BioMoGo sole does a great job of protecting your feet, offering lots of cushioning, while still being flexible.

Great cushioning, low heel rise, incredible draining powers

Minimal heel rise.  The forefoot/heel delta is only 4mm.  This allows a nice neutral mid/forefoot stride.

Drainage.  This is one of the quickest draining and drying shoes that I have ever used. The uppers material is excellent at shedding water.

Overall Usability.  If I could only have one pair of shoes (God forbid) these would probably be the ones.  They have enough cushioning to run 40 miles of roads.  They have enough protection to run rocky trails.  They drain well enough to run in mud and muck all day and they allow for and encourage a midfoot stride. 

I'd really like to see this shoe have less (or none) arch support and a more rounded toebox.  For now, those few flaws aren't enough to keep my feet out of them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

RANH part II - Into the Night

Into the night!  Manchester NH
This is Part II of my report of the Run Across New Hampshire.  For part I click here.

It was now 6pm as Team Robert gathered up their gear I said my goodbye's and thank you's to my family.  It was starting to get cold and the sun was rapidly setting.  I was really sad to see my family go, but at the same time I felt like I hit a milestone by reaching the hand off point for the last section of the run.  Only 50 miles to go!

Hoka Bondi B - my "Clown Shoes"
I changed into my Hoka Bondi B shoes.  My Brooks Pure Grits had worked great for the last 40 miles, but I was just looking forward to the extra cushioning that the Hoka's give.  We said goodbye to the girls, and then Josh and I took off down the Goffstown rail trail.  As we ran into the dark I felt a sense of relief to be running with somebody.  Our conversation flowed like water and I was very thankful to be running with Josh.  We marveled at the trails steep drop off and my shin was feeling much better since changing shoes.  I was very optimistic that this would be the year that I finished the run!

Goffstown Rail Trail during the day.

By the time we finished the rail trail and headed into Manchester it was a little before 8pm.  I was in great spirits and running with Josh was really helping the time fly by.  As we ran though the upper village towards the bridge we joked about how nuts we looked.  As people walked into stores they seemed a little confused by seeing two guys with backpacks, reflective gear and headlights running through town.

When we hit the long hill going away from town up Bridge street we decided to just walk.  I had forgotten how steep that hill gets!  Again I struggled with having patience.  It seemed like it was taking forever to get up that hill.  As we got near the top the moon was incredible.  It was almost full and it was HUGE.  It really looked like the moon was sitting on top of the hill.  Little things like that really distract me from how my body feels when doing a big run like this.  I try to appreciate those moments as much as possible and when I do I kind of forget the physical pain for a moment.

Loni and Leah
 As we got to the top of the hill Leah was ready with food and drink.  I hung out there for a while and was getting pretty tired.  Grant decided to run with me for a while and Josh took a break.  I had only met Grant once.  Last year in the winter all of us ran the Goffstown rail trail together.  Grant is a really nice guy, full of enthusiasm for running.  As we made our way over to the rail trail we got to know each other more and talked about shoes a lot.  It turns out that he reads my blog and knew a lot of things about my life from it.


I was getting more and more tired and I don't think that Grant had ever been with somebody who has already run almost 70 miles.  I was getting grumpy which anybody in my situation goes through.  At one point I said something about getting tired or my feet hurting...who knows...and Grant said something like "Don't worry my job is to just keep you going".  For whatever reason I snapped back at him and said "No...that's not your job!  This isn't a race and I don't need anybody to keep me going!"

Things got a little quiet after that.  This is why I've stopped using pacers in races this year.  When you run all day and night you get raw.  As much as you would like not to, you sometimes just don't have the energy to control what comes out of your mouth.  I felt bad later when I found out that Grant said something to Josh about it.  Josh laughed and told him that was part of the deal when you help somebody do something like this.  In Ultras there is a saying that Crew stands for Cranky Runner Endless Waiting.  It's a tough job.

Rail Trail during the day

I got to the entrance of the Rockingham Rail trail a little past 9pm.  I was really looking forward to getting off the pavement for the next 25 miles.  As I sat in a chair I realized that my feet were killing me.  My shin was killing me and I was just plain tired.  I was getting grumpy, and had long stopped even trying to be polite.  Everybody helping was awesome, offering me food, refilling my bottles, etc..  I was really glad to have them along.

Rail Trail in the winter

Finally I headed out on the rail trail.  I had only seen the trail in the winter so I had no idea what type of surface it was going to be.  I should have expected the obvious.  It was mostly crushed a rail trail, duh.  Loni had taken over for Grant, but was riding a bicycle.  She is a great person to have on an endeavor like this.  She could tell when I didn't feel like talking and was content enough just riding with me.  When I did feel like talking the conversation flowed easily.  I was psyched to have the protection of the Hoka shoes on this surface and knew I had made the right choice with wearing them.

