Monday, October 20, 2014

The Big Chill Out: Race Week, 10-20 to 10-26

So it's race week, and I don't really get apprehensive about races anymore, but...this is going to be a tough one.  Looking at 5,000'+ of elevation gain on what's essentially already a pretty technical course.  Mostly rocky single track trail, with a short stretch on Buck Road (dirt service road) to "relax" for a bit.  Beth said she'd already planned on dropping down to the 10K from the 20K before we did the group run the other day, and I think running the course sealed the deal for her.  Either way, there's some dicey weather this week (aside from the major cooldown we woke up to today), and I'm hoping it clears out before the weekend.  The forecast looks good for Sunday (fingers crossed!), but this is New England...


Elevation profile for the 10K loop...Just five of these and I'm good, haha...


Monday, 10-20 - 3.4 Miles (Trail) - Post-karate class run at Lantern Hill.  Lantern is my go-to for the rest of the week, as it's more technical than Chatfield, just as hilly and close by.  The breeze, overcast sky and 50 degree temperatures might have had something to do with it?  Lots of people out hiking today, and as I kept looping around, I saw the same people several times.  They looked confused!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hmmm...two weeks to Chatfield, are we winging it again?

Yes, we're winging it again.  I just realized that the last trail 50K I completed was the Bimbler's Bluff 50K in 2012, which was my first, which I completed but failed on many levels, and was the inspiration for starting this blogging business in the first place!  I have a ton more miles under my belt this year, better fitness, endurance and nutrition, and I'm just a pinch more badass than I was two years ago (I think).  The Chatfield course is a different animal, however:  it's more hilly, way more technical, and it's a 5-loop course (which I like but it's tough).  Bimbler's was a cruel mistress in her own right, though...

That said, I plan on approaching the Chatfield race with knowledge from previous races, and tackling it with the weapons at my disposal: I'm a better runner than I was two years ago (again, I think...), and I train more smartly than I did then (Really?) on every level.  I also know about Body Glide now!  That's huge!!!

So Chatfield?  Yup, it's gonna happen.  Lori asked me today about it, as I still haven't let the ONE DNF go, which was a 50K last year.  I'm sure I said something to the effect of "I'd rather crap my pants mid-race than DNF again...," so you get (vividly) my refusal to quit after that fiasco...fortunately, I'll have some peeps at Chatfield to commiserate with, cheer on and be cheered on (or heckled), and document my descent into a blubbering mess of failed muscles and spirit!  Or that's the goal, anyway!

Monday, 10-13 - 0 Miles.  Deconstructing a mudded-in (read: concrete), tiled shower area in a house built over 100 years ago.  Not sure when the bathroom was done, but damn, they don't build anything that solidly anymore!  That shit was super-heavy and attached to the studs with a wire mesh that was like razor blades when we pulled it off the walls...

Heavy, and slicy!  What a fun combo!

Tuesday, 10-14 - 0 Miles.  Day 2 of the "Bathroom from Hell."  And done.  Got to the field just in time to coach, got home near dark.

Wednesday, 10-15 - 4 Miles (Trails) - 2 Runs. - Dog Jog across the street with Henry for 1.5 miles, then a 2.5 mile trail run at the Hewitt Farm property, where I may or may not have had my heart rate monitor go haywire for a minute.  Jumped up to 205-207 bpm for about a minute, and on a benign stretch of trail where I really wasn't working very hard.  First and only time, so I'm guessing it was an anomaly.  After that?  Coaching at the soccer game, where the girls lost 3-2 in a great game (with bad ref calls)...

Thursday, 10-16 - 2.5 Miles (Trails) - Perry Wood Preserve, Stonington.  Pouring rain, and in between errands and racing to meet the school bus, I hit up the Perry trails.  Smallish Avalonia preserve, and I got lost (again), and scrambled to get back to the truck in time.  Sort of like the Westerly Town Forest, in that I lose my sense of direction!  But what an awesome run, soaked and muddy and loved every minute of it :)

Friday, 10-17 - 0 Miles.  Played 9 holes of golf with my Father-in-law, then coached soccer for two hours, and got a plenty good workout there.  Group run at Chatfield in the morning, just as well I didn't try to squeeze in a run...

