Friday, August 26, 2011

UTMB RACE DAY-Weather Delay


The view from the alley.
After another near perfect morning you could tell something was brewing.  The winds had picked up overnight and as morning went on the dark clouds were moving in.  A couple of emails from friends warned of the race delay although still no official word has come from the organization.  The forecast calls for the first storm to hit late this afternoon with the usual rain, thunder and lightning but then another is supposed to hit around midnight with heavy rain, wind, thunder, falling temps and higher elevation snows, yipee!  Always and adventure!  The later start may have us starting in the pouring rain but it may avoid us running in the mountain snow until daybreak.  And by morning, the storm should have passed.  This is all speculation so we will see.  In any event, the race has been delayed so a full day in store for rest and relaxation.

Yesterday was also a day of rest.  It started with a trip to the local pastry shop where I got a pain du chocolate which I even ordered speaking it in French.  After breakfast Grettel and Birger, my hostel mates and I had gone out for a couple of easy miles running around town and in the forest to burn off some anxiety.  Afterwards it was lunch, rest and planning our pre-race pasta dinner.  We ventured up to the local market and did our best trying to understand the local methods.  Cheese you order in wedges, meats are by the kilograms.  You can also buy beer, wine and liquor at the local market.  After a successful shopping trip it was time for more rest.  Before dinner, we decided to visit the local drinking establishment.  About 30 meters from the hostel is the Savoy Bar.  Perfect for an afternoon local draft.  Meanwhile Oliver was back at the hostel preparing the coals for grilling dinner.

The Savoy Bar

Grettel, Birger and I enjoyed the sites along the Rue as we sipped the local draft before heading back to the hostel.  Dinner consisted of of course pasta but with grilled legumes mixed in as well as Ricotta cheese.  Along with the pasta was grilled chicken, ribs, salad, bread and cheese.  Bread and cheese goes with every meal here.  Afterwards we enjoyed Toberlone chocolate.  We all filled up in anticipation of the 6:30 PM race start figuring that was our last full meal.  Later in evening I received some emails from friends warning of the nasty weather approaching and a possible delay or re-route.  Prior to bed I finally got myself organized for the race.  This race is a little more challenging as you have one pack you are allowed to carry throughout with many obligatory items.  In addition, there is only one place to drop a bag so if you have any special need items, you need to carry them for at least half the race before you get your bag.  And I'm not quite sure what they will have at the aid stations.  Nick mentioned wine and beer but not sure if I will indulge in that during the race, we'll have to see how I feel.  Finally by 1:00 AM I had done enough and was off to bed.

Friday Morning- Race Day:  I checked the early morning weather report.  It still looked nasty with no major changes.  I received a couple of emails from friends finally confirming the race delay until 11:30 PM.  After a nice breakfast and some more organizing for the race I decided to get in a couple of easy miles touring around the town and the rec path along the river.

Rec path

The river along the rec path

After that it was back to the hostel for lunch and more relaxation waiting for the 11:30 PM race start.

Hopefully there will be no more delays and we'll be off and running on an adventure in the mountains next!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc Race Week Day 3


Being surrounded with mountains like this makes it real hard to be good and taper before a major race.  One has to do what one must do and for me I continue to be drawn to the mountains to explore.

Another beautiful day in Chamonix.
Today started off with a late awakening to a beautiful morning again looking up at Mont-Blanc.  After a leisurely breakfast it was off to Chamonix Center to sign in for the race.  One of my hostel mates, Margaretha and I went over together on the bus. Upon arrival we quickly saw "the line".

