Much Needed R&R

Post-50 miler life has been interesting, to say the least. Personally, we’ve solidified a date for our wedding, booked a venue for the wedding and reception, locked down a place to stay for the wedding, bought a wedding dress, and booked a photographer. Heath-wise, that cold I got the week before the race took 6+ weeks to go away – during those 6 weeks, I tore a ligament in my ribs from coughing so much. Running-wise, this all led to a less than ideal ramp-up back into training, and I’ve only gotten 129 miles in 11 weeks – that’s only about 12 miles per week. Not ideal, since my goal for the year was 1,200 miles, and I’m currently only just over 700.

My next race is the Ghost Train 75 miler, but after going through a lot of health issues this past winter/spring, only to have an injured rib for 6 weeks, I have decided to not put any added stress on myself. In an ideal world, I’d be back up to 45-50 miles per week right now, but in reality I was pushing my body too far trying to make up for lost time. I had three pretty good training weeks (30 miles, 24 miles, then 28 miles) with some decent long runs (13 and then 15) but when I went to do my long run last weekend, I just couldn’t do it. I went out for an 18 miler, and ended up calling it at 9.5 miles. My body was tired, I haven’t adapted to the summer heat yet since I took so much time off for my rib, and my shins have been starting to get sore. My Garmin Connect data was showing me I was pushing myself to my limits in those three weeks, and I’ve been stressing myself about counting up mileage, switching my runs last minute, and pushing myself to run when I don’t feel up for it.

I’ve decided enough is enough. My new plan is to train based on how I’m feeling. Obviously, nobody wakes up and thinks “Man, I just feel like running 18 miles!” so long runs will be planned a bit more, but overall my focus is going to be on my health. I want to get at least 15-20 miles in a week, but I also want to focus on strengthening. My core and upper body leave a lot to be desired in the strength department, and every runner could use better strength training for their lower body. This way, when I’m ready to start training for the Gorge Waterfalls 100k in 2018, I will be fit and have a solid base of both running and strength training under my belt.

It’s tough to make the decision to cut back on running, but we in the GrandElam household has some stressful times ahead of us, and I personally feel that following a training plan diligently for an ultra certainly won’t lower my stress levels. Running will still be my release, but not running won’t stress me out as much as it currently does. I love ultra running, and I’m still hoping to get a solid 30 – 45 miles in at least at Ghost Train. I’m excited to take a step back and focus on my overall fitness for a change! Plus, Goose will like having his mom home more ❤️

TARC Summer Classic 50k Race Report – 2017 Edition!

I have a confession to make. A lot of the time, at least recently, I don’t love running. I have not been “loving the process”. I haven’t been thrilled with my races. Most training runs feel like a slog. While a bit demoralizing, I think it’s to be expected to be honest. In 2016 and 2017 I accomplished more than I had ever really expected as a runner. Two 100 mile races, half marathon PR, 5K PR, a Boston qualifier. It was just success followed by success followed by success. Everything had such tremendous payoff it felt incredibly rewarding. Now, it feels like I am just going through the motions. Seven Sisters was a bright spot of running with friends and craziness that was genuinely exciting. I’m still anxiously awaiting The Bear, since 100 milers are so challenging and unique, but TARC Spring, Wachusett, and to some extent Escarpment felt like a grind. There were moments during Escarpment I thought “I fucking love running”, but a lot of that race was punishing and challenging. The mentality was taking a toll, but on Saturday, all I could think was “I really fucking love running!”

Sure, the TARC Summer classic was still 31 miles. And 31 miles is a long way. And whenever you go a long way there are some low points. The point is that every low quickly left and was replaced by gratifying highs. The race, the community, and my performance all culminated in a great day. I’m hoping that I can take this rekindled energy and train hard going into the Bear.

A large part of what made the day work was treating the race as a training run. Normally, I think this is a bullshit excuse to wipe away a sub-optimal performance, but I had 40 miles on my legs from the week leading up to it, had run 24.5 miles on my long run the previous Sunday, and hadn’t done anything to really treat it as an A or even B race. So while I undoubtedly spent parts of loop 1 doing mathematical gymnastics to estimate a finish time, I quickly let any thoughts of performance and position slip away. I was going to run 31 miles and I’d either be in first place, last place, or somewhere in between. What’s funny is that I had tried to do the same thing at this race two years earlier and failed miserably. So, after three years of ultrarunning, I can safely say I know how to use a race as a training run.

TARC Summer 2017!
Having a blast! Photo Credit – Edith O Dixon

Like two years ago, I think the TARC Summer classic is one of the most enjoyable courses I have run! It has a mix of everything: single track, fire road, hills, techy sections. A 10 mile loop is just long enough to stay fresh but short enough to seem manageable. What’s also amazing is that I can summarize the race in three sentences.

  1. On my first loop, I settled in to running by feel and enjoying the day, and after about 5 miles everything clicked and it was smooth sailing.
  2. I fell right before the start on the second loop, but it got me fired up to run faster than the first loop!
  3. On the last loop, I fell again and felt a bit sorry for myself, so it went a bit slower but I still finished in 5:34 (in 2015 I ran a 6:39)!!!

