Sunday, November 17, 2013

Back Cove 6 Hour Fun Run and Food Drive

Atayne, a local company that produces top notch athletic apparel, had a pretty cool idea in their November newsletter. Hold a "fat-ass" style run before Thanksgiving, make the registration fee a non-perishable food item and donate the food to a local food bank or shelter.

My partner and I both work at the Preble Street Resource Center and really appreciated the suggestion. We are organizing the Back Cove 6 Hour Fun Run and Food Drive for Sunday, November 24th from 8-2p. The course is a 3.5 mile loop around Portland's Back Cove and participants can run a little or run a lot.

Entry is one food item that is both nutritious and delicious. We will have a white board on hand to track times and laps completed. There will be no additional aid on the course and the water fountains are turned off for the season. In typical "fat-ass" style everyone is encouraged to bring something for the aid station if they can.

Aside from collecting a ton of good food, our goal is to make this event accessible to everyone in the community. Walkers, joggers and runners of all ability levels are invited and encouraged to attend.

It is also our hope that some will use this event to reach a distance that they have yet to cover. First 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, or marathon opportunities abound!

Finally, I hope that some dude/dudette shows up with a hydration pack, compression socks and a pair of Hoka's and takes our invitation to run this as a 50 miler with a 6 hour cut-off seriously. Because that would just be rad.

Jokes aside, we hope to fill some shelves at the PSRC's food pantry next week, and hope to see some of you there! Feel free to send any questions pertaining to the event to:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Beast of Burden Winter 100

In 68 days I'll be running the Beast of Burden Winter 100.

After spending the past four months training for the Grindstone 100, which was cancelled due to the government shutdown, my partner Jes and I were feeling ultra'd out. We'd spent the better part of four months living in a small tent at Bradbury Mountain so that I could train. We talked and planned and mapped out Grindstone strategy endlessly. And,we sacrificed time with one another to invest in a goal that was deeply personal to me. I could not be more grateful for the love and support of this amazing lady.

When Grindstone was cancelled I did some soul searching. I went searching for the soul of a sport that I fell in love with at a no-fee fat ass in New Jersey, and which is now filled with races that are too expensive or too exclusive to get into. I searched myself to find the reason that these races and runs are so important to me. And I searched the depths of the interwebs for a race that could inspire me and excite me like Grindstone had. What I found was the Beast of Burden. It was the website that I couldn't stay away from. The race reports that I read and re-read. And the race that I did not (and do not) know if I can complete.

From the race website:

The Beast of Burden 100 & 50 Mile Ultra Marathon series is not a race at all. Sure, there's a timing clock, a start/finish line, and some truly awe-inspiring world-class runners who will travel from the far corners of the globe to toe that line and race that clock on one of the flattest, fastest and most runner-friendly surfaces on the earth in hopes of setting new world records. But, that's just a centerpiece for what really makes the B.o.B. special. This event is our semi-annual family reunion for ultra runners as unique as yourself.

Also from the race website:

Yeah....we know. You can run 100 miles.You can run it through the hills of the highest mountains and through the heat of the sun in the desert valleys, but can you run it in the heart of winter? Through inches or feet of snow? Are you ready to unleash the beast inside of you and run 100 miles on the frigid, historic Erie Canal Towpath? Ladies and Gentlemen, throw away your razors for the new year. This winter, you're going to need all the insulation you can muster!

I consulted with Jes and we agreed to take on the BoB. I feel like we are a team in the truest sense of the word, and hope that I can return her endless support as we continue to chase down dreams and slay dragons together.

I attribute my success at the Virgil Crest 100 largely to having my nutrition dialed in. I fueled my training with healthy, local food and how good I felt during this period leading up to the race was one of the inspirations for my book, Paleo in Maine.

My goal is to train for the Beast of Burden exclusively on local food from many of the farms and distributors featured in the book, and many of them have offered to supply us with some extra meat and veggies to support that effort. Feeding a hungry ultra-runner is a monumental task at times, and their support is endlessly appreciated.

I have also reached out to several local outfitters to see whether they could contribute some winter running gear to aid in my preparation for the Beast. This training cycle is going to take some serious cold weather apparel, and every little bit of support allows us to reach our big goals on a not so big budget.

I reached out because I needed support to do this, and the response was just amazing. If I am successful at the Beast of Burden this January, it will be because of the incredible team of people who have helped me to reach the finish line.

My race at the Beast of Burden Winter 100 will serve as a benefit for the adaptive services program at the Casco Bay YMCA, and will take place on January 18th in Lockport, NY.

Gearing up, and getting ready to run.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ted Corbitt 24 Hour Memorial Run

This weekend I had the honor of participating in the Ted Corbitt 24 Hour Memorial Run in Queens, NY. This is one of the most unique and memorable races that I've ever been a part of, and one of the best events in the ultra scene. Hands down.

Broadway Ultra Society
After the abrupt cancellation of the Grindstone 100 last week, I had a few options on my table. With vacation days taken and family plans etched in stone Jes and I were definitely heading to New Jersey. Originally slated as a stop on the road to Virginia, the visit to my aunts house became the focus of the trip. She practically raised me, and I don't get to see her nearly enough.

There were a handful of 50k races taking place in the area, all of which would have fit into our schedule and allowed me to get a good run in on a gorgeous weekend. There was also the option of solo adventure in the White Mountains or a long run with friends on the return trip. But all of these would have separated me from Jes, and this weekend was about the two of us celebrating a long summer of camping, training and overcoming obstacles together. It was the culmination of several months worth of effort and it marked a new stage in our lives together as we'd just settled into our new home before leaving town.