Margaretha from Australia waiting in line.
Registration began at 10:00 am and I think half the competitors thought to come over at that same time.  In all it took about 2 hours to get through the process which included the passport check and then the gear check.  We had to sign waivers to verify that we had all the obligatory equipment for the race.  If found on course without, it could lead to a time penalty or disqualification.  At one point I thought I was being taken aside to have a blood test for doping.  I didn't quite understand what the person was saying in french so another came by to take me to the doctors.  I think it was about some form that was sent to me that I didn't fill out.  But as I was being taken away, another person came by to say it wasn't necessary.  I was relieved.  Needles are not my thing.  Afterwards we headed over to the Expo to check out some of the vendors and sponsors of the event.  I was hoping for better food samples but only managed to find some rather nasty tasting energy bars and some milky drinks that I wouldn't want to drink for even 5 miles.  Margaretha soon hooked up with a friend for lunch and I headed back to the hostel to plan my afternoon adventure.  With some minor difficulties like not catching the bus and walking around for quite some time to find the train station, I did make it back, only took an extra hour but in that time I become buddies with some guy at the train station.  He talked my ear off in french and never stopped, (he was also drinking capachino, must have been high test).  I just nodded and smiled most of the time until the train arrived and I was gone.

Back at the hostel I had a quick snack and decided to venture across the street to climb up towards Les Grand Montets, another mountain peak next to the Argentiere Glacier and just north of Mont-Blanc.  This was to be a full on uphill climb along a trail/mountain service road to the plateau and I had thought I might even take the cable car from there on to the top.  This would also be a great opportunity to help break in the new shoes which arrived on Saturday, the day before I flew out.  A new pair of the Mizuno Ascend 6's which have always treated my nicely, (Thanks Tina).  There was no running involved once I got to the hill, it was a power hike all the way up for a good 40 minutes.  I was dreading thinking about the pounding coming down, as I didn't want to crush the quads 2 days before the race.  I stopped in to see about taking the cable car up to the summit but of course was too late as the last car just made the trip.  I could also take the cable car down to avoid the downhill and the last car was available but no, I couldn't do that and decided to hang at this plateau where there was a full lodge and deck overlooking the valley below.  The sun was out so I just relaxed for a good 45 minutes enjoying the peace and the views.

I finally decided it was time to go and found a possible alternative trail down the face of the mountain but in the trees with lots of switchbacks.  That would certainly be easier on the quads.  As I was heading down I ran into 2 English speaking climbers who were just coming down from the top.  They told me the Glacier was just over the horizon.  I hadn't yet been up close to the Glacier so without hesitation, I was heading up again in search of the Glacier.  The trail was much more reasonable and was only moderately going up and was mostly runnable.  After about 15 minutes I was perched over the massive Argentiere Glacier.

It was truly impressive and I could also feel the temperature drop as I approached.  I was hanging over the end taking pictures and enjoying the site when the rumbling started.  Another afternoon storm was approaching and I was totally exposed above the treeline.  Time to go as the rain started in and the lightening was getting more frequent.  I got back to the mid mountain lodge just in time as torrential rains, lightening and hail came down.  I knew the next trail section would be totally exposed as well so I made a good decision and hung out until the storm had passed.  I saw a break in the clouds and that was my Que to get going.  As I was starting I kept hearing music.  Nobody was in site so I figured I was just delirious and hearing things, it wouldn't have been the first time so I continued on.  As I made the cutoff to the trail down I saw a peculiar site, a line of some kind of animals for as far as I could see.  They were walking along this trail that I wanted.  I slowly approached and got closer only to see hundreds and maybe thousands of goats and sheep, many with bells on (The music I heard) on a hike down the trail.  I stood there for quite some time trying to figure this out.  Never seen this before, where is the herder and when will the line of animals end.

It never ended for the five minutes I stood there.  Many of the goats had these huge racks on their heads, looked like smaller moose antlers.  All I could think of was that I would get bucked and have stitches in my butt and not be able to race.  Finally I found a group of more friendly looking sheep and jumped in with the crowd as we ran down the mountain together.

They were all right, not aggressive even the sheep with the horns and I even caught up to some goats and they were fine too so we continued on for quite some time until I had to turn off.  I said my au revoir and headed down the mountain to a long section of steep switchbacks to get me to the bottom, eventually.  At least it was in the woods and much softer than the service road would have been.  Finally I was out of there and just in time as another storm was brewing.  Within minutes I was back at the hostel.

