Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Block Island Running Tour

This week didn't start off that great. My bad mood carried on to Monday, and I was stressing about the pain in my left leg so close to Hartford. Plus, that sick individual (see previous recent posts) returned just in time to add to my stress. The only way I knew to make it better was to run more, which is what I shouldn't have done considering the pain in the leg and the lackluster runs. I suspected overtraining on Wednesday when I couldn't get my resting heart rate under 65. It's usually in the high 40s, and I check it with the  RAD 57 pulse oximeter at work every Wednesday morning during the ambulance check. I even cross-checked it with Zoll monitor just be sure it was accurate, and it was. I was also irritable, had a sudden loss of appetite and started to have trouble sleeping in the two weeks prior (which is rare for me), but I still ignored the signs. I had also been catching myself grinding and clenching my teeth for the first time since 1999. I had a plan to run around Block Island Thursday, and there was no way I was passing on that opportunity. I was in major denial that I needed to scale it back a bit and instead pushed even harder. The result... a terrible race at Lone Gull. I thought it couldn't be worse than the NH 10-Miler, but, oh no, it was bad. So bad, that I almost dropped out at mile 2, when I was almost hyperventilating and my legs hurt so badly that I wasn't certain I could physically finish the race. If you look at my weekly mileage alone, it doesn't seem like overtraining is possible, but add in the racing AND almost every run being hard or fast, and I think it was a slow cooker recipe for disaster...much like last year. Fortunately, Lone Gull would be the wake up call to slow the fuck down if I wanted to even finish the Hartford Marathon 2 weeks later.

Monday, September 19, 2016- I couldn't stomach another zero day (although Sunday was a "Nearo"), and that was fine, but my idea of "slow" for my typical 5-mile progression run on the treadmill is a 7:11/mi pace, apparently. That's what I wrote in my Strava description for Monday morning's treadmill run: "Trying to make up for yesterday's skipped run. A little on the slow side, but I'm still mentally out of the game from a bad weekend." I was obviously not quite with it when I wrote that if I thought that was slow. SlowER than usual, sure, but not slow. With the pain in my left leg (glute and hamstring), slow should have been well into the 8min pace with no elevation. Sooo....lesson not learned.

My 24-hour shift was actually pretty quiet for a change, and for the first time in a LONG time, we slept ALL NIGHT. I think I got about 8 hours of sleep which is unheard of at the Tamworth base. The only downside to the day was receiving a message from a friend that the crazy blog stalker was back and talking about me in comments on her blog. That just added on more stress I didn't need, and I didn't even know yet how much worse it was going to get.

I decided late in the day that I wanted to go to Block Island on Thursday. Looked up the weather, the ferry schedule and the campground before going to bed. It was definitely a kind of off the wall idea, but I was pretty sure it would work out. I waited to make it definite until midday Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016- Started off the day with Track Tuesday, another unwise decision, and I ran it horribly. The warm up felt ok on the trail, but I should have quit the track workout half way through. Instead, I completed it and just blamed the horrible times on me sucking at track. From Strava: "Yeah, I suck at the track." Well, I don't typically suck that bad, but I didn't want to admit yet that something was wrong. My leg hurt the whole time, as well as my right achilles. I chose a ladder workout: 400, 800, 1000, 1600, 1000, 800, 400. 91, 3:02, 3:53, 6:21, 3:55, 3:06, 88. Yeah, not good. AT ALL. No Sunday race to blame it on either. I just suck at track. That's all. I only ran a mile PR on it two weeks ago, but, yeah, I suck. No other explanation for a terrible workout. None at all. Haha. The cool down back was slow, but that's because I suck at track. ;)

Despite getting plenty of sleep, I was really tired the rest of the day, but that must have been because I suck at track. Haha. Ok. I'll stop now. :) John asked if we could bike ride around North Conway so he could catch Pokemon. Um, absolutely! As a parent, I love Pokemon Go. It has actually gotten John to do active things he wouldn't have asked for before. We had to stop at Walmart on the way, though, so John could get a phone bike mount. Haha. This kind of thing makes me nervous since it means he's going to have his head down looking at his phone while he rides, but he did ok with it. I only had to remind him to look up a few times. He usually stopped when he needed to look at it.