Ted Corbitt leading the pack. Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, NY 1957
After searching the ultra lists for a day or two I found this hidden gem of a race in Queens. And I'm so glad that I did.

The Ted Corbitt 24 Hour Memorial Race takes place on a 1.1982 mile loop at a small park in Queens. The name of the event caught my attention instantly. Ted Corbitt is nothing less than a hero in the world of ultra-running.

Ted overcame racial prejudice while setting new world records and redefining what it means to "go long". The event held on October 5th and 6th in Juniper Valley Park in Queens celebrated the 40th anniversary of Ted setting the 24 hour record in 1973.

The race also celebrated artist, activist, spiritual teacher and endurance athlete Sri Chinmoy. Sri was a personal friend of Ted's and a truly incredible individual. Excited to be part of this celebration I contacted Rich from the Broadway Ultra Society and signed up immediately. I set a personal goal of running 100 miles at this event and looked forward to my first 24 hour race almost as much as I'd looked forward to Grindstone.

The night before the race I was surprisingly relaxed. The normal pre-race jitters were virtually non-existent and I was truly excited to get out on the course.  Unfortunately, the ankle that I'd sprained a few weeks ago (and rehabbed meticulously ever since) had started to act up again while I was coaching a group run earlier in the week. I rested it well and hoped for the best, but by Saturday night I was still feeling a sharp pain when I moved it a certain way. Fortunately, due to the nature of the race I could pull out if things got bad without risking serious injury, or go the distance if fate, fortune and the alignment of the starts allowed. I slept well on Saturday night and woke up ready to run.

We arrived early and got to talk with Rich who directs the event and some of the other participants.. These were real deal ultra-runners, and the sense of community was just as deep as the storied history of NYC ultra's-which was painted on old race jackets, tattered t-shirts and across the faces of many of the 50 or so participants.

The race began with two and half loops around a track, then proceeded to the big (well, 1.1982 miles big) loop in the park. 83 loops around the official circuit equals 100 miles.

With a small but moving ceremony they started the clock and we were off around the track for the first time. I ran next to the previous winner (the event has been held every 10 years since 1983, with a special race held in 2008, making this a rare event. And making this experience that much more incredible.)

I hadn't raced in a while and was definitely there to give it my all. Although I would have been proud to race and come in behind any one of these runners, I had a good summer of training behind me and didn't want to sell myself short. I started out in the front of the pack and stayed there for the next 20 miles.

Needless to say, I wondered what it would feel like to run a single loop all day and night. By the time I made it around the park for the first time I was relieved. It seemed that the energy of the city coupled with the great community of runners and the presence of my ultra-amazing crew (Jes) on every lap was going to make this an event to enjoy and an event to remember.

The weather was awesome on Saturday and the park was filled with children playing soccer, a couple of young dudes slapping some serious handball and a ton of inquisitive Queens natives wondering what the hell was going on as we walked, jogged and ran circles around them all morning.

I felt great during the early miles of the race, smiling and chatting with people while truly digging the scene. On loops one through fifteen I was reminded by the timing crew that I was in first place, although I knew that meant very little so early in the game. By the 13th trip around the track I began breaking the race down into loops of ten. Seven more loops of ten to go and I would be at 100 miles, my first goal of the day. By 1pm things started to heat up a bit and I began carrying a handheld with NUUN and using my ice-filled Noolie to stay cool. The aid station was well stocked and Jes was able to mix drinks, hand me salt tabs and tend to a couple of unexpected needs that came up (got some hot spots early, but a quick change into my Darn Tough's and a little tape took care of that).

It was on the 18th loop that my ankle started to bark at me. By the 19th loop it started to bite. Shortly after starting the 20th loop I had to begin walking as each step that I ran sent a small bolt of pain right through my ankle. I knew going in to this race that, just like the Grindstone 100 or any run that I took this weekend the ankle giving out on me was a possibility-but it still hurt to think that I wouldn't see the stars come out in the park that night or the sunrise in the morning. I knew as I walked slowly around the perimeter of Juniper Valley Park for the twentieth time that I wouldn't reach the 100th mile of the race as I hoped and planned.

I could certainly have walked for the next 19 hours but this is not an option that I considered for very long. As much as I respect every walker on the course, this would not have satisfied me and my passion for running. Jes had made tremendous sacrifices to be with me all night, another evening spent with family before heading home would be an unexpected blessing and I could not risk a more serious injury for a 100k walk around the course.

Other than not being in a better position to stay the night and support the other runners, I don't have a single regret about this weekend. It was one of the most fun, most rewarding and most compelling races that I've ever done. I wish that I were healed up and back on the course as I write this.

A huge shout out to Rich the race director, the Broadway Ultra Society and the friends and family of Ted Corbitt and Sri Chinmoy. And huge respect to everyone who completed the 24 hour run this year. You've done something truly amazing.

Honored, grateful and looking forward to the Ted Corbitt Memorial Run in 2023!

My total miles run: 24.51

Men's winner: Jim Morris 116.39

Women's winner: Lan Nguyen 109.69

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Grindstone suspended

"The 2013 Grindstone 100 has been suspended due to the government shutdown."

I've never invested so much time and energy into a single event, and I felt dazed for hours after I read this. I walked around in a cloud all afternoon, checking e-mails from my phone every two minutes to see if anything had changed.

