I started writing this blog post 2 weeks ago and here I am now, finally posting it. Life has been a little crazy, but more on that in another post later. For now, a recap of my first few weeks of Gorge Waterfall 100k training!
I officially started my training block for the Gorge Waterfalls 100k on December 19th. The first day was a huge success (spoiler: it was a rest day) and the rest of the week went just as well. I clocked in 31.5 miles the first week, with my long run of 10 miles on Christmas. I was worried about finding the motivation to run each run over Christmas break, but I’m just so eager to have a good training block and nervous about running 62 miles that I’ve been finding it easy to stay motivated.
Week 2 went well, even though I ended up being sick on New Years Eve and New Years, so I was slightly short on mileage. Matt and I had the week off, so we got a lot accomplished around the apartment, played with Goosey, and even got some trail miles in while the weather was still warm – though to be fair it is now January 25th and is still 40+ degrees outside, so who knows when winter will really hit. I ended up getting in 32.6 miles for the week instead of my 35. I was disappointed at first, but realized it’s not worth it to worry about missing miles when I’m sick – my body needed rest.
Week 3 started out with an extremely cold and rainy run. Matt and I slept in on Tuesday and regretted that pretty hard when we realized it was going to be rainy, cold, and windy all night. We toughed it out for 7 miles, then I immediately got in the shower and thawed myself out. On Thursday I went to my first ever North Face Mountain Athletics workout with my girl Molly, and it was a blast. I ended up underestimating how far it was from my house, so my easy run to get there turned into almost 5k pace, and the workout was pretty run-centric, so I was exhausted after. Totally worth it though, and I can’t wait to go back again! All in all I clocked 39.2 miles for the week, and felt really good about it.
Week 4 started out with a miserable run on the treadmill that I ended up cutting short. I tried running outside, but it was super slick on the sidewalks, and I am not about to break my ankle going for a 7 mile run 4 weeks into my training plan. I also did not trust my shoes to get me through that run without slipping and falling – they weren’t the best running shoes and didn’t have a lot of traction.
At this point, I started realizing I didn’t like my new shoes too much – I’d been trying the Nike Free RN Distance since I got them for like 30 dollars on black Friday, but they’re just not great for the amount of miles I’m putting in, and also my running technique. I decided to reorder the Saucony Ride 9s I’ve been using for the past 6 months or so – they were pretty worn down at this point (about 400 miles on them) and I hadn’t had any injuries or soreness since I’ve been wearing them. It feels good to be running in a fresh pair again – it was definitely necessary! We went trail running for our long run on Sunday with Ryan and Tammy (our TBC long run crew lately!) and got in 15ish miles for my long run. Altogether, I ran 43 miles for the week and was feeling pretty good, but my shins have been a little sore, so I had to make a decision about my week 5 training and how I could get my training in without going overboard.
Week 5 was a little different, but I feel confident I made the right decision. I only got 36 miles in, but I got about 10 of cross country skiing, and 3-4 hours of snowboarding in as well, so I had some great cross training in. I didn’t get a super long run in, but I was only planning on 14 (ended up getting 8 in) and have been crushing my long runs for the past 2 months, so I’m not too concerned about it. This next week I plan on getting all my miles in as long as my shins are feeling good – gotta up the stretching, rolling, and strengthening if I want to continue being injury free for the next 2 months.
I’ve also started biking to work regularly, which is adding another element of cross training to my training that I wasn’t necessarily planning on before. I’m glad I’ve started biking to work for sure, and will continue to do so no matter how my training goes, but I need to adjust my expectations of training until I’m a little more in biking shape.
I promise to be less of a stranger to blogging going forward… for real this time.
I know I already wrote a year in review and set some goals, but my friend over at yogawordnerd put together an awesome race schedule post that got me thinking about my schedule and what I am looking to get out of 2017. As I enter my third year of ultra running, my focus is quickly shifting from simply finishing certain distances and races to wanting to improve my performance. Frankly, it is pretty intimidating. Until the past 3 months or so, I’ve never felt like a “fast kid”. But as I cross more finishes lines and finish more training runs I guess I am just getting faster. It’s weird, because I never set out to improve any sub-ultra PRs, but now I can’t get the notion of beating my past self out of my head. With that, comes the fear of missing goals and putting myself in painful situations. But I think setting these goals in stone will go a long way in helping me achieve them.
I’ve made it pretty clear to just about everybody, but my goal for Hyannis is to run a Boston Qualifier. It is going to hurt like hell. Honestly, I never thought it would be something I could do until I ran the Cambridge Half this November, but with my finish being just under 1:24 at that race, I think it is within reach. I wish my training had been going a bit more consistently up until now, but training in the middle of winter is tough. Let’s hope I can put the pieces together before the end of February because I really don’t want to have to try again.
At Seven Sisters, I just want to run sub 2:30. Last year it was pretty damn slick, so I think if it is dry this year it is definitely happening. This race is really like nothing else I have run in the northeast and cannot recommend it enough!
At the Endurance Challenge, I really want to just give a solid 50-mile performance. They haven’t released detailed course information yet, so I don’t know what exactly I will be shooting for. Really, I just want it to go better than Bear Mountain did. I thought that race was going to be my personal breakout performance where I put all the pieces of the ultra puzzle together, but it just didn’t happen. Let’s hope I can represent NP (and maybe some of the tribe will wander out on the course to give some much needed support).
