Sunday, December 24, 2017

Peanut Butter and Onion Sandwiches: The Ultimate Food


Once upon a time, at the ripe old age of 3 (1968), my mother laid out all my favorite foods on our kitchen table and let me put my own lunch together. What I put together would turn out to be my absolute favorite food to this day (2017). I’m talking, of course, about the amazing, the wonderful, the spectacular, the flavorful Peanut Butter and Onion Sandwich! Now unwrinkle your nose and give it a try. You’ll probably find it quickly becoming your favorite food too as did my good friend, ultra-runner Dong Lin. He eats it every day too.

I car-camped in the Santa Monica Mountain Range in March 2017 and lived on peanut butter and onion sandwiches, Guinness and Fireball the entire week. I ate peanut butter and onion sandwiches for every meal and packed them in my pack for whenever I felt I needed a little boost of energy on trail. You can read about my trip on my blog “Trail Tales” at: http://garydavidsonruns.blogspot.com.

Ingredients: Bread (I prefer whole wheat or multi-grain), a fresh onion, and peanut butter. I’ve experimented with many brands of peanut butter over the years and I firmly believe the best is offered from the Vermont Peanut Butter Company (https://www.vtpeanutbutter.com/). They offer 100% natural flavors with no GMOs, no refines sugar, no hydrogenated oils, no preservatives or trans fats. My favorite flavor is Green Mountain Goodness which is a smooth combination of almond and peanuts mixed with flax and pumpkin seeds. Plus, it’s made in Vermont like me so you know it’s good! Try it, you’ll love it too!


Friday, December 22, 2017

Dirtbag Runners Ambassador 2018

Hey everyone, I'm super stoked to represent Dirtbag Runners (DBR) again this year. We have some groovy things planned for this year so keep watching at http://dirtbagrunners.com/. Also, come join me for one of our DBR-NJ trail runs we're going to have. The next one is December 31st at Pakim Pond, Brendan Byrne Forest. Join our "Dirtbag Runners - NJ" Facebook page for details. See you on the trails!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Batona 50K: My First Ultra Finish


 
Well it’s been a few months in the making; but, I can finally call myself an Ultra-trail runner! I just finished the Batona Trail 50K; but, before I tell you about the race, here’s how I got to this point. I’ve been interested in ultra-marathons for a few years; but, I really didn’t get the urge to run one until my friend Jon asked me to pace him at the Burning River 102 Miler this past July. I was surprised he asked me since other than running in the mountains near Colorado Springs in February and the Santa Monica Mountain Range in March my training, if you want to call it that, had consisted mainly of 3-5 mile Hashruns (still does). I’m glad I was quick to say “Yes” because if I had really thought it over I should’ve said no, I just wasn’t prepared. Jon said he needed me to run through the night with him for the final 26 miles. Now in my mind I remember thinking wholly crap I haven’t gone that far in years; but, I shrugged off my doubts and agreed. I did warn him though that I couldn’t promise anything other than I’d try. I’m so glad I did. It was a great experience. I monitored his food and hydration intake as we went, made sure he urinated regularly, and tried to keep his mind off the miles with stupid jokes and stories. I’d refill his bottles at the aid stations and send him on his way before filling mine and then sprinting to catch up. Mile after mile I observed and learned from Jon and the others runners we came across. When we arrived at the finish line I peeled off to the side so he could cross the line on his own. Although other pacers went across with their runners, I didn’t feel right as I had only ran the last 26 miles not the full 102. That finish line was his, not mine. My finish line was yet to come.
 (Leaving the last aid station at Burning River)
 (Immediately after finishing 102 miles. How can he look so fresh?)
After that weekend, Jon and another friend, Dong, kept encouraging me to sign up for an ultra, filling my mind with visions of my own finish line experience. So, on a whim I signed up for the hilly Mountain Madness 50K being held on September 23rd in Ringwood, NJ. It’s part of the NJ Trail Series found on https://sites.google.com/site/njtrailseries/. I set up a training plan to prepare for the race and everything. Then along came Hurricanes Harvey and Irma that put an abrupt stop to that as I began pulling 12-16 hour response shifts. I ran a grand total of 22 miles spread over three runs prior to race day. Being the stubborn male that I am, I ran the race anyways. I figured its only 50K, right? I felt great on race day as I toed the starting line. The race director, Rick McNulty, briefed us on the race markings, said go and off we went. The Mountain Madness 50k is a three loop course, with the middle being the longest. I finished the first loop feeling great and running strong. I grabbed some snacks and refilled my bottles quickly getting back on course in just over a minute. Everything was going great until around mile 16 or 17 when I fell on a short but steep downhill and jammed my left Achilles. I felt a pain I hadn’t felt since I tore the tendon a few years back so I made the decision to walk the remaining few miles back to the start. I told myself there would be plenty of other days to run. So I took my time limping back and taking pictures of my beautiful surroundings. Even though I dropped at mile 24.7 I had a great time there, experienced some great trails, and gained some humility along the way. In the past the idea of dropping from a race had never crossed my mind but I knew that I had made the right decision. I’ll return to Mountain Madness next year and I will have my redemption.

