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.

 

 

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
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.”

Note-Worthy Runs of April 2016

Note-Worthy Runs of April 2016

April has been one of the most hectic, stressful, most beautiful, wonderful, and amazing months of the year.  April for me has brought high mileage leading up to my 1st ultra in the beginning of May, new adventures with friends, and new beginnings as my internship concluded.  In one word, April has been crazy.

Through all the chaos though, April has made me a stronger runner and a more mindful individual.  I’ve come to appreciate the people who make me who I am today and who I want to continue to spend time with in the future.  These are the people that understand my stressors, who can relate to my own little mind games, and who can push me to become the best possible person I can be.  And I am forever grateful for these people.

These note-worthy runs are runs that has left an imprint on my mind and will come creeping into my mind during the rough parts of my upcoming ultras.  I will have to remind myself of these runs to fight through the pain in order to get one step closer to that finish line:

April 1st – This was a night run that I did with Angela.  We had gotten back from a long second day representing SparklySoul at the Hot Chocolate Philly 15k expo.  Meteorologists had warned people of potential thunderstorms but we needed to get a run in. So we started on our run at around 8:30 PM with thunder booming in the distance.  We wanted to run at least 5 miles but ended up only doing 3 at tempo pace because the storm was moving faster than we were.  Although we ran negative splits during this run, we were literally sprinting around Angela’s block at sub-7:30 pace trying to avoid bolts of lightening.  In a nutshell, this was a fun and comical start to April.

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White Clay

April 3rd – This was my first run ever at a place in Delaware called White Clay.  I was accompanied by my best trail running buddy, Josh, who runs this trail system at least twice a week.  He knew the trails inside and out, and could probably run the trails with his eyes closed.  Sundays are typically our long run days so we aimed to do at least 16 miles.  This day was also extremely windy with wind gusts approaching 50 MPH (another comical start to April, right?).  We ended up doing 18 miles, averaging 10:15 pace.  Considering the rolling hills, the weather conditions, and my 1st time ever running on these trails, I was quite pleased.  It was a great run with great company!

 

April 10th – Josh and I went back to White Clay and the weather was much better than the week before!  I started liking White Clay more and more this second time because the trails are slow, rolling hills instead of the steep inclines like Brandywine.  We ran 16 miles, averaging 10:09 pace.  This day we also planned to meet up with my parents and mountain bike at Brandywine.  I’m not nearly as strong on two wheels as I am on two feet, but I was rather impressed by how I managed to pedal up the steep sections and maneuver the downhills.  Our group mountain bike ride ended up being 12 miles.  Josh and I had ran 16 miles, then biked 12, so we rewarded ourselves with a pizza.  This was an awesome day!

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Single track

April 13th – Every week in April I’ve tried to incorporate at least one longer run.  Today’s run was an easy 10 miles.  I was feeling anxious to run fast and had every intention of making this 10 mile run a progression run.  But due to the warmer temps, my four-legged running buddy, Gwin, couldn’t maintain a fast pace for the first 6.2 miles.  After I dropped her off, I set a new goal to run at least one of the next 4 miles under 8 minutes.  Turns out, all four miles were sub-8 (7:50, 7:33, 7:33, 7:38).  This run left me feeling more confident than ever.  I was so shocked to see consecutive 7:33s on my watch – especially for miles 8 and 9.  I was hitting my stride and my ultra was in a little over a month!

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with Gwin

April 15th – A few weeks before, I had signed up for a 1-mile fun race hosted by a nearby running club I am a part of. The mile race was on the track with a laid-back group of runners.  I was nervous though because I hadn’t ran a race since my marathon in November and I didn’t particularly like running fast (especially an all out sprint for one mile).  I was nervous all day but luckily when I got to the race, Angela calmed my nerves during our warm-up and I was surrounded by people I knew and felt comfortable around.  My parents, granny, and Josh were the only 4 spectators and everyone else there was in the race.  I ended up running a 6:24 which I am extremely happy with.  I was the 2nd overall female (Angela won! – read about it here!) and 6th place overall.  Considering I haven’t ran a race in 6 months, haven’t done any speed workouts in about 7 months, and have been training specifically for this ultra, I was more than thrilled by my time.  It hurt but it was a lot of fun and I’m glad that I did it!

