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Loon Mountain Race: what the hell was I thinking?

Loon Mountain Race: what the hell was I thinking?
15 Jul

On July 8, 2018 I ran my first mountain race at the USATF Mountain Running Championships at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, NH.  I planned to use this race as my last hard training run prior to my goal race at the VT100k on July 21-22.  My husband Joe and I decided to turn it into a mini-vacation, so we arrived on Friday afternoon and planned to stay until Monday morning.  Lincoln is a cool little town with plenty to do, lots of great places to eat, and a couple of breweries within a short driving distance.  It also happens to be right at the entrance to Franconia Notch State Park.

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The race directors for Loon Mountain partnered with the Trail Sisters to encourage more women to participate in this event, so I had connected via Facebook with a few ladies from New England who were planning to run.  It was fun to make plans to meet in person!  Joe and I met Lisa at a popular local breakfast place on Saturday morning and enjoyed her company immensely, so we decided to spend a little more time together and let her show us some of Franconia Notch.   We climbed the couple of miles up to Kinsman Falls and then made the return trip to the car, visiting a few of Mother Nature’s works of art on the way.

 

 

 

Since Lisa hadn’t gotten sick of us yet, we made plans to meet at bib pickup at One Love Brewery and then grab some dinner.  Bib pickup was a zoo, being that it was the championship for USATF, the collegiate championship, and the NACAC.  It was cool to see amazing athletes from all over the world and to know that we would be literally running in their footsteps.  We learned that we’d be running with almost 1000 of our closest friends over the imposing course the next day.  We chowed down on burgers, toasted the mountain with our beers, and returned to our hotel to settle in for the night.

 

 

We arrived early to the mountain so we could get parking in the primary lot and meet up with Lisa. Joe’s race started at 8am, while mine wouldn’t go off until 9:15.  When Loon hosts the championships they split the start to make things a bit easier. This year made it doubly effective since they had record attendance.  Even though the trails are wide access roads, cat tracks, and cross-country ski trails, it was nice to know that we’d have a little breathing space by splitting the field.  While we waited for the men’s start I saw everyone I knew that was there.  Odd, considering the crowds!!  Soon it was near start time so Lisa and I went down to see the men off and await our own gun time.

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When it came time to start our own ascent to the top, we placed ourselves in the middle of the pack and chatted about our goals.  We planned to stay together until we couldn’t stay together anymore.  The gun went off and we got an easy half-mile or so of flat ground to warm up, and then the trail went up.  And up.  And up.  A staggering climb punctuated with a few flats and two nice downhill sections.  One spot was particularly muddy and Lisa attempted a quick trip through it – and succeeded in a face plant and a hilarious moment.  Luckily she wasn’t much worse for the wear and we continued on towards the summit.

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If I’m to be honest, the course wasn’t as difficult as I had expected.  The weather was perfect, much cooler than the previous two weeks had been, and the footing was mostly dry and non-technical.  I had been doing a lot of hill training over the previous two months so I felt well prepared for the climbs.  As we approached the first aid station, I saw a familiar face.  Pat Caron had run a spectacular race, had run back down the mountain, and was now at the aid station handing out water. What a tremendous athlete and an amazing person he is.  I’m honored to know him.

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It was soon after this that Lisa started to fall a little behind.  I felt bad leaving her, but we had agreed to run our own races.  I knew she’d been battling a hamstring issue, and I hoped that she wasn’t dealing with a lot of pain.  I tried to put it out of my mind and just kept pushing forward. The race organization has a twisted sense of humor and had put out what I can only assume were supposed to be motivational signs.  I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one to do the one-finger salute to some of them.

 

 

I arrived at the second aid station feeling pretty good.  I had drank about 10 oz of Skratch sport hydration and about the same in plain water, and had eaten a bag of chews, so I was well hydrated and fueled up.  I knew I had a nice downhill stretch before the big tamale.  Upper Walking Boss has a nasty reputation for bringing runners to their knees – literally. It is a kilometer long and has an average grade of 40%.  Yikes. I really wanted to blast the downhill section but I knew if I did, I’d pay for it on the Boss.  I tried to relax and just let gravity take me down the hill while I mentally prepared to get through the final stretch of this race.

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I crossed the timing mat at the bottom of the Boss and took a deep breath.  I looked up before I started to climb, and almost wished I hadn’t. Holy hill, Batman.  I remembered my training at Wachusett Mountain and tried to focus on just one step at a time.  I made it about a third of the way up before I finally had to stop and rest. I’d been looking down at my feet, and took this opportunity to look up ahead of me again.  Just a bit ahead of me was my friend Diane.  Thinking that it would be fun to cross the finish line with her, I pushed a little harder to catch up.  I pulled up alongside her and realized she was suffering, too.  “Well, Diane,” I said to her, “we are going to get this thing done together.”

 

 

 

We death marched the final half kilometer, stopping at each flag for a breather.  Several Striders, including Joe, dotted the sides of the course, yelling encouragement, making jokes, taking pictures, and just generally being awesome.  We crested the top of the steep section and I turned to Diane and said, “I haven’t walked a finish line yet, and today is not going to be that day.”  So we started to jog (if you can call it that) and struggled to get to the mat.  I glanced up and saw the time on the clock and burst into tears.  Everyone had told me to take my road half marathon PR and add 20-25 minutes to it to get my estimated finish time for this race.  By those calculations, it should have taken me 2:15-2:20 to get to the top.  We crossed the finish line in 2:04:10.

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Lisa crossed a few minutes later, and we all celebrated by taking group pictures, watching a finish line proposal, and taking in the breathtaking scenery before starting our way down to the gondola that would take us back down to the lodge.  I took a moment to appreciate having the strength and the opportunity to take part in this race.  What an incredible blessing.

 

 

I love these challenges. The ones that you don’t think you should be undertaking.  The times when you feel out of your league and wonder just what the hell you’re doing there.  The events that you have to claw your way to the finish line are the ones that show you just how tough you really are.  Nothing good comes easy, and I hope I never forget that.  Loon Mountain Race brought me amazing memories, cherished new friends, and an incredible sense of accomplishment and confidence.  I’m ready.

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See you at Silver Hill.

TARC Summer Classic (or my version of the Amazing Race)

TARC Summer Classic (or my version of the Amazing Race)
14 Aug

“Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.  Wash your spirit clean.” ~ John Muir

 

The Trail Animals Running Club Summer Classic was held in Medfield, MA on August 12, 2017. I had signed up for the 50k as a way to get in a long supported training run in preparation for my first 100 miler (Ghost Train!!) and see some new trails. My longtime training partner Laura had originally signed up for the 40M but I convinced her to drop to the 50k so we could run it together and enjoy the trail. Misery loves company, right?

