Sunday, June 23, 2013

Manitous Revenge Ultramarathon June 22nd 2013

When I first heard about a race that was combining the famous Escarpment race course and the infamous Devils path with some other mountainous segments to make a rugged , gnarly and ridiculous 50+ mile ultra with a 24 hour cutoff in the Catskills of New York, I immediately put it on race calendar.
   So far this season I've been staying healthy except for a small ankle issue from my 4th place finish at Terrapin Mt 50k back in March. I did travel to California to race the Leona Divide 50 in April but it was too damn hot and sunny for this east coast kid, so I just called it a training run from mile 16 on and still finished in a respectable time. Also I've been running the NE mountain series to get some speedwork a little bit of vertical and bypass the lottery for the Mt Washington road race next year. So, with all that, my only concern was I was way out of hiking shape and had been lacking in the habitual weekend long runs we all hold near and dear to our heart with the busy mountain running schedule.
   Back to the race. Nobody really knew how much climbing there was on the course! people were guessing, 12k, 14k, 16k?? All I knew was it was going to be tough , the second half was the crux and I was going to run it like I would a White Mountain Hut Traverse.
    On Friday morning Kristina and myself drove out to Palenville to meet up with our friend and Catskill expert Cory to scope out some of the course and get an idea of the layout and aid station locations since Kristina would be crewing me. I got in some easy miles on a short section of the course and we made our way to Phonecia for packet pickup and some cheesburgers and beer at Brio's (hey we're ultrarunners!) Then back to the hotel for race prep and a few winks before my alarm went off at 2:45 am so we had time to drive up to Maplecrest for the 5 am start.
    It was clear, cool and fairly dry in the air for a summer morning. The forcast was highs in the mid 80's and 20% chance of a thunderstorm. I don't do well in the heat but I could deal. What I didn't want was for the Catskill rock to get wet and slippery.
    The aid stations on the course were pretty spread out due to the difficulty of getting access to ridge and limited road crossings. Most were 7 to 10+ miles apart. I opted to wear and Ultraspire Surge with 2 liter bladder. We own two of these pack so I could just grab a fresh pack at all but two aid station which were too remote for Kristina to get to.
    The first 3 miles of the course were on the road and i started off at a slow comfortable pace and found myself in the lead right off the bat. After a mile or so a couple others were running along with me including eventual 3rd place finisher Ashley Moyer. When we hit the trail I led the way up the trail to Acra point on the Escarpment trail and a couple were behind me one of which I knew was Denis Mikhaylov who has been running very well this year and after I saw his speed while crewing Kristina at Cayuga two weeks ago before he went off course I was really hoping the course was unrunnable as possible to give myself a fighting chance at a win.
   Three of us made the turn at the ridge junction together and soon after it was just denis and myself making our way towards Blackhead, which apparently would be the toughest part of the Escarpment section with some "hands on trail" ascending and descending. We were motoring along pretty decent but I was feeling a little pressure from behind and was struggling to keep my blinders on so I made the decision to let denis go ahead so I could run my own race. Sure I could have hung with him easily, but I knew I would need all my strength to attack the difficulty of the last 30+ miles.
   All alone coming through Dutchers Notch at 10 miles I topped off my bladder for the next 7.5 miles to North-South Lake. The volunteers told me I was two minutes back.
   I was constantly questioning my pace on my way to the next aid station but I knew there was a 5 mile 2000 ft descent followed by a nasty 10 mile section over the shoulder of Kaaterskill to contend with before then getting to the hardest part of the course, the Devils Path.
  I was getting warm as I descended to NS Lake and as I was changing my pack I filled my hat with ice. Works like a charm! As i was leaving 3rd place came in quickly filled his bottle and was hot on my heels. I had run this section of the course on Friday so I put out a half mile surge and quickly dropped the threat who would end up finishing 2 or 3 hours after me.
