Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ultramarathon on a Whim: TARC To Hale and Back 6 hour race

Read the race report by skipping to the **** or just continue to read through all my thoughts.

Strava Link

By the number of posts on this blog, I think it's obvious that I'm not exactly into racing right now.  I've got hooked on surf fishing for striped bass, and with a lot my life I just needed a break from something that has dominated my life for over 15 years.  It was really hard leaving my racing community in WV, and upon arriving in Metrowest Boston it was clear almost right away that cycling wasn't going to be like it was in WV.

So anyways, I've fallen back into running.  It's simpler and something I enjoy more doing solo a lot more than riding solo.  But it's been tough with my new, real job, and the many many sleepless nights fishing to stay consistent and put in any real "training".  So I haven't.  I've been just doing what I can, when I can.  In the last year I've got in a bunch of 2-2.5 hour runs, a few in the 3 hour range, and one run in October that was 4 hours.  And as much as possible on trails.  Running on trails, the majority single track, is in the top tier of my favorite things to do.

And I've always been partial to the long run.  And adventure.  So I've been kicking around the idea of trying to do a "50" for a while.  I was going to last October, then last December, and life just kept getting in the way.  I thought maybe I could finally do a 50 miler in early May, before fishing got into full swing, but 2 of the races I was really interested in were filled, and that left me with no options until basically October again.

But, last weekend I was poking around the internet at work waiting for an experiment to end and trying to not think about all the crap I had coming up in the next month, when I saw on Facebook that the "Trail Animal Running Club" had a "6 hour Ultra run" this weekend.  I really wanted to jump right to a 50 miler, so it had slipped under my radar.

But, it was only 25 minutes from our house, and only $28 to sign up.

Next thing I knew it I was signed up.

Let's recap my running in late 2015/2016 real quick before I get to the knee pain issue.  I haven't even been keeping track of my miles since late 2014, but if I can remember right: I've done about 6, 2 hour-ish runs, a couple 2.5 hour run, a 2:45 run that was hard and "fast", and a very hard very hilly (3000ft+ climbing) 3.5 hour run 3 weeks ago.  On top of this is the normal 60-90min runs all mixed in.  And I've been doing some strength work 1x a week.

So roughly 22-28 miles per week with 4-6 weeks in the low to mid 30s since October.

With many weeks in the 10-20 mile range.  Ugh.

And I run in the 10 min/mile range, with literally only maybe 3 runs that I tried running "fast" (i.e. tempo), 1 of those was last week.

That's it.  What I'm trying to say is that I was grossly unprepared, my training resembled someone trying to run a 1/2 marathon, not a 6 hour run.

Ok and the knee pain.  So I've been doing really well with being injury free for over a year.  Literally nothing- except a rolled ankle in December that sent me to the ER.  But two weeks before the race I started having patellae pain.

So I sign up for the race on a complete whim having almost no training under my belt, and two days later I start getting patella knee pain out of no where.  Looking back I had a bit of it the week prior but didn't really think anything of it because I had done lunges the day before and I was COOKED and my 90min run only ended in 8 miles.  But then, it was bad enough that I had to cut my run short on Sunday.  Then on Wednesday I couldn't even run, and it was bad enough I was limping.  Classic runners knee I think.

I took Thursday off, and rolled the crap out of my quads and calves etc Wednesday-Friday.  I iced, Carly did some simple massage.  Nothing really seemed to help much.

Friday I tried to do a little run to loosen myself up (day before race).  10 minutes in my left knee was screaming.  It did get a little better, but it was bad.  I quit at 30 minutes and headed for home.

Friday night I gathered my things, and was concerned about the temperature.  It was going to be 36 at start, and peak at 49 by the finish (9am to 3pm).  I decided on shorts last minute.  Reebok shorts with built in compression underwear, swiftwick compression socks, ibex wool base layer with EMS techwick over the top.  Wool liners for gloves, a smart wool thin hat over my coolmax cap.  Started with my well broken in Hoka Challenger ATX, and had a 1/2 size larger ones on stand by (long story).