Boom, easiest race recap ever! Honestly, it is difficult to write a report about a race I have already run. Especially when the goal was supposed to be the same. This year though, I was able to have a spectacular time. I feel reinvigorated for the final 6 weeks leading up to the Bear 100! Can’t wait to see how it goes.

Strava

TARC Summer Classic 50K – 2017

Gear

  1. Salomon Sense Ultra
  2. Balega Socks
  3. Nathan Handheld
  4. Garmin Fenix 3
  5. Gu, Tailwind
  6. Ciele GoCap

Pacing for Revenge at Manitou’s Revenge

Ultra runners are fueled by testing their limits. Nothing about the sport is easy or even sane, but the pursuit of pushing our bodies to their absolute limits drives us forward. As we attempt new races, run different trails, and ramp up our training, our limits stretch further and further. We get new benchmarks to evaluate ourselves. PRs and previous times become our foundation as a runner. Your Ultrasignup results page grows and becomes a public record of your race days, good and bad. This quest to push beyond one’s limits can become a bit all-consuming, at least for me, as new races pop up or instagram photos of faraway trails fill social media. Past successes become fuel for attempting the next insane event. But as we reach for the next distance or race with double the elevation gain, it can become difficult to measure if we are actually still improving. That’s why pacing Mike at Manitou’s Revenge was so fun for me. The race wasn’t about the next great event (although I am not sure you can top what Manitou’s got to offer), but rather a return to prove oneself against one of the most brutal events out there.

To be transparent, I had never met Mike before Manitou’s. We “met” over twitter as I saw him cast the net for pacers at this year’s event. I took the bait and said why not, I’ll pace a stranger for several hours of running. We chatted over email and social media, but right away it was clear that Mike had ambitions for this year’s event. He had finished Manitou’s in 2016, being the last finisher in around 23.5 hours. He was coming back for revenge. Or at least I deemed it to be revenge. Coming in as a pacer, it was perfect. Mike’s goal would give me clear direction for the day and getting Mike to his finish.

I was picking Mike up at the 5th aid station of the race, Platte Cove. The drive up to the aid station was a perfect introduction to what the day would hold. Dense fog and a winding road greeted me and Colleen in the Catskills. Conditions were wet and the course would be slick. We got settled and waited for Mike to roll in.

Meeting Mike at the aid station was a lot like how I imagine online dating would work, but if one of the participants had just run 30 miles and had 24 miles to run. Mike wasn’t exactly on time, and came rolling in looking a tad disheveled. It quickly turned into crew/pacing duties as I grabbed his drop bag and worked to get any food and gear he needed. Compared to the runners just prior to him, Mike was in and out of the aid station. He was a bit behind on time, but in good spirits and raced the first 30 miles extremely smart. That made my job much easier.

Now, Manitou’s doesn’t cut you any breaks. The first 30 miles suck (so I hear). The last 24 miles also suck (so I know). It’s a 54 miler that runs like a hundred. So, leaving the aid station, I knew we had 7.5 miles to the Mink Hollow aid station, but the volunteers at Platte Cove assured me the next 7.5 run more like 12. Having now completed it, I’d say that’s accurate. This next session is when the course hops on the Devil’s Path, which happens to be very aptly named. The “trail” takes no prisoners, consisting of unrelenting climbs requiring you to use your hands and descents that range from sketchy to I-should’ve-written-my-will before-offering-to-pace-this-race. In all seriousness, some of the down climbing sections were more serious than going up.

Over the 7.5 miles, there are three peaks – Indian Head, Twin, and Sugarloaf. With no section really allowing for sustained running, Mike and I chipped away the course over the slick rocks and gnarly elevation profile. During this section, we’d pick up Paul, who would manage to snap 2 trekking poles on the Devil’s path, and Jodi. We ran into Jodi right before Mink Hollow who was convinced she was going to drop. The course was treacherous and no ultra was worth killing yourself, so it seemed like the logical decision. Mike and Paul assured her that the worst was over and right there and then we formed a pack that would stick together for the remaining 16.5 miles.

Climbing Indian Head
It’s worse than it looks.

At Mink Hollow, the crew recomposed themselves and geared up for the crushing climb up Plateau. Mike was 30 minutes ahead of where we was this time last year. “Perfect,” I thought, “we are gonna get him a PR at this rate”. The last climb on the Devil’s Path is another ass-kicker of steep, sketchy climbing. Once we topped out, the trail smooths before a turn down of the peak following a side trail. By this time, it was dark. While it was still a few minutes until sunset, the dense canopy and fog made running without a headlamp a no-go. The four of us did our best to navigate the admittedly smoother trail, but thick fog and slick rocks made running uncomfortable. I was hoping to start putting the pressure on the group at this point, but part of being a good pacer is knowing your place. We were moving incredibly strong and steady, so we ran smooth sections and walked quickly through the rest to Silver Hollow Notch.

