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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Finding My Stride – Bear Mountain 50 Mile Race Report (April 30th, 2016)

Bear Mountain turned out to be a pretty humbling race. Not because I am disappointed in my performance or running, but rather because of the mental battles that I dealt with throughout the day. Over and over, I struggled with self-doubt and disappointment as I watched pre-race goals slip away. If anything, this grueling race helped me learn to dig even deeper, and find the satisfaction in my performance. I would like to think that some of missing my goal was due to running flat bike paths in LA or just being tired from travel, but most of it falls on getting carried away.

While I do not regret setting such an ambitious goal of breaking 9-hours, I do regret not re-calibrating earlier in the race, when I realized I had not done enough training on technical trails to sustain the pace I was originally running. Without a doubt, if I had a smarter pacing strategy I could have run sub-9:30. I think with some more maturity and experience, I will understand what levels of exertion I can tolerate, but this was only my 3rd 50 miler (and 2nd finish since Wapack crushed me by mile 43), so there are plenty of lessons to learn. Hopefully through this report, I have a bit of time to reflect on my mistakes and better approach my other races this year.

It makes sense to start with this recap on Thursday night, because every distance runner I have ever met told me two nights before is the most important night in terms of sleep. Well, I did not sleep well. Jet-lagged and anxious about trying to rest, I slept horribly and felt exhausted all day Friday. On Friday night, I actually slept incredibly well but since the alarm was set to go off at 2:45, it didn’t matter much. After a light breakfast and the drive to Bear Mountain, I got my bib and got settled in for the gun to go off. I complained a fair amount about the 5 AM start and having to deal with a headlamp for the first few miles, but it is what it is. The gun went off and we shuffled our way to the trail and up into the hills.

Bear Mountain 50 Mile Start
Ready to go!

The first section of the race went well, as they usually do. I was surging with adrenaline and excited that it was finally race day. We climbed a few hundred feet over three miles which I mostly ran before a quick descent into the first aid station. I was having an absolute blast. Things felt great, I had a nutrition plan, I was hitting my splits, and camaraderie on the trail was high. Blazing through the Anthony Wayne aid station, I dropped off my headlamp and took off up the road. Some runnable single track, road, and then technical single track later and I was already at the 8.7 mile aid station. Every part of me felt clicked in at this point. I took maybe 15 seconds in the aid station before I was off onto the fire road where I clicked off 2 sub-10 minute miles.

From there, the course got hard for me. Technical ups and downs were breaking my running up really frequently, and I was moving with hesitation knowing that I had some intimidating climbs left. My energy levels were still high and I still felt strong, but in my head I felt my goal start to creep away. I battled with the idea of not meeting my goal. It was less than a half-marathon into a 50 mile race and I already felt defeated. I did my best to stay strong and resilient, but negativity is pretty persistent. I reached the Arden Valley aid station after a quick road section and quickly refilled and got going. After the race, someone said I was in the top 1o at this point, but I think I was closer to top 30-40 (Sidenote – I claimed top 20 immediately after the race, but I don’t think my pace was ever that impressive or that I got passed by 50 people before I finished, but hey, its possible). I ran down the hill, taking the opportunity to get some fast running in before turning back onto the trail. Once I did though, I banged my ankle against a rock hard and was moving precariously over a rock field. Right then, it felt like the end of my day.

The next 5 or so miles I moved sluggishly. All my pre-race excitement had faded and I felt like I was at mile 45, not 15. I was already in pain. My hips and feet hurt, I felt slow and ready to be done. I looked at my watch frequently, seeing myself eat into time I had built up in the first few miles fade away and getting passed by people who paced themselves smarter than I had.  About 2 miles from the next aid station, I got passed by Amy, a Massachusetts trail runner who happens to be the race director of Seven Sisters and Vermont 100 (both of which I am running). Amy and I exchanged some brief words about Seven Sisters, November Project, and how we were feeling before she zipped past. While we didn’t run together long, I have to thank her attitude for giving me a little burst of strength to grind into the next aid station. I wanted so badly to run with her and the pack following her for as long as possible, but they were leaving the station as I got in, and I didn’t have the strength to run through the aid station. I once again moved quickly and got back on the trail.

