Xterra Trail Race Series recap

Xterra Trail Race Series recap

A few weeks ago I completed the Xterra Atlantic trail race series.  The series was four races, culminating with a half-marathon.  I’m slightly behind on blogging; however, after looking back I did recap the first two races of the series.  For brevity’s sake, I’ll just post finishing results for the first two races and recap the final two races of the trail series below.

Brandywine 12k:  1:05, 2nd overall female, 16th overall of 110

Lums Pond 12k:  57:28, 3rd overall female, 25th overall of 98

Wetlands 10k at Camp Edge: 

As the series progressed, I became less and less motivated to race.  I had no desire to race a 10k.  All I wanted to do was run an ultra.  I was craving the mountains, not the swamplands.  Yet, there I was on a humid Sunday morning pretending to be happy I was about to race.

It had rained for 4-5 days straight leading up to the race.  The local mountain bike team that my dad coaches practices and races at this venue – Camp Edge.  I’ve done numerous trail building days on these trails. I had even raced on these trails for the Sasquatch 5k.  I knew the trails didn’t drain well.  With 4-5 days of rain behind us, I knew that the course was going to be sloppy.  This also added to my lack of motivation.

I was happy that Jess was racing too.  I warned her about the mud and we both joked that we had signed up for a trail race, not a mud run.

“Sloppy” didn’t even do the trail conditions justice.  It was a disaster.  I went out hard for two reasons:  because I knew these trails inside and out, forwards & backwards AND because I knew the mud would get progressively worse as more racers ran through it.

Two women passed me around the two mile mark.  By mile three, I had mentally checked myself out of the race.  The trails were crap, I was sliding everywhere, and I did NOT feel like doing a second loop.

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This was one of the least muddy sections of the course

We ran through the finish line and turned right to head back out across the field and into the woods.  Here we go again.  Loop 2.  I gave up on running fast through the mud.  The mud was worse the second time around because now we were running through mud that 100 other people had already ran through.  I was frustrated.  I was agitated.  I was not having fun.

All I truly remember about loop 2 was focusing on not sliding in the mud and carelessly splashing through the puddles.  It was hot so the puddles were a nice relief.

When we exited the woods, my dad, Josh, and Steve were taking pictures.  My dad told me to pick it up and my response was an irritated “I don’t feel like it”.  I crossed the line as the 3rd overall female and 21st overall of 68, in 56:05.

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I was happy that Jess raced hard and finished 3rd in her age group.  I was super proud of her for finishing her first ever trail 10k and I hoped that she would attend the next trail race of the series with me!  I was also excited because we were all going to a wine festival after the race and I just love wine!

Disclaimer:  I won’t be doing this race again.  I didn’t enjoy the course conditions, I despise races that are two loops, and I just didn’t like the race atmosphere.

Big Elk Half-Marathon: 

I was hoping that I would be in tip-top shape going into the last race of the series; however, my running motivation had dwindled over the course of four months and my cycling motivation had peaked.  Due to work schedules, weekend events, and vacation, the training plan I had created for myself was merely a piece of paper hanging on my bulletin board.

My longest run leading up to Big Elk was 8 miles.  Despite failing at following the plan, vacation provided me with an opportunity to spend miles and miles on my feet, climbing up mountains.  I knew that the hills wouldn’t be a problem.  Instead, my endurance might end up being the problem.

On the morning of race day, we arrived to the starting area with 25 minutes until start time.  25 minutes to spare is considered rushing to me so I frantically ran from the parking lot to the bathroom and from the bathroom to the packet pick-up area.  I ran back to the parking lot, pinned my bib on crookedly, threw on my Ultimate Direction pack and ran back to the starting line.

The first mile was slightly downhill and I hoped that the crowd would eventually thin out.  I found myself leading a pack of 5-6 runners on some single track and I wished that they would just go around me instead of following so closely on my heels.  I was familiar with the trails so I knew what sections to be cautious through and what sections to speed up.

We ran past the first water stop and I yelled at a woman trying to pass me that she had missed the turn.  It pays to pay attention, people!  At the top of the next hill, Josh appeared!  I laughed that he was just standing in the middle of the woods.

Finally half of the group of people went around me.  A few still remained on my heels and I tried to shake them by speeding up.  They stuck close.

I was running faster than my comfort zone trail pace and by mile 6ish, my left knee started bugging me.  I couldn’t catch my breath and I just wanted to enjoy my time in the woods.  I pulled to the side and let a few runners go around me.  Finally, I could run in peace!

I spent most of miles 6-10 by myself.  I was content this way.  I listened to nature rather than the rapid breathing of myself and those that were once around me.  I finally relaxed into the race.  I was finally enjoying myself.  I even took breaks to walk up some hills.  All of this is my trail bliss.

The course went through a field with grass up to my hip.  I was frustrated because I knew this wasn’t truly a trail.  They just stuck flags in a grassy field to make things “interesting”.  The only thoughts going through my head were “ticks, ticks, ticks everywhere!”

When we got back on an actual trail, a few people came up behind me. I let them pass and I just kept at my steady happy-go-lucky pace.  Our course eventually met up with the 5k/10k course and there were a lot of runners on the trail now.

I passed a few people who were trudging through their shorter race and I knew we were getting closer to the end.  We ran through some streams that felt super refreshing.  By this point the top of my left foot was also bothering me so the cold water felt great on my sore foot.

The course exited the woods and brought us toward the finishing area.  I ran confidently towards the finish line and Josh yelled at me to smile.  I smiled.

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smiling

I crossed the line and looped back to find Josh, Jess, & Steve.  We talked about Jess’s 10k that she CRUSHED!  She beat her previous 10k trail time by 14 minutes.  We waited patiently for results, I changed out of my race attire, and then we waited for the awards ceremony.

I finished in 2:08:55 as the 4th overall female and 1st in my age-group.  The results posted online are incorrect (once again).  I knew my time would be around the two hour mark so I was more than content with a 2:08.  I had completed the trail series, Jess had crushed her 10k, and then we all celebrated with brunch on Main Street, Newark.

Conclusion:

I won the trail series for my age-group, therefore, winning a free entry to Xterra Nationals in Ogden.  I will not be attending Nationals because the plane ticket is far too expensive and by September I will be in full grad school mode.

Completing the series was more of a mental challenge for me rather than a physical challenge.  I found myself highly unmotivated for most of the races.  I enjoyed the Brandywine 12k the most due to the ruggedness of the trails.  Big Elk was my second favorite because I got to spend 2+ hours in the woods.  Lums Pond 12k was semi-decent because I’ve never been to that trail system before; however, it’s too flat for me and doesn’t benefit my strengths.  Wetlands 10k was my absolute least favorite race of the entire series.  The mud was annoying and I hate courses that are two loops.