Stopped to figure out which way to go.
We ended up biking 3.5 miles which isn't super far, but we were out there for about 2 hours total. John caught 17 Pokemon during that time. Don't ask me what any of it really means, but it must be awesome since he was so excited.

Since the dogs hadn't gotten any exercise, I decided to do the usual trail run during John's ninja class. Obviously still in denial, but I kept it short and slow. Still didn't do myself any favors by running tonight, though. 4.2 miles. Over 400 ft of elevation gain which probably negated the short and slow part. Finally had a much needed beer when I got home. Tuesday's go by way too fast.

Old Course Porter. Good stuff.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016- Still in denial that I should slow it down. Ran the same progression run with elevation on the treadmill, but faster than Monday. 5 miles. 7:08/mi pace. I had now changed my excuse to my mental state. From Strava: "Same progression run with elevation. Struggling mentally this week so it's been tough to keep the runs decent. Did ok with it on this one." Granted, my mental state was not at its best, but it was more likely just a symptom, not the problem. I finally got a clue, though, when I checked my heart rate, as I've already explained. It was an a-ha moment, or more like a duh, I'm a moron moment. But I was thinking how could I possibly be overtraining? My mileage is low. I took it easy the week of Seasons. I didn't race the previous weekend, but then I remembered that numerous people have pointed out to me that when I run, I never take it easy. I go hard with every run. I didn't really agree until this moment. What I always consider "easy and slow" just isn't either of those. It was dawning on me that I had all the signs of overtraining. Buuuuut, that didn't stop me from going to Block Island.

Before I could tell myself no, I purchased tickets for the next day on the high-speed ferry. But that was ok. I was going to run the road and trails around the island. It would be easy-going. I spent a lot of Wednesday planning my trip. It was the off-season, so I wasn't worried about traffic or reserving a campsite at Fisherman's State Park in Point Judith. I saw there were plenty of campsites available and decided to save myself the $9 reservation fee and just book my site there. I spent a really long time route planning. I had never been to Block Island so I didn't know it at all. I came up with a loop that would take have me about half on the pavement and half on the trails. I planned to buy a trail map when I got there. I was excited about it, and my wish for a full-night's sleep was granted. No calls.

Thursday, September 22, 2016- I had packed up everything I needed for the run, post run, camping and then another morning run on Tuesday night just in case I decided to definitely go to Rhode Island. I was happy I had done this because it meant I could leave right from work. I showered before my shift was over, then hit Starbucks for coffee and a breakfast sandwich before starting the long drive. I packed no food whatsoever and just planned to buy it as needed.

Just as predicted, it was a beautiful day. I took 495 well around Boston and hit zero traffic the entire way and got to Point Judith with an hour to spare before the ferry departure. The campground is only about a mile from the ferry, so I stopped there first to get my campsite and set up my tent. The tent area is very small and tight and wouldn't have normally been ideal for me, but since I would only be there briefly, I didn't care. The people across the way were interested in my tent, so I chatted with them for a few minutes then got all of my stuff ready for the trip over to Block Island. I only planned to bring a daypack and had originally worried that I was going to have to carry it for the run, but someone told me they were pretty sure there were lockers at the ferry terminal and even sent me a screenshot of it from the website. I guess I should have looked that up myself. Haha. That would make things much easier since I would now only have to carry my handheld water bottle and the trail map.

The ferry was practically empty since it was the off-season, although I still stood out like a sore thumb dressed in running clothes and the only one who didn't look preppy.

"So everyone's invited over to my parents' house on the island."
I took a whole table to myself to go over my route a little more. I ended up changing my plan quite a bit during the ride. As soon as we arrived, I saw a huge sign that said "LOCKERS" on the same building as the visitors center. I paid for the locker and $2 Nature Conservancy Trail Map, which was majorly lacking in detail, then got myself ready for the run. The weather was actually warmer than I expected, but I figured my handheld would be enough. I brought along a gel, too. I had no pace plan for this run since I knew it would be a mix of road and trail. Plus, I was kind of starting to see the light. "You're kind of tired, Les. Maybe you should just run this one for fun and not worry about pace or distance."