TARC summer classic pre race

The weather stalking began earlier in the week and it looked like we were in for a wet run. Fine with me, as this would cut down on the heat and the bugs. We knew that this race has had some issues with bees and I was not interested in dealing with bee stings during a long day (not to mention that Laura is allergic). As the week progressed, the weather forecast didn’t change so we felt confident that this would not be a problem.

 

Laura and I, along with our friend Caitlin, arrived at our host Eric’s house Friday night. Seemed like a good plan, considering he lived the closest to the race venue. After a dinner of Subway grinders (yes I know, not the healthiest but it was easy and seriously – who wants to cook the night before an ultra??) and watching the end of an awesome classic movie, Eric headed to bed and left us girls to hold court in the living room. It was like a high school slumber party. Probably not the best idea before running 31 miles, but it was so much fun. I highly recommend it.

 

The alarm went off way too early on Saturday morning, giving us girls only about 3 hours of sleep. After coffee and a small breakfast we headed off to Medfield in the rain. Shortly after arriving at the race venue the rain stopped and we were able to get our drop bags ready and to the start line while staying fairly dry. After a quick briefing by RD Jeff Dixon, we were off like a herd of turtles, ready for the day.

 

The plan was to run very easy for the whole 31 miles, and we stuck to it right from the beginning. When we stopped to walk the first hill, we had to move aside to let a group of runners go by and we learned that two of those runners were doing their first trail race. They had registered not realized that the 50k was trail, not road. Oh boy, I thought. They are in for a tough day. We continued with our run/walk pattern, keeping the heart rate way down, and just enjoying being together in the woods.

 

TARC Summer Classic 2017
(photo courtesy of Mike Kenney)

We were part way through the first of three ten-mile laps when I spotted something up the trail. I’m always nervous in the woods, especially these days with all the bear and coyote sightings. Hoping it was nothing we slowed down but continued at an easy jog. As we got closer I realized we were blessed with a once in a lifetime experience. A rare sighting of a legend. I managed to get a quick picture before he darted back off down the trail.

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We finished the first loop in 2:50. Our goal was to stay under 9 hours, so this was perfect. So far, the trail had been fairly easy. A little hillier than expected, a little more technical than expected, but the challenge was fun and the trail was well marked and we were having a blast. We filled up on snacks and soda at the aid station, topped off our water, and started out on loop two.

 

This loop was pretty uneventful. We knew it would be the toughest one mentally so we just walked and ran and chatted about life. When we reached the lookout on this loop, there were hikers there also enjoying the view. One of them offered to take a photo of us and we quickly agreed. Preserving memories is so important to me, as we sometimes forget details during those long miles. After chatting with them for a few minutes we continued on our way, and the rest of the loop went by in a blur.

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Coming in to the start/finish area for the second time was awesome. We had walked in the first time, trying to be conservative. This time we came jogging in and got a cheer from the volunteers. It’s such a lift to the spirit to hear people whistling, clapping and yelling for you. In most sporting events, only the winners get this. In running, even the final runners get the same enthusiastic greeting. Its one of the reasons I love this sport. We finished this lap in 3:02. A little bit slower than the first (which is to be expected) but still in the ballpark of consistency.

(photos courtesy of Edith Dixon)

We headed out on our final lap feeling pretty good. Yes we were tired, but it was satisfying to know that we would be running the technical parts and climbing the hills for the last time that day. So far everything had gone according to our plan, which is a rare thing in ultras. We were eating well, staying hydrated, keeping the heart rate down, and had managed to stay on our feet. In this last loop I did have one slip on a wet bridge and went down, but sustained no injuries. I consider that a huge win.

 

A lot of the trails are two-way traffic and it was so fun to see other runners, especially the leaders, so many times during the day. Getting encouragement from those other runners (and giving it back in kind) helps to cement the trail family. We passed one girl who was having a very hard time and we spent a few minutes walking and chatting with her. As we starting running again, Laura heard her start sobbing and it broke my heart. I understand the struggle out there on the trail – I’ve been there many times.   I hoped she would pull out of her low and start to feel better.

(photos courtesy of Laura Bachiochi)

We arrived at aid station 7 (mile 25 for us, mile 28 for the 40 milers) still feeling pretty good. By chance we got there at the same time as Caitlin and Eric and we took a few minutes to catch up and see how everyone’s races were going. At that moment, the solitary runner we had passed a mile or so back arrived, and we all cheered loudly for her. She seemed in good spirits and I hoped that we had helped her just a little. At this point the two trail virgins came into the aid station behind us. We found out that they had taken a very long rest break at the start/finish area. They looked super strong and we thought they were pretty lucky considering they’d come into an event completely unprepared for the challenge. After a few more moments of snacking and talking, Laura and I headed off in one direction and Eric and Caitlin in the other.

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About a mile down the trail we caught back up to the two runners. They seemed to be ok despite just standing in the middle of the trail, so we kept on going. Taking advantage of the relatively flat, buffed out section, we ran as strong as we could without depleting ourselves for the final miles.

 

As we entered the last half-mile, we decided that we’d walk until we hit the last corner and then run the finish. We were both getting pretty fatigued and had been doing nothing more than shuffling for the last 5 or 6 miles. Somewhere during those last miles we had had a conversation about how much the brain acts as a governor, conserving your energy and giving you the impression that you are more tired than you really are. Little did we know how prophetic that conversation would be.

 

You can really smell the barn when you crest a steep little hill and see the algae covered pond. At this point you are about a quarter mile from the finish, and we were very eager to be there but seemingly unable to do more than a halting, staggering jog over the rocky, rooty terrain. We navigated the steep downhill and began walking around the pond and towards the finish line. A few seconds later we heard whooping from behind and we turned to see the two trail newbies, cresting that same little hill. I became a split personality in an instant. While I was so glad to see them finish and I was super happy they came through the race uninjured and looking strong, I just couldn’t let them finish ahead of us. I looked at Laura and said “oh HELL no”, and took off like I’d been shot out of a cannon with Laura hot on my heels.