Next year, I probably won’t run any of the races again.  It was something different for me to try this year in the interim of training for another ultra; however, my heart is set on ultras in the mountains.

It’s been real, Xterra, but now it’s time for you to crown another Xterra Champion.

 

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.

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Nobody ever said training for an ultra would be easy…

Nobody ever said training for an ultra would be easy…

14 days until race day.  Fourteen days.  I’ve put in 10 hard weeks of summer training and here I am now just a mere two weeks away from 2017’s Green Monster 50k.  It wasn’t until the end of week 9 when training caught up to my body.  I’m not injured.  I’m not sick.  I’m not mentally defeated.  Simply put, I’m just tired.

Last week’s 20 mile training trail run took a lot of physical strength.  It was an unusually hot day for mid-September (low 80s by 10 AM).  The humidity was at 100%.  I was rationing the water in my Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta.  It took me a long 4 hours and 25 minutes to log 20 miles with 3,005 feet of elevation gain/loss.  To put that into perspective, I ran the Philly Marathon last November in 3 hours and 45 minutes.  I covered 6.2 fewer miles and ran for 40 minutes longer.  Yes, I was on hilly, technical, and tough trails compared to the smooth and relatively flat roads of Philadelphia but it just takes a lot out of a runner’s reserves to exert that much energy in a training run.

This past week was relatively uneventful until Friday when everything finally caught up to me.  I hadn’t had a legitimate rest day for nearly 24 days.  In those three weeks, I had logged 48, 50.5, and 54.7 mile weeks, in that respective order. Six of those 24 days, I had ran twice in one day.  Two weekends ago, I ran an 18 mile long run followed by a 10.8 mile day the next day.  I had logged nearly 60 miles on my bikes in those 24 days (which is actually extremely low compared to logging 60 miles per week during the summer months).  I’m not listing all of these numbers to brag – that’s the last thing I am trying to do.  I’m not listing all these numbers expecting pity.  Every single one of those miles I logged were 100% my choice.  I was feeling great.  I was feeling strong.  I was feeling like I was preparing myself fully for my upcoming race.  But….it took my body 24 days to react to the amount of exhaustion I was putting my body through.

On this previously mentioned “eventful Friday”, I completed a 3.1 mile walk/run with one of my clients at 8:30 AM.  Then at 1 PM, I completed a 4.5 mile Fartlek workout with two of my other clients.  Then at 3:30 PM, I ran a short 2.6 mile recovery run with one of the cross country runners I coach.  After that, I went to my local town’s 4th Friday event and worked there until 9 PM.  Friday afternoon I still had it set in my head that I would be completing my last long-ish run during the upcoming weekend (15 miles of rolling hills rather than torturing my body with another 3000 feet of elevation gain/loss).  After that long run, I would start to taper.

Fast forward to Friday night.  My body was physically exhausted and my mind was trying to fight back – trying to convince me that I needed to get in my last long run before tapering.  My mind was wrong, my body was right.  Another long run would exhaust me even more.  It would snag up my energy stores again. I wouldn’t be resting my body.  I would be torturing it.  So do you know what I did this weekend instead?  I rested.  I ran one mile yesterday with the women’s cross country team during their warm-up.  I ate a slice of pizza at the mall.  I went to a BBQ and had chips and salsa, cake, and cannoli dip.  Today I stayed off my feet.  I went for a no-pressure bike ride with Josh.  I watched the Eagles game.  I’m not running tonight.

Tomorrow I officially start my taper.  The 15 mile run I thought I “needed “to run has no place in the remaining two weeks of my training plan.  Regardless of if I had ran 15 miles this weekend or not, I still have a 50k to race in fourteen days. I’d rather be energetic and well-rested for this race than exhausted and broken down.

I don’t regret not running this weekend.  I know that I won’t finish my 50k and wish that I had really put in those extra 15 miles.  Sometimes training for an ultra takes guts, sometimes it takes determination, sometimes it takes perseverance, but most times it takes smarts and respect for your own body. The human body is an amazing thing.  It allows us to do things that we sometimes can’t even imagine.  Because it’s so amazing, we need to care for it, we need to listen to it, and we need to know when enough is enough.

Training for an ultra is humbling.  It’s rewarding.  It’s joyful.  It’s tough.  It’s mentally challenging just as much as it’s physically challenging.  Nobody every said that training for an ultra is easy, but I can tell you that it’s always worth it at the finish line – no matter what you did to get there.

 

 

Training for October’s Ultra

Training for October’s Ultra

Training for an ultra is not easy.  As a matter of fact, training for any race that you set a goal for (of any distance, short or long) is not easy.  Training requires discipline, resiliency, and mental determination.  Training can be extremely rewarding but it can also be exhausting.  Runner’s highs are just as common as mornings when you force yourself to stop hitting the snooze button on the alarm.  The physical training is just as tedious as the mental training.  Doubts, fears, and confidence levels are constantly fluctuating.  But if the goal is significant enough to you, you’ll find a way to overcome the obstacles you are bound to face.

This morning, the first of September, with a cool, crisp air that signals fall is coming soon, I was planning on doing hill repeats.  I had everything ready to drive over to Delaware and run up and down Rocky Run and Bicycle Trail for 7 miles.  But my body had different plans for me last night.  I was awake for at least two hours feeling sick to my stomach.  *(prepare for unnecessary details)* I threw up twice and just couldn’t seem to settle back in to a slumber.  I knew even before the sun started to rise that I wasn’t going to be able to get my workout in.  When the alarm went off early this morning, I just stayed in bed.  I still had a weird feeling in my stomach.  I was tired from being awake at 2 AM. My body was drained of fuel & liquids.  Those hills would have to wait for another day.

It would’ve been ideal weather for a morning out on the trails.  Disappointment still lingers in my head and mentally I know I need to get out and run those hills. Yet, I’ve learned through the years that listening to my body is imperative.  If I were to force myself through the workout, my body would’ve fought back.  I would be miserable.  I would be weak.  I would be hindering my goal rather than facilitating it.  So here I sit, writing a “confessional” about a workout I couldn’t do.

Training for October’s 50k has met its fair share of challenges in the last 7-8 weeks.  I’ve been overwhelmed with other life stressors – applying to grad school, applying to jobs, helping the family business, working with my clients, the list goes on.  I’m not upset that all these things have accumulated over the past few months.  Life happens.  I constantly preach to my clients and other runners that flexibility is essential when it comes to training.  You must be willing to be flexible with the training plan in order to achieve success.  Sometimes we cannot control what life throws at us.  However, we can control how we react to what life throws at us.  I try my best to react by “going with the flow”.  Be flexible with yourself.  Life is rarely a smooth ride but the destination is always worth a bumpy journey.

