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A Day to Remember and Honor Chad Denning

Please join us on Saturday, September 20, to honor and remember Chad Denning with a trail race and picnic. All are invited to attend one or both of the events.

At 9:00 a.m. in Lebanon, N.H., the Lost a Lot Trail Race—which was created and organized by Chad—will proceed as planned. The seven-mile course is not easy, but it is fun. As anyone who knew Chad can tell you, he loved competition, but his primary goal was always to get as many people as possible outside just having a good time. In that tradition, all ages, abilities, and paces are encouraged to participate.

At about noon, following the race and awards, there will be a picnic at the Oak Hill recreation area in Hanover, N.H., about five miles from the finish of the race. We will have directions available at the race for anyone who needs them. We will also post additional details and directions here. At Oak Hill, there will be a family-friendly fun run (about 2.5 miles) and a community picnic. Please bring a picnic lunch for yourself and a dessert to share potluck style. Don't worry if you can't bake: peanut M&Ms (or "power pellets," as Chad always called them) are perfectly acceptable. As we picnic, we will share memories of Chad and celebrate his remarkable life. All are welcome to attend the picnic (including leashed dogs) regardless of whether they participate in the race.

We encourage you to share your favorite photos of Chad on the Team AMP Facebook page or to email them to lars@ameridane.org by Friday, September 19. We will print as many as possible and display them at the picnic. We also encourage you to write and print recollections of Chad. We will have an area available at the picnic to display those recollections.

Finally, a fund has been set up to collect donations to Chad's family. Donations will be accepted at both the race and the picnic, or you can mail donations to:

The Chad Denning Family Fund
Ledyard Bank
67 Main Street
West Lebanon, NH 03784

Checks should be made payable to Becky Denning.

Chad Denning was truly an inspiration. We will never forget his kindness, his spirit, and his smile. We hope you will join us to celebrate his life. It was far too short, but it was so full of adventures of every kind.

Emerald Necklace Trail Stage Race: Success!

Dear Chad, Tom, Mike, Lori, Brandon and every volunteer, spectator and participant of the Madathlete Emerald Necklace Stage Race:

Thank you for everything last weekend. All of your beautiful, warm smiling faces, incredible positive energy, kind, caring and supportive hearts, really set the tone for what was one of the best experiences of my life. I feel truly blessed to have been a part of this event.

How lucky I am that I can run! And to think that I almost did not sign up for this race because I didn't believe in myself is pretty scary.

Last winter I happened to stumble across an announcement about the race. I half jokingly sent a text to Laurie Schlosser, Heidi Fiore-Campbell, and Lucy White stating "let's do this!" By spring, much to my surprise, they had signed up without me and had begun seriously training for it. I was out of the loop.

However, Laurie, runner extraordinaire and my dear friend, wouldn't let me off the hook that easily. About 4 weeks ago, after a fun four hour train run with these girls, I decided I'd race. My very kind and supportive fiancée gave me the race for my birthday by paying the entry fee and hiked with me every weekend in the white mountains until the weekend before the race--true love! :)

I must admit, I went into this race rather clueless. Though I had run a handful of ultras, I had never done a stage race. I spent a few weeks following some big stage races out west and began researching hydration, nutrition, gear,etc. However, I still couldn't believe I was actually going to be attempting this race. In my twenties and thirties, I had the mind set I could do anything. When I reached forty, I naturally started to self doubt. Turning 45, I practically resolved to this slippery downward slope called 'middle age'. Except it was only my fearful mind that restrained me, my body was still thankfully ready to take on physical challenges. I didn't just "gut out" this distance, I enjoyed every second of it.

I think what was so nice about this race is that it was small and intimate. This allowed us space from each other, as well as camaraderie. No one was alone--not even a loner like myself. My favorite part of the day was just beyond the halfway point. This is when you're out of your comfort zone and need to dig a little deeper. Each day I would find someone next to me and he/she/they would form a sort of instant bond in order to cruise to the finish line...together. These moments were always joyous. The stories, funny and distractive. The silence soothing and rhythmical. And the hugs at the finish were always something to look forward to. I never knew whether or not to laugh or cry. I was just elated, not to be finished, but to be a part of something so special, so meaningful.

To be honest, I've struggled this week. I felt lost when it was all over. I miss the woods. I miss running. Above all, I miss the connection I had with everyone. Long distance running is certainly not over for me. I think it's only just begun! Thank you for giving that to me. I appreciate all of you. Your huge effort in helping and caring for each and every runner did not go unnoticed.

Hope to stay in touch and see you again soon.

All my best.

Sara Shinn

All in the Family!

Reposted from Far North Endurance

Finishing the Cape Cod Marathon relay

Seven-year-old Ruby Denning nears the finish line of the Cape Cod Marathon.

Around noon on October 27, Lucas Denning and his mother, Becky, were near the finish line of the Cape Cod Marathon, where they were waiting for Lucas’s sister, Ruby, to come into sight. As it turns out, they didn’t have to worry about missing her.

“Every time a runner passed, everyone watching clapped,” Lucas says. “Then as Ruby came by, everybody was like ‘Yeaaa! Woooo!’” The excitement was understandable; it’s not every day that you see a seven-year-old finish a marathon. Of course, Ruby did have some help from her family.

The Dennings’ running adventure on Cape Cod actually began months earlier, when Chad Denning, Lucas and Ruby’s father and Becky’s husband, made an unusual request for his birthday. He wanted the whole family to run a race together, and after a little research, the family settled on the Cape Cod Marathon relay. This presented an interesting change of routine for the whole family. Usually Chad, an accomplished ultrarunner and adventure racer, has to leave his family behind when he sets out on the race course. This time, the family would be joining Chad at the race and also in some of the training runs leading up to it. But it wasn’t only Becky and the kids who would be trying something new. In all his years of running, Chad had never taken on a road marathon.