There were plenty of bumps on the road to Grindstone, from a diagnosis of Lyme's disease early in the summer to the subsequent joint inflammation that slowed my runs to a crawl to a sprained ankle three weeks before the race, which forced a cold wet night on the Appalachin Trail.

But, by the time that this e-mail came I felt ready to go.

I felt ready for the 6pm start on Friday night, ready for bright starts under the cool black sky in VA and ready for the hot, dusty and long day of trail running that would follow. Despite an extended taper from the ankle sprain I felt about as ready for "the hardest 100 miler on the east coast" as ready gets.

Now that the race is off I'm taking stock of what I've gained over the past several months, and figuring out what to do next.

I have some new running gear that's begging to be used. Black Diamond Z poles for long days in the White's, an excellent pack from UltraSpire and some Inov-8's and Hoka's that need serious mileage put on them. I'm feeling fitter and stronger than I have in a long time. And, I'm catching a fire for the sport like never felt before.

I'm planning on some big runs over the next several weeks and have a new goal race in sight. Here's a hint: it's like the opposite of Grindstone. And it goes down in January.

Endless thanks to everyone who's supported me on the journey to the Grindstone 100 and to race director Clark Zealand and the rest of the Grindstone crew who got dealt a crazy hand and played it well. I hope to run Grindstone 2014 and I'll keep on posting as plans for the next race develop.

Run strong and run long,


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Taper time

One of my goals for the summer was to blog more. I totally failed. My other goal was to train for the Grindstone 100. This time I succeeded. I got in some great runs, some tough runs and some runs that I'll never forget. Getting stuck on the summit of Old Speck in a lightning storm for example, and having to sleep beard to beard with a bunch of thru- hikers before summiting the mountain again in the pitch black and rainy morning was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I wouldn't wish the experience on anybody, but it was good, if  completely accidental, ultra training.

Unfortunately, that's the run where I sprained my ankle. Three weeks before the race.

It swelled to three times it's normal size, turned every shade of black and blue and left me with a lot to think about heading into my taper for Grindstone.

On my final double digit run this morning I took a few missteps and paid the price. You could hear me yell from Route 9. And I was on the snow mobile trail, about 5 miles away.

The ankle is still in pretty rough shape and with the race just twelve days away, I'm nervous. The Grindstone course is notorious for ankle bashing rocks and hairy descents. There is also a "best blood" award at this race. And I don't want to win it.

But, that's both the beauty and the allure of these things. You never know what's going to happen, everybody's got something hurting them before race day and one way or another, everything is going to shake out in the Blue Ridge Mountains in less then two weeks.

The Grindstone race means a lot to me, for many reasons. I'm thankful that I've gotten a summer of good training under my belt and I'm hopeful that almost two weeks of rest, recovery and some easy breezy runs around my new neighborhood will find me feeling strong at the starting line. But, in the meantime, I've got some serious thinking to do...

Assuming that the ankle heals enough that a finish at Grindstone seems possible (and that's what I'm assuming at this point. I have every intention of running this race) then what can I do from now until then to best prepare? As a coach, I find myself hesitant to ask these questions because, well, I should know the answers. Right?  But that's bullshit. It's just ego talking. I truly believe that coaches need coaches and I am absolutely humbled when I look around at all the amazing runners, talented coaches and genuine mentors that I have in my circle, and in my life. So I'm throwing these questions out there and appreciate all of the feedback and insight that anyone has to offer.

Ankle sprains: Has anyone else gotten a sprain before a big race? What did you do about it? Any advice, words of warning or inspirational stories of how you kicked ass regardless would be greatly appreciated!

Footwear: I'm wearing my Inov-8 Roclite 315's for the first half of the race, and changing into my Hoka Bondi B's for the second. Has anyone had ankle issues in the Hoka's? I sprained the ankle on a moderately technical descent off of White Cap mountain while wearing them. I feel like I would have landed awkwardly regardless but wonder if anyone can comment on the trade off between the added protection vs reduced proprioception and if they feel the trade off is equitable?

Trekking poles: I've always kind of frowned on the use of poles in a race. But, when a client asked me whether I was using them at Grindstone my argument against them just didn't hold up. I really don't know what my beef is with trekking poles and, if the ankle is still really shaky, am considering picking up a pair for the Grindstone. (I guess I felt like they offered an unfair advantage, but if they are within the rules I have to reason that makes them fair. And, just as some of us choose hand-helds over packs, Hoka's over Vibrams or show up solo as opposed to having their own personal entourage it seems more like a matter of personal choice.) Incidentally, the Hardrock 100 is an eventual goal of mine (and Grindstone is a qualifier). I would definitely bring poles to Hardrock so what would stop me from bringing them to VA? How high a mountain do you need to have for poles to be legit? And, more importantly, what do I want out of this race? After a respectable 7th place finish at last year's Virgil Crest 100 I purposely picked a race that scared me just a little, and humbly shifted my goals back to just finishing. My goal at Grindstone is to see all 101 miles of the course, and if a pair of trekking poles increases my odds then I just might bring them along.

Rhetorical questions aside, and long question short, has anyone used poles at an ultra? And if so, what was your experience like? Were they a major help or a pain in the ass? And what poles would you recommend for a race like Grindstone?

Thanks in advance and looking forward to your thoughts!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Grindstone 100

The Grindstone 100 has been in my sights for the past three years. I first heard about this race through my friend and teammate Joe Wrobleski's amazing 2011 race report. At the time I had no desire to run a one hundred mile race (but was considering my first 50) and enjoyed the report from the safe distance of the blogosphere, with no danger of getting all jacked up and registering for an ultra.