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Pretty sure we came down this chute. One of those “where’s the trail?” moments

By Silver Hollow, we were close to 45 minutes ahead of Mike’s arrival last year! The runners took time here to take in a substantial amount of calories. Manitou’s starts absurdly early if you factor in the bus ride from the finish up to Windham. At this point, everyone was pushing close to 24 hours awake, so just staying positive at this point is a huge success. As we focused for the remaining miles, the biggest moth I’ve ever seen tried to fly away with one of the aid station volunteers before landing on the pop-up tent. Thoroughly disturbed by the thing, I gently urged the runners to get going so I’d be able to avoid getting hit by it. We got moving up the climb from Silver Hollow, which tops out before running a slightly off-camber downhill to a creek. We made really good time down this stretch, and we all enjoyed the cold water on our feet in the humidity. Mike took a minute to douse himself in cold water before we started the final climb of the course.

Manitou's Revenge Runners
The crew!

The climb up to the Willow aid station is pretty damn rough. I’d say if it were 30 miles earlier on the course, it’d be runnable. But after 48 or so miles, it is unrelenting. We marched up the slope, appreciating that finally the trail makers used switch backs but still annoyed with the trail’s persistence. In the final half mile of the climb, Jodi pulled ahead to take a bit more time at the aid station while Paul, Mike, and I took our time to not overexert. Finally, we reached Willow towards the top of the hill! The aid station was stocked with hot food and plenty of snacks, which was super impressive considering it was a 2 mile hike in to the aid station. The volunteers were super friendly and joked with Mike about his later appearance a year prior. At this point, we were an hour and half ahead of Mike’s previous time and energy levels were much higher.

The crew took off from willow for the final 500 feet of climbing to the fire tower. The fog got really thick here and I really struggled as a pacer keeping the group on course. I did my best to keep a bit ahead to identify the next blaze and keep the crew moving along. Suddenly, there was a huge fire tower right next to us! The climbing was done! All downhill from here! But of course, Manitou would not let us off easily. 3 miles of downhill covered in football sized rocks that teetered, rolled, and rocked as we tread down them. We kept a strong hiking pace down, not risking a busted bone or face on the slick and unstable rocks. The group decided to finish together, and having spent 6 or so hours together at this point it seemed fitting. We finally bottomed out and made our way down the last mile of road.

In the final mile, we all expressed our gratitude of having such great company for so long. Mike thanked me for pacing him on a whim and I told him not to mention it, for I had a blast and there isn’t too much better than sharing some trail miles with good company. Finishing and reflecting on the day, I’m left wondering how I am as a pacer. I got Mike to the finish and 2 runners tagged along. But did I push hard enough? Did I say the right things? Had I been too cutting with some of my jokes and jabs? Even though I have my self-doubts, the experience to me speaks more about each own’s limits. Mike PRed on the course by 2 hours. A demonstrable improvement from last year. He pushed hard and dug deep. Viewing as an outsider, he encapsulated one of the things I love so much about ultra running: the need to push our limits.

 

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

Now What?

 

 

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Photo by Scott Goldstein!

I sat down with the intention of writing a race recap for the Hyannis Marathon, and I just can’t bring myself to do it. To sum it up, it went better than I had ever imagined it could. I was shooting for sub-4, and surpassed that goal by running a 3:50:24. I felt strong the entire time, I stayed hydrated and took in calories as I needed them, and I finished strong with my last 5 miles being around 8:30 pace. Hands down it was my best performance out of any race I’ve ever run. Maybe someday I’ll have the energy to write a more detailed race report, but for now, I’ll tell you about my post-marathon week.

Let’s start with Monday. I expected to be sore, maybe have some stiff knees or sore shins, but I was nowhere near as bad as I thought I would be. I even biked to work, no problem! After biking in to work, I started to feel some pain in my lower right abdomen. Pain very similar, but less intense, to my pain I had a few weeks ago before I ended up in the hospital with a ruptured cyst. I told myself I was probably just sore from the race, and it would go away.

Cut to Tuesday. I feel amazing, like I barely even ran a marathon, so after work I go for a quick 3 mile run. My legs are tired, but in great shape. I start getting excited for my long run on Saturday of 23 miles. Cut to Wednesday, the pain in my abdomen is still lingering, intensifying just enough to make me worried after my bike ride home. I listened to my body and skipped my run. I worked from home on Thursday and called my gynecologist to see if they could get me an appointment. By some miracle from the heavens, she has an open appointment at 2pm. By a whole other miracle, the company I work for is amazing, and let me take the rest of the day off of work to see my doctor.

I explain the situation and tell her I’m nervous I might have another cyst. I tell her I went to the ER not a month ago for a ruptured ovarian cyst, and she asks me some questions. When was the last time you had a cyst that caused pain? Are you still on birth control? Are you skipping any pills? Are you pregnant? Does it hurt during intercourse? You know, the fun questions we all love our gynecologist asking. She says she can get me an ultrasound at 4pm in Chelsea if I’m willing to drive out there.

Cut to 3:00, I’m in Chelsea (way too early) waiting anxiously for my appointment, exhausted from the lack of sleep thanks to stress about my health. I get two ultrasounds and they say I’ll hear back the next morning. Cut to Friday during my lunch break. It was past noon and I hadn’t heard anything so of course I call in a panic, asking for my doctor to call me back. She calls me a few minutes later and tells me I have yet another ovarian cyst. She mentions they’re not normal cysts, they’re hemorrhagic ovarian cysts (aka filled with blood) which is why they’re so painful. They have absolutely no idea why I’m getting cysts due to the fact that birth control is supposed to prevent cysts from forming at all.