Millinocket is happening because who doesn’t want to run a free race in Northern Maine?
The Big Question
As for races that I haven’t registered for that I plan on running, I still need to drop a 100 miler on my schedule. It is really coming down to Run Rabbit Run or The Bear. Both races are pretty similar in terms of terrain to Grindstone, so I would really like to take what I learned there and put together a sub-24 hour performance on a gnarly course. My main reason for holding out on registering for one or the other is I am hoping The North Face announces that their ECS Utah race will be on the same weekend as The Bear. It would be much easier to get a crew out to Utah if I had a race they could run to bribe them with. Last year, the races fell on the same weekend so fingers-crossed.
I know I’m a little late to the game here since it’s already 2017, but hey, better late than never, right?
2016 was a whirlwind of a year for me both athletically and professionally. I ended my career as a nanny and decided to branch out into a new field I had no experience in, really. That change was not only scary, but stressful. Somehow through the stress of changing jobs, I connected even more with running. I had a more free time as a nanny, yet I ran a lot less. The stress of switching jobs and being in a more traditional role of 8-5 helped me find peace in running – it’s my stress relief. If I start my day out with a run, I feel refreshed and ready to take on the day. If I end my day with a run, I feel the stress of the day slowly disappear throughout my run.
The first part of my year was filled with Bear Mountain training. My training actually went pretty well, despite still recovering a bit from my knee pain after the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2015. Looking back on it, my biggest mistake of that training block was not taking enough time to increase my mileage. In December 2015, my weeks went from 5 -> 7 -> 12 -> 11 -> 18 -> 18 -> 27. Comparatively, before my Gorge Waterfalls training started, my weekly mileage went: 11.7 -> 11.5 -> 15 -> 29 (whoops – ran the BAA Half for fun!) -> 21 -> 13 -> 20 -> 16 -> 23 -> 29 -> 28 -> 31 -> 28 -> 29 . So before Bear Mountain training, I took 7 weeks of not-so-gradually increasing my mileage before my training block started. Before Gorge Waterfalls training, I DOUBLED the amount of weeks I ramped up, with a much more gradual increase.
Despite my poor pre-training, Bear Mountain actually went really well! Despite a bit of nausea and just being plain tired, I made it through a much harder course than my first 50k and felt strong. I was feeling GREAT and decided to sign up for the Pineland Farms 50k. I ended up with a bum knee and wasn’t able to start the race, and felt totally defeated. I thought my training had gone really well, and race day was pretty much unbeatable as far as my long distance races had been up to that point, but I still just wasn’t giving it my all. I wasn’t stretching enough, I wasn’t strengthening enough, and I was biting off more than I could chew. After I lost my toenail (RIP little guy) and had issues with it all summer, I decided to start fresh and be smart.
Our Colorado trip was really when I started to realize how important it was that I not go too hard for this upcoming season. I wanted to sign up for a million marathons and 50k’s and #raceeverything, but I held myself back. It’s actually quite bizarre – I didn’t even run a marathon in 2016! Sure, I ran a 50k, and a self-directed ultra “just for fun” up in Maine over the summer, but didn’t complete an actual marathon. At first I was so upset I missed out, but after a few days of reflection, I’m glad I didn’t. Who knows, maybe a road marathon would have pushed me past my breaking point.
After my summer and ramping up my mileage smarter, I started racing more. Actually racing, not just running to finish. This year I PR’d my 5k by 2 minutes and 59 seconds, and my half marathon by 4 minutes and 57 seconds (and finally broke 2 hours). Turns out training smart but also adding speed work improves your running… I mean there’s no way I could have known that before, obviously.
I also made one of the scariest decisions of my running career in 2016 by signing up for my first 100k. I’m nervous as hell that something is going to go wrong between now and then – every time I run I’m paranoid I’m going to end up in a full body cast. But so far so good – though I was attacked by a recycling bin on a run last week. No joke. A big gust of wind blew RIGHT as I was running by it and the top flew off and almost smacked me right in the head. Luckily I blocked it with my water bottle/wrist like a ninja. Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.
My goal in 2017 is simple – run my 100k. Well, and continue to train smart. While I love the idea of “no days off” and committing to exercising every day, my motto is going to be to listen to my body. If I’m sick, I will rest. If I’m feeling too tired for a 5:30am run, I’ll sleep in and run in the evening. As much as I love running with The Breakfast Club and going to November Project, I have to stick with my training plan and listen to my body as I continue to add the miles on each week.
My resolution for 2017 is a 4 part plan:
1. Learn how to use my camera
2. Actually use my camera
3. Take more pictures of Gustav
4. Post more pictures in the blog
2016 was my year when it comes to racing. Sure, it was a pretty wacky year otherwise. But for my running, it couldn’t have gone any better. With a few days left, I wanted to take a step back, reflect on my accomplishments, and set my sights on 2017. Taking a quick look back at my races:
TARC Hale and Back 6 Hour – 31.5 Miles
TARC Spring Classic Half – 1:43:47
Bear Mountain 50 Miler – 9:58:52
7 Sisters – 2:38:48
Pineland Farms 50 – 7:48:30 PR
Catamount 50k – 4:37:00 PR
Vermont 100 – 21:26:00 PR
Pisgah 50k – 5:50:50
Oktoberfest 5K – 18:40
Grindstone 100 – 27:15:00
Cambridge Half – 1:23:44 PR
Yulefest 5k – 18:13 PR
That’s a lot of races, a lot of PRs, and a whole lot of miles run in between all of that. Looking back, I think it is pretty incredible to crush my PRs in so many distances. When I started 2016, the main goal was just to finish my first 100 miler. At the end of it, I feel stronger than I ever have. I’ve got 2 hundred finishes under my belt, more ultra experience, and confidence to tackle 2017.