Immediately following the Peaks 50 I knew that I wanted to register for a 100. I began to scout out a good race and cycle through the collection of reports on our team site Trail Monster Running. I wanted a fall race. It's my favorite time of year and would allow an entire summer of training to prepare for the challenge. I immediately thought of Grindstone, mostly due to the unique 6pm start, which I somehow figured would help with my fear of running through the mountains at night. (In fact, with a night start and a course that takes most runners around 30 hours to complete, assuring that we'll strap on our headlamps for a second time, Grindstone will have more night running than I've ever done. But there's ultra-logic for you...)

After taking all things into consideration (price, location, logistics etc.) I settled on the Virgil Crest 100 in Cortland, NY. My friends Ian and Emma ran it last year and wrote a report that is nothing less than epic. Virgil Crest went very well for me. With Ian pacing me through the night and the Trail Monster crew out in full force I earned a 7th place finish and my first 100 mile belt buckle.

I went into this season knowing that I'd like to build up to another fall 100. And my thoughts turned back to Grindstone. But, after a rough time at Wapack and Back I decided that I wanted a more runnable course. I'm not a hiker, and didn't want to sacrifice those moments when you're flying across the trails for the "monster climbs" and epic summits of the Blue Ridge mountains. I found a flat race with gorgeous views and set my sites on it. For the next month or so the Pine Creek Challenge in PA became my new goal race.

But, along with my injury/illness and the perspective that I gained through the recovery process, I began to question what I was running these races for in the first place. I would like to run 100 miles along the Pine Creek Gorge one day. I'd like to run up the coast to Belfast with a $20 bill in my pocket before the summer ends. But, when racing and setting a target that will serve as my goal for the year, I want to tackle something that scares me. Something that pushes (and hopefully expands) my boundaries as a runner and something that I don't know if I can complete. And with 23.000 feet of elevation gain/loss and a course described as "without a doubt, the toughest 100 miler east of the 100th meridian) Grindstone is all of that. And more.

I went into Virgil Crest with the goal of finishing. I raced as hard as I could and had a good day and an unforgettable experience. I'm going into Grindstone with the same goal, and looking forward to testing myself in the Shenadoah Valley of Virginia in just over two months. I'll be posting stats from my training, which will include several trips to NH to run in the White Mountains, and a self-supported trek across the 43 mile Wapack and Back course, as they happen. Stay tuned and again, thanks to the ultra community for reading and for all of the support.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Noolies, new shoes, and an update from the woods

Since moving to Bradbury Mountain State Park for the summer I've gotten some great runs in. I've also made some incredible memories, both on and off the trails. A few weeks ago though, I got my butt kicked by a tick and had to reshape my training around some serious joint pain thats slowed me down to permanent late stage ultra-pace.

Since the last post my long runs have been 4-5 hour exercises in patience. I've had to walk/hike at least a quarter of the time and could barely manage 13:00 minute miles when I was able to run. Still, I figured it was better than sitting in my camp chair reading Trail Runner. I'm happy to say that I got in 17 miles of pure running yesterday afternoon and am starting to feel like my old self again. I've got a birthday 50k planned for next week and the forced slow-down led me to reevaluate my race plans for 2013. I've got something exciting to add to my calendar and I'll post the details later this week. In the meantime, here are some quick highlights from the past couple of weeks at the 'Brad.

1. Noolies- On the fourth of July I ran twenty miles from my campsite to Portland to visit Jes. It was a crazy hot day and I wrapped a bandana soaked in cold water around my neck to stay cool. Later that evening Jes and I started talking about ways to keep core temperature down during long runs and she had an amazing idea. Being the awesome, fire breathing, go-getting lady that she is Jes put this idea into action and Noolies-"Coolies for your Neck" were born. Jes has been working hard to get these fun and innovative bandanas on the market. They have sewn in pockets for ice and are just an awesome addition to anyone's gear box. As a runner I'm really excited to see this happening. They're incredibly effective and the prototype model has helped me through several hot long runs. The ice cubes stay cold and solid for a long time and when they melt, they send a cold stream of water through the bandana and onto your neck. Just awesome. As her partner I'm so proud and impressed with what she's done. Check them out at and order a Noolie asap!
Noolies prototype

2. Perspective-While on one of my slow-mo jaunts around Bradbury over the past month I had a sudden realization. And a renewed sense of perspective. I was running at a painfully slow pace around the Island Loop trail and, in the midst of self-pity and frustration, I realized how much worse things could be. And how lucky I was. I spent several week over the course of the winter on crutches and would have killed to be able to run a mile on these trails. With Lyme disease, the suspected diagnosis surrounding my symptoms, being such a sketchy devil I could have been immobilized and in a hospital bed right now. Instead, I was able to run for twenty miles at a time, albeit at a slower pace than I would have liked, and that was something to be truly grateful for.

Roclite 315's straight out of the box
3. Last remaining pair of Roclite 315's on the planet-I've been scouring the web for a over a month, trying to locate my favorite pair of running shoes. The Inov-8 Roclite 315's served me more than well for my first 50 and 100 mile races and hundreds of trail miles in between. After a tireless search I found them in my size at a Peter Glenn Sport and Ski, in Florida. Score! (I wish that I could still buy them directly from my friend Ian instead of shopping online and ordering from Florida but unfortunately, that's not the case.) My first run in them reminded me of what an exceptional shoe they are-and how well they're going to perform at my new goal race of 2013. Again, stay tuned for details...

