Thursday, October 16, 2008



Meet my newest training partner, Phinn. He's a 9 week old Black Labrador Retreiver, born on August 15th. It's been a little over a year since our best buddy, Luke, died, suddenly, while on vacation in Maine. It was time for us to delve into having another dog.
Luke and my daughter in the spring of 2007.

Phinn likes to sleep and follow me where ever I go. To gnaw upon he has his own block of wood in the shop, a pig's ear, tennis balls, and whatever else he finds interesting. Luckily for us, he seems to like people. He's been in the arms of every player of both my daughters' field hockey teams. It's no wonder he prefers to be carried on our walks (we're working on that).

The little bugger is smart. He's already learned to walk without tripping me. He even seems to sit at appropriate times. He's been sleeping through most nights and he know how to "hold it" until I take him outside. He's a real joy.
Phinn having his first serious thought about life.

I look forward to our first run together sometime next spring when he's old enough. I, also, look forward to our spring swimming with the girls in Eastern Bay and Harris Creek. He's already brought new perspective to our lives. I can't wait for the Rise Up Runners to meet our newest member.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Vermont 50 Miler

Kate and I under the Ibex tent at the Vermont 50 Miler packet pick-up. It's her fault that the six of us went to Vermont this past weekend.

The Vermont 50 seed was planted back in February when I was emailing with the Ibex product developer, Kate Porter, about triathlon clothing I was seeking. In my very long winded manner I described my experience with Ibex's wool shirts that I wear religiously; how they work for me in my adventures and on a daily basis. In one of her replies she decribed her participation in the VT 50 as a relay participant. The seed was planted. Valliant and I eventually became Kate's "favorite customers" with our banter back and forth to her, her reading of our blogs, and our tireless championing of Ibex wear.

So, eight months later I sit here about to write of my experience in running part to the VT 50. Katherine, Michael, and I had our plan: Katherine would run the first leg of 12.3 miles, I would run the 2nd of 17.9 miles, and Valliant would run the last of 19.8 miles. We brought our spouses/support crew and stayed in a very "unique" Vermont inn called the Hartness House.

Our inn was 30 minutes from the race start at the Ascutney Mountain Resort. Governor Hartness built the brick mansion in 1904. He was the wealthiest man in Vermont, an inventor, and an excentric. His private log cabin in the woods behind his home did not satisfy his study requirements, so he had built an eight room apartment...underground connected to the house via a system of underground tunnels. The tunnels would eventually lead to his observatory where the telescope he designed still sits, and down into town. The tunnels are not widely known and hold a myriad of mystery to the place. We were lucky enough to get a private tour of the underground treasures. Hartness House fed us well, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The staff was simply stellar! We will look for reasons to stay there again.
Katherine heading down one of the many tunnels under the Hartness House property. It seemed we would send Katherine first many times, including the race.

There were reasons for me to feel some anxiety in leading up to the race: the weather forecast was wet, the hills, and my lack of running-specific training. However, all that left when I hugged Katherine as she finished her leg in 2:22, and I started on my own 18 mile leg. The hill climbing began immediately, but with being so "fresh" I ran all the hills in the first 5 miles of my course. The weather was cloudy and warm, but no rain. The sun shone at times ahead of me. I would try to catch the sunny spots, but they would disappear before I reached them. My course travelled dirt roads, snowmachine trails, open green pastures, and single track.

I quickly realized the advantages to running a relay. I never got passed by another runner all day. Those I passed I would often qualify my speed by telling them I was in the relay (because many of them were running the entire 50). However, when I told that to man I was passing around mile 9, his reply was that he was in a team relay too. Opps. Though there were plenty of hills, a few that I had to walk, along with everyone else, they didn't seem to wear me down too much. I carried a handheld water bottle and 2 gels. The spacing of the aid stations were 7.5, 6.0, and 4.5 miles. I took a gel around 3 miles and refueled at the first aid station. There they had Heed (like Gatorade), fruit, sandwiches, M&M's, etc. I got so lost in the buffet, that before I knew it, 4 minutes passed. I was restocked, water bottle topped off, and onward I trodded. My last aid station stop at mile13.5 had to be quick. I was on a 10 minute/mile pace (good for me on hills) and I had a chance of finishing in less than 3 hours (my initial estimate was somewhere around 3.5 hours).