Even though things went well, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t pay my dues. My first goal race for the year was Bear Mountain. I was stuck training in California, traveling every week, but still confident I was going to crush the race. On race day, by mile 15 it had crushed me. After having to dig deep just to finish and barely beating my previous 50 miler PR I thought 2016 was going to be miserable. Fast forward to Pineland and a few more weeks of solid training I obliterated my PR and felt unstoppable going into Vermont. Another PR at Catamount in the 50K and then time to take a crack at the 100.
My first 100 miler was quite the experience. It really is the roller coaster that everybody describes it as. I was so thankful to have such an amazing crew out there and experience the rolling hills of Vermont. I beat my time goal of sub-24 hours and came out excited for my next 100. Pretty much immediately after I Vermont I started training for Grindstone. Not taking more time off was probably a mistake. Training for a hundred is extremely draining physically and mentally. Still, I got it done.
Grindstone was hell. Simple as that. I was definitely fit, ready for the hills, and had another amazing crew. But add some constant rain, sloppy trails, and humidity and you can completely derail me. I set out to finish Grindstone to get my Hardrock qualifier. I didn’t drive to Virginia to run 50 miles, or 65 miles, or 80 miles. I was there to do a hundred. So I dug deep and got it done.
After Grindstone, the last 3 months were such a whirlwind. Woahman crushed me (although I definitely was not recovered to run it). At the Cambridge Half, I wanted to run a 1:25 to prove to myself a BQ in 2017 was achievable. I beat that goal by about a minute and fifteen seconds. I ran a PR at Yulefest which was completely unexpected. I hadn’t planned on it, but the consistency of training for the hundred milers plus the mental fortitude really has helped at the shorter distances.
With 2017 just about here, I think it’s worth setting some goals. Number 1 goal is to BQ. I think the fitness is there. I’d like it to happen at Hyannis, but my training has not been the most consistent. I also need to re-qualify for Western States. My current plan is to run either Run Rabbit Run or the Bear. I really love the hundred mile distance, but running more than one a year is more than I can really enjoy. Beyond those two specific goals, I honestly just plan on racing a little bit less. Although I was successful at most of my races, the ones that I wasn’t (Bear Mountain, Pisgah) were extremely defeating. Besides that, it is really exhausting racing like once per month. Finally, just have to stay consistent. 2016 was definitely my breakout running year, so I can’t wait to see what 2017 has to offer.
I know I’ve been off the blogosphere recently, and it’s taken me a while to figure out why. Honestly, the past 2 months or so of running have been going… really, really well. Like so well that I’ve been nervous to write about it in fear that I’ll jinx it. But enough is enough – it’s been too long since I’ve blogged.
I officially started training for my first 100k yesterday on December 19th (started with a rest day – nailed it btw), but the past two months have just been me building up my base. My training really kicked off when we went to Colorado in August post-toenail removal (also update: toenail grew back and is still sideways, so I’ll have to take care of that again someday… but not yet). I’ve been slowly building up from 10 miles a week to 30 – with some weeks biting off more than I should chew. It was so hard to run only 10 or 15 miles in a week when I so badly wanted to do multiple runs a week including a 10 mile long run. I started to try to focus on the fact that I needed to stay injury free, and the best way to do that was to take it slow.
After tackling the WOahMAN at November Project, I started to ramp up smart again. Other than one week where I just ran two times (16 miles total) I started to do more, but shorter, runs to keep steadily increasing my mileage. I’ve also struggled with this because I’ve been wanting to make my long runs longer each week, but if I add 2 or 3 miles onto a long run, I can’t add any more miles during the week since I wanted to stick to only adding on 2-5 miles per week. The whole past 2 months have just been a balancing act of trying to reign in my enthusiasm and run smart, while also being painfully aware that my base had to be solid af leading up to 100k training.
Now that the start of my training plan is finally here, I am pleasantly surprised at how prepared I am feeling. I’ve never felt stronger physically or mentally going into a training plan. Physically, I’ve been running smart but fast – if I compare my long run paces at the start of my Bear Mountain training compared to my lead up to Gorge Waterfalls training, I’ve consistently cut off 20-30 seconds per mile. Working at a taproom and constantly lifting/moving kegs has also definitely had an impact on my overall form – I never really focus on my upper body, but I’ve been getting naturally stronger just from work, and my posture has been significantly better than it was last time I was running regularly.
Mentally, I’ve tried to do most of my runs without listening to podcasts or music to get used to running solo without distractions. I can listen to music during my 100k, but I’ve got a feeling that I’ll end up getting sick of my playlist after about 3 hours, so I’d rather keep it as reinforcements for if (let’s be real, when) I hit the wall. I’ve also tried to throw in a few solo long runs, since I’m not allowed a pacer at the race.
The only thing I need to focus on is trail running a lot more during my plan. I’m hoping to hit the trails at least once a week so I can get more elevation in, as well as strengthen up the stabilizers that I’ll need for a trail race. It’s a whole different game on the trails, and I’d hate to crash during my race from not getting enough trails in. The hope is that soon I can transition to having at least half of my long runs on trails, as well as some shorter trail runs added in. It’ll be difficult during the winter once the snow really hits, but I just need to focus on the big picture.