Unfortunately after a couple of miles we came upon an area that was completely flooded out.  There was no way around it.  I didn't know what to do because the Hokas are terrible when wet.  They don't drain well.  Until now my feet had been dry all day and I had no blisters.  Hindsight being 20/20 I should have just ridden Loni's bike across or even taken my shoes off.  But I just dove in and walked through it.

It wasn't 5 minutes later that the blisters started.  Now I was getting bummed out.  I still had about 40 miles to go and needed to do something to make sure they didn't become a problem.  But I really wanted the protection of the Hokas.  At this point there was nothing that I could do.  In a couple of miles we saw the crew at one of the road crossings and I changed shoes.  But here is where I made a stupid decision.  Since I was worried about blisters I put on my best fitting shoes, the new New Balance MT110's.  They fit awesome, but offer almost no cushioning or protection.

New Balance MT110's

As soon as we headed back out on the trail I knew I had made a mistake.  I decided to just suck it up and thought that things would get better as I adapted to them.  I felt every single rock on every single step.  Now my feet hurt really, really bad.  No, I mean really bad.  I slowed down for a bit, walking more than running.
Josh had joined me and Loni at the last stop and once again our conversation had lifted my spirits.  I decided to put on my music.  As soon as I did I felt better.  I took off and caught Josh by surprise.  I was singing and they were laughing at me.  Josh and I did a rendition of The Greatest Song in the World by Tenacious D.  It was ironic because Sherpa John and I had sung the same song on our first RANH.

Josh, smiling as usual
 As Josh and Loni were commenting on how I had come back to life I explained to them that this is usually what happens to me in a 100 mile race.  But in a unfortunate prediction of what was to come I also said, "who knows, I feel good now but I might blow up spectacularly not that far down the road".  About a mile later I was walking again.  My feet started hurting so badly that I was shuffling along extremely slowly.  I was looking at the side of the trail for a place to sit.  All I wanted to do was to get off my feet.

I started getting really impatient.   Josh had been calling ahead to the crew truck to find out how much further we had to go before we could see them.  I had to get out of these shoes.  I looked at my watch and couldn't believe how short of a distance I had gone in the last hour.  Finally we came to a place that I could sit.  The pain in my feet was incredible.  Grant biked to us from the truck with my Brooks Pure Grits, which I had used earlier with a lot of success.

Brooks Pure Grit

After a short break and the change of shoes my feel felt better, but I was still moving slowly. I was also freezing because I had slowed down so much. At 1:15am we saw the support truck again.  It had taken me 4 hours to go 11 miles, but in my sleep deprived brain I did the math wrong and thought that it had taken me 4.5 hours to go 5 miles.  That was enough for me to feel overwhelmed.  I got into the warm truck and tried to stop shivering uncontrollably.  After a few minutes the crew checked on my to see how I was doing.  I told them that I was done.  80 miles was a good day and I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to run all day with the help of my friends and family.

I didn't feel bad at all about calling it quits at that point.  I had achieved exactly what I had been after.  I was looking for an adventure and to see NH in a way that I had never seen it before.  Not only did that happen, but I was once again reminded how much love and support I have in my life.  You just can't be in a bad mood or upset when you have that.

Sunrise over the Ocean at the finish

Last Saturday night, at midnight, Josh, Leah, Loni and I drove out to the place where I called it quits and finished the run.  It took five and half hours to go the last 28 miles and I had an incredible time running through the night.  As I watched the sun rise over the ocean I was again overcome with how fortunate I am to have the friends and family that I do.  Thank you to everybody who helped me during my Potentially Painful Summer.

Monday, November 14, 2011

15 Days?

I just looked at the blog and it's been 15 days since I wrote the Part I story of the Run Across NH.   It has been weighing heavily on my thoughts.  Business is crazy, which is good, and I am in the process of working on opening a new shop, moving the software company forward and working on a speech for the Concord Rotary about the Potentially Painful Summer. 

Hopefully I will write up the conclusion to the RANH within the next week.  The short story is that I only made it 81 miles and stopped at 1:15 in the morning.  This last Saturday I finished the last 28 miles of the run and had a blast.  I'll get all the details to the blog soon, I just wanted to touch base with my many (tens....) of readers!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

2011 Run Across NH - Part 1

Saturday, October 15 marked the third time I have attempted to run across the length of NH at its widest point. The first time, in 2008 I ended up stopping about 70 miles in as a result of a stress fracture. Although I had decided that trying to 124 miles of pavement was stupid I was there again in 2009 to try again. This time I bailed about 65 miles in knowing that I was headed down the same road towards another stress fracture.