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One mile

April 17th – Another long run Sunday with Josh!  We opted to go to Batsto in the Pine Barrens for a nice soft and flat 20 mile run.  I felt awesome during this run and ended up pushing the pace for the 2nd half of the run.  We averaged 9:40 pace which I am more than pleased with.  This was an absolutely beautiful and warm day!  Another great run with great company!  I was loving everything about ultra training on this day!

April 21st – This was yet another 20 mile run because Hyner weekend was coming up and I had to re-organize my normal weekly training schedule.  I opted to do my long run on a Thursday.  I ran consistent 9 minute miles for the first 11.6 miles and then Angela tagged along for the last 8.4 miles in which we started averaging closer to 8:45 pace.  This was an awesome training run that left me feeling extremely confident in my training thus far.  I was excited to be accompanied by Angela for the last 8 miles – she kept my focus away from any fatigue I may have been feeling which I greatly appreciated.  20 miles, averaging 9:00/mile.

April 23rd – aka #Hyner weekend.  I travelled up to Hyner, PA to cheer on my dad and some fellow trail friends during their respective 25k or 50ks.  I was told to go to the top of Hyner View to cheer everyone on which included traversing up the infamous Humble Hill.  I left the starting area at 7 AM, one hour before starting time, in order to give myself time to get to the top which was 3.5 miles up a mountain.  Turns out, I needed that full hour to get to the top.  It took me 57 minutes to get to the top.  My elevation gain read a little over 1500 feet.  This race was going to be no joke for these guys and I felt lucky that I wasn’t torturing myself on the course that day.  I waited at the top to see all the guys come through with my cowbell in hand!  I traversed down another trail called Huff’s Run Trail to get back to the bottom of the mountain – another 3.5 miles with 1500 feet of descent again.  I liked the descent way better than I liked ascending.  I tacked on another 2.5 miles at the end of my run to reach my goal mileage for the day of 20 miles.  The rest of my day was spent cheering on Josh, Aaron, Chad, and my dad as they finished their races.  Our night was spent celebrating with some drinks, good food, and a bonfire.  And we ended the night stargazing into the crystal clear sky surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges.  This was just an all-around great day – I love spending time with trail runners!

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Hyner View

Although there is still a week left in April, I felt due for a blog post updating on my ultra training.  This blog post has allowed me to reflect on the great runs of April that have left me feeling stronger and more confident on the trails.  I’m happy with how my training has been going and I am looking forward to one last week of quality training before I start tapering for my ultra!

Higher mileage, happier runner

Higher mileage, happier runner

Here is another weekly ultra training recap, as told in as few words as possible:

Monday – birthday run, group run, still sick, slower pace, 6.1 miles

Tuesday – sickness completely gone, 4 miles with my 4-legged running buddy

Wednesday – no watch, warmth, felt great, 6 miles

Thursday – 12 mile bike ride to the group run, SparklySoul, 7:35 mile, great weather, good company, gossiping, Angela, average 7:52 pace, 7 miles, socializing

Friday – 3 mile walk, long run part 1, Angela, more gossip, warm weather, average 8:18 pace, 10 miles, foam rolling

Saturday – early morning, chilly morning, long run part 2, getting lost, talking, good company, hills, slow trail pace, 10 miles, hunger

Sunday – 1st mountain bike ride in 10 years, need improvement, easy run home, 3.5 miles

Week in review:  awesome, higher mileage, happier runner, great company, loving running, 46.6 miles

 

Ultra Training Update

Ultra Training Update

This week has been my highest weekly mileage of my ultra training thus far.  The weather was absolutely BEAUTIFUL which made me happier, more motivated, and more energetic.  The week ended with day light savings which I am extremely excited about because now it will be lighter out later in the day.  This instantly makes me happier.  We survived winter!  As for training, I had a great week of running, biking, and spending time outside with my dogs.  Here we go:

Monday:  Today I ran 5 easy miles with Gwin (my dog).  No watch, just running.

