June 29, 2009

Correlation Between Leg Length & Speed?

The sprint between Eric, Vasco and me, at the Cranmore Hill Climb finish line begs the question:

Is there a correlation between
leg length (& number of legs) and speed?

I dug up some answers about the relation between
height & running at
Newton's Ask a Scientist.

The cute dog pictured above is, Vasco Smith. Do not be fooled. Vasco is a powerful mountain runner. Equipped with strong lungs and exceptional turnover in his four legs, she is barely winded on mountain ascents. With a lower center of gravity Vasco never pauses nor stumbles on technical downhills. Added pleasure: dashing through muddy puddles.

As the top dog finisher at Cranmore, Vasco Smith joins the US CANine Mountain Running Pack. Sheba Sharkey (at left) is one of Smith's frequent racing partners who did not race at Cranmore in the championships. In a recent interview, I learned that Sheba will focus on the longer distances instead. Both dogs have been overheard discussing that "running is for the dogs."

Please share your impressive canine running partner stories.
We're searching for other four-legged mountain-running talent to complete The 2009 US CANine Mountain Running Pack.

June 28, 2009

2009 Cranmore Hill Climb

The 2009 Cranmore Hill Climb was the fourth of six races in the Inov-8 USATF-NE Mountain Circuit. Era molta competitiva! Not only was it the USA & NACAC Mountain Championships but also a USA Mountain Running Team Qualifying Race. This meant that the top three US men and first US woman earned an automatic spot on the US Team, which will compete in September's 25th World Mountain Running Championships in Valchiavenna, Italy's Northern Lombardy region.

The air at Cranmore Mountain was thick with humidity, nerves and a competitive spirit! The course this year was TWO laps up and down the mountain slopes. I found two different distances published for the single loop at 5.5k and 5.8k. Still, the overall elevation gain and descent was a total of 2400 feet!
Original map from the White Mtn Milers: here.
A link to their photos of the course.

As a back-of-the-packer, I tried to stay out of the way and yelled "RUNNER," as the top 12+ men stormed by through the mud. While I rolled down the upper Gibson trail (the 5th-k of my first loop), the overall male champion, Joe Grey, flew by with a HUGE gap of about 5+ minutes before Zac Freudenburg, the second male passed. Then came the third and fourth men, Matt Byrne and Rickey Gates, who were only 12-15 feet apart, which made me extremely excited given ONLY the top 3 men place for the US Team! How thrilling to witness the efficiency of the top competing NACAC male runners grace these down hills! Che Gambe!!

Holy fell running, mountain goats!
Some fell running tips.

Along Lucky Loop (in the 6th k), Jim Johnson passed me and casually said "hello." There he was, one of the top male runners, with enough composure and breath to greet me. Impressive. What tops this, was that he was finishing up his entire race (in approx. 53 minutes!), as I completed my first lap in about 54-55. When I came through the base to begin another round, Simon Gutierrez said "Good job!" I mustered, "You, too," and began my second Flying-Carpet ride. I am grateful for the friendly fast folks; the support from the pack's front to the back and to the front again goes a LONG way to creating world mountain running peace.

She'll be coming down the mountain when she comes:

My legs
Fellt the remnant cobwebs of the Mount Washington Road Race from the week before so I promised myself that I would participate in Cranky-no-More for the mere pleasure of the completing another mountain circuit race. (Versus, what?) I am pretty certain others had similar ideas except for maybe the front 1/3 runners.

Last week I had Fred Ross to thank for nudging me up that rock pile and eventually "pulling" me into the last .6 miles of MWRR! For Cranmore,
I wisely followed Donna S.'s cue and brought my hand-held water bottle. Grazie mille!

So far, Cranmore is my second favorite race in the circuit next to Wachusett 's new trail-mix course. By power-hiking the ups, jogging the flats and somersaulting the downhills, I was able to conserve energy, enjoy the ride and chat with folks for both loops. I also continued to appreciate the views, the moss and keep an eye out for blueberry-seeking bears in heat. (No such luck.)

Scott Mason was out and collected many photos of frisky folks with his wide-angle.
Ken Skier, "a master mountain sweeper," was also out gathering candids.


If you raced with a watch and know your finishing time, e-mail the time & your bib number to

June 22, 2009

Mount Washington Road Race 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009, 7:30 a.m.
Low cloud cover at the base hid Mt. Washington:

kZ captured my final push towards the summit:

In Photo: Lori S., Trail Pixie, Brian G. and Diane L.