   I made good time down to 23a and grabbed a fresh pack for the climb up kaaterskill which Cory had warned me was A BITCH so I throttled way back and chugged my way up and then across the height of land which was really muddy and rooty and all around tough going. I was wishing I had made a little better time on the Escarpment trail.. I got along the best I could without wasting myself and made it down to Platte Clove rd unscathed but that section was so tough I had forgotten to hydrate and fuel as well as I should have, Denis' lead was at 22 minutes down from 30 at 23a in Palenville. I felt good, I was closing on him.
   The next 9.5 miles would nearly break me... Start out with a mile run up Platte Clove rd with the heat of the day on your back to get good and warmed up before you circle back around and negotiate Indian Head, Twin and then Sugarloaf before reaching the Mink Hollow aid station. These mountains are beautiful, don't get me wrong, but trying to hammer up and down them with 30+ hard miles in your legs was very demoralizing for me. My pace slowed to what felt like crawl, one of the first steep pitches going up Indian head I swore I saw Gandalf yelling, "you shall not pass!" My hands were on the trail as much as my feet for the next 7 miles and I'm not exaggerating! The kicker was, what I thought was Sugarloaf was actually Twin and I was out of water with one more mountain and 2.5 miles to go before I would get my fresh pack.
   As I pulled into Mink Hollow I actually got a little choked up that I had made it over those F*&^%ing mountain alive.It had taken me 3 hours to do that 9.5 mile stretch and my quads were starting to ache pretty bad, probably from having to ration my water on that segment.
  Kristina informed me that I had narrowed the gap to 7 minutes and that Cory was going to try and meet me on the trail ahead to run the final miles with me, as I took off for what was supposedly the last tough climb of the day, Plateau Mt.
   The climb up Plateau was atrocious and my communication with hikers was reduced to grunts and looks of disgust. Soon it flattened out though and ran a really nice section of ridge before making the left to head off the mountain down, down, down to Warner creek. As I switchbacked my way down a recently cut trail and reached what I thought was the creek?? shit... I kept moving as strong as I could knowing I still had one climb with vertical gain unknown ahead. I heard a hooting and hollering up ahead in a clearing, Corey had bushwhacked up some old overgrown road to meet me in some col in the middle of nowhere. Pretty cool!!  We headed up the trail and climbed over some mountain that I'll just call "in my way" that was on the Catskill 100 highest list. Down the other side for a bit, then, there he was. Was he limping, cramping? I suddenly came alive and felt the urge to capitalize on his altered gate and make my move. He look startled as I came up on him and he picked up the pace. I answered hoping I could finish him off on this descent. We were flying down the mountain like with 8 miles to go like we had just started an 8 mile race. He missed a sharp turn and I went by. I kept moving down the mountain the best I could over the loose rocks and blowdowns. As the terrain leveled out Denis actually went off trail and passed me. As he went by I noticed his 2 bottle waistpack was nearly empty and I was under the impression there were no aid stations until the bottom of Mt Tremper with 1 mile to go. So, I let him go, again... he had put it in an adrenaline driven gear I just couldn't match on the flats and I was sure I would catch him on the climb up Tremper or better yet, completely wasted and out of fluids sitting on a rock. Boy, was I wrong!
  I made my way up the mountain the best I could trying to recover a little from our duel in case I had to throw in another surge. After all we were still 6 miles from the finish and I didn't think I had enough in the tank to run hard to finish at that point. (weak minded fool)
  We then came upon the Willow aid station, to our surprise. I filled my almost empty bladder as the volunteers told me Denis had 5 minutes on me. I tried my best but I just couldn't run that hard anymore and ended up finishing 20 minutes behind Denis in 12:11:43. Kristina told me he had approached the last aid station looking like he saw a ghost saying "they're right on me" "which way?" Must have been funny waiting there so long for me to show up, scratching their heads, wonder what he was talking about.
   In the end I'm very happy with the way the day unfolded and know what I need to focus on in my training leading up to Grindstone 100 in October.