Tuesday:  Tuesdays are usually my rest days but because I took a rest day on Sunday due to a schedule conflict, I opted to take an easy day of mileage instead of resting again.  I ran 4 miles with one of my best friends at an average of 8:37 pace.  I then walked the dogs to the post office which was 0.75 miles total.  It was a beautiful day outside so I wanted to stay outside as long as possible before going to work.

Wednesday:  I ran early this day because my internship and work schedule overlapped and left me with no time in between to get home and run a reasonable distance.  So I ran 6.2 miles in the early morning with my dad.  It was warm and I was content.  I also walked 3 miles in the afternoon and discovered new trails and a scenic lake!

Thursday:  This was the group run night at my dad’s running/biking store.  I decided to ride my bike to the group run – it’s 12 miles away from my house.  It was a very windy day but I was happy to have my mom biking alongside me.  The group run was 6.2 miles.  I was the only female in the group and all the guys are faster than me so it turned into a tempo run for me.  We averaged 7:51 pace (8:10, 7:41, 7:44, 7:40, 7:54, 8:00).  The last two miles were slower because I can’t run at 7:40 pace and have a conversation with someone simultaneously.  Overall, it was a great run with great company!  Running with fast people will only make me faster!  Also, this night felt like summer and I loved it!  I had to run to the nearby elementary school after the run to meet my dad who was teaching children the importance of bike helmets so I tacked on a mile cool-down at the end of the night.  Today’s bike total: 12 miles.  Today’s running total: 7.2 miles.

Friday:  Today I ran 7 miles with Angela.  Our pace varied throughout our run because we got slightly lost on the trails.  My legs felt dead by the end of the run which I blame on the biking and tempo run from the day before.  It was a good run nonetheless and the weather was PERFECT!

Saturday:  This morning I biked 19 miles during our group ride that leaves from my dad’s running/bike store.  Although we probably averaged 14-15mph pace, I enjoyed the bike ride and it was nice to spend a morning outside cross-training.  Immediately after finishing the bike ride, I went for a quick three miles.  My legs felt like they wanted to continue spinning in circles as if I were on a bike but they needed to run!  I didn’t look at my watch during the run so I was completely shocked at the end of my run when my Garmin Forerunner 10 told me that I averaged 8:18 pace.  And the funniest part of this whole situation is that it also turned into an unintentional three mile progression run (8:28, 8:17, 8:06).  Considering how crappy I felt during the entire run, I was utterly appalled at how quick my splits were – especially since I physically felt like I was running at 10-minute pace.  It was yet another great day of training!

20160313_101220Sunday:  Sundays are my favorite because it’s long run day!  Angela and I followed my dad and our trail-running friend through the ups and downs of Brandywine. We were at Brandywine one month ago and it was only 8 degrees out.  Today, it was a cool 53 degrees which made it perfect for two hours out on the trails. Because my dad and our friend are training for the Hyner View Challenge that is in a month and a half they wanted to run as many hills as possible today.  Angela and I basically just had to suffer through the torture; however, the hills will make us stronger runners too!  We ran 11.5 miles with 1500 feet of elevation – this is significant elevation for a run in Delaware!  It was a great morning out on the trails and it was an awesome ending to this week.

This week was jam-packed with running, cross-training, and pure enjoyment of the great outdoors! There’s one more week of winter and then I’m hoping the earth will bless us with a warm and perfect spring!

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Ultra Training Week 2

Ultra Training Week 2

I’m feeling overdue for a blog post so I figured it would be appropriate to blog about this past week of training.  Life has been hectic.  Life has been great.  Life has been overwhelming and crazy.  But most of all, life has been life.  Ups, downs, highs, lows, good days, bad days, stress, and love.  Some bad days turned into good days. Some days even seemed to merge together with unknown separation.

The only thing that has seemed to stay consistent is the training plan I made myself two weeks ago.  This plan has guided me through the last fourteen days. I haven’t been stressed about deciding how far to run because this plan pinpoints what I should be running.  Despite having a training calendar that will guide me through the next two months, I’ve become aware that I also need to be flexible with my training plan. Even if the plan says 5 miles but I only run 4, I don’t freak out or stress about it.  There are some things in life you can’t control.  The plan is not set in stone – it’s there as a tool for me to stay focused on the goal.