It’s also over 5cm in diameter, so she recommends I don’t exercise for at least 6 weeks, which is when I will need a follow-up ultrasound to see if the cyst has gotten any smaller. If it has gotten smaller, I will need to be monitored for future cysts while they try to figure out why I keep getting cysts. If it hasn’t gotten smaller, I will need to meet with a surgeon to go over my options for removing the cysts. There’s a chance if they remove the cysts but haven’t figured out why I am getting them, they will come back, and they would go over my other options, which are far less appealing and end with me not being able to have children.

I have 5 short weeks to go until the Gorge Waterfalls 100k, but was advised not to run for the next 6 weeks. I’m still unsure about what I’ll do on race day, but for now I’m taking it day by day. If my pain subsides soon, I might try easing back into a running routine, but skip the biking, since it seems to aggravate it much more than running. My doctor did say if my cyst ended up rupturing, it would decrease in size sooner than it would if it didn’t rupture, but it seems pretty morbid to hope for a rupture since it basically made any movement excruciatingly painful for 4-5 days.

Normally I would hear what my doctor said, politely agree to disagree as young people tend to do, and go about my way, silently suffering. But this time, there is a chance that if it doesn’t rupture or decrease in size, strenuous exercise could cause ovarian torsion, and I’d likely end up losing my ovary. While I’m happy to be an idiot and maybe cause some extra shin pain or push through some knee pain, losing an ovary at 26 isn’t something I’m willing to risk.

I am absolutely heartbroken that this is happening to me after 3 months of intense, dedicated training for this 100k. I’m in the best shape of my life, and I’ve never been more prepared or excited for a race. But for once, this seems like something I shouldn’t brush off and try to push through. I will keep you all posted on my recovery and my game-day decision, but as of now it’s looking like we will just be enjoying a week of vacation in Oregon in April instead of racing. Word on the street is their food and beer game is strong out in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe instead of running a 100k, we’ll drive a 100k and where each aid station would be, we’ll stop for food and beer! Sounds fun, but let’s be real, we were probably planning on doing that after my race anyways.

 

A (few) Bump(s) in the Road

The past 3 weeks have been a whirlwind of change and chaos in the GrandElam household. On January 17th, I started a new job with Zagster, a bike sharing company based out of Cambridge. It’s been absolutely amazing, and I’m so glad I took the leap and changed careers. My whole first two weeks were filled with cramming as much information into my head that I could possibly handle. I’d come home after work and just sit there silently playing with Gustav. No TV, no music, just catching up with Matt and playing with the pupper while my brain rested.

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Picked up a new hobby recently – taking requests for birthdays/anniversaries/babies/weddings now 😉

After my first week at Zagster, Matt and I went to New Hampshire for the weekend to go cross country skiing on Saturday and get in some downhill skiing on Sunday. The weekend was amazing, but as it turns out, we are great at running and not so great at cross country skiing. There were many falls involved, a few bruises, and a slight pain in my left abdomen that I ignored at the time. I ended up not getting a real long run in that weekend since we spent about 5 hours cross country skiing and my legs were already so sore. We went downhill skiing on Sunday, and I called it early since it was rainy and my abdomen was bothering me still. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I figured I should try to rest.

The following week, I was biking home from work when my abdomen started to really hurt. I went home and told Matt who, as a robot, told me to “go for a run and see how it felt.” Of course I did, and I made it about 1/4 of a mile before I wanted to die, so I turned around and went home to rest. I was frantically Googling my pain, so of course thought I had cancer and was dying, but listened to Matt who told me to “rest up” and said I’d “probably be fine by Saturday for our long run.” I have a history of inguinal hernias (I’ve had one on each side) and also ovarian cysts, so I was hyper aware of my pain and very worried.

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From our cross country skiing adventure! The perfect weather for it.

I went to work the next day and had trouble just walking from my car to the building. I tried calling my doctor to make an appointment, but since I hadn’t seen my doctor since switching insurance, I had to wait a week to get be seen because it was an initial appointment. I made the appointment for the following week, and got back to work. When I got home I was still in a lot of pain, so I decided to ask my friend in med school what he recommended – should I wait a week or go to Urgent Care that night? He recommended Urgent Care, so off I went at 7:30pm on a Thursday.

 

The Urgent Care I went to ended up not having any imaging, so they recommended I go to the ER. After sitting in the waiting room for like 2.5 hours while a woman was alternating between violently vomiting and weeping (and trying not to vomit myself from the sound of her vomiting… good god I hate hospitals) I finally got into a room. After many more hours of waiting, a ghetto pelvic exam where I was propped up on a bedpan because they didn’t have a proper Ob-Gyn table for me, and 2 different ultrasounds, they found out I had a ruptured ovarian cyst. If you’ve never had a ruptured ovarian cyst, well, they’re really fucking painful. I was having a hard time walking upright, and every bump I hit while driving sent shooting pains through my lower abdomen. The worst part? There’s nothing they can really do at that point other than give you Motrin and tell you to rest.