Saturday, 10-18 - 6+ Miles - (Trail) - Chatfield Hollow group run, Killingworth CT. - Met Beth and Don at the Outlets, and drove the 5-ish minutes to the State Park.  I'd printed yet another map of the course and was determined to get it right this time, as the blazes are really faded and we'll be relying on flagging and course marking for this one.  Beth promised not to complain too much, which was duly noted and appreciated...Don was just coming off the Hartford Marathon, and game for some trails.  We got set up and jogged over to the official start/finish, and set out.  The first trail is an immediate ascent up CCC stairs, onto ever-ascending single track.  I cross-referenced my printed course map with my realtime GPS, and with some stopping and starting, kept us on track.  Great time, and a Helluva course!  I screwed up with my Garmin a couple of times when I paused it to check the map and forgot to start it again, but you get the picture from the run details:


Looking at 5 loops at approx. 1000' per loop?  Um, sure!

So we were able to complete the loop with all the directional issues happening in the first part of the run.  It's an awesome course!  Not easy by any stretch, and any first-timers will be wishing they'd picked an easier race.  Technical as Hell and tough.  I just did Nipmuck two weeks ago, and this is different but going to be much harder...Holy Hell...Beth and Don did awesome though!  So much fun!

Fall trail fun!

Thanks, Crutch!

I'll be doing the rest of my training at Lantern and assorted trails near here, but it's gonna be an ass-kicker of a race...and who is showing up for it?  I wish I knew, as they don't publish it in advance that I know of...

And a quick note:  Good Luck to TNT runner Patrick Quinn on his first ever Ultramarathon tomorrow, the Bimbler's Bluff 50K!  I didn't have the heart to tell him that it's 50K-ish (More!), but he'll find out soon enough!  Good luck Pat!!!

Sunday, 10-19 - 0 Miles - 18th Anniversary with Lori!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Nipmuck down, three weeks to Chatfield Hollow 50K? Week of 10-6 to 10-12

Ouch.  I'm walking sideways and I had a hard time getting my socks on this morning, and getting in and out of the truck was a nightmare.  Gonna take a zero Monday, probably Tuesday, and slowly cruise back into some miles...I plan on hitting Lantern Hill a lot for training until the 26th, as it's technically more challenging than Chatfield and just minutes up the road.  Some kid fell off a cliff there yesterday and had to be rescued by helicopter...yikes, I almost expect that shit to happen to me at some point...yes, it can be a dangerous place but it's also awesome...I love it there, and bombing down from the top is the biggest rush for me...just don't fall off a cliff.  That'll mess you up.

Monday, 10-6 - 0 Miles - 0 Anything, for that matter, I even begged off of coaching soccer today, as getting anything done just hurt.  Oddly, I'm not sore from the race much.  But HOLY SHIT are the muscles on the lower right side of my back f'ed up...couple more days, I hope.

Tuesday, 10-7 - 0 Miles - Coached soccer practice and was moving around better.  Good sign.  I also made a tentative list of 2015 races (subject to change, listed at the right column of Le Blog--->>>), and thought about a BQ marathon...but then thought again.  I'm sticking to trails for now.  The only road races I'm considering at the moment are "Streak" races (i.e. KIAI, Run4Kerri, etc.) or local running club races, which will forever be on my list.  Off Rhode 4th Season?  A Better Pace?  WTAC?  I'm officially in for all of 'em.  Run4Kerri is my first ever race, I've run it from 2009-2014, and I'll support it as well.  It gave me a great cause to support, and the spark to start running.  Otherwise, I'm heavily trail race weighted and looking forward to the Grand Tree series again.  Disclaimer: this list is made to be amended... :)

Wednesday, 10-8 - 0 Miles. - Coached soccer game.  Back not 100% but markedly better...good sign, as I was able to practice with the kids before the game!