I have exactly one month and 8 days until my race.  The next month and 8 days will include new beginnings – happy beginnings – , new challenges, and new ambitions.  When I wrote up my training plan, I didn’t seem to schedule in life’s non-running plans.  Even though the schedule has been and will continue to be altered, the end goal has remained the same.  I want to finish this 50k.  I want to embrace its challenges and learn from whatever the course throws at me.  At the end of the training when I reach that finish line, I want to be a more humbled, grateful, and motivated person.  I want to proudly say “I ran my best and I am a better person because of it”.

 

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.

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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.

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PC: Joe Azze and Mountain Peak Fitness

 

 

I’m setting goals, not resolutions.

I’m setting goals, not resolutions.

As defined by trusty ‘ol Google, a resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or not to do something”.

On the other hand, a goal is defined as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or a desired result”.

We’re only four days into 2017 and I’ve heard the word “resolution” too many times.  Four days into 2017 and I’ve heard that people’s new year’s resolutions have already been put on the back burner.  I’ve never been someone who set a new year’s resolutions and I’ll tell you why now.  To me, resolutions are simply attempts to achieve a short or long term goal.  There seems to be no backboard for holding you to your resolutions.

I personally believe that goals have firmer foundations for achieved success compared to resolutions.  The definition above states it simply:  goals are ambitions, efforts, and a desire for results.  Goals provide you something to work towards, something to strive for, and something to hold you accountable for your actions.  Goals provide a deadline for your actions to be completed. Goals are continuous efforts that can be extended and grown upon.  Goals teach you to work hard for something you want to do.  Goals help you reach limits you never thought possible.  And once you reach one “limit”, a new limit can be set until you realize limits truly don’t exist.

So what are my goals for 2017?  I’ve set a goal to race the Hyner Trail Challenge 25k for the first time ever (I’m already registered in this sold-out race).  I’ve set a goal to thru-hike the Loyalsock Trail with Josh.  I’ve set a goal to race another ultramarathon in the fall (specific race is TBD, but most likely I’ll be registering for the Green Monster 50k once registration opens).

These three goals aren’t merely resolutions because I have ever intention of achieving these goals.  I won’t change my mind in a week and throw in the towel like most resolution-ers do.  These goals are set, published to the Internet, and have been shared with running partners.  Not only will I hold myself accountable to my goals but now I have my blog readers and my training partners to hold me accountable too.

Will you resolve to take action this year?  Or will you take action to achieve goals?  

The choice is yours.

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view along the Loyalsock Trail
2016

2016

1 year…

12 months…

52 weeks…

366 days (it was a leap year)…

8784 hours…

527, 040 minutes…

31,622,400 seconds…

All those numbers, just little moments of time, helped shaped one big number: 2016.

A year I will always remember.  A year that will always hold a special place in my heart filled with joy, fear, new beginnings, bigger aspirations, exciting adventures, friendship, family, and love.

To me, 2016 was many things.  There’s many moments of this year that will always mean a lot to me.  Those moments have added up to one unforgettable year and I’m writing this blogpost, my 20th blog post of the year, to tell you about it.

I started 2016 as an intern for a medical fitness facility 20 minutes from my house.  I needed an internship to fulfill my undergraduate requirements so on January 19th, I became known as “the intern”.

In early January I registered for two races – my first ultramarathon scheduled for May 15th and a half-marathon scheduled for October 16th.  I was drawn to a 50k race distance because I wanted to try a race distance longer than a marathon.  My intentions for signing up for the half-marathon in October were to potentially PR and to set a mid-point race for the Philadelphia Marathon in November which I planned on signing up for as well.  Not even a month in to 2016 and my race schedule was set for the year.

I started a new part-time job at an assisted living community in the activities department.  I really enjoyed creating bonds with the residents and my co-workers were really nice!

With a combination of working at my internship (unpaid) and my part-time job I was extremely busy all the time.  Life became crazy, but I was learning a lot and still tried to make time for things I enjoyed doing.

On February 14th, I went for a 13 mile trail run with four crazy trail runners in 10 degree weather.  I probably wore six shirts on that brisk Sunday morning.  We even crossed a frozen stream where I was wished a happy valentine’s day by the man that would become my boyfriend three months later.

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Altra Lone Peaks

I fell in love with Altra.  My toes adore the wide toebox and the zero drop is perfect for my feet!  The Altra Lonepeaks are my favorite, but on road group runs I always wear my Torins!  I also really like their slogan: “Zero Limits”. [Fast forward to December 28th and I was chosen as an Altra Ambassador for 2017!  YAYY!!]

On February 28th, I ran 19 miles with my dad in the Pine Barrens.  My love for trail running continued to grow.

I visited my best friend from Bloomsburg in the beginning of March in Bethlehem, PA.

I discovered a new park down the street from my internship because I was organizing a 5k for a group of employees from the corporation I was interning with.  Discovering new places is always a lot of fun!

On Easter day, I started to learn how to mountain bike with my brother.  I got off my bike a lot to walk across logs but I enjoyed finding a new way to spend time outside on the trails.  I remember being scared to death about crashing but for some reason I wanted to keep trying so that I could go out and ride whenever I wanted.

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White Clay with Josh

I began training with the man who wished me a happy valentines day on that frigid February morning.  He (Josh) led me around trails I’d never been on as I tried to keep up with him.  We learned a lot about each other on these runs and found a lot of similarities between our personalities.

I worked my first of four expos with Sparkly Soul with Angela on April 1st.  These expos were always an adventure.  During our first expo together (Hot Chocolate 15k), we lugged heavy suitcases up and down staircases because we couldn’t figure out where to go.  We also received a huge box of mini Apple Pie LaraBars that lasted me for the next 4 months.  Then we ran at 9 PM and I fell and scraped my knee on the sidewalk.  Blood was dripping down my leg.

I trained hard for my ultramarathon coming up on May 15th.  High mileage, long runs, and lots of mental preparation!  I even started teaching my dog how to run off-leash.

I ran a one mile race on a track in 6:24.  I was VERY happy with that time, although I was completely out of breath!

I organized and directed my first 5k walk/run in late April.  I concluded my internship and was given positive feedback about my work ethic and knowledge about the fitness world.  I was told I would’ve been offered a job if they had a position available, but unfortunately they didn’t have a position available at the time.