4. Running with Rob-I had a chance to run with a pretty incredible dude yesterday. Most people who run ultra-marathons are some kind of incredible anyway, and I feel very fortunate to be in such amazing company. But, this guy was on another plain entirely and I wanted to share the experience. Rob is my friend Nancy's son who lives out in Moab, UT. A few months ago Nancy mentioned that Rob was running his first 100 miler, the notorious Wasatch Front, in September, She also mentioned that he would be in town for a week in July and that we should run together. I was disappointed to find out that his visit coincided with my illness from last months tick bite and the joint pain that left me running in slow motion, but I was excited to meet the guy. I didn't plan for us to run together for fear of holding him back but we set up a time to meet and talk ultra's. That time came yesterday afternoon when Rob showed up at my site around 1pm. An exceptionally nice guy with a midwest mellowness, Rob emerged from a van with Alaska plates. He was a little sweaty, and clued me in to the fact that he'd run 17 miles already this morning. It turns out that he hooked up with the Trail Monster crew on the Saturday group run and had been running ever since. I explained my situation and he still seemed willing to hit the trails together, slow motion miles or not. With the understanding that he had license to leave me behind in order to get a good training run in we headed straight up the summit trail and into a truly fun run where I got to know a little bit him. It turns out that Rob is a mountain guide and spends a lot of his time taking clients up to the highest heights that they're willing and able to scale. Aside from designing courses for adventure races and collaborating with Montrail on some new racing vests/hydration packs, he apparently spends the rest of his time running trails. Without a trace of ego he told me about 40, 50, and 60+ mile mountain runs that he's done, all of which led him to the line of his first 100 miler in a few weeks.  We ran into my friend Jordan mid run, who, like a true bad-ass, promptly turned around and ran back the way that he'd come to share a few miles with us. We ended up out on the power lines with the Pineland Farms trails in sight but were met with an electric fence at the second of two major road crossings. This forced us to turn around or bushwack even further into the woods. With Jordan needing to get back and a good hour of running between us and the park we filed bottles at an abandoned house with a hose and moved on. It was great to see J and talk details about a planned Pemi Loop and a trek across the Wapack and Back course planned for early fall. Always great to share the trails with Jordan and looking forward to some serious adventures right around the corner.

Rob and I got in a solid 10 miles together (27 total for him). I tacked on an additional 7 after he and Jordan hit the road for the best 17 miler since the tick attack. Grateful to have shared some trail with Rob and my thoughts will be with him and his mom (who's pacing for the last few miles) at Wasatch this September. Go get that buckle brother!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Vermont 2013: DNS

On Wednesday night of last week as I lay in my tent, a wave of tremors, cold chills, and body aches came over me. I pulled on my boots along with my thickest hoodie and tried to sleep it off, I had a 25 mile road run on tap for the morning and suddenly, the Vermont 100 just two weeks away.

Since pacing my friend Jeremy in his stellar 2012 performance at Vermont I've wanted to run this race. I didn't expect this years registration to fill as quickly as it did and I ended up with my name at the rear end of the waiting list. I e-mailed the director to inquire about my chances of getting in and her (always prompt) response was: Highly unlikely. I might want to consider the 100k or plan for next year. But she'd keep me posted.

With these odds in mind I didn't give much thought to the race and put the Hampshire 100k and The Pine Creek Challenge 100 miler down as my goal races for 2013. I began camping full time back in June to train.

Flash forward to a rough race at Wapack and Back, a series of 20-25 mile redemption runs with the Hampshire 100k on my mind, and the fact that I'm living at Bradbury Mountain and biking 15-20 miles a day, every day, on top of my running starting to pay dividends. Flash forward to an out of left field e-mail from Julie two weeks ago. Congratulations! You've been accepted into the 2013 Vermont 100!

I immediately began reaching out to friends in my tight knit trail running community for training advice and resources while sourcing out every opportunity to make this small adventure happen. These are some of the best people that I know and their supportive responses only reaffirmed that fact. A dream race was suddenly in sight and I began running harder than hard. After a series of good trail runs culminating in a 6 hour mix of hills, roots, rocks, and roads I was feeling good. Flash forward to me shaking in my tent on July 3rd bundled up like it was January 3rd, feeling bad.

I woke that morning a little behind schedule, rushed down a quick breakfast (had to go without coffee,and everyone knows that you can't run without coffee), filled my bottles and hit the road. I couldn't tell if what hit me the previous night had moved on but the next 25 miles would reveal. And if I were really sick my amazing partner Jes, whose house I was running to in South Portland, would scoop me up. I had my cellphone in my Northface waist belt along with a $20 bill. And hey, it was the Fourth of July.

I used the high and humid temps to explain away how badly I was feeling, and how poorly I was running. But by mile 4 I was legitimately thinking of turning around and saving my legs for another day when I could actually do something with them. Finally I decided that suffering through a hot stretch of road with absolutely no energy would surely be a part of the VT 100 if I ran it and this would be as good a training opportunity as any. Plus, I had a bunch of festivities to run through in nearby Freeport, an easy afternoon with my lady to look forward to when this thing was done.

I made it 16 miles before a combination of hydration issues, a strange stiffness in my neck, and the extreme fatigue that I'd been battling all morning caused my to pull out the cell phone and make the call. I told Jes I'd meet her near the Martins Point Bridge in Portland 4 miles away to give her time prepare and to round the run out to an even 20.