One of the biggest things that’s been helping me feel strong and run strong, other than actually training smart and planning out my weeks, has been the support from my friends and family. I’ve always just considered myself a slower runner, unable to keep up with a lot of my friends, so I never really applied myself. I’ve always run at a pace where I’m comfortable enough to chat the entire time. My lovely friend Kate pointed out to me when we were running that I was keeping up an 8:40/mile pace and still having conversations – that I’ve had it in me all along but just didn’t have the confidence to actually try.
I recently also met a new running buddy named Ryan who is the perfect match for my pace. Having him around has made me a much more social runner, and someone who’s excited to wake up at 5am on a Thursday knowing I’ll have someone my pace who will keep me company on runs. Matt will always accommodate me if I ask him to, but it’s nice to not feel like I’m holding him back but still being able to run with someone. Plus, Ryan is new to distance running, so I’m excited to watch him go from a half marathoner to marathoner and hopefully to an ultra marathoner, if I get my way!
I’ve spent the better part of my running career constantly doubting myself and not reaching my full potential. Going into this training block I’m finally feeling strong, healthy, and pretty confident. I’m excited to see how training continues to go, and see how my races I’ve got lined up end up going. So far, I’ve got the Hyannis Marathon (really a training run for my 100k in April), Gorge Waterfalls 100k, and the Ghost Train 75 miler. Luckily, my Ghost Train registration can be changed to any distance in 15 mile increments, ranging from 15 miles to 100 miles. I also plan on signing up for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler if my training goes well! If it doesn’t go well, or I’m feeling “lazy” I’ll probably sign up for the marathon instead.
I’m going to try to post weekly updates to keep myself honest and have a place to reflect on my training as it’s happening, so stay tuned!
Let me just start by saying I don’t think I’ve ever been so sore in my life. In the past year I’ve done 50 burpees, and they were all last Friday. In the past year I’ve probably completed 2 full tours, and they were both in the past month. WOahMAN was probably not the best idea, but I went for it anyways.
For those of you who don’t know what WOahMAN was, it was a crazy workout hosted by November Project. We started at the top of Summit Ave (our normal Friday workout destination) at 4:30AM (not our normal workout time..), ran 2.2 miles to Harvard Stadium and completed a full tour, ran 2.2 miles back to the top of Summit, did 25 burpees, ran a full hill (roughly 1.3 miles), did 25 more burpees, and ended with another full hill. All in all my GPS watch said it was about 8.5 miles of running and roughly 1800 feet of elevation gain.
It was hard. Getting out of bed would have been the worst part if it weren’t for the burpees. Or the hills. Or the full tour. But in all seriousness, getting up and walking to the hill was the most difficult part for me. Luckily, I had my accountabilibuddy, Matt, to make me get out of bed. I literally got dressed, brushed my teeth, filled my hydration pack, then laid back down on the bed and whined to him that I didn’t want to go. To be fair, I have a difficult time waking for November Project when it starts at 6:30am, let alone 4:30. Once I was up and at the hill, the hard part was over – I just had to work out for 2 hours, which seems not so bad when your partner just ran for 27 hours.
We started around 4:38am after each getting a race bib and taking a group photo, of course. At the start, it was too early, foggy, humid, and misty, but we were all sprinting like adrenaline junkies looking for their fix. By the time we got to the stadium, I was extremely hot and already tired from running so fast. I decided slow and steady was the way to go for the stadiums. Normally, I attempt to run a few sections, but knowing I’d have to run 2 full hills when I was done, I decided to march up all the sections and run down when I could. By section 19, my form had deteriorated and my hands were already finding their ways to my knees. I took a moment to breathe and pull myself together, and pushed myself to keep my form and focus on staying strong. That went well until the last 5 sections, and then all bets were off. I just wanted to finish this tour and get running.
On my way out of the stadium, I ran into two ladies I had met before but never really chatted with. We ran back to the hill together and it was glorious – we all needed to vent about how little we were looking forward to the hills, and we also were glad to have an excuse to run slower on the way back than we were on the way out. Once I got to the hill, I powered through my desire to walk up to the top and just ran before taking off my hydration pack and jumping right into burpees. I debated the hydration pack in the morning, but decided I’d go with it since I like having both hands free while I run.
10 burpees in I was thinking “50 burpees isn’t so bad!” About 2 burpees later I thought “50 BURPEES IS WHAT HELL IS I AM SURE OF IT!” I contemplated just laying down on the ground for a little bit to rest, but I was well aware of the fact that I have no upper body strength and no amount of rest would make the remainder of my burpees easier. I sloppily finished my burpees and happily ran down Summit, ignoring the fact that I’d have to go right back up.
The rest of the hills went by fairly uneventfully, as I was hoping they would. The second set of burpees nearly killed me, but I had Matt cheerleading for me (AKA watching my pathetic burpees and not laughing because I’m sure his were even more pathetic than mine) so I felt motivated to just finish. On my last hill, I ran with a woman I hadn’t met before and asked her if she was on her last hill. She goes “Oh I finished the race and have just been doing the hill workout.” I picked my jaw up off the ground and realized if she could do a hill workout after finishing this race, I could run the rest of my hill as fast as possible. Turns out, she was the first female finisher of the race!
