The North Face ECSMA Wachusett 50 Miler – Race Report

I signed up for this race almost as soon as it was announced. I thoroughly enjoyed the Bear Mountain 50k in 2016, and was ready to jump up to the 50 miler. My “big race” of the year was supposed to be the Gorge Waterfalls 100k out in Portland, and this was going to be an “easier” race, since I’d have been a seasoned 100k-er by then. Boy was I gonna be wrong!

636331238052899654
Mid-first summit thinking “I have to do this THREE MORE TIMES?”

To start off, this race did not have a course description in the Course Guide on their website. It showed the map, gave turn-by-turn directions, had the chart for elevation, but the description was “TBD” which meant that everyone who hadn’t run trails in New England was in for a big surprise. I’ve had plenty of experience on trails in the Northeast, so I was prepared for some technical terrain, but honestly it was one of the most intense runs of my entire life. You could say “well of course it was, it was your first 50 miler!” but I ran Bear Mountain last year, which was advertised as an extremely technical course, and I just ran Seven Sisters, which was absolutely insane as well. I was ready for a challenge, but I don’t think The North Face adequately prepared runners for this race.

We started the day with our alarms going off at 2:50am. We made some coffee, inhaled some cereal for breakfast, and we were out the door by 3:15 to go grab our friend Harry, who was also running the 50 miler. I won the “who’s driving home after a 50 miler?!” battle, so I drove us to the race so I didn’t have to drive home. It was about an hour, which we spent shooting the shit, talking about various other races, and trying not to psych myself out before the race. We got there, sunscreened and bug sprayed up, dropped our drop-bags off, and lined up at the start. The sun was coming up just as the race was starting, so we didn’t even need our headlamps, which was great!

Matt sped off, and I settled into a nice slow, steady pace so I didn’t go out too hard. I knew there was going to be a lot of up and down, so my goal of the day was to run any flat or downhill that wasn’t too technical, and to assess my pace on uphills as the day went on. I started by power hiking most uphills, and I ended up keeping that up throughout almost the entire race. In the 50 mile race, we summited 4 times total. The first summit was at mile 7.1, and I was feeling pretty strong at this point. I reached the summit the first time with an average pace of 14:34 min/mi, and reached it the second time with an average page of 15:43 min/mi. I was feeling strong, and had actually met a very nice runner named John around mile 3, who helped keep my mind off the fact that it was a lot of elevation. He was engaged as well, living in NYC, and we chatted about the absurdity of the cost of weddings, all the crazy races he’s run, how his fiancee is crazy fast, and exchanged fun stories. It was exactly what I needed to ignore my nerves, and focus on just moving forward.

636331237845444613
John and I in the first few miles, happy to have made a new friend!

During the first 15 miles, my left IT band was acting up. I haven’t had this happen in a really long time, and it was very stressful, so I was glad to have John there to talk me out of my head. I grabbed some advil a few times during the first half of the race, and it didn’t bother me again until the day after the race. I will definitely be spending the next few weeks focusing on getting the inflammation down and strength training in order to prevent this in the future.

Once we summited the second time, we started to make our way out to the state park. Looking at this section on the elevation chart, I thought I was going to be able to run a lot of it. I was verrrrryyy wrong. While the elevation profile was mellow, the technicality of the trails was insane. There were long sections of this where the trail was literally a foot wide, completely overgrown, with just giant rocks and roots everywhere. It was impossible to run. John had passed me by this point as his goal was 10 hours, and I was hoping for 12, so I decided to just power hike and take it slow. I had a lot of hours ahead of me, and have heard too many horror stories of runners going out too hard and crashing. I focused on my goals: walk uphill, run every runnable section, and don’t fall on my face.

636331238558439433

I also was like clockwork with my gels/chomps throughout the day until maybe 10 hours in. I made sure to eat gels or chomps every hour, and ate other food at probably every other aid station. I also filled my pack with ice at almost every aid station, and threw at least two cup-fulls of water on my head every chance I got. I also dipped my hat in any creek we ran over to try to keep myself from overheating. Ideally, I wouldn’t have had the pack on because of the heat, but I really wanted the security of having what I needed with me, just in case. My pack was like the binky of my first 50-miler, and I was thankful to have it the entire time even if it made me hotter than I would have liked. I was thankful to have a dropbag with extra food in it as well because the aid stations were pretty sparse throughout the course. There were even some aid stations where they were just out of a certain kind of food completely. To someone who is used to running TARC races and having an insane spread of snacks, that was definitely one of the biggest bummer. To go into an aid station hoping for oranges and having them be out is a huge mental obstacle for someone who’s already been running for 10+ hours. I think if they are going to do this race again next year, they need to have a bigger variety of food available, especially to people running the marathon or more.