 

When we rounded the last corner and came into sight of the finish, the volunteers went nuts. It was the fastest quarter mile of our entire race and we were just flying. After being careful all day long, and thinking we were so done-in, it felt amazing to be going that fast. We crossed the finish line in 8:56. The two trail newbies came in a few minutes after us, and we all exchanged high fives and congratulations. If it hadn’t been for their arrival at the top of that hill when they did, we wouldn’t have broken our nine-hour goal. I was glad to see them finish their first ultra, and I was glad they had gotten us to our goal, but I was especially glad because we were all still smiling.

TARC summer classic post race

A big thank you to all the Trail Animals for putting on such a great race. What a fun group of people!!! From the race director to the aid station volunteers to the photographers out on the course, there was never a time when we were not greeted with smiles, encouragement, and laughter. I’ll be sure to be back next year, hoping for another legendary sighting.

Vermont 100k, take two (no guts, no glory)

Vermont 100k, take two (no guts, no glory)
27 Jul

“There are only two options regarding commitment;                                                            you’re either in or you’re out.”                                                                                                            ~ Pat Riley

This was the second year for me at the VT100k. This year’s race was held on July 15-16, 2017. I had been counting down the days since registration back in January and everything I did was focused on my goal race. I had cleaned up my diet, followed my training plan, and put together my stellar crew. Everything was in place and ready. But as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men…..

 

We arrived in Vermont on Friday afternoon and went right to our rental to meet my pacer Dean. He had driven in from Quebec and we all wanted a bit of time to unpack, unwind, and chill for a little while before heading off to the race venue for packet pickup and dinner. Once we had all my gear set up and packed the way I wanted it, we hopped in the car and headed to Silver Hill.

 

Thanks to Mother Nature and her delivery of a very wet spring and summer in Vermont, Silver Hill meadow was, well, a bit soggy. The race committee had to do some rearranging to get all the horse trailers, campers, and crew members cars parked without being swallowed up by all the mud. Since I was running late (there’s a big surprise) and we were stuck in a long line of cars all trying to get into one tiny field, so Dean and I hopped out of the car and walked down to the tent area while Joe got the car parked.

 

It didn’t take long to start seeing familiar faces. We met up with Laura, Eric and Caitlin and we all headed over to get our bibs. On the way I ran into Kim, Krista, and Astrid and saw a bunch of my Strider peeps. Steve LaBranche was running the second leg of his Grand Slam adventure, so I wished him well (while secretly thinking he was nuts).

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After bib pickup and a perfunctory medical check, we all grabbed seats under the tent for the runner meeting. I knew Hal Koerner was at the race and I practically gave myself whiplash trying to find him for the whole hour we were at the meeting. No such luck. When the meeting ended we remembered that we had to get dinner tickets for my crew so we went over to the merchandise area only to be told the dinner was sold out. Well ok then. Off we went in search of dinner, and we ended up at a fantastic restaurant by Quechee Gorge. Bellies full, we headed back to our rental to chill out and try to get some sleep. I was full of excitement but slept really well.

 

Arriving back at Silver Hill at 8am on Saturday, I thought about what it meant for me to be there. Such a historic race. Such amazing athletes. Did I really belong here? Would I finish? Yes, I’d completed the race last year but nothing in the ultra world is ever guaranteed. Some days the race goes flawless. Some days, well, it doesn’t. Which would it be today?

 

Amy (VT100’s esteemed race director) sent us up the road at 9:01am. I had a plan in place to finish in under 15 hours, thus giving me a qualifying time to enter the 100 mile race next year. I had all my splits calculated and had a list of times that I had to arrive at each aid station in order to stay under that time. I remembered that the front half of the race is the easiest for me because it included most of the dirt roads. With this in mind, I tried to bank some time and arrived at Lillian’s aid station 15 minutes ahead of time. I quickly filled my water bottles and split, keeping to my plan of not spending much time at the aid stations.

 

Up the road a bit, we entered the woods for the first time. I heard a voice behind me say, “nice job, keep up the good work!” and I immediately knew who it was. As the runner passed me I replied, “hey, I know you!! Get after it, Hal!!” I had just gotten a verbal high-five from my idol. Did you know that ultra runners have groupies?

 

I came into Camp Ten Bear for the first time at 11am, again 15 minutes ahead of time. Sweet, I’m keeping that nice little cushion, I thought. I switched out my water bottles, grabbed some food, got a nice cool down from the sponge bucket, and headed up the hill out of the aid station. I would not see my crew again until Margaritaville, which was at the end of a two-mile uphill climb.

 

Before that, however, I had to deal with two adversaries: Havoc Hill, and Agony Hill. Yep, they are both as bad as they sound. Agony Hill starts will a steep dirt road and ends with a rugged trail – both sections about ¾ of a mile long. Myself and three other runners spend the road section walking 10 steps facing forward and then 10 steps facing backwards. As I did last year, I thought to myself “I can’t imagine the 100 milers doing this after 55 miles.”, because it was all I could do to get it done after running 15. With Agony Hill finally behind me I could focus on getting up to the 20-mile aid station and my crew.

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So far, everything seemed to be going well. My feet felt good, my body was holding up, I was following my nutrition and hydration plan, and I wasn’t hanging around the aid stations. Somewhere just before the climb to Margaritaville my GPS had a seizure, and now I had no idea where I was for mileage. I would have to just judge it by aid stations now (I would eventually end up with 75 miles on my watch, with a couple of 29-second miles LOL). Needless to say, the climb seemed to go on forever, especially now that I didn’t know the passing miles. When I finally arrived, I found that I was now down to a 5-minute cushion on my time. Oh well. Maybe I could make some time back up on the way back to Camp Ten Bear, since most of it would be downhill. I again switched out my water bottles, grabbed some food, kissed my husband, and fired off back down the road again.

Unfortunately there was no time to be made up for me. Most of the double track trail that led back to Camp Ten Bear was muddy and rocky. I was starting to feel fatigued so I had to be careful on the uneven footing. I knew the course well enough that I had a good handle on where I was – and that elusive 15 hour pace was slipping more and more. When I finally made the left-hand turn to head back to CTB I knew I was way behind and made the decision there that I would just do the best I could with the rest of the day, figuring I could at least get close to 16 hours.

 

I came into CTB now 10 minutes behind my pace and told my crew of my new plan. It was here that I made a crucial mistake. I chose to switch my socks because my feet were wet from dumping water on myself and from sweating. I had started the day with my usual Injinji socks, but I knew that to get another pair of those onto wet feet would take an act of Congress, so instead I chose a different pair. This decision would soon come back to bite me and cause the second half of my race to be a real test of my guts and pain tolerance.