I finished strong with minimal leg-shakeage. By the time we got home my arms were already sore – I knew it was going to be a rough weekend at work lifting kegs. As much as it’s embarrassing to admit… my pecs and calves are still tight, 5 days later! Overall, it was dumb and ridiculous, but I’d do it again this Friday if they said it was happening. Maybe that makes me dumb, but hey… #noFOMO.
I hadn’t planned on running the B.A.A Half Marathon this year, but a few days before a spot opened up so I decided to go for it and test my half marathon legs. I’ve been training for the Cambridge Half Marathon coming up in November so I thought if I can run a tougher course a month before the race, I’d definitely be set for the CHM.
Matt ran his 100 miler the Friday and Saturday before the race in the pouring rain, so when I woke up and realized it was going to be chilly and rainy, I couldn’t let it get me down. If Matt can run 27 hours in the rain, I could handle 2 without whining about it. I woke up late, ate dry cereal for breakfast (we were out of milk of course), hopped on my bike, and biked the 4ish miles to start. I felt warmed up and ready to go by the time I got there. I ran into a few other NPers and get excited about racing.
When I started, I didn’t have a time goal in mind. My half marathon PR was on a completely flat course when I wasn’t training for ultras or marathons, so I didn’t think it was smart to try to PR on this tougher course in less than ideal weather. Last year I ran the B.A.A. Half in 2:02:29, and I wasn’t even sure I could beat that this year. My goal of the race was just to have negative splits, so I started at a nice, easy pace and used this race as my long run for the week.
By the halfway point, I was feeling pretty good (albeit wet and already chafing from my sports bra) and was ready to push it to the next level. I had forgotten about all the hills in the second half of the course, but I actually ended up feeling really strong on them. I haven’t been going out of my way to run hills during my training runs, but I think I’ve just been pushing myself to try harder and not avoid hilly routes when I run, so I’ve definitely become a stronger hill runner in the past few months, which helped during this course.
I did some mental math and realized if I pushed pretty hard for the second half of the race, I could definitely beat my course record from last year. I kicked it in gear and pushed myself as hard as I felt comfortable with considering there are some ultras in my future that I don’t want to injure myself before. I ended up finishing with a time of 1:58:32 – a solid 4 minutes faster than my time last year. Last year I had been struggling with IT Band issues as well, so the fact that I ran faster and felt strong the entire time this year gives me hope for my training season this year.
After the race, I realized the temperature had dropped significantly during the race – something I was grateful for during the race, but very unhappy about as I climbed on my bike. I started biking home with my teeth literally chattering when a familiar voice yelled out to me to come pull into the next parking lot. My savior, Kelvin, offered me a ride home which I gratefully accepted through chattering teeth. I got home and immediately hopped in the shower to warm up.
Overall, the race was amazing. The course is great and challenging, I felt strong, and even the weather could have been worse! My biggest complaint, as it was last year, is the damn drop bag situation. It’s chaos. This year was even more chaotic because it was raining and much colder at the finish than it was at the start. This meant everyone was trying to avoid the rain by changing into dry clothes inside the drop bag tent. This made it impossible for people to get to their own bags.
The only other semi-annoying thing to deal with is that there aren’t any bike racks near the start. While I understand most people aren’t biking to and from a half marathon, it would be great if they could get a temporary bike rack for the race for any runners or spectators – this was an issue for me in 2013 when Matt ran it and I spectated, last year when I ran, and again this year.
Strava: B.A.A. Half Marathon 2016
It was tough. It was way tougher than the Vermont 100, which I already thought was pretty hard. It was tougher than any race I’ve done, regardless of cramping, nutrition issues, or overheating. 27 sleep deprived hours in the rain over 101 miles with 23,200 feet of elevation change forced me to dig incredibly deep and fight an irresistible urge to call it quits. Two days after, my feet still raw and legs achy, I know I made the right choice to push through. But at mile 24, 51, 65, and 87 (and several other points in between) dropping felt like the only option. Grindstone was such a roller coaster. Waves of intense strength and drive would be pushed out by incredible lows filled with pain and self-doubt. Little issues compounded into pain so intense that each step felt like walking on knives. But still, I made it.
Race weekend essentially started the Thursday before the race, where work held up me and my crew from hitting the road. The plan was to drive to Harrisburg, PA and stay the night before heading down to Swoope, VA to set up camp and wait for the race’s first challenge, a 6 PM start. We didn’t get to the hotel until about 2:30 AM on Friday, but sleeping in I still got about 6 hours of sleep which felt adequate.
We got back on the road and made it to the boy scout camp around 1:30 just in time for the race briefing. Confident that I was ready to race, we set up camp and ate some food. The next 4 hours involved me anxiously waiting for the race to start and going over crew instructions. The rain had already started and would not cease entirely until after I would finish Saturday night. Finally, 6 PM rolled around and I took off around the lake and into the camp’s trail system.
Going over crew instructions. Photo Credit – Samantha Alyn Goresh
Prepping the feet, which would become a ritual every 10 miles or so. Photo Credit – Samantha Alyn Goresh
Mile 2? Trying to look unconcerned by the fact it was super humid and I was already damp. Photo Credit – Samantha Alyn Goresh
The first 5 miles were extremely uneventful – as they should be during a hundred miler. People were quiet and I was tense knowing that it was going to be a wet day during which chafing and blisters were all but inevitable. While I anticipated rain, the forecast was constantly changing and unreliable. What was supposed to be an occasional shower changed to a steady storm that would switch between a misting and torrential down pour. I cruised into the first aid station at mile 5.2 and grabbed a PB&J. Like Vermont, the fueling strategy was to eat real food early and often, while drinking Tailwind and taking a Gu every 45 minutes.