Thursday, 10-9 - 1.4 Miles (Trail) - Henne Preserve, North Stonington.  Short trail run to check out how my back feels.  If I'm moving, I'm pretty good.  Not 100%, but better!

Friday, 10-10 - 5.4 Miles (Road) - Westerly/Pawcatuck roads.  Dropped off Lori's car for an oil change, and did a nice, easy loop around town.  Felt much better!

Saturday, 10-11 - 0 Miles.  While almost everybody else was out suffering in the rain and generally shitty weather, I did some family stuff, while stalking many friends' progress online.  Good day to be an indoor spectator!

Sunday, 10-12 - 7 Miles (Road) - Mystic River loop progression run.  In Mystic to run a few errands, and ran the river loop, 6 miles, in under 50.  If I'd known it was a segment, I might have pushed it a bit more!  As it was, the more I ran, the better I felt so the faster I went, turning it into an impromptu progression run until I got back into downtown Mystic, where there were just too many people to maintain any kind of pace or rhythm.  Can't fault them, though, it was downright gorgeous out today!




Monday, October 6, 2014

31st Annual NipMuck Trail Marathon

Well, here goes...my third running of the NipMuck.  My first-ever marathon in 2012, I was totally unprepared.  Last year?  More prepared, and it poured the entire race.  This year?  Sort of prepared...I can't seem to adhere to any kind of training schedule, and I have yet to master the art of the taper.  That said, sunny skies and breezy, cool temps greeted us.  How would it go???

I woke at 5 and scrambled in the dark, using my phone to light my way so I wouldn't wake anyone.  Bag and cooler were packed the night before, and coffee set to go.  I got ready and snuck out of the house under cover of darkness...because it.was.still.dark.  Dammit.

A quick stop on the way for my traditional DD Egg and Cheese Croissant, hash browns and medium coffee, and I made the 45-minute drive from North Stonington to Ashford, CT.  Arriving an hour early, I knew I'd see some familiar faces.  I parked, and as I walked to the registration booth, a car window rolled down.  Seth, politely asking where his new track club singlet was (Actually, more like "Where's my Effing singlet?).  Also inside the car was Jonny and Muddy, this being Muddy's first time at Nipmuck.  I picked up my bib and awesome race shirt (first one!) and hey, it's chilly out!  Ran into TNT'er Pat Quinn, who trained for this race like a boss and was ready to get things going.  Then I went back to the truck to stay warm.  Brisk morning, but at least the skies were clear and the trails were in better shape than last year...

Waited until the last minute, packed a drop bag with all my usual shit, and threw it just past the start/finish.  I was able to take a few pictures before the start:

Pre-race Instruction


"Hey, this guy thinks he's a trail runner, Jonny..."

All smiles (for now)...

(High Fall Risk)

Ready to rock...

Lining up

Turtle photobomb!

Striking fear into the hearts of front runners from Ashford to Ashaway...
your finisher #'s 2, 3 and 4, before the race start...

After the usual race instructions from RD Dave Merkt, we lined up down the road, the race started with a clap of hands, and we quickly made our way onto the single track.  There's always a bottleneck at the beginning of the race, with some walk/jog business going on until the field spreads out a bit.  I felt pretty good, and made it to the mile 6 turnaround in 1:05, my fastest time.  The trails were still slippery, as the Sun really hadn't dried anything out yet.  I headed back to the start/finish, and at mile 9 I had a problem:  I slipped, and caught myself, but as I did the muscles in my lower back clenched and tweaked really bad.  It got worse as I went, and I stopped a few times to try to stretch it out or loosen it up.  No dice, and as I approached the start/finish to head North for the second half and more grueling 14 miles of the race, I had a decision to make:  do I play it safe and call it a day, or do I run with a lot of discomfort for another 3 hours?  I've only had one DNF ever (2013 TARC Spring Classic 50K) and I still haven't let it go.