For food, I had no real plan.  I had honey stinger chews- with caffiene (surprise to me)- honey stinger waffles and a few gels.  I had a slice of pizza in my drop bag, a PB&J, a bagel with cream cheese, some tiny sinckers, and a couple reeses eggs.  I had nuun w/ and w/o caffiene, Si!caps, and two bottle of clif shot drink.

My plan was to just eat whatever was there- volunteers supply all the food and it's quite the spread at the TARC events apparantely (as I experienced for the first time, it was AWESOME!).  I was a "sweet" last name so I brought a bunch of candy, pop tarts, and trail mix.  Also drink whatever was there- which was Tailwind?  It was ok.  Similar tasting to Hammer nutrition, it kinda made me gassy/burppy.  But it wasn't as bad as Hammer, which I don't like.

That morning I ate an egg and cheese and bagel sandwich from the coffee house, and had iced coffee and a chocolate chip muffin.

I drank water on the way to the race.

I got there only 30 minutes early and did nothing but stay warm and wait.

At the start, I lined up in the back.  But I was ushered closer to the front by a few ladies who assured me that A) "I looked fast" and B) "I should be up front more because we're going to be walking a lot".

So I started mid-pack in a field of 96.  My inexperience did not prepare me for how many people there were going to be.  I figured I would be in a field of 40 +/- 10.  It was exciting.

But, then I was nervous as fuck when the RD said "GO".  All of a sudden, I was like...WTF AM I DOING?

3.5 mile loop, something like 180ft gain each loop- but it felt WAY hillier.  One steep 2.5ish minute climb at first, which was a 5ish minute climb on loop 9, then lots of small, steep ass kickers (both up and down).  Trails were shockingly technical, it was AWESOME!  I loved it.  It was a great 3.5 mile loop, and I could have run it for 100 miles.  There were a couple tricky spots.  A long fast downhill through a powerline, two beach crossings one that was long and not too soft and another that was soft and short (100 yards?), and the before mentioned hill.  A very slippery 200ft long bridge, a really cool dam you ran over (that I almost fell in on lap 4), a fresh section that was rocky and cut for the race, and very, very limited pavement that seemed 10x more painful than any of the single track.

The "gun" goes, and I'm off.

Lap 1: I'm trying to hold myself back.  I can see very quickly that tons of people are in over their heads.  Hell, at 9 min/mile pace I thought I might be.  But I just flowed.  I had NO plan; I decided in the first 2 laps that "flow" would be my plan for the race.  I wanted to hit 30 miles, but really was just out there to see what would happen.

But at first I was really trying to hold myself back- patience I kept saying.  But then, I just couldn't take the constant yo-yo-ing with slower folks not able to run the rocky/rooty sections as fast as I could.  So I started picking my way through.  I burned a lot of energy using bursts to get by people.

And then the knee started hurting less than 20 minutes in.  Bad.  Bad enough I started trying to do all kinds of weird biomechnical things.  I would do tiny steps, then long strides.  I'd try to stay on my toes, then heel strike.  Nothing helped (obviously) but I was desperate.  I had butterflies, the bad kind, because I really thought it was game over.  I started playing all the scenarios of how it would happen and how bummed I'd be etc.

But, towards the end of the first lap I attached onto a small group that were a tiny bit faster than me on the flats/"hills" and I could crush on the downhills.  They pulled me.  And a strange thing happened: my knee started to not hurt so bad.  The pain moved around, but it abated.  And while I had it the rest of the race, I could continue.

At the end of the first loop, I'm still nervous about it, but optimistic.  I didn't eat anything, or drink anything.

First lap I was about 9:45 average.

Lap 2: So lap two, by mid way I'm hanging with the group still, and I'm thinking I've got this now.  My knee is definitely not right but it's not bad enough I'm stopping.  My right knee is feeling similarly, first time for that, but I'm like f it.  I'm doing this.  So I work with the small group through most of the 2nd loop, relying on this very strong woman to pace me.  She kept rolling her ankles but would power away from me on hills or flats.

This as a critical lap for good and bad.  It was very, VERY obvious I was a much much better technical runner than any of the folks around me.  I felt like a Ninja.  And it gave me great confidence, and helped me save a lot of energy.  I'd just drop back on hills, and catch the group of 5 on the downhills with 0 effort.  But this also made me a little...overly confident.  And it made the guys and gal in front of me nervous I think.