 

Luckily CTB was where I could pick up my pacer, Dean. I knew he would keep me focused, and I was looking forward to some constant company. I had spent most of the first 30 miles running alone. So off we headed to what should have been the last gnarly climb of the day – Heartbreak Hill. However, difficulty level is definitely tied to fatigue and so this would not, in fact, be the last gnarly climb for me.

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(photo credit: Ben Kimball, Northeast Photography)

The backside of Heartbreak Hill is a long, meandering, usually buffed out downhill single-track trail section. This year, for whatever reason, the horses had really chopped this section up. I was not able to put my feet in the middle and had to have my feet up on the sides of the now hollowed-out, rocky trail. This, in combination with the socks that I think didn’t stay in place as well as the Injinjis, started a rapid downward spiral of burgeoning blisters.

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By the time we got to Spirit of 76 aid station I was really hurting. I decided to change my shoes, hoping that would help alleviate the problem. Why, at this stage, I didn’t have the medical team address my blisters I have no idea. I chalk it up to being stubborn and stupid and wanting to just keep moving forward. So after a shoe change, a shirt change (I was soaked and getting cold as the sun was going down) and bottle change, Dean and I set off again, but my heart really wasn’t in it anymore.

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We arrived at Bill’s (mile 51) at a time that would still give me around a 16-hour finish. However, I was now dealing with PF in both feet, an angry Achilles, and blisters on both feet – as well as a very battered soul. I felt so incredibly beat up. Several times on the last section I had tried to run and couldn’t – my feet were that painful. I knew that the last 11 miles were almost all trail, except for two steep uphill road sections. I had no desire to finish this race, but I couldn’t imagine dropping out at this point. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be in this pain anymore. Both my husband and Dean told me that I could get through this section in just a couple of hours, so I followed Dean back out of the aid station and onto the trail.

 

The trail sections were unbelievably painful. Every uneven step sent searing pain through the blistered areas. I prayed for a road section. Then, the road section caused the PF to flair and my feet screamed. I couldn’t do anything but shuffle, and even then I had to stop every few hundred meters and roll my feet to the sides to take the pressure off the bottoms. I cried. I swore. I yelled. I just wanted the pain to stop. We reached a section of mud and I just crumbled. I could do nothing but hang onto Dean’s arm, trudge forward, and scream with every step. I had resolved in my mind that I might actually drop at the 59-mile aid station.

 

When we arrived there, I was barely walking. I shuffled over to the table and asked the volunteer to fill my bottles. She said “ok” and took them out of my hands. Somewhere in the back of my foggy brain, I recognized the voice but couldn’t dredge up the energy to put it together. Then the other volunteer spoke and I said, “oh!! I know you guys!!” Crystal and Jesse. I had met them at Jay Peak a couple of years ago. Since then, they have completed numerous ridiculous races such as the Georgia Death Race and the Infinitus 100 miler. Crap, I couldn’t quit now. I whined that my feet were just mangled, hoping for just a tiny bit of sympathy. What I got was Crystal giving me back my full bottles, Jesse turning me towards the road and pointing towards it saying, “get back out there and finish this thing!!”  I was so reluctant to leave that aid station. I knew that was my last viable chance to drop. After this, I was in it no matter what. No cell service, no more manned aid stations, and it was after midnight so I wouldn’t be knocking on anyone’s door. It was only 3 miles to the finish, but it could have been a hundred for as bad as I felt. I really didn’t want to go. But Crystal, Jesse, and Dean wouldn’t let me give up.

 

Those last three miles are kind of a blur. I know I was whining. I know I was crying. I know I was swearing and screaming. I’m mortified of my behavior, but I was just in so much pain. When we finally got to the finish line, I broke down completely. I can still remember Amy’s face, the look of concern she had, as she held me up and handed me off to Joe. Nothing else mattered except getting to the medical tent, getting my shoes off, and getting off my feet. I was so upset that I couldn’t revel in finishing 62 miles. I couldn’t celebrate the fact that I had finished in 17 hours and 13 minutes (a 40 minute course PR for me).  All I could do was cry. I hadn’t even come close to my goal time – neither of them. I was devastated.

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I managed to get a few hours of sleep before going back to the awards ceremony the next day. We didn’t stick around, though. I grabbed my ceremonial horseshoe and headed back to the rental. I was just so shattered. I’ve never been in a low for 11 miles before, and I didn’t know how to handle it. After napping and eating for most of the day, the fog finally cleared and I thought about the enormity of running for 62 miles. It didn’t matter the time on the clock or the mental state I had been in at the end. I had finished my 2nd 100k, and that was quite an accomplishment. I had also cycled my first 100k in late June, so I had hit that goal – to cycle and run a 100k within 4 weeks of each other. That’s pretty badass, and I’m glad I finally realized it.

I’m still planning on running Ghost Train 100 in October. If I finish it within the 30-hour cutoff, I will get my qualifying time for the VT100. However, I think I’m going to do the 100k again. I really want that 15-hour finish time, and, well, the 100k course and I have some unfinished business to attend to.

 

As usual I need to give a big shout out to my husband Joe for his unwavering support and for being the best crew chief ever; to my pacer, Dean, for putting up with a stupid amount of whining, tears, and temper tantrums for that last 11 miles; to Crystal and Jesse for getting me back on the course when it would have been so easy for me to quit; to Amy, for her continual encouragement in my quest for that elusive qualifier; and of course to Debbie, for getting me to Vermont to begin with – twice.

 

 

Catamount 50k. Yes, you can….(whether you want to or not)

Catamount 50k.  Yes, you can….(whether you want to or not)
29 Jun

“The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. Its to test the limits of the human heart.” ~ Bill Bowerman.

 

The heart. The mind. The body. And, quite frankly, the sanity. I have to admit that I learned the intensity of this philosophy at the Catamount Ultra 50k this past weekend. Set in the beautiful mountains of northern Vermont, this race starts and ends at the Trapp Family Lodge – a place that I have longed to visit since I was in the Sound of Music in elementary school (we won’t discuss just how long ago that was…).

 

I had signed up for this race months ago as a build up to my A-race, the Vermont 100k. Given that I had ridden my first metric century the weekend before Catamount, I wasn’t planning on finishing with a fast time. Also, the elevation profile of this race is pretty impressive so I knew it was going to be slow going. Add to that the fact that New England has had a wetter than normal late spring and early summer and, well, there was the trifecta of challenges. Tired legs, steep climbs, and probably a lot of wet trails. HA!!! Wet trails – what an understatement that turned out to be.