This was an awesome race that I will most definetly be runnig again! For a first year event things went off without a hitch and the post race spread was very impressive.

Race day kit included: Pearl Izumi Trail N2, Pearl Izumi shorts and shirt and Ultraspire Surge race vest.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Peak Snowshoe Marathon 3/2/13

  After a solid season of snowshoe racing in the Granite State Snowshoe Series with noticeable gains in strength and speed I decided to sign up for the snowshoe marathon as a fitness test for two upcoming spring races.
  Without much trouble I convinced Kristina to come along and race as well. My only goal was to work on my race nutrition and hopefully run faster than 2010 when I ran 5:15.
   I wasn't sure who else would be showing up to race but I had learned through entrant emails that there were over 300 people signed up to run one of four races that were being held all at once on the 6.2 mile loop course. I really wasn't sure how well that was going to work!
   We left NH early Saturday morning and arrived at the Aimee farm at 7 A.M. I was surprised as we pulled in to park alongside our friend Kelsey and then Ben Nephew pulled in right along side us. It was fun chatting it up and locating the porto potties as a group. We decided to stage our gear and nutrition a little ways down the trail from the turnaround. After a quick jog around in the snowshoes Ben, Kristina and myself positioned ourselves at the front of the pack.
   Let me start by saying I've blown myself up a couple of times foolishly trying to hang with Ben at races because our times on FKT attempts in the White Mountains are so close. Today I was just running my own race and I fully expected him to blow my doors off from the start never to be seen again.
   After my customary pre race smooch with Kristina, we were off. I let Ben take the lead and I settled in behind him. After we crossed the river the course starts switchbacking its way and wrapping around the backside of Joe's hill. Ben was running a comfortable pace for me so I just stuck with him and we were talking a bit about the snow conditions and other races. There were two sections that were quite steep that Ben decided to walk, which was fine by me. By the time we zig zagged our way to the top we'd logged 3 miles and 1400 ft of climbing. The descent was quite enjoyable and the pace was comfortable as we neared where I thought we would be crossing the river to complete loop 1. I realized that the 10k race with its 150+ runners was just starting and was going to be coming right at us on the two way traffic section of the loop.
  We ran across the bridge and got on a wide section of trail and for some reason I just ran next to Ben then in front of him and was soon met with a mass of shoers' that were mostly staring at the ground. Some moved off the packed out rail and some made us step into the powder. I grabbed a new bottle and  hit the turnaround with Ben in tow, Wasn't long before we caught up to the tail end of the 10k race and started picking our way through them. I looked back a few times and saw Ben was having trouble staying with me due to all the passing. I felt I had no business being ahead since he always beats me by 1 minute per mile at least! So I held myself back waiting for him on the climb. I could see him occasionally but he never closed the gap. It was at the top of the mountain that I decided to open things up a little on the descent and try to build a gap. I was convinced it was a fluke and telling myself repeatedly "he's having a bad day" or " he's going to mow you down ,Ryan. Run!" Run with purpose! Like it's your job!, I told myself.  Then I heard a clanking at my feet, then nothing,,, That's what losing a heel cleat sounds like, I guess!. I immediately noticed a loss of traction on the steep downs but it was manageable.  I settled in watching the switchbacks above me for the rest of the loop. After heading out on loop 3, I passed Ben coming towards me he was 2 tenths back. Loop 3 was more of the same, looking for Ben, passing the hundreds of people on the course, dealing with the deteriorating snow conditions AND losing my remaining heel cleat. Now I know the heel cleats are on there for a reason! Descending the steeper pitches was very difficult and my strength on the descents now became my weakness and I was sure he would reel me in shortly.I completed my 3rd loop in 3:16 and realized I could run faster than 2010 even without heel cleats.
  I grabbed a fresh bottle, ate a gel and set out on loop four. I got even further out this time, before I saw Ben and figured I might have enough cushion to hold him off, if I charged the climb hard. The fourth loop wasn't pretty and I even sat down to butt slide a couple of the steeper spots on the way down .But soon I rolled across the finish in 4:28 and Ben followed in 4:36.
  Kristina had an awesome race and cruised in smiling in a wicked strong 5:24.
I'm not sure if this snowshoe running strength will transfer to dry ground but I'm excited to find out. Either way it's awesome to be enjoying the miles injury free and having a blast racing, That's not something I've ever done in my short running career.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Life since Traprock 50k