Matt and I went home at just about 3am and were super exhausted from such a long, stressful night. We both went into work the next day (though I left work early to work from the couch all afternoon) and when Matt got home at 6pm, he locked his bike up on our bike rack in our garage and headed back for a run since he was too tired to wake up early to run, since we were at the ER all night. At 7pm, he got back and our bikes were gone. Someone had cut the U-locks on both our bikes and stolen them.

You can imagine we had a pretty shitty 24 hours, but luckily we have decent renters insurance, so we should be able to get most of the cost of our replacement bikes reimbursed. Plus, I do work for a bike sharing company, so I have the option of using a Zagster bike for a while until my new bike comes in. While I’m really upset our bikes were taken and we had to deal with filing a police report/talking to our building manager/etc, we are able to replace our bikes and are adult enough to have insurance for them.

I spent the following 8 days resting. Like RESTING resting. I literally spent all weekend on the couch, unless I was driving to a friend’s house to sit on their couch. I spent a lot of time embroidering, watching Arrested Development, and cuddling with Goose. It was a long week and a half off of running, and I’ve never been so thankful to be back to running. I went snowboarding this past Saturday and everything felt great, so I went for an 18 miler on Sunday – totally pain free! I mean painful in my legs, but not painful in my abdomen.

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First (and last) time snowboarding glades. WAS NOT FOR ME. But hey, I tried.

For a while I was feeling pretty down about missing a key part of my training, but I’m honestly glad it was a random injury and not a running-related injury. Matt assured me that it was probably for the best – a week off of running with TRULY resting (no cross training, no bike commuting, etc) will most likely help prevent overuse injuries throughout the next few weeks, and it really didn’t take away anything from my overall fitness level. My 18 miler didn’t feel any harder than it would have had I run 50 miles the week before. I’m ready to get back into it and crush some 50-60 mile weeks for the next few weeks!

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My first goal for these next few weeks is to start upping my hill game. My 100k has about 12,000 feet of elevation gain, so I’ve gotta work my way up to getting at least 7,000 feet in each week so my legs are ready for that kind of workout. So if you see me cruising along the Charles these next few weeks, slap me and tell me to go run Summit repeats or I’m gonna regret it by mile 5 of this race. My second goal is to crush my marathon PR at the Hyannis Marathon on February 26th. My 18 miler yesterday went really well – I averaged 9:00/miles. If I can hold onto a 9 minute mile for a marathon, I would not only PR by a full 30 minutes, I could break 4 hours. This is a lofty goal, but based on my past few weeks, I don’t think it’s out of reach. Fingers crossed!

 

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

Soaked and Stubborn – Grindstone 100 Race Report (10/07/2016)

It was tough. It was way tougher than the Vermont 100, which I already thought was pretty hard. It was tougher than any race I’ve done, regardless of cramping, nutrition issues, or overheating. 27 sleep deprived hours in the rain over 101 miles with 23,200 feet of elevation change forced me to dig incredibly deep and fight an irresistible urge to call it quits. Two days after, my feet still raw and legs achy, I know I made the right choice to push through. But at mile 24, 51, 65, and 87 (and several other points in between) dropping felt like the only option. Grindstone was such a roller coaster. Waves of intense strength and drive would be pushed out by incredible lows filled with pain and self-doubt. Little issues compounded into pain so intense that each step felt like walking on knives. But still, I made it.

Race weekend essentially started the Thursday before the race, where work held up me and my crew from hitting the road. The plan was to drive to Harrisburg, PA and stay the night before heading down to Swoope, VA to set up camp and wait for the race’s first challenge, a 6 PM start. We didn’t get to the hotel until about 2:30 AM on Friday, but sleeping in I still got about 6 hours of sleep which felt adequate.

Grindstone Drive Down
Getting ready to leave for Virginia. This would be the last time I sleep for 36 hours. Photo Credit – Samantha Alyn Goresh

We got back on the road and made it to the boy scout camp around 1:30 just in time for the race briefing. Confident that I was ready to race, we set up camp and ate some food. The next 4 hours involved me anxiously waiting for the race to start and going over crew instructions. The rain had already started and would not cease entirely until after I would finish Saturday night. Finally, 6 PM rolled around and I took off around the lake and into the camp’s trail system.

The first 5 miles were extremely uneventful – as they should be during a hundred miler. People were quiet and I was tense knowing that it was going to be a wet day during which chafing and blisters were all but inevitable. While I anticipated rain, the forecast was constantly changing and unreliable. What was supposed to be an occasional shower changed to a steady storm that would switch between a misting and torrential down pour. I cruised into the first aid station at mile 5.2 and grabbed a PB&J. Like Vermont, the fueling strategy was to eat real food early and often, while drinking Tailwind and taking a Gu every 45 minutes.