So coming out of the second lap, they insisted I pass.  I did.  And at this point, knees are the best they were the whole race.  And I'm all warmed up (I ditched the wool base layer and gloves/hat on this lap), and I'm suddenly finding myself pushing sections.

Into the start/finish/aid I had drank about 3/4 my bottle and refilled and at the aid I ate a package stinger gels.  This lap was something like 9:30 pace with stop at the aid for a hot minute (seconds).

Lap 3 & 4: Gone is the "better hold back you aren't trained at all and it's a long race" wisdom.  I'm ATTACKING the downhills.  Full tilt.  I'm basically out for a 7 mile trail run now.  F the 30 miles.  I'm feeling so confident and I'm passing people like whoa.  I yo-yo with some folks but always end up ditching them in technical sections.  I'm singing to myself, but can't do full long lyrics because I'm out of breath!  Oopies.  But I am "flowing".  I'm just going with whatever I feel at the moment, no holding back, no hard pushing.  Just whatever.  I'm drinking and keeping stock not to go crazy, but I know I'm "pushing too hard for a 30".

I'm just reeling folks in 1 at a time, using them to drag myself through the field.  And at the end of lap 3 I start lapping people walking.  Brave folks in for a long day.

In lap three I was cutting through the woods and slipped.  I swung towards a tree and got nailed in the head by a limp that had been cut.  I was trickling blood down my forehead.  I felt like a MONSTER.

My bottle was gone by end of lap three and I had them fill it with the tailwind hydration stuff.  And I ate a big hunk of bagel, and a stinger waffle.  Pace on lap 3 was sub 9 minute pace if you take out walking to eat.  I stopped and re-tied my shoes on this lap, really tight.

Lap 4 was a blur as well, very similar to lap 3, but slower as I thought...fuck I'm only 1/2 way and I'm sweaty and breathing way too much!  I ate gels 1/2 way through.  I'm still passing folks.  No one has caught or passed me.  But I did stub my toe bad and I could tell it was game over for that nail.

Lap 5:  Now, things are getting serious.  I start to try and do math.  I really think I can get in 35 miles or 10 laps now.  I'm way, way under the pace I need to do that cut-off or not, as long as I don't stop and assuming I don't slow down more than say, 11/11.5 pace for the last couple laps.  My knees are aching, but it's dull and my legs feel OK.  I'm approaching the farthest I've run all year/ever.  I have a good routine for eating now.  I'm eating chews on this long stretch 1/2 way through the lap before the beach area, and then trying to eat something with some fat at the aid and drink a bottle/loop.  It's working.  I'm spending a lot more time alone now.  This lap was the loneliest, I didn't see many folks, and those that I did I passed quickly. It's also the last lap I felt I was truly "flowing".

At the end of the lap, I attempted to eat 1/2 a PB&J sandwich, and it made me gag.  I struggled to get it down.  It was terrible.  I have an iron stomach, so this was new.  I think this lap was high-9's but it was my longest break at the aid (maybe 90seconds) and I walked for a long time trying to eat the PB&J (>3 minutes?) leaving the aid.  WOW THE POWER OF THE WALK!  It was like I was a new person just taking that quick break.  Looking back, I have to remember that.  I think if I had just walked a while out of the aid after my last lap, I could have pulled out one more lap.  And that would have been huge!

Re-stubbed toe on this lap and almost went down once.

Lap 6: I picked up my music here.  What a game changer.  I never use music, so it's like a performance enhancer!  I crested the hill with Dimmu Borgir BLASTING death metal epicness into my ears and I felt on fire.  It was great.  I kept up the 1 bottle per loop drinking, and on this loop I had caffinated Nuun.  But I added a gel on this loop to help compensate.  I definitely felt a bump when I took it so I think in the future I'll stick with calorie drink vs. just electrolyte.

Ugh.  This is the lap that 1st and 2nd caught me (lapped me).  Almost exactly at 20 miles.  They didn't seem like they were running that fast, honestly.  I tried to hang just for the hell of it, and I looked down through a rooty section, looked up and they were still there.  Then we hit pavement, I looked down, then looked up and they were GONE.