 

My husband and I had spent the previous week with friends in Quebec, Canada. We drove home on Thursday just in time for me to unpack, repack, and drive back to Vermont on Friday. I arrived at my friend Kim’s house in Fayston around 630, more than a little tired but looking forward to the weekend. I had already gone to the race venue to pick up our race packets and snap a few pictures so we had some dinner, chatted a bit, and headed to bed. Surprisingly, I slept really well considering all the stress of driving for the better part of the past two days.

 

The weather report said it was supposed to be mostly clear on race day; however, it was raining as we drove to the lodge. It continued to mist the entire time we were getting our drop bags set up and using the portalets for the last time before gun time. Well at least it wouldn’t be hot has Hades and we’d have a bit of natural cooling. As we milled around the start line, we met Mirna – an ultra legend who has been featured in several publications. It was pretty cool knowing that we’d be sharing the trails with someone so inspiring.

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The first 4.5 miles of the course contains the bulk of the elevation, which, because of the double loop nature of the 50k, has to be dealt with again in the middle of the race. Getting to the top wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, and so far the footing had been pretty good considering all the rain that had fallen in the past few weeks. The first aid station was here and I refilled my pack, had some food, and left feeling pretty good. That feeling lasted about two minutes. The next mile and a half contained some of the worst footing I had ever experienced on the trail. Ankle deep soupy mud, steep ascents and descents with no good traction, and water running right down the middle of the trail.

After the hellacious mud section came the reward – a two-mile downhill gravel road with the second aid station at the bottom. Here I tried a wonderful concoction of lime juice, agave and chia seeds. Feeling amazingly revived, it was easy to head out on the trail despite the fact that we were mere feet from the Lodge. It would have been so easy to bail out, but the downhill section that continued across a field assured me that the worst was behind me. Hahahahahahahahaha oh, how the trail lies to us. Up and down, through the woods, across more fields, and yes – more mud. Mud so deep at one point that I almost got stuck. Luckily my shoes stayed on (I heard that many people had lost shoes at this one particular mud hole) but I was really beginning to feel drained. At mile 13 I texted my husband, telling him I was considering my first DNF. I didn’t know if I had it in me to do another loop of this, and I really didn’t want to get injured before the V100k. He assured me that only I knew the right choice to make. I decided to wait until I got to the start/finish area before I would let myself think about it too much.

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The last ¾ of a mile of the course is on a beautiful dirt road section with a downhill to the chute. I came into the aid station in 3:55, feeling pretty depleted, and I told the volunteers that I doubted I would go back out but I would check in with them in a bit. Another runner who had decided to drop after the first loop helped me changed my shoes and refill my pack with Honey Stinger gels and snacks and water. I weighed my options: go back out for another 4-5 hours of torture, or accept my first DNF. After a few minutes, I said, “what’s the worst that can happen?” to the volunteers and headed back up the chute. As I past the 25k runners who were eating and drinking their hard-earned beers, I thought to myself, “what the fuck am I doing???” but I continued to trudge on. I just couldn’t bring myself to say the words “did not finish”.

 

The climb up to the first aid station was unimaginably difficult. The sun had come out and it was now heating up nicely. I stopped several times along that section to submerge my buff and my hat in the wonderful icy streams, and that helped keep me going. When the top of the climb finally came into sight, all I could think about was the mile and half of mud that awaited me. Well, at least the worst really was now behind me. Or so I thought. I got through the mud and was finally on the blessed two miles of downhill gravel road. That mud section was the slowest I’d ever done at an ultra. The mud mile, as I like to call it, took me almost 28 minutes to get through. But at least now I only had 8 miles of rolling hills between the finish line and me.

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Have you ever wondered what a wet trail looks like after 500 runners have gone through it? Let me fill you in. It turns to mud. Lots and lots of mud. The easy up and down sections that I had traversed on the first loop had become short dry sections with mud holes in between. It was impossible to run, as I was now completely exhausted. All I could do was keep moving forward at a walk, hoping that my water would hold out until the final aid station with four miles to go. It did, and as I let the volunteer at that aid station help me fill my pack I finally allowed myself to believe that I was going to finish. I had been so worried about making the cutoff because of all the walking I’d had to do. It was ticking down to seven hours, forty-five minutes and I still had three miles of mud to get through before I got to the last mile of dirt road and the grassy, downhill finish (the cutoff time for this race is 9 hours).

 

I finally came out onto that dirt road with roughly eight hours and 20 minutes on the clock. I made the decision that I wanted to finish in under 8:30, so I summoned up every last ounce of willpower and energy I had left and started to run. Several people had ventured up the trail to watch the last of the runners come in, and their encouragement kept me going when I wanted to stop and walk. I knew that Kim had probably finished much earlier (she had finished last year in just over 5 hours) and had already headed home, so I prepared myself to enter a virtual ghost town at the finish line. As I came off the dirt road and headed down the grass to the finish chute, I heard her screaming my name. Tears filled my eyes as I realized that she had waited for me, and that she intended to run me in. I looked up at the clock and saw it closing in on 8:30 so I started to sprint. Kim said “dang girl, you’ve got a kick!!!” which spurred me on even more. I crossed the finish line in 8:30:07, and that was good enough for me.

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I learned so much about myself that day. I had never really thought of myself as having mental toughness, but now I know that I have an unlimited supply of it. There had been many, many easy avenues to Quitter’s Road during this race (many places where the course either came through or very close to the start/finish area) and I had passed by them all, choosing instead to see how much I could put myself through. I am incredibly proud of myself for finishing that race, knowing how many great runners had chosen to drop at the 25k mark. That finisher’s beer never tasted so good!!!

As I look forward to the Vermont100k I know that I have the guts and the determination to reach my goals. The plan is to finish in less than 15 hours, giving me a qualifying time to enter the 100-mile race next year. Until then, its taper time!!!!

Happy Trails to you…and never, ever give up on yourself!!

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Awakening from the winter slumber

Awakening from the winter slumber
01 Apr

Well life sure has been interesting since my last race!! I took the winter off from training because my body (and my mind) really needed the break. I spent time just running trails for fun, doing some crosstraining, and purchasing a new road bike. I’ve always loved cycling and am happy to be able to add a few charity rides to my summer schedule.