Monday I ran an easy 3 mile recovery run after completing my 10 mile long run the day before.  I also decided to bike 4 miles because it was a warm(er) day out and I wanted to spend as much time as possible outside before going to work.

Tuesday was my rest day.  It was cold and rainy outside so this was perfect timing for a day to recover.

Wednesday I went to my internship site an hour early to lift.  I lack upper body strength and since I’m an intern at a fitness facility, I’m trying to use the resources I have to become a better runner.  I also ran 5 miles.  I ran two miles with my dog.  She can run up to 8 miles without any issues, BUT it was raining during this run and she was miserable.  So I opted to turn around after running one mile to return her to our warm and dry house.  I completed the remaining 3 miles solo.  The rain stopped which was exciting!

Thursday is the night I attend group runs at my dad’s local bike/running store. One of my best friends was home from Florida and I was able to convince him to join the group run even though he hasn’t ran in over a month.  This group run was also an Altra demo day with one of the tech reps from Altra.  I LOVE Altras so this was a very exciting group run for me. She brought a variety of Altra shoes for us to take out and test on our run.  I decided to try out the Altra Ones. These are their “racing flats”.  At first I couldn’t decide if I liked them, but after completing the run I knew that they would be a great racing shoe.  I ran three easy miles with my best friend (I missed running and chatting with him!) and then went out for another 1.2 miles by myself.  I picked up the pace and ran a sub-8 for my last mile – this is when I realized I liked the Altra Ones!  They’re for fast feet!

On Friday I ran 5.7 easy miles with my dog.  It wasn’t raining so she had a great time running with me.

On Saturday I ran three easy miles with my dad and my dog.  I was scheduled to run four but I knew that Sunday’s run would be extra long so I took an easy day to prepare my body for Sunday.

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Altra LonePeaks remind me that I have #zerolimits

Which leads us to Sunday, today, and my longest run of 2016.  My dad, mom, and I travelled to a state forest that’s about an hour’s drive away.  My mom accompanied us riding a Rocky Mountain fat bike.  My dad picked the 19 mile loop as he is preparing for his 50k in April.  We averaged 10:26 pace which included walking to eat, refuel, and get some video/photo footage of our run. The soft terrain of the pine barrens was welcoming to my feet and legs.  And of course I wore my Altra LonePeaks (my favorite trail shoe) and I didn’t get a single blister.  Although I only had 10-12 miles on my training plan, I couldn’t resist the trails on such a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  Trail running is my favorite because you focus all your energy on the trail ahead of you.  You forget your worries, stressors, and emotions.  You just get out on the trail and run.  That’s my favorite.

Weekly total:  39.9 miles.

Here I sit now typing up this blog post with a glass of water to my right.  My legs are a tad bit stiff and I know that I will be sleeping with my Zensah compression socks on tonight.  Because of today’s long run and another great week of training, I feel happy and stress free.  Most of all, I feel alive.

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Stride for stride with my dad
Why the running world needs more pacers…

Why the running world needs more pacers…

I’ve had the honor of pacing two ultrarunners in the past 2 years and both times have made me realize that running is more than just lacing up your shoes and finding a satellite signal on your Garmin. You can Google “5ks near me” and find a 5k you decide to spontaneously run on any given day of the year. You can sign up for the 10k you’ve always wanted to try. Or you can committ to a half-marathon still waiting to be scratched off your running bucket list. But have you ever considered going on a run for someone else? Have you ran side by side with someone who has been running for 5 or more hours who needs a mental boost? Or someone who needs someone else to remind them to eat, to drink, or keep moving forward? This is a pacer, my friends. Pacers aren’t looking for a 5k PR or another silly medal – pacing provides a completely intrinsic reward.Pacers are running to help someone else achieve their goals. And I honestly believe all runners should be an ultrarunning pacer at least once in their life (but I know from experience that once won’t be enough – just like ultrarunners, pacers always come back for more).

So let’s start from the beginning…let me share a story with you!