This is also where things started to get hard.  I felt mentally good because of the music, but my body was starting to rebel against my mind.  My tummy was gurgly, my legs were starting to burn, and my right knee was really starting to ache.  Funnily enough, the left one was feeling great!

But I knew I must be doing pretty well, given how many people I was passing/lapping.  I think I was right around 10min/avg this loop.

Lap 7: Ok, now I'm starting to think I just don't want to run 10 laps.   9 is enough.  That means I've got 3 laps, I can handle that.  I thought I'd be close to to the cut off with 10 laps but didn't try to worry about it, since 9 seemed to be enough.

I do this silly thing, learned it in swimming, where I tell myself I only have 2 laps left to go even though I'm only a bit through lap 3 left (so really I have like 2.9 laps left)- mind games.  It works great every time because the last lap is always easy because you know you're done.

Or that's my thought.

Uneventful lap, except I almost fell twice and I should have seen this as a sign that I was fatiguing, and I think I should have ate even more.  But lots of singing to myself.  I'm catching people I remember running with in lap 2 now!

I ate a cookie and during this lap I took another gel + chews instead of just chews, and I had clif shot drink, which was good because it was strong.  It's also the first lap where I walked any part of the course, there's this one super steep very short hill that comes RIGHT after you run through the deep sand.  I just burnt up trying to power across, and decided it was time to walk the hill.

Lap 8:
The Marathon lap!  My first marathon, and with out a doubt now I'm in uncharted territory.  This was a big bump mentaly, and when it happened I proclaimed it to the poor guy I was passing.  Dick move?  Maybe.  I was too happy to care, and couldn't even hear his reply because Run the Jewels was blasting in my ears.

This lap I also got to see Carl at the beginning (she showed up for the end).  That was a little boost too.

For these reasons, and just the fact my knees hadn't stopped me yet, this lap wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I did walk the "big" hill for the first time, the bottom steep part.  Looking back, I think it hardly mattered.

I got annoyed at some idiots on bikes because they wouldn't move out of the way.  Here I am 27 miles into a race and these jerks are making me get out of the way so they can ride their bikes on the trails.

But, coming into the aid station at the end of the loop I was burnt.  My knees were aching and my quads were feeling pretty damn weak.  I was mentally cooked too, and was just trying to force myself to get in 1 more lap.  I regret it now.  More on that in a minute.

Emotional lap.  Lot's of thoughts and reflection on my life, on running, on the future.

Final lap.
I stopped and walk the whole aid station area, ate a cookie and a gel before I even left.  I didn't complain when the volunteer wasn't quick to fill my bottle.  I was hurting.  I walked for a while coming out of aid while I finished chewing up the cookie.

I'm debating with myself about if I should another lap after this one.  I'm trying so hard to do the math.  My Garmin says one thing, my timer another, and my chrono another, and I'm all confused.  I think I'm not going to make the cut off for a while, but eventually it dawns on me that I probably will by at least 5 minutes.

But when I see Carly again, I tell her I'm done.  I stop and talk to her for a minute, give her a kiss (she's about 1/3 mile from the aid station), and continue up the "hill".  I'm just ready for it to be over.  I know my goal is going to be reached, and I'm so over pushing myself.  I'm tripping way more, my right knee is smoked, and I'm down to about 50% strength in my quads/hams so I can't rip any downhills.  My feet are definitely blistered.

But you know?  It wasn't until the last mile of the last lap that I really started to have to push.  I slowed way down on the lap in general, I think my average was 11:15?,  but even with that the last mile was tough.  My knee was really hurt.  I walked with only about 1/3 of a mile left to go.  I debated, maybe I should just walk the rest so I won't make the cut off and then I won't have a choice.

But I couldn't walk, I had to run.  For myself.

I crossed the line uneventfully.  But the RD was there, Josh, and he said "You've got plenty of time to get out for one more lap!  The sweepers aren't heading out for almost 10 minutes!"

I bent over, hands on knees, and stared at the ground for a moment in between the timing mats.  Then I stood up, looked around, and I said "Nope, I'm done".  He laughed, and gave me a slap on the shoulder.  I was covered in salt and blood, my knees felt like they were going to give out, and I was hungry!

