Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mt Toby Trail Race

With my success at the Monroe Dunbar Trail Run, I set my sights on the Mt Toby Trail Run. Mt Toby is not nearly as technical, running over mostly fireroads and some easier single track, yet its still a good distance of 14 miles with about 2000ft or so elevation gain.
It was a chilly start, but the temps warmed up as trail ascended .  With relatively easy footing, i was able to push ahead at the start and position myself well before the climb. After 2 or 3 miles the climb to Mt Toby began. It was steep but not unbearable. I moved into a fast hike only once as pitch of the trail got real steep and my heart rate pushed 190 beats per minute.  Being a strong hill runner, I was able pass several runners on the way up but I knew there would be a good chance i would see them again on the descent.

The turn around point is the summit, touch the gate of the water tower , throw down a gu, and go! I usually don't like out and backs but i enjoyed seeing other runners coming up the hill and exchanging cheers of 'nice job' and ' your almost there'. The descent was fast. I let me legs pick up some acceleration and let gravity do its thing as the angle of fireroad descended steeper. I felt like a deer, galloping over rocks, picking the best lines, and feeling the cool air against my face. Sure enough though 2 runners that i passed on the uphill flew right by me. Impressive. Once again, i was burned on the descent.

I caught up to the two runners after the trail leveled off. For the last 4 miles the three of us hammered out the run, trading positions frequently. As the we exited the woods and onto a 1/2 mile pavement stretch before the finish, we pushed pace harded. One of the runners was left behind and myself and the other runner sprinted for the finish. I gave whatever i had left but he had more, beating me by about 10 seconds...he threw down one hell of a sprint.

I finished 16th overall. Not too bad since my intention was just to complete the race and have fun without competing. Well, i should have figured i couldn't put myself in a race without becoming a little competitive.

Mt Toby is a perfect race for any seasoned road runner to transition into a trail runner.If your interesed in giveing a trail race a try, this is a great one!

Ari,  Casey, Paul, Brian (Duff), Me        

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Monroe Dunbar Brook Trail Race

I love trail races!  Trail races are not your standard  'gravel' bike path or level high school x-country course, but rather rocky granite filled single track, deep pockets of mud, waist level river crossings, and sometimes straight-up bushwhacking. The Monroe Dunbar race was just that.

I have wanted to run this race for the last few years but with my chronic knee conditions from an accident and surgery years earlier, I was hesitant to run the distance and challenging terrain. In fact, the last time i ran a distance over 10 miles on a technical trail was in 2003. Yet, I had a good year running and with time well spent on better foot placement and strength training, i was ready to finally give this race a whirl.

The course was essential up the mountain for 2000 or so feet over 5 miles, then back down to the start in a loop. After the first mile, the climbing began. There was just enough room for 1 person to progress up the slippery slope at a time. As the trail got steeper runners would progress into a fast hike to prevent their heart rate becoming to high. I was feeling pretty good so when I had the chance I passed on the switchbacks.

After reaching the summit the trail followed first a fire road on the ridge line then veered into some herd path that required more focus to the ground and the air as rocks and tree limbs seemed to pop out of nowhere.

The descent was especially sketchy. The trail was quite steep with lots of moss covered granite and roots. I was cautious as i followed a line to safely place my feet. Yet as i was moving forward, i could hear yelps from behind. They had to be animals, they where moving so fast. Nope, they were humans In a short moment a runner passed by my in a full sprint. He was certainly moving at a 6 minute mile pace. Then several other runners followed.  Apparently, my strength in the uphill does not compare to the ability to run like a gazelle down a single track trail.  I have some practice to do if I'm going to compete in next year trail race series.

I finished the race feeling incredible. It has been such a long time that i have been involved in a trail race this long and technical, and now, i cant wait for the next one.

