Diz Runs Radio Podcast

Diz Runs Radio Podcast

I had the opportunity to be a guest on Denny Krahe’s Diz Run Radio podcast last week and I’m here to share my experience with you!  The podcast is available at www.dizruns.com/612

The podcast aired yesterday and I am thrilled with the final product!  I was nervous agreeing to the opportunity because I thought my life wasn’t interesting enough to be broadcasted on a podcast.  I procrastinated for a week or so before committing to a date and time to record the podcast.  Turns out, just like everyone always says, when it comes to conversations about running, you can talk for hours!

So there I was, mid-Thursday morning recording a podcast with Denny Krahe.  We talked about how I fell in love with trail running, cycling, the importance of progressive training, goal setting, and cross-training, and even my ambitions in occupational therapy!  Forty-five minutes flew by and before I knew it we were wrapping things up.

In retrospect, before the podcast aired, I was analyzing how much I thought I rambled or how my sentences seemed unstructured.  In reality, after listening to the podcast in its entirety, I’m proud of myself for trying something outside of my comfort zone.  I’m still definitely not the most interesting person in the world but, nevertheless, I enjoy sharing stories about running.

I am looking forward to doing another podcast in the future about running, cycling, goal setting, etc, because I feel like I have so much more to share!  We only graced the countless running experiences I’ve had.  Luckily, I have a blog where I can share stories whenever I feel like it.

If you or anyone you know loves to talk running and would like to share their stories, comment below!  I would love to continue to connect with the running community so we can all support and share our experiences!

For now, Diz Runs Radio Episode #612 is available for listening.  Check it out and let me know what you think!  I’m just proud of myself for doing something so outside of my comfort zone!

 

Vacation Part 1: Colorado

Vacation Part 1: Colorado

At the end of May, Josh & I embarked on our greatest adventure yet – a trip out west to Colorado and Utah!  We packed every day with as many vistas, breaths of fresh air, and places as possible and came home exhausted, sore, and full of wanderlust.  Colorado took our breath away – literally.  Like most adventures, I will blog about it to reminisce in the future about all the amazing places we visited.  Perhaps by doing so, it will keep the wanderlust at bay.  Honestly though, I think it will just remind us of how wonderful, beautiful, and “us” these mountain states are.  Without further ado….

Day 1 (Tuesday):

20180529_030159
3 AM at the airport

Our flight departed Philadelphia in the wee hours of the morning.  We were on our first plane to Chicago by 5 AM and after a short layover we would fly from Chicago to Denver.  Once in the air, somewhere above Pennsylvania, we were able to see the sun rising behind us and the moon still ahead of us.  This was an interesting sight and made the thought of a 5 AM flight a little less bothersome.

We landed in Chicago and tried to patiently wait for our second flight of the morning.  Shortly after boarding our flight along with 90% of our fellow passengers, the flight attendant announced there was a hydraulic leak in our plane and we all had to get off and wait for another plane.  Annoyed and frustrated, we shuffled off the plane and waited for an alternate plane to arrive.  Our flight left nearly an hour later than it should have and I felt shorted for time I was losing.  We occupied ourselves with in-flight episodes of Modern Family and rest.

We finally arrived in Denver, successfully navigated the chaos of the airport, hopped on a shuttle to the rental car company, and picked up our rental car.  Within less than an hour of landing, we were driving away from the city and towards the mountains.

20180529_124535
Frisco, CO

I persuaded Josh to stop in Frisco which was the first Colorado mountain town I had ever visited in Colorado back in March of 2017.  Surrounded by mountains we parked and walked to Butterhorn Bakery & Cafe on Frisco’s Main Street.  We were seated immediately and were excited about finally eating a real meal.  I was thoroughly impressed and satisfied by the veggie hummus wrap with a side of quinoa that I ordered and Josh enjoyed “The Frisco” – a turkey bacon sandwich.  With full stomachs, we planned our 1st vacation adventure – a hike up Mount Royal.

We drove less than a half mile to the trailhead, put on our hydration packs, asked a local which direction to link up to the trail, and we started hiking up… up, up, up.  The hike was 1.4 miles to the peak from where we parked.  The entire hike is uphill and we were quickly out of breath from the altitude difference.  We kept trudging along and a local trail runner passed us with ease.  As we approached the peak, the wind picked up.  We got to the top and the wind was brisk.  We admired our surroundings, wandered around the peak, took PLENTY of pictures, and then decided to descend.   The hike down was just as interesting as the hike up.  Loose stone required that each step be carefully planned.  We each slid a few times but arrived back to the trailhead without injury.  Our first Colorado hike was complete!

20180529_152923
windy hair on top of Mount Royal

Our next destination was Angela and Phil’s!  We continued our drive until we got to our stay for the next few days!  We were welcomed happily by our friends, went on a search party for a missing neighborhood dog, and ate nachos for dinner!  Our night ended shortly after dinner and showers.  Josh and I had been awake for nearly 22 hours and we knew we needed rest for the next day’s adventures!

Day 1 stats:  2.8 miles, 1,312 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 10,465 ft

Day 2 (Wednesday): 

Thanks to the time difference between the east coast and the mountains, I woke up pretty early Wednesday morning.  Luckily when I realized it was still dark out, I was able to force myself back asleep.  Josh & I had a relaxing morning before heading out for a hike in New Castle.

We hiked up to the Mount Medaris trail system.  We passed cacti, lizards, and plenty of wild flowers.  We had a lovely view of the surrounding mountains, the entire town of New Castle, and the river down below.  It was calming to be atop such a small town.  Part of the trail was steep but we took our time and took plenty of pictures!

 

20180530_110039
coming down Mount Medaris

For lunch, we walked to Hogback Pizza.  It was a cozy pizza shop – perfect for a small mountain town!  Interestingly, even though the pizza was round, it was cut into squares.  The uncanny shape of our slices didn’t effect the taste in any way!  Our cheese pizza was absolutely delicious – pizza stop #1 of the trip got an A++.

Later in the day, we decided to drive to the Hanging Lake trailhead.  The hike up was enjoyable and we continued to ascend into land that reminded me of the Grand Canyon (although I have never actually been to the Grand Canyon…).  At the top, we scrambled up some rocks protected by a guardrail to our right.  The water was so pristine and blue and the waterfalls were peaceful.  There were a few other hikers at the top and a kind mom offered to take our picture (see below).

received_2168587586702689 (1)

After taking in Hanging Lake for awhile longer, we continued a short hike up to Spouting Rock.  We had no idea what Spouting Rock was, but it was quite a sight to see!  A waterfall was literally spouting out of the rock face.  For no reason visible to our eye, water was just spewing from the huge rock wall in front of us.  We walked behind the waterfall for fun and then continued on our way back down the trail.

received_2168587723369342 (1)
views from Hanging Lake Trail

After we returned from our hike, we went out to dinner with Phil & Angela.  They chauffeured us to BrewPub in Glenwood Springs.  The restaurant was huge and the staff was friendly.  I ordered a spinach salad with walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette and Josh enjoyed a burger and an oatmeal stout.  Both of us enjoyed every bite of our meals.  Another meal success!

We went to bed that night pretty worn out from hiking in the heat but we were excited for another day of adventures to come with the Dunn’s.

Day 2 stats:  5.8 miles, 1,922 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 7,306 ft

Day 3 (Thursday): 

Thursday morning we woke up pretty early to get a jump start on the heat of the day.  Josh drove us all to Snowmass Village.  We parked and took a shuttle up to the Rim Trail trailhead.  This particular trail was absolutely breathtaking – both literally & figuratively.  The singletrack we ran on was so perfect and picturesque.  The ascents kicked my butt, but the views throughout the entire run were incredible.  We saw snowcapped mountains in the distance, a lake, and the village of Snowmass.

About half-way through the run, we approached another long ascent.  Feeling extremely short of breath, I opted to powerhike most of the 2nd climb.  Josh joined me as the mountain folk (Phil & Angela) charged ahead.  It was a long climb but the view up top was awesome AND we got to enjoy a wonderful downhill lasting at least 2 miles.

received_2171926853035429 (1)

Our Snowmass run totaled 8.1 miles with 1,077 feet of gain, averaging 11:40/mile.  Our max elevation was 9,178 feet above sea level – quite high for us east coasters.  This was probably my favorite adventure in Colorado and my favorite run of our entire trip.  I still can’t get over the beauty of the singletrack we ran on.

After leaving the beauty of Snowmass, we made a pitstop at Red Rock Diner in Carbondale for lunch.  I ordered a veggie quesadilla with guacamole and Josh had a BLT sandwich with fries.  We were both quite satisfied with our meals.  Luckily, our next hiking stop was a mere half mile from the diner so when we got done we made the quick drive to the Mushroom Rock trailhead.

The Mushroom Rock trail was copious with red dirt and great views of Mount Sopris in the distance.  I felt entranced by Mount Sopris – which was still snowcapped when we were visiting.

Hiking along the ridge was slightly frightening at times and we kept questioning if Mushroom Rock actually existed.  We made it to the top and Josh & Phil fearlessly made their way out to Mushroom Rock.  Angela & I hung back, afraid to make the commitment to venture out any further.  Eventually we mustered up enough courage to crawl out further (key word: “crawl”).  We all sat and took in the surrounding views before heading back down to the parking lot below.

20180531_133903
peak of Mushroom Rock trail with Mount Sopris in the background

After losing Mushroom Rock Trail halfway down the trail, we ended up on Blue Ribbon Trail.  Luckily, Blue Ribbon was further away from the ridge so I was slightly more comfortable hiking down.  We all made it back to the parking lot quite exhausted from so much activity in our day so far.

We arrived back into town covered in red dirt and sweat.  Angela left for a town gathering and Josh and I began planning for adventures in our next state – Utah.  We went to visit Angela and met her co-worker.  They convinced Josh to visit the Black Dog Saloon so we walked there and Josh ordered some brews.  Uniquely, there was money pinned to the ceiling.  I was intrigued & Josh continued to enjoy his brews.

Our third and final hike of the day was Prendergrast Hill Trail with Angela.  Adopted by New Castle Running Club, we enjoyed a peaceful sunset hike up to the peak.  Our legs were tired but more time spent outside in the mountains was time well spent for us.  We felt like we had been fully immersed into the mountain town and we loved it!

We enjoyed pasta prepared by Chef Angela and then went to bed shortly after – completely exhausted from such an adventurous day!

Day 3 stats:  12.1 miles, 2,013 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 9,178ft

Day 4 (Friday): 

We departed early Friday morning for Moab.  We were sad to be leaving the Dunn’s (and their cats) but we knew we couldn’t stay forever.  However, we do indeed know that we will be returning as soon as possible!  We left the mountain town at 7:15 and began our drive to Moab, Utah.

As we were driving, Colorado transformed from lush green mountain landscapes to desert.  We stopped at the Target in Grand Junction for a sheet, a blanket, two pillows, gas, and donuts – all necessities for our adventures in Utah that will be described in a blog post titled “Vacation Part 2: Utah”.

Colorado was beautiful, memorable, adventurous, awe-inspiring, breathtaking, enchanting, and unforgettable.  Even weeks later we are both still dreaming of a day that we come back.  We are forever grateful for good friends willing to open their home up to us for a few days.  We feel more connected to the Colorado lifestyle after they shared stories of their experiences thus far.

In our 3-day stay in Colorado, we covered 20.7 miles on foot with a total elevation gain of 5,247 feet.  Our max elevation was in Frisco, Colorado at 10,465 feet above sea level.  Our days were packed with miles and long climbs and rewarded with spectacular views and cautious descents – all of which we are grateful for.

We know we only saw a minuscule amount of what Colorado has to do, see, and experience.  This gives us so many reasons to return to such a beautiful fragment of our country and we can’t wait to return.

Nevertheless, as we crossed the Colorado-Utah border we knew that more adventures awaited us.

Colorado Stats:

  • Running miles:  8 miles
  • Hiking miles:  12.7 miles
  • Elevation gain (combo of running & hiking): 5,448 feet
  • Max Elevation:  10,465′ above sea level (Frisco/Mount Royal)
Race Recap: Sasquatch Nighttime Trail 5k

Race Recap: Sasquatch Nighttime Trail 5k

Saturday night at 8 PM, I lined up for a 5k for the first time since 2015.  5ks haven’t been on my race radar for three years out of pure enjoyment of ultras and long distance races.  The shortest race I’ve raced in the past three years has been a four mile road race – a 4th of July tradition in my family that is a requirement for an afternoon BBQ invitation.  But, I couldn’t pass up a trail 5k…. in the dark…. on hometown trails…. with a bunch of family & friends.

All day Saturday, I was impatiently waiting for the afternoon hours.  I’d much rather race in the morning so that I can enjoy the rest of the day, eat whatever I want, and relax.  I was less than thrilled when I had to wait all day until I could race. I distracted myself with various errands/chores and I watched the Flyers clinch a playoff spot which was super exciting for obvious reasons.  I ate dinner at 4 PM because I wanted my stomach to be fully settled by start time.

I arrived to the course before 7 PM, snagged a convenient parking spot, picked up the race packets with my parents, and set out onto the trails with my dad and uncle to set up feather flags for our family business & local mountain bike team.  I was extremely confused where the course would be taking us despite knowing the trails inside & out from mountain biking there so often.  I asked my dad a bunch of questions about the direction of the course down certain trails but it didn’t clarify much.