As I walked away, I didn't really feel much for a few moments (beyond the above reptilian brain emotions), until suddenly I got this flood of accomplishment, of pride, and I turned around to him (now a few feet away) and said "Hey, this was my first marathon!"

He said "Wow, nice job man!" and then louder, "HEY, First marathon everyone!" and people here and there around the finish area clapped for me.

I smiled, and made the final decision, I was DONE.

I got some food and Carly helped peel my shoes and socks off.  I changed my clothes, and when I was done, the girl I had run with at the beginning came through.  As she did, they called the cut off.  She ran by, yelling to her friend "let's try and get one more in quick!".  Her friend yelled something back and she replied "Probably not, but I'm going to do it anyways" (spoiler, she didn't make 6 hours for the final lap so it didn't count).

I was FULL of regret at that moment that I wasn't dressed and could just go back out on a final lap with her!  I had 41 minutes to do the last, I should have tried!  Sitting here now I'm not sure how I can say that given how terrible I feel, but I did feel it!  No, I still feel it!

BUT! Let us not forget how untrained I am!  And when I start thinking about it that way, I really can't be happier.  I mean, I bested my furthest distance EVER by 8-9 miles, ran much faster than I ever thought I could, and ended up actually RACING rather then just RUNNING.  This last point is what keeps me smiling.

The fire is back.  I'm racing again.

Total time 5:20 minutes, 31.5 miles, 13th of 96.  Average pace w/stopping 10:10min/mile, average heart rate 168 (woot!).

(Top 3 completed 38.5 miles, 4-7th completed 35, 8-15th completed 31.5, then downwards)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New Year, New Place, New Goals: How to Move On

Alright, I have to get that "thank you" post off the front page of my blog, because I can't look at it anymore.

So in the last 6 months, I've graduated with my Phd, moved 700 miles away from where I was in WV to my new digs in MA, started a new job...and gained about 10lbs.

I can't go into the specifics of my job, due to the subject base, but I'm doing some new exciting research on heat stroke.  I started in October, and I absolutely love it.  I have never had a job I've enjoyed as much.  The topic, the demographic I'm working with, my co-workers, my boss...everything.  Everything is perfect, or as close as it can be when you're working.

Did I mention it's only 2 miles away from where I live?

And 3 miles from an amazing tackle shop...and 2 miles from a super fancy bike shop.

So of you were paying really close attention, you'd notice I said I graduated 6 months ago.  That was August. I didn't start my job until September 23rd.

During that  I did and experienced a lot.  There's so much to tell, and so much I want to share, but it'd be the longest most random post ever.  So, why not a high-light list.

1) No less than a week after I graduated, I competed in my last race in WV of 2013.  I got 3rd place in the White Park Throw Down XC mountain bike race, which secured my overall win of the series.  Not only that, but it was a streak of results I had hoped was possible but had only really thought of as a distant dream.  In my first four mountain bike races (ever, well sorta, see #6)- ever- I got 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd.  I think if I hadn't had the whole "50,000 word thesis" thing in the middle there, I could have gone for another win.  Oh, and now I'm a Cat 1 mountain biker, so the glory will not be felt again for a long, long time.

Cat 2 State and Series Champion.  Steph is Series winner for Women

2)  So then we moved.  I drove a 24ft moving truck, without cruise or air conditioning, all the way from WV to MA.  It wasn't fun.  And the story of bringing it driving a truck that big through a residential area when you're not used to it.  It was horrific.  And a few wrong turns made it so MUCH worse.  I ended up in an apartment complex, backing over a side walk and a flower garden while the security guard stood staring, bewildered.  That wasn't our complex, by the way.  It was so stressful.

A view from the dock of our house

With the New England weather as it is, I've been doing 95%+
of my riding outside on the road on my trusty Flash

But anyways, we moved into a small house with 2 bedrooms at the end of a little dirt road in Wayland, MA.  Best part is we are right on the water of Dudley Pond.  It's quiet, but so close to...everything.  Anything!  Anything you want!  It's so weird being in such a quiet spot that's so close to all kinds of shopping and restaurants.  And Boston!  We're only about 30 minutes from Logan Airport!