  Back on April 14th , we made the second trip to CT in as many weekends to run the Traprock 50k. This would be another training race on the road to Wapack. Temps that morning were in the high 30's but warmed very quickly into the 70's.
  During the first lap I got caught up in the chase and lost track of my hydration which resulted in a fluid deficit I could not recover from.. Cramps came on towards the end of lap two and I battled through them to finish in third place and a hair faster than last years time.
  In the following weeks I stayed on track with my training and got some quality long runs in on the Belknap range, Wapack course and finally a 22 miler in the Whites this past weekend. I'm in full taper mode and all I can hope is that on Saturday I can focus my mind and that my legs will follow...

Photo courtesy: Scott Livingston

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Northern Nipmuck Race Report

   This weekend Kristina and I made the trek down to Bigelow Hollow State Park in Union CT, home of the Northern Nipmuck trail race.

   This race signifies, to most, the beginning of the trail race season in New England. This would be my third attempt at the race and hopefully my second finish. My training has been going very well since the New Year and this was to be a good test to see how things were going before my first goal race of the season, Wapack 50 miler May, 12.
   My legs had felt quite heavy all week after a series of three hard runs last weekend including the Gilmanton 5k road race. But at the end of my run on Wednesday which included hill repeats I was thinking I should be able to put in a hard effort come race day.
   We piled into the Subaru at 6:30 to make our way down for the 10 o'clock start. It was in the low 40's when we arrived at Bigelow Hollow and we scuffled our way over towards the registration tent to collect our numbers. On our way over we saw many familiar faces and chatted a bit while we shivered off the cold. After some catching up with friends we got our kits on and did an easy jog down the park road to find a good spot for a nature break and get warmed up.
   I had heard rumors that there was a change to the start of the course and was curious if it would thwart my chances of running 2:10 which would be 7 minutes faster than last years time. We made our way across rt 191 and gathered at the race start area, Soon after RD Jim Campiformio gave us the low down on the new start And I positioned my self a couple rows back behind Gregg Hammet and Ross Krause who I knew would most likely take 1st and 2nd.
   In years past the course turns off the forest road immediately and heads straight up the hill attacking the end of the ridge that the out and back course runs along. But, not this year, we'd be heading down the double track a ways and climbing up to the ridge on forest road and rejoining the Nipmuck trail at about mile two.
   We took off at a quick pace I looked down at my Garmin a few hundred yards down the road and it confirmed the pace was quick (6:12). I tried to settle into a rhythm and not get caught up in the excitement. About a mile in we started to climb up to the ridge and I could see I was starting to slowly reel in a few runners and I locked my focus onto Ultra star and owner of some 2:10 Nipmuck finishes Jack Pilla. As the grade steepened I was careful not to push too hard this early on the race but I wanted to be with Jack as we made the turn onto the single track. I caught him as we crested the last steeps and we exchanged a few words and on one nice downhill I pulled ahead and BANG there was the right turn onto the Nipmuck trail.
  I was feeling strong and settled into a rhythm again making sure to take some fluids in on a regular basis. The descents were sweet, I was flying and having a blast! about a mile down the trail I caught up to Justin Contois and settled in behind him as he picked up the pace as I caught up to him. I felt like I was drafting and knew it was still early in the race and I should conserve myself. Shortly after as the we came upon a technical section I caught a glimpse of 4th, 5th and 6th place runners Derek Jokobski, Godrey Bergen and Mike Mazotta. I knew as we descended down towards the edge of the lake we were approaching the aid station at the midpoint of the course. I quickly took a few slurps from my handheld and stopped to refill it with Gatorade as the 4 others continued on.
  After the aid station the course continues down the road for a tenth of a mile or so then turns up into the woods to climb back up onto the ridge. It wasn't too long until I caught back up to the four who'd left me at the aid station and we carried on for a bit that way with me trailing. I was happy with the pace, it was comfortable, but soon after Justin started to lose contact so I passed him and ran at Mikes heels but soon he too was struggling to hang with Derek and Godrey.
  When I had a chance on a downhill I passed Mike and reeled the two others in. I had noticed that these two weren't as strong in the technical stuff so I formulated a rough strategy to overtake them when we reached the most technical section of the course near the turn around try to force them out of their comfort zone and wear them down, Let me say I have never felt so strong and collected at a race where I could actually think up a strategy! So I did just that and they hooked on.At the turnaround I filled my bottle with more Gatorade and headed back up the steep hill to regain the ridge and Derek and Godrey were right on my heels. I started to second guess my decision to lead and asked them a couple times if they wanted to pass, they declined.
   About three quarters of a mile before returning to the midpoint aid station they blew by me like I was standing still on a steep climb. There was nothing I could do, I leaned into the hill and tried to accelerate to stay with them but all I got in return was some serious leg burn. So, I let them go and settled into a strong rhythm hoping that they would blow themselves up.
   A quick stop to fill my bottle and I was off in pursuit! The last four miles at this race are HELL, somehow you forget all those fast descents you'd enjoyed on the way out were now turned into brutal quad burning climbs. I hunkered down and got to work, only throwing in a few walking strides on the steepest of the climbs. where it was level I was still moving fast and could still let myself fly on the descents. Soon I saw the logged area which I remembered marked the beginning of the descent down the finish, As I rounded the corner on the last of the climbing there was 6th place leaking oil all over the trail. I motored by him and yelled for him to stay with me. He picked it up and was on my heels and I wondered if I should have kept my mouth shut. I leaned down the hill and really strided out. After looking down at my Garmin to see my pace was sub 6 I saw 5th place coming into view and decided i wouldn't be happy with 5th. We motored by him and ran the last tenth down the hill into the finish chute. My plan had worked, I was ecstatic!