First year, trying to fix what eventually became a stress fracture.

In 2010 my friend Sherpa John decided that he was going to attempt it through rugged mt trails and I just was to busy to attempt it with him.

Originally the "Potentially Painful Summer" was going to be an attempt to run 4 100 mile races in 4 months. Shortly after conceiving the idea I decided that it would be the icing on top of the cake to finally complete a run across NH. I knew that it would be hard but that is why I decided to attempt it. Little did I know what my body and mind would feel like by the time I got to that point in the year. Good thing I didn't have a clue.

The one thing that I was never crazy about for the RANH (Run Across New Hampshire) was the route. It has always gone from Route 9 in Brattleboro to Route 4 to the final destination at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye NH. It is basically a highway. A few weeks before the run I decided that I was going to change the route to reflect more what I hoped to see for this journey. From the start John and I had talked about this run as an opportunity to see NH from a different perspective than what you would see in a car. That sounds so much better to me! So I plugged in the starting point and the ending point into google maps, clicked the "walk" button and it came up with a route of back roads and routes that I have never seen. It even incorporated 24 miles of the Rockingham Rail trail, which I have run once in the winter.

View Larger Map
In the week before the race Amy and I drove the first 45 miles of the route and I even marked the road with arrows so I wouldn't get lost. Once I saw where I was going to be running I became even more excited. It was as good as I hoped it would be. Many of the roads were deep back roads and some were even dirt. A lot of them ran along rivers and streams and the fall foliage is in full bloom.

One of the biggest obstacles to doing a run like this is figuring out how I am going to get support. When you run all day and night there are certain things that you need to keep going. Like food and drink. For long runs like this I need to consume 300-500 calories an hour. That's not easy to take care of without good support (or a HUGE backpack...) You also need somebody to help you get through the many possible problems that can happen like fixing blisters and changing shoes/clothing. Months before the run I was at my friend Sherpa Johns going away party. I was seated with Josh, Loni and Leah, also known as Team Robert.

I had just posted about my idea for the Potentially Painful Summer and they had read that I was going to once again try the RANH. They told me that they were absolutely on board with helping me out and wouldn't miss it for the world. I didn't even ask them, they volunteered.

I was blown away at their reaching out to help me. I have become friends with all three over the years, but still was humbled by their willingness to give up a weekend to help a cranky guy run 110 miles of pavement. When the time came to help they were a huge positive influence on the run. Also helping out would be my friend Adam and of course my biggest fans, my family. The plan was for Adam to start, hand me off to Amy for the majority of Saturday and Team Robert to take me through to the end.
Adam Wilcox

On Saturday morning Adam and I left the house at 3:45 and drove to the bridge at the NH/VT border in Brattleboro. At 5:02 I took off. The plan was for Adam to drive up 5 miles and wait. The weather was excellent and my body felt great. I worked extra hard to go slowly. The plan was to conserve as much energy as possible so that I could have as much energy at the end. The plan was also to not tax myself like I would do if it was a race. I was determined to go against my normal tendencies and just enjoy the day. It took me exactly an hour to catch up with Adam the first time. There are some pretty big hills in that first 5 miles and I walked them even though I didn't need to. I was already starting to wonder why it took me so long and I caught myself and let it all go.  Pace just didn't matter and I was determined to not let it be so.

I drank a Boost and headed out again. As I watched the sun rise over the fog laden hills I was very happy to be finally running in this final installment of my Potentially Painful Summer (PPS). I ran alone, thinking about that moment that I decided to do these runs and what I was hoping to accomplish. For today I would enjoy simply putting one foot in front of the other. As I ran through Keene I got excited that I didn't have to take that left turn onto Route 9 to run the 50 miles of boringness into Concord. Instead I stayed strait and knew that I was only about 5 miles from seeing the family for the first time today. When I got into Marlboro, around mile 20 it was a little before 9am. I was just starting to worry that I would be there before Amy would because I told here it would be at least 9 before I got there. Luckily she had just got there and was ready for the hand off. i was starting to get tired, but also excited for this section. This is where the real back roads started. The sun was now coming up, the leaves were bursting with color and I was starting to explore a part of NH that I had never seen.