Oh...and the post race food was incredible....chili, meatball subs, all sorts of homemade banana breads, baking goods, pasta salad, and more, right by the shores of the deerfield river. For the 15 or so dollars, you get yourself one hell of an event!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011 Josh Billings Triathlon

2011 Josh Billings Triathlon

Josh Billings still ranks as one of my favorite events of the year. This year i am coming back from a second place ironman finish to challenge winner Josh Flanagan. Josh had won last year by 9 minutes over me. My goal was to close in on Josh this year and if I'm lucky enough, pass him.

Training in the summer was a bit inconsistent. Dealing with a sciatic nerve problem in my right butt check had limited my kayak training. I made at least 6 modifications to my seat before ripping all the hardware out and replacing with a Bumfortable foam seat. I would still get the dreaded "dead leg", but it at least it held off  longer with the Bumfortable. In addition to the seat, I was starting off my first year as a full time high school teacher preparing several curriculums never have taught. As labor day rolled in, training just about ceased.  Otherwise, the running and biking where going well.

My secret weapon was missing this year as well.  My all star support person, and wife, was working an art show the same day. I will have to fend for myself. Having a support person for the Josh, though not necessary, saves valuable racing time.

It was a beautiful day in Great Barrington, but the mood quickly changed just as the race got going. The first leg, the bike portion, is a mass start involving group riding, drafting, and peloton positioning. 425 riders left the start in a sprint, averaging close to 30mph. At the first turn, bike wheels hit and several riders went down. I was able to keep to the outside of the crash and avoid collision. Tensions grew as riders where begin to yell out to other riders to "hold their line". Holding line means to keep your bike in a straight line. If you want to pass, you need to wait!

Racing got more ugly in the next 4 miles. The first hill spread up riders into "pelotons", groups of riders that bunch close together and work with each other to draft and improve overall speed. I missed the first peolton but got into the second. After summiting the first  hill we began the first downhill. Cruising  around 35-40 mph a cyclist trying to move ahead left his "line" and clipped another cyclists front wheel. They were about 4 bikes to the left of me. The clipped cyclist's wheels began to wobble and then the bike and rider went airborne. There was a sort of front-somersault motion before the cyclist landed hard on his head/neck shoulders...hard to say from where I was. What i can say though, is that i never want to hear the sounds that that cyclist's body made with the pavement ever again. There was nothing I could do to help, if i tapped my brakes to stop, i would most certainly cause a crash with the riders behind me. The folks behind would have to help.

For the rest of ride all the cyclists where on edge. Still, 2 water bottles where dropped in the group. I have never been so vocal in a group to hold lines and pay attention.

Due to the cautious riding, time was loston the ride portion, but i would quickly make up time in the kayak portion. Josh Flanagan and newcomer Mike Galoob  where well ahead of me by now. I was able to pass Mike on the first lap and then caught up to Josh on the second lap.After passing Josh, i made a point to yell out a friendly but competitive "Hey Josh" to let him know that I was in the lead now...i do believe i heard an "Oh Shit".  I still had to pull ahead as far as possible as Josh has been known to hammer the run. Little did i know Mike Galoob was matching my kayak pace pretty well and keeping me in sight.

The Josh Billings run has always been brutal on my legs. In the past i ve struggled to get to speed and this year was no different. I was trying to keep a 6:35 pace, but even that was difficult. Not before long  Mike Galoob passed me with an astounding pace. No big deal, my goal was to beat Flanagan anyways and there was no sight of him yet. The at about mile 4 I spotted him about 200 yds behind. I picked up the pace as best as i could. The last mile is essentially all uphill and I was cramping like hell. Flanagan got right behind and passed me with about 1/2 mile left to go. I tried, but couldn't match his pace.  Josh finished 30 seconds ahead of me. 

 In spite of the scary bike ride, Josh Billings turned to be an awesome race for the ironman kayak division. Out of the 425 teams (most of the 425 are formed in TEAMS of 3), Mike Galoob finished 24th, Josh Flanagan 27th, and myself  28th. Two minutes and 15 seconds separated 1st to 3rd!