1 Greg Hammett M 34 Chesterfield NH 07:50 2:05:11 100.00%
2 Ross Krause M 32 Easthampton MA 08:00 2:07:52 97.90%
3 John Kinnee M 33 Ayer MA 08:15 2:11:51 94.94%
4 Ryan Welts M 31 Goffstown NH 08:35 2:17:07 91.30%
5 Derek Jakoboski M 25 Exeter RI 08:35 2:17:10 91.26%
6 Godrey Bergen M 31 Ellington CT 08:35 2:17:13 91.23%

   So 4th place it was for me, but not by much.My time was two seconds faster than last year on the new course which is .9 longer so thats a big improvement and I think equates to a 2:10ish finish on the old course.
     I hung around at the finish cheering people across the finish line and waiting for Kristina to finish.
   Well, 14 minutes later, there she was ! First Woman! and 16th place overall. This was a break through race for her and I'm so excited to see how her season unrolls as she hones her new found Super Powers!!

Photos courtesy Scott Livingston.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reflections... On a real mess...the abridged version

Looking back on the past few years of my life I've experienced many changes. Some good, some bad.
I've been contemplating writing another blog post for some time now. I feel strongly that people air their dirty laundry too often via social media and It's been tough for me to bring myself to write a personal post instead of just a race report or blurb about a cool run or hike.
I've heard many rumors of what people "think" or "know" about me. Let me make it clear I do not care if you do or do not like me. I would just prefer that you make a decision based on the truth. So here it is to the best of my recollection:
Contrary to popular belief I am not independently wealthy, I do come from a privileged background and attended private and boarding schools growing up. I was a real handful growing up and made my parents lives a living hell! I didn't do this because I was a bad kid, I realize now I did it because I despise authority and would do everything in my powers to rebel. I was expelled from multiple schools and ended up dropping out of high school my senior year because I wanted to be a farmer.
Farming( hay farming specifically) was something I had grown to love since acquiring a summer job on the farm next door to my home when I was fourteen. But there was another reason, farming was exactly the opposite direction in life my parents had hoped that I would head.
Fast forward..... After a failed attempt at UNH to earn a Forestry degree I found myself a partner in an LLC called Silver Maple Farm where I managed to carve out a life for myself far different than my education and sports background had presumably dictated. I was well overweight, smoking cigarettes, driving truck and struggling to find "who I was". So I did what I thought at the time was a good idea, I found a girl that seemed to be able to stand my many idiosyncrasies dated her for a few years and we got married.
With the stresses of being self employed and constantly battle with bouts of severe depression our relationship struggled, to say the least. So we did what we thought was the right move, we had our first child, a beautiful baby girl we called Zoe.(sensing a pattern here?)
Things were great for a while. I really enjoyed my new role as dad and had a blast taking care of my family.
In November 07' I had grown tired of being very overweight and simply reminiscing about the Varsity soccer days and fast Super Giant Slalom races just wasn't enough to keep me happy, I wanted to move again. I talked my new wife at the time , Corinne, into heading up to my fathers condo at Waterville Valley for the weekend after going to the Sandwich Fair and watch Zoe while I went and hiked the Osceolas. These were the mountains I'd told her so many stories about climbing when I was a kid summering in WV.
