Monday, December 05, 2016

New Blog: Downeast Homestead

Kate and I have started a new blog. It's called Downeast Homestead and chronicles our successes and failures at our burgeoning little micro-farm.

For the time being, most of my blog writing will be focused there rather than here. How much more can I talk about shaking off rust? Ramping up mileage? Doing well at a race? Running new trails? Those are all very worthy topics, but I feel as if it's "been there, done that" as far as blogging goes and I'm beating a dead horse. I have emptied the reserves for most of my running-related writing and there's room on the other blog for the occasional trail adventure as the new blog will essentially be chronicling our lifestyle.

So please check out our new blog and bookmark it, if you feel so inclined. Hope to see you over there!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Prentiss Woods

The high school I teach at is next to a city park called Prentiss Woods. It's not very big and more of a park than actual woods, with around a mile and a half worth of trails total. Still, it's nice. Our cross country team practices there sometimes and the location is convenient.

I hit that today, basically redlining the trails and throwing in a few loops around our athletic fields for some variety. The skies were overcast which muted the setting sun. That fit into the late autumn vibe perfectly.

It feels good to start kicking off the rust.

Ran 3.5 miles @ 9:41/mile pace.
Slightly hilly.
Lower 40s, overcast.
Inov-8, shorts, long sleeved shirt, short sleeved shirt, beanie.

Monday, November 07, 2016

The Beacon

Cross country season and "Daylight Savings Time" have both ended. The ironic juxtaposition of gaining time after work and losing time in the evening added a surreal element to a post-work run. With more free time now, I plan to start running regularly again and building towards some serious goals.

With that, I headed down the Airline. My headlight was strapped on my noggin, but wasn't quite necessary just yet. I ran along, noticing the usual things one misses when driving... how pretty certain houses are, paths leading into woods, a stunning bog with a brook running through it, etc. The headlamp was now needed and I switched it on.

I turned around a little over a mile and a half into the run. Shortly thereafter, I saw what I quickly realized was the lighted sign from the general store across the street from our house, perched on a hill and rising above the trees in the foreground. It was a mere white dot, and I glanced at my GPS and noted that it was a mile away, but given how sparsely populated my area is, there was no doubt that's what it was. There was an eerie comfort in that light. I was running a route I never had before. Granted, it was short, but with the approaching dark I felt farther from home and seeing that beacon offered a little comfort.

Not far from my house, I glanced down a steep slope and noticed the woods were flooded. I saw a beaver lodge and then a silhouette of something moving in the water. I had hoped it was a trout creating ripples in the water, but I quickly realized it was the beaver. I stopped and watched him swim for a few moments before moving on home.

Ran 3.1 miles @ 8:24/mile pace.
Paved roads.
Moderately hilly.
Mid 30s, partly cloudy.
Altras, reflective vest, two long sleeved shirts, tights, buff, headlamp.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Autumn Aspirations

The end of cross country season is just a few weeks away. October 29th to be exact, given that our team advances to states and our boys team should. That's awesome, but the only drawback is that is also the opening day of deer season.

Last year, deer season shouldn't have distracted me too much. Thirty five minutes into opening day, total luck was on my side and I dropped a four point buck. Season over. So was my back. Hauling that deer a mile out of the woods had me walking like an old man for a couple of weeks.

With cross country season and numerous improvement projects to our farmhouse, this morning was the only morning I would have this month to bag a fall turkey. I was really going for grouse (who have a longer season), but neither were to be had. It was very windy, so maybe that had something to do with it. More than likely, it was my lack of experience with upland bird hunting and I'm still learning the woods around our new house. Still, it was a beautiful morning out. See for yourself:

Those pics are on the drive in, but I run parts of this logging road often and connect it to other hiking and ATV trails. I did that yesterday, squeezing in a slow four miles before we continued work painting our front porch. That went non-stop for most of the rest of the day, sans a break to talk to a gentleman at the tagging station across the street who bagged a moose.

So, with some extreme luck I'll harvest a deer very soon after cross country season ends. Then I can devote my time and attention back to running full-time (if I'm more careful with my back), which should work out well with providing enough time to stack some hay in the barn for snowshoe racing season. We also should be wrapped up with most our outdoor projects by then, at least until the spring. I knew buying an old farmhouse would result in a lot of time and energy spent on improvements, but at least it's also great cross training and also very rewarding. That being said, I'm looking forward to things slowing down a bit next month and having a bit more breathing room.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Moose and The Weekend Warrior Blues

I'm very thankful to have gotten out for a couple of runs this weekend, especially after failing to get out during the week. The first one was on Saturday morning after a big breakfast at the local general store with Halfbomb and Kate. Halfbomb had just run the 100-Mile Wilderness the weekend before in an impressive 42 hours and change, so something light, slow, and not terribly hilly was on the agenda.