Leaving the aid station, we started the first significant climb up to Elliott’s Knob. The climb started with some smooth trail with a gentle grade followed by a steep climb up a gravel road to the summit. I felt ridiculously strong power hiking and passed several other runners. A runner ahead of me called out that we turned right to head to the summit where we would punch our bibs proving we reached the top but as it turns out, they misread the sign and led us about half a mile down the trail we would descend the mountain. I noticed that no runners had followed us and hollered to the two runners who made the wrong turn that we needed to turn around. We recovered the ground quickly and made our way to the summit and punched our bibs, now behind each of the runners I had just passed. Not letting the mess up get to my head, I turned around and started descending. I was expecting the trail down to be extremely technical given the race reports but it was actually pretty manageable. There was a decent amount of loose rock and off-camber trail, but it made for some good running, especially compared to the Blue Hills.

I hit the next aid station, refilled my bottles, and took off the next major climb. Again the hiking felt amazing and I pushed hard up the climb. The descent was extremely smooth and I cruised down to Dowells Draft where I grabbed more tailwind out of my drop bag. The rain had stayed light at this point so I decided to not change my socks which would end up being a pretty big mistake. I hiked out of the aid station eating a banana and grilled cheese. The next climb was extremely gentle and I should have been running, but I started to feel overwhelmingly sleepy. 4 miles of simple terrain around midnight was wearing on me, and I felt the overwhelming urge to sleep wherever I could. I told myself “I’ll sit down at the next aid station and sleep for 15 minutes” or “When I see the crew I sleep in the car for half an hour”. It was extremely demoralizing to feel so tiring so early. I kept saying I just needed to take a little rest, but the idea of dropping crept in. Maybe it just wasn’t my day and a rainy evening start was just not helping.

When I finally crested the hill and started running downhill, I told myself to run hard and just get to the aid station and regroup. Somehow, I got to the Lookout Mountain aid station sooner than I was expecting and my spirits immediately rebounded. The next aid was only about 10K away and it was all downhill. I’d see my crew and I was still under my goal pace of making it to the turn around in 11 hours. As I descended North River Gap, my energy continued to rise. I took out my iPod and listened to a few minutes of a podcast before I heard footsteps behind me. I started to chat with the runner who was keeping pace with me. For the next 5ish miles I was running with Levi, who lived in Virginia and apparently “hated running hundreds” even though it was his second one. We talked about traveling, other runs, what we did for work, and how much we hated the weather and needed dry socks. We hit the small stretch of pavement before the aid station and tried to identify my Subaru and my crew.

As I rolled into the aid station I looked around frantically for my crew, but they were nowhere to be seen. I accepted the fact that I wasn’t meeting up with my crew and regrouped. I ate a lot of food, refilled my bottles and reservoir, and took some perogies to eat on the massive 7 mile, 3000 foot climb ahead. About a half mile into the climb I heard someone shout “Boston!” and looked back to see Levi. I realized I hadn’t introduced myself, which made me feel like quite the jerk. After some actual introductions, we marched up the hill. We continued to exchange stories and pass the time. At this point, the middle of my left foot started to sting. The blister that was forming would go from an minor inconvenience to so painful by mile 85 or so that each step felt impossible. Levi assured me that a switchback would signal the end of the climb, but a switchback never came. He apologized profusely for not knowing the intricacies of the climb, but I couldn’t care less as we reached the summit of the 4th major climb of the race. At that moment, the clouds opened up and it poured. The trail immediately pooled water and the dirt turned to mud. Everything got soaked. I pleaded out loud for the aid station to appear. After what felt like 5 miles, it did. The Little Bald Knob aid station had delicious vegetable soup and a warm fire I avoided for fear I’d never leave. As I prepared to head back out a chill struck me and I quickly pulled out my Houdini and gloves in an effort to get warm. Levi did the same and we took off to Reddish Knob and the turn around.

The first mile out of the aid station I was freezing. Even when we were hiking I swung my arms hard to generate some more heat. Thankfully I warmed up and we continued uphill to the parking lot on top of the mountain. On the way, Levi’s headlamp cut out and I gave him my spare before he could even ask. I knew my headlamp would make it to the turn around and I had plenty of extras with my crew. Levi kept asking if I was sure, but one of the reason’s I love trail running is the community. I wasn’t going to leave him in the dark.

The wind whipped violently on the top of Reddish Knob and the rain persisted. Levi, a few other runners, and I searched everywhere for the punch for our bib but we couldn’t find anything.After 2 minutes we said “fuck it” and ran the two miles or so of paved road to the turn around. I got to the turnaround at exactly 12 hours, an hour later than I expected. I ran into the aid station and someone shouted to me “Woo runners…wait is that Matt?”. It was me. Brian was waiting for me and got Amina and Sam. We switched my socks, my shirt, my jacket, and my headlamp. I ate as much food as I could stomach and mentally regrouped. I wanted to quit. The rain wasn’t going to let up. It was colder than I expected. My feet were deteriorating fast. I was behind schedule. It was not my day. But at the same time, I took off work for this. I sacrificed hours and hours of training. I knew how proud Colleen would be of me if I pushed through. I got up and out of the aid station and started my 15 or so hour march back.