Place   Team Name      Final Time     Bike Rank/Split       Kayak Rank/Split    Run Rank/Split 
24        Mike Galoob        2:45:44         59 1:14:34              38 52:04                 27 39:06 
       B: Mike Galoob   K: Mike Galoob   R: Mike Galoob
27         NUUN                 2:47:30        22 1:10:46              78 56:36                35 40:08 
       B: Josh Flanagan   K: Josh Flanagan   R: Josh Flanagan
28       Fast as a Slug         2:48:00        70 1:14:52               25 50:18                66 42:50
       B: John McCarthy K: John McCarthy R: John McCarthy

Monday, August 1, 2011

2011 ACA Whitewater National Championships

 American Canoe Association has come back to the great Deerfield river this year to host the 2011 Whitewater National Championships. The Championships consists of 3 days of racing  involving canoes and kayaks in various distances. I registered for the sprint and long race.

white water national championships

Paddling buddy and US team wildwater kayak member Mark Wendolowski let me use his old and slightly abused Speeder. The Speeder is a fast downriver kayak, but made of plastic, it weighs almost twice as much as some of the other boats in the competition. I will have my work cut out for me to keep up with the other Kevlar and carbon glass boats

Mark paddling the Speeder

I have run fife brook countless times and maneuvered in and out and even sometimes backwards through the class 3 rapid known as the Gap. I have certainly run the river enough times to have eliminate any intimidation the rapid would muster in me. Yet as we paddled toward the start, never having used a longer boat in a class 3 rapid,  I began to feel my nerves and hips tighten up. As i approach one particular rock cropping, I tried to get comfortable and attempt an easy slot move between two rocks. Instead I got pushed by the current and pinned against a pair of rocks. With my fellow paddlers ahead of me I had to push back and forth against the rocks to get released before too much water pillowed up on the side and flip me upside down against the rocks. I got the boat out, but now my nerves grew. If this little rock is going to pin me, whats going to happen in the gap?

 The short race was a sprint in time trial fashion from just above the gap to below.  After a short minute from the start of the race, i prepared to pick my linefor the gap.  At last minute I decided to throw on my nose plugs figuring there was a good chance i would flip in the eddyline. I attacked the center line cautiously then made the right line move paddling hard and edging my boat into the eddylines. In a short time i was through. Normally as a playboater kayaker, we would spend up to an hour playing in the gap's waves and eddy lines. Today though, I was pushing for time. Racing long kayaks brings a different feel to boating, and i was loving the adrenalin mixed with the endorphins, like a red bull and vodka of drinks.

The following day came the long race. Mark was able to get some of the local "Loser Cup" paddlers to come out. The Loser Cup is another whitewater "non" race on the class 4 Dryway. Short but very technical, dangerous at times and swims can be much more painful.  With some practice, a new boat, and maybe a larger set of kahunas, i will be able to write a race  report in 2012.

The one advantage i have over the technical paddlers is a set of very large lungs and good working slowtwitch muscles. In other words, I am an endurance guy. Most of the kayakers went out fast, but over the course of the next hour and fifteen minutes, i was able to pick off paddler after paddler. I finished exhausted but in third place. Mark W finished first with a course record and local loser cup paddler and long time raft guide Mike Porter finished second.

                                                                On the Podium 3rd place

Mark Wendolowski showing how to find the right line through the Gap

Next years race will be held in North Carolina. Since writing the original report i have picked up a new whitewater racing boat. I wonder if a road trip this summer is in store.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Birthday Rolls!

For the first time in many years I took the summer off to prepare for my first full time teaching position. Of course, i cant prepare everyday, and as a result many, many days where spent on one of my favorite places, the Deerfield River.