After a mile or so the trail let out to a long road section that felt like absolute torture. I got passed by several people and the pavement felt excruciating. I couldn’t believe it, but I wanted more technical trail so I had an excuse to move a bit more slowly. Oddly enough, this is where the race started to come back together. Coming out of the last aid station, I honestly considered dropping. I was hurting, the race was gone for me, and I just wasn’t having fun. Not having to focus on trail gave me time to compose myself. I let go of my goals and just remembered how amazing it is that my body lets me run these incredible distances. I took some time to enjoy the scenery and the atmosphere of the race and my energy levels lifted. At this point, I decided to start taking some additional time at each aid station. I came into the Camp Lanowa station and ate some food and a caffeinated gel. I left the aid station ready to adjust my goals.

The first mile out of the aid station was really slow up and down a technical hill. But after that, it was smooth fire road. Hitting a runnable section, plus the halfway point of the race, with a bit of a caffeine kick turned my mood around completely. Sure, I wasn’t back to my first 15 mile speed, but I felt so much better. I kept it controlled and steady before I got back into Camp Lanowa. I exchanged some thoughts with a runner about how low I had been feeling and how things felt like they were coming around. Just being able to vocalize my shift in attitude helped me reconcile what the day was about. So, at the halfway mark, I knew I could still PR if I kept moving strong.

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Starting to regain composure somewhere in the middle of the race.

I felt back to normal along the next 4 miles or so which was mostly fire roads descending to the next aid station with a few modest climbs. Then, for some reason, the course climbs a mile and a half on pavement. It sucked. I did my best to run it, but I hiked about 50% of it before getting back to the fire road that descended to the next aid station. After that was some great single track and fire road running that got my spirits back up. We soon synced back up with the 50K crew and there were a bunch more runners to latch on to which helped immensely. There was one more hydration-only aid station before making it back to Anthony Wayne.

At Anthony Wayne I ran into Brogan, who was a burst of positive energy. We hugged, we laughed, we ate boiled potatoes. I knew that I had one big climb left, Timp Pass, and I wanted it to be done ASAP. I asked a volunteer if there were any big climbs left, and they said, “Yeah, it is coming up really soon, and the downhill is really technical”. Great, just what I remembered reading in the course guide, now if only I could remember where it actually was! The first mile out of the aid station was cinder path which I did my best to run. After that, the course got back to being pretty technical. While no means as a bad as the first 20 miles or so, it was enough that I started to slow down. On this section there was a short uphill with a decently technical descent and I told myself, “That was it,” and hoped there were no more climbs since my legs were starting to go. Turns out, it wasn’t.

I got into the Queensboro aid station and took some time to get fuel and asked again, are there any more climbs. The volunteer eagerly responded, yes Timp Pass, its right up ahead. Damn, I really did not want to climb Timp Pass. I knew it was only a few hundred feet of steep climbing, but it sounded so miserable. I left the aid and the trail gently climbed for a mile or so before shooting steeply uphill. At mile 47 so of a 50 miler, you thankfully stop caring and I just pushed up it. The downhill from the pass was absolutely worse than going up the thing. It was filled with baseball sized rocks that I should have run down in hindsight, but took my time gingerly walking down to the final aid station.

When I got to the last aid station, I did a time check and knew I wouldn’t PR outright. My time at Finger Lakes is still technically a better 50 mile time. But then I remembered that this was a 51 mile race, and that at 50 miles, I would still PR if I pushed hard enough. I started to run out of the aid station but my stomach felt like it would flip so I walked for a few meters. Once I was up to it, I started running. Quickly we linked back to where the relay runners were flying up and down the trail. I felt weak but I kept running because at that point, it’ll hurt longer to walk it in. There were one or two more short climbs on the last section. I desperately wanted to walk the entirety of them, but a glance at my watch and I saw I could break 10 hours. I floored it at this point, but flooring it when you are running on empty isn’t too quick. But it was quick enough to finish in 9:59. Talk about cutting it close! The finish chute was something incredible. The huge November Project presence was screaming and cheering as I ran in as I watched Colleen bouncing up and down taking photos. I felt tears well up in my eyes from joy that I held on to experience that moment.