Another fine day.  Tomorrow I will begin my taper, really.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc Race Week Day 1 & 2

RACE WEEK IS HERE:  3 days to go until UTMB!

After attending the "Redneck" Party Saturday evening, involving a little bit of tequila and other fine cuisines and company, it was time to get up 3 hours later for my ride to the airport for the 5:45 am flight from Burlington to the Washington DC airport (Dulles).  Thanks to Bob Ayers Jr. for getting my butt to the airport in time!  Getting out of Burlington was easy but then it was to be a long day in Washington, from 7:45 am until my flight out at 5:45 PM to Geneva.  The big challenge in Washington was to figure out a way to get a run in.  I had 2 bags I was carrying around and there was no great place to run at this airport.  The Washington Reagan airport has a whole network of trails out the front door but here at Dulles, it was only highways.  After some investigation work I discovered a public bus that would take me over to the Air and Space Museum at the far end of the airport property and was told they had lockers available for the bags.  I had to wait a couple of hours to catch the bus but at least they have free wifi at the airport now which occupied my time until the bus arrived.  Then a short 15 minute bus ride to the museum and there I was.  As soon as I arrived I found the lockers to ditch my bags and what a deal.  For 25 cents you could fit 2 large bags in and when you returned to get your bags, you got the 25 cents back.  So I was in and out of that locker many times.  I did the tour around the museum which was all indoors and it was very interesting.

Lots of planes from day 1 of flying to the present fighter planes to the shuttle.

After seeing enough I decided to get a run in around the museum grounds.  I did the quick change into the running gear and headed outside.  Going outside was like hitting a wall.  The temps must have been in the mid 90's.  I sort of plotted out a run and headed out to the far end of the parking lot and would follow the perimeter. The grounds were like being in a prison camp, surrounded by tall metal fences with barbed wire at the top.  It was all airport property surrounding the museum.  I followed the fence line and over small hill and dale made a loop around.

Museum running route as seen from the observation tower.
Probably only 2 miles in all but that was just enough to stretch out the legs a bit.  Then it was back inside to have lunch and finish up the tour before heading back to the airport.  Lunch was very limited as all they had was a McDonald's.  I can't remember the last time I've eaten at one but I had no choice.  I did find a salad that looked safe and went with it.  I survived, barely.  I finished my tour at the museum with a visit to the observation tower and then went outside to wait for the bus.  While waiting I remembered a special snack I had, a bag of peanut m&m's.  I dug into the bag but ran into a little problem.  The bottom of the bag blew out and they spewed out all over the sidewalk.  I'm not one to usually pick up food off sidewalks but this was chocolate and I also figured, in a trail race you eat and do things that normal people might think was disgusting so what the heck, with people all around I started picking up the m&m's and enjoying every last one off the sidewalk, except for the one stuck in the crack of the sidewalk under someone's foot.  I had to let that one go.  Afterwards it was a quick ride back to the airport and through security.  I thought I was in for a pat down but instead had the arms in the air for picture time screening.  Maybe next time.  Finally it was time to board the plane.  Everything was going smoothly until we started to taxi out for take off.  Apparently the earlier storms delayed some previous flights so we had to sit and wait and wait for nearly an hour and a half on the runway before we could get in the air.  After that it was smooth going all the way to Geneva, but it was a long time for sitting and made for a long night with very little sleep.