Grindstone 100 Turnaround
Getting set to leave at the turn around. Everything was already going downhill – especially my feet and the chafing. Photo Credit – Samantha Alyn Goresh

All night I had been looking forward to the sunrise, but when it finally came I was disappointed. The clouds loomed and continued to rain and the sun seemed to do nothing but illuminate the massive puddles and mud that had formed. My spirits remained low when I had expected them to rebound. I thought it would be a quick run from the turnaround to Little Bald Knob given the terrain, but I couldn’t move well. When I finally got there I ate some food and just kept moving. I knew the 7 mile descent to North River was going to be more painful than the way up but I ran it pretty well. I was excited Amina would be joining me for the next 15 miles and just did my best to go from aid station to aid station. When I got to North River, I changed my socks again and surveyed my feet. Fuck did they look bad, and once again contemplated just calling it. My ride was there, it would be easy to leave. But at the same time, I was over 100K done and my legs barely hurt at all. How frustrating though, my legs felt fresh at mile 65 but my feet felt like another 100 yards would be too far. But as would be the theme for the rest of the day, I got out of the aid station and kept marching.

Grindstone Mile 65
Tending to my feet at mile 65 before picking up Amina. The sock changes only provided about half a mile of relief. Photo Credit – Samantha Alyn Goresh

The first mile or so with Amina felt great. Shortly after that though my spirits fell to the lowest point they had all day. I took a break on the trail and fought back tears as my doubt mounted. Determined to make it to the next aid station and only have 50K left (which is insane) I told Amina to lead and pull me up the hill. Like magic, it worked. My feet hurt like hell, but I could run well and hike strong when I was being dragged along. We got to the aid station and rolled out with purpose. There were only three major climbs left and I was determined to get this thing done. The first climb was over the next 2 miles and the final two would be 15 miles I would run with Brian. Amina and I crushed the first climb and charged the 5ish miles downhill to mile 80. I was rallying, ready to go, and ready to push.

Grindstone Mile 71
Amina pulling me along to mile 71. Had some really solid miles with her pacing me. Photo Credit – Samantha Alyn Goresh

I told Brian to get moving quick and that I would need Sam to pace me the final five miles from 96 to the finish, so be ready. Brian and I made quick work of the first two rolling miles before starting the second to last climb. Things quickly turned south. The climb felt endless, and after stopping for a bathroom break I lost all energy. My legs – still fresh. My feet – excruciating. At the top of the climb I sat on a log and closed my eyes for five minutes and fought back sleep. I knew I couldn’t run the descent even though there were only a few steep sections with limited technicality. I was crushed to move as slow down as up. I kept asking Brian how far to the next aid station. I decided I was going to take the time to sit down for 10 minutes, close my eyes, warm up, and regroup. I had him run ahead to let the crew know, thinking I would have about half a mile alone, but as I turned a corner right after Brian left I was at the aid station!

I got into the aid station that had limited food. I had Brian make some coffee as I sat down and closed my eyes. Amina tended to my feet as Sam grabbed food and checked my supplies. 10 minutes later, I kept marching.

Regenerating at Mile 87
Mile 87 – closing my eyes for more than 5 minutes for the first time in 33 or so hours. Photo Credit – Samantha Alyn Goresh
Leaving to Climb Elliott's Knob - Grindstone Mile 87
Brian and I took off, ready to move “steady”. Photo Credit – Samantha Alyn Goresh

Again, dropping was tempting but 13 miles was doable. 13% of the race left. That was it. I told Brian all I wanted to be up the final climb was “steady”. No pace goal, no running, just steady. I lead up the hill and the strategy worked 80% of the way up until the trail turned back to the rocky stuff that wasn’t too bad descending. The rocks jabbed at my feet and made me wince with each step. Even though the hill seemed to have ended, the flat stretch to the gravel road was incredibly painful and the light started to fade. Finally, we hit the incredibly steep gravel road that we walked down to save my quads and my feet. We returned to the smooth trail that the first climb started up and walked more purposefully until we hit several creeks that early could be hopped but with all the rain required slogging through. The wet creeks made my feet even more tender and I stopped for a minute to collect myself. Nothing hurt like this before. Nothing hurt with every step before. 7 miles left, but those 7 might as well have been 70. Walking for another 2 hours was going to take every ounce of strength.

Just about then, Brian and I got passed by two runners and I told Brian “Just run”. He half halfheartedly jogged and I said “No run”. He did, and I followed. I ran well for the first time in 20 miles. He ran and so did I until we hit the Falls Hallow aid station. I yelled to the crew “I’m going to keep going, can you catch up?” Me and a few runners took off the final small hill to tackle the final 5 miles. My legs felt fine and the more I ran the less my feet screamed. My pacer caught up and I said that I would follow, just pull me along. Over five miles, she did. I got to the lake. It was happening. Sam said she, “could hear the smile in my voice,” as I returned to Camp Shenandoah. Sam ran ahead to take some photos, Amina ran me in. Brian cheered. And after 27 hours and 15 minutes and 36 hours of being awake, I crossed the finish and hugged the totem pole. I called Colleen and told her was alive and I finished. And after cleaning up and eating a bit I passed out.