 
 
 
So this brings me to this past weekend’s Batona 50K/50M. The Batona 50M is a point-to-point, mostly single-track trail that runs along the entire 53.4 miles of the Batona Trail from its northern trailhead at Ong’s Hat to its southern most terminus in Bass River throughout the New Jersey Pine Barrens. I opted to run the 50k option that ends at historic Batsto Village. Due to this being a point-to-point race the distances are slightly longer due to available parking locations. The Batona 50K is actually 34 miles and the 50M is actually 53 miles. It was a frigid 20 degrees as we gathered at Ong’s Hat for our 6am start. With headlamps on we headed immediately into a thick single-track windy section. I run and hike the Batona a lot so I was able to warn the group I was with when a couple tricky turns were about to come. While the Batona is very well marked with pink blazes the entire length, it’s very easy to be memorized by the surrounding beauty and miss many of the turns. I heard after the race that a bunch of runners had missed turns along the way and had to back track. The group I was running with arrived at Pakim Pond (mile 8) in 1:20:00. I knew that was too fast but it felt really good. Plus, if I followed logic I wouldn’t had been there in the first place with such little training (actually none). I reached the half-way point (17miles) in 3:03:07 still feeling really good. I remember thinking, “This 50K stuff is easy”. I arrived at the Carranza aid station (21.5miles) in just over 4 hours still feeling great. I stopped to refill my water bottles and have a couple cups of warm chicken noodle soup. That’s when the lack of training hit me. Around mile 22 my right hamstring knotted up and from that point until Quakers Bridge area around mile 28. Even though I walked nearly 6 miles my slowest mile was 18:10. After replacing my front water bottle with the one in my pack and a quick snack I was able to combine a slow run with the walking for the remaining 6 miles arriving at the finish in 7:26:10 (13:14/mile pace). According to my Garmin my total moving time was 7:13:36 (12:52/mile moving pace). I placed 6th out of the 12 that completed the 50K. The funny thing is that neither the time nor the place actual matter to me; I finished and that was my primary goal. I did have a secondary goal of finishing under 8 hours so I actually achieved both goals! So after 2 attempts I finally got my own finish line and like Jon at Burning River a huge smile of achievement and relief came across my face. After warming up in my car I drove over to the Evan’s Bridge aid station at mile 43.1 and then to the finish so I could cheer on my fellow Pineland Striders who were running the full 53 miles. I like to thank all the wonderful volunteers that came out to shuttle runners to the start so our cars would be waiting for us at the finish as well as all their support at the aid stations! The biggest lesson I learned that day was that although I can finish a 50K in a decent time without training it would’ve been a hell of a lot easier if I had. Maybe I’ll train for my next one…probably not. And for my hasher friends, this is FLaT On-out.
(8 miles down, feeling great!)
 (34 miles down, happy it's done!)
 
(Pineland Striders: Skip, John and Mike)

 











 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monadnock 8 Peak Single Day Challenge


 
I had the pleasure of growing up in beautiful Bellows Falls, Vermont located on the west bank of the Connecticut River with equally beautiful New Hampshire on the other side. While we didn’t have any huge mountains like the Rockies or the Alps, Vermont and New Hampshire do have hundreds of beautiful mountains and thousands of miles of great trails to explore. One of my three favorite mountains to run and hike on was Mount Monadnock located in southern New Hampshire between the towns of Marlborough, Dublin, Jaffrey and Troy. Its rocky peak stands at 3,165 feet with a prominence of more than 2,100 feet over the surrounding lands. The Abnacki Native Americans that lived in the area called the mountain “Monadnock” which literally means “Mountain that stands alone”. Monadnock is located within the Monadnock State Park which includes over 5,000 acres of protected land and over 40 miles of marked trails. It is said that Monadnock is the second most climbed mountain in the world behind only Mount Fuji in Japan.
 
I returned to Monadnock on Saturday July 16, 2017 with a different goal than any time before. Instead of following the usual White Arrow Trail to Grand Monadnock Peak and back, on this day I would visit the lower four peaks as well. While scrolling through the challenges on https://peakery.com I recently found the “Monadnock 5 Peak Challenge” which they state is usually attempted as a day hike. Since I planned to combine hiking and running, I would add to this challenge and create my own personal challenge. I added the three Pack Monadnock Peaks as well since they are located less than 20 miles to the east. And so, on this day, the Monadnock 8 Peak Single Day Challenge was born.
 