I started the run right there from the terminal and headed north on Corn Neck Rd. I was happy to have little traffic because the shoulder of the road was narrow and at times rough footing. About a mile in I stepped off the road and twisted my left foot pretty badly. I actually had to stop for about 30 seconds because it hurt. I wasn't even sure it was going to be ok, but the pain subsided quickly. Phew. I proceeded on. The north end of the island was the favorite part of my run. I'm sure the southern end was amazing, too, but I would never make it there as planned. I ran about 3 fairly quick miles before turning off on a dirt road that would lead out to the Clayhead Trail, my absolute favorite part of this entire run. SO beautiful! About 2 miles of trail running up on the edge of the cliffs and then all the way back down to the end of Corn Neck Rd.

View from the Clayhead Trail

Block Island North Light
I turned back south on Corn Neck Rd and ran about a mile before running down the trail to Middle Pond in the Hodge Family Preserve. This wasn't too exciting, so I turned around and ran back to the road.

Middle Pond
Those would be the last pictures I would take while running. I had expected amazing photos from the Greenway Trails I had planned on running from West Rd all the way Black Rock Point, but it ended up not working out. I ran all the way back on Corn Neck to Beach Ave where I took a right and then made my way over to West Rd. Just past the cemetery, I found the trailhead for the Greenway Trails. The first part had a sign...which would be the last sign I came across in my misadventure through this section. The trail was easy to I thought, until I came out onto Beacon Hill Rd with no trail to be found. There should have been one directly in front of me, but instead, there were two dirt roads. I followed the first one only to end up at a house so I backtracked to the road and onto the other dirt road...which led to a house. Haha. I actually ran through their yard in hopes of spotting the trail over the rock wall, but it wasn't there, so I backtracked to the road again. I kept looking at the map which was so bad that I couldn't get any information from it. Here's the map where I went wrong. I could see after the fact that I wasn't on the right trail for quite aways before Beacon Hill and had I kept going up the road, I would have found the trail, but I was so frustrated that I decided to just stay on the road and meet up with the trail off of that.

So frustrating, especially seeing where the trail actually was. 
I continued down Center Rd past the airport and found the trailhead into Rodman Hollow. Once again, I can see after the fact where I went wrong, but NOTHING was marked. According to the paper map, I was supposed to always stay left, but, once again, I ended up at a house. Looking on the Strava map (which I should have opened up), you can see I was supposed to go right. Nothing on the paper map looked like it does on the Strava map. And there were also multiple mowed trails all over the place. If I had just made it over to the main trail, I would have made it to Black Rock Point.

So close yet not!
At this point, I was starting to get hot and dehydrated and being frustrated made it worse. I was SO bummed to keep missing the trail. I didn't know where to go, and I was really starting to feel fatigued. My water bottle was empty. So I backtracked to the road and hoped that the next trail would be accurate. Fortunately, it was. The Fresh Swamp Trail was easy to follow and led me about a mile through woods and fields until its end at Payne Rd. By the time I got to Payne, all I could think about was water. I started looking everywhere for something. I was so dehydrated. I knew I only had about a mile left to run back to the ferry terminal, but I was all of a sudden dizzy and couldn't make it. Just as I turned onto High St, I passed the school and found the doors open and two men inside doing work. I didn't hesitate to run in there and ask if there was a water fountain I could use. One of the men happily led me to the water fountain where I proceeded to guzzle 24oz of water. The relief was immense. I had completely misjudged how much water I would need and how warm it would actually get. Now, all I wanted was to finish the run and swim in the ocean. The last 3/4 mile was all downhill. I ran past the ferry lot and stopped right where the first sign for a trail to the beach was. 16.6 miles in 2:13:09. 8:01/mi pace, 819ft of elevation gain. Super hilly run. My road pace was decent and the trails slow, so I was happy with it. I didn't care. My only goal was take a nice running tour of Block Island. That goal was partially met. I couldn't complain really, and now, I have an excuse to go back, but I'll make sure to have Steve Brightman along as a guide. He said I missed the best trails. Haha. Oh well.