By 7:25, I was wondering where Josh & Jess (Josh’s twin) were as I knew they should both be there by now.  I triple checked that my headlamp was actually on my head (my biggest fear was arriving to the starting line without my headlamp on my head and being forced to run the course in the dark – which would’ve been impossible & torturous).  My Altra Superiors were on snugly and I was ready to tackle the roots within the woods!  Without being able to find neither Josh nor Jess, and with no cell phone service to call them, I set out on a warm-up run with my dad, uncle, mom, and my mom’s cousin.

While out on the course we spotted the Sasquatches arriving to their designated spots on the course.  My dad told the mini Sasquatch to scare me but I told mini Sasquatch that I could out sprint him on any given day. After a ten minute warm-up, we arrived back to the infield where I spotted Josh & Jess.  I was a ball of energy at this point and just wanted to get the race started.  I chauffeured Josh over to my car so he could drop off his race packet in my car & hastily rushed him so that he could get a warm-up in before the race started in less than 10 minutes.  We ran through the in-field a little bit more – a short warm-up would have to suffice for him.  Josh told me he felt nauseous and had no intention of racing hard (more details on that later).

S&S sasquatch groupWe got to the starting line and ushered a bunch of Sneakers & Spokes runners together for a team picture.  We chit-chatted amongst ourselves, tested out the brightness of our headlamps, and waited for the race directors to announce any last minute instructions.  We were told that the reflectors on the trees would guide us through the course and that they should always be on our right – this proved to be extremely helpful knowledge throughout the race.

Before I knew it, they were saying “ready, set, go” through the megaphone and the field of runners surged off.  I remember feeling like there were a lot of people surrounding me that I knew all had to funnel into the trail ahead of us.  All I could do was keep sprinting across the field, hoping that some of them might just be energetic youths eager to start in a full out sprint.

With our headlamps on, we reached the trail entrance and I knew I was near the front of the race.  There was a pack of 6-8 racers ahead of me running three-aside on the trail.  In front of me was a lone runner whom I quickly passed through a sandy section.  The pack of runners ahead of me kept getting further & further away as I could see the light of their headlamps fading off in front of me.  I was running solo with nobody within sight ahead of me and no lights shining from behind me.

Alone, I focused on the reflectors to navigate the way.  I came upon the Sasquatch banging against a tin roof trying to scare us runners but I just chuckled as I passed by.  “One reflector at a time”, I told myself.  I came across someone’s headlamp on the ground and thought that whomever lost that better hope they can keep up with someone who still has a light!  Before I could figure out where I was, the course exited the woods back into the field.  I surged ahead knowing exactly where I needed to go next (home course advantage at it’s finest).  The field was pitch dark and there were just a few spectators out huddling near a small bonfire.

After a steady, low-grade incline on the singletrack, I saw headlamps shining at me.  Am I going the wrong way? How did I mess up the course already?!  Turns out, the course comes very close to intersecting paths but I took a left in my direction and they turned left in their direction.  Crisis everted!  

I continued to power ahead and soon saw a runner up ahead of me.  They were definitely within my reach so I made sure to surge up to them during the non-technical section of the course.  By the time we reached the next hill, I knew that if I could just power through the hill that I could gap them.  He didn’t let me get too far away though.  We reached the only road section of the course – a quarter mile of road until we dip back into the woods toward the finish.  The man got around me on the road but I knew that my strengths on the trail would prove worthy when we got back onto singletrack.

I made a power-move on the final turn into singletrack, nearly running myself into a tree.  I sprinted confidently ahead and saw two small silhouettes ahead of me.  Let me try to catch up to them.  So I kept my foot on the gas trying to catch up to the them.  I knew I was running out of course to catch them but I kept trying.

We exited the woods for the final time into the field and I strided as fast as I could toward the finish line.  I didn’t want the man behind me to catch me in a final sprint.  Race volunteers shined their flashlight towards my bib number so that they could record the finishers.  I stopped by watch at 23:33.

My dad and Josh walked up to me while I was still in the finishing chute.  “Did you win?”, one of them asked.  I said, “I think so!”.  They yelled out in excitement.  I ripped off the bottom of my bib number for the race volunteer & walked over to my dad & Josh.  That’s when they informed that Josh won the race!  HE WON!  I yelled in excitement so loud and gave him the biggest hug.  I couldn’t contain my excitement that we both won!

We walked back along the finishing stretch to wait for our friends & family.  I was coughing uncontrollably because my lungs hurt so bad.  I was still so so so excited that Josh won!  WOW!  We cheered on everyone we knew. This proved to be a difficult task during a nighttime race.  It’s impossible to see people running towards the finish line when it’s dark!

Once everyone finished and we shared our excitement for such a fun and great race, I changed into warm (and dry) clothes, put on my winter jacket and set out on a cool-down run with my dad & Josh.  We talked about our races and shared our excitement for such a cool race on our local trails.  We headed back to the lodge for food, water, and the awards ceremony.  It was so cozy in the lodge which made me happy!

20180407_212219
Jess, me, & Josh with Sasquatch, Mini Sasquatch, & Yeti

Team Sneakers & Spokes came home with 8 individual awards, a new 5k PR, and a racer’s 2nd ever 5k.  It was a fun & enjoyable night and being surrounded by awesome friends & family made the night extra special!

After the awards, I drove to Josh’s.  I reflected on the race and my excitement for Josh’s win.  When we got back to Josh’s it was probably almost 10:30 PM.  We were both hungry so we impulsively decided to make pasta. I ate icecream sandwich cake in the interim because I was so hungry.  By the time we ate pasta and showered, it was nearly midnight.  What a late night.

Reflecting back, I am more than satisfied with how my race went.  I raced hard, I ran confidently, I didn’t back down from the hills or other competitors.  This race boosted my trail confidence in regards to running fast on trails.  I know I can cover upwards to 31 miles on trails mountainous trails, but running fast on trails has never been my strong point.  Although I coughed for an entire day after the race, I would run this race again next year.  The race benefitted Ranch Hope and the leaders & volunteers of Ranch Hope are amazing individuals.

I don’t plan on running more 5ks – I think I’ll stick to one 5k per year & one 4 miler per year.  I prefer all other races to be 10k or more and trail races.  I just find trails to be my strength and I love the trail running scene/community more than anything.

sasquatch winners
Just a “couple” of winners

I am proud of Josh for racing so strong despite having a rough Saturday leading up to the race.  I am proud of his confidence on the trails and his innate competitiveness that apparently just took over one mile into the race.  I am lucky to have him to stand next to as 1st place male and female of the race.

Thanks to Camp Edge and Ranch Hope for hosting a great trail race.  And much appreciation to the Sasquatches who didn’t scare me in the woods mid-race!

 

You win some… & all others aren’t losses.

You win some… & all others aren’t losses.

Earlier today, I raced the Xterra Brandywine 12k.  I finished 2nd overall female by a mere 40 seconds after leading for approximately 6.5 of the 7.3 mile race.  Should I be upset?  Maybe.  Should I be mad at myself?  Perhaps.  But… I’m not upset.  I’m not mad.  It’s not a loss to me.  I ran 46 seconds faster than last year on the exact same course in similar weather conditions.

I didn’t finish as the 2nd overall female because I ran slower than last year.  My solitary goal going into the race was to improve my 01:06:36 finish from last year.  Any other accomplishments throughout the race would just be an added bonus.  I ran 01:05:50, finishing 16th overall out of a field of 110 (last year I was 44th out of 165).  If that’s not something to be happy about then I don’t know what is.

What I’m trying to say is that not all “losses” are actually a loss.  The woman that finished the last 3/4 of a mile faster than me might think I didn’t pace myself throughout the race or that I’m just “a young girl still learning how to finish a race in its entirety”.  Truth is, that’s not me.

I knew what I was doing throughout that entire race:

I ran the 1st mile in 7:33 because I knew that any time I could gain on the downhill/flat section would be time pocketed for the gruesome climbs to come.

I didn’t power hike the climbs because I knew that the faster I could keep stepping forward, the sooner I would get to the next downhill.

I passed the men in front of me confidently and without hesitation because I was racing against them too.

I didn’t hesitate at the stream crossing because I knew that a moment of hesitation wasn’t going to resolve the issue of crossing the stream without getting my feet wet.

I didn’t flinch bombing down the rockiest downhill of the course because I’ve ran down that hill hundreds of times; I knew the best lines to take.

I didn’t try to navigate carefully around the muddy sections because I knew the quickest line was straight through them.

I ran the fielded, non-technical sections of the course with all the energy I had left because I knew there wasn’t much further to go.

I finished 46 seconds faster than last year because of all of these decisions, all of these moments, all of these intrinsic race instincts.

Races are just like life:  if you try your hardest every single day to accomplish your goals, you will achieve success.  Nobody can take away your successes.  Nobody can diminish your accomplishments because their accomplishments seem “bigger” or “better”.

If you take initiative, if you take your goals into your own hands, if you make decisions to better yourself, than you are on your way to your own personal win – and sometimes that can be the best way to lose.

2017 in review

2017 in review

2017 is coming to a close and I’m sitting here trying to figure out how this year went by so fast, how I even survived this year to begin with, and how much I am looking forward to 2018.  2017 has been a year of many things: tumultuous changes, traveling, great trail racing, new ambitions, and faith in God’s plan.  There’s been a lot of good in 2017 and a lot of what-is-going-on bad.  2017 started off decent, went through a wild spiral from March until August, and finished….decent. I’ve cried a lot this year and I’ve been stressed a lot this year, but through it all I’ve grown a lot as a person this year.  Let’s review.

Josh & I started 2017 off with a run at Alapocas State Park.  It was a pleasant day and I remember seeing some people rock climbing.

I became a proud 2017 Altra Ambassador and I’ve done everything I can to promote the perfection of the zero drop and wide toe box that Altra’s offer.

It snowed a decent amount at the beginning of January so Gwin and I did a lot of off-leash snow running together.  She loves the snow and I love seeing her leap through the snow so excited!

We hosted a surprise 50th birthday party for my mom in January (her birthday is in April).  Family & friends brought over balloons that reminded her she was turning 50 soon.

I started training for the Hyner 25k on January 22nd.  I needed to do a lot of hill repeats to prepare so Josh and I did nighttime repeats at Brandywine (our go-to place for elevation).  One night in the beginning of February the weather gods gifted us with shorts weather which made hill repeats slightly more enjoyable.

My brother left for Air Force Basic Training (BMT) the day before Valentine’s Day.  We went out to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory then we went to PetSmart so he could buy an I’m-leaving-you gift for Gwin.  He shipped out to San Antonio, Texas on February 14th.

I won a $25 gift certificate to Starbucks (note: I hate Starbucks) by reaching the most elevation logged on a treadmill within a 5 minute time period (note: I hate treadmills).

I began hating my job more and more.  I was working 4:45 AM shifts which was destroying my social life, causing me excessive anxiety & stress, and making me a miserable person.

On February 27th, Angela & I set out on a 3-day road trip from NJ to Colorado.  We vowed to run one mile in every state we drove through.  We ran 1 mile in my hometown in NJ.  We parked behind a McDonald’s and ran 1 mile in Milesburg, Pennsylvania along a farm road.  We stopped at a rest stop in Middleburg, Ohio and ran 1 mile around the rest stop.  We nearly missed our chance to run in Indiana so we made an impromptu stop at Indiana University Northwest.  In Marseilles, Illinois we parked at a gas station and ran 1 mile through a farmer’s field and on a road where people had strange address numbers.  We parked at a church and ran 1 mile on a dirt road in Earlham, Iowa.  Did you know that Iowa is known as the state with “fields of opportunities“?  We ran 1 mile at sunrise in North Platte, Nebraska before we left the La Quinta we stayed at.  My first ever Colorado run was in Frisco, Colorado which officially completed our goal of running at least one mile in every state we drove in.  Take a moment to watch my GoPro documentary of the entire road trip here!

17016060_10209002990897481_271296056240329056_o
Frisco, CO – 9,097″

What did I learn from this roadtrip?  One: switching between 3 time zones within a three day time span is very confusing.  Two: the route from New Jersey to Colorado involves an EXCESSIVE amount of fields.  The landscape doesn’t change too much once you leave the mountainous part of Pennsylvania.  The mountains of Colorado were the best sight in the world after 2.5 days of fields (plus their natural beauty of course).  Three: our country is HUGE!  There’s so much to see, so much to explore, so much to experience!  Four: Colorado is BEAUTIFUL!  I loved Frisco, I loved passing through mountain towns, and I loved Angela’s hometown (even the sloppy mess of the Colorow Trail).

I loved Colorado so much that Colorado didn’t want me to leave.  I was about 15 minutes away from missing my flight from Denver to Philly thanks to a worrisome cop and Denver rush hour.  This was the first of several stressful travel experiences of 2017.  I sat on the plane facing the mountainous landscape (I was at a window seat).  I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to return to my stressful, crappy job.  I yearned to stay in the serenity of the mountains.  Ever since that plane took off, I’ve wanted to go back.  In 2018, I will.

I transitioned from the Altra Torins to the Altra Escalantes.  I felt like I was flying in my new purple Escalantes!

At the beginning of March, I started training my first at-home personal training client.

My first race of 2017 was the Xterra Brandywine 12k.  It was 23 degrees at the start of the race and I was feeling sick to my stomach.  I finished as the 2nd overall female.  Josh wrapped me in a blanket and I was walking around as if I was a brittle icicle.  It was so cold that their computers malfunctioned so they couldn’t give out awards.  They promised to mail us our awards.  I went home and slept for a few hours underneath blankets.  They mailed me my award a few weeks later.