A 14lb striper caught on a live Eel in October

A 10lb striper caught in October on a lure, my best to date.

2) I bought a kayak earlier in the year, my first real kayak geared at fishing.  And boy did I take advantage of it.  Between August and December, either by myself or with my buddy Robin, I probably kayaked a total of 80 miles or so, and fished for about 150 hours from my kayak.  Some of this time was spent out of the kayak and on the beach, but without the kayak, I wouldn't have been able to reach the places I went to.  And I caught quite a few fish.  Stripers.  One day- my best- I caught 27 between 6 and 11lbs.  That was all in about 5 hours.  There were times when I wouldn't go 2 casts without hooking up.  Let me tell you- an 11lb striper, although very small by the area standards, puts up a hell of a fight on a lightweight freshwater setup!  I kayak fished in both MA and CT.  Even made a couple new friends, and came up with a new idea for a different kind of team...

3) I also spent a lot of time shore/surf fishing with my buddy Robin.  We're obsessed.  Like, full blown addiction.  I talk to him about once a week on the phone (he lives in CT) and the whole time we talk tactics, gear, and other fishing nonsense for the upcoming "year of the fish".  We stayed up all-night 5 times fishing in only 2 months, and did pretty well one night- including one Striper that was just short of 20lbs.  We fished CT, RI, MA...and next year are planning on adding NH, ME, and NJ to that list...maybe even VA.  There's so much more I could say about this, but I'll leave it at that.  The reports that will come on our adventures I hope will be as...

4)  It's important to add that I also spent a few weekends at my parents NEW camp in ME.  It was so fun, and I caught my best ever bass, and crappie.  Also saw the largest pickerel of my life, caught by my dad.  Was at least 5lbs.

5) I also got a fly rod, and started fly fishing.  Our new place is on a pond- Dudley Pond- and I had lots to time on the sunny New England summer afternoons to poke around the feeds and shore line in search of bass, pickerel, perch, crappie and carp.  This winter, I've also started to tie my own flies.  It's very relaxing, and fun.  I enjoy it to no end!

Rollers off the Ocean in October, as I glide along in my Kayak.

Some fall Mountain Biking in Metro West Boston area.

6) So I know that this blog is geared towards a certain audience now, and fishing doesn't play into that groups interest.  But the reason I add it in is it informs this next part.  Because I spent so much time fishing, my training took the hit.  Not only that, but I lost my training partners- my team- and motivation.

That said, I did try to keep some fitness.  I raced my first New England cyclocross race in September after doing a Wednesday night training race.  I knew I was in trouble after that Wednesday night.  The guys up here- the field size- it's just insane.  The talent and the depth of speed is crazy.  The 3/4 race has guys in it that could certainly win some of the smaller 1/2/3 races back in WV/VA/PA region.  And not just like, 1.  There's always this core group of at least 10 or so guys that are just insane.  And everyone is SO CLOSE in fitness.  The difference, for me in the 3/4 race, between 50 and 25th is only about 1 minute, 1/6th of a lap at times.  That is a tight spread.  Not to mention, the jump between the categories is HUGE.

The first race didn't go so well.

Gloucester was fun, but if I hadn't been been
 sick it would have been a lot more fun.

In my first race, I was late to the start line, missed my call up and had to start in the back.  Rookie.  Move.  Then I sprinted my way up from 80something to about 20th, realized I was way over my head, started to back off, flatted, and made my first ever pick stop.  I have -3- cyclocross bikes now (including my SS) and am lucky enough to have a pit bike.  So I pull into the pit, grab my bike, and roll out.

I jump on the bike...the seat is super low.  It slipped.  I can't do anything about it.  So I clip my foot in.  Or I try.  Then I try again.

Oh.  #$%&.

This isn't my bike.

So I have now stolen someones bike.  I yell to the official- I can't go back, he makes that clear.

Getting air in Providence
So I then WALK the course back to the official, get about forty feet past them, and just give up.  In my first CX race in New England- the hot bed of CX- I have my second ever DNF (the first being a mountain bike race when I was 18 and broke my front derailleur off, jamming it in a the chain and breaking that too- so I don't really count this as my first mtb race, as I only made it like 10min into the race).

