Friday, October 14, 2011


Just when it seemed that 2011 was going to go down as a bad foliage year, things changed. In three days, the colors went from "brownish" and "dull" to "brilliant" and "radiant." It has been an explosion of color.

You never know when the foliage is going to peak. Thousands of leaf-peepers were treated to amazingly warm Columbus Day weekend temperatures, but the colors were not so great. I, for one, hiked two peaks in the Presidentials. Beautiful weather. Great hike. But the colors? They were, well, okay. Maybe it was the damp summer, everyone said. Maybe Irene had something to do with it.

Just three days later, however, the hillsides and forests of northern Vermont are just like they're supposed to be. Add to the dramatic turn of events a week of sunny weather that has made the leaves shine that much more.

Fall is all around us, and we know what that means. Pretty soon, the leaves will be on the ground, November will be on us... and winter will be just around the corner.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Business Trip

"This trip is all business."

That's what Kristen Courcelle said as we embarked on a journey to Portland, Maine to run the Maine Marathon this weekend. What did she mean by "all business"? Kristen has been on an incredible athletic streak for the last year. After squeaking her way into a Boston qualifying marathon one year ago yesterday, Kristen has run every event she has entered faster than her last. Regardless of distance or discipline, she has notched PRs.

Looking ahead, however, she has the New York Marathon in November. Knowing this race is known for being crowded -- and therefore very difficult to run a PR -- she was looking for a marathon to run where she would have a chance to extend The Streak.

Meanwhile, I have been looking for a Fall marathon. Heading into winter -- the season when my running usually falls off -- I wanted to get my marathoning back on track. After qualifying for Boston two years ago, I have turned in several marathons that were lower than my expectations. Don't get me wrong... finishing is an accomplishment. Still, it's frustrating when you know you can do better. My goal for the weekend: finish better.

(Also, I didn't really want Kristen to beat me.) Okay, I admitted it.

So with these very business-like intentions in mind, we headed to Portland. And who knew business could be so fun? We stayed with Greg Dolbec, who took care of every need. He got us to a carbo-loading restaurant and provided us with elite-running entertainment in the form of his running friends, who joined us. He also housed us with a beautiful view of the bay.

Except there was no view. Race morning -- in fact, the whole race weekend -- was socked in and miserable. I have never run 26.2 miles in such consistently driving rains. I have to hand it to the race volunteers who were out there all day. I unfortunately tossed aside my favorite running shirt to avoid chafing at Mile 8. (It worked for my chest and armpits; unfortunately I have the worst chafing of my life in other areas...)

The course was a nice out-and-back, although with little fan support and none of the bands and drummers that apparently usually turn out for the event, it was a little boring. And -- not that it was a big deal -- but the clocks and water stops seemed haphazardly placed throughout the course; sometimes you'd have two water stations a half-mile apart and other times you'd go three miles with nothing. The clocks were equally random.

In the end, we both achieved our goals. I ran my best marathon in two years. And Kristen came in shortly thereafter, beating her previous marathon PR by 13 minutes. Something tells me she would have been fine in New York; but because she ran Portland, The Streak may now be in jeopardy.

Heather Jarochym was also on hand to run a highly impressive first marathon. Hopefully she -- and all first-timers who were there -- realize that not all marathons take place in conditions like that!

Thanks to Greg and Katie for hosting us. Thanks to Kristen for making the trip. Thanks to Ali who made me train all summer. And thanks to my legs -- which are now plenty sore, but which carried me back to an acceptable marathon time.