I wrote a lot of snail mail to Angela, my brother at BMT, and other airmen who were also at BMT with him.

On the 1st day of spring, Josh & I got free water ice from Rita’s Water Ice.

Josh made me a homemade heart-shaped cookie cake on my birthday.  It was delicious!

I turned 23.  Yay.

I experienced some serious mountain withdrawal.

On April 5th, my family and I travelled to San Antonio, Texas for Michael’s BMT graduation.  It would be the first time we would get to see him since February 13th.  Our flight arrived late to Dallas so we missed our connecting flight.  Round two of 2017 travel stress began.  The airline offered us tickets on another flight but when the plane arrived, there was no pilot scheduled to fly the plane.  We were stuck in Dallas for a few hours at 11 PM.  After a 45 minute flight from Dallas to San Antonio (note: the flight was shorter than the time we spent waiting for a pilot to arrive…), we arrived to our destination city around 1 or 2 AM.  We struggled to figure out how to get our rental car because all the rental car companies were closed.  We finally arrived to our hotel just in time to get 3 hours of sleep.

On April 6th, I started the morning by eating a waffle shaped like Texas at 5 o’clock in the morning. By 6 AM, I stepped foot onto Lackland AFB (the 1st AFB I’ve ever been on).  We attended the Airman’s Run and Airman’s Coin Ceremony – both of which were probably the most “I’m proud to be an American” moments I’ve ever witnessed.  Michael got base liberty so we got to explore the base and see where he’s been living for 7.5 weeks.

17835035_10209353108490202_3997332063762378626_o
Lackland AFB

On April 7th,  Michael graduated from BMT.  We celebrated with town pass by visiting the Alamo, the Tower of the Americas, and attending a San Antonio Rampage AHL hockey game.  I can officially say I’ve been to a hockey game in Texas now.  I had pizza for dinner the 3rd night in a row.

On April 8th, I ran 3.5 miles in San Antonio with my dad.  The part of San Antonio we ran through was sketchy.  We also saw a few chihuahuas running along the road.  I cannot make these things up.  That day we went to USO to play games and eat lunch.  We also explored River Walk some more.  We went to Dave & Buster’s.  For food, if you’re ever in San Antonio, River Walk is THEE place to visit for food.  There is a lot of variety and authentic food for every desire!  I was determined to eat guacamole while I was in Texas and I finally got some at dinner!

We left to return to NJ on April 9th after our goodbyes.  Highways in Texas are confusing so we got lost driving to return our rental car.  We had a connecting flight home but we didn’t miss our connecting flight this time.  I returned home happy for my brother and determined to do something better with my future.  Seeing all the airmen dedicated to our country made me realize that I need to do something good for the world too.  I needed to do something good for me.

My job continued to cause me an immeasurable amount of stress, anxiety, and misery.  My boss wasn’t listening to my concerns and my stress was causing me sleep disturbances and problematic fatigue.  I yearned for change but felt stuck.

18118415_10209508151806188_4975750833162094288_n
the finish of Hyner 25k

After 3 months of hard training, Hyner 25k arrived.  Josh and I drove my brother’s truck to the mountains because we trusted the reliability of his truck.  We slept in a tent at the base of Humble Hill just like we did in 2016.  I finished the 25k in 3:54:16.  All race details can be found here.

After Hyner, I went through a running hiatus.  My legs were exhausted and my motivation to train was low.  I was feeling physically tired and mentally exhausted.

I started riding my bike more which took the pounding off of my legs while still maintaining my cardio.

I explored many new places with Jess (Josh’s twin) including Menantico Ponds and parts of the Pine Barrens.

I started mountain biking again.

I began trusting the advice of my closest friends and family members who did everything in their power to look out for my well-being when all I could see was a tunnel of misery.

So…..I decided I wanted to become an occupational therapist.

I officially resigned from my job.  Despite my worries about unemployment, my stress levels decreased significantly.  I was focused on my goals of applying for and eventually attending grad school to become an occupational therapist.  I was ready to leave behind what mental health effects that job caused me.  I was ready to set forth on my new ambitions.

I started training three new clients bringing my client count up to four!

I attended my first ever wine festival with Josh and tasted about 50+ different wines.

I started volunteer coaching at youth track again.  I also volunteered with NJ NICA at several NICA races as a course marshall.

My dogs became more and more adorable when they slept.

I became obsessed with watching the sunset along the river.

Josh & I built a garden.  I bought us soil and the guy gave us “special dirt” claiming it was the best dirt around.   We grew tomatoes, green bell peppers, long hots, jalapeños, and cucumbers.  Our summer salads were fresh and delicious!

I started my observation hours for grad school applications.  I observed 6-7 different OTs in multiple settings.  Each OT left a lasting impression on me and made me realize that my ambition to become an OT was the right choice for me.

I learned how to change a flat tire on a bicycle.

On June 11th, Josh & I completed our first ever mountain bike race (Ramsey’s Revenge) at Brandywine.  I did not finish last like I had anticipated.  This would be my first of three mountain bike races in 2017.

I completed my 2nd ever mountain bike race 6 days after Ramsey’s Revenge.  I got frustrated at a 65 year old man for causing me to fall.  I watched my mom complete her first ever mountain bike race.

Sneakers & Spokes hosted a vintage bike ride/throwback run to the local ice cream stand.  I wore my cross country shorts from 2012 and a sweatband.

I downloaded Strava and claimed some QOM’s.

Screenshot_20170705-205756.png
flying at the Pitman 4 Miler

I ran the Pitman 4 Miler.  I did not PR, but I wasn’t actually trying to PR.  I forget my time.  I remember that I enjoyed it because I didn’t go out too fast for the first mile.  I also wore my Altra Escalantes.

I missed Colorado and I missed Angela a lot.

On July 8th, I started training for my 3rd and final race of 2017 – Green Monster 50k.

Josh & I attended my friend’s wedding in Mifflinburg, PA.  This was 2017’s travel stress moment #3.  Let’s just say this… it was a really long drive to Mifflinburg.  We camped in our tent after the wedding.  The next day we stopped in Duncannon on our way home to hike on the AT.  It was refreshing to stand on a vista again.

I began helping out at Sneakers & Spokes more frequently.

Wanting less stack height, I made the transition from Altra Lone Peaks to Altra Superiors.  I began to love having more ground feel in the Superiors.  The Superiors are now my go-to trail running shoe.

Josh & I attended our first concert together – Philip Philips & The Goo Goo Dolls!  It was a perfect summer night with great music and good company (as always!)

About one week later, my mom & I went to a John Mayer concert.  We made it into the venue with minutes to spare before a huge summer storm rolled through.  I’ve lost count but I believe this was the 6th time I saw John Mayer.  He performed fantastically!

I completed my 3rd and final mountain bike race of 2017 at Fair Hills.  I didn’t come in last place but a lot of young kids passed me.  I have no shame and I’m proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone to even try mountain bike racing this year!

I attempted to train for my 50k with hiking poles.  This lasted about three long runs but eventually I opted to leave them behind so that I could fuel properly and depend on my legs for power.

I completed and submitted my grad school applications.  Application stress was over but now acceptance stress loomed over my head.

The country went crazy about the eclipse.  I wore homemade eclipse glasses that my dad made so I could also stare at the sun.

My family & Josh & I biked on the Michael Castle Trail on a lovely late-August day.  Then we ate at Grain H2O.  Yum!

I got a job as an assistant cross country coach at the community college I once ran for.  It’s weird how things came full circle.

I finalized a name & logo for my health coaching/running coach services.  I called it Better Strides Fitness and officially made the logo.  I created an Instagram, Facebook page, and Twitter for Better Strides Fitness too!

I was a participant in a 9/11 memorial run.   That was another patriotic moment of 2017.

I got stung by a bee on the back of my ankle during a long run with the women’s cross country team.  It itched for days!

Family visited us from California.  We talked about the Philadelphia Eagles a lot.  It was a pleasant morning.

I continued to crave returning to the mountains.

21743577_10210698972735967_5454142032683498224_o.jpg
Oktoberfest in Delaware

Josh & I attended Oktoberfest for the 2nd year in a row.

I worried a lot about getting accepted to grad school.

2017 travel stress moment #4:  driving to Wellsboro, PA for my 50k race.  Josh & I didn’t leave for Wellsboro until about 4:30 PM. It was a 5 hour drive to our campsite at Leonard Harrison State Park.  Once off the highway, we had to start driving on winding, pitch dark, mountainous roads.  It was terrifying, but we made it.

I sprinted down a mountain and ended up finishing Green Monster 50k in 7:58.  I achieved my goal of running under 8 hours.  I finished in the top 10 female finishers.  Three months of training were once again successful.  Check out the race recap here!

The night after my race we slept in our tent while a tropical storm passed over the mountain.  The next morning we stood at the top of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and took a picture in the rain.

22291497_10210866842732612_8359456544808456133_o (1)
PA Grand Canyon

Josh & I dressed up as lumberjacks and won a Halloween costume contest.  This was our 1st costume contest we ever entered together.  We won a gift certificate to a local pizza shop.

I started working with two new health coaching clients – one of which is now 82 years old!  I realized how much I love helping others work towards their goals.  Helping others is my true passion in life and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

I got more and more excited about watching the Philadelphia Eagles games with Josh & I even learned the chant!  Fly, Eagles, Fly!

After districts in Rhode Island, the women’s cross country team won Regionals in Delaware.  I was a proud coach!

I got accepted to one of the grad schools I applied to.  A weight was lifted off my shoulders.  I am still waiting to hear back from two more schools (one of which is my first choice) but I am relieved and EXCITED knowing that I have the opportunity to begin my education to become an OT.

Gwin got bit by a dog on a 1.5 mile run we went on together.  This was an extremely stressful afternoon for me because I felt guilty she got bit.  We took her to the vet who assured us she would be ok.  Gwin wasn’t allowed to run with me for 1-2 weeks which made me sad.  I carry my pepper spray with me on every run we go on together now.

The cross country team traveled to Massachusetts for Nationals.  We played Cards Against Humanity for hours and came home with two new NJCAA All-Americans.  My first season as a cross country season had come to an end and I was proud of how the team had improved over the course of the season.  The season was nothing like I expected it to be but also everything that I knew I signed up to experience – the highs, the lows, and everything in between!

I got a new job working retail.  I HATE working retail but I needed a source of income to start saving up for grad school.  I remind myself daily that this job is temporary.  I remind myself daily that this is a necessary step in reaching my goal of becoming an OT.  Retail is not ideal.  Retail is not what I went to school for.  Retail is not somewhere I want to stay for longer than I need to.  This job is temporary aid in my ambition to achieve a bigger goal, a more meaningful future, & a lifelong career.

I celebrated my four year anniversary of vegetarianism.

I worked with Sparkly Soul at the Philadelphia Marathon Weekend expo.  It was a fun (and exhausting) two days but I came home with a Thanksgiving Sparkly Soul and Christmas Sparkly Soul so I was excited!

All of my clients ran PRs at their races and accomplished their goals.  I was once again a very proud coach!

I worked Thanksgiving night and I was very miserable.

My family hosted the annual Thanksgiving weekend nighttime trail run.

Josh & I built a snowman.  We had a perfect snow weekend that included homemade crockpot vegetarian chili, hot chocolate from the local coffee/donut shop, a snow run, a late night walk around town to look at Christmas lights, and a Christmas movie!

Two of my clients gifted Josh & I tickets to a Flyers game in club box seats.  I’ve never sat in club box seats before and I felt like I was being spoiled!  I had the biggest slice of pizza I’ve ever consumed in my life and the most expensive glass of overpriced wine.  Regardless, between the luxury of the club box and the Flyers winning the game, it was a perfect date night for Josh and I!

Angela came back to NJ!  We went for a 2 mile run to celebrate our reunion!  It was FANTASTIC!

On Christmas Eve, I went for a run with Gwin down our local trail.  I attached two bells to her collar so she sounded festive running down the trail.  I wore a Santa hat.  We would’ve easily won an award for being most festive on the trail if there had been a contest.

Holiday festivities were fun!  I was grateful, happy, and amazed of how much love there is in my life.

I began feeling excited for what 2018 has in store for me, for my family, and for my friends.  There’s a lot to look forward to!

Running Stats of 2017:

  • Total Miles:  1,505.0 miles
  • Highest monthly mileage: September (189.2 miles)
  • Three trail races – Brandywine 12k, Hyner 25k, Green Monster 50k
  • One road race – Pitman 4 Miler
  • Shoes worn:  Altra Torins, Altra Escalantes, Altra Lone Peaks, Altra Superiors
  • States I ran in (13 total) – New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas, Rhode Island, Massachusetts

Biking Stats of 2017:

  • Total Miles:  1,103.4 miles
  • Highest monthly mileage: June (262 miles)
  • June, July, August – three consecutive months with 200+ miles
  • Total Road Bike Miles: 767.1 miles
  • Total Mountain Bike Miles:  336.3 miles
  • 3 races – Ramsey’s Revenge, The Challenger, Big Elk

After proofreading this blog post, I’ve come to realize that it lacks flow; however, this year hasn’t flowed smoothly either.  It’s been a challenging year for many reasons.  Both good and bad changes have tested me.  Running has tested me.  My body has felt exhilaration, exhaustion, and adrenaline throughout the year.  I’ve found enjoyment out of cycling and seeking new QOMs.  I’ve established a new goal for my future that will surely challenge me in new ways in 2018.