The trail continued to be barely runnable until around mile 20, when we did a 4 mile loop that was almost entirely runnable (to me, to faster runners I’m sure they ran the entire way), with some fast fire road miles after the loop. I got some 10-12 min/miles in around here, and felt better since I had already been on track to finish beyond my 12 hour goal. I knew when I saw the high for the day was close to 80 degrees that I would likely be adjusting my goals, but felt that it was entirely just a personal decision, rather than an across the board decision for all runners. I ran with another runner named John (different runner, I swear) who was a seasoned ultra marathoner as well, who was struggling in the heat and with the technicality of the course. We suffered together to an aid station, where I threw water on myself and set off for the next big aid station, where I’d have my drop bag and Kayleigh waiting for me with sour gummy worms. I had notifications for Matt that would text me when he crossed a checkpoint, and there had been an issue where his mile 15.5 checkpoint also counted as his mile 33 checkpoint time, so I had no idea how he was doing. His goal for the entire race was 10 hours, and at about 10 hours in, I got a notification that he was at the summit for the third time.

IMG_3025
Photo by my favorite running partner, Matt!

At that point I was extremely concerned I wasn’t going to finish this race in time. I got to mile 37 feeling defeated, at my all-time low of the race. I had run through a bunch of muddy puddles and my feet were soaking, I had hit my top level of pain in the last 5 miles, and still had a freaking half marathon to go. At this point, Tammy joined me to pace me through the rest of the race, and I was so grateful she offered to do this for me. I was feeling really down on myself, worried I wouldn’t get to finish my race, debating whether or not to just give up at that point, because there was a good chance I wasn’t going to finish within the 14 mile cutoff. I ran in and saw Tammy practically bouncing with excitement to see me, and Kayleigh and her boyfriend Tim waiting with gatorade, sour gummy worms, sour patch kids, and hugs. It was exactly what I needed to keep going. I switched my shoes and socks, and headed out with Tammy to finish this damn race.

IMG_3059
So grateful to have had Tammy by my side, supporting me and encouraging me for those last 13 miles!

At this point, any uphill felt like a mountain. I was quite literally making mountains out of molehills, as my dad would say. Tammy was pushing me to run when it was flat or downhill, and we were coming up with landmarks to run to when I was too tired to keep running. “Okay, see those ribbons? We’ll run to those ribbons and then walk.” Tammy honestly was my trail guardian angel, and I would have been in a much worse place if it hadn’t been for her. At this point, my legs were still functioning well, and I hadn’t gotten nauseous at all. Up until 37 I did a really good job of drinking water not only when I was thirsty, but at every beep of a mile at my watch too. Normally I worry about over-hydrating, but it was freaking 80 degrees outside, and I was going to be out on the course a lot longer than I had anticipated. I even drank 2 bottles of tailwind during the second half of the race, since I was pretty much over gels at that point.

636331238214991297
A lot of hands-on-the-knees pushing off my quads to lighten the load from my legs a bit.

37-44 was a blur of just putting my head down and powering through the exhaustion. By the time I reached the summit the third time at mile 44, Matt had just finished the race in 12 hours. I still had 2 hours to go, but looking back at Matt’s timing for the last 6 miles, I knew I was going to be cutting it close. It took Matt 2 hours and 3 minutes from the third summit to the end of the course, so I knew that likely it would take me at least that much time, and I was already at 12 hours. I also had a blister pop mid-run that I had to take care of at this aid station and, of course, Tammy was the best pacer ever. She ran up to the medic and grabbed anything she thought I might need. She helped me get my toe all bandaged up and back in action, since I had spent the last 4 miles of the course spreading my toes so my popped blister didn’t rub against my big toe, since it was extremely painful.