The plane arrived in Geneva, Switzerland just over an hour late.  Meanwhile my shuttle bus to Chamonix was waiting very impatiently for my arrival.  When they spotted me it was the quick dash to the bus to try to keep the driver on schedule.  He kept talking to me as he rushed me along but I had no idea what he was saying as he spoke French.  The only thing he understood from me was that I had to get some Euros to pay him.  So we were off and going to Chamonix for the hour or so drive.  The shuttle bus was some mini bus but the driver thought he had some Ferrari as he flew around the corners and cut off any cars in his way.  We first stopped in the center of Chamonix to drop off another passenger and then the driver stopped suddenly and said something to me in french which I had no idea what he was saying.  Finally another passenger who spoke some English told me there was an ATM machine so I could get cash but to hurry.  So I ran out only to find the machine not working.  So quickly back in the bus to the next corner for another machine.  This one was working but when I put the card in, it asked for a number code.  I hadn't used this card in years but put in a familiar number and... it worked and money came out!  Back in the bus and on route again.  Finally when we got to another street just outside of Chamonix in the town of Argentiere, the driver stopped, got out and put my bags on the ground.  I paid him the fee in Euros and off he went.  So there I was, somewhere in France without a clue as to where I was or where I was going.  After strolling along the street I spotted a paper hand written sign up an alley of the Elevated Backpacker's Chalet, my home for the next 6 nights.

View of Mont Blanc from my bedroom window.

The new home was a small hostel in the center of this small mountain town and only a short bus or train ride into the center of Chamonix, the start of the race on Friday evening.  I spent much of the day organizing my travel gear and then shopping at the local market.  This was another big experience for me as a foreigner.  All the packaging was in french and all the people spoke french so it was resorting back to french 101 from the early high school days.  I did ok for the most part but the fresh cheese I couldn't wait to eat turned out to be butter.  I couldn't find much of any cold cuts to make sandwiches but did find some unique beers to sample.  Trying to be good for the race I kept it to a minimum as far as the beer was concerned.  I first found a Bud can, usually my favorite back in the states.  But this was a special Czech Republic blend.  And then there was some french blonde bier that sounded good too.  And for an extra bonus, these foreign beers are typically stronger that the US beer.  A special treat to look forward to with tonight's dinner!  But first it was time for lunch and then time to check out the trails.

I decided on the first day to get up in elevation to see how it was and discovered a trail just out the back door that went up to Le Blanc, a mountain directly across from the famed, Mount Blanc.  After a long gradual uphill it went into more switchback single tracks until above the tree line.  From there is turned out to be very nice single track that you could see winding all throughout the mountains.  I got to the summit of this peak as a storm was approaching.  Elevation was 2350 meters or so, I think about 7,000 feet and you were totally exposed so I thought it was best to head down.

I tried to take it easy on the downhills to preserve the quad pounding for the race which was hard to do on an hour down a fairly steep downhill.  Overall a great training run during this race week with just over 2 1/2 hours on the trail.  Afterwards it was pasta and beer to enjoy at the hostel before retiring from a long 2 days of traveling.  I did re-learn some french today.  Nearly every one you see on the trail says "bonjour" so I politely I would return the "bonjour".  And I'm using "merci" too when I get something.

I awoke Tuesday morning feeling well rested after a great night's sleep.  I ventured out to the market to try my luck again in finding cheese and also brought back some fresh bread and eggs to make a great egg sandwich to start off the day.  Then it was time to head in to explore Chamonix.  I walked over to the train station and jumped on the train.  They have a great public transportation system in place and with my special pass have full and free access to the train and bus to get around.  Fifteen minutes on the train while looking at incredible views and I was in Chamonix.

Chamonix is quite busy with many tourists and many shops.  One of my goals on this day was to find a bank to exchange some US money into Euros.  Again I was lost in this department and found a bank where no English was spoken.  I was given a sheet with the current exchange rate and the bank charge for exchanging which all meant nothing to me as you really have no choice and it is what it is.  So the $260 I gave the bank translated into $167 Euros.  What I do know is that Coke is very expensive so you might as well be drinking beer.  A 16 oz bottle of coke cost $2.50 Euros or about $3.50 US dollars.  Another learning experience, when I bought a sandwich I thought I was getting a nice ham and cheese sandwich, my lack of french got me a 1/2 a baguette with ham on it.  No mayo, cheese or veggies.  I knew the woman was trying to say what else but I forgot how to say "legumes"  which I think means vegetables and fromage for cheese.  I'm learning, slowly.