I decided to give it a shot.  I changed shirts, grabbed some GUs from my bag and filled my handheld.  My A, B, and C goals were all in question at this point, but I got back on the trail and carried on.  I ended up running with a girl named Lizzie, as she kept a steady pace - I'd slow on the uphill climbs and catch up with her on the descents.  Hope I didn't annoy the crap out of her.  One of my goals was to pass the Iron Mine aid station before I saw my WTAC cohorts, and I had just barely pulled away from there when I saw them coming my way.  Jonny was fidgeting with a GU, and Muddy mumbled something about pain, and away they went.  I saw Seth a few minutes later, looking focused.

Third time I've done this race, and the third time I underestimated how friggin' long it is from Iron Mine to Boston Hollow, the Northernmost point of the race and turnaround.  It just takes forever...but I got there, chatted with the volunteers while I stuffed my face, made the turn and headed back up those dreaded steps.  From there it was the long haul back to Iron Mine, and then the road section and home stretch.  I love the last short bit, where the blazes have tenth-of-mile countdowns on them.  Just awesome, and seeing the cars and hearing the crowd at the finish is the best!  Found out that the WTAC boys finished in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, and Pat came in 20th!  Way to go!!!

I thanked every volunteer I saw, as they make the race possible, and keep the mood light.  I devoured a cup of vegetarian chili (I've been thinking about it since last year, seriously!), collected my finishers' log, congratulated a few people and headed to my truck.  Now that the race was over my back was really tightening up, and I had a hard time getting into the truck, and drove home with it seizing intermittently.  Getting out of the truck was even worse!  I took a super hot shower, put on sweats, grabbed a heating pad and a beer and watched some football...

Overall results?  67th place at a 5:26, nearly 20 minutes better than last year.  I'll take it!

Results board!  And the circle means there's a raffle prize in my future :)

Swag!  Awesome shirt this year, thanks guys!!!

I can't say enough good things about this race, though.  From the organization by the Shenipsit Striders, the marking of the course (I manage a section of blue-blazed trail for the CFPA, and I know how important it is), updating of important information, and the awesome volunteers, everything couldn't have gone better on race day.  I'm also happy to know that I recognize more and more runners at these events, and get to talk to them, find out how they came to be there, and support them as much as they support me.  Glad I'm not the only lunatic who chose Nipmuck as their first-ever marathon!  Trail runners are the best.  On that note, I'm pretty stoked that I decided to finish the race.  Yeah, I'm walking sideways right now, but that'll pass...that's three years in a row, and I'll be making it 4 next year.  This will be a "streak race" for me, along with Run4Kerri and a select few others.  So much fun...



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Race Week (Again)! Week of 9-29 to 10-5, countdown to Nipmuck

So starting with Surftown, we're running 5 distance races in 8 weeks?  Is that right?  Surftown on 9/14, and the RI 6 Hour on 11/9...

Surftown went well, and the Pisgah race went great!  Loved it, and had a blast there.  Next up?  The Nipmuck Trail Marathon this Sunday.  My first marathon ever, I ran it in 6:15 the first year, 5:45 in the pouring rain last year, and my goals for this year?  "A" goal of 4:45, "B" goal of sub-5:00, and a "C" goal of 5:15, this all being dependent upon conditions and how I feel.  Right now I feel pretty damn awesome: I'm running happy and injury-free, having fun playing around with segments on Strava, and generally enjoying every run.  I'm pausing to take pictures and take in my surroundings, running fast in some sections and mixing it up when I can.  Nothing boring.  I really love running, so I try to keep it changing constantly.  It's fun for me!  Even when it's painful, and I fight with it and want to call it a day, I find something cool to look at, stop to take a picture, or realize how ridiculous it must seem to most people (not you lot though!) that I "Only ran 10 miles today, because it was really hot out," and adjust my perspective.  I'm not gonna win any races, but I want to be one of the people having the best time out there!  So I'm looking forward to Nipmuck.  3rd year in a row.  And in addition to Jonny and Seth, Muddy's thrown down his entry fee and jumped in this year.  Going to be fun!