Bear Mountian 50 Mile Finish
Trying my best to run fast and not look terrible!

If I had known that the first half of the race would be so much more challenging than the second in terms of technical trails, I would have run this race completely different. Sure, I read the course guide and race reports, but that is different than being out there. I don’t know if I could have broken nine hours, but I could have gotten a heck of a lot closer. I still think this is my best race to date, simply because I held on. I went through such extreme lows on this race that I thought I was going to drop, and I never thought I would experience that.

Strava:

Bear Mountain 50 Mile

Gear

  1. Nike Terra Kiger 3
  2. Nathan Speedraw
  3. Garmin Fenix 3
  4. Gu, Tailwind, Potatoes
  5. Ciele Go Cap

Bear Mountain 50 Miler – Week Thirteen Training Recap

3 weeks to go until I tackle 50 miles in New York State. It is a little scary to think about running that far, but I’ve done it before. What is a tad bit scarier: its about 3 months out from running my first 100 miler. Now that is scary. While I have been treating Bear Mountain as a goal race (hoping to PR in the 50 mile) I cannot lose sight of my lofty summer goal. Because of that, I am taking a few days off because my ankle is a bit tender. I think I tweaked it during the Six-hour 2 weeks back. Even though I can run on it with only some minor discomfort before it eases up, I think the best course of action is to rest and let it heal. Even if Bear Mountain turns out to be a sub-optimal performance, if I come out of the race feeling healthy I will be in a much better position to train for the months leading up to Vermont.

For the recap, boring runs, not boring runs, and trail runs:

Tuesday I ran after work in the dry heat of Southern California. Besides what Strava tells me about this run, all I can really remember is how dry my mouth was. I really hope my performance in the heat starts to improve since that is definitely a weak point.

Wednesday was my workout day for the week. I was planning on doing a progression run over eight miles, starting at about 7:30 and ending at 6:45/mile. For whatever reason, I blew up on this run and only made it 6 out of the 8 miles. To be fair, the pace may have been ambitious given my cold and my 50K attempt just a week and a half earlier, but to just miss a workout by so much was a bit devastating.

Thursday I did my best to explore the neighborhood and not just the bike path I had been running every single day. It was an easy day and I logged about 9 miles around town. While the scenery was a bit different, the flat, turn-free running was still pretty boring. This was the first day I remember my ankle noticeably hurting, probably form my hard effort the evening prior.

Friday back in Boston, I did my favorite 10K route. That’s it!

Saturday, instead of doing my planned long run Colleen and I ran 5 miles together around her parents house. Nothing crazy, just some conversational miles.

Long Run 4_10
Trail running in snowy Upstate NY

Sunday, Colleen and I hit the trails at Highland Forrest near Syracuse. Winter was clinging on for dear life, so there was some light snow and ice, but nothing unmanageable in trail shoes. I wound up logging 20 miles or so, which was great for the amount of time I had. Oddly enough, my ankle didn’t hurt on the trails. I think this was due to the variety of terrain and hills as opposed to straight pounding on the road.

Bear Mountain 50k Training – Week 11

I can’t believe it’s been almost 3 months of training! Week 11 went pretty well, considering I’m still on the tail end of this lingering illness. I started on Tuesday with a shortened run, only got to 3.5 instead of my scheduled 5. It went pretty well, as did my 6 miler on Wednesday. It was very windy, but I still managed to break 9 minute miles with an uptempo progression run. It’s been a while since I’ve actually completed a speed workout due to my shins followed by the cold I had, so it felt good to run hard.

Thursday was a pretty rough day, starting with our dog being sick all night Wednesday night, so I ended up pushing my run to Friday instead. Matt and I did a short 3 miler since we didn’t want to overdo it before the TARC Hale and Back on Saturday. Poor Matt was sick for his race, so we went to bed nice and early Friday to rest up as much as we could for the race!

I decided to sign up for the TARC to Hale and Back 6 hour race last week, with the plan of doing either 20 miles or 4 hours – whichever I hit first. I went into the race feeling really strong, and I ended up totally kicking ass. The course was a 3.5 mile loop, so I assumed I would get 5 loops in (17.5) miles, but I actually got in 6 loops! It felt great, and I was so proud of Matt for running 31 miles with this terrible cold.