Mount Washington Road Race 2009

June 17, 2009

Boxford State Forest 10k

Summer! With the sun setting later, mid-week evening races and runs become part of this season's fabric. Tuesday night the North Medford Club hosted their Boxford State Forest 10k at 6:30 p.m. in North Andover, Mass. It marked the 6th race in the Eastern New England Trail race Series.

$5 entry was affordable and everyone who ran could choose a prize! The club used sensible hand-written "bib-stickers" and finishing-place popsicle sticks and set up digital clock and accurate timing system! Participants of all abilities get a great race, tempo or training run through the Forest with a laid-back crowd.

Still, if you're looking for competition, it's here; there's a long standing team-competition between the NMC and G.A.C. Both teams were out on the trails. About 40 folks ran this "Bald Hill Bug Run," including a woman who was clearly pregnant—huge round of applause!!!

Results via NMC site are HERE (posted soon, I hope).

THE COURSE: The rocks and exposed roots and shaded muddy stretches add to this course's technical running. There were no major hills to ascend just some rollers along a lot of single-track. While there were a lot of squirrely turns, the course was well-marked on the ground with flour and/or white spray paint; it was very easy to follow. B
lood-thirsty mosquitoes added motivation to run faster!

A detailed park map of the Boxford State Forest is found under this rock.

THE REPORT: The temperature Tuesday evening was pleasant at 65 degrees, especially compared to last year's 95-degree heat wave. Still we were thankful for the water stop on Middleton Road at the only short stretch of asphalt. A bunch of GACers on bikes also cheered us on and offered special beverages to those who dared.

I ran with two women from G.A.C.—Cheryl and Kitty. Cheryl led the way with her consistent pace, Kitty chatted while I tried to stay with them like a little caboose. I walked the hills and didn't hammer the down hills (like I usually do). My quads were still sore from the Northfield Mountain Race two days before so I was cautious and treated this race as an organized fun run. Mount Washington is in less than a week and I would regret twisting/injuring myself. Thanks to Cheryl and the cooler weather I chipped off some time from last year's finish. Happily, the three of us (Me, Cheryl and Kitty) finished together laughing and smiling.

In the trail blazer category Rob full-charged ahead—perhaps trying to run as fast as possible away from his work cubicle! Michelle scarfed up the trail, too, finishing in the top three women! Dan managed to slip out of his work clothes into something more running comfortable and tick in a 55-minute easy effort. I thought I would be running "stag" at the Boxford State Forest 10k and was ecstatic to see my running peeps make their way for some mid-week play.

June 14, 2009

Northfield Mountain Race

What a beautiful day for a mountain race. Compared to last year's scorching temps (mid-90's, extreme humidity), this year's USATF NE Trail Championships were run in the high 60's. Though the humidity was still at 70%.

For sweaty proof see Scott Mason Photography.
Ken Skier was also snapping photos en route.
More photos taken at the race HERE (by Rose & Denise).

I was battling more than the uphills at Northfield. Early Saturday morning I was sick (I'll spare the details) so I chewed ginger, re-hydrated and hoped for a healthy performance. The cobwebs cleared at about mile 2.5 and after the water stop my turnover improved. Of course that's because at that point the course descends down the mountain!
(Stas, kZ, Trail Pixie, Dan, Bill and Susanne.
Michelle is taking photo.)

Next weekend is the Mount Washington Road Race, which I'll b
e "running." With this and my upset tummy, I was cautious about my ankles and didn't run all out. It would be a personal disappointment to "rumble-tumble twist & hurl" the weekend prior to MWRR! In the last 1-2 miles the Northfield course rolls along the power lines before turning left sharply to the downhill finish. While the fore runners are specks along this open section, the hills pass more quickly than expected.

This was the first Northfield Mountain Race for some of my running friends: Susanne T, Michelle R and Dan S, and I think also for Bill H. I am so impressed by their resilient running, miles raced and consistently speedy times! Julie O. ran a solid race, too. I watched her ascend the last steep slope working her side-step technique. I tried it and felt excellent going up hill, which might have been a first for me that day. Thanks, Julie.
I missed running with Brian G and Diane L, and of course speedster Paul Y, who introduced me to the course in 2008. Thanks to Donna S for cheering us up one of the steepest hills! I "re-met" and apologized to Chris, whom I clumsily "BUMped" into at The Pack. Thank goodness for a healthy sense of humor!
Accolades to all—green and seasoned—runners. No matter what their places or paces; it's participation that counts. This event proved once again to be seamlessly organized with a well-marked course, accurate timing and bountiful post-race raffle.