I’ve become a more resilient woman who learned how to stick up for herself.  I’ve become a more determined individual who is focused on goals for a better future.  I’ve become a more experienced trail runner who learned to push beyond comfort zones, to believe in herself, to race towards any finish line with a determined heart.

This 3700 word blog post doesn’t justify all the memories, experiences, and moments of the year but it does put it into words to reflect on in later years.

2017, it’s been a year.

2018, I’m ready.

22449516_10210871685813686_310653901_o

Race Recap: Green Monster Trail Challenge 50k

Race Recap: Green Monster Trail Challenge 50k

This past weekend was the Green Monster Trail Challenge 50k/25k/15k.  As my previous blog posts have summarized, I had signed up for the 50k.  Training went as well as it could have leading up to October 8th and I felt decently prepared to tackle the mountainous course despite being one of three people from New Jersey signed up for the race.  Pennsylvanians had an obvious advantage if they lived and trained in the mountains, but I knew what I was signing up for going into the race and I willingly accepted the challenge.  After all, I know I’m a mountain girl at heart.

Saturday – the day before the race

Because Wellsboro, PA was 4.5 hours from southern New Jersey, Josh & I planned to camp at Leonard Harrison State Park for the weekend.  I coached a cross country meet at Desales University Saturday morning/early afternoon, drove home, packed up my car, and then drove to Josh’s to pack up his Jeep.  We didn’t leave New Jersey until about 4:45 PM because of this hectic day.  This was not ideal by any means, but it was what it was.

Our ETA was 9:30 PM.  I knew I was in for a late pre-race night and navigating the twisty-turny roads of Wellsboro, PA in the dark made us both uneasy.  After a few wrong turns, we made it safely to the campground.  We set up our tent and canopy tent knowing that the weather forecast was predicting overnight rain.  I was asleep on our air mattress by 10:45 PM with the alarm set for 5:00 AM.

Sunday – Race Morning

After a restless night sleep that felt like only three hours, the alarm sounded.  Rain drops were hitting our rain fly and I exhaled numerous sighs of frustration.  A rainy 50k would make for an extremely long day in the woods.  I forced down a bagel with peanut butter and banana on it.  We left for the race at 6:00 AM.  The starting area was a 20 minute drive away and once again we found ourselves sketchily driving down dark, windy mountain roads – some of which were dirt.

We arrived to the USGS parking lot by 6:25 AM.  Josh and I walked the 1/4 mile to the check-in tent with our headlights on.  The rain had stopped but I kept my rain jacket on.  I picked up my race bib, swag bag, and directions to aid stations for Josh.  I also dropped off my drop bag in the designated spot.  Having the option of a drop bag is always very welcomed and I appreciated the idea of having additional fuel available to me at the aid station of mile 20.5 – thank you Tioga Running Company (TRC)!

By the time we walked back to the Jeep, daylight was starting to peek past the surrounding mountains.  I waited in line to use a port-a-potty (yuck!), then shed some of my layers.  The humidity of the day lingered so I opted for a tank top and spandex shorts.  I kept arm sleeves in my Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta just in case temperatures dropped on top of some of the mountains.  All previous racers I had spoke to about the race had told me that historically the race always started in freezing temperatures.  2017 was the exception as the majority of the racers opted for shorts and short sleeves.

The race director conducted a pre-race briefing around 7:15 which was followed by the national anthem.  My stomach was in knots.  I was beyond nervous about what the day had in store for me and I felt nauseous.  Josh tried calming me down and told me to run smart.  I mentally stored his advice in my head as I approached the starting area.

Sunday – the important race recap stuff

For the remainder of the race recap, I am going to break down the race through aid station to aid station recaps.  Instead of running the race as a 50k race, throughout the day I broke the race into 8 parts (there were 8 aid stations).  This made the 50k distance seem less daunting.  This allowed me to focus on one small goal at a time rather than one huge goal.  The farthest stretch between aid stations was 5 miles so with my mental strategy, the farthest “race” I would be running would only be 5 miles.  Be warned, this strategy might not work for everyone, but on race day, this was the best strategy I think I could have ever adopted.

Start to Aid Station #1 (Canada Run) – miles 0.0-5.0

By 7:25, all of us racers lined up at the starting line.  After a countdown, we were sent off to the trails.  I started the race conservatively and a lot of people were ahead of me.  But I wasn’t too concerned.  I didn’t let my adrenaline get the best of me.  The first 1/2 – 3/4 mile or so was on a wide dirt road.  Eventually we made a slight left at a trail head.  Here stood a man in a T-rex costume cheering us on.  I thought this was peculiar but I enjoyed the humor of the situation so early in the morning.

As the racers ducked into the single track, the trail wasn’t too technical but I needed to stay alert.  Everybody at this point in the race was still pretty close together so keeping an appropriate distance from the racer in front of me was necessary to plan my footing.

After some nice, flowy single track, we began our first climb.  I believe this climb started out gradual.  I was brought down to a power-hiking pace and made a few moves around racers that were hiking a bit too slow for my desire.  I politely scooted around them and continued the ascent.  The climb felt like it was at least 2 miles long.  If I recall correctly, I believe it got steeper as the climb continued.  My calf muscles and my lungs burned but with every step, I knew I was getting myself closer to the top.

The race course was designed to have climbs followed immediately by descents.  Once I reached the top of the first climb, I was rewarded with an enjoyable, flowy downhill.  I was cautious on the downhill as my glasses were fogged over from the ungodly humidity of the morning.  I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to see all that well and I felt like it was going to be a long, long day if I was running half blind the entire race.

We reached aid station #1 at the bottom of the descent.  I chugged a half cup of Gatorade then continued on my way to the next trail head.  Three miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #1 (Canada Run) to Aid Station #2 (Baldwin Run) – miles 5.0-8.0

We were immediately gifted with another long uphill.  This uphill hurt worse.  It was steep, it was long and I felt like it was never going to end.  Honestly, I don’t remember too much from this ascent.  The downhill was a relief but my glasses were still fogged over so I was still running cautious (the struggle was real!).

I belief we ascended and descended a second climb during this stretch.  I remember feeling like I had just ascended two of Hyner’s SOBs that were actually longer in length.  Little did I know that the SOB-like climbs would continue.

During one of these climbs the man up ahead of me warned me that the trail was steep simultaneously as shale tumbled down towards me.  Steep?!  Yeah, I could tell.  I was reaching for rocks that were intact to the trail just to give myself a little extra stability.  I reached for a few trees that lined the trail just to pull myself up.  I was using both my feet and my hands to keep myself from sliding down.  One…step…at a time.

My legs were burning up these climbs but I kept telling myself that every step forward was a step in the right direction.

The field of runners was more spread out at this point as the three climbs had separated a lot of people.  After power-hiking at the top of the ascent to recover my legs and lungs, I happily started running with one or two runners who were keeping a steady pace.

At the Baldwin Run aid station, I picked up another cup of Gatorade and drank the whole thing.  I wasn’t ready for food/snacks yet but the aid station was fully stocked.  Three miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #2 (Baldwin Run) to Aid Station #3 (Stone Road) – miles 8.0-11.0

The runners I had been running with departed the aid station at the same time as me so I knew I would be running with people for hopefully another three miles to the next aid station.

We reached yet another climb that was steep.  I peeked upwards a few times just to see that a few racers up ahead of me were still climbing.  So…many…steep…ascents.  Once we finally got to the top, I power-hiked to recover.  I ran for about 400 feet than started power-hiking again.  The woman behind me stayed in step with my tactic of run-hiking.  After a relatively “flat” section of the course, we were rewarded with aid station #3!

22281924_10210859858678015_2635698085745054548_nSpectators lined this aid station as it was one of the first aid stations that were safely accessible by car.  I spotted Josh immediately.  Everyone was cheering and their energy was contagious.  Josh ran stride by stride with me to the aid station tent.  He asked me how things were going and I told him “I feel like I just climbed up SOB three times in a row”.  He offered some words of encouragement.  I grabbed another cup of Gatorade and then continued on my way.  Two and a half miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #3 (Stone Road) to Aid Station #4 (Broad Ridge)- miles 11.0-13.5

This was the shortest stretch between aid stations and it flew by!  The two runners I had the pleasure of running with stayed comfortably behind me throughout most of this stretch.  The man politely complimented me and my fellow trail chick on picking good lines to run down the technical trail.  I appreciated this uplifting compliment!

Before I knew it we were approaching the next aid station.  I heard this aid station way off in the distance as a local girl scout troop’s cheering echoed throughout the woods.  Their energy was perfect for this point in the race.

I wanted to fill up my pack with more water because I knew I was drinking a lot.  The humidity and heat required a lot of extra hydration.  I filled up the bladder at the water cooler and grabbed a Fig Newton.  That Fig Newton hit the spot!  Josh told me it was all down hill from here….ha!  Funny joke, Josh!

I spent a little more time than my fellow running buddies did at this aid station so I ended up departing back onto the trail alone.  Four miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #4 (Broad Ridge) to Aid Station #5 (Apple Orchard) – miles 13.5-17.5

Although I could see my running buddies up ahead, they weren’t within distance of me catching them.

After about 1/4 mile away from the aid station, we hit Frankenstein’s Forehead…..the infamous Frankenstein’s Forehead.  According to my Garmin upload to Strava, Frankenstein’s Forehead is a 0.2 mile descent at -31.6% grade.  Although I didn’t have these statistics during the race, it was obvious that this was a steep descent.  The trail was made up of mostly loose shale which made it interesting.  I managed to only slightly slip once (thank you, Altra Superiors for your extra grippy lugs!!)

I am not that fast at descents so my previous running buddies continued to gap me.  I was cautious going down Frankenstein’s Forehead.  It probably would have been quicker to slide down on my butt, but I wasn’t in the mood to have dirt and rocks plastered to my spandex for the rest of the day.

The trail reached another climb.  There was nobody within eyesight ahead of me or behind me.  I was all alone simply moving forward from pink ribbon to pink ribbon.  I began to talk aloud to myself at this point.  First, during the climb, I created a song about going uphill and how with every step I took up the hill I wouldn’t have to take that step again during the race.  Then, when the climb became more gradual but still required a power-hike, I made a song up about the yellow leaves on the trees.  It sounds crazy, but the songs distracted me from the soreness of my muscles.

Finally at the top of the climb, the trail exited the woods into a pipeline opening on the mountain.  I spotted another racer trekking up the mountain and called out to him saying “are you in the 50k?!”.  He said yes and asked me where I came from.  I proceeded to point to the opening in the woods.  He seemed to be following the pink survey flags up the mountain which I knew was wrong.  He continued to explain to me that he was in 3rd place overall and that nobody had passed him all day.  My gaze drifted to the woods on the other side of the open pipeline field where I spotted pink ribbons and a yellow blazed tree.  During the pre-race briefing, the race director had told us to follow the yellow blazed trees when in doubt of the course direction so I proceeded to the woods and justified my decision to the apparent 3rd place racer.   He agreed that this was probably the right direction and he sped off down the trail.

Paranoia started pacing through my head.  What if I had somehow gotten off course, missed the next aid station in which Josh was probably waiting for me, and then somehow gotten back onto course to the point where I was now near the 3rd place guy?  I feared I had somehow cut the course.  There was still nobody within eye sight ahead of me or behind me (with the exception of the “3rd place guy” who had just sped down the trail).  Every possible horrible situation was going through my head.  Was I the lost one?  Was I going the wrong way?  Why was I so close to the guy in 3rd place all of a sudden?

As paranoid thoughts continued to race through my head, I heard a loud “F@#!”.  Uh oh.  Before I could process what might have happened, the guy comes storming back up the trail yelling “I already went this way and now I’m lost and I need to find my way back to where I need to be”…….oh shoot.  All I knew is that I was going to continue on my way following the pink ribbons and the yellow blazed trees.  I hoped and prayed that I would catch up to someone in front of me soon so that I could figure out if I was still on the right part of the course.

After about another 1-1.5 miles, I finally spotted someone ahead of me power hiking.  I kindly asked him what his mileage was and he said about 16.5 miles.  THANK GOODNESS!  This matched the mileage on my watch and a huge feeling of relief overtook me.  I explained to the runner that I had come across a guy that was lost who was apparently in third.  I thanked him for easing my paranoia and continued on my way.

After about another mile, I reached the next aid station.  Although this aid station was supposed to be unmanned, a volunteer was there with water, Gatorade and a few snacks.  I grabbed another cup of Gatorade.  The woman who I had been running with back through the last two aid stations was stretching out her calf muscles.  I continued back onto the trail.  Three miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #5 (Apple Orchard) to Aid Station #6 (Hessel Gessel) – miles 17.5-20.5

I continued to run this section of the course alone.  It wasn’t nearly as hilly as the first half of the race and my legs felt relieved.  I knew that my drop bag would be waiting at the next aid station.  I also knew that Josh would be at this aid station along with several other spectators.

During the ascent in this section I attempted to eat part of my peanut butter and raisin wrap that had been effective in my previous 50k in 2016.  I took about four bites but I couldn’t quite stomach the rest.  It was too dry and it was taking me forever to chew.  I concluded that my race would be fueled off of Shot Bloks.

This section of the course wasn’t overly technical.  I was still focused on staying alert to keep my footing precise and efficient.  Towards the end of this three mile stretch, we were rewarded with a wide open fire road type area that was grassy.  This lead us right into the Hessel Gessel aid station.