Summit of Mount Major

Usually their adventures are off road, such as this trip up New Hampshire’s Mount Major, but the Dennings made an exception for the marathon.

It was definitely a unique birthday request, but the family agreed. So in late October, the Dennings headed to the Cape. At 8:30 on that Sunday morning, Lucas got the race started. After the ceremonial cannon went off, he joined the other runners on the start of a big loop that would eventually bring them all back to the village of Falmouth.

Along the way, Lucas got a lot of questions from his fellow runners, mostly about his age. “A lot of people came up to me and said, ‘How old are you?’” he says. When he told them he’s 10, they’d reply, “Wow, I think I’ve been running longer than you’ve been alive. You’re doing great. Keep going.”

At the three-mile mark, Lucas handed the baton (yes, there are actual batons) to Becky, who had six miles ahead of her. “The most I’ve ever run is nine, so I knew I could do six, but I was trying to run faster than normal,” she says.

She ended up completing the leg five or six minutes faster than she had planned and then handed the baton to Chad. Even after running, Becky had one more challenge to face: getting herself, Lucas, and Ruby to the handoff station in Woods Hole before Chad made it. Although Chad was taking on two legs and had about 12 miles to go, the Dennings had to take a shuttle to the Woods Hole checkpoint rather than drive themselves, and Chad didn’t plan to take long to get there.

The Denning family at the Cape Cod Marathon

Lucas and Ruby after the race.

But even with Chad running ahead of schedule, his family was waiting for him when he pulled into Woods Hole. Ruby, who was chewing on Shot Blocks as she waited for her turn, grabbed the baton and took off. She hadn’t wanted anyone to run with her, so Becky and Chad had planned to let her run alone. But as they watched her go, they made a quick change of plans. Chad jumped back on the course and trailed her from a distance.

“She ran the whole way,” he says proudly. “I stayed probably a quarter mile behind her until about three miles into it. She never walked.”

After those first three miles, with about two miles left to go, Chad pulled up alongside her. “I had my water bottle with me and I asked if she wanted some water,” Chad says. “She was looking down at the ground and goes, ‘No, I’m good.’ I said, ‘Are you sure?’ and put my water bottle in front of her. Then she looked up and said ‘Daddy, what are you doing here?’”

After that, Chad dropped back again and let Ruby head toward the finish line alone. Three hours, forty-five minutes, and thirty seconds after Lucas started the race, Ruby finished it.

Although it was the farthest she has ever run (so far), Ruby says she had a great time doing it. Like Lucas, she too faced a lot of questions from other runners.

Chad noticed that as he followed along, he could hear bystanders marveling at the fact that someone so young was running. “They were saying things like, ‘That little girl can do that? I’m going to do this next year,’” he says.

“It was just a great experience,” Becky says. “Everyone was so happy. I’m so proud of these guys.”

Advice from the Dennings on running a marathon relay with kids:

  • Scout the course ahead of time. The Dennings went to all the checkpoints the day before the race. “We planned it all out, so there was no panic,” Chad says. “It was so calm.”
  • Go to a well-organized race. The Dennings really appreciated how easy it was to get from one checkpoint to another and felt the race is definitely organized with relay teams in mind.
  • Pick an event that isn’t too large. The Cape Cod Marathon, which had about 850 marathon finishers and 175 relay teams, was large enough to get the experience of running with lots of other people but small enough that Becky and Chad didn’t worry about missing Ruby and Lucas in a sea of runners.

 

Presidential Traverse FKT

FKT= Fastest Know Time

A local "quiet" legend over in the DKS just set an amazing record that just blows the mind.  What a great read!!  Congrats Jan!

 
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It's early 2013, and I'm filling out my race calendar for the year. I've hoped to get back to the Presidential Range for a while now, so I put an FKT attempt on the calendar for the weekend of August 24-25, when I know we'll be in New Hampshire visiting Meg's family. I ask Ryan Welts (two-time FKT holder for the traverse) if he'd like to race it with me, but he replies that it's the weekend after the Hampshire 100k, so race pace won't be in the cards for him. 

A few weeks go by, and I'm thinking about my race plans again. My goal race for the fall is the Mohawk-Hudson marathon; I should be focusing on marathon training in late August. I scrap the Presi Traverse in favor of the 5k that takes place near Meg's family's house that weekend.

Fast forward to the beginning of August. My quad is hurt and I'm not psyched about starting serious marathon training. I want to be in the mountains! I sign up for Vermont 50, mostly to give myself an excuse to train on trails and in the peaks. I'll still do the marathon, but it's shifted from goal race to fun run. I've forgotten about the Presi Traverse, but I do a few hikes and a steady pace Great Range Traverse and feel like my mountain legs are coming back.

August 22nd: It's Thursday morning and we leave for NH on Friday. I haven't been doing any speed workouts, and don't feel psyched for a 5k with nothing but marathon-pace tempo runs under my belt. But I've been hiking and running mountains… I should do the Presi Traverse! I call the AMC to make a shuttle reservation and pack my gear a couple days early. I'm not tapered, but I change my Thursday run from 13mi Hill Repeats to 8mi Easy, take Friday off, and I'm ready to go.