I walked down to this small beach and plunged myself into the water. First day of Fall and I was swimming in the ocean. Craziness. It wasn't cold at all, so I just floated on my back for about a minute. It felt SO good, and it doubled as my post-run shower. Haha.

Small beach where I swam

Soaking wet but refreshed. 
I was dripping wet as I walked back over to the locker. I completely forgot to bring a plastic bag to put my dirty clothes in so I asked inside the visitors center and lucked out that they had plastic grocery bag lying around. Phew. Otherwise my backpack would have been soaked. I changed clothes in the bathroom and then walked down Water St to the Mohegan Cafe & Brewery for beer and food. I was so drained and had eaten next to nothing other than the Starbucks breakfast sandwich before I left North Conway. I was in there around 4pm, so it wasn't crowded and got a table with a nice view. I ordered their strongest beer Joe's High Octane Ale. It was pretty darn tasty, so I ended up having two of them. Really hit the spot. I got the Montego Bay Burger that was jerk seasoned and topped with smoked Gouda and mango chutney. So damn good. Just writing about it is making me want another one...right now.

Joe's High Octane Ale at 9%. I was feeling great when I left there.
I took my time and when I was done just walked across the street and out onto the jetty to sit in the sun while I waited for ferry back to Point Judith. While I was sitting out there, some huge asshole seagull did a fly-by and hit me in the head with his wing. Haha. He then proceeded to stand behind me for about 10 minutes expecting me to give him food or something.

View from the jetty

Selfie on the jetty

Asshole Seagull
The ferry back ended up being pretty awesome. We watched the sunset and were also lucky to pass right next to a breaching whale. What an amazing day this had been, despite the run not going quite as planned. I felt so lucky in this moment to be where I was. And I was glad I'm someone who isn't afraid to just venture off on a last minute trip alone somewhere. I would have missed so much in just these last two years since I've been free, otherwise.

Sunset from the ferry back to Point Judith

When we reached the port, I walked back to my car and drove to the liquor store. I wanted to grab a beer for the night. The place was insane and the beer selection poor, but I managed to grab a 4-pack of Capatain's Daughter and a Pumpking. I had been in line in between  two young guys who were in there together and listened to them each tell the other about the girly vodkas they were drinking. Haha. I chuckled to myself. After I checked out, I walked past the other checkout counter where the guy at the register was helping one of those young guys with the vodka. I have no idea why he said it, but the guy at the register looked at me and asked if I was hanging out with all of these guys (pointing to the two young guys) tonight. First off, I had to be AT LEAST 15 years older than them, so it was odd. All I could think of to say was, "Nah. I'm not really into their choice of drinks," as I pointed at the girly vodka on the counter. I heard laughter as I walked out of the door. Hahaha. Right next door was a Cumberland Farms. I needed ice cream so I bought a pint of Ben & Jerry's and then drove back over to the campground.

Once back at the campground, I took a 3 minute HOT coin-op shower, then sat down to eat my entire pint of ice cream. I ended up leaving the beer in the cooler. The ice cream was enough. Then it was off to bed in my tent. I was exhausted.

Friday, September 23, 2016- As planned, my alarm went off at 5:55am. I wanted to catch the sunrise at Point Judith Light. I changed into my running clothes and ran the two miles down to the lighthouse where I stayed for about 20 minutes watching the sky get brighter and brighter until the sun was up. It was so wonderful. I ran back the way I came for about a mile then veered off to make a loop via Scarborough Beach back to the campground. This was just an easy run. 5.1 miles at a 7:43/mi pace (when I was actually running haha). No idea how I snagged a Strava course record on this slow run, but I did. Haha.

Waiting for the sunrise by the lighthouse

Point Judith Light

Fishing boat passing just before the sun rose

1st peek of  the sun

Sunrise on the light house

 I wanted to be on the road home by 9am so I took another quick 3-minute shower and dried my hair in the hand dryer (the old ones are actually designed for this; the nozzle turns to face up). It wasn't pretty, but it was better than soaking wet hair on this chilly morning. I packed up my things and then drove down to Shoobie's Restaurant for breakfast. I was not expecting to walk into a pretty hip bar/restaurant after looking at outside. Had I known, I probably would have gone there the night before for a drink. Breakfast was pretty good. Best cup of breakfast restaurant coffee (strong, like I like it) I think I've ever had along with homemade corned beef hash (although the Elmwood Diner in Cranston wins out on the corned beef hash) made for an excellent meal that held me over until dinner.