Grindstone was a monster, fueled to be even more gargantuan through awful weather. It took every ounce of strength and perseverance to finish. I though of everyone pulling for me, my crewing working to keep me safe and moving, and all the time I put in. I have never felt anything quite like how my feet felt during this race. But I came out the other side, knowing I am a much stronger runner and ready to take on whatever challenges come next.

Gear:

  1. La Sportiva Akasha / Saucony Perrigrine 6
  2. Ciele GoCap
  3. Garmin Fenix 3
  4. Salomon Sense Ultra Vest
  5. Patagonia Houdini
  6. Petzl Nao (worked amazing this time)
  7. Gu (Once every 45 Mintues)
  8. Tailwind (one scoop per 10 oz of fluid)

Prepping for Grindstone

With the fanfare and elation of Vermont 100 starting to wear off, I am doing my best to mentally shift from my summer goal race to what is coming up this fall. Without a doubt, Grindstone will be much more of a challenge, climbing and descending 23,000+ feet over its 101 miles. For reference, that is like climbing Denali (Mt. McKinley) and an additional 3000 feet from sea level and descending back down. It’s a lot of up and down. Aid stations will be farther apart, crew access will be more limited, and it is likely I will be paced for fewer miles than I was in Vermont. All of these things culminate to a tougher physical and mental challenge. I am actually really excited for the toughness of the race, fully abandoning any time goals and using the race’s 38 hour cutoff as a mental safety net, knowing that even at a slow walk I will be able to finish the race. 

Obviously, I do not want to take an entire 38 hours. I want to perform well, enjoy the race, and come out qualified for Hardrock, UTMB, and Western States in 2017. To do so, I am trying to dive into training and make the most of the 2 months until race day. Unlike Vermont, I do not have a set of races leading up to the event to help gradually ramp up the distance. With the amount of climbing at Grdinstone, I haven’t been able to find races I can realistically get to that will simulate what I’m going to encounter in Virginia. Not being able to fall back on the same strategy that worked so well for my first hundred in definitely tough. I have to alter my strategy and step a bit out of my comfort zone, which effectively makes Grindstone feel like it is my first time racing the distance. 

56 days until I toe the line, I am trying to focus on a few different things than pure mileage this training block: consistency, elevation, and rest. For consistency, I am going to use the same training plan from Vermont, 6 days a week running with one day off. Instead of an off day, I fully intend to cycle just to get a bit of cardiovascular fitness unless I am feeling especially tired. Elevation is a bit harder to earn than consistency or rest living in the middle of Boston, but Summit Ave is in my backyard, Harvard Stadium is just around the corner, and Blue Hills and the Fells both have plenty of elevation change if you know where to look. I won’t be able to simulate the 3,000+ foot climbs that I will be battling on race day without the use of a treadmill or long drives north, but I will do my best to climb and descend whenever I can. It will be difficult to balance this aspect of training, since going up will slow me down, and being slower means covering less mileage per week. I felt confident with my weekly mileage for Vermont, but this cycle I will have to feel confident mileage + elevation change. Finally, I want to make sure I am resting and recovering adequately every single day. That means improving my diet, sleeping 8+ hours when I can, and knowing when it is not worth running an extra mile for the Strava data when I know I really need to rest. I think listening to my body is going to be more essential than any training regiment or workout I could do. 

Bear Mountain 50k Training Update

I fell off the blogging bandwagon again! But hey, life gets messy and hard and busy sometimes – we all get it.

The past few weeks have been going very well! I am feeling strong and ready to take on Bear Mountain. I finally brought myself to look at the race elevation profile and other information about it, and I’m less daunted than I thought I’d be. While I haven’t gotten a ton of trail time, I know I’m a stronger runner now than I’ve ever been, and I am mentally prepared. I’m ready for it to be race weekend and for me to kick some ass and take some names!

A lot of my fellow runners have been getting injured, and it has put me on high alert and helped me to force myself to stretch or roll after a run when before I might have been lazy. Matt’s ankle has been sore, a few friends have stress fractures, and our wonderful friend and guest-blogger Kristen has some hip flexor issues. I have become hyper aware of my body, and have been easing off when my shins hurt to avoid a stress fracture. I’m hoping to ease back even more when my training is over and to keep my mileage steadily around 30 miles each week as long as my shin pain dissipates, and then work my way up slowly to get my body ready for my next adventure in running – a 50 miler!

I haven’t chosen a 50 miler yet, but am hoping to do one sometime between next spring and summer. It’s a big challenge, and while my heart is telling me to sign up now and worry about the rest later, my brain is reminding me of all my past injuries and telling me to wait at least a year before I take on such a big challenge. Hopefully I can get in a few marathons and half marathons (and maybe another 50k…) in the next year, but for now I’m going to force myself to rest, recover, and plan. I may even reach out to my physical therapist or a running coach to correct any imbalances I may have and to put me on a path to success. The last thing I want is another injury and to be out of the game again. 

Tapering has begun this week, and I’m looking forward to a slight break in my mileage and to get some well-deserved rest after Bear Mountain! I’ve gotta keep my mileage up enough to pace Matt at his first 100 miler though – I can’t wait!