Afterwards we went to one of our favorite cafe's to eat but I could barley get anything down. My appetite picked up a bit later on and then died out completely. For the next several days.

By Friday night I was getting worried as I was suffering from fever, chills, a migraine headache, and an inexplicable pain in my neck and hip. I was also beyond fatigued. As I cooked another dinner on the grill that I wouldn't be able to eat I ran my fingers through my hair in frustration-and there I found it. An engorged tick buried in the crown of my head.

Upon removing it, and realizing that it had likely been there since at least Wednesday and rode the 20 miles to Portland with me, I suddenly felt sicker than sick. I jumped on my phone and started researching all that I could about Lyme Disease. I've got some smart friends and resources began streaming in.

By this time darkness was setting in, the chills were getting worse, and one of the scariest nights I've ever had began to unfold The stiffness in my neck shifted into a panic inducing numbness and my heart started beating fast. I felt too weak to move and as I lie in my tent I began to seriously wonder how something like paralysis sets in? How does it feel to fall into that last deep sleep? I'm not exaggerating here. Things got deep. I knew that I was hospital bound at this point, the question was whether to call an ambulance to the camp that night or head over first thing in the morning. After much debate I found myself nervously drifting off and anxious for sunlight.

Morning came, along with an unofficial diagnosis of Lyme's (blood test results still pending, and from what I can tell, close to worthless), my first dose of doxycycline, and a day spent totally racked with pain. Jes is a healer in the truest sense of the word. Her strong spirit, endless patience, and attention to all of the little details of the day got me through the roughest stretch of road that I can remember.

It's been tough travelling since but I'm far from beaten. I'm learning more about the disease, it's co-infections, and other possible forms of treatment. I'm also discovering one of the most contentious debates in the world of science and medicine and watching big ego's, big money, and big ideas fight for space in a crowded room. I'll be posting more about the resources that I uncover and the experience as it unfolds.

I'll also be posting more about a planned peak bagging adventure in NH, a race report from the Hampshire 100, and my backyard adventures at Bradbury Mountain. All leading up to my next 100 miler in September. Vermont 2013 wasn't in the cards for me but I'm looking forward to seeing my teammates go down and do their thing. My heart is with them and I'm sure they'll be bringing some hardware back to Maine. And my 2013 racing season is far from over, this is just a bump on the road, an unexpected scale back week, and a reason to run harder, stronger, and better than I ever have.

On a final note, to all of my trail running friends-do your tick checks and do them well.  For real. Keep safe, keep smiling, and keep scaling mountains.

I'll see you up there.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Training Camp

Last month I sent the manager at Bradbury Mountain State Park the following message:

Hi there, I am a long time camper/hiker/runner of Bradbury Mountain and I had a question regarding seasonal camping. I am running a 100 mile trail race this September and am planning to tent camp for the months of June, July, and August in order to train for this race. Do you offer monthly rates for tent sites and would it be alright to camp for that length of time?

This was their reply:

During the peak season we allow only a 14 night maximum stay in ME state parks. You are asking specifically about that time frame. The only exceptions are for our Campground Hosts that can stay an entire season. They basically work for their rent. I am looking for someone to fill our need in that regard. Would you be interested in taking this on?

With two major races on my calendar, the majority of my personal training clients only a short bike ride from the park, and a few months before me and my amazing partner Jes settle into our new apartment I didn't hesitate to fire off my reply. I would absolutely be interested.

Jes and I settled into the site last Thursday (super fortunate to have her and Liam the Ultra-Dog joining me a few nights a week) and set up a summer training camp for the Hampshire 100k and the Pine Creek Challenge 100.

Liam the ultra-dog
I'm beyond grateful for this opportunity and plan to post training updates, pictures from the trails, and updates on Liam's trail name (his doggie hydration pack has a space for this for this and we're working on something good) as the summer rolls on.

Keep checking the blog... or better yet knock on the door of the green tent near the entrance and we'll hit the trails.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Traprock 50K

On a frigid February night I found myself in a friends home talking ultra-running. Jordan and I had known each other in a previous life and had shared many experiences together but it wasn't until we both moved away from Portland and then subsequently moved back that we became running partners. 3 mile runs through the neighborhood to catch-up with one another turned into 3 and 4 hour trail runs every Saturday morning. He paced me at my first 50 miler, I watched him cross the line of his first 50k, and now here we were on a cold, cold night, thinking of spring and of bare trails and of our next ultra-adventure.

We had gathered at his place to watch Unbreakable (again) and scope out spring and summer races. Ian had mentioned the Wapack and Back 50 to me several weeks before and it seemed like a truly appealing race, an out-and-back on the Wapack trail in MA that two of our most bad-ass team members Val and Mindy had already set their sights on.

With registration still weeks away from opening we put Wapack on our calendar and began training. I began looking for 50k races in late April in the hopes of finding something tough, hilly, and generally mean about thirty days from Wapack. And this is where I found the Traprock 50k.