Leaving the aid station, we started the first significant climb up to Elliott’s Knob. The climb started with some smooth trail with a gentle grade followed by a steep climb up a gravel road to the summit. I felt ridiculously strong power hiking and passed several other runners. A runner ahead of me called out that we turned right to head to the summit where we would punch our bibs proving we reached the top but as it turns out, they misread the sign and led us about half a mile down the trail we would descend the mountain. I noticed that no runners had followed us and hollered to the two runners who made the wrong turn that we needed to turn around. We recovered the ground quickly and made our way to the summit and punched our bibs, now behind each of the runners I had just passed. Not letting the mess up get to my head, I turned around and started descending. I was expecting the trail down to be extremely technical given the race reports but it was actually pretty manageable. There was a decent amount of loose rock and off-camber trail, but it made for some good running, especially compared to the Blue Hills.
I hit the next aid station, refilled my bottles, and took off the next major climb. Again the hiking felt amazing and I pushed hard up the climb. The descent was extremely smooth and I cruised down to Dowells Draft where I grabbed more tailwind out of my drop bag. The rain had stayed light at this point so I decided to not change my socks which would end up being a pretty big mistake. I hiked out of the aid station eating a banana and grilled cheese. The next climb was extremely gentle and I should have been running, but I started to feel overwhelmingly sleepy. 4 miles of simple terrain around midnight was wearing on me, and I felt the overwhelming urge to sleep wherever I could. I told myself “I’ll sit down at the next aid station and sleep for 15 minutes” or “When I see the crew I sleep in the car for half an hour”. It was extremely demoralizing to feel so tiring so early. I kept saying I just needed to take a little rest, but the idea of dropping crept in. Maybe it just wasn’t my day and a rainy evening start was just not helping.
When I finally crested the hill and started running downhill, I told myself to run hard and just get to the aid station and regroup. Somehow, I got to the Lookout Mountain aid station sooner than I was expecting and my spirits immediately rebounded. The next aid was only about 10K away and it was all downhill. I’d see my crew and I was still under my goal pace of making it to the turn around in 11 hours. As I descended North River Gap, my energy continued to rise. I took out my iPod and listened to a few minutes of a podcast before I heard footsteps behind me. I started to chat with the runner who was keeping pace with me. For the next 5ish miles I was running with Levi, who lived in Virginia and apparently “hated running hundreds” even though it was his second one. We talked about traveling, other runs, what we did for work, and how much we hated the weather and needed dry socks. We hit the small stretch of pavement before the aid station and tried to identify my Subaru and my crew.
As I rolled into the aid station I looked around frantically for my crew, but they were nowhere to be seen. I accepted the fact that I wasn’t meeting up with my crew and regrouped. I ate a lot of food, refilled my bottles and reservoir, and took some perogies to eat on the massive 7 mile, 3000 foot climb ahead. About a half mile into the climb I heard someone shout “Boston!” and looked back to see Levi. I realized I hadn’t introduced myself, which made me feel like quite the jerk. After some actual introductions, we marched up the hill. We continued to exchange stories and pass the time. At this point, the middle of my left foot started to sting. The blister that was forming would go from an minor inconvenience to so painful by mile 85 or so that each step felt impossible. Levi assured me that a switchback would signal the end of the climb, but a switchback never came. He apologized profusely for not knowing the intricacies of the climb, but I couldn’t care less as we reached the summit of the 4th major climb of the race. At that moment, the clouds opened up and it poured. The trail immediately pooled water and the dirt turned to mud. Everything got soaked. I pleaded out loud for the aid station to appear. After what felt like 5 miles, it did. The Little Bald Knob aid station had delicious vegetable soup and a warm fire I avoided for fear I’d never leave. As I prepared to head back out a chill struck me and I quickly pulled out my Houdini and gloves in an effort to get warm. Levi did the same and we took off to Reddish Knob and the turn around.
The first mile out of the aid station I was freezing. Even when we were hiking I swung my arms hard to generate some more heat. Thankfully I warmed up and we continued uphill to the parking lot on top of the mountain. On the way, Levi’s headlamp cut out and I gave him my spare before he could even ask. I knew my headlamp would make it to the turn around and I had plenty of extras with my crew. Levi kept asking if I was sure, but one of the reason’s I love trail running is the community. I wasn’t going to leave him in the dark.
The wind whipped violently on the top of Reddish Knob and the rain persisted. Levi, a few other runners, and I searched everywhere for the punch for our bib but we couldn’t find anything.After 2 minutes we said “fuck it” and ran the two miles or so of paved road to the turn around. I got to the turnaround at exactly 12 hours, an hour later than I expected. I ran into the aid station and someone shouted to me “Woo runners…wait is that Matt?”. It was me. Brian was waiting for me and got Amina and Sam. We switched my socks, my shirt, my jacket, and my headlamp. I ate as much food as I could stomach and mentally regrouped. I wanted to quit. The rain wasn’t going to let up. It was colder than I expected. My feet were deteriorating fast. I was behind schedule. It was not my day. But at the same time, I took off work for this. I sacrificed hours and hours of training. I knew how proud Colleen would be of me if I pushed through. I got up and out of the aid station and started my 15 or so hour march back.