After a long drive to New Hampshire and a midnight arrival I set the alarm for 6am and get to sleep. I wake up before the alarm and head upstairs, trying not to wake my son or any of his four cousins asleep in the house. I fuel up with an almond butter wrap and some instant coffee, then mix my drinks (Vitargo and whey protein for my front bottles, weak Gatorade for my hydration bladder) and hit the road.

It's an hour and a half drive to Crawford Notch, where I'll catch the AMC shuttle. I hit the McDonald's drive through for a sausage Egg McMuffin and another coffee on the way, knowing I'll have plenty of time to digest with the drive plus the long shuttle ride. Arriving at the Highland Center, I rush to the bathrooms and then drive over to the public parking lot, with just enough time to get my gear sorted and write my splits on my arm before I have to jog back and get on the shuttle. I bring a Honey Stinger waffle and a Gu for more pre-run fuel and a bottle of water to sip on during the ride, but otherwise I have just my tiny Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest. It's funny to be on the shuttle with virtually nothing, while everyone else has full packs for multi-day traverses.

Almost everyone gets off at Appalachia, and I recognize the one remaining passenger, Jeff, from one of his visits to the Adirondacks and The Mountaineer. We chat about running and hiking for a while, then I get off at the Dolly Copp entrance road--he continues on for the Osgood trail and the start of his own Presi Traverse. I walk and jog the road until I get to the Daniel Webster trailhead, then do some light dynamic stretching, let the watch get its signal, go to the bathroom one final time, and get my pack adjusted and comfortable. I have my trekking poles out--I plan to use them for the first big climb up Madison, then stow them for most of the rest of the day.

At just before 11am I start the watch and take off up the trail. I'm wearing a heart-rate monitor during an FKT for the first time and I'm watching it closely to keep my pace in check right off the bat. About a half-mile in I encounter the first hikers of the day: two women with four dogs on their way down. We exchange greetings, I pet the German Shepherd, and I continue on my way. One of the dogs, a small terrier, comes with me, running in front. "Looks like you've lost one," I say, and the dog keeps going despite the calls of its owners. By now I know its name is Max, and I'm calling him too as I run along. The women ask me to stop for a minute and I yell back "NO!"--I'm pissed that they can't control their dog and it's going to end up costing me time. A few seconds later I realize the dog isn't stopping unless I do, so I stop and call to it again. By now one of its owners is hiking up the trail behind me, screaming hysterically for Max. He stops, looks back at me and his owner, and keeps right on going.

It seems like Max isn't coming back as long as I'm there, so I decide to hike back down to the trailhead and start again. This will hopefully give the owners time to get control of Max without me around to scare him. I stop and reset my watch and hike back down at a leisurely pace--I'll need some time to relax and get ready to start again, and Max might take a while to calm down, too. I spend about 5 minutes at the trailhead, lying on the ground and trying to calm myself before the restart, then get up and go again, 22 minutes after I first started. Immediately my heart rate is way higher than it was on the first go, and I'm hoping that's not a bad sign. I still have no idea if Max is under control, and realize I might have to give up my FKT attempt entirely if he's still running ahead when I get back to him.

At about the same place I had turned around earlier I run into one of the women on her way down with two of the dogs. They still haven't caught Max (she tells me he's a foster dog and must have gotten nervous), and she's going for help. Her friend is still hiking up with the German Shepherd. I tell her I'll stop and try to catch Max when I catch up to him. At this point I'm pretty sure my attempt is over, but I keep moving quickly in order to catch up to Max as soon as possible. I don't catch the other owner for a while, and when I do I ask her if I should keep running ahead to catch Max. She says yes and is sure he'll still be following the trail, so I keep going, folding up my trekking poles in case that's what scared Max off. I continue up for a long time, with no sign of Max on the trail, until finally I run into two hikers on their way down. They haven't seen Max, and I ask them to relay that info to his owner. The next couple of groups I see haven't seen him either--he's definitely off of the trail, probably way down the mountain. I ask them to pass that info on as well, and decide that's all I can do. FKT aside I still need to get to my car in Crawford Notch and back to Gilford before Meg's family starts to worry, so hiking down and joining the search party is out of the question. I feel guilty for chasing Max off in the first place and wish I could do more to help, but at the same time I'm relieved that I'll get to go for the FKT after I had all but written it off in my mind.

By now I'm most of the way up Madison, about to enter the scree field that the trail follows at it approaches treeline. I'm catching hikers more often now, powering my way over the large boulders with the trekking poles. I'm still paying attention to my heart rate but I've allowed it to get steadily into the 170s, which is higher than I thought I would try to maintain. It feels good though, and now I'm just hiking by feel and using the monitor to make sure I don't ever spike my heart rate in a moment of exuberance. I get to the Osgood junction and don't remember my split from before, but feel like I can match my old time to the summit of Madison, which is the first split I have on my arm. It's pretty crowded by now, and I'm using the other hikers to motivate me to hike quickly and smoothly. I top out in just under 1:13, beating my old split by about 45 seconds. So far so good.

A brief aside on my target splits: When I set the FKT for this route in 2010 I ran a 4:59, which included losing about 10 minutes on a wrong turn between Adams and Jefferson and cramping up on the climb up Eisenhower and losing about 4 minutes there. My target for today's run is to hit all my splits from 2010 with the exception of those two sections, where I'm using Ryan Welts' splits from his record run of 4:56. This would give me a finish time of 4:46, tying Mike Gallagher and Ned Gilette's time from 1968 (which we didn't find out about until late 2011, making the times from 2010 and early 2011 seem a lot less impressive). The consolation prize if I can't go that fast is 4:50, which is Ben Nephew's "modern FKT." I find this split info very useful, as it gives me a way to monitor my progress on the run and know if I need to push the pace.