22310643_10210859859438034_3305799624498574142_nI spotted Josh and he was taking pictures/video.  I was relieved to have reached this point.  It felt like the psychological half way point because I could re-stash my pack with fuel.  This aid station was manned with local cross country runners.  I added some more water to my hydration bladder.  Josh handed me another sleeve of Shot Bloks and I picked up two more Fig Newtons (thank goodness for Fig Newtons!) from the aid station.  I meandered back into the woods after receiving some more words of encouragement from Josh.  Five miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #6 (Hessel Gessel) to Aid Station #7 (Frying Pan)- miles 20.5-25.5

Immediately after leaving the aid station, I started off this stretch of the course with 3-4 men.  We navigated down about five huge boulders.  I settled in behind a man wearing Altra Timps and proceeded to have a conversation with him about the Timps.  After 50 feet later, the group of men and I realized we had just ran in a circle as we had returned back to the boulders.  We had made a right at the bottom of the boulders instead of a left.  I discovered this mistake, navigated back down the huge boulders for the second time within 3 minutes and made a left to follow the pink ribbons.  Oops.

The group of men followed me down the trail back to another wide dirt road.  We crossed the road onto another single track trailhead.  I let them go ahead of me knowing that if it was a descent that I would be slower than them.  We settled back into a nice pace.  I heard Josh drive by on the dirt road ahead honking his horn and cheering for me – it made me smile.

Eventually we reached another climb and I politely scooted by the group of men as they were power-hiking slower than my normal power-hiking speed.  I continued to power through the gradual uphill.

All the previous race recaps I read of the Green Monster 50k stated that the 2nd half of the course is more runnable than the 1st half.  I can affirm that this is the truth.  I did A LOT of running throughout mile 17 to the finish.  I still conserved energy by power-hiking the climbs but there were a lot of runnable, non-technical sections of this part of the course.  It was a relief!

This section of the course navigated through some muddy sections – probably from the rain from the previous night mixed with all the runners who had already came down the trail that day.  It was sloppy and my shoes were covered in mud but I continued moving in the forward direction.

The trail wandered through 3-4 stream crossings before the next road crossing.  I originally planned to keep my feet dry but there was no safe way to cross via rocks so I decided to splash through the streams instead.  It was more fun to do that anyway!

Josh met me at this aid station too and told me that I only had two more big climbs to go.  Uuuuggggggh, two more climbs?!!? My legs were shot at this point.  I crossed another wide but shallow creek and started on my second to last climb.  Three miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #7 (Frying Pan) to final aid station #8 (Scotch Pine) – miles 25.5-28.5

I ascended the second to last climb.  My legs were exhausted.  It felt like it went on for at least 2 miles.  Up, up, up.  Eventually when I got to the top, I was rewarded with a lovely downhill which I took full advantage of.

This section of the course was simple:  go up the mountain, come back down the mountain.  I don’t remember too much about this section.  I just remember that the final 400-500 feet of this section was on a ridge of single track trail.  I could see the aid station down below but I had to follow the trail to get there.  I crossed another wide, shallow creek and Josh asked me how I felt.

My response was short and simple:  “I feel like I have 54 minutes to run the last 3.75 miles to the finish.”

My goal going into the race was 1) to finish and 2) to finish between 7 and 8 hours.  I knew I was going to be extremely close to the 8 hour mark.  I had 54 minutes to ascend another long climb, descend the mountain, and run the 1/2 mile of flat road to the finish.

22310128_10210859858878020_9133001567192680943_nI think I spent a total of 45 seconds at that last aid station.  I chugged one final cup of Gatorade and started up, once again, another climb.  3.75 miles until the finish line.

Final aid station #8 (Scotch Pine) to the finish line – miles 28.5-32.2ish

I left the aid station saying to Josh, “I need to book it”.  I needed to book it all the way up this final climb.  Then I needed to book it all the way back down to the finish.  54 minutes.

I power-hiked for at least one mile up the final climb.  I felt like I was a woman on a mission.  Actually, I know I was a woman on a mission.  Even when the trail continued upwards, I got to a point where it was a runnable uphill.  I wasn’t moving fast but I was moving faster than I would have been power-hiking it.

I passed the man that had been lost way back at mile 15 as he was power-hiking.  I kept pushing myself to keep up a “brisk” pace up this final climb.  I was slightly panick-y knowing that I was going to be extremely close to that 8 hour mark.

I finally made it the top of the final climb and I expended all of my remaining energy on that final descent down the mountain.  I was hyper-focused on making it safely down the mountain in a fast and efficient manner.  I made sure I was putting my feet in the right places to avoid any unneeded ankle twisting.  I kept my eyes peeled for pink ribbons.  Now was not the time to get off course.  I have never ran so fast down a mountain ever before in my life.  Pure adrenaline is what made me forget how sore I was being 31 and 32 miles into the race.  I needed to keep running and I needed to keep running fast.

After what felt like 5 miles, I finally made it the end of the trail head.  The trail put me out onto the side yard of a Wellsboro resident.  As he sat on his porch, I quickly asked him where to go.  He told me to go down the road.

I made that final turn onto the road and I could see the finishing area.  I was running so fast down this road and I was terrified to look at my watch.  I hadn’t looked at my watch since leaving the final aid station because I was too fearful to see how much time I had remaining.

I was getting closer and closer to the finishing area and spectators were sporadically spread out along the dirt road cheering, clapping, and ringing cow bells. I finally got within eyesight of the finishing clock and I could read that it said 7:57.  I knew I was going to be under 8 hours and a huge smile came across my face.  I heard Josh cheering me on!  It was such a great feeling knowing I had accomplished my goal of finishing under 8 hours.

22308946_10210859860118051_2116784813890531647_nI officially crossed the line in 7:58:08.  I was handed a medal by a friendly race volunteer.  Josh walked over to me and offered me a congratulations.  All I could muster up was “I have never ran so fast down a mountain before ever in my life”.  I made it!

Sunday – Post-Race Happenings

Josh guided me over to a table and chairs underneath a pavilion.  He handed me a Gatorade and proceeded to exchange stories about our day.  We eventually walked back into the open area to sit in the warmth of the sunshine.  Josh had a beer from the local brewery that was offering beers.  I just wanted to sit and not move another muscle.

22279679_10210859858318006_5612210570519066878_nWhat. A. Day.

After slowing hobbling back to the Jeep, I changed out of my sweat-drenched clothes and soaked shoes.  I shared a few brownies with Josh.  I craved pizza so we researched local pizza places we could pick up a pizza from.  None of Wellsboro’s local pizza shops were open on a Sunday afternoon so we opted for a medium cheese Pizza Hut pizza.  We drove back to the campground and immediately opened the box of pizza.  I devoured four slices.  Yum!

I was asleep by 9:30 PM that night.  My legs were exhausted.  My body was tired.  I was ready for sleep, the sleep that I earned!

My Race Review:

Would I race this again?:  Maybe.  The 4.5 hour drive to the race makes for a long weekend of driving but the course is beautiful, the race atmosphere is perfect, the course is well-marked, and aid stations are fully stocked with ultra runner favorites.

How would you review Green Monster Trail Challenge as a challenge?:  Yes, the 50k is a challenge.  For those of you who have done Hyner, I warn you that Green Monster is by far a lot more technical.  The trails are rocky, rooty, and steep.  The course hits you with ascent-descent, ascent-descent, so there’s really not many flat sections of the course.  If you’re looking for a well-groomed race, do Hyner.  If you want more of a challenge in the technical area of ultra races, do Green Monster.

How would you review the post-race celebration?:  There’s free beer, free BBQ, and a table of snacks/drinks.  Although I am not a beer drinker and I’m a vegetarian, I thought the post-race celebration was perfect as it was low-key and relaxing after a long day in the mountains.  There were plenty of places to sit and enjoy the afternoon as other racers were finishing.

My Race Statistics:

Official Time:  7:58:08

10th overall female finisher

39th overall finisher of 79 (I’m a middle-of-the-pack kinda girl!)

1st place age group 20-29

Garmin distance:  32.4 miles

Average pace: 14:46/mile

Garmin elevation:  7,000 feet of gain/loss (advertised as 7800 feet, but at that point, what’s another +/- 800 feet?)

Mile split for mile 31:  9:50

Mile split for mile 32:  8:55

Total Steps:  72,175

Fuel:  8 shotbloks, 3 Fig Newtons, 8 small cups of Gatorade, and A LOT of water

Thank you, Josh, for supporting me through three months of training.  Thank you for being my chauffeur to and from the race.  Thank you for meeting me at so many aid stations when you knew I would only be there for a few minutes before disappearing back into the woods.  Thank you for buying me a pizza – my favorite post-long-run food.  Thank you for being the best supporter I could ever ask for.

And, Green Monster, thank you for a challenge.  Thank you for a wonderful day in the mountains, on these trails, and through the woods.  Thank you for forcing me to run down the mountain at sub-10 minute pace when I’ve already ran 30 miles.  Thank you for pushing me and making me a stronger runner.

For now I will rest and recover and relive the race through the stories I can tell and the lessons I can share.

What a race.

22449516_10210871685813686_310653901_o

Race Recap: Hyner View Trail Challenge 25k

Race Recap: Hyner View Trail Challenge 25k

Last year, I attended the Hyner View Trail Challenge merely as a guest to cheer on my dad and a bunch of friends as they raced through the mountains. However, exactly 9 days ago, I finished my first ever Hyner 25k.  I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face and a new sense of accomplishment for a race that one year ago I was terrified to sign up for.  This race boosted my confidence, gave me a new appreciation for the trail running community, and left me on a runner’s high for days after I had crossed the finish line.   Let me begin this recap the day before the race so all you readers can get the full digitalized Hyner experience.

Friday morning Josh and I prepared to leave for Hyner.  We loaded up my brother’s truck with our camping gear, food for the weekend, the basic necessities for personal hygiene, and layers of clothes.  (side note: we were driving my brother’s truck up to Hyner because Josh’s Jeep desperately needed a mechanic’s attention and my little ‘ol Rav 4 just can’t handle mountainous hills anymore)  We left Josh’s house a little after 10 AM, made a few stops on our way out of New Jersey (we checked to make sure my Altra Lone Peaks were packed in the truck three times before we left the roads of NJ), and before we knew it we were headed straight down the PA Turnpike towards the mountains.

After stopping at the Wawa before Route 80, we continued on our way towards Lock Haven.  Miles and miles later, we arrived in Lock Haven.  This would be the last town of cell phone reception for me (thanks, AT&T) but I wasn’t complaining because I was more than ready to be completely disconnected for the next 2.5 days.  After a scenic drive, we arrived at the airfield where we met up with our friend (Chad) who was already setting up his camp.  We pitched our tent, set out our camping chairs and prepared for a fun-filled weekend completely immersed in the trail running community.

We picked up our bibs and race packets, scoped out the “Run PA” gear, and returned to our camp.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the set-up of the temporary race weekend “campground”, let it be known, that these “campsites” are primitive.  There is no running water and no flushing toilets. Most of the men (and some of the women I suppose) opt to utilize the woods as their bathroom instead of wandering up to the “modernized” port-a-potties (*yuck!*).  Regardless of the toilet situation (or lack there of), I was perfectly content in my weekend getaway home.

Soon after picking up our race packets, we all took a 5 minute drive down the road to North Bend United Methodist Church that was hosting a spaghetti dinner for the racers and the community.  Last year we had visited this dinner and were pleasantly surprised by the large portion sizes (carbs!!) and dinner services.  This year was no different.  For a small monetary donation of your personal discretion, the three of us got full plates of spaghetti (with or without meatballs – thank you for appreciating us vegetarians!), side salads, bread, and dessert.  We consumed our carbs for the night and returned back to camp with full stomachs and pure focus for the race the next morning.

Shortly after we arrived back at camp, two more friends joined our camping area.  We socialized with some of our camping neighbors and talked about running (surprise, surprise, right?).  We decided to go to sleep a little after 9 o’clock but some of our other neighbors were still up enjoying the cool, crisp night.  I wasn’t bothered by the noise however, and soon I fell asleep.

I was woken the next morning around 6 AM by the sound of car doors slamming and people talking.  Although most of our camping neighbors and friends were sleeping, other racers were beginning to filter into the airfield to pick up their race bibs and packets.  Although, I was hesitant to leave my warm sleeping bag, I knew I needed to get up and start moving.

I ate my normal pre-race breakfast (peanut butter and banana on bread) and gathered my race gear.  Because Josh was driving the truck up to the top of Hyner View, I needed to make sure I had everything out of the truck that I needed for the race before he drove away.

The 50k racers started at 8 AM so Josh and I waited at the start of the bridge for our 50k friends to run by.  After they ran by, Josh and I returned to our camping area.  I double and triple checked that I had everything that I needed and then Josh drove away.  He needed to drive up to the top of Hyner View to cheer on our 50k friends at the top.

After he left, I used the oh-so-“clean” port-a-potties one last time.  As I was waiting in the very long line (apparently everyone wanted to see what the inside of the port-a-potties looked like…) I could see little silhouettes of the 50k racers up on the ridge on the mountain.  I tried to be excited that I would be trudging up there in less than an hour, but part of me was really nervous.  I knew what kind of pain I was going to be in climbing up Humble Hill – I had ran/hiked up it for “fun” last year in order to see my dad/friends at the top of Hyner View.  I knew Humble Hill was going to hurt – I just forgot how MUCH it was going to hurt.