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I also applied to a couple of great organizations to be an ambassador, and to my shock and delight I was chosen for both!! First, on a recommendation from my friend Jess, I applied to Irun4Ultra. IRun4Ultra is a group of athletes ranging from elite ultra-marathoners to every day runners like myself who have come together “to encourage safe trail and ultra-running by providing resources and connecting runners around the world in a fun, community environment” (quoted from Linda Saunders, founder of Irun4Ultra). I have made new friends around the country and around the world, and have found encouragement and support in these amazing athletes. I’m glad to be a part of such a great community of runners.

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Second, I applied to the “hive”, the ambassador program for Honey Stinger. Surprise number two came when I got the acceptance letter from them!!! It’s a truly wonderful experience when you can promote a company that you believe in. Being the environmentally sensitive person that I am, I read into all the ingredients used in Honey Stinger products and found palm oil. Palm oil is a highly controversial product these days, as major plantations are clear-cutting rain forest to make way for more palm fruit trees. I emailed the company to inquire about this and got a super response from Shannon. Her letter explained, “Honey Stinger uses only palm fruit oil that is produced under sustainable practices. The producer is a founding member of The Round Table on Sustainable Palm (RSPO). They have been assessed and certified
as meeting the requirements of RSPO Principles & Criteria for Sustainable Palm Oil Production.”

FullSizeRenderI looked into the RSPO, and the World Wildlife Fund supports it, so I am completely comfortable with endorsing all of Honey Stinger’s products, which makes me SO EXCITED!!! I love the protein bars and waffles, and of course the gels are yummy!! I just ordered a box of the chews and can’t wait to try them.
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Training resumed on March 1, and coach Deb has my nose to the grindstone!!! Already up to nine hour training weeks, with running comprising about half that time and cycling the other half…and then we add on yoga and strength training. On the menu for this year: TARC Spring Classic Half Marathon, CT Trailmixers Spring Fling 600 minute race, Salomon Trail Running Festival 50M, Switchback Ride for the Lake 60M, Catamount 50k, VT100k, TARC Summer Classic 40M, Farm to Fork Fondo Maine 58M, and Ghost Train 100M – my first 100 mile attempt. I’m also volunteering at Traprock 50k and Anchor Down Ultra, because I truly believe in giving back to the sport that I love so much. I always appreciate the volunteers who are out there for me and it is incredibly satisfying to return the favor.

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Last weekend I attended RaceMania in Boston and had a blast!!  Learned a lot about running, cycling, nutrition, hydration, and new products.  Had a chance to listen to some great speakers, including Mike Wardian and my coach Deb Livingston and her coach Al Lyman.  Mike is a super cool dude and didn’t even mind letting me grab a selfie.  He just ran a 2:30 marathon last weekend and is competing at the famed Barkley Marathons this weekend.  I love that our community is so down to earth that we mere mortals can hobnob with the gods and goddesses of our sport!!

Well, I should get some rest for my training run tomorrow. Two hours of muddy trail in rainy southern CT…when is spring again?

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Happy Trails!!!

Bimbler’s Bluff 50k (or 52k, but who’s counting?)

25 Oct

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(photo credit: Cindy Bourassa)

Well I certainly picked a doozy for my last big trail race of the year. Bimbler’s Bluff 50k(ish) in Guilford, CT is billed as “an off road foot race through several inter-connected woodland preserves in southern Connecticut. Consisting entirely of rolling forest roads or single track that can be extremely rocky, the course will provide a true test of the runner’s fitness and mental stamina.” It did NOT disappoint. I was feeling pretty confident in the days leading up to the race, but this course smacked me into reality.

 

Laura and I arrived at the venue just as the early starters were leaving the line. I almost wished I were one of them, getting an extra hour to do this reputedly tough course. But hey – how hard could it be? Some hills, some rocks, some more hills, some more rocks…bring it on. Grabbing our packets, which consisted of a bib, a car sticker (NICE!!!), and an epic race shirt, we headed back to the car to wait for our 8am start time. We high-fived fellow Striders and Trailmixers and shared well wishes with many other runners with whom we would soon be sharing an amazing journey. I love how small-town our trail running community is – everyone seemingly knows everyone and it feels like you can’t walk ten steps without hearing someone call your name and wish you good luck.

 

After a few pre-race announcements, the race director sent us off with a circuit around the football field, under the banner, and up the trail. The trail quickly turns to single-track and would get seriously bottlenecked without the lap around the field. I settled into a good pace, at the back of the mid-pack, and felt ready for the task at hand. After a couple of miles of gentle rolling trail with decent footing, the course crosses the road at our first checkpoint. We re-entered the woods and the next few miles are rolling single and double track with a nice stretch of gravel road. Here I fell in with another runner (Laura #2). We struck up a conversation and the trail seemed to just float on by. Up ahead of us I could see two runners that I knew, and we just kept them in sight as we motored along. At about mile 6 there was a sharp right-hand turn off the double track. All of a sudden, Laura and I were alone. I feared that the two runners ahead of us had missed the turn (which ended up being accurate). Since we were worried about the difficult trail ahead, we didn’t try to look for them and just kept pressing forward.

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(photo credit: Colleen Singer)

A little while later we came upon a group of runners and fell in with them. We climbed the false summit just prior to the Bluff Head climb and dropped down to the mile 11 aid station. These were tough miles, making our way around rocks, navigating tricky footing, and climbing steep ascents and descents. Little did we know that the fun was just beginning. After loading up on goodies and fluids at the aid station, we began the REAL climb – a 20 to 40 degree incline that goes straight up to Bluff Head. I remarked to Laura that Mt Greylock is similar to this – for the whole first 3 miles. I kept that in my head as we climbed – at least this one was only about a half mile. Breathing heavily at the top, we stopped briefly to take in the view, not realizing that this WAS the Bluff, and then pressed on. When we figured out that that was the top, Laura went back and snapped a quick few photos and then quickly caught back up with me.

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(photo credit: Laura LaRiviere)

The next few miles were on trails littered with baseball sized rocks covered in a carpet of leaves. Treacherous running for someone who has just climbed up what felt like the equivalent of Mt Everest. We did a LOT of walking through this section. It was frustrating, as we didn’t want to spend so much time not running, but we weren’t willing to risk injury in this remote section of trail. Running when we could and walking when we had to, we navigated this super-technical section as quickly as we dared. The trail turned to easier footing and a lot of downhill, so we made up a bit of time and even caught up to my friend David. We three ran the next few miles together, and soon we popped out on a dirt road by the horse farm that we could see from the top of the Bluff. It had taken us a couple of hours to get somewhere that would have taken 5 minutes as the crow flies. But since I hadn’t packed my parachute, the trail had to do.