Descending Madison, I stop to stow my trekking poles (Black Diamonds that fold up nice and small) on the back of my pack, and take out my hat for sun protection and sweat absorption. I make good time down Madison--running down is definitely better without the trekking poles--and take a minute to ask for directions at the junction near the Madison hut. It's a good thing I do: the proper trail is more grown-in than the wrong trail, and I might not have remembered it from 2010. I don't want to take any wrong turns this time! I take my time on the climb to Adams, resisting the temptation to bound up the rocks, and keeping the heart rate in check. I top out after passing a few more parties and check my split: faster again! I'll definitely keep the trekking poles stowed away for the time being.

On the Adams descent I pass a junction on the left that appears to be a minor shortcut, but I don't know it so I pass it by. As I approach Edmands Col I start asking hikers which way to Jefferson: this is where I made the wrong turn last time. I take the correct left and keep moving toward Jefferson, and see another person moving quickly along the shortcut trail, heading up to Adams. It looks like Andy Tuthill, a very accomplished New Hampshire climber I remember from college. I yell over to him and confirm that it's Andy. We're both doing the traverse, albeit in different directions. Seeing him running well pumps me up and I cruise over to Jefferson, beating Ryan's split by over a minute. I'm already nearly 3 minutes ahead overall, and am getting confident that I can break 4:46 and set a new FKT. But it's still early, and I remember how quickly cramping slowed me down in 2010. I keep moving as efficiently as possible, never getting to the point where it feels hard.

Jefferson to Washington is the longest section of the traverse (aside from the initial climb) and it includes another short climb over Clay, but the footing is decent and a lot of it is runnable before I'll need to switch to hiking on the big ascent to Washington's summit. I get some encouragement from other hikers, which always pumps me up, and arrive at the bottom of the big climb in good spirits. I decide to use my trekking poles one final time, as I'll ascend over 1200 feet to the summit of NH. I take them out and immediately start running up the peak like a madman, spiking my heart rate to 179 before reeling it in and setting a more steady pace for the rest of the ascent. I top out and check the split: over 3 minutes faster just for this section! I now have a huge 6 minute lead over my goal pace and can hardly believe it.

In 2010 I really flew down Washington, and my reckless pace might have had something to do with the cramping I experienced a bit later in the day. I keep myself in check, although I still feel like I'm moving well on the descents without my trekking poles (I'm holding them in my hands but they're folded up--I'll stow them when I refill water at the bottom). I haven't finished the 1.5 liters of Gatorade I started with, so I chug it as I descend, hoping I'm not too dehydrated. I'm using Vitargo sports drink for fuel, so I'm getting liquid when I eat as well, which might explain how little I'm drinking. I reach Lakes of the Clouds hut and walk inside to refill, stowing the poles after I get the pack buttoned up again. I start up Monroe and check my watch, and for a minute I'm under the impression that I've lost the 6 minute lead I had on Washington and then some. I'm disappointed, but at least I'm still on track for close to a 4:46 finish if I don't continue to slow. I think about this new development for a bit, then recheck my arm: I'd read the split wrong! When I top out on Monroe actually I have a 7 minute lead, and I still have the section where I cramped last year ahead of me. I should be able to gain even more time if I can keep the cramps at bay.

The most runnable terrain is between Monroe and Pierce and I take advantage of it, running most of the time with brief hiking breaks when it gets rough or steep. I feel a very slight cramp as I start up Eisenhower and back off the pace to be sure I'm not forced to stop and stretch it. An easy pace to the summit brings another 3 minutes gained, as expected. By now I know I'm going to shatter my goal of 4:46. It's basically just a matter of making sure I don't fall and get hurt. Pierce comes quicker than expected too, and it's just the final descent between me and a great FKT. I turn around and head back to the Crawford Path junction then start bombing down toward Crawford Notch, figuring I may as well give it all I have so I can put up the best time possible.

Immediately I cramp up--this is way too fast! I stop and let the hamstring cramps subside then continue on at a more manageable pace. I'm being careful, but even so I stub my toe hard on the rocky trail, bringing pain for the first time today. I'm really working now, and have adopted the mantra "focus, focus, focus." I repeat it to myself as a run down, knowing that one misstep could spell the end of the FKT or worse, serious injury. At some point my trekking poles start to dangle from the back of my pack, which has gotten smaller as the bladder empties. I have to stop and refold them, tightening the shock cord so it won't happen again.

I reach the bridge 0.2mi from the end and try to read the sign at the intersection to remember which way to go, but all I can make out is "Mizpah cutoff." There are two women swimming in the stream and they direct me across the bridge, saying the parking lot is that way. I cross and run hard on flatter terrain, popping out on Mt Clinton Rd just beyond the public parking lot and stopping the clock once I hit pavement. A dog is waiting on the road and barks its head off at me, but I can stop and make friends this time. I check my watch and see 4:35:29, and raise my hands in silent celebration, then make my way to the car to ditch my gear before walking back up the trail to the bridge for a swim. It's cold enough that I can only stay in for a minute at a time, but it definitely helps my legs.

I get back to the car and stretch for a while, then leave messages with Ryan and Cory. I'm excited and want to share the news with someone who cares. Cory calls me back while I'm driving out of the notch and we chat for a few minutes before I lose service. I get back to Meg's family 30 minutes late for dinner, but there's hot dogs and hamburgers waiting for me. They ask me "how was your walk," which puts it into perspective a bit. Still, I couldn't be happier about the day and my performance.