I made my way over to the start line 10 minutes before race start.  I found a spot somewhat close to the front of the crowd.  I had been warned and coached by many experienced Hyner racers that I needed to be towards the front of the crowd so I didn’t get stuck in the mass of people trying to filter onto a single track trail 1 mile into the race.  I also knew I had to go out fast….really fast.  The race started and a bunch of people got around me.  Luckily, I knew I would have the entire length of the long bridge and then some more time on the road to get around the majority of the crowd.  My first mile?  A 7:14.  I had gone out at 5k pace instead of 25k pace but I knew it had to be done.  I made it to the single track before 80% of the field did so I was able to ease myself onto the trail without any drama.

The single track lasts nearly a mile until you start ascending Humble Hill.  I was trying to maintain a moderate trail pace because I didn’t want to slow the people behind me down.  I think I kept up nicely with the flow of the race at that point. There was someone a few steps ahead of me and someone a few steps behind me. We were spaced out evenly.

Before I could think very much more about it, Humble Hill appeared.  We started ascending, and ascending, and ascending, and ascending.  I had done this hill once before but this time around it kicked my butt.  Instantly, my heart rate skyrocketed and my calf muscles burned.  I tried to push off my thighs for extra leverage but nothing was doing the trick.  The initial ascent of Humble Hill felt like an eternity.  People were passing me left and right and rightfully so.  They were pushing themselves.  They were embracing the pain and exhaustion.  They were beating that hill.  I on the other hand was being defeated.  I just couldn’t get myself together long enough to push through the incline.  I was doubting my every thought as to why I thought doing this race would be a good idea. Climbing up Humble Hill, I couldn’t even shake the thought of “how am I ever going to finish this entire race with how I’m feeling right now?”.  I tried my best to embrace the challenge, but the effects of running in flat southern NJ wasn’t really helping me get up the hill.  I kept reminding myself that Josh would be at the top.  Josh would be at the top ringing a cowbell and telling me that I looked strong.  After what felt like 45 minutes of powerhiking up the hill, I finally could hear the cheers from atop Hyner View.  The sound of the crowd at the top seemed close but there was still so much hill to go.  I focused on taking one step at a time.  The kind and patient man behind me told me to just keep stepping forward and that I was doing a great job – (I’m sorry I don’t know your name, kind and patient man, but I really appreciated your encouragement at that moment in time!).

We reached the top and I saw a drone hovering to my right.  The woman in front of me lifted her arms up as if she was trying to get its attention but I didn’t have the energy to do that.  I could hear the cowbell and then I heard Josh’s voice telling me to smile.  I forget if I did end up smiling for him – I was just really exhausted.  We rounded the wall and Josh was on the other side telling me that I did awesome.  He asked how I was feeling and I just told him “that was really hard”.  He proceeded to run beside me telling me that I did great and to continue to do great in the remaining 12 or so miles of the race.  I hoped I would be able to live up to his expectations.18121755_10209473015007790_8458574863806390915_o

I passed through the Hyner View aid station and grabbed a few sips of Gatorade.  Then, we began the descent.  It was a long descent with many switchbacks.  A lot of people passed me on the downhill but I wasn’t concerned. I let go of all my racing instincts and opted to just be out there to enjoy the race. I pulled off to the side of the trail when someone needed to pass. I didn’t want to slow anyone else’s race down with my cautious descending skills.  We reached the bottom of the hill after a few miles and the hill got extremely slick with mud.  I was afraid of sliding down the hill so I was extremely cautious.  I probably actually would’ve been faster if I would’ve just slid down on my butt. But because I wasn’t necessarily in a rush, I just took my time.

A hiker had warned everyone that the stream crossings of Johnson’s Run were high.  He told us to be careful.  I knew I would be careful because slippery rocks are another worry of mine.  Our first stream crossing was gifted with a two logs that had been put together to make a make-shift bridge.  The next 15-20 stream crossings (and I’m not exaggerating saying 15-20), however, were a free-for-all. It was impossible to keep my feet dry so I just trudged through each stream crossing with a purpose.  At some of the crossings, the water was up to my knee.  I just kept trudging.  Even when we weren’t necessarily crossing the stream, we were running up stream.  I swear we were running up waterfalls at certain points (but I’m probably just being dramatic).

Johnson’s Run was a good long portion of the race.  I was enjoying the scenery and the uphill wasn’t nearly as torturous as Humble Hill.  I was enjoying the entire experience of the race.  I forgot about the pain of Humble Hill and was just out there enjoying the day in the woods.  After some time, we approached the Johnson’s Run aid station.  This aid station had American flags leading up to it.  I enjoyed that nice sentimental touch to the aid station.  I grabbed another two or three swigs of Gatorade and continued on my way.

We descended again.  This time, I was feeling a little more confident in my descents.  The trail reminded me a lot like White Clay where I ran frequently last summer/fall.  There were a few instances where my momentum got the best of me but I didn’t trip at all so I was surviving just fine.  At the bottom of this hill, there were two men pointing which direction to go.  I made sure I was going the right way for the 25k racers.  We began yet another uphill.

I was getting used to powerhiking by this point of the race.  The hills just weren’t possible for my body to ascend at a running speed.  My little South Jersey calf muscles just weren’t ready for the Hyner, PA hills.  I knew this coming into the race so it wasn’t a surprise to me when the hills zapped all my energy and momentum.  I wasn’t mad.  I was just accepting of the fact that I needed to powerhike in order to finish this race.

Another racer came up behind me and  I asked him if he needed to go around me.  He said my pace was the exact same as his so he didn’t need to pass.  We got to talking about where we were from and if we’ve ever raced Hyner before. This racer was from Lock Haven and he had finished the 25k numerous times. He was pleasantly surprised to hear that I was from the flat part of New Jersey and was a first time Hyner racer.  He told me I was on pace for a sub-4 hour finish which he seemed to be impressed with.  I hadn’t been looking at my watch during the entire race because I wasn’t interested in my pace or how far I had left to run – I was just out there to enjoy the day.

I asked the racer if the hill we were ascending had a name.  I had a feeling it was SOB (named SOB rightfully so) but I was told that SOB was extremely steep.  All we were doing at that point was hiking up switchbacks.  He informed me that we were on the bottom portion of SOB.  He warned me of what was to come but I ensured him I already had been told what SOB was going to be like.

We continued upward and that’s when I saw the real SOB.  All the racers in front of me were at a crawling pace.  Mostly everyone had both hands out touching the ground in order to get up the hill.  Everyone was taking cautious steps in order to avoid slipping on the loose dirt beneath their feet.  The hill was probably only 200m in length but it was a long 200m.  My lungs were burning again.  My quads felt like they were lacking power to push myself up the hill.  My calf muscles ached.  Hello, SOB.

There were a few spectators waiting along the climb of SOB.  One of them mentioned that we only had 100 more vertical feet to climb.  The other was ensuring us that we were almost there.  I’m not exactly sure how these spectators were standing so nonchalantly on this extremely steep hill but that was probably just dramatic thoughts in my head at that time.  I remember yelling out “THIS IS RIDICULOUS” to anyone who may have been listening.  I also remember thinking that they should’ve just put a ladder on SOB so that we could ascend easier (I sound like such a wimp saying that now that I have actually survived the race).

SOB was the hill that I had nightmares about last year.  I kid you not, this hill gave me real life nightmares in my sleep.  I remember the nightmare vividly.  I was trying to get up the hill and I was physically unable to get to the top.  I was clawing my way up a grassy incline and just couldn’t dig my hands into the ground to pull myself up.  I was just stuck at the bottom of the hill with no physical strength to get to the top.

BACK TO REALITY THOUGH….I made it to the top.  The hill wasn’t like the nightmare I had last year.  With the encouragement of the man behind me that ascended the entire length of SOB (from the switchbacks to the tippy top), I made it to the top.  I’m sorry I did not get your name or bib number to thank you but I hope that maybe the “man from Lock Haven that had raced the 25k many times before and was very much impressed by my southern-New-Jersey-flat-lander-speed-in-the-mountains” gets to read this blog.  Thank you, SOB companion, for encouraging me all the way to the top.

At the top of SOB, we were all gifted an aid station.  I walked up to the aid station with my legs feeling like jello.  I took another cup of blue Gatorade, took a deep breath, and continued on my way towards the finish line.  I knew that SOB was the third and final climb of the race and that the course was “all down hill from here”.  There was an occasional mini uphill along the straight path after SOB but nothing overly strenuous compared to the other uphills in the race.

I was thrilled at this moment in the race.  So thrilled, that I was running with a huge smile across my face.  I had made it up every climb of the race.  All that was left to do was run downhill to the finish….the finish line that was probably still about 3-4 miles away.

I was enjoying myself.  I knew what was ahead because I had ran down Huff’s Run last year after spectating at the top of Hyner View.  Huff’s Run was fun. Huff’s Run was downhill.  Huff’s Run got you that much closer to the finish line.

Because I’m a slower-than-average downhill runner, everyone started passing me again.  I kindly let people go by me knowing that I didn’t want to slow down their progress to the finish line.  The 1st place 50k racer passed me about half way down Huff’s Run.  Honestly, I had been hoping to hold the 50k’ers off until at least the road, but they are just too fast!  Clayton Bouchard, the winner of the 50k, passed me with such ease that I was in awe of how quickly his feet were effortlessly moving down the trail.  (We can thank Instagram for teaching me who Clayton Bouchard is – I’ve been following his Instagram account since last year’s Hyner – I’m not creepy I swear!).  Another 50k racer passed me on Huff’s Run too….those mountain runners are fast!

We finally reached the road which left about one mile remaining of the race.  I tried to increase my turnover now that I was on the road, but my quads were shot from the descents.

We crossed the bridge again and then I learned about the infamous “eternal” bridge.  Although we had all crossed the same bridge at the start of the race, the bridge running in the opposite direction felt 10x the length of the bridge from the beginning of the race.  Let it be known that….IT WAS THE SAME BRIDGE.  My run across the bridge took what seemed like forever!  By the time I got to the turn after the bridge, I felt exhausted.  People were cheering and clapping for all the racers.  It was a good feeling knowing how close to the finish line I was.

The finishing stretch hops back onto a trail.  Surprise, surprise….the trail goes uphill to the finish.  A short but steep uphill zapped my legs again – as if the other three climbs didn’t already do that.  I knew I was close because I could hear people cheering.  I powerhiked up the hill but once I got to the top I knew I had to run it in to the finish line.

18118415_10209508151806188_4975750833162094288_n
The final hill (PC: Robert Baguley)

I heard Josh before I saw him.  He told me I was doing an awesome job.  I rounded the final turn and saw the finish line.  Josh was running about 20 feet to my right through the leaves and brush still cheering for me (extra points for him for doing that!).  I crossed the finish line and knew I had left all my energy out on the course.  I was handed the famous Hyner hat.  I found Josh in the crowd and then instantly told him that I just wanted to sit down.

We sat down in the grass and I briefly reviewed the race with him.  Soon he told me to get up and I knew I needed to get out of my sweaty clothes before my body temperature started to drop.  I got changed into dry, warm clothes and Josh had checked the results sheet.  My official finishing time was 3:54:16.  I had finished 188th out of 850 finishers.   I was extremely content with a sub-4 hour finish.  I had met both of my goals.  #1: I had finished the race.  #2:  I had finished as close to 4 hours as possible.  I was now officially a Hyner 25k finisher!

The post-race party at Hyner is unlike any other post-race gathering I’ve experienced.  There’s free food to choose from (my go-to choice was 2 slices of pizza).  There’s free beer to choose from (not my thing but everyone else takes advantage of it).  There’s cupcakes.  There’s BBQ (also not my thing considering I’m a vegetarian).  And of course…there’s good company!

I grabbed 2 slices of pizza and then Josh and I went back to the finishing area to wait for our other friends to finish.  While waiting we saw people of all ages finishing their races.   We cheered everyone on as we anxiously waited for our friends.  We heard other race stories and shared our thoughts and opinions during certain parts of the race.  We were just a bunch of trail runners hanging out.

After our friends finished, we found a comfy spot in the grass to discuss the race.  We ate food and some drank beer.  My shoes were still soaked at this point from splashing through the streams but I was content.  I felt accomplished.  I felt like I had achieved my goals in their entirety and got more out of it the race than I ever thought possible.

We returned to our camping area and settled in for the remainder of the afternoon. People were filtering in and out of the airfield as their race was over. A lot of people went home but there was still a good handful of people that stuck around for another night of camping.  So many stars were out in the sky and the night was crisp.  It was a good way to end a long day on the trails.

So Hyner….Hyner is challenging.  Hyner is breathtaking (literally).  Hyner is inspirational.  Hyner is one big trail running community out for a run through the woods on a Saturday morning.  Hyner is what you make of it.  You can race it.  You can run it.  You can hike it.  Make it your own experience.  Most importantly, ENJOY your experience.  Not everyone’s race will be the same. That’s what makes it so special.

One year ago I was just a spectator at the top of Hyner View not fully understanding the challenges of the course.  I was the runner stuck between a transition from road running to trail running. I was afraid of something that would challenge me beyond anything I could imagine.

It took me one year to find the confidence to trail race to the capacity of Hyner. It took a year of going out with Josh to the trails and trudging along through the woods at a slower pace.  It took a winter of occasional nighttime hill repeats to make me feel like I could climb up mountains.  It took overcoming doubt in my mind.  It took patience.  It took effort.

