Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cotton Row Plan

Each year I like to look back at my splits from the years that I have run the Cotton Row 10km and come up with a race plan for the current year.  Last year was an anomaly, as it was very humid and all of the times across the board were slower than normal.  This year I am again seeded 25th and running stronger and faster than I have been in any of the previous 4 years during the spring months, so I have adjusted my goal plan to be just under 36 minutes.  The forecast is for a high of 95 on race day so that morning will probably be another miserable year, but I am going for my goal time. 

Mile20082009201020112012 (plan)
Ave Pace0:06:060:05:530:05:500:06:020:05:47

Best of luck to all runners and God speed!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Coming to an end

Seven wins over a span of 36 days.

Barring a miracle at Cotton Row, my consecutive wins streak looks like it will come to an end at seven.

My training philosophy has always been to do today what my competition won't, so I can do tomorrow what my competition can't.  During this span, I logged 19 quality workouts with typical weeks featuring two VO2max track sessions, hill work and a tempo run before racing on the weekend.  Maybe others don't need this many quality sessions, but it was the recipe for me to find some early season speed and success on the roads and trails.

Now I understand the context of this streak and also my place in the grand scheme of running.  Please don't take this as boasting or bragging of anything significant; it really is just an obscure accomplishment that might not be a big deal to some runners.  That said, it may never happen to me again and considering the work that went into this streak, I am humbled and proud of the accomplishment and thankful for the ability to compete.

Race 1: NCAC Flash Mile - 5:00.11
April 14, 2012 against a field of 31 in Huntsville, AL
Coming off of hard races in the weeks prior (25km at McKay Hollow and half marathon at Oak Barrel, I gave this 6-turn hilly road course everything I had and just barely missed breaking the 5 minute mark against a very small field.

Race 2: Norway Spring Classic 10km - 36:33
April 21, 2012 in Norway, MI against a field of 82
On a very challenging hill course, I was able to take an early lead and hold off the rest of the field by more than 90 seconds and in the process, post the fastest winning time since 2003.

Race 3: Swampers 5km - 17:08 
April 28, 2012 in Muscle Shoals, AL against a field of 502
In the first challenge of the streak, I took the lead pack through 4km before finally pulling away late to post my fastest time of the young season against a large field of more than 500 runners.  

Race 4: Swampers Mile - 5:16
April 28, 2012 in Muscle Shoals, AL against a field of 197
After running the 5km less than an hour earlier, I ran the mile taking it out hard in 2:28 through 800m before slowing late after taking the lead and feeling the impact of the 5km in my tired legs.

Race 5: Spring Zing 5km - 17:16
May 5, 2012 in Huntsville, AL against a field of 69
Returning to this race after winning the inaugural event back in 2010, I fell behind early, chasing the leader through a sub 5:20 first mile before finally pulling ahead and and holding off second place by just 8 seconds.

Race 6: Twisted Ankle Trail Half Marathon - 1:38:39
May 12, 2012 in Summerville, GA against a field of 114
In what may have been my best effort of the streak, I ran with the marathon leader for the first few miles, fell behind, then made an enormous push on the hill climb and screamed downhill in the last 5km to catch the leader before the split and finish the race more than 17 minutes ahead of second place and set the new course record.

Race 7: PCRA 5km - 17:08
May 19, 2012 in Priceville, AL against a field of 154
In a what seemed like deja vu, I fell behind early when a younger runner pulled a 5:15 first mile, then slowed late, allowing me to remain steady, take the lead by the half way mark and hold on for the overall win.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Greenstone Ridge Trail FKT

On July 10, 2012 I will attempt to set the fastest known time (FKT) on the Greenstone Ridge Trail (GRT) located on Isle Royale in Lake Superior.  I will be running unsupported along the GRT from west to east.

The Greenstone Ridge forms the geologic backbone of Isle Royale, which is one of America's least visited National Parks.  The only way to get to the island is either by air or by sea as it is 90km away from the shores of Upper Michigan and 35km away from Grand Portage, Minnesota.  The GRT traverses this ridgeline for 40.1 miles along the entire length of Isle Royale from the western terminus at the intersection of the Minong Ridge Trail (0.3 miles away from Washington Creek Campground) to the eastern terminus at the intersection of the Lookout Louise trail.

I will be following the common sense guidelines proposed by Buzz Burrell and documented by Peter Bakwin on
  1. Announce your intentions in advance. Like a true gentleman, pay your respects to those who came before you, and tell them what you intend to attempt and when. 
  2. Be an open book. Invite anyone to come and watch or, better yet, participate. This makes your effort more fun and any result more believable. 
  3. Record your event. Write down everything immediately upon completion. Memory doesn't count.
There are many reports of a park ranger from Amygdaloid (small island off of Isle Royale) who ran from Rock Harbor to Windigo in 2008 (documented in the personal log book of George Hite of but did not traverse along the entire length of the GRT, but instead ran from Rock Harbor Lodge to the Windigo Campground.  Apparently the ranger also ran back to Rock Harbor on the second day, which is a tremendous feat!  There is also a claim posted on the website of "bstearns" running the GRT in 10 hours and 12 minutes.  There are no other details of this report and while the aforementioned rules are mostly guidelines and since there is not sufficient information about this report, I can not validate the time.  I have spoken with the National Park Service, several authors of books on Isle Royale, and numerous people on and no one can substantiate any faster times for the entire GRT.  Therefore, based on my research, while I will be targeting a time of less than 10 hours and 12 minutes, this will be the first speed FKT attempt (many people hike this entire trail in 3 to 7 days) properly documented as noted in the guidelines above.  If anyone can  provide documentation of a faster time, I will certainly stand corrected.

I have to say that planning this trek has been very exhausting and exciting at the same time.  Traveling to an island across the treacherous waters of Lake Superior, then running from one end to the other, has presented some unique challenges.  Several different boats travel to the island, but only on certain days; other boats circumnavigate the island, but only on certain days.  A seaplane makes the trip to the island, but only on certain days.  Of course it is nearly impossible to line up all of these days but in my final itinerary I was able to make it happen in early July.

Along the way I will document all of my split times at each major trail intersection for proof of the FKT.  I will have witnesses at the start and their names will be noted.  I will then be joined at the eastern terminus by my Father, Dennis Charette who will witness the conclusion of the run.  I am excited that after the run, we will get to spend another day on the island, which will coincide with his 61st birthday.  Having lived in Michigan for a combined 80 years, this will be our first trip to the majestic island.

Figure 1: Trail mileage by section

LocationStart (Miles)LocationEnd (Miles)Total (Miles)
GRT junction at Minong Ridge Trail0.0Island Mine Trail5.95.9
Island Mine Trail5.9South Lake Desor4.810.7
South Lake Desor10.7Ishpeming Point3.514.2
Ishpeming Point14.2Hatchet Lake3.818.0
Hatchet Lake18.0Indian Portage Trail7.225.2
Indian Portage Trail25.2East Chickenbone Lake1.626.8
East Chickenbone Lake26.8Daisy Farm Trail4.231.0
Daisy Farm Trail31.0Mount Ojibway Trail1.532.5
Mount Ojibway Trail32.5Mount Franklin Trail2.835.3
Mount Franklin Trail35.3Duncan Bay-Tobin Harbor Passage3.438.7
Duncan Bay-Tobin Harbor Passage38.7GRT junction at Lookout Louise Trail1.440.1