I was freaking out about not making the cutoff when the volunteer at the aid station assured me to just keep going, and that they had extended the cutoff time for the relay race by at least 3 hours. THREE HOURS EXTRA for a MARATHON. At that point, I was feeling MUCH better that I was still running any chance I could, still eating, still drinking, and hadn’t dropped. Kayleigh was at the summit, and I knew that my parents and Matt would be at the summit my final go around, so I set off a woman on a mission, with my toe feeling like new.

Tammy encouraged me to run as much as possible, had me running on the shortest path possible, and was keeping my spirits high. I was still mentally there, though I’ll admit some words were taking a long time to come into my head, and I was still physically feeling pretty strong. I was surprised that I was still capable of running at this point, when I kept passing runners sidelined with cramps, or vomiting on the side of the trail. We ran down and on our way back up to the summit, we ran into the sweeper, who was still about an hour behind us, since she was on her first loop of the summit. She assured us that the race cutoff had to be extended, and we found out that there were still relay runners on the course – the relay was scheduled to be finished by 4pm, and it was now 5:30-6pm. We trekked up to the summit for the last time, and I thought my heart would explode from happiness when I got up there and saw my mom, dad, Matt, Kayleigh and Tim all cheering for me. I got to the top and spent a few minutes hugging everyone, congratulating Matt, and chatting up the volunteers.

636331238743915014
Cry/smiling (criling?) at the finish line. So overwhelmed with exhaustion, relief, happiness, and love at seeing my family, fiancee, and one of my best friends at the finish line cheering me on.

We set off out of the aid station on a mission to finish, and the guy that had been at the aid station sprinted past us telling me we had to run the rest of the way in order to finish by the cutoff. I said “oh don’t worry about it, the sweeper is still an hour  back and they extended the cutoffs” and he was all frenzied saying that they might not honor it. The next 4 miles were not only hard because it was still pretty technical and my legs were exhausted, but I was mentally exhausted from coming up with angry tweets I’d send to North Face if they didn’t extend the cutoff time. Luckily, I was worried for nothing. After passing the same poor soul vomiting on the side of the trail for the third time, I powered through the last 4 miles and finished with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes after running for 14 hours, 17 minutes, and 4 seconds.

IMG_3034
Probably the most accurate picture of my personality, post-race, eating a chicken tender on the ground, happy to be not moving.

 

Overall, the race was great, and the volunteers were top notch! I know a few trail runners that don’t like that the Endurance Challenge series has a more “road race” vibe and a lot of non-trail runners, but that’s one of my favorite parts. The fact that everyone from all different abilities is out there on the same course is pretty great, despite the fact that their trail etiquette isn’t super great. I did see some cups/trash on the course, but these could easily have accidentally fallen out of people’s packs or belts despite their experience on trails. One of my biggest complaints is that they should announce who has the right of way when on a course like this. I’m a firm believer that if someone is passing you, you need to get out of their way. But if someone is coming at you, the person who has been out on the course longer should get the right of way. Proper etiquette wasn’t clear, and I was getting shoulder-checked left and right by runners at this section of the course. When you’ve been running for 9 hours and get shoulder-checked, this could seriously throw off your balance and possibly push you over and injure you. The last thing I want to DNF over is some schmuck who’s never run trails before knocking me over and not even apologizing for it.

It was the toughest race I’ve ever run, and it was one of the toughest races for pretty much everyone I spoke with. 179 runners started this 50 miler and only 75 people finished. That’s right, only 41% of people who started ended up finishing the race. It was absolutely insane. I still can’t believe it was real, and I can’t believe I’m barely even sore today, 5 days after running for 14 hours. I feel confident I’ll run another 50 miler, though jury is still out on 100 milers… I have a newly developed appreciate for how insane Matt is.

Strava:
https://www.strava.com/activities/1030653542

Gear:
Garmin Fenix 5s
Nathan VaporAiress Hydration Pack
Ciele GoCap
Nike Pro HyperCool Shorts
Salomon Sense Pro 2
New Balance 910s
Balega socks

Probably Jinxing Myself

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.

15002504_10210969327254343_5005017896628885499_o
Crushed my half marathon PR at the Cambridge Half Marathon!

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.

15170829_10211102599906076_5481799273486622882_n
Matt has been leading weekend TBC long runs!