Over the years I have made many great friends on the river. Nowadays, i have no problem heading to the river, sticking out a thumb, and finding a friend to paddle with. Afterwards beers are cracked open at the take out or a trip to the Mohawk pub for a BBC River Ale is used as a debriefing session.
I spent my 33rd birthday paddling the Dryway, a classic class 4 run. As tradition holds, the birthday boy must roll their boat for each year he was born. Yet these 33 rolls holds no comparison to the 60 rolls my paddling buddy Bob performed a few weeks after.  Prior to Bobs birthday paddle, Bob got caught up in rock in the gap, broke his paddle into 2, and swam through a rocky line that left him a bit 'dazed and confused'. Bob, who requires 2 hearing aids to hear on land, but cannot use them on the river and thus left virtually deaf, came back to the river with a new paddle. He rolled his boat 60 times and made a clean run through the gap. Bob earned his post paddle beer, old men do rule!

                                           Birthday Paddle 2011
                                           Surfing the new creek boat on Disappointment Wave, Dryway

Friday, July 1, 2011

2011 Patriot Half Ironman Triathlon

I had one goal for this race, to beat the Dearys. The brothers get the best and worst of me, yet its this sort of competition that brings me back to high school track days that I loved. Trash talk began in April during the Tuckerman's Inferno race when i announced that i was racing. David, the younger, said i didn't have a chance. Damn if that didn't fire me up!!!

We are all very close in abilities, David the swimmer, me the runner, and Justin, the unpredictable...As the race approached, predictions were made. Justin did not have a chance, a father of 3, Justin could not put in the training as the rest of us. The race would come down to David and me.

The Patriot half is a fantastically well organized race. I loved it. There was so much energy and excitement in the air. The day was beautiful and the water temperature was perfect. I was nervous and excited all at once.

The swim was perfect. I found a pod of wetsuits to swim with, following their draft as best as i could.. After about 40 mins i popped out of the water to realize David was right next to me. Sweet! This was apparently David's best event. I hollered over to let him know i was ahead and hurried to my bike.

I moved ahead on the bike maintaining a solid 22mph avg pace. I was feeling good and ready to put the hammer down on the brothers. Though, at about mile 45 my hip started tweaking. Having only 5 weeks to train on the new tri specific bike, I wonder if my joints had the opportunity to fully adjust to the new bike. Regardless, I finished well ahead of the brothers and in 50th place overall. They were just entering the transition as i was cruising onto my strongest event, the run. I felt good, time to close the deal.

Maybe my over confidence got the best of me. Maybe it was poor nutrition, hammering the bike too hard, a new bike or a lack of mental toughness, regardless, by mile 6, my goals begin to crumble. My legs cramped, really cramped. My left knee, the one that went through a cash years ago and since then has been symptomatic began to give out. I was dehydrated in the now hot sun. My legs and mind were toast. In my 15 years of racing, I walked for the 2nd time ever in a race(the first due to a massive sprained ankle on a 20 mile trail race). The next 7 miles was torturous, physically and mentally. Geoff Rose, ultra endurance runner extraordinaire, talks about succeeding in endurance races by surviving the low point that happens in every endurance race. I felt like I barely survived. The physical part was hard enough, but mentally, i gave up on running. It was the low point i have not gone through in some time.

Needless to say the Dearys caught up and passed me. Justin took first of the three of us in just over 5 hours. the brother with the least training, but then again that is why we call him the "unpredictable". David, was not too far behind Justin. I came in around 5 hours and 30 minutes.

It took some time to recover, but now as i write this, my mind has forgotten the pain and discomfort of the run. With pain gone and redemption in mind, I will be signing up for the 2012 race. I just hope I can bring back the Deary brothers for a rematch.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ludlow Triathlon

Year in Review...June Ludlow Tri

I am a very lucky guy to  reside on the shores of a little pond that I can swim and kayak. With that in mind, when the firmman organizers come to little Ludlow every year to set up the large orange buoys that designate the annual Luldow Tri Course, I cant just sit back at home and watch the fun.

The ludlow tri includes a 1/2 mile swim, 20 mile bike, and 4 mile run. The swim is hectic, the bike a bit hilly, and the run blazing fast. I love this tri, and not just because i can swim home.