Support wagon
It was only 20 miles in and already a big concern had popped up. My right ankle/shin was starting to hurt. It was the same tightness that eventually stopped me on the two previous runs. My body must just hate running on pavement. I had been wearing my Altra Instinct Shoes which fit perfect and felt great, but I decided that since I had about a billion different pairs of shoes with me, I might was well try something different. I put on my new Brooks Pure Grits, which I had been running in the previous week. Although they are off road shoes, the sole has a nice cushioned feel and they were great on pavement. Right away the pain decreased. I did my best to just not think about it and enjoy my surroundings. There was no point in worrying about what might happen later in the day. My goal was to stay in the moment as best as I could and just see what comes my way.

As I was walking up a steep dirt road I pulled out my phone to take a picture. I had brought my camera, but I had left the memory card in my computer. As I snapped a pic, John texted me from Colorado to see how I was doing. I sent him the picture of the beautiful back road and felt very happy to be traveling this route.

At one of the stops Amy had taken the memory card from her camera and put it in the one I was carrying.  I started taking pictures as I passed through Harrisville.

Amy continued on as Adam had with supporting me every 4 or 5 miles.  I remember asking her to go a little bit shorter distance because my ankle was already hurting and I wanted to make sure that I could work on it if things got worse.  At 10:35am I had traveled 28 miles.  I hit the 50k (31 miles) at 6 hours 15 minutes into the day.  Considering that I was taking lengthy stops to eat and just chat with the family I felt like I was moving along just fine.  I was enjoying being alone on the back roads of NH enjoying the day.  It sounds corny, but I was very grateful to be alive and in good health.

At 35 miles I was heading through Hancock NH.  I posted on twitter that I was slowing down a bit and my shin was sore.  The good news was that it was staying at the same level of pain and wasn't getting worse. Amy fed me turkey/avocado wrap which was delicious and kept my spirits up by reminding me to not worry about my shin and just stay in the moment.  Many of the roads ran along streams and there was almost zero traffic in these areas.

Even though the pavement was taking it's toll already, I still found many things to keep my mind occupied.  I laughed out loud at this witch whom had run into a tree.

In all the years I've lived in NH I've never seen a sign like these:

Are there really that many bobcats in NH that there is an entire sanctuary dedicated to them?  I had no idea!  The signs scared Izzy and she was on the lookout for big game when she drove through the area.  Of course, no tour of NH would be complete without a covered bridge.  This one is in Greenfield, about 40 miles into the run.

As I toddled along I really was enjoying the scenery.  It was so nice just going out for an all day (and night hopefully) run with friends and family along to cheer me and support me.  There was no pressure like at a 100 mile race.  I had purposely blown off all the publicity that was available.  A group of radio stations had wanted to follow me across the state and give live updates on where I was all weekend.  Months ago the plan had been to do it as a fundraiser, but by the time the last few weeks had rolled around I didn't think that we could do it and raise a substantial amount of money.  So instead I just decided to run for me.  And now I had all the time in the world, which felt incredible.  As I ran I took more pictures.

There were many houses with big fields and ponds in beautiful settings.  Someday I am going to live in a location like this.

I hit the 44 mile mark at 2:17pm and tweeted that my shin was achy, but the scenery was beautiful.  At 4:20 I posted that I was in New Boston, 52 miles in and that "I hate pavement".  My mood was turning a bit as I was getting frustrated with my shin.  I was also succumbing to my natural tendencies to worry about time.  11 hours to go 50 miles is very slow to me.  And even though it wasn't that long ago that I was not concerned about time, now it bugged me that I was traveling so slowly.  Sometimes being "Type A" isn't a good thing when it comes to endurance running.

But I was getting close to the point where Amy and the kids would hand me off to Team Robert.  As a ran along a particularity sucky section of Route 13 (almost no shoulder and lots of traffic), I was shaken out of my funk by my friend Ron and Meredith who pulled over, jumped out of the car and ran at me with a brown paper bag!

I had posted on Facebook a couple nights earlier that I was really craving a Greek Gyro sandwich and it kind of turned into a bit joke.  Of course, they had brought me a Gyro.  Although I wasn't sure it was the best idea I ate the entire thing.  It was completely delicious.  I was sure it was going to make me shit my pants later, but I really didn't care.  This was the kind of thing that made the day so fun.  So, at mile 57 I ate supper by the side of the road. 

I wonder if GU will come out with a lamb and feta cheese flavor...

Three miles later at 6:02 I was at the beginning of the Goffstown rail trail where Josh, Leah, Loni and Grant.  Amy had been awesome and she kept my spirits up all day.  It never escapes me how much she does for me and how supportive my family is.  I am very thankful for them.  So it was now 13 hours into my run, the sun is starting to fade and I've gone 60 miles.  Oh yeah, and my shin really hurts....

Part II - Continued HERE.