I travelled to Hyner, PA to spectate the Hyner 25k/50k with my trail running friends.  We camped in an airfield with a bunch of other rugged trailrunners in tents, campers, and big RVs.  We went to a church that provided a free spaghetti dinner to the racers.  I climbed Humble Hill at 7 AM alone in order to reach Hyner View before the racers did.  That hill definitely humbled me.  I waited at the top of a very windy Hyner View for over 2 hours waiting for the racers I was cheering on to get to the top.  I talked with some photographers and other spectators at the top and I rung my cowbell when my fellow trail running friends ran by.  I traversed down Huff’s Run to get back to the bottom.  I toted a beer in my CamelBak to the finish line for Josh as he requested.  We waited patiently for the 50k racers to finish.  I kept ringing my cowbell.  We ate free pizza and cookies and I attempted to drink beer at the finish line. I took one sip and called it a day.  I stargazed with Josh, sat around a campfire with about 15 other trail runners, and shivered in the chilly April mountain air.  But somehow, even shivering, I was perfectly content.

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The view from the top of Humble Hill

I became a Sparkly Soul ambassador in late April at the Broad Street 10 miler expo.  At this expo, the 2nd expo of the year for me, I met the owner of Sparkly Soul!  We also had a thief in our midst at this expo.

Josh made me dinner and asked me to be his girlfriend.  Of course I said yes!

I graduated from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science.  I was awarded a plaque for earning the highest GPA in BU’s Exercise Science graduating class of 2016.  I was shocked!  I also officially became an adult because now, as a college graduate, I entered what people call “the job world”.

I started looking for a full-time job because I was only being offered about 8 hours per week at my part-time job.  I was applying to anywhere I thought I might have a chance.  I became frustrated with the limited job opportunities so after much thought I decided to pursue my health coach certification to make a future for myself.  I hoped to start my own health coaching services upon becoming certified.

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1st Ultra

I finished my 1st ultramarathon on May 15 side-by-side with Josh.  It was a perfect temperature for race day.  After running the first 25k loop in under 2:30, we knew a sub-5 would be in our reach as long as we didn’t slow down too much more.  We finished in 4:58 in 34th and 35th place.  I was the 3rd overall female finisher in the 29 and under age group.  I was awarded a German weather vane.  We had completed our first ever ultra together and dominated on the trails.  This was the start of our ultra running futures!

Since my legs needed a rest from ultra training, I started mountain biking more often.  Slowly but surely I was getting more confident.

I was offered a full-time job from another assisted living community as the activities director.  I resigned from my part-time job and started my full-time job in full swing.  For two weeks, I worked both jobs since I had submitted two weeks notice of my official resignation.  Life got crazy and hectic again.

I began liking wine more and more.

I explored more trails at Fair Hills with Josh on a steaming hot summer day.  We even decided to take a break and cool off in a stream.

Other than trail running, star gazing became one of my favorite summer activities.

I celebrated Global Running Day and National Trails Day.

I spectated my brother’s first ever road cycling race.  He didn’t win but he did great for a rookie!

I created a chair exercise routine for my residents at work to music from the 40s, 50s and 60s.  It was a lot of fun to apply my exercise knowledge in this setting.

Wanderlust hit me hard, especially on Mondays.

I did a lot of runs and bike rides at 6 AM since that was the only time I could get out and exercise.  It was a great start to my day!

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Patriotic

I ran the traditional 4th of July 4 mile race in a patriotic singlet from Sneakers and Spokes.  I didn’t run a personal best (I ran a 28:40), but I had a lot of fun!  I had to rush home to shower before my shift at work.  I didn’t enjoy having to go to work on a holiday.

Josh and I explored French Creek State Park.  We got lost but eventually found our way back to his Jeep.

I wrote letters to Angela who was spending her summer in California.  Snail mail is the best!

I began attending more and more Sneakers and Spokes group rides.  I only owned a hybrid bike without clip-ins but I tried my best to keep up with the rest of the group.  I learned proper cycling etiquette and how to ride in a pace line. Time on my bike became good cardio for me without the demands of running on my muscles.

Josh and I took our first official camping trip together at Worlds End State Park. We ran up trails that led to beautiful vistas.  We became intrigued by the Loyalsock Trail.  We camped at a campground in a tent.  We ran every trail in the park, crashed a wedding party, and dipped our feet in a stream.  It poured the entire afternoon after our run but we made the most of it.  We made a pizza over the fire.  On our way home we stopped at the boulder field at Hickory Run State Park.  Josh loved the boulder field!

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Worlds End

In early August, I was offered a job by my internship site.  I was struck with anxiety, fear, and worry because if I chose to accept the job, I would transition from my current full time job to a per diem/part-time job requiring me to work every weekend, both Saturday and Sunday.  After talking it over with my parents, Josh, and Angela I decided to accept the job and leave my full time job.  I craved working in a fitness setting and my full-time job was a dead end job with no upward potential.  My new job would provide many options for promotions so I felt it necessary to accept the new job.  I once again submitted my two weeks notice to my current employer and started working two jobs again until my two weeks was up.  Since accepting the new job from my internship site, I’ve been happier and much more satisfied with the type of work I am doing.  I feel empowered.  I feel grateful.  I went from being “the intern” to returning as an employee within four months.

I learned trusting God is the easiest thing I can do.

I played many rounds of mini golf with my younger “cousin”.

I did my first ever road time trial “race”.  I finished a 10 mile practice time trial as the fastest female rider.  I was still on my hybrid without clip-in shoes.  I felt like I was going to puke, but I was happy!

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Appalachian Trail

I showed Josh part of New Jersey’s section of the Appalachian Trail.  We climbed to the top of Mount Tammany which overlooked the Delaware Water Gap.  We explored a lot of trails that day and I began falling in love with the peace of the trails even more than before!

I bought a new road bike since I was becoming more of a “serious” road cyclist.  I love my navy blue and purple Fuji Finest!

I participated in a paint party.  I discovered I’m not much of a painter.

Sneakers and Spokes celebrated it’s one year anniversary.  Also, Sneaker’s and Spokes won “best sporting goods store” in Salem County!

I became overly intrigued by the concept of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.

I really liked eating pizza and nachos.

I attended my first ever Oktoberfest with Josh.  I didn’t drink from a stein but I had a lot of fun dancing ridiculously!

At the 3rd expo (Rock ‘N Roll Philadelphia), we were excited to see an Altra booth!  Nothing too overly crazy happened at this expo that I recall.