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(photo credit: Jennifer Bryant)

Crossing through more woods, we eventually came out on the pavement about a quarter mile from the mile 16 aid station. Oh my god, did it feel good to stretch out my legs!! I managed an 8:30 pace for that short quarter mile, but it did wonders for my psyche and my body. Again loading up on goodies and fluids, we were about to set off for the next section when David stopped and started stretching out a leg. I offered him some salt tabs, which he took, and we left the aid station at a walk. We crossed what should be a bog (but dry because of the drought) on some boardwalks and then the trail quickly turned steep again. Ugh, another nasty climb. Time to grit the teeth and just get it done.

 

Somewhere in the next few miles I dropped Laura and David and was running alone. I just kept plugging forward. The technical trail and steep climbs were taking their toll, but I was determined to finish in under 8 hours. I passed other runners, and other runners passed me. We exchanged a few words of encouragement to each other and kept plodding along. More rocks, a few more small hills, and then more rocks. I knew that eventually we’d be back on the trail home, and that section included the few miles of gravel road and a few miles of double-track. I kept dreaming of that section as I was getting very leg-weary and was beginning to fear a fall. Soon I passed a pond and a fellow runner assured me that the next aid station was just around the pond. Thank goodness he was right, because I had been seriously lacking in taking care of myself and desperately needed food.

 

Rolling into the mile 22 aid station was like striding up to a buffet. It was loaded with all the possible goodies a trail runner could want, and the volunteers stepped up their game by offering us homemade chicken soup. I can’t even begin to tell you how good that tasted!!! I chugged down a cup of orange soda, a cup of water, and then a cup of soup and grabbed some cookies and a half a banana for the road. The volunteers told us that it was a good eight miles till the final aid station, so I made sure I had plenty of water and stuffed a couple of bags of M&Ms in my pack. I headed back out on the final section, which included the much-needed double track and gravel road.

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(photo credit: Colleen Singer)

The eight miles to the next aid station seemed to take forever. I flew down the gravel road, the double track, and the easier footing single-track. The technical parts of the trail were really beginning to trip me up, literally. I prayed that I would get to the finish line without falling. Twice in this section I saved a fellow runner from missing a turn, and was glad he was within shouting distance as it would have been soul-crushing to get lost at this stage of the game. I also came upon a couple of runners who had been lost several times and were almost out of water. This section really took its toll on everyone. Tired and ready for the torture to be over, we commiserated for a few minutes before they headed off down the trail at a much quicker pace than I could sustain at that point.

 

Finally the mile 30 aid station came into view. I got my bottles filled, had some soda and cookies, and texted my husband that I had 2.5 miles left to go and that I was wrecked. That was an understatement. I was also worried about Laura #1, as I had no idea where she was or whether she would finish the race under the time limit. Turns out she had dropped at mile 17, after seeing that second heinous climb. I felt bad. No one likes to drop out of a race, but considering how she’d been feeling I think she made a smart decision.

 

I think this was the lowest point in the race for me. I had been running alone for most of 10 miles. I was getting very tired, I was dehydrated and way under on my nutrition, and I knew I still had 2.5 miles of rolling terrain left to get through. All I could think about was moving forward, and I had been very reluctant to stop and get food out of my pack. I was now paying the price for that foolish decision. This last section saw a few tears, a few tantrums (thank god I was alone) and a lot of bad, bad words. Every time I thought I was done and the finish line was just around the corner, I was wrong. I don’t think two and a half miles had ever felt so far in my life. Finally, after what seemed like hours since I left the last aid station, I started to hear the finish line. As I began the final descent, I thanked the universe for getting me to the end safely and I couldn’t wait to see my husband. I hadn’t looked at my watch in a while because I knew I wasn’t going to get my goal of 8 hours, so I was surprised when I rounded the last corner and saw 8:16 on the clock. Not bad considering I’d been ready to call at a cab from that last aid station.

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(photo credit: Rat Race Timing)

Overall, it had been a pretty spectacular day. The weather was gorgeous; the woods smelled like pine and fallen leaves, and I’d had wonderful company for most of the race. And the pint glass and beanie I got at the finish line were a sweet addition to my pile of swag. To all the volunteers who were out there for 10+ hours taking care of us and feeding us amazing goodies, to race director Jerry Turk who arranged a challenging trail for us to negotiate, and to Laura, David, and all the other runners I shared the trail with, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. A special thanks to Deb Livingston for her wisdom and coaching this past year – you made this an epic season!!!  And as always, I couldn’t have done this without the never-ending support and love I get from my amazing husband Joe. Its been a great year, and it was fun to end the season with the toughest of races!!!

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Nipmuck Trail Marathon race report (or: the day I learned how to be a trail runner)

06 Oct

On Oct. 2, 2016, I ran the Nipmuck Trail Marathon put on by the Shenipsit Striders. The Striders have a wacky sense of humor and put a “high fall risk” sticker on the bibs of first time runners of the race. My main mission at this race was to prove this sticker wrong. Unfortunately, the sticker would turn out to be annoyingly accurate.

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The race starts at Perry Hill Road in Ashford, CT and consists of two out-and-back sections. The first section goes south 6.2 miles to Rt 44. The race returns to Perry Hill Road and then goes north 7 miles to Boston Hollow before making the final return to the finish line back at Perry Hill. I was told that the first 12.4 miles were technical, while the final 14 miles contained more hills but was more runnable. Ha!! I’d like to talk to whoever considers the second part of that race to be more runnable. I’m pretty sure that the entire course was strewn with more rocks and roots than I’d ever seen on a racecourse (ok, with the exception of the Vegan Power 50k in Pittsfield, MA).

 

The gun went off at 8:01am and 100+ runners forged ahead to tackle the trail. I started with my friend Colleen and we ran in close proximity for the first few miles. I consider Colleen to be a much stronger runner than me, so I eventually let her blast down the trail while I slowed to a sustainable pace. I passed Nipmuck Dave and he commented on my VT100 tattoo. I told him that I had only done the 100k and was embarrassed to admit that I’d been too wrecked to get out of bed to watch him complete the 100 miler. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to do that in the future. That guy is an unimaginable badass, completing rugged trail races with the assistance of custom-made crutches. I think we should change his name to Badass Dave.