Monday, 9-29 - 0 Miles.  1 Hour karate, and coached the girls' soccer team this afternoon.  Got home late, and decided to call it a day :)

Tuesday, 9-30 - 3 Miles (Trail).  Lantern Hill short run before soccer game #2 for the week.  Headed to Lantern, and with the drizzly rain, everything on the trails was slippery so I opted to stay down on the lower trails.  Gave it a pretty good effort and managed to recapture one of my CRs, and averaged a 9:30 pace for the run.  Then hauled ass over to the field to coach the girls' soccer game.  Good day!

Wednesday, 10-1 - 0 Miles.  1 Hour karate, and weight training and stretching.  Easy week before Sunday's race, a couple zeroes are OK...

Thursday, 10-2 - 3 Miles (Trail) - Lantern Hill (again!) before soccer practice.  I know Lantern so well, and I really love the place.  It's historic, scenic, rough and technical, close by, and fills every single requirement I'd possibly have for training.  5 minutes from the house.  5 minutes to the athletic fields.  I'd be so bold as to say that, pound for pound, there isn't a small piece of land in SE CT that offers its particular challenges...so I did an easy-ish run there today with 4 segments included, but GPS screwiness only allowed me 2...I'm used to it.  No problem though!  I feel good going into this weekend, relaxed and ready for a slightly faster pace at Nipmuck.  I have a game plan now, and I'll give it a shot!

Friday, 10-3 - 4.5 Miles (Road/Trail) - Mystic fun.  Had some errands to run, and did a short run there after picking up a "Trenta" iced coffee from the only local Starbucks.  Yes, there's a bigger size than Venti...it's the Big Gulp of Starbucks drinks, and I love it.  Don't hate.  Parked in my usual spot.  Breezy and mostly cloudy, and perfect running weather.  I meandered over to the Mistuxet segment and ran it well, then cruised down to the DPNC trails, trying a 1.1 mile segment that runs from Mistuxet to the Mystic Aquarium.  Took a wrong turn slightly and missed the segment, but I ran the trail well.  More Nipmuck prep.  I solemnly swear to take it easy tomorrow, and not go running the day before the marathon.  Well...maybe a short shakeout run, dog jog, etc...

Coached in the afternoon, and the girls won 5-3!!!  First win of the season, and they played great today.  Very proud of them :)

Saturday, 10-4 - 1.6 Miles (Trail) - Easy Dog Jog with Henry.  Totally relaxed trail run with the dog before the sky opened up.

Sunday, 10-5 - 26.4 Miles (Trail) - 31st Annual NipMuck Trail Marathon.  Separate write-up to follow...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Nipmuck Prep? Week of 9-22 to 9-28

Post-Pisgah:  I'm sore, but not really any worse than any other long run.  Weather permitting, I'll expect to shave another 30+ minutes off my Nipmuck time, which is fast approaching.  I really want to nail down a solid time, so that I have a qualifying time for any of the 2015 races I look at.  I still plan on doing Cayuga, but there are a couple others on the radar now...damn you, Ultrasignup.com!

(As a short aside, my Mother-in-law passed away late Sunday night at Yale New-Haven hospital, after complications from surgery.  Awesome lady, who I was blessed to have known for the last 20+ years and proud to call Mom.  This week, we have family coming in from all over the country and while I won't get to run as much as I'd like, I'm helping coach my daughter's soccer team and that's one heck of a workout each day.  Keeping the kids in school until the funeral on Thursday seemed like the right call - there's not much they can do to help, it's keeping their attention diverted a bit, and they won't have a ton of work to make up.  Miss ya already, Ma!)