Josh and I travelled to the Cat Skills Mountains for his Cats Tail Trail Marathon. We camped in the tent for 3 nights and 4 days.  We explored the trail that started in our campground.  We explored the small town of Phoenicia.  It rained a lot.  I was stranded in an elementary school parking lot at 6 AM without cell phone service and then I ran down a highway just to get to our friend’s truck which I then drove up mountains just to cheer the men on with my cowbell.  I waited at the only road-accessible aid station for hours waiting for all our trail friends to come through.  I cheered Josh on and I was a proud girlfriend!  I waited in front of a parish hall for hours waiting for Josh to run down the street. I even witnessed a finisher who had punctured his forehead with a branch run towards the finish with dried blood caked on his face.  Josh finished in 13th overall.  I was so proud!  In celebration, I spent a late night with five grown men who were drinking beer in a mountain cabin.  I was the only female (drinking my Mike’s Hard Lemonade of course).  That weekend was quite the adventure.

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Runner’s World Half

I ran the Runner’s World Half Marathon in Bethlehem, PA in 1:43.  Although it wasn’t a PR, I was content with my time.  It was a hillier course than I expected.  I also got to say hello to Tiffany – our former Altra rep that had moved to Utah!  I felt prepared for my marathon but still knew I needed to put in hard work for the next month before my race.

I started paying my student loans.

I visited Smithville with my mom and my mommom for the first time ever.  I bought special peanut butter.

I visited a winery for the first time as a girl’s night out.  Wine is good!

I carved a pumpkin that simply said “run”.  I’m not that creative.

I handed out candy to eager trick-or-treaters for the first time in my life.  It was so much fun!

I struggled through a 22 mile run which left me feeling physically defeated but mentally humbled.  I knew I had what I needed to complete the marathon, I just needed to ignore the pain for as long as I could in order to race a PR.

I craved trail races and ultra-marathons.

My brother decided to enlist in the Air Force.

I became more and more grateful for my new job despite having to work weekends.  I knew I had made the right decision.

I earned my ACE Health Coach certification in mid-November.  I plan on starting my own health coach services in 2017.

At the 4th expo of the year (Philadelphia Marathon), we moved our booth three times before we were officially settled in and were given about 10 bags of Herrs pretzels!

I ran the Philadelphia Marathon on an extremely windy Sunday morning.  25-30+ MPH winds pushed against me during the last 10 miles of the race but I hung on to all the time I had banked during the first half of the race to finish 1 minute and 17 seconds faster than last year’s finishing time.  I was happy with my time (3:45:08), happy to be done, and happy to look forward to trail races in 2017.

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Last Sparkly Soul Expo
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Phila. Marathon

I celebrated my 3rd year of vegetarianism.

I towed a trailer of canned goods from Sneakers and Spokes to Xfinity Live in Philadelphia with a group of determined road cyclists.  We had collected 234 pounds of donated food for WMMR’s Preston and Steve’s Campout for Hunger for Philabundance.  I was terrified pedaling across the bridge and yelled at a lot of Philadelphia drivers who were threatening my safety.  I completed my longest bike ride to date on that day – 67 miles; half of which I towed canned goods with me!

I took Josh to his first ever Flyers game with my mom and one of my best friends.  I lost my voice within 5 minutes – the Flyers scored 3 goals in less than 90 seconds.

I celebrated an amazing Christmas with my family.  It was also Josh and I’s first Christmas together.  It was perfect.

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My Family

This is my 2016 – a year I will never forget.  2016 was the year I’ve had three different employers.  2016 was the year I ran my first ultra-marathon.  2016 was the year I yearned for trails, adventure, and mountains.  2016 was the year I truly found my best friend.  2016 was the year I pushed my limits and overcame my fears.  2016 was a year I could have never predicted.

There were times in 2016 when I felt weak.  I shed a lot of tears (both happy and sad) this year.  I became anxious and fearful of my unknown future.  I questioned where my life would be leading.  But I also felt strong at times – out on the trails, in the job world, and having day-to-day conversations with my closest family/friends.  It wasn’t an easy year, but in retrospect, it wasn’t a difficult year either.  Yes, I was faced with decisions that left me feeling lost but with the support system I’ve been blessed with, those decisions weren’t lonely. When 2016 ends at 11:59PM, I’ll have no regrets.  2016 was the year I learned to go with life’s flow; after all, fate is real.

Here I am, on the 366th day of the year, publishing my 20th blog post of 2016 about all the adventures, happy moments, and anxious times.  I’ve become a better person than I was on January 1st.  A stronger person.  A (slightly) more confident person.  A loving person.  And most importantly, a person with a purpose and a drive to do more audacious things in 2017.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Conversastions with myself – Marathon Mile Splits in Retrospect

Conversastions with myself – Marathon Mile Splits in Retrospect

26 mile splits.  One sub-7.  Nine sub-8s.  Eight sub-9s.  Eight sub-10s.  One marathon.

Mile 1 – 7:24 “Alright, here we go! Don’t trip over anyone’s feet.  Don’t trip over any haphazardly thrown clothes.  Find space to run smoothly.”

Mile 2 – 6:57 “Alright, too fast.  Settle in.  Run at a pace that you can sustain for 24 more miles.  Use the crowd’s adrenaline, but don’t OVERUSE it.”

Mile 3 – 7:24 “Alright, feeling good but still a little too fast.  Slow down or you’re going to regret this at mile 20.”

Mile 4 – 7:53 “Getting better.  This is a little more realistic but still a little fast.  The adrenaline got the best of you but it’s not too late to slow down the pace a little more.  Still feeling good!”

Mile 5 – 7:52 – “Staying consistent.  Very good.  Control how the crowd’s energy is influencing you.  Don’t let your pace get out of control.”

Mile 6 – 7:42 “You let the crowd get the best of you.  Control your pace.  You’re going to regret this.  20 more miles to go!”

Mile 7 – 7:50 – “Still feeling good.  Stay focused, it’s a long race.”

Mile 8 -8:15 – “This is hill is going to slow you down a little bit.  Focus on one step at a time.  The top of the hill will be here before you know it and then it will flatten out again.”

Mile 9 – 7:53 “You’re doing good.  This downhill will make the mile split faster but you have to use the “free” energy when you can get it.”

Mile 10 – 8:27 – “I have no idea where we are.  Where is Fairmont Park?  I don’t remember this part of the course from last year.”

Mile 11 – 8:16“Feeling a little tired but that’s ok.  Focus on getting to the half-way point.”

Mile 12 – 7:55 “We’re almost half way!!!  Take a Shotblok, keep drinking water!  Maybe Dad and Josh will be around somewhere.”

Mile 13 – 7:58 “I still have 13 miles to go.  How am I going to run 13 more miles?”

Mile 14 – 8:10 – “Alright, use the crowd’s energy again.  There will be huge crowds in this section of the race before we’re back out in the middle of nowhere running towards Manayunk.”

Mile 15 – 8:23 – “This wind is ridiculous.  There’s no one to draft off of.  Everybody is either 25 feet in front of me or 25 feet behind me.  This just plain ‘ol sucks.”