Last spring my dad decided he wanted to run 50 miles.  So he trained for months and raised money for the MS Society, which he was dedicating his run towards.  So he set off on a warmer than usual Sunday on a trail that is 50 miles in length. There were no race officials or other runners – just him.  One of my dad’s running friends, who also happened to be an ultrarunner, joined him a few hours into my dad’s run to run miles 10-35ish with my dad.  And thank goodness the pacer was with my dad for those miles (especially at the 30 mile mark).  Without this pacer – who had taken hours of his Sunday morning just to help my dad achieve his goal – my dad might not have made it to the road crossing where me, my mom, brother and two grandmothers were waiting for him.  At mile 30, my dad couldn’t keep anything in his stomach.  He was barely moving forward and needed someone to talk him through the struggle.  The unexpected “heat” of the early spring had taken too much out of my dad.  When he finally reached the road crossing it was both a relief and a wake-up call.

This is where I come into the picture.  My dad and I had discussed that I would be pacing him through the last 10ish miles of his run.  I was in the midst of my track season and so we had agreed that 10 miles wouldn’t effect my training schedule for track.  But even before my dad reached the road crossing, I knew I would be running more than 10 miles that day.  By the time he reached the road crossing, he would have about 17 miles to go.  So I put on my Camelbak and threw some crackers, ibuprofin, my cell phone, and a headlight into it.  And so I began my first experience as a pacer.

pacer 50milesI remember splitting peanut butter crackers in half to give my dad some kind of food to put into his stomach.  He would eat the side without the peanut butter first.  Then 5 minutes later he would eat the other half.  A few crackers later I gave him some ibuprofin.  I reminded him to drink the water from his Camelbak.  I kept him moving forward – one step at a time. When dark started to set in, and with only one working headlight, I became our set of eyes.  I found the markers on the trees.  I kept us on the trail.  I paced him to the end.  I paced him to help him complete his goal.

My next ultrarunning pacing experience was this past weekend.  A running friend of ours was doing a 24 hour running race in attempt to run 100 miles in 24 hours for a charity called “Back on My Feet”.  He had asked for pacers throughout his 24 hour journey -especially during the nighttime hours.  So my dad and I didn’t have to think twice – we wanted to help a fellow runner achieve his goal. So we signed up for the 4:00 AM shift!

20150719_055556 (1)When we got there he had already been running for 18 hours and was about 76 miles into his run.  He got to us and needed some motivation.  So me and my dad and one other early-morning pacer set out with him to do another 8.5 mile lap.  (We also got to run in the presence of another ultrarunner who was also competing as he joined in our group throughout the loop too!) We started the lap just walking.  But before we got a mile into the lap we eased him back into a run.  My dad reminded him in a tough-love-kind-of-way, “You’re going to be in pain if you walk and you’re going to be in pain if you run.  So just run”.  So we ran.  We walked through the aid stations but we kept a steady pace for the 8.5 mile loop – especially considering he was now almost about to reach his 84th mile.  We reminded him to drink water and have a cup of Gatorade.  We gave him some Ritz crackers that settled easily in his stomach.  We talked about running and our summer adventures.  We did everything to distract Ultraman from the pain.  And we got him to the end of the loop, we were greeted by a small crowd ringing their cowbells.  It was a quite the welcome back to “base camp”!

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So, from both of these experiences I’ve come to learn the importance of pacers.  And I’ve come to love the sport of running even more than I ever thought possible.  I have yet to be awarded a medal for pacing.  There is no website on the Internet showing that I even helped a runner achieve their goal.  I only have the knowing in my heart that I did good for someone else. I helped someone achieve their goal and I believe that that’s what matters most.

I’ve also been inspired by both of these men to try ultrarunning for myself.  I plan on waiting a few years until I give a shot at an ultramarathon of any sort.  I want to push beyond my limits.  I want to see how far my legs can take me.  I want to cross the finish line completely exhausted.  I want to have a pacer/pacers by my side telling me to suck it up and stop complaining. As long as they bring some Ritz crackers, some positive energy, and the desire to help a fellow runner out, I can’t wait to experience the tough love of a pacer for myself.  But in the meantime, I will remain a pacer for any other runner who is trying to achieve their goal – and that’s what matters most.