 

Trans Adirondack Route

We recently had a chance to catch up with hiker Erik Schlimmer, who designs sustainable trails for federal, state, and private agencies, to talk about his latest adventure: The Trans Adirondack Route.

Q: How did you get involved?  When was the idea of the route originally thought of and when was it officially established?

ES: The story of the Trans Adirondack Route actually begins in 2005. Up until that year I had done a lot of off-trail travel in the Northeast, and I had hiked a handful of long-distance trails throughout the U.S. I assumed that combining these two pursuits would be a good idea. So in 2005 I planned to traverse the entire Adirondack Park without the use of trails – it was going to be all off-trail. But then, at the last moment, I cancelled this trip. To be honest, it sounded too challenging.

In 2010 I revisited this idea of traversing the Adirondack Park, but this time I planned on using trails. In August of that year I hiked across the entire park by combining paved roads, dirt roads, abandoned paths, hiking trails, snowmobile trails, and a few off-trail sections.

During this hike I had no intention of sharing my route, but when I reached the end, I said to myself, “My goodness, that was a good hike. Others will surely want to hike it.” So I named my route the Trans Adirondack Route, and during the past three years I developed a website, wrote a guidebook, and produced a map set so others could follow my footsteps across the Adirondack Park.

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Q: What draws you to this area?

ES: I’ve been exploring the Adirondack Mountains since the 1980’s, and there is still something special about this range. I like its history, the immense portions of trail-less terrain, the size, the environmental protection in place, the quiet, and the mammals. But the wildness is its main draw. For example, of the 500 highest peaks, fewer than 90 have trails to their tops. That’s some wild stuff.

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Q: How would you describe the route? Where does it begin and end?

ES: The route is 235 miles long and climbs 25,000 vertical feet from end-to-end, which actually is not a lot of climbing, especially compared to other Northeast long trails. The Trans Adirondack Route begins in Ellenburg Center, N.Y. just nine miles from Canada and ends near the small settlement of Lassellsville, N. Y., which is a half-hour drive from Albany. Some highlights of the route include Whiteface Mountain, the Cold River, the Cedar River, Long Lake, Catamount Mountain, and the High Peaks.

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Q: What makes the Trans Adirondack Route different than other trails in the Northeast?

ES: The Trans Adirondack Route is different from other long-distance pathways on several levels. For one thing, since it incorporates sections of abandoned paths and requires some off-trail travel, the route itself is wilder than other standardized long trails. It also traverses the biggest chunks of wild land in the East, including two wilderness areas of nearly 200,000 acres each. Plus the entire route is located in the largest forest preserve in the lower forty-eight. Of course the route is also scenic and visits first growth forest, lakeshores, river valleys, and small settlements.

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Q: Do you have an idea of how many people have attempted it?

ES: The route is a newborn, it just debuted in April 2013. With Blue Line to Blue Line: The Official Guide to the Trans Adirondack Route coming out this month, prospective hikers will have what they need to traverse the entire route. A few long-distance hikers have contacted me already, and are anxious to explore this route.

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Q: How can people obtain more information about the Trans Adirondack Route?

ES: There are two online sources. On the Trans Adirondack Route website, visitors can purchase merchandise, view photos of the route, visit links, and learn more about the route. At the Trans Adirondack Route Facebook page, visitors can receive updates about the route, get invited to Trans Adirondack Route events, partake in giveaways, and indulge in Adirondack gossip.

 

 

When Backcountry and Resort Skiing intertwine.....

Reposted: March 13th

Blog by: Tom Kupfer

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Splitboarders touring on top of Mount Mansfield in Vermont. March 2013.

With temperatures in the 40s and the brightest sunshine in months, the mountains of Northern Vermont heated up this past weekend and it was time to bask in their glory. Not ones to ignore Mother Nature’s gift, five of us loaded up a surprisingly roomy Honda Fit and drove closer to the sun, up to the higher ground of Mt. Mansfield. During a last-second gas station resupply on the way to the trailhead, I stood with my back to the car and soaked up the scene unfolding before me. The base of the Access Road was full of the requisite spring-skiing sights and sounds. T-shirts. Sun.  A motorcade of neon-clad college girls in ski goggles blaring what sounded to me like Madonna. Regardless of what they were really listening to, I just heard Madonna, and the rest of the village heard it, too, thanks to wide-open windows and high-pitched voices. I worked my way back into the jam-packed Honda Fit and we made a break for the trailhead. Sun and solitude or bust!

Not surprisingly, the usually accommodating trailhead parking lot was maxed out, so we parked in the Resort lot amid the out-of-state plates and hot pink spandex. Thankfully, I had chosen to wear my ironically retro Burton baseball cap, so I managed to blend. As it was around 10 a.m. now, I’m shocked to find no signs of barbecue grills, not by sight or smell. Something was amiss. Anyway, a quick hike up the snow-covered Route 108, being mindful of avoiding signs of the abundant K9 population, and we were strapped into our splitboards and ready to climb. Five minutes into the hike, I begin questioning my decision to forgo sunblock. It was the first time I’d encountered real sun in five months; it would be rude not to accept it with unprotected post-hibernation flesh. Wearing all black was an even worse choice. I pressed on, and the group crawled our way up the mountain enjoying the peacefulness while sweating enough to cause down-country rivers to rage.