But simply, it took my love and adoration for the trails to just go out there and enjoy it.  My trail racing days are just beginning.  Trail running takes patience. Races like Hyner take a lot out of you physically but give you a lot of strength mentally.  Don’t be the person that shies away from their goals.  Push your limits and just keep moving forward.

18216911_1756725131010083_3898034517296547596_o
PC: Joe Azze and Mountain Peak Fitness

 

 

Race Recap: XTERRA Brandywine Creek Trail 12k

Race Recap: XTERRA Brandywine Creek Trail 12k

This past Sunday, I ran my first race of 2017.  I hadn’t specifically trained for this race, I just integrated it into my training for the Hyner 25k – my real focus of 2017.  Here is my race recap of a greatly organized, fun, and challenging trail race I recommend to all my trail running friends!

The alarm clock woke me up at 5:30 AM on Sunday morning.  The instant the alarm started beeping, I became mentally unprepared.  It was the morning of Daylight Savings so I had lost an hour of sleep despite going to bed relatively early the night before.  I was lying in bed, underneath a warm blanket, with my face smashed into a pillow wondering why anyone in the entire world would want to schedule a race for the morning of daylight savings.  I also wondered why anyone in the entire world would want to sign up for a race on the morning of daylight savings.  What was I thinking back in December when I had signed up for this?!?!  Nevertheless, I grumpily forced myself out of bed.

The morning’s temperature was a brisk 19 degrees when I woke up.  By 8 AM, at race start, it was predicted to be a much “warmer” 23 degrees.  This is also probably a factor that played in to the fact that I was completely mentally checked out of the race.  My brain was telling me to stay inside, to stay warm, and to go back to bed.  I was not in a mood to race on that morning.  I wanted sleep and warmth.

But instead, thanks to Josh, I got myself ready.  I had my normal toast with peanut butter and banana for breakfast.  I put on my insulated tights, a high pair of Smart Wool socks, two Under Armour long sleeves, my Sneakers and Spokes long sleeve jersey, my lobster gloves, two ear warmers, and of course, my Altra Lone Peaks.  That would be my race apparel.  I layered up with my Sneakers & Spokes sweatshirt and my ski jacket as well, which I would shed right before the start of the race.

We headed out the door by 6:35 AM.  We made it to the race start by a little after 7 AM.  I picked up my race number and swag bag.  We discussed with the brave volunteers (kudos to you all for willingly standing out there in 20 degree weather!) that Josh needed to transfer his bib to my dad due to an unforeseen injury.  They luckily made that process quite easy!  I was planning on doing a 2 mile warm-up but the freezing temperatures kept me warmly inside Josh’s Jeep instead during the minutes leading up to the race start.  I managed to get in 0.80 miles of a warm-up with my dad wearing my ski jacket.  I was just too cold to shed layers.

Most of the racers remained in their warm cars leading up to the race start.  I only saw a few racers attempting to get in a warm-up.  By 7:55 a lot of the racers began to meander towards the unofficial starting line.  We simply lined up at the top of the hill.  I inched toward the front of the crowd so I didn’t have to spend my energy trying to navigate through people.  We started the race a little after 8 AM since racers were still slowly meandering towards the start.  I just wanted to get running so that I could get warmer.  Josh and my mom stood to the side bundled up in their jackets.  I was grateful for them coming out to stand in the cold to watch us run down the hill and into the woods.  Trail races typically aren’t very spectator friendly.  The race director yelled “ready, set, go” while standing on top of a brick wall.  And before I really had time to process that the race was actually starting, we were all pounding down the hill and running towards the woods.

After the downhill, we made a left into a double-track trail.  I remember seeing one woman in front of me.  I hoped to keep her in my sights the whole time. The first mile was mostly downhill and flat so we all started out very fast.  I eventually caught up to the woman on one of the smaller, more gradual uphills.  I knew I had an advantage on these hills and I knew the hills that were coming up in the race.  Josh and I had done many nights of hill repeats on these hills.  I knew what to expect in the next 7 miles of the race. I passed the woman and I became the lead woman in the race.   I wondered how much longer it would be until another woman came up behind me.

We crossed the Brandywine Creek and started up a climb that Josh and I call “the unknown trail”.  I’ve done this hill many of times and it’s a tough one.  I had promised Josh that I would not walk or powerhike any of the hills during the race.  Not only was I racing for myself, I was also racing for him.  I tried my best to “speedily” get up the hill but my “speedy” on hills can sometimes be slower than a powerhike.  But nevertheless, I kept my running form the entire way up the hill.  A woman came up behind me (that didn’t take long) and asked to pass me on the left.  I willingly allowed her to.  We began our descent down “the unknown trail”.  Next, we would be ascending Rocky Run.

After about another half mile, we crossed a stream which lead us directly into the uphill of Rocky Run.  They had kindly strung a rope across the stream to make crossing easier, but I had stupid-ly crossed on the wrong side of the rope which then required me to step over the rope when I got to the other side of the stream.  Stupid me.  We then immediately began our ascent of Rocky Run.  I had run up this hill many of times before too so I knew exactly what kind of pain my legs and lungs would be feeling.  A lot of racers around me broke their running form and started power hiking but  I tried my best to keep powering up the hill.  When I finally got to the top, I took one big deep breath.  The trail would flatten out a little bit until we descended the other side of Rocky Run.

This is where Josh and my mom randomly appeared in the woods!  They were hiking towards me in attempt to see my ascend Rocky Run but I had beat them to it (I guess I was just running too fast for them to make it there in time!).  They cheered me on and Josh told me that Rocky Run was “just a little hill”.  Little was an understatement at that point.

Shortly after seeing them, we started the descent of Rocky Run.  I’ve been told by Josh that I am a strong downhill runner.  In that moment of time, I felt invincible going down that hill.  I passed a gentlemen that was being much more cautious than I was.  I was weaving from left to right on the trail in hopes of finding the best (and smoothest) line down the trail.  I was leaping from point to point.  I felt like I was flying!  I wasted no time going down Rocky Run and running that hill so many times in the past gave me a huge confidence boost during the race.

We crossed Brandywine Creek again and ran on singletrack for about another mile before being led to a fielded area.  On the singletrack, I tried my best to hold a faster-than-normal trail pace for me.  There were muddy spots on the trail and I tried my best to avoid getting my feet wet – my toes would’ve froze! – but I also didn’t slow down in the muddy parts; after all, I was in a race.

When we turned out of the singletrack and into the woods, we were instantly greeted by the sights of a very large hill.  I commented aloud, “oh my goodness”. The man behind me commented back but I don’t remember what he said exactly.  We ascended the hill.  The course leveled off, went downhill, then uphill again.  The last mile of the race became a gradual uphill that went on, and on, and on.  I had no idea where the finish line was or how much further I had to go – I refused to look at my watch the entire race.  I tried my best to just keep moving forward.  My body hurt and I felt exhausted.  We ascended one last final hill and were gifted a downhill to the finish.  I was so relieved!  I crossed the finish line as fast as I could and as strong as I could.  The clock read 1:06.  This, I was content with.

Screenshot_2017-03-12-15-01-22

When I finished, I was handed a medal but I was too cold and too sore to process it all.  I tried my best to walk past the pavilion so that I could find Josh and my parents.  Josh was holding my ski jacket (best boyfriend ever!) which I instantly put on.  My body hurt so bad.  They told me that they thought I might have finished as the 2nd female finisher – I agreed with them since I only remembered seeing the one woman pass me near the top of “the unknown trail”.  This made me happy!

After a brief talk with my parents and Josh, I told them I needed to go get on dry clothes so I wouldn’t freeze in my own sweat (sorry for the gross image of that happening).  I slowly walked towards Josh’s Jeep while clinging to his arm, hoping to steal some of his body heat.  I got in the Jeep and exchanged my race shirts for dry shirts and a sweatshirt.

We walked back the finish area hoping they might have the awards ceremony soon.  The race director eventually announced that due to the frigid temperatures their computer systems had basically froze so they weren’t able to host the awards ceremony without seeing the official results. I was bummed that I wouldn’t get to be announced as the 2nd place female finisher, but I also was content because I wanted to go get a hot shower and just lie in bed.  The race director announced that awards would be mailed instead.

When we got back to Josh’s I took a hot shower.  I had no appetite, my body ached, and I was still cold.  I turned down scrambled eggs that Josh had cooked as a 2nd breakfast.  I just wanted to take a nap.  So by 11 AM, I was laying in bed wrapped in a blanket.  I didn’t move a single muscle.  I eventually fell asleep for about 2 hours.  Josh continued with his day and did things around the house but I was so ache-y that I just needed to stay still.

Eventually I forced myself to eat a piece of toast and real food later on. Due to losing an hour of sleep, being freezing cold for 2-3 hours in the morning and racing a challenging course, my body felt broken.

It took me some time to recover that day, but I looked back on it and was very happy with my race. It was a great course – about 100 feet of gain per mile which is pretty challenging for a trail race in Delaware – with some great ascents and descents.  It’s exciting to see my name in the top 3 female finishers.  This is the first time I’ve ever seen that.  My average pace (8:53/mile) was the fastest I’ve ever averaged at a run through the trails of Brandywine.  All of these factors combined have boosted my confidence a little bit for Hyner in a little over a month.  I know I’m not the fastest trail runner, but I know my strengths and weaknesses on the trail.  I feel strong, I feel more confident, and I feel like I’m getting more and more prepared for all the trail races ahead of me.

Huge shoutout to the race director of such a great race and all the volunteers who stood out in the freezing temps on a Sunday morning.  Shoutout to my dad for placing 15th overall and 2nd in his age group.  Shoutout to my mom for supporting me and my dad always in our races – no matter the temperature. And lastly, shoutout to Josh:  for pushing me to do hill repeats to make me a stronger runner, for supporting me always despite my complaints, fears, and doubts, and for bringing my jacket to the finish of the race knowing that I would be shivering uncontrollably without it – thanks for being my best friend!

Onward and upward to Hyner!

20170312_091455

What I crave…

What I crave…

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to travel to Phoenicia, NY with Josh, my wonderful boyfriend, to support him during his Cats Tail Trail Marathon (actual length as advertised on the website is 26.5 miles) through the Catskills.  We met some trail running friends who were also racing which made the weekend exceptionally entertaining.  Not only did Josh do absolutely amazing during his race (finishing 13th of 89 finishers – don’t mind my bragging!), I was reminded of how truly enticing the trail running community is to me.

I spent this past summer craving trails.  I got out to the trails as much as I could but I always craved more.  I became increasingly intrigued by Appalachian thru-hikers following more and more Instagram accounts of SOBO and NOBO AT hikers.  I craved the serenity of the trails.  I craved dirt beneath my Altras.  Oddly enough, maybe I even craved the hills that torture my muscles (…maybe).  But mostly, I craved other trail runners.

I was reminded of this as I stood shivering at the base of a 5 mile ascent with my cowbell in hand at 6:55 AM.  I patiently waited for Josh to start the race at 7:05 AM.  The first wave of 15 runners went by me and I pleasantly greeted them with a “good morning” and wished them a sincere good luck knowing the next 26.5 miles would be tough ones.  Most of them acknowledged my existence and exchanged warm thank yous for cheering them on so early in the morning. The second wave of 15 avid trail runners came by next and Josh was in the front of the pack.  I wished him good luck as he began his ascent and traverse through the Catskills.  I wouldn’t see him until mile 9.5 and I internally wished him safe travels.

With a few more waves of runners to be sent on their way, I made the short walk up to the starting line where I met a few of our other trail running friends as they waited for their wave to start.  The lax atmosphere at the start of the race captivated me.  For years now, I’ve stood on many starting lines surrounded by anxious runners hopping up and down, checking their pulses repetitively, and stretching out one more time before they’re sent on down the road to pound out speedy miles.  But there, on that brisk October morning, the runners stood relaxed, talking  and joking with each other, and re-tightening their Ultimate Direction, Gregory, or Orange Mud packs.  Everyone knew the next 26.5 miles would separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls.  The trail would do what it does best – challenge every runner mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Again, this is what I crave.  I yearn for the moments where I can step up to a starting line and know that the trail will control the result of my race.  I want to be surrounded by people on a starting line who truly enjoy the swaying of the trees, the silence of the woods, the dampness of the rain sprinkles falling from the clouds, and the dirt caked on their shins.  I don’t find that feeling on the start of a road race.  Instead I find tense feelings and minimal human interaction.  I find people ready to pound their feet on hard pavement instead of loose dirt.  I find people who would rather stand in silence and not make eye contact than someone who is willing to extend a pat on the back and exchange a heartfelt good luck.

As I stood patiently anxiously at the 2nd aid station, waiting for Josh and our friends to come through, I was once again surrounded by down-to-earth trail runners.  The moment a racer came through someone made sure to ask “what do you need?  Water?  Food? Do you have a drop bag?”.  Not only do aid stations become a source of fuel and water but they also become a welcoming place of encouragement and motivation to continue moving closer to that finish line.  I saw this time and time again as I witnessed all 89 racers come through the only car-accessible aid station of the race.  I was truly grateful to be standing at that aid station for most of my morning because I realized how special the trail running community was.

After a 25 minute drive from the aid station back to Phoenicia, I found myself once again waiting.  Waiting for the first finishers.  Waiting for Josh.  Just…waiting. The time keeper and finish line photographer didn’t hesitate to come over and talk to me.  We briefly discussed the difference between the trail running community and the road running community.  Of course we mutually agreed the trail running community is truly special.  They asked me who I was so patiently waiting for with my cowbell in hand.  I told them my boyfriend and our friends.  They expressed concern that I might get tired of waiting, but I assured them that I could spend hours and hours of every weekend engulfed in the trail running scene if I could.  I was in my happy place and I would wait all day for Josh to come towards that finish line.