We decided to visit a local land trust that goes along the Union River. What it lacks in a lengthy network of trails it makes up for with beautiful scenery. It was perfect for what we had in mind.

We got a somewhat unexpected surprise when we came across a moose! Pretty big sucker, but I didn't get a good enough look at its head to tell if it was a bull or a cow. Think ghost in the mist, but more of a shadow through the brush. It didn't want to have anything to do with us so, despite its size, it quickly made an exit, though shortly thereafter we saw its tracks rejoin the trail after it had cut through the woods.

Unfortunately, no pics. Halfbomb always has his camera/phone with him, but his battery died just before we ran. Go figure.


Sunday. Halfbomb had left the day before. I woke up and was eager to hit the woods out back, especially with the cool autumn temps. I decided to wear my running vest, mostly so I could carry my phone to take some pictures. Even if I didn't spot any cool wildlife, I knew the scenery would be impressive with the fall colors starting to emerge.

No physical moose sightings, though I did come across the fresh tracks from one. Quite a few deer tracks also. Their rut will begin soon, so I imagine they're starting to get antsy.


Will just play the running by ear for now. My day is just too long at the moment with cross country season and, well, calling a spade a spade I just don't have the motivation to get out in the early morning. Plus, I can't find my headlamp! We still have a few unpacked boxes, so perhaps it's in one of those. I need to find it soon, not just for running, but for occasional forays for things that need to be done outside at night around our homestead.

If nothing else, cross country season ends in a month. I would still have time to get into decent running shape for snowshoe racing season.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lazy Sunday

I ran a very easy pace in the woods behind my house this morning, crossing the river and running the loop up to Ducktail Pond. It was very pretty at the pond, with the beginnings of the leaves changing their colors enhanced against the backdrop of a rainy sky.

It's been a good past three days for running. If I can manage to get out for two early morning runs this week, I'll be very happy.

Ran 6.7 miles @ 10:59/mile pace (includes several minutes to stop and look at the pond).
Trails, logging roads.
Very hilly.
Lower 60s, overcast, rainy.
La Sportivas, shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Fine Saturday

After a super busy weekend last week, which involved getting up at 4am for out of town cross country meets and volunteering at the Bradbury Bruiser, it was nice to stay fairly local.

I still had to get up a little early to meet up with the cross country team for practice at the Bangor City Forest. Ended up running somewhere between four and a half to five miles with them at an easy pace. I regretted forgetting my GPS, as I'd like to start monitoring my mileage and pace more closely.

Afterwards, I ran some errands, including a futile attempt to drop off recycling. The bin is normally at our post office, but it wasn't there today. I assume it was taken away to be emptied. Nearby are several blueberry fields, which are pretty striking this time of year, so I stopped and took a few pics:

Kate and I then raked up fallen apples in our yard while harvesting a few to be used in pies. We followed that up with a hike up Bald Bluff. Nothing too grand, as the route we did was just a few miles long. We took our time on the trails, enjoying the scenery and each other's company. Fall colors are in the very early stages, but I imagine this place will look even more amazing in a few weeks when the leaves approach their peak.

A rainy day is expected tomorrow. My plan is to hit some more trails before the football games start. I imagine it'll be quite muddy out, ergo I'm grateful for our house's mudroom.

Friday, September 16, 2016

10th Anniversary of Blogging

It's now been exactly one decade since my first post. A lot has happened in the past ten years. Some highlights (and lowlights), in no particular order, include:
  • Running my first 50 miler
  • Running my first 100 miler
  • Getting over stress fractures
  • Qualifying for Boston 
  • Running Boston
  • 14 month battle with plantar fasciitus
  • Getting married
  • Running several more ultras
  • Lot's of epic mountain runs
  • Moving to the Downeast backwoods
  • Self-publishing a few books
  • And more
Switching gears to the present, time has not been on my side lately. I now teach high school English, and as a result of the added pressure that comes from a new curriculum, I had no plans of coaching cross country. Long story short, the head coach of the school I teach at needed some help, and now I'm filling in for a paid position as an assistant. It's great and I love it, and the only downside is my afternoons are booked and it makes it difficult to run, especially after needing to more or less rush home to look after this new addition to our family and facilitate her getting along with our other cat:

What I should start doing is running early in the morning, at least until cross country season ends. However, my work schedule is a bit atypical, to say the least. Fridays afford a little more freedom, and I got out for a nice five and a half in the woods this morning. The highlight was a huge pile of bear crap smack dab in the middle of the short stretch of paved road that leads to the trails. As a result, I'd be lying if I didn't say I was a bit more aware of my surroundings for the rest of the run. 

Ran 5.5 miles @ 9:38/mile pace. 
Trails, logging roads. 
Slightly hilly. 
Lower 40s, sunny. 
La Sportivas, shorts, long sleeved shirt, beanie. 