Monday, 9-22 - 2+ Miles (Trail) - Sterling XC trails, Sterling CT. - Got to Sterling before the kids' bus, so I did a short trail run while I waited.  The girls tied their "A" game 2-2, and won the "B" game 5-0.  Great start to the season!

Tuesday, 9-23 - 0 Miles - Coached soccer in the afternoon for two hours, including a session after practice officially ended, where I got in goal and defended shots against a few of the kids for 30 minutes straight.  Still got the skills...

Wednesday, 9-24 - 2.4 Miles (Trail) - Short run at Lantern, and late for soccer practice.  Took a shot at two segments before I ran out of time.  The first, a 7+ minute section, the GPS screwed me but I think I was good for the CR.  The second is a short and sweet uphill right at the trailhead, which I had set a 48 second goal on.  Got it in 44...then hauled ass over to the soccer field (where I was received with applause, that was nice!) and ran around some more with the kids.  Game #2 tomorrow.  I'll miss it though, unless it gets rained out...

Thursday, 9-25 - 0 Miles - RIP Vilma Maiorano, you'll really be missed.  Huge turnout, with family and friends flying in from around the country, and driving in from Maine and points beyond.  Tough day but a great celebration of her life.

Friday, 9-26 - 0 Miles.  Lots to do at the house, and afternoon coaching of game #2 at the Wheeler field.  Mixing it up with the kids at practice and during game warmups is making a difference in my overall fitness, and I can feel it.  Good stuff.

Saturday, 9-27 - 0 Miles.  Work day.  That means Sunday, long run day!

Sunday, 9-28 - 10 Miles (Road/Trail intermission) - Mystic River Run. - Hot out.  80+ on 9/28.  I swung by Waterford to stock up on GUs for next weekend's race, and as I was passing Mystic on the highway, a cool breeze hit me and I decided to run there.  It wasn't any cooler.  I opted to start with some small hills in town, then run out to Old Mystic, around the headwaters of the river, and back down River Road, hitting the Peace Sanctuary trails briefly along the way and finishing up with a visit to the new John Kelley statue downtown.  Good, relaxed run, albeit a hot one!

Looking down the river

Looking down from the Peace Sanctuary trails...

Mystic Seaport

Fast Friends!

Kelley's race highlights

WTAC!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pisgah Mountain 23k Trail Race!

Oops, I did it again...went North and ran another hilly as Hell Half Marathon.  The Pisgah race is right in my WTAC cohorts' backyard, so to speak, and I was looking forward to running in New Hampshire for the first time ever.  Yes, that's right, I've never ever (like, ever) run in New Hampshire, much to the horror of a few folks I mentioned this to (like Jonny, Jeff, and everyone else I talked to)!  But I digress...

Jonny and Jeff met me at my house on Saturday afternoon, and after our first stop at DD, we made the 2+ hour drive to Keene, NH, to the Elm City Brewing Co. (starting things off right!).  We met Greg, Jen and Boj and had an awesome pub dinner, complete with sampler flights of beer and my requisite purchase of a growler, in this case the "Armageddon Black IPA"...look out!

Sippy cups!

Grrrowler of Armageddon...BOOM

After dinner, Jonny, Jeff and I made our way to the Hammett house (during which we completely lost cell service, utterly...Jonny said at one point "Say goodnight to whoever you want now, because over this hill here and you have no service", and he was right!), where we being graciously hosted by Pard and "Mammy Hammy," (Muddy's words, from a thank-you note tacked on the fridge!), and chatted until bedtime.  9:30?  Well, I'm usually up til midnight so ya'll are doing me a favor.  After chatting in the living room for a while, we all said goodnight and I flipped a coin with Jeff for the basement beds.  I won...it turned out to be a cave, black as sackcloth with the lights out, and I slept great...