The first two finishers appeared and at first glance I noticed from a far that they were running stride for stride.  I thought to myself “wow, this is a close finish!  I wonder which one is going to out sprint the other”.  That sentence right there, that my friends, (and I’m ashamed to admit it) is a classic road racer mindset.  I snapped out of it once I saw one of the men had dry blood caked on his face. My next thought?  “What kind of trouble did this guy get himself into out on that trail?!”  The men finished side by side, tying for 1st place.

As the nosy person that I am, I decided to eavesdrop on the conversation between the race director and the two men.  As the story goes, the leader of the race had accidentally ran into a low hanging branch with a sharp knob on it which pierced his scalp.  The 2nd place runner came down the trail and noticed a pool of blood had accumulated.  He followed the trail of blood and came across his wounded competitor basically bleeding out due to this severe injury, but still moving forward.  The 2nd place runner luckily had two extra winter hats to offer to his fellow trail runner to control the bleeding.  With 11 miles still remaining in the race, the 2nd place runner wanted to keep the fearless leader of the race safe and in his care.  They stuck out the last 11 miles together and crossed the finish line with an epic story to tell.

It was a small moment like that as I continued to patiently wait for Josh that showed me the strength of the trail running community.  One man halted his competitive spirit to help a fellow racer.  Out of true sportsmanship, despite probably training for months to compete strongly in this race, he slowed his pace towards the finish line for the health of another man.  I crave the selflessness like that of the trial running community.

Shortly after, Josh rounded the corner and came towards the finish.  I congratulated him and guided him towards the table of food waiting for him and the other racers to munch on.  I asked him questions about the course which he happily answered.  I offered him Gatorade, water, more food, and some arm warmers for added warmth.  We headed back out to the finishing stretch of the race to wait for the rest of our trail running entourage.  And again, we waited.

Josh and I finished that day reflecting on our own separate adventures.  He had travelled 26.5 miles through rugged trails and slippery rocks.  I had seen only bits and pieces of the race and what the racers were experiencing and it left me wanting more.  More time spent in the mountains, more time spent on the trails, more time spent surrounded by other trail runners.

Two days ago I signed up for the Hyner 25k in April 2017 (returning next year as a racer rather than a spectator like back in April of this year) and I’ve been energetically researching trail races to fill up my 2017 race calendar.  I want to step on a trail race starting line and feel excited about the challenge of the trails to come rather than anxious about my pace out on the course.  I crave the ache in my muscles from tough ascents and technical footing.  I crave the stories I’ll be able to share upon crossing the finish line.  I crave the exhaustion.  I crave the passion shared between trail runners.

Don’t get me wrong, I am excited for the two remaining races of 2016 – both of which are road races.  I plan on running both my half marathon in a week and a half and my marathon in late November as hard as I can.  I know that I will ache and I know that I will be mentally tested during these races; however, I can’t help but look forward to my unoffocial “official retirement” from road racing and transitioning fully into the trail scene.  Hyner will be my official debut race as a rugged trail runner.

My wanderlust and craving for trails is at an all time high.  I look forward to satisfying these cravings.  I look forward to the dirt, the potential blood, the leaves crunching beneath my feet, the hydration pack comfortably resting on my back, the congenial smiles of my competitors, and the yearning for a challenge.

Yes, we may all show up at a starting line on a brisk fall morning with competition coursing through our blood.  Competition is inevitable in the human spirit.  But once out on the trail, the trail will speak for itself.  The trail becomes your biggest competition rather than the runners ahead and behind you.  I want to compete with myself.  I want to compete with the trail.  That is what I truly crave.

Dirty German 50k Race Recap

Dirty German 50k Race Recap

This past Sunday, May 15th, I finished my first ever ultramarathon.  I had signed up for the Dirty German 50k way back in the beginning of January because I knew I wanted to make the transition to ultrarunning.  I was itching for a longer race since I was officially fully recovered from my marathon debut back in November and I needed something to train for.  I had completed another Uberendurance race a few years back (the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut 1/2 Marathon) so I knew how well organized their races were.  I chose the Dirty German 50k because it was a trail ultra and I knew I wouldn’t want to do an ultra on the road.  It was also described to be “easy by trail running standards”.  In the description it said it would be a great race for 1st time ultrarunners.  This race was basically screaming at me to sign up.  So there I was on my computer on January 2nd signing up for this 50k.

received_10207427398541051Fast forward a few months and there I was on a cool May morning in Pennypack Park standing on the starting line surrounded by other racers.  I was wearing my Altra Lonepeaks, a neon SparklySoul, and my UltimateDirection Ultra Vesta pack.  I was accompanied by my boyfriend and training partner, Josh, who also had committed to running his first ultra on that cool May morning with me.  We had done 85% of all our long runs for the past few months together and we both had the same race goals so we decided to race it together.  Our goal was to run under 6 hours and as close to 5 hours as possible.  His speed and confidence running hills and trails mixed with my everlasting endurance and experience with longer distances made us a perfect team to race this ultra together.  So there we were together standing amongst nearly 200 other racers with an accordion playing German music before we were set off to run 31 miles.

I remember the first half mile to be rather crowded due to some congestion on the trail but I never felt like I was boxed in or stuck behind anyone.  There was always a way around runners if I needed to get around.  My anxiety about the start of the race was soon diminished as I settled in behind Josh and powered through some of the hills at the beginning of the race to get around people.

For the first 4-5 miles we were running with a few other racers as we settled into a pace that we knew we could sustain for the entire race.  We had set out to average about 10 minute pace but my watch kept recording splits in the 9 minute range.  I felt comfortable though and Josh didn’t feel like he was overexerting either so we kept the pace.

I passed a few women while hopping from stone to stone across the stream which allowed me to run right beside Josh now.  At some point in the race we also came across a dog owner trying to re-capture her golden retriever puppy who was just too excited to see all the runners.  Josh and a few other runners stopped to helped her but I (selfishly?) kept running.

There were also some sections of the course that were on pavement due to construction on one of the bridges we were supposed to originally cross.  Josh and I were pretty much alone at this point and we were both in very high spirits.  I was happy we were doing this race together and at this point it just felt like any normal Sunday long run we go on together.

Eventually a woman from NYC named Mary (shoutout to Mary!) who had raced this course before caught up to us.  She gave us a few pointers and tips about ultrarunning and Josh told her all about his race up at Hyner a few weeks ago.  I just listened in on the conversation and laughed at her clever race tips.  It distracted me for at least one mile and we got to meet a very nice person (hope you did well in your race, Mary!  It was nice meeting you!)

The miles were passing by quickly and I was barely paying attention to the mile splits we were running.  We stopped at an aide station I recognized that was near where we had started the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut 1/2 marathon.  I picked up an orange Gatorade and Josh asked for some ibuprofen which they graciously gave to him.  We continued on our way.  I ate some of my tortilla with peanut butter and raisins in it and Josh ate his Stingers.  Every so often we would pop a Shotblok in our mouth to replenish some electrolytes.  We were feeling good.

At every aide station after that we both would stop and grab a cup of Gatorade to maintain our electrolyte levels and to change it up from the water we were drinking from our packs (Josh has a Gregory which he loves and I have an UltimateDirection with I love).  Soon were heading back towards the finish line which would mark 25k complete.

As we were running up a hill, we heard a cowbell.  Josh made some snide comment about the cowbell and I predicted that it was probably my parents.  Surprise!  There were my parents standing at the top of the hill.  Josh surged up the hill and left me to climb up it myself (disclaimer: he’s a very strong hill climber so I’m used to it).  The next 2 or so miles we didn’t run together but I could still see him ahead of me.  I knew I would eventually catch him once the rolling hills stopped.  Some 25k racers who had started 30 minutes behind us began to pass me  – they were going sooo fast!  Regardless, before the completion of our 1st loop, I had caught back up to Josh and we were running side by side again.

Before race day, Josh had predicted that we would run a 5:15.  Through simple math, this would require our 25k split to be about 2:37.  We came through the 25k split in 2:23.  After some quick math we decided a sub-5 finish was completely attainable even if we ended up slowing down (which we knew was going to be inevitable).  Josh made us a new goal which would be to finish in under 5 hours.

received_10207427468102790So here were are back out on the course for the 2nd loop.  At this point we were pretty much alone except for a racer about 100m in front of us and whomever was sneaking up behind us.  We started passing 25k runners and 50k runners in the opposite direction as they were still working on their 1st loop.  A few 50 milers also passed us in the opposite direction, some of which were going much faster than we were.  I was amazed by how fast they were going for a 50 mile race!

We just kept running, kept drinking, kept eating, kept moving forward side by side.  At aide stations we took no more than 15 seconds to grab what we needed and continue to move closer to the finish line.  We had a deadline now.  One of the other racers called us a “pacing powerhouse” because we were running such a consistent pace.  This gave us the confidence we needed to continue moving forward at the pace we were holding.  We don’t know your name but we appreciate your compliment A LOT.

Along one of the paved sections I was feeling sluggish but just happened to look down at one of my mile splits and see 8:17.  At this point we were already 25 miles in to the race  – why did I just run an 8:17 mile in a 50k?  That was never a split I intended on running and I definitely didn’t feel like I was running that fast.  I decided to just go with the flow and keep running.

We also started running with a woman who was in the 50 mile race who was keeping an impressive pace (I think she was actually running faster than we were at some points).  She was extremely friendly and it once again distracted me from any soreness or fatigue I was feeling.  I don’t know your name but I hope you also did well in your race!

received_10207427470022838Once we were back on trails our legs didn’t hurt as bad from the pounding on the road.  By this point 95% of the paved part of the course was done.  We just had to finish the last 4-5 miles of trail and we would be home free.  We took one last cup of Gatorade at the aid station, saw one of our Instagram followers, saw my parents, and started running up another hill.  I knew at this point that we would be under 5 hours if we just kept pushing.  We did end up powerhiking some of the last few hills and we bombed the downhills as much as we could (well, at least it felt like we were bombing the downhills).  I just kept repeating over and over again that we were so close to being done.  Josh probably thought I’d never shut up about being close to the end.  So. Close.

received_10207427468822808The last few miles are a series of rolling hills but we just kept pushing.  We exited the woods with a little less than 4 minutes to get to the finish line before the clock struck 5 hours.  I knew we had it.  I knew we would run under 5 hours.  We ran towards the finishing stretch, made the last turn into the grassy field and made our way towards the finish line.  We crossed the finish line in 4:58:04.  My Garmin Forerunner 230 recorded we averaged about 9:40 pace – not too shabby!!  My legs hurt but I was happy.  We had totally crushed our original goal of being under 6 hours and Josh’s prediction of us running 5:15.  We had ran our sub-5 like the new goal we had agreed upon mid-race and we had finished our first ever ultra.

At the finish line two patient gentlemen ripped off our bib tags.  The one gentlemen also asked me my age and I was perplexed by this question.  I answered with a fatigued “22” and before I could process what was going on he handed me a box and congratulated me on being the 3rd female in the 20-29 age group.  Well, this was a shock!  Josh and I were handed a hat and a medal that also functioned as a bottle opener (pretty awesome medal if you ask me!).

We staggered further through the finishing chute, exchanged a sweaty hug, and reflected briefly on actually completing an ultra.  Shortly after, my parents found us and congratulated us on a job well done.  At this point all I wanted to do was sit down.  We staggered over to a bench and I slowly lowered myself onto the bench.  We took a post-race picture to further document our accomplishment.

received_10207427421301620I soon started shivering because the air was still a bit cool.  I changed into a long sleeve shirt and we all agreed to start walking back to the cars.  This is where the fatigue and soreness finally hit me.  I could barely pick me feet more than 1 inch off the ground and I had a half mile walk back to the car…uphill.  It probably took me close to 20 minutes to walk that half mile.  Runners who were starting their 3rd lap of the 50 miler probably thought I was being overdramatic or something.  I’m sure I looked ridiculous and because I was staggering I probably even looked like I was somewhat drunk.

Later that night Josh and I indulged in some wine (me) and beer (Josh) and pizza – the perfect way to recover from an ultra!  We reflected on the race and all the wonderful people we met along the way.  Surprisingly neither of us ever felt like we “hit the wall” during the race.  I think this is because we ran together the whole time which allowed ourselves to be distracted by any fatigue or pain we may have had been feeling.  Unlike my marathon last November when I still wore Asics, my feet never truly hurt and my toes never started to bleed all thanks to my Altra LonePeaks and their wide toe-box feature. (I am completely obsessed with Altras!)  Throughout the race, Josh and I also paid close attention to how much and how frequently we were eating and drinking.  I believe that our training was perfect for this race which gave us a great advantage with confidence out of the hilly and trail sections.

Just as this race was described, it’s a great 50k to start with for the 1st time ultrarunner.  The course was extremely well marked and not very technical.  Because of these qualities, I would recommend this race to anybody who is just entering the ultra world.  Uberendurnace races are always very well-organized and they always have great prizes, food, and music (i.e. the accordion player!)

We are both extremely happy and pleased with our ultra debut.  I am beyond excited that I got to accomplish one of my goals for this year.  I’m lucky enough to have done it with such an amazing guy – without him I definitely wouldn’t have done as well as I did.  Cheers to many more ultras in my future!  I can’t wait to do another one!