All night I had been looking forward to the sunrise, but when it finally came I was disappointed. The clouds loomed and continued to rain and the sun seemed to do nothing but illuminate the massive puddles and mud that had formed. My spirits remained low when I had expected them to rebound. I thought it would be a quick run from the turnaround to Little Bald Knob given the terrain, but I couldn’t move well. When I finally got there I ate some food and just kept moving. I knew the 7 mile descent to North River was going to be more painful than the way up but I ran it pretty well. I was excited Amina would be joining me for the next 15 miles and just did my best to go from aid station to aid station. When I got to North River, I changed my socks again and surveyed my feet. Fuck did they look bad, and once again contemplated just calling it. My ride was there, it would be easy to leave. But at the same time, I was over 100K done and my legs barely hurt at all. How frustrating though, my legs felt fresh at mile 65 but my feet felt like another 100 yards would be too far. But as would be the theme for the rest of the day, I got out of the aid station and kept marching.
The first mile or so with Amina felt great. Shortly after that though my spirits fell to the lowest point they had all day. I took a break on the trail and fought back tears as my doubt mounted. Determined to make it to the next aid station and only have 50K left (which is insane) I told Amina to lead and pull me up the hill. Like magic, it worked. My feet hurt like hell, but I could run well and hike strong when I was being dragged along. We got to the aid station and rolled out with purpose. There were only three major climbs left and I was determined to get this thing done. The first climb was over the next 2 miles and the final two would be 15 miles I would run with Brian. Amina and I crushed the first climb and charged the 5ish miles downhill to mile 80. I was rallying, ready to go, and ready to push.
I told Brian to get moving quick and that I would need Sam to pace me the final five miles from 96 to the finish, so be ready. Brian and I made quick work of the first two rolling miles before starting the second to last climb. Things quickly turned south. The climb felt endless, and after stopping for a bathroom break I lost all energy. My legs – still fresh. My feet – excruciating. At the top of the climb I sat on a log and closed my eyes for five minutes and fought back sleep. I knew I couldn’t run the descent even though there were only a few steep sections with limited technicality. I was crushed to move as slow down as up. I kept asking Brian how far to the next aid station. I decided I was going to take the time to sit down for 10 minutes, close my eyes, warm up, and regroup. I had him run ahead to let the crew know, thinking I would have about half a mile alone, but as I turned a corner right after Brian left I was at the aid station!
I got into the aid station that had limited food. I had Brian make some coffee as I sat down and closed my eyes. Amina tended to my feet as Sam grabbed food and checked my supplies. 10 minutes later, I kept marching.
Again, dropping was tempting but 13 miles was doable. 13% of the race left. That was it. I told Brian all I wanted to be up the final climb was “steady”. No pace goal, no running, just steady. I lead up the hill and the strategy worked 80% of the way up until the trail turned back to the rocky stuff that wasn’t too bad descending. The rocks jabbed at my feet and made me wince with each step. Even though the hill seemed to have ended, the flat stretch to the gravel road was incredibly painful and the light started to fade. Finally, we hit the incredibly steep gravel road that we walked down to save my quads and my feet. We returned to the smooth trail that the first climb started up and walked more purposefully until we hit several creeks that early could be hopped but with all the rain required slogging through. The wet creeks made my feet even more tender and I stopped for a minute to collect myself. Nothing hurt like this before. Nothing hurt with every step before. 7 miles left, but those 7 might as well have been 70. Walking for another 2 hours was going to take every ounce of strength.
Just about then, Brian and I got passed by two runners and I told Brian “Just run”. He half halfheartedly jogged and I said “No run”. He did, and I followed. I ran well for the first time in 20 miles. He ran and so did I until we hit the Falls Hallow aid station. I yelled to the crew “I’m going to keep going, can you catch up?” Me and a few runners took off the final small hill to tackle the final 5 miles. My legs felt fine and the more I ran the less my feet screamed. My pacer caught up and I said that I would follow, just pull me along. Over five miles, she did. I got to the lake. It was happening. Sam said she, “could hear the smile in my voice,” as I returned to Camp Shenandoah. Sam ran ahead to take some photos, Amina ran me in. Brian cheered. And after 27 hours and 15 minutes and 36 hours of being awake, I crossed the finish and hugged the totem pole. I called Colleen and told her was alive and I finished. And after cleaning up and eating a bit I passed out.
While I didn’t hit my goal of not turning on the headlamp again, I did manage to finish what felt impossible earlier in the day – Photo Credit – Samantha Alyn Goresh
Even after sleeping for 9 hours, I was still pretty damn tired Photo Credit – Samantha Alyn Goresh
Grindstone was a monster, fueled to be even more gargantuan through awful weather. It took every ounce of strength and perseverance to finish. I though of everyone pulling for me, my crewing working to keep me safe and moving, and all the time I put in. I have never felt anything quite like how my feet felt during this race. But I came out the other side, knowing I am a much stronger runner and ready to take on whatever challenges come next.
