Sunday, May 14, 2017

The First Race - 6 Years Later

            It’s hard to believe that I ran my very first road race 6 years ago today.  I can still remember it like it was yesterday.  I had been a runner in 7th and 8th grade but lost interest in high school.  My Uncle Steve had taken up running again and he told me I should run the Boston Marathon with him.  This was 2006.  I figured why not try?   I ran 5 miles along the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Dennis after not warming up.  It was a huge failure.  I pulled every muscle in both legs, it took six weeks before I could walk right.  I quietly retired.  Grand opening, grand closing.

Arriving on race day in my Old Navy fleece.
Fast forward 5 years.  I had only begun running again 6 weeks earlier, as a way of trying to get the attention of a girl I was interested in.  One ten-minute mile got me hooked, that and the fact that she was helping coach me.  I rushed into my first race, a 5K, because I was actually seeing and feeling the difference running was making in my life.  I lost 12 pounds from my first run to race day and in all would lose 40 total before plateauing.

Recently I came across a photo my Uncle Steve took of me arriving at the event.  I definitely looked the part of a running novice wearing my Old Navy fleece rather than a track jacket like I would do many times after.  One thing was the same then as it is now, I started running in Brooks shoes and to this day I still do.  Well, I will admit that I have tried others, Saucony, Asics, Mizuno, New Balance, but none of them work for me like Brooks.

            I had a wheat bagel and Dannon toasted coconut vanilla Greek yogurt as my prerace meal.  That would become a staple that I superstitiously still hold on to today.  Another staple from that day was choosing my starting line theme song.  Every good movie needs a good soundtrack, right?  I chose the entrance theme of WWE Superstar Triple H, performed by the band Motorhead, as my theme.  The opening line is ‘It’s time to play the game,’ and that was how I felt, like I was an athlete making my big league debut.
And the aftermath
Not to disrespect anyone who ran that race but my feeling of being an athlete making his debut might have been a bit much for the CapeAbilities 5K in Hyannis, Massachusetts.  Sure there were some great runners, but many were average folks, and some walkers, not exactly the Olympics.

            I was grateful to my Uncle Steve, a veteran of more marathons that I have total races, as he was thrilled I was joining his club and decided not only to run the race too but shadow me along the way.  He slummed it up with me, barely breaking a sweat.  It was a gray and cool mid-Spring morning made cooler by the fact that much of the race was along the water.

            I made a rookie mistake of inhaling a GU Energy Gel less than halfway into the race.  Anyone not familiar with them they are a thick gel filled with carbs, electrolytes and other essential minerals to help fatigued runners get an extra burst.  Sounds good and it is.  However the people that use these things are usually waist-deep in a marathon, or at least a half, not a little over a mile.  Anyway, I started gagging on it trying to force the stuff down.  I am sure my uncle rolled his eyes a bit.

Sorry kids, I'll stay seated.
            I was gassed just over 2 miles in, not that I had any ideas of winning.  As I came around the last turn to head toward the finish line my uncle asked me what I had left in the tank.

            “Nothing!” I said.  He told me to give it everything I had and finish strong.  My brain understood but my body sputtered along like an old go kart.  I crossed the finish line just as my sister Kate, her boyfriend Jim, and my nieces Kaleigh and Emma, and nephew Landon arrived.  They got to see me cross the finish line and crash to the ground in a heap.

            In what would become another race tradition I found a nice quiet spot of grass on which to lay.  I was exhausted but the kids wanted to take photos, they gathered around me like an old man in a rocking chair.  I had finished 39th overall, with a time of 24:28, a pace of 7:53/mile.

            I had a feeling of accomplishment that I had rarely felt.  It showed me that when I really wanted something, or occasionally someone, I could do it.  It was something to be proud of, and something that anybody with the desire can do too.  Races are exhilarating, the running community is something everyone should be a part of.  I have done 40 races now and still remember this first one above all the others.  I guess it is part of my origin story.

            Six years have passed and many things have changed.  I have been injured more than enough to make someone want to quit, but the running bug is real.  I have trained for, and run a full marathon, and also been injured while training for said marathon.  I love running but the concept of 20+ mile training runs does not appeal to me anymore.  I have run races with some of my closest friends, run races with my mother, and maybe have helped inspire others to take up running as well. 

Fitting symmetry, my current shoes and my first shoes, both red & silver Brooks.

            Honestly even with all of the changes that have occurred in these six years I would do it all again.  This chapter has been one of the best, and worst, of my life.  I do pride myself on never being boring and predictable though.  So in that way it has been a resounding success.

            Thanks for reading, maybe I’ll see you on the road someday!            

The Game - Motorhead

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Running New England Book Test Drive #3

I have been working for five years on getting the green light from a publisher for a running/health/travel book I am calling Running New England.  It will feature fifty of the most beautiful running routes in New England.  It will include details of the running route itself, where to start, where it goes, what you will see, and photos from the route.  It will go deeper and share other nearby attractions, where to eat, places to stay, nearby road races, and some general history of the town where the running route is.  
   In order to pitch the book to some of the larger publishers I first need a literary agent.  Many of them want samples from the proposed manuscript sent along with a query.  That being said what follows is another example of a 'chapter' from the possible book. I am creating three, this is the second, which I will then send to various agents and see what happens.  I hope that you enjoy this taste of what I am hoping to create in the near future.