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.

15390895_10211243106898663_3183429854133116447_n
Ryan, Matt, and I heading out for a freezing cold 12 miler

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!

#WOahMAN

14681934_1711319722523184_4199917465925022201_o
Could not believe the amount of people that showed up for this craziness!

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.

14712917_1711314319190391_882053570329675446_o
The ladies who motivated me to push up the hill! Photo courtesy of Daniel Rothenberg

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.

14712922_1285886574769041_7448527581061387137_o
Running my first hill – note it was still dark outside and I’d already been working out for an hour and a half. Photo courtesy of Rosa Evora

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.

B.A.A. Half Marathon 2016

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

Gear:
Garmin Forerunner 620
Ciele GoCap
Stance Socks
Saucony Ride 9 Shoes

Colorado 2016

img_4812
This has nothing to do with running but he’s really cute, so….

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!

img_5155

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!

img_5153

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.

img_4946
My hiking/plant identifying trail partner!

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!

img_5164
The only good picture I took from Rocky Mountain National Park – after this, it got REALLY COLD and very rainy!

Colleen’s Update

Hey guys, I do still exist! And I still run! Life has been a bit crazy – I started a new job and spent some good time with my favorite physical therapist for a few different injuries. Thankfully, I’m feeling more settled and less injured now, and ready to start training again. We’re also starting to run with Goose now too, so expect some cute puppy pictures!

Yesterday, I crushed my first full tour in over a year!

First of all, let me recap Matt’s 100 Miler: everyone there was insane. Like in a good way, but still. I can’t believe how amazing everyone there was, especially Matt. It was a wonderful experience to be his crew chief! He inspired me to find my first 50 miler – if he can run 100 miles in 21 hours, I can run 50 miles. As long as my shins and knees hold up through the fall, I’ll be building my base up and starting training in mid-fall!

With the change in schedule and learning a new job, I’ve been running a lot less, and it’s been bumming me out. I’m finally starting to feel more comfortable in my job, and antsy to get back on the training train! I want to run commute (because Boston traffic DEAR GOD WHY WHYYYYYY) but am torn about not wanting to be sweaty for the rest of the day. If you’ve got any advice on run commuting at a place without a shower, or know of any gyms near Union Square that will let me pay for just showers, bring it on!

For now, I’ll be training and building my mileage back up so I can start training for the next big thing! In the fall I’ll be running the Cambridge Half Marathon with team Bantam Cider (you should join too!) and a few 5k’s as well. I’m still trying to decide whether or not I should do the TARC Fall Classic 50k, but I’ll make the call in a few weeks after I get training started.

Gustav’s first run – just under a mile!

I promise to be better at blogging now that I’m more settled into my new job!

Maine Huts & Trails

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but to be fair it’s been a while since I’ve run! My shin set me back in my goal to run 1,000 miles this year, but I’m finally back on track after spending some time focusing on strengthening. After a few weeks of not running, I decided the smartest course of action would be to run a casual ultra marathon through Maine just for fun – I guess I really am as insane as all my other ultra marathoning friends.

IMG_2412

We had a group of NPer and TBCers all meet up at the northern most hut (Grand Falls) of Maine Huts & Trails on Friday. At Grand Falls, there was a small parking area about a 1.5 mile hike from the huts where we parked and loaded up our gear to trek in to the hut. The hut was absolutely beautiful, and we ended up having the place to ourselves for the night due to it being the off season. The system has some beautiful cross country skiing in the winter (or so I’ve been told – I’ll have to find out for myself this upcoming winter!) and then has their summer season start in July. Since it was the off-season, we had full run of the kitchen but had to carry any food we needed in, prepare it ourselves, and hike everything back out when we were finished.

We spent the night sipping wine, relaxing around a fire, playing Pandemic, and eating a pretty decent amount of spaghetti. I like to think we were camping, but really it was glamping. The huts were gorgeous and had everything we could need – bathrooms, showers, a wood stove, couches, and a full kitchen! We all hit the hay pretty early to rest up for our journey the next day, but I ended up having horrible stomach issues all night. I probably only got 2 or 3 hours of sleep and spent the rest of the night wondering whether or not I had made the right decision to run after being injured.