Sunday was a tough day in the motivation department, but I still managed to get my planned 6 mile run in on the river. Matt took the day to rest (because I all but forced him to… He sure is stubborn) so I put on a podcast and just forced one foot in front of the other until I magically ended up back home.

Overall, it was a good week, though I did feel guilty for shortening a few runs. It certainly doesn’t help that Gustav has been waking me up at least once every night for various reasons (you know, because 1AM seems like a great time to chew on an elk antler) and I’ve been oversleeping in order to get my rest in. I’m not the kind of person that does well without sleep when I’m not training, so when I am training I don’t mess around with sleep. I work with 3 boys between the ages of 4 and 9 so I would probably go insane without a solid night of sleep. All I can hope is that the next few weeks my shins stay in line, I don’t get another illness, and Gustav starts sleeping through the night!

Bear Mountain 50 Miler – Week Ten Training Recap

In no way at all does it feel like I have been training for 10 weeks in 2016. This year is absolutely flying by and with races starting to get close, things are starting to get exciting! While I have been writing this blog as a build up to Bear Mountain, my true goal for the first half of 2016 is the Vermont 100. As such, I have a bunch of “tune-up” races leading up to my hundred mile goal. One of them is Bear Mountain, but this coming weekend I have the TARC Hale and Back 6-hour. I am really excited for this race for a bunch of reasons. One is that TARC puts on great, low-key events with a bunch of local runners. Honestly, most of the time they feel like social events than grueling ultra marathons. I am also excited to give my first timed event a try. It is a completely different experience to run for a set time rather than a set distance. Since how far I go will be completely decided by me, I am curious to see what my result will be.

Here’s what went down in week 10:

Still doing the consulting grind, I came out to California on Monday. Usually, I take Monday as a rest day, but with daylight savings time giving me some extra light after work, I decided to swap my Tuesday run for Monday and hit the trails for some hill repeats. I was super happy I did as the trails and sunset were stunning and a welcome change of pace from the bike paths I have been running endlessly.

California Trails
Trails at Puente Hills Reserve

On Tuesday, I decided to get up and just run a few easy miles around my hotel. This training cycle has gone so smoothly, it felt so bizarre to run not according to a plan. It felt pretty nice to have no distance, pace, workout specific goals to hit.

Wednesday I overslept. While daylight savings is great for after-work excursions, it makes running in the morning pretty awful. There is nothing like running for an hour and a half in the morning in complete darkness. So, I got up for my alarm and reset it. This turned out to be a mistake. After work I went to a new path to try and spice up my running routes. Turns out, it was no different than what I normally run expect it was about 80 degrees. Even though it was an easy day, roasting in the dry hot sun for 10 slow miles was absolutely miserable.Oh well, mental training for Vermont I suppose.

Thursday I did some 2 mile repeats at 6:50 pace along the bike path. I felt really really good on this run (probably because I hydrated extra well after being roasted the night before). Before this training cycle, I found it really easy to skip workouts like this, but the variety and challenge they add has been really rewarding.

Friday I got back to a cold Boston. Colleen and I went out for a nice loop around the reservoir at a conversational pace. Fridays are probably the hardest day for me motivation wise, just being exhausted from traveling in Thursday night and the time change, so it is nice to have Colleen motivating me to run.

Saturday meant it was long run time! Colleen and I both decided that a flat run along the river was more appealing than anything involving hills, so we set out along the Charles. Colleen was running 16 miles while I was planning 22. Colleen was still recovering from her respiratory illness, so she was on the “struggle bus” but I did my best to keep her spirits high. After 14 miles together, Colleen circled back to the apartment and I picked up the pace for the last 8 miles to around 7:20/mile. I am feeling really comfortable with my endurance, and the whole run felt pretty relaxed.

Sunday Colllen and I ran together again! This time, 9 easy miles along the river again. Yes, we are probably being lazy not getting enough hills or trails. But having a puppy, traveling for work, and having Colleen be sick means we cut corners sometimes. It happens.

Bear Mountain 50k Training – Week 8

Well, I threw out my back this past week, so a lot of my runs were ruined. My week started out with a nice easy run on the esplanade where I called my family during their dinner and chatted with them during my run – it was lovely!