After wandering around I had enough and took the train back to Argentiere to figure out the afternoons hike/run.  I decided to venture out to the north and follow the river but soon learned that the river ended just up the street coming down directly from the Argentiere Glacier so I found a trail that headed up alongside the glacier for a ways until it dead ended as the surrounding walls got too steep.  So I turned around and followed the river south towards Chamonix not really knowing how far I would be going but I knew the train also followed along the river and was smart enough to bring my train pass.  I ended up in a very small town of Les Tines and from there took the train back to Argentiere.  After eating so much bread today I decided to only have a salad tonight which was awesome as they do have great veggies when you know what to call them.  For my beverage of choice this evening it was another blond bier of a different variety.  Tomorrow will be a busy day with race check in and equipment check for the required gear needed during the race and then another hike/run in the mountains.  "Au Revoir"

Sunday, August 14, 2011


And only 2 Weeks Until UTMB!

This week continued with some fun days of training.  The foot continues to get better and after a good training week last week I'm at least confident that I can at least finish the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc.  It may not be my best race but I'm determined to enjoy my time in Europe.

Monday:  Trouble at 12,000 feet.
This was an awesome day with abundant sunshine.  I thought I better take advantage of the day so after some morning work, I headed down to VT Skydiving Adventures in Addison for mental therapy.  It was a busy morning at VAS but I was able to get on a load rather quickly.  I was waiting for one of the chutes to be packed when it was time to go.  Ole soon came out of the trailer with a new chute for me to try, a Stiletto 150.  The winds were a bit gusty so I figured a slightly smaller chute than what I had been using would be just fine.  So I quickly put on my gear and jumped into the already loaded plane.  As we were heading up, which seemed to take extra long as we had some big guys on board, I chatted with Mike about the Stiletto.  He informed me that this was a "performance" chute and had some unique characteristics, one being to make sure you have a very stable body position before you deploy as it has a tendency to get line twist.  OK, I can handle that.  When we got to 12,000 feet, it was time for the 4 guys to go.  One would be hanging upside down from the wing while the other 3 would be hanging on the strut before they all dropped.  I would head out after them.  Didn't seem like anything unusual.  But with all 4 big guys hanging outside the plane, 1000 pounds of guys and gear, it caused the plane to slow down and tip quite a bit.  I didn't have much weight to counter balance and neither did the pilot, a new addition to VAS crew in the last 2 weeks.  As soon as the guys dropped it caused the plane to roll in the opposite direction and increase in speed.  With that, the door shut hard as I was trying to get in position to exit.  I pushed as hard as I could, not happening.  I kept pushing and pushing and eventually got the door to open enough to get out.  I could feel the plane was still traveling a bit fast but as soon as I was clear of the door, out I went like Superman.

It felt good to get out, the air was cool and the views were great.  As I was looking around, I could see the drop zone in the distance.  Problem... it was due northwest quite a ways and there was a gusty northwest wind.  Hmm, do I pull early and try to fly it back into the wind or will that cause me to be dragged backwards more by the wind.  I finally pulled the chute around 4,000 ft. and put it in forward motion to see what this Stiletto could do.  It would be touch and go.  I looked for alternative landing spots.  Luckily in Addison there are a lot of farm fields.  Been there, done that before.  The Stiletto seemed to be gaining forward momentum which was great but still would it be enough to get over the tree line and into the drop zone.  I kept it going, tacking a bit to keep moving forward.  Luckily the Stiletto was a performance chute and had great flying capabilities.  I made it back to the drop zone.  And even with all the challenges, it was a blast to jump as usual.

After the jump I thought I would get in a run up Snake Mountain since it was right there.  It's basically a 2+ mile run up and then down with some great views of the valley from the top but I wanted to explore the backside of the mountain.  The VAST trail runs back there and I used to mountain bike there as well.  The VAST trail was a no go so I continued down and then found another way to the backside.  I discovered some real sweet single track.  I wasn't sure where I would end up but in the end it was a loop that took about a half hour returning right where I went in.  Nice Find!