From the race website:

Consisting entirely of rolling forest roads or single track that can be extremely rocky, the course will provide a true test of the runner’s fitness and mental stamina. You should only consider entering this race if you are confident you have sufficient running experience such as having completed a recent road or trail marathon

Traprock training
Training was going well and I transitioned from an average of roughly 15 miles per week in the winter to the first 20 mile runs of the season pretty seamlessly. Then, on a long run in surprisingly deep snow which had drifted onto the trail I hurt my ankle-bad. The next several weeks were spent hobbling around on crutches, swinging kettle bells and rowing on the Concept 2, and hoping that I could heal up in time for Wapack.
Most of my training runs consisted of running the Knight Woods trail at Bradbury Mountain, a 1 mile loop with a small hill in the middle. I would run this 10, then 12, then 15 times in order to get as many trail miles in as I could while not straying too far from the car in case the ankle gave out.

Until 3 weeks before the race I considered dropping down the 17k distance at Traprock due to the setback from the injury and the subsequent lack of training. Then, after a long run on a rainy Tuesday morning I texted Jordan to say "50k at Traprock is on". I felt like we had made a commitment to one another and with my ankle in good shape I saw no reason to back out of our biggest training run for Wapack and Back.

We arrived in CT on the evening before the race and got a good night of rest before a beautiful day of running.

Ian ready to rip it up

TM Ultra Team
With no real time goal in mind and a sense of gratitude that I could even run the thing post-injury I embarked on one of the most relaxed and enjoyable trail runs of my life. The first 10.5 mile loop offered many pleasant surprises, most notable being the relatively runnable terrain in a race that I'd expected to be more of a hands-on-knee's affair. The few climbs that this course offered were undoubtedly difficult and the steepest of them, the stairway to heaven was one of the meanest things I'd ever encountered in a race.  But, on this day it didn't feel all that mean and I actually enjoyed ascending this set of stone steps on all three trips occasions. Half-way through the second lap I saw Jordan coming around a lollipop loop less than a 1/4 mile behind me. He looked strong and as I gave him a high five it occurred to me that within a few minutes we might be racing one another. I'm sure that this thought had passed through both of our minds as our training runs found us pretty evenly matched. We'd run into this interesting pattern of him charging out hard at the beginning of our runs and leaving me in the dust, me catching up about 10 miles into the run, and him and I leapfrogging each other as we take turns at feeling good and feeling bad. In our training we always made a plan to meet back at the car at a specified time which allowed us to run at our own pace, break away on our own path, or race each other when the spirit moved us-all of which occurred on these memorable Saturday morning runs. Now with Jordan pulling up next to me at the halfway point of the race I wondered how the next 15 miles were going to go down. We ran neck and neck at a relaxed pace and talked about our favorite parts of the trail and how good we were feeling. For some reason the competitive drive that I expected to kick in for both of us-as it had during so many runs where one of us begins to push the pace and the other drops, keeps up, or pushes harder and charges past- just didn't happen. There came a time when I stopped to stretch for a bit and Jordan ran on. I wondered if I would see him again and felt nothing but glad that he was having such a good run. I caught up to him on a stretch of road a few miles from the start/finish and we completed the second loop together, At this point I wondered if we would end up naturally falling into the same pace for the third and final loop and, with no desire to hard charge and race my friend for the next two hours, if we would possibly cruise into the finish line together.

The rest of the team, Ian, Joe, Ben, and Nate where having a great day on the trails and I saw them periodically as they came cruising down the backs of trails that I was just beginning to climb. With a 3 loop course and several lollipop sections I could see that they were all doing really well and tearing up the Traprock. I ended up a getting a bit ahead of Jordan on some of the climbs and found myself suddenly feeling better than I ever had at mile 23-24 of a 50k. I ran evenly and easily and found myself suddenly alone on a gorgeous stretch of singletrack that was just glowing in the midday sun. As I was enjoying the solitude of the trails I noticed the faint sound of breathing and the crunch of footsteps behind me. I turned to see Jordan coming fast and hard. Suddenly we were neck and neck and pushing the pace. We pulled into an aid station together and took exactly 5 seconds to down a drink and race back out onto the trail. Next aid station same thing-in and out and after each other again. Yet, even with us running neck and neck it didn't feel like we were racing each other. It felt like we were running a race together and was one of the most unique and enjoyable experiences that I've ever shared with a friend on the trails. I could still see either of us taking the lead at this point and the possibility of a duel finish was still on my mind as well.

I'd held back a bit on the second loop in the hopes of a strong finish and as we arrived at the middle of the last loop I felt a surge of strength and began to push hard. I ran the climbs that I'd hiked on the previous two loops and soon found myself alone on the trails again. I kept the pace up for the next mile or two and just as I was about to slow it down and do some late stage ultra-shuffling I noticed a dude in a bright red shirt a few hundred yards ahead. With another runner in striking distance I amped it up again and soon found myself running alongside him and his friend. We ran together until we reached the final aid-station at which I gulped down some ginger-ale and tried to race back out onto the long stretch of road. One of the runners held back while me and the other started a ridiculously slow late stage ultra battle for the books. He was just beginning to pull away from me when the ginger ale settled in my stomach and I felt ready and able to run. I was able to pass him and as I rounded a bend in the road I saw a group of 5 or 6 runners just a few hundred feet away. I raced harder than I ever had at this stage of a long race and was fortunate enough to catch up to, and pass, one after another. Most were supportive and encouraging except for one guy who shot me a snarky ass "How'd you get here?" We'd seen each other many times over the course the day, each time with him in the lead and descending a trail that I was just beginning to climb. I explained to him that I had run there and passed him on the last stretch of road before heading back into the trails.