Wednesday I had to do 7 miles, but as I was crossing over the BU bridge the wind picked up and blew my favorite hat into the Charles River. I was only 5 miles in, and I ran straight home out of anger, with my hair whipping in every direction thanks to my hat being gone. Plus, it was 50 and beautiful when I started my run, and it was extremely windy and very cold when I ended. Later that night, I threw out my back at work. I could barely move the rest of the week, so I missed my Thursday and Friday runs.

Saturday was supposed to be my long run of 18 miles, but I still felt pretty sore so I did 4.5 on the elliptical. Sunday, I was finally feeling up for a run so I planned on running 10 with Matt, but around mile 5 my back started to get a little twinge in it, so I ran home and ended up running 7.5 miles.

Overall the week was a huge disappointment and very frustrating. I know these things happen, but it is definitely disheartening to see these things happening to me while my robot boyfriend runs over 70 miles in a week no problem. Combine my running week with the first with that Matt was out of town for work, and you can see why I ate a lot of ice cream cake to get me through it. Week 9 so far has not been much better, but I’m sure I will pull myself out of this rut and get back into it soon.

Lastly, this past week I was chosen as a finalist in a little competition Salomon Running was having. The idea was people submitted haiku’s about trail running and then Salomon would choose a winner. They couldn’t decide, so I was one of 7 finalists chosen and whoever had the most likes on Twitter and Facebook would win! If you win? You get to join in the Hut Run Hut 100-mile 6-day run through the Rockies this summer! My haiku was:

I like trail running
It keeps me from getting fat
I can eat more food

Obviously a joke catered to the fact that pretty much every trail runner I know is obsessed with food, right? Well, I was shamed via Facebook by a fellow November Project member about how my post was hateful and “fat phobic”. After she posted more than one post on my entries, I have asked Salomon to take my post down and take me out of the running of the competition. I hope all of our blog readers know that I did not mean to offend anyone and was just putting a little humor into the world. I apologize if any of you are or were offended by my words. The goal of any social media post I have about running is to motivate myself to better myself as a runner in any way I see fit. Yes, I run to stay fit and thin, because that’s how I feel comfortable in my body. I do not wish to make anyone feel like they are less than worthy because they are different than me in any way. Everyone should find their own motivation and work on themselves in any way they see fit.

Hoping the rest of week 9 gets better – excited to be halfway done with training at least!

Bear Mountain 50k Training – Week 6

Well, this week was my first overall negative week. I’m definitely glad it didn’t happen until now, but I’m determined to get back into it and prevent more injury. After a few runs on the treadmill in the cold weather, I started having some more serious pain in my right shin. I’m wondering if maybe the treadmill just somehow makes me change my stride significantly, but it could also just be from running so many miles. I took enough time off this past week and took it easy enough that so far in week 7 my runs have felt pretty good, though!

Tuesday was my second treadmill day, and the first day my shin really started to hurt.  I did 2.8 out of my planned 5 miles on the treadmill before I called it and went downstairs to immediately ice my shin and have a small panic attack. Matt talked me down and told me to just take it easy this week and see how it goes, so thank the lord I have Matt to keep me from going crazy.

Wednesday I did an easy 5 on the esplanade that went pretty well, despite my shin being a little sore still. I took advil, rolled/massaged/iced my shin after, and decided to call my Thursday run the next day after some sleep.

Thursday I was feeling pretty good and had my first hill repeats scheduled for my training plan, and felt like I should at least try to do the workout. I did a nice 1.5 mile warm up and was feeling pretty good, so I headed over to Summit to do some hills and almost immediately regretted it. My shin got much worse and I decided to just run the hill home and call it after only 2 miles. I felt very defeated and worried about the rest of my plan. I knew I had Friday to rest, and that I should try to take Saturday easy instead of jumping into my long run right after a painful run.