Mile 16 – 8:28 – “A guy is yelling to everyone that we ONLY have 10 miles to go….TEN MILES?!?  YOU WANT ME TO RUN 10 MORE MILES?!?!  If only he knew how far 10 miles seems when you’ve already ran 16 miles before this point..”

Mile 17 – 8:26 – “This wind is horrible.  My legs are completely cramped.  I want to walk.  Running out to Manayunk is miserable.  I’m tired.  Why is this wind blowing so hard in my face right now?”

Mile 18 – 8:28 – “You should not have ran so many sub-8 minute miles earlier in the race.  You’re stupid for doing that, Lyndsey, absolutely stupid!”

Mile 19 – 9:08 – “The turn around point is coming up.  Stop throwing yourself a pity party and start running faster.  Chug Gatorade and get your head back into this race”

Mile 20 – 9:20 –  “Well,  I’ve reached the turn around point.  I don’t want to run anymore.  Everything hurts.”

Mile 21 – 9:18 – “Must. Chug. Gatorade.”

Mile 22 – 9:28 – “Oh, this is bad.  This is really bad.  I’m going to cry.  I am going to cry.  I’m going to cry but I have to keep running because if I don’t keep running I’ll never get to put on warm clothes when I cross the finish line.”

Mile 23 – 9:41 – “You need to get yourself back together and get to that finish line.  You’ve trained for 3 months and if you don’t PR you know you’re going to be disappointed in yourself.”

Mile 24 – 9:38 – “Only 2 more miles after this.  2 mile is NOTHING!  Come on, keep moving, legs!”

Mile 25 – 9:52 – “One mile and you’re done.  Just one more mile.  Piece of cake!”

Mile 26 -9:22 – “Come on, final stretch.  Less than a quarter mile until you reach the finish line.  You’re so close!!!”

Mile 26.2“OH THANK GOODNESS I’M DONE.  I DON’T HAVE TO RUN ANYMORE….I think I’m dead.”

Race Recap: Philadelphia Marathon

Race Recap: Philadelphia Marathon

Exactly one week ago I was sitting on my couch feeling exhausted, sore, and accomplished.  Just one week ago I finished the Philadelphia Marathon for the 2nd consecutive year with a one minute and 17 second improvement.  Three months of long runs, speed workouts, group runs, solo runs, happy feet, sore muscles, and mindful eating/drinking resulted in a 26.2 mile race that took me 3 hours, 45 minutes and 7 seconds.  But let’s not start at the finish line where this story would end, just like the race did.  Let’s start the two days leading up to the race.

Friday I worked at the marathon expo with Angela and Sparkly Soul.  Our adventures to Philly and during the expo are always exciting but what I liked most about working at the expo is that I was able to focus on the race without getting stressed about it.  I was surrounded by a bunch of other people who were running either the half or the full marathon.  I enjoyed myself at the expo because I enjoy selling Sparkly Souls!

Then, I went to work on Saturday.  The day wasn’t overly horrible, but I had a lot more time on my hands to worry about the race and the race day weather.  I wasn’t surrounded by other runners about to embark on a 26.2 mile race like I was at the expo.  I was left with my own thoughts, doubts, and fears.

When I got home I went for a quick 3 mile shake-out run.  The wind was already picking up speed.  I ate pasta for dinner and went to church to pray for serenity and acceptance of whatever weather I was going to face the next day.  It was hard for me to keep my doubts at bay.  I went to bed more anxious and nervous than I had been for the past 3 months.  I could hear the wind outside my window and I was worried my chances of PR’ing at the race the next day would be literally blown away (no pun intended).  My alarm was set for 3:45 AM so I went to bed early.

I woke up and the wind was still whipping.  My weather app showed temperatures would reach 48 degrees but the wind chill would be in the mid-30s.  For my race outfit, I opted for long leggings, a long sleeve light Under Armour, my Sneakers and Spokes jersey, my gloves that convert to mittens, and my standard Nike ear warmer.  I bundled up in extra layers as I walked out the door with my parents and Josh at 4:45 AM because I knew waiting around the corrals would be brisk.

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Race outfit with my Altra Torins!

I planned to get to the city by 5:30 AM which would leave plenty of time to find parking, get through security, and use the port-a-potties (ew!).  We arrived early so we sat in my dad’s truck for 15-20 minutes to stay warm.  When we arrived at the security gates, they told my dad and Josh bikes were prohibited so they locked them up outside of the secure zone and we continued on our way to the starting area.

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my favorite candid

I was completely disoriented due to the crowds and because the sun still wasn’t up past the horizon yet.  I had no idea where the starting line was or in which direction I would be running.  I eventually found the green corral and waited with my parents and Josh until closer to the start time.  My mom took a few candid pictures and I tried figuring out where the front of the green corral was.

I hesitantly started taking off layers and the chill in the air became evident.  I left my sweatpants, 3/4 zip, and sweatshirt with my parents/Josh which left me with a tshirt and a long sleeve over top of my race outfit.  I just wanted to be warm.

I’m not sure if I started in the correct corral.  All I do know is that I started in the middle of a corral on the right side of the street.  After the national anthem, the wheel chair and elite athletes started the race.  I began taking off my last two layers on top of my race outfit and tried finding a nice spot to start the race so I wasn’t tripping over clothes that had been haphazardly tossed on the sides of the corral.

Before I knew it, the corral I was in was at the starting line. I double and triple checked to make sure my Garmin had signal as we inched closer toward the starting line.   I was happily adorning my Altra Torins and unlike last year, I wasn’t worried about my toes bleeding half way through the race.  The wide toe box of Altras is my favorite!  We inched closer to the 26.2 miles ahead of us and everyone’s watches around me simultaneously beeped as we crossed the starting strip.  The race had begun.

I told myself to start comfortably – don’t go out too hard, pace yourself, don’t do what you did last year.  Easier said than done.  I ran my first mile in 7:24….not exactly what I set out to do but I consciously told myself to settle in to a more reasonable pace for 26.2 miles.  Just like last year I planned to look at my watch every 3 miles so I wouldn’t drive myself crazy looking at my watch 26 times.

For the first 5 miles of the race I was searching through the crowds to find my dad and Josh on their bikes.  They had planned to ride parts of the course to cheer me on.  I kept searching and searching but I just couldn’t seem to find them.  Worst case scenarios started running through my head…maybe someone stole their bikes after they locked them outside the secure zone or maybe they couldn’t get out of the secure zone for some reason.  But my thoughts were soon replaced by the overall sensory overload of the race – the noises, the weather, all the people – I was plenty distracted, but still curious as to where my biggest supporters were.