I arrived at the Old Toll Road trailhead parking lot about 8 am and paid the $5 summer parking fee. Now before I bore you with the rest of my adventure I feel I should warn those of you that prefer to hike or run with your dog, like I do, dogs are not allowed on Mount Monadnock. Now with that said, up we go! At the trailhead you can follow the Old Toll (dirt) Road or do as I did and take the far less travelled Old Halfway House Trail just to the left. Whichever you choose, they both merge just below the site of the Halfway House which stood there from 1860 to 1954. From this point I took the Monte Rosa Trail on the left to my first peak. The trail immediately climbs steeply over roots, rocks and at times near cliff-like inclines. The views from Monte Rosa’s 2,540 foot summit were well worth the effort. I rested there for about a half hour and ate one of my usual peanut butter & onion sandwiches before continuing my climb.






 
After leaving Monte Rosa I followed the Smith Summit Trail for a little ways before taking a right onto the Amphitheatre Trail and then a left onto the very busy White Arrow Trail. The White Arrow Trail, while probably the easiest route, does include some very steep sections before arriving at Grand Monadnock Peak. Unlike Monte Rosa, I had to share the 3,165 foot peak with a couple hundred others. The views were just as amazing as I had remembered. On a clear day you can see parts of all six New England states including Mount Washington and the Boston skyline.



From Grand Monadnock I ran down the Dublin Trail to Dublin Peak. This peak sits only a couple hundred yard away 3,041 feet elevation.
 
 
Since the view was basically the same I immediately ran back up over Grand Monadnock, turned left and headed down the Pumpelly Trail. This trail is marked with large cairns (large piles of stone) about every 100 yards or so. Town Line Peak is about a mile away and sits at 2,884 feet. Like Monte Rosa, I had this peak to myself as well. I sat on the cliff’s edge for about a half hour watching a group of hawks float effortless below me. I then ran/hiked back up to Grand Monadnock Peak for my third and final time before heading to my fifth peak, Bald Rock.  


 
From Grand Monadnock, I climbed down the busy White Dot Trail, turned right onto the White Cross Trail, and right again onto the Smith Connecting Trail to Bald Rock. Although the Mount Monadnock Hiking Trails map (attached) lists this peak as Bald Rock there is a huge boulder with its real name, Kiasticuticus Peak, engraved in it. From Kiasticuticus I climbed down the aptly named Cliff Walk Trail. Cliff Walk ends at the Parker Trail. I turned right following Parker Trail back to the Old Toll Road and finally back to my car. In all, I hit all 5 Monadnock peaks and travelled 8.2 miles. I ate a couple more peanut butter & onion sandwiches, washed them down with a warm Guinness and then headed over to Miller State Park for the Pack Monadnock portion of my challenge.
 



Miller State Park is located off of Route 101 near Peterborough, NH. This park was created in 1891 making it New Hampshire’s first state park. The trailhead begins at the right rear of the parking lot near the toilets. From there you can access the first summit by following the paved road or climbing the Wapack Trail (yellow blazes) or Marion Davis Trail (blue blazes). I took the Wapack Trail to the left since the Wapack crests all three peaks. While the Miller State Park at Pack Monadnock map (attached) lists only Pack Monadnock (2,290 feet) and North Pack Monadnock (2,276 feet), Middle Pack (1,968 feet) is clearly seen in the photo below. The first half mile of the Wapack is very steep climbing rocky ledge before leveling off somewhat before the final push to the summit. There is a 30 foot fire tower at the peak from which you can see the Majestic Mount Monadnock to the west, Mount Washington to the north and Boston once again. The Wapack continues north just to the left of a stone shelter. There is a sign marking your arrival on North Pack Monadnock but that’s about it. I took the Wapack Trail back to Pack Monadnock and then Marion Davis Trail back to the parking lot. My total mileage for this hike was 7.5 miles.

 




(See, Middle Pack Monadnock does exist. Take that you...map!)
(Mount Monadnock to the west)


So there you have it, the Monadnock 8 Peak Challenge: Monte Rosa (2,540’), Grand Monadnock (3,165’), Dublin Peak (3,041’), Town Line Peak (2,884’), Bald Rock or Kiasticuticus Peak (2,628’), Pack Monadnock (2,290’), Middle Pack Monadnock (1,968’) and North Pack Monadnock (2,276’). If you are ever in southern New Hampshire go check them out. You won’t be disappointed. Here’s a few  more photos.