The hike was the most uncomfortable and humiliating physical experience I ever had and I wanted more! I declared I was going to continue hiking through the winter and make the effort to get in shape. She hesitantly agreed and I was heading up to the whites just about every Saturday all winter. By mid winter Corinne was pregnant with our second child Hannah and my absence one day per week was becoming a problem. (you get the idea)
Fast forward.... The following August, Hannah was born and I had been attempting to run now for about a month. I did not know how to run easy I only knew how I used to run when I was a teen before i put the weight on and started smoking cigarettes. I started on a short loop that was mostly on a private road so people in cars couldn't see my extra 80 lbs of flab jiggling as they drove by.
After getting some nasty shin splints sorted out I was looking to run further (2 or 3 miles) I discovered Beaver Brook which had over 30 miles of trails right close by to the house and I also chose what everyone said was an unreasonable goal for myself. Racing in the Wapack 21 miler the following May. So, I became obsessed, training, hiking, dieting. By Christmas I weighed in at 190 lbs down 40 lbs altogether and by race day I toed the line at 166 lbs and with a couple nagging overuse injuries. During the winter Corinne and I had grown apart and I really struggled balancing family and training, But I was determined that I would NEVER return to my former state and forged on. By this time I had been doing some running in the Whites and Found myself at home there.(everyone knows this part of the story)
Corinne and I had grown apart and struggled to keep the marriage together and in July 09' one month before Hannahs first birthday I told Corrine I was leaving. I moved in with a group of guys, some of which were my employees, and really lived it up with my new found freedom. I stayed the course with my training and still continued to see the girls regularly.
I was lost and did not know what I was going to do with my life from that point forward I ended up selling Silver Maple Farm and its equipment that fall and Moving up to a apartment in Campton while working as a snowmaker at Waterville the hours were tough and corinne was very upset with me and I struggled to get down and visit with the girls regularly. I was truly running from my problems.
Soon I was to make one of the worst decisions of my adult life, one I'm sure I will regret for my entire life. I gave up my parental rights and agreed to monthly phone calls being my only contact with the girls. Even then I struggled to make regular contact and Corinne was becoming very frustrated with me. I was searching for something just not sure what. I moved around, working different jobs and always paying my child support on time.
It was at the Virgil Crest Ultra in September 10' that I met somebody that would change my life forever. Kristina and I were both at the tail end of relationships and to make a long story short we ended up moving in together down in CT where she lived in December. Come spring I ha convinced her to move back to NH with me Because I had realized I desperately wanted to become a part of my daughters lives again. We both found jobs, made the move and I've resumed my monthly phone calls.
The calls are tough, it's been so long since I've seen the girls and I barely even know since she was only a year and a half old the last time I saw her. As you might guess, talking to 4 and 5 year old girls you barely know and who don't really know you except for what their mother tells them, tends to be a very short one sided phone conversation. I'm going to continue to be persistent and hopefully someday their mother will see that I'm serious about being a father again and slowly let me back into their lives. I'm truly excited about that..