The run down South Street reminded me somewhat of trail running.  The road was completely uneven with ruts and holes down the entire length we ran.  Not nearly as tough as trail running, but I needed to find humor in something to get me through the next 20 miles.

At mile 6, I distracted myself by searching for a friend who told me she would be at mile 6.5.  I kept searching and when I finally found her I threw my hands up in some silly way and gave her a wave and a “hello”.  I was still very much happy at this point so doing that required little to no energy.

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still happy at mile 6.5!

The race continued toward the zoo and I remember my dad saying he didn’t have any plans on heading toward the zoo so I knew I’d be running the next 5 or so miles without seeing them.  Where could they be?!?!  There were musicians playing huge drums near the zoo which set a nice beat leading up to the biggest hill of the course.  I remember feeling like I was slowing down but I told myself to keep powering through the hill.  There were more musicians after the top of the hill who were playing drums.  The course took some weird turns that I didn’t remember running last year but all I could do was keeping running forward.

After a long down hill which I took advantage of, we began running next to the path for Fairmount Park.  We were approaching the half way point and that’s when I finally got to see my dad and Josh.  It was about time they showed up to cheer me on!   My dad yelled out that I was right on pace and I couldn’t help but think “right on pace for what?”.  I knew I was running fast.  I knew I was running too fast but I needed to just keep going.

13.1 miles in 1:44:55.  Simple calculations made me realize I was running for a sub-3:30 finish…what kind of torture had I set up for myself in the last 13.1? There was no turning back – what was done was done. I had 13.1 miles to go and I needed to hold on.  I was running to PR.  That was my only goal – I needed to PR.

The race rounded the front of the art museum.  The wind picked up significantly once we were headed in the direction of Manayunk.  I tried using the crowd’s energy to augment my adrenaline.  I needed to channel their energy into my legs, my body, my mind, my anything.

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The 30 MPH wind gusts made me feel like I wasn’t moving forward any more.  My feet weren’t landing underneath my body anymore; rather, they were landing slightly to the right of my body. I started cursing in my head.  Then out of frustration, I started cursing out loud.  I tried latching on to so many people in attempt to draft off of them.  I wanted them to block the wind for me.  Yet, every person I tried to draft off of was either running too fast or too slow.  Nobody around me was running my pace and I became frustrated by that.

I didn’t remember how far away Manayunk was until I was running against 30+ MPH winds.  It was so far away.  The wind made my hands cold.  I was using a lot more energy during my run out to Manayunk than I did in the cumulative 14 miles that came before this point.  A guy cheering on the side of the road said “only 10 more miles to go!”…“only”.  I wanted to be done.

I knew that I would also be without cheering from my dad and Josh from mile 15 on out because last year my dad didn’t go out towards Manayunk so he could make it back through security and to the finish area in time to see me finish.  My new goal was to find Angela.  My legs were cramping up, my handheld was empty of water, and I desperately needed a Shot Blok.  Without water, I couldn’t eat a Shot Blok so I reached a very low point in the race.  I was running with my hands on my quads because they weren’t functioning right.  I was getting more and more frustrated at my body for shutting down and I was getting even MORE frustrated at the wind.  I needed to find Angela.

I told myself to stop throwing myself a pity party and get myself together.  I found Angela and told her she looked great and to keep going (something along those lines).  I wished in that moment as she was running back towards the finish line that we were running together so that I could be around someone I knew.  I needed someone to distract me from my soreness.  But, she was ahead of me and she was running her own race so I had to find a way to get through it myself.

Because my handheld was empty, I switched to chugging Gatorade at every water stop.  Gatorade never tasted so good.  I was spilling it all over myself because I can’t run and drink from a paper cup simultaneously and I worried that it would make me colder.  To my knowledge, it didn’t really make me colder.

Finally I reached the turn around point in Manayunk.  My legs were still cramped.  My body was exhausted.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to scream at the wind for making these miles miserable.  I started calculating how much time I have versus the miles I had left to run to see if I was still within PR zone.  Luckily, I was.  As long as I didn’t slow down to 12-13 minute mile pace, I would make it.  I told myself that’s completely possible.

There were hills in Manayunk.  There were people handing out beer outside of Manayunk.  There were runners cramping up on the side of the course in Manayunk.  There was wind in Manayunk.  I don’t understand how one little town throughout this course could suck so much energy out of me….but it did.

With 4 miles to go, I heard my dad and Josh cheering me on.  I was mentally distraught at this point.  I threw my hands up in the air after hearing them and covered my eyes trying to fight back tears.  I was getting myself all worked up and I wasn’t breathing properly.  I needed to compose myself.  I had about 45 minutes to run these last 4 miles and still PR.  I was racing the clock.  I couldn’t break down and cry right here 4 miles away from being done, from being wrapped in a warm heat blanket, or from finding my family and wonderful boyfriend and going home.  It’s only 4 more miles.

I switched to playing a little game in my head that Josh used to motivate me with during speed workouts at the local park.  He would pick someone anywhere from 200 meters to 1/4 mile away from me and tell me to go catch them.  I started doing that to keep my mind distracted from the pain in my legs but only a few people were getting closer to me – everyone else seemed to be getting farther away.

The finish line seemed close but not close enough with only 1.2 miles to go.  I told myself that’s only like 10-11 minutes more of running (because my pace was pretty slow at this point).  Finally, I could see the starting line.  My ears were attentive in attempt to hear one of my three supporters cheering for me.  I didn’t hear any of them but figured I’d just somehow missed hearing them with the thousands of other people in the crowd cheering too.

 

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I crossed the finish line and every muscle in my body hurt.  My watch read 3:45.  I knew I had PR’d and I was extremely happy on the inside despite probably looking unhappy to all the race volunteers.  My hands were numb.  A running acquaintance of mine wrapped the heat blanket around me.  When she asked me how I was, I said “I think I’m dead”.  Those are the only 4 words I could fathom saying at that point.

After receiving my finisher’s medal, I walked to the end of the finishing chute.  I grabbed a few snacks and a water bottle.  I was done.  I was done running.  My legs didn’t have to run anymore.  I could rest.  But first, I needed to find my family.

Last year I couldn’t find them so this year we had planned to meet up in the family meet-up area at letter “F” for my last name.  There was no family meet-up area this year.  I was delusional and completely out of it so my best reasoning was to stand in one spot until one of them saw me.  So I waited 5 minutes and I couldn’t see them anywhere in the crowd.  I was shivering uncontrollably.  I took it upon myself to ask to borrow a stranger’s cell phone to call my mom.  I told my mom where I was and she eventually found me but the police officer wouldn’t let her through to help me.  I hobbled over to my mom, past the stubborn police officer, and immediately questioned where dad and Josh were.  My mom said they didn’t get through security in time to see the finish so we still needed to find them.