IMG_5847
Photo credit: Sam Goresh

We had a lovely 5:45AM wakeup call and all proceeded to stuff our faces with some delicious Bagelsaurus bagels. I was really struggling to get food into myself since my stomach was still not feeling great, but I ate as much as I could and tried to pack a little extra for the run, assuming I’d be starving by mid-morning. We hiked our things back to the cars and our lovely sherpas, Kelvin and Rebecca, drove our big packs to the parking area near the last hut. We all got situated with our running packs & snacks, and set off at a nice relaxed pace towards the second hut, Flagstaff.

VIRB0729
One of my favorite views of the day.

Flagstaff was about 11.5 miles from Grand Falls, and we knew we had a long day ahead of us, so we took our time warming up and taking pictures to capture everything. We stuck together until the first stop at the Flagstaff hut, and then a few of us went ahead so we didn’t get too stiff from stopping. I was worried if I waited too long and ended up having to walk from my shin I’d end up holding the group back, so we got going fairly quickly. I was starving by this point so I packed in as many calories as I could before we got back to the trails. The next hut, Poplar, was about 10 miles away, and I was starting to feel it in my legs already. Luckily my shin was feeling excellent, but my IT band started to get a little tender by mile 18 or 19. I wasn’t too worried about it, but was just more concerned I was going to hold Matt back during his training run. We were already going much slower than he’s used to, and he was using this as a training run for the Vermont 100. Luckily, he’s the most amazing and supportive boyfriend I could ever dream of, so as soon as my knee started to really hurt, he made sure I power hiked instead of ran!

VIRB0769

Once we got to Poplar, we connected with our sherpa Kelvin and got a plan for the last few miles of trails. We all planned on meeting up at the Airport trailhead, where we’d drive a few minutes up the road (to take off an extra 1.5 miles of trails), grab our packs, and hike another 3 miles up to our final hut – Stratton Brook. The last miles were really just power hiking and ingesting a large amount of anti-inflammatories (for me at least), but we actually kept pretty consistent time because a lot of the trails were overgrown and swampy in the previous 20 miles. We had a lot of slow miles at the start – it was clear that the trails not only aren’t used often in the spring/summer, but are definitely made for cross country skiing. During the winter it wouldn’t matter if the trail had wooden planks under tall grass – it would all just get covered in snow!

IMG_2489
Gang’s all here! Sam, Clint, me, Matt, Dan, and Tania all taking a breather to soak our sore feet in the cool lake.

We joked about how this was called “The Lazyman’s Ultra Marathon” since it was more than a marathon but less than a 50k but hey, still counts! It certainly didn’t feel like a lazy ultra marathon considering we were on our feet running and hiking for over 7 hours!

Overall, the trip was a huge success and so much fun. We managed to stop at Duckfat on our way up for panini’s and milkshakes, and stopped in Kittery for some Ramen on our way home. We ran, we hiked, we laughed, we napped, and we talked about our bowel movements far too often, as runners tend to do. I can’t wait to do more fun trips like this in the future, and am so grateful to Dan for thinking of it and organizing most of the trip!

I’m so glad my shin was feeling up for the task. I’ve been working on getting my stabilizers stronger so I can continue my training and enjoy fun excursions like this one in Maine. I will definitely be back to these huts – once to check out cross country skiing, and another trip during the summer for some trails! If I can keep up my training, strengthening, and injury prevention, come fall it’ll be time to start training for my next big milestone – 50 miles!

VIRB0792
The hike up to the last hut was the hardest part of the day, but the view was worth it.

Slip & Slide – 7 Sisters Race Report (5/8/2016)

After being a runner in Boston for about 5 years, I finally took on the classic New England trail race: 7 Sisters. The reputation of this race is pretty notable: an unrelenting out-and-back filled with steep climbs, jagged rocks, and plenty of roots. As a rule of thumb, I heard that to estimate your time for this race, take your half marathon time and add an hour…or double it. Without a doubt, I came into the race with a bit of hesitation with all the notoriety and claims of difficulty. Obviously, I want to make it through the year injury-free, and tumbling head first down a shale covered descent was the last thing I wanted. But this was absolutely a bucket list race, and after finishing it I cannot wait to go back.