Tuesday:  Catamount Running Night
Before the weekly 5k trail race Todd Archambault and I both arrived early to get some early miles in.  Another stellar day so we got in a 90 minute warm-up running parts of the Red course and then some made up loops.  Todd's training for the VT 50 and in need of some miles after time off on maternity leave.  Probably not the smartest thing to do running an hour and a half before a race but these are just fun races.

The race tonight would be on the Pink course so after the warm-up we headed over to the race.  250+ runners, another great turnout.  I looked at tonight as another test for the foot and would try to push it.  As usual the start was fast and furious but with an immediate slow uphill, the field gradually thinned out.  I ran comfortably and was able to push the foot, all good.  In the end I was pleased, not my best time but not my worst and the foot felt good.

Wednesday:  Catamount Mtn. Bike Races
Another great day, but then the clouds rolled in as I headed over to Catamount for a pre-race trail run.  After the lightening storm and heavy rains ended, I headed out for a good hour and a half trail run.  A bit muddy after the rains but still a fun run although I felt exhausted.  I had been on a ladder all day and my body just ached.  I decided to just do the 2 lapper mountain bike race feeling tired as I was and knowing the course would be full of mud.  But once I started the race I felt better and was having fun.  I never have a good starting position by tonight I at least was in the top 10 of 30 or so racers.  With the gradual uphill start, I slowly worked my way up.  By 3/4 of the first lap I was comfortably sitting in 2nd place.  I kept it that way through the first half of the 2nd lap and then passed the leader before we headed into the tight single track which was good and muddy.  I was having fun and took off.  In the end, to my surprise I held on to the lead despite my aching body which wasn't aching anymore.  Funny how that works.

Thursday:  Dr. Rob Rinaldi Visit
Thursday late morning I had a second visit with Doc Rinaldi for anther cortisone shot in the foot.  I had a horrible sleep that night thinking about that needle going into my foot 1 1/2 inches.  Yes I'm still a weenie when it comes to needles, especially when the first one hurt real bad.  Not knowing if I could run afterwards, I got in an early morning easy run.  When I arrived, Rob grabbed my foot and pushed and pulled.  He was very pleased and the good news, decided I didn't need anther shot :)  Suddenly I was relieved.  Instead he put me on some anti-inflammatory drugs for 10 days.  Yes, a good day!  Later that night it was the Thursday Fun Run night at Catamount.  I was supposed to meet up with Aliza but arrived a bit late so headed out on my own.  Not more than a mile into it, I tripped on a root and did my usual tuck and roll but this time I landed on a log. I smashed my upper thigh so hard that I just stayed there on the ground for a while.  It hurt big, more than the needle in my foot.  I got up and tried to stretch it out.  Not good.  I did the run, hobble and it did loosen up a bit but still hurt as I was determined to get in my hour and a half run, which I did.  Afterwards, I grabbed my mountain bike and rode a loop hoping that would help loosen it up too.

Friday: 2 Weeks to go until UTMB !
The leg hurt all day and again I was on a ladder all day.  Since I was in the area I headed over to Catamount for a late day run.  Once I got going the leg was feeling ok, a bit stiff but getting better.  Meanwhile the foot was feeling fine.  I was running the yellow/green course tonight and ran into Serena so I turned around and followed her on the reverse red course.  We ran and chatted and had a great run.  After an hour and a half, I bailed out as I was done and had things to do.  Serena continued on as she arrived later and needed more miles.

Saturday:  Ultra-Trail Du Mansfield-night run
I had a lot of day time chores to do and with a full moon I decided to do a night run on the Mansfield Loop.  UTMB starts at 6:30 PM so I figured I would do the same to try out my night gear and capabilities.  As usual I parked at the Stevensville parking lot and headed out.  Within the first minute I was feeling exceptionally wet on my back only to discover that the hydration bag was leaking.  Not worried, I turned and headed back to the car.  On my way to tonight's run, I had stopped at the Skirack in Burlington and just purchased a new hydration bag.  Not wanting to fool with the old one, I quickly drained the leaking bag into the new one and off I went, again.  It was a great night although still warm and humid but without the mid-day sun, it was comfortable.  No headlamps were needed up the Notchbook Trail or down to the Trout Club or through Trapps.  When I came out of the woods at Trapps the moon had just risen over the Wooster Mountains and looked awesome.