The last climb and subsequent descent to the finish found me alone and pushing as hard as I could to stay that way. I crossed the line totally wiped by this late stage ultra-duel and pretty close to puking. This was the perfect end to an excellent Wapack training run and to a race that was as memorable for its mellowness as it was for a sudden slugfest in the last few miles and a unique racing experience shared between friends. Jordan finished shortly after and we hung out with the rest of the team for a bit. The Trail Monster flag flew high in the post-ultra haze of burger smoke, sore muscles, and smiling faces and I'm looking forward to hanging it up again at the Wapack and Back 50 in less than two weeks.

Ultra's make Nate happy

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Big things

Big things are happening. Everywhere that I look I see someone taking a chance, making a move, taking a stand or chasing a dream. I see people who are becoming increasingly unafraid to bet on themselves and on each other. This speaks volumes to the awesome community that I am a part of and I am nothing but grateful.

Here are a couple of new things on my end that I wanted to share. A few posts ago I mentioned a big change in my business. Well, here it is. I've renamed the business Why Be Strong? and am now offering personal fitness consultations at my new website and running an outdoor training program based in Portland.

I've also been working on a revised edition of my book Paleo in Maine which is now officially completed and on the market. Check it out on Amazon!
I wanted to send a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me in these projects and helped to make them possible.

Spring in the air, dirt on the trails, good things ahead.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


I was on a 20 mile training run two weeks ago when I hurt my ankle...bad. The run was an out-and-back from Bradbury State Park in Pownal, Maine to Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, and by mile 15 of the return I knew that I had done some damage. Each step of the next 5 miles reaffirmed that fact. By the time that we got back to the parking lot I couldn't put any weight on it and I ended up on crutches for the past two weeks.

I usually do okay with acceptance...and with putting things in perspective. Yeah, I couldn't run but I could still walk. I couldn't train the way that I wanted to, but I could still train. I wasn't battling a more serious illness, wasn't dodging bullets in a war zone, wasn't an innocent man on death row etc. Things could definitely be worse.

But, for some reason, this injury was a tough one for me to accept. I just began running regularly again after a taking some time off this winter and (after some huffing, puffing, and humbling first runs) I've never felt better. More importantly for me, this past winter presented some difficult personal challenges and as I hit the fresh dirt trails which snow had covered for the past several months I felt as though I had met these challenges not only intact, but stronger. I just bought a new GPS and some new gear, built up my mileage with a few 10 and 15 milers and a solid 20 two weeks before the injury, and was feeling that feeling that I get every time that I return to race training: it's a feeling of pure and absolute passion. It reminds me of the role that running plays in my life and, this year in particular, of the primal desire to race and race hard. I've never been more excited about a racing season and with the Traprock 50k and the Wapack and Back 50 miler fast approaching I ended up in serious funk. The past 14 days were spent hobbling to the YMCA in Portland and swinging kettle bells, rowing on the Concept 2, and focusing on targeted strength training (mainly deadlifts and squats, and core work) that will correlate to a stronger race performance once I'm ready to get back on the trail.

I ran my first mile this morning and I'm in no pain as I write this. I'm planning on a 3 miler tomorrow morning and I'm optimistic. But, most importantly, somewhere along the line I've regained the perspective that I lost along the way....

There's no "it's only running and I'm grateful for what I have" morale here. Just the opposite. Running has become a huge part of my life over the past few years, largely due to the amazing community that I'm a part of and partly due to my discovering a passion for the 50 and 100 mile distance and the races that I've put on my radar a result.

The past two weeks have reminded me that I am extremely grateful to have something that I love so fucking much that it kills me when its gone. Those are the kind of experiences that I want to fill my life with, the type of relationships that I want to have, and the degree of importance that I want the important things in my life to take.

Looking forward to the run tomorrow, and the one after that, with the sense of gratitude still fresh in my mind. Looking forward to the Traprock 50k and the Wapack and Back 50, where hopefully the only pain that I feel is the pain that I've earned on the trails.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Have we met?

Hey, I'm Intensity. Just wondering if we've met.
If we had, you'd remember...
You'd remember because it was awkward and uncomfortable.
You'd remember because it hurt.
What you might remember above all though is how it felt afterwards.
It felt good. You felt strong. You were proud.
Crossing the bridge between I CANT and I WILL and I DID isn't easy traveling, but do it once and you come out stronger. Do it again and get stronger still.
So if we've met before let's get together again soon.
If not,let's set a date....

Saturday, January 26, 2013

As good as it gets

This is about as good as it gets....take twenty seven minutes and one second out of your day to watch it. And then get after what ever what you love to do, with no excuses.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

F#@K Off

When was the last time that someone told you to f-off? It had been a while for me and I started to question whether that's a good or bad thing. I both hate and fear rejection, even mild rejections hang on me for days,but there's one thing I've learned through the process of chasing goals, falling flat on my face, shaking it off, and picking up the chase: The things that are most important to me incur the most risk, they lie in that danger zone where a f-off is just as likely as a handshake. And I'm starting to see both as a sign of progress.

Asking someone to believe in you, or simply to believe you, is asking a lot nowadays. Sharing an idea that seems crazy, asking someone to join you in a leap of faith, or just straight up saying what you mean when no one in the room agrees may just result in someone telling you to f-off. If so, congrats. With the best things in life lying just outside of our comfort zones we'd better be ready to break some rules, make some new ones, and risk rejection of who we are today in order to become who we want to be tomorrow. So the next time that you're sure the room is in agreement, certain that the answer on everyones lips is yes, and pretty confident that no ones going to tell you to might be worth asking if you're in the right room.

Photo from Trust Your Journey posted by my friend Vanessa.