We even20161120_111145tually all found each other and my dad and Josh congratulated me on a great race.  I was tired but still happy I ran faster than last year.  After Josh and my family helped me put on warm layers, my mom took a picture of my with my medal. I tried to look happier than last year because last year’s picture I looked grumpy.

We started the long, slow, cold walk back to my dad’s truck.  I couldn’t stop shivering and stepping off of curbs hurt every muscle in my body.  It seemed like the walk took 30 minutes.  But I got to tell Josh a little bit about my race which I was happy about.

After returning home and refueling with pizza, I was able to reflect some more about my 2nd official marathon.  Despite wanting to improve my time by more than just 1 minute and 17 seconds, considering the windy conditions I am very content with my improvement.  Three stressful months of training for 1 minute and 17 seconds of improvement.  It’s an unbalanced outcome but it’s an outcome I can be happy with nonetheless.

I don’t plan on running the Philadelphia Marathon again anytime soon because next year and beyond I plan on primarily trail racing.  My time with the Philadelphia Marathon has ended and a new chapter of racing for me will begin in April 2017.   I obviously didn’t learn last year not to go out too fast because once again I paid for my own stupidity in the second half of the race.  My 3:45:07 will stand as my Philadelphia Marathon personal record for many years to come.

The wind didn’t blow my attempt at a personal record away from me; instead, it blew me right in the direction to the type of racing I want to do from here on out.

A much needed life update….

A much needed life update….

I just finished reading my last blog post which was a very long 3 months ago.  I feel like a lot has happened in the past 3 months – good things, not so good things, and everything in between.  Here is my attempt to reflect on everything that has happened and to share with the rest of the world what’s been going on.

GENERAL LIFE UPDATES:

  • I resigned from my old part-time job to take on a new full-time job.  The first 2-3 weeks of this job I was extremely stressed out and time-management became essential for my sanity (although I’m pretty sure I lost my sanity a few times in the process of settling in to this job)
  • I got my hair cut trimmed – this is a rare occurrence for me that happens 2-3 times per year.
  • I wrote a lot of letters to Angela because she was completing her internship in California.  I love writing letters and since she was on the other side of the country I took full advantage of writing and sending letters to someone!
  • I started mountain biking and road cycling a lot more.  In the past I was never confident mountain biking on technical and hilly trails.  Although I’m still not superwoman out on the trails and I still have to get off my bike sometimes and push it, I have gained more confidence in the past few months.  This is progress.  I also started doing more road cycling with a group which I’ve really come to enjoy.  I actually also participated in my first ever time trial (TT) a few weeks ago and although I felt horrible during it, I’m really looking forward to seeing if I can improve my time next TT!
  • I’ve attended 3 birthday parties – Josh’s neighbor’s son’s, Josh’s nephew, and my mommom’s.  We just had my mommom’s party last night and we got to do a paint night with an art instructor.  My painting can be best described as “special” and “unique” because I have very minimal artistic ability.
  • I had to get my Macbook repaired because the screen randomly stopped working.  Thanks to Apple Care, my screen has been replaced cost-free!  [this is also another reason I haven’t been able to blog!]
  • Unfortunately, with all these good things happening, I’ve still had an excessive amount of stress and anxiety these past few months.  It has gotten to the point where I have mini meltdowns over the littlest, pettiest things.  I’ve had a lot of decision making to do, a hectic schedule with nearly every day and night packed with something to do, and just general life stress.  Luckily I have very supportive family and friends, and a boyfriend who can put small things into perspective for me.  This, I have become very grateful for and I can realize in retrospect that the small, petty things that upset me really didn’t matter in the big picture.
  • I have resigned from the full-time job I took on in the beginning of the summer to take on a new job at the same place I completed my internship at back in April.  They called me a few weeks ago and offered me a job, and after much deliberation, tears, and praying, I decided to leave my full-time job for this new job.  So yes, in just 3 months, I’ve resigned from an old job, accepted a new job, resigned from the new job, and accepted a new-new-newer job.  I will have a lot more potential at this new job than at my current job and it’s directly related to my exercise science degree.  This is the right move for me in the current moment and I am excited to officially start this new job later this week!

RUNNING UPDATES:

  • I’ve gone exploring with Josh!  We started expanding our trail running boundaries beyond New Jersey and Delaware.  In the past few months we’ve done a couple runs at Fair Hills State Park, a run at French Creek State Park, a weekend mini vacation at Worlds End State Park, a day trip at Hickory Run State Park, and a day trip up Mount Tammany and on the Appalachian Trail.  These were all such great experiences and new trails always make us happy.  We haven’t neglected our usual running locations but we’ve definitely enjoyed expanding our trail interests.  I’m so happy to have such a great person to go exploring with!
  • My mileage is very low.  I haven’t been putting in nearly as many miles as I usually am this time of year.  My motivation has been low, my full-time job has made my life crazy, I have been riding my bike more frequently, and I was still trying to recover from the ultra.  This heat has also put a damper on my running spirits but I’m hoping that in a few weeks that September will bring cooler weather.
  • The mileage that I have been doing has been very slow.  I haven’t been running fast AT ALL and when I do I feel like I’m exerting all my energy.  This has been frustrating to me at times because there are times that I want to pick up the pace a little.  I rarely use my watch and when I do, I don’t look at my mile splits.  I would rather run by feel than stressing myself over numbers.
  • I ran the 4th of July race that I do every year.  I didn’t run a PR but I wasn’t expecting a PR either.  I knew I wasn’t in race shape for such a short race.  I had been ultra-training for 3-4 months leading up to that day.  I just needed to run the race to keep tradition.
  • I’ve done more 6 AM runs in the past 2 months than ever before.  Due to my work schedule, I’ve just found it easier to set my alarm for 5:40, wake up and get in some miles on the trail.  At first, my body hated it.  I felt extremely sluggish and my legs were achey.  But in the past few weeks, I’ve actually felt normal on these 6 AM runs.  This is progress for me.
  • I got a new pair of Altra LonePeaks and Altra Torins because I needed to replace my old ones.  I could feel the wear on them and I knew that if I didn’t invest in a new pair that I would become injured very soon.  These are still my favorite shoes and my favorite brand!

I think this pretty much sums up everything. In the past week and a half I’ve become obsessed with watching the US dominate at the Olympics.  Marathon training will begin next Monday and my new job will begin this Saturday.  Angela is coming home.  Fall is approaching.  There’s a lot to look forward to in the next few weeks and months ahead.

Things I need to remind myself moving forward:

  • everything works out someway, somehow
  • stay focused on your goals
  • don’t be afraid to take risks
  • be yourself
  • everyday is a gift – be happy!