Early up and at 'em.  I gathered my gear and we headed up to Chesterfield.  It was warmer than originally predicted, about 60 degrees and very sticky out, and as we stopped on the way at a DD for breakfast food and coffees, I was thinking about the humidity.  We arrived at the school and got checked in, Jen working the post-reg table for the slackers (Jeff & Jonny, etc.), while I had a seamless check-in at the pre-reg and was all set.  Ran into friend and TNT'er Pat Q., who rode up solo and was ready to "Unleash Hell" (his words, not mine!).  We parked next to super distance runners Ryan and Kristina (and Jack Puppy!), who were splitting 23k and 50k races, Kristina the shorter of the two.  It was nice to get to talk to her for a few minutes as we all walked over to the start.  She ran a good, relaxed race, and I later saw her for the first 1/4 mile of the race, at which time her pigtails disappeared into the mist.  But I digress...yet again...

At Jonny's prompt, we drove the first and last two miles of the course for recon:

"This is where you run, fools..."

The nerves are on the inside...and hey, I look sort of fit here!  Look at those calf muscles, dammit!

Jonny, trying to stay calm amid the Gazelle's caged fury...

Chesterfield, N.H. Town Hall, next door to the race start...

We ran our respective warmups, where Greg H. saved my ass (literally) and told me about a secret Port-a-Potty, where I took care of my "nerves" and was ready to go.  I did almost a mile, and was already sweaty from the humidity...Talked to Pat and decided to go with the singlet, but tie the long-sleeve tech around my waist as a backup (never needed it!).

After a casual start (trail races! they just yell GO!), we headed out.  I was worried about keeping to my plan of watching my heart monitor, listening to my body, and running as if I weren't racing.  Less than a mile in, I saw Will from the WMAC!  I met him on the Greylock ascent, and ran with him at the Nipmuck South.  We got caught up, and chatted until the big split two miles in (he was the 50k, me the 23k).  He told me he had a 3+ hour drive to get there, and he always tries to run longer than he drives, so it had to be the 50K.  I like that logic.

After that, I was with the same 5 or 6 people for pretty much the rest of the race.  The hills were kicking my ass, and I opted to hike those and bomb down the descents.  I love descents...as in, I get a rush out of flying out of control down technical sections, and hitting the bottom relieved that I didn't trip.  The course was a good mix:  short road run to the trailhead, then single-track and double-track mix with long, relentless climbs and super fun descents, then a short road run to the finish.

The climbs were sapping my will though.  I kept my mind occupied by checking out the scenery, especially the foliage that was already turning near the ponds and streams that are scattered throughout the course.  As I was running with the HRM (heart rate monitor) and not the time/distance, I was working hard, but felt slow!  At 11 miles, my pace was faster, and when we reached the gate (2 miles from the finish), I knew where I was and picked it up big time.  I finished well.  Overall results?  I was a 2:37?  Here's what I saw:

Greg wins!  And WTAC #3 and #7???  Interlopers!!!

...and me :)

The cookout afterward was fantastic.  The volunteers put in a full race day, for which they should be thanked many times over!  I'd just crossed the finish line and changed my shirt, when J+J ran by and yelled "Crutch! Cooldown!" I started to follow, and 1/10 mile later I came to my senses and went for a burger instead.  Was able to chat with a number of runners, volunteers and the RD, who genuinely wanted to know what I thought of the course.  He was pretty proud when I told him that the course was awesome, super well-marked, and that they put on a great event (which they did)!

2 of your top 7, ladies and gents!

After chillin' for a bit, we ventured around the corner to Greg and Jen's place for a short tailgating session, and were able to see the 50K winner, Brian Rusiecki, cruising past on his way to victory and looking speedy.  30+ miles in and cruisin'...

Brian, 1/2 mile from the finish

After a beer and some chatting, we loaded into the car and headed out.  I had a great time at this race, and would totally run it again next year!  Will made a point of saying that I was becoming a regular on the Grand Tree series, and I really like the events they put on, so I'll have to study their schedule.  This is 3 of 4 scheduled GT series events for me...might have to raise that in 2015!  Good race, with great people!!!