To add to the risk of injury, it decided to rain all week in Massachusetts leading up to the race and was forecasted to rain right as the race was starting. Nothing better than some mud to break up the slick, lichen covered sections of rock. The forecast absolutely made me hesitant and nervous about my goal of breaking 3 hours. I was coming into the race completely blind, and several friends said sub-3 was a reasonable goal. But with the rain and thoughts in the back of my head saying “this is stupid” I wasn’t sure whether I should stick to my goals or just go for it.

A car full of November Project folks made our way to Amherst early Sunday morning and got slightly optimistic when we saw blue skies. After parking at the race and picking up our bibs, it became pretty clear that we were not going to be spared as a thick fog made it abundantly clear that it was going to be wet and we would have limited visibility.  Our crew got our bibs, got our gear ready and waited for the gun to go off.

7 Sisters has a wave start to help decrease congestion on the trail which is entirely single track. Somehow I got slotted in Wave 1, so I lined up after the elites took off and waited anxiously. The rain hadn’t started yet, but I knew it would be starting soon. In no time, we were off and working our way up the way to the ridgeline. Essentially the race was a big climb up to the ridge, a run across the ridge, and then a descent on the other side of the range. After that, you turn around and do the entire thing in reverse. The major climb out from the start was somewhat technical, with portions of loose shale. Not knowing what I was in for, I quickly got into power-hike mode and marched up the mountain.

At the top, there was a steep descent. And then a steep climb. And then a steep descent. Then a little bit of runnable stuff. Honestly, the way out was such a blur that I don’t remember much more detail than that. There were a few moments of scrambling up hyper-steep sections of the trail that I knew would be interesting coming down, but it was such technical trail it was hard to make note of anything specific. About 2 miles in the rain started coming down, soaking the runners and the trail even more. Roughly 5 miles into the run, there is a beautiful overlook (I imagine, fog made it impossible to see anything) and a building with a patio that the runners must walk over. After that, we began the biggest descent down to the turn around point. At this point the trail was nothing more than mud and rocks. To be honest, I’m not sure what was worse, the rocks that you might slip on or the mud that you couldn’t stop in. Serious “style points” were earned sliding several feet down the trail at a time.

I got to the turn around in 1:14, refilled my bottle half way and took back off the trail. The mud made climbs into a game of finding hand holds to support forward movement. As runners came pouring down the trail making their way to the halfway mark, it was a tough  mix of staying out of the way and making progress. The climb from the turn around is the biggest of the entire race, so I did my best to run and hike quickly to make quick work of it. After reaching the patio again, I tried to push it as much as possible, but the mud and slippery rocks frequently had me on all fours. I lost confidence in my shoe grip and relied on tree limbs for braking. At about the 10 mile mark, Bear Mountain started to catch up with me and I felt my quads weaken. Downhills became even more treacherous but I was able to climb strong. After a few other big ups and downs, we were back at the first summit. I remember thinking on the way up that I would be able to fly down the initial section of trail, but at that point I had little faith in my legs so I took it easy. I made it to the short stretch of pavement and bolted to the finish for a time of 2:39.

I am pretty happy with my time and I think on a dry year I could probably break 2:30. As for strategy, I tried to be conservative on the out and push on the back, but given the congestion early on in the race I think a hard push up the first up hill can save a lot of time. Without a doubt I will be back to run 7 Sisters. I cannot think of a single race that I have run that has such challenging trails and climbing crammed into such a short distance.

Strava:

7 Sisters

Gear

  1. Saucony Peregrine 4
  2. Salomon Hydro Handset
  3. Garmin Fenix 3
  4. Gu, Tailwind
  5. Ciele Fast Cap

Bear Mountain 50k Race Report (April 30, 2016)

Well, Matt may have done basically the same course with an extra 20 miles thrown on, but we had very different race day experiences! While I was on the struggle bus my fair share of the race, it was overall an amazing day and I felt strong & fast almost the entire time. While Matt is good at remembering where he was and how he was feeling at what mile, I have a more generalized recap since I could hardly focus on anything but keeping my body feeling good.

To start the day, we had a 2:45AM wake up, since Matt started 2 hours earlier than me. I was grumpy about losing sleep, but I’m grateful I got to see Matt off before his long day of racing. After his 5:00am start time, I had nothing to do but stand around eating donuts around a fire pit to kill time. I felt anxious to just start, but I met a bunch of amazing runners while waiting for the start! When it was about 6:40 I finally stripped down to my race day gear and checked my bag. I was ready to go, and felt more excited than nervous for the first time in a while.