For about 100 yards during our 2-mile ascent, the hiking trail we were traveling passes through a well-known out-of-bounds glade directly accessible from the neighboring ski resort. While the resort’s trail map clearly shows this area is “Out of Bounds” and off their patrolled area, its easy access makes it a busy detour for lift-riding skiers. As they enter, a sign warns them they’re heading “Out of Bounds.” As we passed through the top of this glade, we ported our splitboards and skis on our shoulders and carefully hiked up the trail, making sure our presence was known to any downhill traffic. Most skiers that pass through are inquisitive and friendly, but on this particular day there was an angry troll waiting.

As if the heated debate surrounding uphill ski-area traffic wasn’t prevalent enough (see recent articles from the Wall Street Journal, Powder Magazine), it quickly became unavoidable. While skiing with what I presume to be his wife and son, a middle-aged man took the liberty to scold our group for traveling uphill on his out-of-bounds ski trail in the woods. As I stood there soaked in sweat with 50 pounds of gear on my back, I’m repeatedly told something to the tune of, “get off the trail, you’re going to get totally nuked by someone flying down the trail!” I missed a lot of what he was yelling at me as I stood in astonishment by his repeated use of the word, “nuked.” When I came to, I made an honest attempt to rationalize, telling him we were hiking up on a designated hiking trail that briefly crosses his out-of-bounds glade. I got as far as saying we were on a hiking trail before he interjected with, “I don’t want to hear your smart-ass mouth or your excuses, just get off the trail.” He muttered a few other tirades stemming from what I can only assume must be a sad, insecure life. As he finally skied away down through his cherished trail of skied-off ice and rocks, we slipped back into seclusion and quietly shuffled up to the summit.

Looking into Smugglers' Notch from Mt. Mansfield

Looking into Smugglers’ Notch from Mt. Mansfield

During the rest of the skin up Mansfield, I couldn’t help but wonder what drove this guy to such depths of anger and hatred. Did he never get that Malibu Barbie he asked his parents for? What was it? If we only could have had an adult conversation. I would tell him about what hiking trails are for, the health benefits of smiling, and the concept of sharing. He would tell me exactly what ‘getting nuked’ means. All joking aside, my buddy summed it up pretty well when he told the angry skier, “we’d appreciate the advice without the attitude.” It’s all about respect.

In the end, we carried on with enjoying the picture-perfect day in the mountains and chuckled amongst ourselves while throwing around our new favorite word. We totally nuked it that day!

 

Confidence

 

Reproduced from an www.irunfar.com post

By: Geoff Roes

 

I often have people ask me if I think certain “things” will make them faster runners. Some of the more common among these are speed work, cross training, weight lifting, eating meat, not eating meat, more hill running, less hill running, more mileage, less mileage, and so on. In some of these cases I think there are somewhat definitive answers. If you are running 15 miles a week and want to get faster at a marathon, then more mileage will almost certainly help with this. In most cases though, I think it comes down more to whether you think it will make you faster than it does to any scientific logic or certainty. In this sense, what I’m saying is that it’s often more about the mental aspect than the physical. In other words, I think confidence might just be the most important component of getting faster.

Thus, a very important question becomes: how do we build our confidence as runners?

Certainly you have to do the training, and put your body through enough physical stress that it will make physiological adaptations that over time will allow you to run a little faster with the same amount of stress. However, our bodies will not respond in the same way all the time to the same amount and same type of physical stress. Even more interesting is the reality that no two people’s bodies will respond the same way to the same amounts and same types of physical stress. In this sense it seems most logical to base your training on a constant process of trial and error. This process is also a really simple way to build our confidence.

It’s really this simple. You gather ideas and information from other runners, coaches, or any resources you come across. Then you implement these ideas when they make sense to implement them. If something new seems to resonate, you keep doing it, because this inherently builds confidence. This is the first part of the process, and this is something that virtually everyone is doing in all areas of life all the time.

Next comes the importance of training in ways that help build this confidence. If we’re feeling like we want to become better runners on technical trails we have to do more than just go out and run on technical trails. We have to run on technical trails in ways that make us feel like we’re improving. Sure, we need to challenge ourselves to get better, and sometimes this means running on terrain that might be a bit over our heads and that might leave us feeling “beaten” by the trail, but ultimately we need to believe we are good technical runners to be good technical runners.

How do we do this? First, shorten your stride. There is a lot of evidence out there that a shorter stride is actually more efficient anyway, but more importantly it’s a lot easier to run smoothly on technical trails with a shorter stride. Even if you’re going slower at first, you will very quickly gain confidence in how much easier it is to negotiate the terrain, and in no time you will find yourself running much faster on technical terrain with this shorter stride.

Next, find a technical trail that you enjoy and that is near where you live so you can run it a few times a week. In this way we get to know the trail. We can eventually memorize every rock, root, stump, and almost know ahead of time where to place our feet. As we memorize more and more of this trail, it will feel significantly easier to run than it does initially. With this our confidence will increase, and when this occurs we will not just feel like we are better trail runners, but we will in fact be better trail runners. When we take this higher level of confidence to other technical trails we might feel like we’re not that good, but we will be running smoother and faster without even realizing it.

Here’s another method which I highly recommend to increase confidence: Take measures to make yourself feel good about your hard and/or long training runs. Nearly every distance runner does long runs as part of their training. Most also do speed/interval runs as well. Certainly there is a physiological benefit to building endurance through long runs, and building speed through intervals, but I think it’s really hard to get much benefit from these workouts if we don’t feel good about them.

There are different ways to do this, but the simplest is to intentionally put yourself in a position to feel good about these runs. Don’t go into your longest or hardest run of the week totally tired out from staying up late drinking a six pack. Not that you can’t do a 30-mile Sunday morning run on three hours of sleep and a hangover (trust me, this can be done), but you are almost certainly going to feel better if you don’t have the hangover and the lack of sleep. There might not be a huge difference in what your body takes physically out of either method, but it’s not going to do a whole lot for your confidence if you finish the run feeling horrible.