Friday, September 09, 2016

Life in Downeast Maine

Apple trees are everywhere. I see them in yards, on farms, off the Airline. Wild ones abound. I see them on the backroads, the logging roads, the trails I run on. No longer do I wonder why apple orchards don’t exist out this way. We have four apples tress in our backyard. One is a MacIntosh. One is a crab apple. I forget what the other two are, but they produce apples that are sweet and taste similar to the Mac. It's time to bake a pie.

We're new in a town of 265 residents. Word gets around fast and well over half of the new folks we've met already know of us. "Oh, you're the teachers." Yes, that's us.

From our house, it's a run down a one mile stretch of paved road until I reach the logging roads and trails. Every time, everyone I see along the way waves. It's always a friendly wave, something more than a courtesy.

The trails near our new home are nothing short of fantastic. They lead to scenic backwoods ponds lined with trees, full of trout (or so I hear) and void of camps. They climb steep hills and meander through amazing forests. I've seen footprints from moose, deer, raccoons and maybe a bobcat or lynx so far. I've also seen bear poop. However, with so much woods, it makes it easier for them to hide. I did see a porcupine this morning though. Hopefully other cool animals will be seen very soon.

I think that'll be the case.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Running Downeast

A steady, moderate rain fell today around noon, breaking a monotony of heat and drought with gleeful vengeance. I happily ran in it and it made the road run tolerable.

I'm still stuck in slower gears for the moment, but now that I'm regularly getting in double digit or near double digit mileage at least once a week, I think I can safely start to incorporate tempo runs, hill repeats or interval work. 

Ran in Brewer, crossed the bridge to Bangor and ran past Stephen King's house and various landmarks from his book "It" for fun. 

I don't always run with a GPS watch for now, but I did this afternoon:

Ran 9.4 miles @ 8:50/mile pace. 
Paved roads.
Very hilly. 
Mid 70s, overcast, moderate to light rain. 
Altra, shorts, short sleeved shirt. 

I suspect my road run days are somewhat numbered. We close on our new home in the backwoods of Downeast Maine in a week and a half. Plenty of logging roads and trails near our new home, so it seems pointless to run on roads, because running on roads sucks. 

I've been exploring around the soon-to-be new 'hood quite a bit the past several weeks. Here are some pics, all from areas that are running distance from the new house. I'm only slightly excited about this. 

Monday, August 08, 2016

Deer Fly Seasons

Deer flies suck. Nobody likes them. When I lived in southern Maine, I knew when to expect them to start annoying us trail runners, and when they'd start to leave us alone. They'd usually start around the first weekend in June, sometimes as early as Memorial Day weekend, and sometimes not until mid-June. Starting around mid-August, they start to have a hard time catching up and are less numerous, and by Labor Day weekend at the beginning of September, you could kiss them bye-bye until next year.

Their season doesn't really appear to be temperature dependent, at least not when they end. I can remember a few especially hot and humid summers like this one and despite heat waves in late August lasting well into September, the flying nuisances would thankfully still be gone when expected.

As a result, I've theorized that if temperature doesn't seem to matter, it must be the waning daylight hours.

Now that I'm in the Downeast region, the comfort of knowing when they'd leave is somewhat out the window, and everyone I've talked to so far has only had vague notions. My initial thought was their season would end sooner up here, but then I remembered the days will remain longer here than southern Maine until it's officially autumn. That doesn't bode well. But... if the deer flies sense the loss of daylight on a daily basis, which is greater the further you travel north, then there's hope.

Time will tell. This season has also been different in that we're in a drought. Deer fly larvae develop in water, and there hasn't been too much of that around. With that, they've only been around in key areas. But hopefully those spots will also see a decrease as we continue to lose well over two and a half minutes of daylight a day, and see that loss continue to rise each day until autumn. Ahhh, cool dry air and no bugs... not far off now.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Life Changes

Things be happenin'.

Thankfully, all aimed for the better. After several years of planning, Kate and I have moved away from southern Maine and are temporarily staying with her folks in Brewer until we close on our Downeast home out in the boonies next month. It's a great place. Really great. We've also both secured jobs and are excited about this large new life chapter with lots of words in it.

It'd be nice to start blogging again, but I'll just let it happen naturally if it happens at all. I'll recap the past six or so months: Extremely sporadic running due to lower back issues and a lack of motivation. I've been running regularly the past month though, and have gotten back into the routine. A good sign is when I haven't really thought twice about waking up at 4:30am to run early on busier days or to beat the heat. I'm enjoying it all again, and the change in scenery has a lot to do with it.

I've enjoyed running in Acadia with Mike W. quite a few times now and also exploring the mountains and woods near our anticipated future forever home. We picked a great place to live for epic trail running (as well as fishing and hunting). Perhaps I'll share more later on... I do miss blogging, but I don't want it to feel forced.

More later.... maybe.