Saturday I decided to do my miles on the elliptical, and I’ve never made a more difficult decision. It was straight up GORGEOUS in Boston on Saturday. I walked my puppy at the park in SHORTS AND A SWEATSHIRT. It took every bit of my willpower to not run outside and to force myself on that elliptical. I’m thankful I did it though, since the extra impact would have made my long run Sunday pretty miserable. I did a 50 minute elliptical workout while staring outside at all the people jogging and walking and enjoying their life much more than I was at the moment, but was just thankful I had the ability to do a low-impact workout. Plus, I took Gustav to the park twice that day to get my fill of sunshine!

Sunday I woke up feeling much better and decided to go for my long run. When I was in the boot, I bought some cushioned 33-m ASICS, which are more like Hokas in their level of thickness. Something nobody warns you about when you get a boot – none of your shoes will be tall enough to keep you from walking lopsided! So I switched to my ASICS and decided to do an 8 mile loop, instead of 16, just in case my shin was too sore for the full 16. I ended up doing all 16 and felt barely any shin pain!

This week was scary, but I’m proud of what I accomplished despite the shin pain. I’m monitoring the pain as I go and making sure I do even more strengthening exercises and stretches throughout the day. I have been to physical therapy before for shin splints specifically, so I’m fairly confident I can work through it and adapt my training plan to my needs. My plan has me getting up to at most 52 miles in a week, but I’m confident even if I kept my runs all generally the same as they are now (with the exception of my long runs) I will be in better shape for this 50k than my last!

Bear Mountain 50k Training – Week 1

In case you’ve all forgotten, I do still exist and I have been running even though I haven’t been blogging. In the past few weeks, I’ve been focusing on slowly building my mileage up post-injury and trying to build a solid base for 50k training plan. I started off with 5 miles in one week, then 7, then 10, and so on. With the holidays, it was really difficult to actually get the miles in. We traveled to Syracuse to see my family, and then to New Jersey to see Matt’s family, AND we had Gustav (our adorable puppy) with us, which certainly didn’t make things any easier. I managed to get up to 19 miles in the week before my training – not as much as I wanted, but I was just grateful I stuck with it despite the holidays and that I hadn’t had any knee trouble. 

Training for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50k at Bear Mountain started last week, and my first week was truly wonderful. My first day was Monday, and Monday is a rest days for the training plan, so obviously my first day went well! I nailed it really. Day two was 4 miles, and was really my first day, so I was very excited to start. I ran before work – something I want to get into the habit of doing despite not having to work until noon most days. My stomach wasn’t feeling the best, but I believe it’ll just take time for my stomach to adjust to running in the mornings instead of after work. I managed to have my average pace be under 9 minute miles, which is just about where I want them (when I’m running on the road, not trails).

Wednesday was day 3, and it was freaking cold outside, so I ran 4 on the treadmill. As you probably know, treadmill miles feel like marathons, so I listened to a podcast and zoned out. It was boring and tedious, but I averaged 9:40 pace and ended it with some strengthening exercises I wrote about in my previous injury post.

Thursday was another 4 miler, and I managed to get myself outside for it after work. It was cold and I find myself running a little faster when it’s cold out, so I managed to run at a quicker pace. I had some strides thrown in at the end too, which I had never done before. It felt good to switch up my pace – I’m excited to have speed workouts in my training this time around. 

Saturday was my long run, and it went extremely well considering I hadn’t had a run in the double digits since the ol’ 26.2 in October. I ran the Firehouse 10 mile loop at the Heartbreak Hill Running Company, and was joined by my awesome friends Ken and Laura. It was pouring rain when we started, turned to freezing rain around mile 5, and quickly turned to snow for the rest of the run. I was wet and cold, but Ken helped us push our pace so our second half was faster than our first half. We ended up with an average of 9:13 miles, which was a great pace for my first long run of my training! 

Sunday was an easy 5 that I did with Matt. It was wonderful to run with him, considering most of our runs we can’t run together since our paces are so different. But on easy days he can stoop down to my level and keep me company 😉 

My goals for the rest of my training is to keep up foam rolling and stretching after every run, and to do core/hip/glute strengthening. I tend to get lazy after a few weeks of pain-free runs and it always comes back to bite me in the butt.

I’m excited to see how the rest of my training goes! I plan on doing a weekly update, so look for more posts soon! In the meantime, here’s a picture of our dog from Thanksgiving, because I don’t have enough social media outlets to post pictures of him on.