Strangley, I was passing not only runners, but cyclists as well. The 700 cyclists started ahead of the runners, but many were having trouble with the wet terrain and the hills. Even if I had to walk a hill, my pace was faster than the cyclists who had to walk their bikes up the hill. One cyclist was so tentative on the downhills that I passed him. It was my first experience to see mountain biking in action. I interviewed a tantem cycling team before the race. They said that they would be hitting upwards to 40mph on some of the downhills. They would take turns steering their rig (the handlebars looked like an airplane cockpit with all the guages and levers). I came across a blind cyclist who was on the back of a tandem; very inspirational.

I talked to many along the way. One fellow was a 1998 Naval Academy graduate who was running the entire 50. He was a tough one to pass, and we hung with eachother for a long time. We exchanged race-stories and discovered we had run some of the same events together. He finished the race in under 9.5 hours, which was awesome for that challenging course.

My body was holding up well, though I was starting to feel my calves spasm in my final 5 miles. But, that is all they did; they twitched, like the feeling of a charliehorse coming on, but it never got that bad. I consciously relaxed my feet and legs, drank more water, and never stopped running. By the end of the run, my calves were fine. I guess it was just something working through my body.
Me coming into my finish, and Michael preparing to have his arm ripped off.

My favorite part of the course were the open fields of green. The runners would scuttle along the edges of the fields allowing us to soak in the Vermont countryside. At one point two older ladies sat on either side of the road. They were dressed festively; one blowing bubbles, the other rattling a cowbell. Their smiles and supportive hollers were well appreciated. At times the forest floor would be maple red or Sunkist orange with fallen leaves. By the end of my stint my body was saying enough, but my will was not finished. Michael was not quite ready for me to show when I came around the corner. He was still adjusting his race number. He attempted a congratulatory hug, but I was moving too fast, pumped with adrendline and the "runners high", and I feared I hurt his shoulder as he tried to stop me. All I was thinking was that he needed to get going and try to track down Kate Porter who was already ahead of Mike. I had been trying to chase Kate's teammate, Carey, but she evidentally increased her lead on our team by 3 minutes during my leg. My finish time was around 2:57:55.

Michael went on to catch and pass Kate. But, Mike ran into some leg trouble near the end and Kate got him by a few minutes. Nonetheless, Valliant closed the gap considerably on his 20 mile leg. The 5 of us were excited as we watched Valliant finish the race into the crowd of spectators. The post race party was festive, as well, with a full tented buffet of homemade food, a band, vendors, and IPA. The sun shone for a while before rain showers and rainbows dominated the rest of the afternoon. It was a real down-to-earth afternoon.
The Rise Up Runners' Vermont Crew: Robin, Michael, Katherine, Rob, me, and Carita.

Our whole trip went well; we didn't even mind the traffic on the way home. Our spouses: Carita, Robin, and Rob were champions for all they did to make the race go smoothly for us. Race director, Michael Silverman, did a fantastic job of putting this whole thing together. I really enjoyed his up to date emails. I'm very apprectiative of Kate for suggesting we participate this year in the VT 50. Kate was working the Ibex tent at packet pick-up on Saturday (she sold me biking shorts and leg warmers). She welcomed us like old friends with warm hugs and her infectious smile, even though that was our first meeting. We found the whole atmosphere of the race to be uplifting. Ibex wool, a major sponsor of the race, once again, did me well with my shorts and shirt I wore in the race. Next year, perhaps, we may attempt to beat Kate's team across the finish line again. Or, maybe I'll try to run the whole 50 myself? Who knows, we're not fortune tellars...we're "runners on trails".