Running New England
A Guide to the 50 Most Beautiful Running Routes and more

#3 - Kancamagus Highway - Lincoln, New Hampshire

Starting Line: Kancamagus Pass, Kancamagus Highway (GPS: 44.026390, -71.494864)

The Basics:  This run is 7.5 miles in length beginning at the Kancamagus Pass overlook parking area.  It is an out and back run, 3.75 miles out, returning back to the
sign for the Pass with the Elevation listed at 2,855 feet.
The Route:
Being in the heart of the White Mountains the grade of the highway at this location is steep.  This makes this run very difficult.  It is downhill on the way out, and uphill on the way back.  This makes the first half of the run easy, and the second half extremely difficult.  Save some energy for the run back, which is completely uphill with a grade as high as 9% in some spots.  The highway itself is a normal-sized road with regular areas on the sides for bikes and pedestrians.  There can be cracks and chunks taken from the road due to the harsh winters.
          Cell phone service is nearly nonexistent.  The luxuries of daily life are not readily available along the entirety of ‘The Kanc’ which is 34 ½ miles total in length.  Due to the remoteness of this route it is wise to pay attention to the surroundings at all time.  About 2.7 miles out from the beginning is Lily Pond on the left side of the road.  There is a trail leading to it, though it is visible from the road.  There is always a chance of spotting moose or bears so keep any music low.  That being said it is not a congested highway and most vehicles can be spotted from a distance keeping the runner relatively safe.  Continue on until you reach 3.75 miles to make it the 7.5 miles in total.  There is no marker for turnaround, so run downhill as far as you would like, remember though that the return trip will be much more difficult.

The 9% Grade along The Kanc.

Ice Castles: 64 Railroad Street, Lincoln, NH – This is a highly popular winter attraction.  More than 10,000 icicles are created and colorfully lit in a maze of beauty.  There is a princess on duty at times for kids and ample opportunities for spectacular photographs.  It is open weather-permitting.

Franconia Notch State Park:  260 Tramway Drive, Lincoln, NH - More than 6,600 acres in size this park is in the White Mountains.  It contains the spectacular Flume Gorge which rises up 800-feet near the foot of Mount Liberty.  It was also once home to the iconic ‘Old Man of the Mountain.’  This was a natural rock formation which protruded from Cannon Mountain until it collapsed in 2003.  The old man’s profile has been New Hampshire’s state emblem since 1945.

Clark’s Trading Post:  110 Daniel Webster Highway, Lincoln, NH - A family-friendly spot this attraction includes trained bears, a steam-powered train ride through the scenic countryside, the Anaconda Escape water raft ride, and much more.

Heading up along Flume Gorge.

Flapjacks Pancake House:  149 Main Street, Lincoln, NH - Set in a cozy New England farmhouse this spot is known for delicious pancakes, omelets, and other breakfast items.  It has been family run since 2004.

Gypsy CafĂ©:  117 Main Street, Lincoln, NH – Incredible food with an equally incredible atmosphere.  The menu has unique recipes from scratch containing items from all across the world including Greece, Japan, Morocco, Peru, and more.

Black Mtn. Burger Co.:  264 Main Street, Lincoln, NH - Their highly rated burgers have helped them secure Certificates of Excellence from TripAdvisor four times.  Serving lunch and dinner within sight of the White Mountains their menu includes such unique items as homemade Buffalo Mac and Cheese Balls.

Pemi Cabins:  460 US-3, Lincoln, NH - A cross between roughing it and modern amenities, these cabins are located right on the Pemigewasset River.  There are 16 rooms and it is open year-round.
The Old Man of the Mountain Profiler, showing how it used to look.

Mt. Coolidge Motel: 386 US-3, Lincoln, NH – A highly rated, family-owned motel open seasonally from April through October and located near the entrance of Franconia Notch State Park.

Nearby Races:
Mount Washington Road Race:  Held annually in June this race traverses up the auto road of the mountain to the summit, more than 6,000 feet above sea level.  First held in 1936 this one-hill race is capped at 1,300 runners in 2017 and only eight have ever broken an hour in the 7.6-mile race.

Loon Mountain Race:  Recognized as one of the most difficult races in the Northeast due to its steep uphill climb, parts as much as a 40% incline.  This 10K has won several national accolades.  Nearly 600 people took part in the 2016 race.

About Lincoln:
A small mountain town of less than 2,000, Lincoln was incorporated in 1782.  A former logging town it is home to the popular Loon Mountain and Flume Gorge.  In addition to skiing the winter brings the spectacular Ice Castles which are icicle designs colorfully lit up for walks and photographs.  Lincoln lies two hours south of the Canadian border, two hours north of Boston, and 90 minutes west of Maine.  
The Kanc Route at Map My