Trapps was very busy as I ran through and continued up towards the Haule Road.  Once I got there and in the trees, it was dark.  The moon hadn't risen enough yet to shine through the trees so I put on the headlamp and continued on.  Up and over and then down to the Mansfield touring center, it was fun running.  Even the downhills were fun with the light of the headlamp.  Slowly the moon was getting higher and was shining through the trees with incredibly brightness.  As I headed to the bottom of the Toll Road I tried to get in to the Inn for water.  No luck, being this late everything was locked.  With 4 or so hours to go I needed water and knew this could be an issue.  I toured around the maintenance shed looking for an outdoor spigot, nothing.  Then I remembered the clay tennis courts.  Whenever there are clay courts, they have to water them on occasion so there must be water.  As I looked over I saw a possible hose down on the lower courts but as I turned the corner I saw a yellow jug on the upper court.  It was a water cooler and sure enough with ice water in it :)  Mission accomplished, filled the hydration bag and off I went while snacking on a peanut butter sandwich.  I took it sort of easy on the climb up the Toll Road enjoying the now full brightness of the moon.  I rarely turned on the headlamp.  As I got closer to the visitor center the wind was picking up and felt great.  From there I continued along the ridge and up to the chin in full moon brightness.  It was a great run along the ridge and no tourists at this hour.  I had it all to myself.  I stopped briefly at the summit, said my thanks and headed back south on the Long Trail.  Heading down the ridge was equally as nice and the footing was fine with the moonlight and headlamp.  But I knew the rest of the downhill would be more of a challenge running along the roots and rocky sections in the trees.  Just before heading into the trees I put on a second headlamp along my waist.  The lower lamp would light up directly in front of me while the one on my head would go out a bit farther.  I tried this technique at Leadville last year and it worked great.  Heading down the rock face from the Forehead was no problem as the moon was still shining brightly and going down the chutes and ladders was fun but after that, it was slower going.  The footing alone is tricky but at night, even with 2 lights, it just took longer but no problems.  The good thing, the foot was feeling fine with only minor aches and pains.  As usual I ran out of fluids but this time with only a mile to go.  Tonight was a great test for the foot and overall I was very pleased.  Plus the lighting system worked.  In all the run took under 6 hours which for night running was awesome.  And the reward for such a feat, an ice cold Bud waiting for me in the car.  It doesn't get much better than that :)

Sunday: Easy day on the trails at the Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge.

All in all a positive week.  Much improvement on the foot and the body is starting to feel good again running freely on the trails, if I can just stay upright.  Four weeks ago I didn't think I would be running like this so don't ever lose hope and remember "Impossible Is Nothing".

Saturday, August 6, 2011


For better or for worse, I've decided to go to run the Ultra-Trail Du Mont Blanc later this month.

I've had three weeks of mixed training and mixed emotions about going but finally, I'm feeling better physically and mentally.  My biggest fear would be not to complete the race.  With a blow up at the Finger Lakes 50K I was definitely worried that I could bail out in the middle of the Alps somewhere in the middle of the night and who knows where.  But the last 2 weeks I've been running again and able to hammer it a bit.  Thanks to Doc Rob Rinaldi who I finally had enough sense to go visit just last week.  He figured out my foot problem may be the Baxter's Nerve which was very inflamed. With a special foot cocktail, it eliminated the swelling within days and made running on a flat foot bearable again instead of running on the side of my foot.  And I've been cross training a lot to keep the fitness level up as much as possible.