Pretending I was having fun

We started at 7:00am, and by that point it felt like noon. I remember being a few miles in and thinking “wow I should have had lunch” and then realizing it was literally 7:30 in the morning. I had a long day ahead of me. A runner I met before the race had warned me that the first half of the race was much harder than the second half, and that he was begging for mercy by mile 5 last year. By the time I hit mile 5, I was feeling great and had no idea what this guy was talking about. It was hilly and technical, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Then mile 5 was literally just one big hill. My legs were already tired, the toe I had fixed last week had been bothering me for a few miles, and panic set in. Had I not prepared well enough? Should I have trained harder? Of course, it was too little too late, and I tried to push the negative thoughts from my head and focus on one mile at a time.

At mile 7, I was sure I was slowing down. I had a chart with me showing what my timing should be at each aid station, and even at mile 8 I was on course for a 6:30 50k. My goal had been between 7-8 hours – I wasn’t going for speed, as I knew it was going to be a really challenging course. So I adjusted my pace to actually slow down and reminded myself to take it easy – I still had a lot of miles left and didn’t want to burn out early. Around mile 11, some nausea hit me. I had waves of feeling awful and waves of feeling fine for probably 6 miles. I was hurting and had to dig deep to push through. Luckily I brought my headphones, so I threw them on and tried to focus on some upbeat music to get me through it.

At each aid station I knew I needed to get real food in me, but I was really struggling. I’d walk away with a pb&j sandwich in hand ready to hike and eat, and would take 10 minutes to just choke it down. I was struggling between wondering if I needed more water, or if I was over-hydrating. Finally, I had my last wave of nausea and was feeling good again. I was so relieved to feel good, I was pretty much dancing through the woods (as well as you can when there are giant rocks and fallen trees everywhere).

The terrain was brutal. There were parts where I was lifting myself up in between giant boulders with my arms, and parts where I was basically crawling down a steep hill covered in rocks. I was not prepared for the amount of rocks. Seriously guys, it was rocky. When it wasn’t super rocky, it was gorgeous. We had some unreal views, though it was hard to find them while trying not to trip. I did take one fall and slammed my knee into a fallen tree – luckily I basically just tuck-and-rolled out of it and had a solid mile of flat, easy trail after that to recover and shake it off. Most of the miles after the nausea passed have already slipped my memory. I just remember putting one foot in front of the other, drinking a little water every mile, and chatting with as many runners on the way as I could.

Probably the moment I realized I had run 15 miles and was only halfway done.

At mile 21, I was feeling good but HOT. I hadn’t realized what 65 would feel like, and the clouds had started to disappear. I ran with a man from Costa Rica complaining he was cold (while wearing gloves and a long sleeve shirt) and wished that feeling upon myself with all my might. At the Anthony Wayne aid station (mile 21.2) I stopped to throw water on myself and put some ice in my hydration pack. It was glorious and helped put a spring back into my step. The next few miles were slower and hilly, but once I hit that marathon distance and kept going, I felt unstoppable. Nothing makes you feel more badass than finishing a marathon… And then continuing to run.

I knew the dreaded Timp Pass was somewhere after 26, so I put on some T Swift and just cheered on everyone around me so I could try to keep some positive energy going. I hadn’t looked at the elevation of the last big climb (on purpose – no use dreading an unavoidable climb) but I knew it was going to be brutal. Once I saw it I stopped, rolled my eyes, and just told myself I was the idiot who paid for this torture. My legs were hurting from all the hills, my feet were hurting from the rocks, and my knee was a little sore from my fall. I knew I had to put it behind me and think happy thoughts, so I put on Shake it Off (twice in a row) and literally danced and lip synced my way up the hill. I’m 100% sure I looked like an idiot, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t exactly what I needed. I absolutely dominated the hill and was ready to FINISH. I didn’t want to let any negative thoughts slow me down or make my doubt myself.