Only one furry oversight: VASCO was first canine overall!
Correction: Eric's wonder dog, Vasco, is speedy like a Vespa.
I was calling HER by the wrong name and gender, sorry!

Post-run Fun Feed: A bunch of us headed to The Wagon Wheel Restaurant for some treats. This spot is on Route 2 in Gill, Mass., about five miles from the mountain. Friendly folks serve great food and local libations surrounded by fun kitschy-kollector decor.
Hope to see you at the 6/19 Boxford 10k "mosquito" run!

June 11, 2009

Local "Lewis & Clark" Discover Dinosaur Bones

Last weekend I met Dan for a long run through Maudslay State Park in Newburyport, Mass. Having recently raced in these woods (Trav's Trail), we explored paths that were new to both of us at a cartographer's pace. The rhododendrons and lady slippers were out and thankfully the mosquitoes were not!
Below is one of my favorite Maudslay views of the Merrimack.
With Dan as a willing adventurer, I was hopeful to discover a runnable link between Maudslay and Moseley Woods. On our way we spotted this momentarily curious deer by Castle Hill.
We followed a "connecting trail" off the back side of Bootlegger's Field before it narrowed and eventually dumped us under a bridge. We agreed that this was not the prettiest section but it was unavoidable; we forged ahead. After 10+ minutes of running in the direction of Moseley, the path forked at a compost barrel by a well-manicured lawn so we turned down the other prong and emerged into more beautifully landscaped grounds with this open-air building (below). I felt like we stumbled from Massachusetts into Tuscany!

What to do now? We "took the cannoli," went back to the compost container and sprinted 150 feet across the grass! Neither one of us turned around. IF WE HAD, we would have noticed this sign alot sooner: "BEWARE, VICIOUS DOGS!" Dogs? What dogs?

Dan and I only discovered this warning
when we decided to retrace our steps, after unsuccessful attempts to find an unpaved return route. With no sign of Cujo nor any "Private Property/No Trespassing" markers, the threat humored us to no end— in a mafioso thriller sort of way.

While I am not certain Dan and I mapped the best "runner-friendly" route, we managed to get to Moseley Woods AND discovered these huge dinosaur bones.Luckily we did not run out of gas on this long run.
If we had, we unearthed a few places to refuel.

June 01, 2009

Pack Monadnock 10 Miler

A humbling 10-mile road race and the 2nd race of 6 in the 2009 NE Mountain Circuit.

"The Pack route climbs 2000 feet and drops 300 feet in 10 miles. The course is mostly paved with a couple of stretches of dirt road from Wilton to the summit of Pack Monadnock. "Pack" means "little" but there's nothing little about the final clamber! The first mile is a tough long rise and the next seven miles are rolling hilly roads. The 8 to the 9-mile mark are a major test with a long climb on route 101, then a brief respite before turning into Miller State Park. The last mile in Miller State park has grades steeper than Mt Washington (11.5% average). The final 200 m has a grade of about 30%."
(Adapted from

2009 Pack Monadnock RESULTS.
"Back-of-the-Pack" Photos by Ken Skier.

I ran conservatively, took many walk breaks, and kept positive along the highway stretch. Except for that route 101 cambered section, the scenery is awesome, especially the final view from the top of Miller State Park. My favorite aspects of this course are the earthy farm smells, and running past horses, mini-ponies and chickens.

Meeting up with Julie was a delight and we ran together along the highway to the finish. Thank goodness for her, her family cheering squad and seeing Susanne at the top! I was plum-QUAD-tuckered and she taught me a fun side-stepping technique. By changing the angle of the foot on ascent, different muscles in the leg are employed. Pretty straight-forward. My legs felt really good while running this way. Tim informed me that Simon Gutierrez has also used this method during sections of the Mount Washington Road Race. Come June 20th, this cute side-step will surely come in handy.

In the 2008 Pack Monadnock I was faster. But this year I felt better overall during the entire 10 miles, due to proper hydration with Nuun, and a more overall positive & healthy mind-frame. This year my GPS tracked 10.22 total miles, which was probably from all my zig-zagging to check out farm animals. No regrets.

Trail-Pixie's Packs
2008 1:53:18
2009 1:54:53
  • Comic Relief: risk-taking chipmunk dodging a runner's footfall.
  • Post-Race Tummy Treat: Michael M's raw cookie.
  • Cat Walk Moment: feeling organic "kitten-cotton" against skin.
  • Introducing Susanne T to the Pack;
  • Knyuck-knyuckin' it up with folks;
  • kZ's ZipCar shuttle service!