Two weeks ago it was bike, bike, bike and minimal running.  I racked up about 200 miles with a combination of road riding and mountain biking including a weekend at the Kingdom in Northeast Vermont where they have some awesome single track trails which are great for mountain biking and running.  The little town of East Burke is thriving with business around biking.  After taping up my foot, I managed to get in some mountain running up and down Burke Mountain including the fire tower.  After that it was a road ride around Lake Willoughby before settling in at the Burke Mountain campsite for the evening thanks to the efforts of Mr. Boffa.  Steaks, potatoes, Oreo cookies, beer, tequila just to name a few of the treats. The next morning another mountain run around Burke Mountain to be followed up with really fun mountain bike riding around the Kingdom Trails for 3 1/2 hours.  Then lunch from the East Burke Country Store for the ride back home to refuel before a run at the Forest and the Jedi Loop at Sleepy Hollow on my way home.  I was tired by the end of the day.

A week ago I received my foot cocktail on Tuesday and was feeling much better in the running department.  Still I continued with some good road riding and mountain biking including the Wed. night mountain bike races at Catamount. They have done a great job on the trails this year and it's just a blast to ride there at the races. I always have the worst start and end up in the back of the pack but slowly work my way up throughout the 3 laps.  The Tuesday night trail running races I'm still running conservatively as the foot hasn't been ready to really push it yet.  The end of the week ended up with a group run of the Mansfield Loop, a 26 mile adventure which loops around Mt. Mansfield.  We had an awesome crew with some of the best ultrarunners in New England to include Aliza Lapierre, Nate Sanel, Nick Yardley, Todd Archambault, Serena Wilcox, Scott and Joyce Holsten and Bob Ayers, Jr.  The weather was just right, warm but dry.  We started out at 7:00 am, which is a bit early for me but was a good choice as later in the day the heat increased.  We had 9 of us cruising around which was quite impressive as we ran along the ridge line up to the Chin to the top of Mt. Mansfield.

The Crew on top of Mt. Mansfield
Overall I had a decent run with some foot pain on and off all day.  It would come and go.  Probably the worst was the long haul up the Toll Road, about a 4 1/2 mile climb.  After about 2 miles in, the foot started to hurt and I limped up the remainder to the visitor center.  But after that I had some good moments.  All in all, a good week.  I was back up to running about 75 miles for the week and could see some hope that the foot was getting better.

This past week, still getting in some biking with another fun race on Wed. night at Catamount.  They've made some improvements on the Blue trail and it just flows better.  Again I was having a blast winding around the trees on banked turns.  I could hear myself laughing as I was going through the woods.  Running has also been better with more miles and harder workouts.  Tuesday night at the trail races I did take it easy and Joyce, Scott and I ran from the back of the pack but it turned out more like a Fartlek run sprinting when we had the chance to pass other runners.  Wed. night before the bike races on my run I sprinted all the hills, up and down and felt good.  Thursday night I returned again to Catamount and hammered the red course before running the Green/Yellow course with others later on, so another good night.  Friday was a 14 mile run in the heat of the day with Aliza on the big hills of Huntington and Richmond at a "slow pace".  There's never a slow pace when I run with Aliza but always a good run and a good test for the foot to be running on the hard surfaces.  Saturday, successfully ran the Ultra-Trail Du Mt. Mansfield aka the Mansfield Loop.  Felt good, ran it almost an hour faster than last weekend.  With some more miles on Sunday I could be back to the 90-100 plus miles for the week.  So with all that, I just made airline reservations to fly in to Geneva Switzerland on route to Chamonix/Mt. Blanc for the UTMB.  :)

UTMB, I'm on my way!!
  I have no idea how I'm getting around in Europe or where I'm staying but that will come in time.  If any of you have suggestions, I'm all ears.  Any help would be appreciated as I've never been to Europe before.  All I know is I'm psyched to be going and while I'm there I have to visit parts of Italy where the family comes from and also want to run through the Dolomite's, where there are some awesome pics of trails running through the mountains.

The Dolomite's of Italy.

Less than 3 weeks to go!  Remember, Impossible is Nothing!