Pretty discouraged, I raced the SS race later on in the afternoon and got 11th of 40 or so racers.  Not so bad.

The Big Leagues
So, I tried to keep motivated, to keep training, but I just couldn't keep myself in the game.  Something was off.

I raced several more races, the Green Mountain CX weekend (38th and 34th in a stacked field), Gloucester (I was sick as a dog, I think I was like 70th), The Night Weasels Cometh (a very fun race on a Wednesday night in the DARK under the lights of a ski mountain, think I was like...40th), but just wasn't enjoying myself that much.  Actually, wasn't enjoying myself at all.

My parents lost power over Christmas for more than 48hours....but no feat the generator was hooked up so the lights could be run!

I raced one more weekend- Providence Cross- because I had already signed up and it was pricey.  It was the most insane cross race I've ever been too- all kinds vendors, food, etc.  Big names- shimano, pedros, cannondale, trek, sram, etc etc etc.  Live music, a mountain bike show (!!!), a tower with announcers calling the whole race, online coverage, etc.  It was crazy!

And I did horrible the first day.  82nd.  I dropped my chain on the 2nd to last lap and lost 20+ places trying to get it back on.  It was humiliating.

But the second day, I had the best race of my CX career.  Yes, I've been on the podium in smaller races.  But this is the big leagues.  I got 43rd of 159, and I think if I had been in a better place mentally, I could have been in the 30s.  That is fantastic.

But, as soon as I finished, I was done.  Done for the season.  I just wasn't having that much fun.

So for the first time in a long time, I just let myself stop.  I didn't force it.  I just cut my losses.

I usually take the month of December off, but instead, I took the month of November off.  I did some more fishing, and tried to relax a little bit.  I needed a break.

7) We went to see the Boston Pops Christmas concert in December.  It was fantastic.  So worth the $35 tickets, we had such a blast.  And it was even better since we got to go with my old high school buddy Tyler, and his wonderful wife Meg, which I have drifted apart from but really hope we can spend more time with!

Re-connecting with an old friend...
8) We had a great holiday part with many old college friends before Christmas.  It was extremely fun.  Then I went home for over a week during the holidays.  I had a great time with both of my families.  I did some XC skiing, and a whole lot of eating.  I spent lots of time talking with, and enjoying, those that I love.  And even got to see a great high school friend (Alana) AND her new baby (!!!).  And was forced to hold it.  Terrifying.

Spending time with the In-laws

Home for the Holidays

I've been eating too much...Reese's pancakes anyone?

7) Finally, I've got another fun hobby.  Helicopters.  It's a little nerdy, but then again...I'm nerdy.  It's also frustrating, when you break stuff as often as I do.  I'm on number 6 now, but finally good enough at flying that I don't crash it all the time.

2 of the 6...the one on the right is no longer operational...
So that's roughly what I've been doing.

What is next?

You'll have to keep coming back.

Here's a very short list of what might coming.

Very soon...
In April
A bit Later...
And then
A shift in focus
Sleepless Nights
A Trip back in Time
Perhaps a trip down country roads

Stay tuned

Relaxing after a hard year

A few of my favorite people

Gus likes my parents place in Maine.  We spent several weekends there...

Miniature Family Reunion in Me...

Fun times on the Lake in ME

My grandfather turned 80 this year.  We had a great little party for him.

The Natick Outdoor Store is going to make me bankrupt...3 miles from home, 1 mile from work...

The trusty SS racer, converted to commuting.  I have been commuting even now in the snowy winter, with excellent Kenda studded Tires.

My own office!

A Fishing trip

We've done a bit of hiking as well.  Gus likes to strike poses...

We went home for Thanksgiving for a few days...

I went crazy with the Christmas lights this year.

As long as there's not too much snow, I've found a few quiet places to ride the MTB

Pre-Holiday Part fun in the front yard...

I have also got the fish tank back up and running.  Another hobby...

A short trip a few weeks ago on a nice day left me with no fish, but some nice spots for in the future!

My big purchase of the year, a new Hobie Revolution 13 Kayak...I had it 1 hour and was already modifying it!