 

I caught back up with Colleen at the 6.2-mile turn around point. Here was a wonderful aid station stocked with cookies, chips, and Coke. I was stuffing my face when I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard a voice ask, “Do you remember me?” Turns out it was someone I’d sold trail shoes to, and he was here doing his first marathon. We chatted for a minute and then started back on the return trip. Tony asked if he could hang with me and get a feel for pacing a race like this. Hell, I’m no expert but I’m always happy to have someone share the misery. His brother met us several times at road crossings, cheering us on while making fun of us at the same time. We tore into the halfway point like we were being chased by dogs (oh wait, we were. Ok not really, they were Tony’s brother’s dogs, but the picture looked like the hounds of hell were tailing us).

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(photo credit: Dominic Wilson)

The first half of the race was REALLY technical. Lots of rocks, very rooty along the river, and a lot of narrow single track that didn’t make it easy to move off the trail for the oncoming traffic. It’s the nature of trail running, but it makes it near impossible to get into any kind of rhythm. I managed to stay on my feet and keep my wits about me, but I was rapidly tiring and trying not to think about the back half of the race, which was rumored to contain the most elevation change. Tony and I chatted the whole time, and I high-fived all the folks I knew as we passed each other. As we started on the northern section, it became apparent that this was indeed the hilly portion of the race. Yikes.

 

The first quarter mile of the back half took my breath away. Literally. It was a steep climb, and my heart rate spiked well before we reached the crest. Good lord. I prayed that the rest of the miles weren’t all like this. I knew that there was a mile long road section and I was really looking forward to stretching my legs and getting some good strides in. Unfortunately there was a good two miles between us and that road section. Tony became like a drill sergeant, urging me forward when I faltered and telling me not to listen to my brain as it screamed for me to stop. I thought I was hallucinating when I saw a sign in the middle of the woods for free range turkeys. Turns out that was real. I imagined I’d be hearing banjos any second, and that was enough to spur me on.

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(photo credit: Dominic Wilson)

We eventually popped out onto the road and were greeted by Tony’s brother. We didn’t chat long as we planned to take advantage of the easier running to make up a little bit of time. It was a nice, long downhill road section to the Iron Mine aid station where my husband was volunteering. I couldn’t wait to see him, as I knew that would lift my spirits. It felt good to really stretch on that downhill section, but I knew I’d pay for it later in smashed quads. We rounded the corner and the aid station came into view, manned by Marc, Jamie, Joe and Jack (a few of the folks who launched my trail running). I love aid stations that are run by ultra runners, as they contain all the heavenly treats: fresh cold fruit, cookies, boiled salted potatoes, and Coke. Tony and I filled up on goodies and charged off down the trail.

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(photo credit: Marc Scrivener)

It was about this time that I became an anchor. I urged Tony to drop me and just run his own race, but he refused. Part of my reasoning was that if Tony left me I could slow down, so it wasn’t totally unselfish. I was dying. Yes, I had run a 100k but that had been mostly on dirt roads. I hadn’t run this far on single-track trails before, and it was really depleting me. My goal going into the race had been to finish in six and a half to seven hours. I knew that the technicality of the race would take its toll. Tony, however, had different plans.

 

The final few hundred yards before the turn around was a steep set of wooden stairs. Awesome. Just what I needed. Wet, mossy wooden stairs + exhausted legs = OMG someone just kill me. I got down the stairs as quickly as I could because at the bottom was another oasis of an aid station. We spend a little bit of time here, fueling, hydrating, recovering, and joking with the volunteers. Overall I still felt pretty good, despite being tired and heavy-legged. Even though I wanted to hang out and rest, we decided that we should just get started on the final leg of the race. I almost wept at the thought of climbing back up that set of wet, slippery stairs. But drill-sergeant Tony was hot on my heels and barking at me to get a move on.

 

Seven miles. Seven miles and I could stop. But those seven miles were hilly, rocky, slanted trails strewn with dry creek beds and fallen trees. I slowed more and more and Tony got farther and farther ahead of me. Every once in a while he would stop and wait for me to catch up. It was in this section that we caught up to Colleen and passed her. She was doing well, keeping to her plan, and I was happy to see her smiling. Meanwhile, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck but I tried to appear strong as we ran past.

 

It’s amazing how much pain a person can tolerate when you have a relentless voice calling your name from up the trail. Right about then I hated the trail, I hated running, and most of all I hated Tony. I think I even started to whine. What I needed was a kick in the ass, and Tony delivered. He had put up with my shenanigans for a few miles, and told me that even though my brain told me I couldn’t go any farther, he knew that I could. So with renewed enthusiasm (hahahahahaha) I pushed forward. It was right then that the premonition of the “high fall risk” sticker came to fruition. A toe grabber forced a Superman into the dirt. Well, at least I’d managed to wait till a soft spot in the trail and wounded nothing but my pride.

 

Just when I thought we’d never get back to the Iron Mine aid station and my wonderful husband, I spotted Jack and Sasha up ahead on the trail. Finally!!! We again stuffed ourselves with the wonderful spread of goodies before tackling the last few miles. We had the one mile of road (which was unfortunately uphill in the return direction) and then 2.5 miles of rugged, steep trail before a quick downhill to the finish. My energy was flagging again, but Tony still refused to leave me. I wonder if he knew in that moment how appreciative I was of his unwavering encouragement.

 

We powered up the road section and slipped back into the woods. I was repeating the same mantra in my head, similar to Dory but in trail runner fashion (just keep running, just keep running). Back past the free range turkey sign. Up the last seemingly unsurmountable hill. Finally I heard Tony call to me from up the trail. “Come on, Faith. I’m not crossing that finish line until you are by my side!!” With one final push, I dug deep and found the will to keep running. I followed Tony down the hill and under the big yellow “FINISH” banner. Time on the clock: six hours, two minutes, twenty-six seconds. WAY sooner than I expected.

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I managed to stop my watch before I staggered into my husband’s arms, completely spent. Tony had coaxed, cajoled, and pushed me to finish a full half hour under my goal time, while finishing his own first marathon. He had refused to let me give anything less than my best, and for that I will be forever grateful. I am still learning how to overcome my own doubts and fears, and this race taught me that I have much more tenacity and perseverance that I ever thought I had. I had run my first TRUE trail marathon and earned my second blue-blaze log “trophy”. My sincere thanks to my husband Joe for once again supporting me in the crazy journey. Thank you also to all the amazing volunteers (Marc, Jamie, Jack, Sean, Tim, Stacey, Jess and the rest of you awesome people) and to race director David Merkt for putting on a great race and taking excellent care of us out there. Happy Trails!!

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