You can just tell how good that coffee is by looking at it. 
I hit the road from here and once again hit zero traffic the whole drive home. I REALLY wanted to get some Foolproof Peanut Butter Raincloud and figured Yankee Spirits in North Attleboro would be my best bet this early in the morning, so I stopped in. OH MY GOD. I don't know why I didn't take a picture of this place. The beer selection. WOW. Haha. New Hampshire beer stores are such losers compared to this. :) I found the PB Raincloud and then some. I wanted SO much, but I held myself back from buying too much. Good beer is expensive, so I only got 4 things. Do you know how hard that was?!! haha.

I got home by 1pm and after unloading the car, I popped open a Foolproof PB. Ahhhh. Soooogood.

As is the typical Friday afternoon, John and I didn't do much other than a few errands later in the afternoon. He had a race of his own the next morning, and I was really feeling the week of running. Lone Gull was 2 days away, and I was starting to have a bad feeling about it. I was excited about John's race the next morning, though. The 100 Acre Challenge. He will still only do the kids race that has some decent obstacles, but I'm hoping to get him to try the regular 6K race next year with me. Richie Blake messaged me during the evening and asked if I could help him out with the timing for the kids race. I agreed of course.

Finished off the night with a Warlock....which I actually didn't care for much. Weird taste.
Saturday, September 24, 2016-   I was up early to get in a 3-mile treadmill run. Nothing crazy with Lone Gull the next day. No elevation. 21:54. Felt good to get it done before we left for the Theater in the Wood for the 100 Acre Challenge. I had originally planned to do the regular race since I had a DNF there two years ago (course wasn't marked properly and 11 of us went off course), and last year I had the (ill-fated) VT50 the next day. But one look at the new entry fee, and I said no way. $75 day-of. I paid $50 day-of 2 years ago, and I thought that was pricey. Plus, there's no longer free beer or any complimentary post-race food. All for purchase. Screw that. Their numbers were way down, too. I'll plan to sign up early for next year to get a reduced entry fee.

It was really chilly when we arrived so John hung out in the theater while I went down to help Richie with the timing. Funny to be helping with race timing 2 weeks in a row. I helped him enter the day of entries and then did the handheld timing for both kids races. John did the older kids race and had a blast. He tried so hard and came in in the middle of the pack. He's great at obstacles, but he doesn't run, so he had a hard time with that part. The kid was beat but super happy when he finished. He loved it as always.

Really excited pre-race

On the start line talking to two girls from his ninja class

Last obstacle. Photo by Richie Blake

Richie also caught this photo of John running into the finish. I love it. 

Out of breath

Beat after his race which means he tried his hardest
He didn't win any awards, but we stayed for those so he could get his finisher's medal. We left after that. Richie was all set with the adult timing, so he didn't need any help so we headed off to breakfast at the Sunrise Shack. It was time to use that gift certificate I won at the kayak race.

Asshole parking! As if the lot was full or something

Double-fisting coffee and a breakfast beer at the Sunrise Shack 
We went home for a few hours before venturing out on a very short walk at the East Bear Paw trails with the three dogs. It felt good just to take a walk.

I wasn't feeling bad, but there was definitely that nagging pain in the back of my left leg. My legs didn't feel tired, otherwise, but I still had a bad feeling about Lone Gull. I knew after struggling through the end of the Block Island run that something was off. I wouldn't be running it as fast as 2015. I was teetering on the edge of something, but I had to get through it. And all of this was because I suck at track. Haha.

 A sour stout. Pretty good.

Unbelievably awesome beer. Wow. 
I was going to put my Lone Gull post in this one, but it's too long. I'll try to put it up tomorrow if I have time in between my errands and packing for Hartford.

Dealing with crazy this week made me think of this song.

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