I finished first in my division. Rumor has it that i also qualified for the championship race in Burlington later in
the year, but unfortunately the race conflicted with Josh Billings and will choose the later.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Harpoon 5 Miler

2011 Race review...  Harpoon 5 Miler

"Sure you've run some races, but i bet you never danced after a race". Lish said it well. The Harpoon 5 miler is a must do race! For $40, you get 3 free beers, a race tee shirt, Bertuchis catering, Sausages Guys sausages,  and an urge to dance in your gym shorts!

Family, friends, friends of friends all came together to run a little, and drink more. For me this was the first race my brother and i raced together in. The McCarthy's rocked out! Older bro placed 592 out of 3300 while i was able to use my chicken legs to finish in the top 10. Team V, (what the V stands for is still up for debate, but for now we will refer to as Very Fast) finished 11th out of the 150 teams.

Team V and friends results
7       2/624 M3039 28:16 28:16 5:40 John McCarthy 32 M 922
49     23/624 M3039 31:17 31:11 6:15 Joseph Langan 36 M 815
142   54/565 M2129 36:26 33:17 6:40 Adam Szymkowicz 27 M 3668

370   53/986  F2129   36:23   35:41   7:09 Christin Christoph     28 F   3666
438   59/986 F2129 36:57 36:15 7:15 Adriane Boscardin 27 F 3664

592   186/624 M3039 39:17 37:30 7:30 Bob McCarthy 36 M 923
701   220/624 M3039 40:01 38:15 7:39 Darren Bourque 35 M 131
749   230/624 M3039 39:15 38:32 7:43 Daniel Walker 31 M 3669

932   151/986 F2129 42:43 39:34 7:55 Caitlin Brome 26 F 3665

1350 172/705 F3039 42:37 41:54 8:23 Lisha Storey 30 F 3667
1716 438/624 M3039 45:25 43:37 8:44 Steve Cosgrove 36 M 284

Harpoon organized a great race and a better party. There was about 10 draft stations offering fresh Harpoon beer to all the runners. In addition, age group winners( which i was lucky enough to be one,  won additional beer. I will take a case of UFO over a trophy any day!

Team V

                                                                      McCarthy Brothers

Play that Funky Music

Thursday, April 21, 2011

2011 Wildcat Wildfire Pentathlon

The wildcat pentathlon is the little brother of the more prestigious pentathlon, Tuckerman's Inferno. As such, we have  sarcastically dubbed the wildcat, wildkitten ( my Irish friend and rival Joe would mock). Yet, this race is still no day in the park.

The wildcat race begins with a 6 mile road race, which transitions to an 8 mile downriver kayak with class 2 rapids, followed with a 20 mile 2000ft elevation gain bike up towards Mt Washington, continued with another 2 mile hike and another 1500 ft elevation gain up Wildcat Mountain, and finished with a usually not so smooth downhill ski to the lodge. This is a classic solo style adventure race.

I came up Friday to test run the river. There was much debate over if the river was running high or low. I found it to be just right! My west side boat exceed, with a whole cut out of the right butt check pad to prevent dead leg, cut through the rapids beautifully.. I even, not quite on purpose, performed quite a boof on a spillover rock with all of my boats 19 feet getting somewhat air born .

Saturday morning was bustling with energy. Crystal and I left the condo by 6:00 to get all the gear set up. We squeezed the kayak between a little evergreen and another kayak at the put in, laying out my paddle, skirt, helmet, a jacket, and some booties. Over to the take out we set up the bike and left a bin with packets of gu, my cleats, a towel, and gloves. Finally we headed to the start to begin the run. It was 27degres. Brrrr.

I ran next to Joe most of the race. Joe was pushing the pace early. Knowing I had a long race ahead, I tried to relax and have some small talk with my Irish friend. Joe, breathing heavy, was not so amused, and politely told me that he doesn’t talk while racing. Later, over a beer, I know that what he meant to say was “shut the hell up John, I’m running”!!!