Instead, try to create conditions in which you end these long runs feeling really good. Sleep and eat well the day or two before; start the run really easy so you can finish stronger; eat and drink really well during the run. Doing 30-mile runs will likely make you a stronger distance runner no matter how you feel (as long as you’re not overdoing it the rest of the week), but doing 30-mile runs in which you finish feeling great and, thus, really confident will make you a MUCH stronger distance runner. More benefit from the same workout. Seems like a good idea.

Of course, it’s not this simple. Gaining confidence isn’t as easy as just saying: “Take measures to gain confidence.” Sometimes we just feel sluggish no matter what we do, and other times we feel great when we don’t sleep or eat well. Sometimes we trip over dozens of rocks on a trail that we’ve run a hundred times and then hop on a trail for the first time and feel great. For the most part though, we will feel better in our runs when we make a conscious effort to do the little things that typically give our bodies the tools it needs to do so.

When this all comes together just right, we create a positive feedback loop that boosts our confidence, and it is the confidence we gain from this that will make us stronger than anything else we can do as runners.

 

Winter Motivation

 

Reposted from: Beginner Triathlete

Feeling blah? Tempted to miss a workout? Here are some practices as well as on-the-spot tricks to get you into your workouts when you're just not feeling it.

Ah, it's difficult for all of us - especially in the long winter months! Here are tips and tricks for getting going when it's the last thing you want to do.

1. Focus on your goals and dreams

Put them in writing and post them up somewhere so if you need some inspiration, you can look at them and remember the big picture of what you're aiming for. A corollary here is to log your workouts - go look at all those milestones, those pretty colors (or that you need to reach for the bar) for a boost.

2. Focus on instant gratification

You're going to feel so much better once you get going, and especially after, when the endorphins, sense of accomplishment, and post-workout glow really hit. Most of your workouts will actually be energizing. Think of what you're getting: health, wellness, a fantastically fit body!

3. Join a support group

Whether it's your local tri or training club, group workouts, getting a training partner, signing up for a challenge group here on BT (or mentor group if you're new and one is open), the support is wonderful and as you see others building towards their goals, it's very inspiring to do the same. Knowing that others are depending on you or expecting something of you can really give you that little push you need to get out the door, on the trainer, or in the water.

4. Use a training plan

There are many free ones to choose from here, and if you find a paid-membership plan that you might prefer, it is definitely more than worth the money to become a paid member. You won't find better plans or support for cheaper anywhere, and the plans are customizable. It's a lot easier to show up for a workout when it's already all spelled out for you and you know exactly what it's going to be.

5. Don't use the training plan

Don't let the fact that you won't be able to fit in the whole workout or do it exactly as planned stop you. It's a lot easier to get out there and do it if you know it's fine to do something rather than nothing and one or a couple altered days is perfectly okay. 

6. Mental training helps.

The practice of meditation or focused/guided visualization can be very helpful for keeping your motivation levels up. On the spot, if you're balking before a specific session, even a couple of minutes of meditation, focus, or thinking about the benefits can do marvels for motivating you to actually get up, go, and grab those gifts.

7. Read inspirational literature.

It's wonderful to read about heroes and/or people like yourself who attempted similar things and succeeded. It's also great to read training tips you can put into practice right away.

8. Raise money for a cause

If you're training for a race and raising money, it's some good motivation either by knowing you are helping so many more people than just yourself - or conversely, avoiding guilt.

9. Put your gear on

When all else fails, I put on my running shoes and go outside. I tell myself, I do not have to run. All I'm going to do is put on my shoes and go outside. If I still want to just go back inside, I will. But at that point, if I've put the equipment on (or packed my swim bag, or taken the bike out and put a helmet on), I've usually cleared the hardest hurdle, which is just to get going.

 

Post exercise stiffness......

Now that we have officially changed seasons and are trying out sports that we have been dreaming about for the past few months here are a few things that I am thinking about as I sit here contemplating the stiffness that I will have in a few hours.

Lactic acid build-up is the cause of post hard-run stiffness ……. Wrong! Most runners believe that the stiffness and muscle pain felt after a marathon or hard effort is caused by lactic acid. While this was believed correct some decades ago, we now know that lactic acid, or more correctly, lactate, is not the cause of stiffness.

Although the precise cause of delayed onset muscle soreness remains unknown, all runners are aware that the degree of pain depends on the intensity and duration of the activity. For example, you have probably noticed that your muscles are more painful after a long or hard downhill run than after running over flat terrain. Comrades runners, particularly, will have noticed that the post-race stiffness is worse after a “down” run than an “up” run. In fact, it is this very phenomenon that begins to exclude a build-up of lactic acid as a cause of the pain. In downhill running the concentration of lactate in the blood and muscle is very low compared to running at the same speed on the flat. Thus, the most painful post-race stiffness occurs when the lactate concentration is lowest.

If we take a blood sample from a runner the day after a marathon, especially an ultra-marathon such as the Two-Oceans or Comrades, we find that the levels of an enzyme called creatine kinase are very high. This is a marker of muscle damage as this particular enzyme “leaks” from damaged muscle. The “damage” is in the form of minute tears or ruptures of the muscle fibres. We can see this trauma to the muscle if a sample of muscle is examined microscopically.