The past few weeks have just been me getting back into it after some toenail issues. After my last blog post in August, I realized my toenail was bothering me again. Instead of waiting until it got really bad, I went right back to the podiatrist and asked her to just permanently remove that portion of my toenail. In order to do that, she had to chemically burn part of my toe, so recovery took a bit longer than last time. I had planned on getting it done after our Colorado vacation, but I really didn’t want to spend our vacation in pain, so I risked it and got the procedure done about 2 weeks before we left.
By the time my toe was feeling almost normal, we were on our way to Colorado to enjoy a week long runcation! It was absolutely perfect timing – luck was definitely on my side. I spent vacation alternating between running (in sneakers) and hiking (in sandals) to keep my toe from getting sore. It was totally worth it – I ended up running 21 miles in Colorado despite taking time off for a few weeks before!
It was really great to have Matt’s best friend Matt (I know, very confusing) on the trip with us. Matt had to get a lot of miles in for Grindstone, so it was really nice to have someone there to hike and run with while he was off running 10+ miles every day! We spent a lot of time hiking and trying to catch our breath – it was a little embarrassing. I had forgotten what it’s like to run in Colorado!
While there, I took my first real trail fall. We had run/hiked up Green Mountain and just reached the peak, and had about 7 miles to go until we got back to the car, when I tripped over a VERY obvious rock and started sliding off the trail down the mountain. It’s scary to think about it now, but at the time I got up and just burst out laughing at how typical it was of me to fall at the TOP of a mountain. Luckily nothing was too deep, so I picked myself up and ran the 7 miles back down. I was feeling pretty good – until I had to scrub rocks out of the dried blood on my hands in the shower… yuck! We had lots of beers to numb the pain, so don’t feel too bad for me 😉 Luckily I’m finally all healed up and have a few scars with a fun story!
Now that we’re back to reality, I’ve been trying to steadily increase my mileage for the past few weeks without going crazy. I’m basically the queen of too-much-too-soon, so I’ve scaled back to 10-15 miles a week for a few weeks, and am just now starting to add on a few more miles.
My goal for the year is 1,000 miles. While it may not be a lot to Matt, to me it’s huge. Hitting 1,000 miles while overcoming a few injuries, going through physical therapy, getting a puppy, and starting a new job would be a dream come true.
It’s been hard for me to prioritize running since starting with Bantam Cider Company, since I’ve just been putting everything I have into learning as much as I can as quickly as I can. That means leaving for work by 8:15am and not getting home until 7pm or later, which doesn’t leave me much motivation to run. It’s easy for me to forget how much my stress levels build up if I don’t run – and after a few days off I remember why I run. I could have a bad day at work, a frustrating day of puppy-parenting, or just the usual crushing realization that I’ll be in debt from college until my grandchildren are long gone, but it all goes away while I run.
As of now, I need to run 16.4 miles every week through the end of the year to reach my goal, so this is me asking you all for your help! Help me stay motivated! Offer to run with me on my days off! Make me #verbal for NP or TBC! If I can reach my goal of 1,000 miles this year, WHO KNOWS what next year will bring!
With the fanfare and elation of Vermont 100 starting to wear off, I am doing my best to mentally shift from my summer goal race to what is coming up this fall. Without a doubt, Grindstone will be much more of a challenge, climbing and descending 23,000+ feet over its 101 miles. For reference, that is like climbing Denali (Mt. McKinley) and an additional 3000 feet from sea level and descending back down. It’s a lot of up and down. Aid stations will be farther apart, crew access will be more limited, and it is likely I will be paced for fewer miles than I was in Vermont. All of these things culminate to a tougher physical and mental challenge. I am actually really excited for the toughness of the race, fully abandoning any time goals and using the race’s 38 hour cutoff as a mental safety net, knowing that even at a slow walk I will be able to finish the race.
Obviously, I do not want to take an entire 38 hours. I want to perform well, enjoy the race, and come out qualified for Hardrock, UTMB, and Western States in 2017. To do so, I am trying to dive into training and make the most of the 2 months until race day. Unlike Vermont, I do not have a set of races leading up to the event to help gradually ramp up the distance. With the amount of climbing at Grdinstone, I haven’t been able to find races I can realistically get to that will simulate what I’m going to encounter in Virginia. Not being able to fall back on the same strategy that worked so well for my first hundred in definitely tough. I have to alter my strategy and step a bit out of my comfort zone, which effectively makes Grindstone feel like it is my first time racing the distance.
56 days until I toe the line, I am trying to focus on a few different things than pure mileage this training block: consistency, elevation, and rest. For consistency, I am going to use the same training plan from Vermont, 6 days a week running with one day off. Instead of an off day, I fully intend to cycle just to get a bit of cardiovascular fitness unless I am feeling especially tired. Elevation is a bit harder to earn than consistency or rest living in the middle of Boston, but Summit Ave is in my backyard, Harvard Stadium is just around the corner, and Blue Hills and the Fells both have plenty of elevation change if you know where to look. I won’t be able to simulate the 3,000+ foot climbs that I will be battling on race day without the use of a treadmill or long drives north, but I will do my best to climb and descend whenever I can. It will be difficult to balance this aspect of training, since going up will slow me down, and being slower means covering less mileage per week. I felt confident with my weekly mileage for Vermont, but this cycle I will have to feel confident mileage + elevation change. Finally, I want to make sure I am resting and recovering adequately every single day. That means improving my diet, sleeping 8+ hours when I can, and knowing when it is not worth running an extra mile for the Strava data when I know I really need to rest. I think listening to my body is going to be more essential than any training regiment or workout I could do.