I pulled away in the kayak leg. This is where having the right boat can pay off big time dividends in the race. My West Side Exceed is perfect for these conditions. Straight forward whitewater with lots of flatwater sections in-between. Good secondary stability, closed cockpit, and super long. This boat takes skill to keep up, but if you can handle it, its one of the fastest in these conditions. Over 20 people dumped in the river that day, but I stayed up with one of the fastest times.

I have three words to explain the cycling; cold, wet, and cramped. I couldn’t quite get my legs at full speed, as my left hamstring kept on pulling. Yet that didn’t matter as I got to about mile 14, and I saw my wife in the car sitting in the middle of the road. Next to her, a large, beautiful, brown moose!

My apparent natural expression as i noticed the size of the Moose

I couldn’t decide if I should ride between the car and the moose to get a closer look or around to the other side of the car. My decision was made as I got closer to the animal and she looked up and we exchanged glances. Her eye seemed as big as my hand. She was large and there was no barrier between us. I was going around the car!

On the way up to Pinkham Notch

As i pulled into the hike transition, my heart dropped...there was no one there. Where was Crystal??? Than from the corner of my eye, i see her running toward me with my all my ski gear. I do have the best support crew.

On my way up, a competitor tossed me a few cliff shots....a good reminder of the sportsmanship in such an event!  

The rest of the race seems now in reflection quite uneventful. I hiked, I cramped, I skied, I finished. I still cant quite fathom skiing down Left Gully with the amount of cramping that went through the legs during the hike and ski portion of wildcat.

 The wildkitten is a fantastic race, and I would encourage anyone to give it a go. My sights are now set on the oldest brother, the tuckermans inferno! 

What makes this race really special are the friends that come together to live, breath, challenge each other and themselves...and to have a beer with after the race!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

2010 Josh Billings Triathlon

This is not your standard triathlon. No swim, bike, run, but a bike(peloton style), kayak, run. .

This tri has a big time race feel. For several weeks before hand, cyclists where out training on the bike route, kayakers and canoers practicing their strokes on the Stockbridge bowl, and runners, well, running. I drove down to do like the rest, train on the course. What i found was a town full of energy. Great Barringon, Stockbridge, and the neighboring communities gave an impression of a North Conway,NH or Lake Placid. Roof racks, fit people, and talk about the upcoming race filled the air. 1200 people where expected to show for the country's second oldest triathlon of this kind.

I did a decent job preparing for the race. I knew it would come to the bike ride and getting into the pack early on. The bike race hits a hill early on, mile 1 or 2, and many experience cyclists know, that hill will determine the rest of your bike race. Hit the hill hard, get into a group, and you find yourself in a good paceline for the rest of the race. Bonk on the first hill, miss the paceline, and you will either lose 10 minutes as you fall into the second peloton, or exert all your energy riding by yourself.

I missed the first major group as i had a hard time positioning myself at the front of the start (note to self next year), but kept to a group not too far behind. All in all, i only lost five minutes from the first group.

The kayak is where i was able to pull away. Though I have been suffering from "Dead Leg" , temporary paralysis of my leg from sitting on a nerve the wrong way, big blue was good to me and my leg was fine. I finished with one of the fastest kayak times of all racers, including teams.

The run the other hand was brutal. Possibly the slowest run in quite some time. The run course is a hilly 6.2 mile course. At mile 3, i was plagued with muscle cramps. I had to stop and message my legs. Running is generally my strongest leg, but on that race day, i was humbled. What could have i done different, more electrolytes, more gu, ...i found myself very frustrated as i jogged forward.

In spite of the challenging run, i still finished well, placing second in the ironman kayak division. I won a nice Josh Billings Mug that was filled with a tasty Oktoberfest later that night.

....and i could not have done so well in the race without my champion support crew. Notice the "helper" race number