However, it is not just the muscle that is damaged. By measuring hydroxyproline, it is possible to show that the connective tissue in and around the muscles is also disrupted. What this shows is that stiffness results from muscle damage and breakdown of connective tissue.

Running fast or running downhill places greater strain on the muscle fibres and connective tissue compared with running over a flat route. Downhill running is particularly damaging because of the greater so-called eccentric muscle contractions that occur. When your foot contacts the ground after the air-borne phase of the gait cycle, the muscles in the thigh contract to support you. But the nature of the running action is such that although the muscle is contracting, it is forced to lengthen at the same time. It is this simultaneous contracting while lengthening that is called an eccentric contraction and is most damaging to muscle fibres.

What does this mean for the runner? Firstly, after the muscles have recovered from the damage that caused the stiffness and the adaptive process is complete, the muscle is more resistant to damage from subsequent exercise for up to six weeks. It may therefore be beneficial to include a short downhill race or training run 4 to 6 weeks prior to a race such as the Two-oceans or Comrades. Secondly, allowing adequate recovery after a marathon that has resulted in post-race soreness is important so as to allow complete healing to take place so that you can benefit by being “stronger” than before. Thirdly, a well-trained muscle is less prone to damage than a lesser trained one, so hard but scientific training is important.

It has been suggested that vitamin E may help to reduce muscle soreness, but there is little evidence to support this idea. Vitamin E is thought to act as an antioxidant that may blunt the damaging action of free radicals that attack the cell membrane of the muscle fibre. It has also been suggested that stretching the painful muscle or muscles may be beneficial, but this has not consistently been shown to alleviate delayed onset muscle soreness. Similarly, an easy “loosening up” run “to flush out the lactic acid” is unlikely to speed up recovery. To the contrary, running when the muscle is still damaged may delay full recovery. I often tell runners that while it is possible to run when there is still some post run stiffness, they will be running better some weeks later if they delay their return to full training until they no longer feel sore.

The real cause of muscle stiffness after a hard run is clearly not due to lactic acid in the muscle. Once this is well known, runners will be in a better position to manage their return to normal training after a marathon.

What do I take home from this article from Andrew Dolten?  Keep at it as the training is needed to harden me up!  Recovery plays a HUGE part of this...  In the meantime, thank you winter for the snow sports!!

 

Running in the Winter: Tips

Everyone loves a run on a crisp fall morning. The brightly colored leaves provide the backdrop for your run, while the clean, dry air fuels a great workout. The temperature is perfect for maximizing your performance.

But what happens when, inevitably, fall turns to winter? Let's break winter running down to help you deal with the major setbacks runners experience during the colder months. Navigating sub-freezing temperatures, snow and ice is difficult for even the most winter-ready runner. 

More: Winter Running Tips

Temperature: How to Run in the Cold

Growing up just north of Boston, I ran in some of the worst winter conditions imaginable: temperatures in the teens (and lower with the wind chill), sleet and feet of snow. But I almost always ran outside. Here's how to conquer that frigid cold air yourself. 

More: 9 Tips for Running in Cold Weather

First, layering is essential. It traps air and helps keep you warmer than just one thick piece of clothing. Choose a synthetic base layer to help wick sweat away from your skin. and a waterproof outer layer in case it snows (more on that later). 

A significant portion of heat escapes from your head, so a hat that also covers your ears is essential to running comfortably in winter. If the temperature is below 10 degrees and it's windy, you may want to wear two hats for extra protection from the elements. 

More: Your Guide to Winter Running Gear

The colder it gets, the less skin you should expose. Cover your neck and some of your face with a scarf or balaclava. Your legs should be fully covered (no shorts!) with running pants or tights. Gloves are a must if you want to keep your fingers. 

And attention men: if it's very cold and windy, a pair of wind-proof briefs can prevent uncomfortable irritation in your most vulnerable area. Compression garments like arm or calf sleeves can be layered for extra warmth. 

Shopping Tip: Find the Latest Winter Running Gear

Running in Snow

Some runners actually enjoy running in a few inches of snow. If it's not too slippery, it can provide you with a little bit of cushion on the road, and give a satisfying crackling sound with every footstep. It's not ideal for faster running, but easy runs in light snow are fun. 

Running on snow usually requires you to slow down slightly—that's completely normal and recommended. You'll be using significantly more stabilizing muscles to balance yourself on the snow, so you may experience more soreness after these runs. Remember to keep your effort easy, and reduce your overall mileage if needed.

Once the snowfall is more than a few inches, or if it's particularly wet and slippery, running becomes impossible. If there's ice, that's another warning sign you should stay off the roads. 

More: 5 Tips for a Better Treadmill Workout

Instead, you have two options: run inside on a treadmill, or hope that your local government plows enough of the road for you to safely get in your run outside. Be careful of narrower roads and traffic, which may pose some safety risks. Wear a reflector vest or very bright clothing if you're running in the early morning or dusk hours. 

Winter running necessitates a “make the best of it” attitude. Freezing temperatures, snow and ice don't provide an ideal training environment, especially if you need to run fast 5K workouts or intervals for other short races. But by modifying your runs slightly, you can still run the majority of your workouts outside or on the treadmill. 

More: 3 Surprising Ways to Enjoy Treadmill Running

Remember, safety is your first priority when running outside in the snow and cold. Winter conditions sometimes make injuries more common—by straining a muscle on snow or falling—and sidewalks sometimes aren't cleared for running, forcing you onto the roads. Prioritize safety by carrying ID, leaving the MP3 player at home, and staying vigilant for cars.

More: 7 Safety Tips for Running in the Dark

by: Jason Fitzgerald

 

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