One of my favorite moments was probably around mile 28 – right before the last aid station. I had my tunes going and T Swift starts singing “are we out of the woods yet?” and I literally said out loud “NO TAYLOR I AM NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET, THANKS FOR THE REMINDER.” Sorry if you were around me during this race – I promise I’m not crazy. Well, no crazier than anyone else who runs 31 miles at a time.

I pushed myself as hard as I could those last few miles. I had been leapfrogging with a few guys during the race (I was mostly surrounded by guys during the race – come on ladies, let’s outnumber the men someday soon okay?) and at mile 29 I finally ran with one of the guys for a bit and we bitched about how we just wanted to be done. He ended up finishing just before me, but I didn’t care. I got to that finish area and was greeted by the November Project Boston leaders and nearly lost my mind. For some reason, I thought the marathon relay was Sunday, so I was not prepared to see so many familiar, smiling faces cheering me on. I had the biggest smile on my face and finished feeling like a million bucks. There were dozens of NPers cheering for me, giving me high fives, and hugging me after I finished. I can’t thank them enough for being there for me – it was hard not having Matt at the start or finish for my biggest race, and seeing those beautiful human beings made my whole day.

At the finish: biggest smile I’ve ever had while running

I felt great post-race for about 15 minutes and then the nausea hit me. I knew it would (or at least I had a suspicion since I felt nauseous after Vermont as well, which I also had bouts of nausea during) but seeing Matt finish his 50 miler perked me right back up. I shoved as much food as humanly possible into my tired body and soaked my legs in an ice bath.

I finished my race in 6:50:26, which was a hell of a lot better than I could have ever imagined when I was contemplating throwing up at mile 12. I had my fair share of ups and downs, but the ups far outweighed the downs. Overall, I definitely recommend runners who enjoy technical running to do this course. It was truly a challenge of endurance, and I can’t wait to head back next year and do the relay – or, depending on this next year of running, to PR the 50k!

 

Strava:
https://www.strava.com/activities/562680023
Gear:
Garmin Forerunner 620
Ciele GoCap
Balega Socks
Nike Kiger Shoes
Nathan  Hydration Vest – HPL #020

Bear Mountain 50 Miler – Week Fourteen Training Recap

Taper time! Considering the amount of lingering aches and pains I have been having, tapering could not come soon enough. As Colleen mentioned in her post, I have mostly been dealing with some ankle and Achilles pain that sidelined me from two runs last week but is now subsiding. I think I am starting to mature as a runner since I actually skipped the runs as opposed to my usual strategy of just dealing with it and running through the pain for as long as possible. Now in the final two weeks before Bear Mountain, I feel my body recovering stronger than ever and finally feel like I kicked the illness that plagued me for the last third of my training.

As for race day goals, I think I am setting my “Everything Goes Right” goal at around 8.5 hours. While a huge increase over my 50 mile PR, I think that the course plays to my strengths and given good conditions, I can really do well. My main goal for the day is to break 9 hours. I really think this is doable and looking at average paces, the course profile, and my fitness something that I should be able to succeed at.

Shortest recap yet!

Tuesday I hit the trails at Rancho Palos Verdes for some hill repeats. The trails and views were magnificent, and my last hill workout for the training cycle went really well. I was really consistent between reps and gave it my all, which is probably why my ankle pain finally caught me and I had to sit Wednesday and Thursday out.

Friday I was back in Boston, feeling well, and it was Marathon weekend! The Boston Marathon is like runner Christmas, and easily one of my favorite times to be in Boston. There are tons of events to meet bad ass runners at and everyone’s energy seemed to be through the roof. Feeding off that energy, I went to my first November Project workout in ages. I did 7 miles on Summit Ave and PRed on the downhill portion (according to Strava) which helped build my confidence.

Saturday I was planning on running long, but a friend needed some help demoing a product at the marathon expo, so I ran 9 miles on the treadmill in various increments. Afterwards, I went to the Runner’s World shakeout run which ended at the November Project book launch. Besides being able to hear Brogan and Bojan, Colleen and I got the chance to Rory Bosio who was one of the nicest people ever! She was thrilled to give ultra tips, advice, and wisdom.

Sunday I finally got around to my long run and I was on the struggle bus. It was a bit warmer than I anticipated, my ankle did not feel great, and I was tired from the crazy week. But I got it done, finishing 20 miles and kicking off my taper!