First Race of 2015 – Syracuse Half Marathon

syracuse halfThat title sounds so exciting, but unfortunately my performance was not ūüėČ But hey – you gotta get that first race of the season out of the way! So why not do it surrounded by some of your greatest friends – who both shared the race course with you and stood on the sidelines in less than ideal weather to support the team. Although I wasn’t thrilled with my race I wasn’t down about it because I knew this race was going to be a test of my fitness. I’ve been a hermit this winter – enduring most of my miles on the treadmill. I have only done one speed work session outside. And craziest of all – I haven’t raced on the road since…gulp…the beginning of September! And that was a 5k.¬†This race would be interesting…

Last year I found myself ill-prepared for the race conditions after traveling to Syracuse with only my racing flats that have zero tread on them. The slick, snow-covered roads did not agree with my attempts to run hard. Instead I opted to have one amazing race experience by running with one of my dearest friends Kate. You may remember our finishing shot – I know I sure do – I love this photo of shared friendship!
syracuse half finishHowever this year I came prepared. And true to Syracuse fashion I awoke Sunday morning to look outside and see a fresh blanket of snow. It wasn’t nearly as daunting as usual – maybe I’m just used to waking up at Marc and Amy’s on race morning, taking a look outside, and contemplating throwing the covers back over my head to sleep right through the race. I also think that my mental state going into this race was “no expectations”. I set out to pick up my teammate Jeremy on the way downtown and it started as a slow drive on the slippery back roads. Soon enough the sun came out and it looked to be an awesome day ahead. The only other challenge was to survive the cold – the temps were in the teens and the wind chill took a good 10 degrees off that. But hey, I had my inov-8 Trailroc 150’s this year so I knew the terrain wouldn’t be an issue.

I was happy we arrived early because the Oncenter was jam packed. Bathroom lines were an issue as well as simply navigating through the building. Luckily they announced a 15 minute delay but unfortunately it wasn’t enough time to get the full Strong Hearts Run Club/Strong Hearts Vegan Power team into the group shot ūüė¶ So here we are in two parts.

Ray, Jeremy, Joel, Peter, Sean, Suzie and I

Ray, Jeremy, Joel, Peter, Sean, Suzie and I

buffalo

Carrie, Julie & Scott

It was time to step outside and I had no time for a warm-up. I’ve gotten used to skipping my warm up for trail and ultra races, so I didn’t stress too much about this. But damn it was cold! The sunshine helped but I was ready to get started. The gun went off and what do ya know – I wasn’t slipping! I feel like I had a smile on my face because this race was already an improvement over last year. 2 girls led the charge and I simply concerned myself with settling in to a comfortable pace. I did not think that winning was on the table today, so I did not pressure myself to go too hard or chase anyone down.

When I hit the first mile I wasn’t happy with my split, but I also wasn’t surprised.¬†To put a positive twist on it I convinced myself that maybe all of this ultra running has taught me to pace¬†better. Perhaps I was¬†going to ease into this race and get faster as I go. Well I was wrong there, but it was a good practice in positive mental attitude ūüôā I was able to pass the girl who was in 2nd place¬†early on, but the leader was¬†far ahead and there was no chance of me¬†gaining¬†ground on her. At mile 3 a spectator told me she was 400 meters ahead¬†and although I always appreciate receiving feedback like that, I knew it wasn’t going to make me go any faster. There was a definite highlight of this race – passing one of the female traffic enforcers she simply said to me¬†“Go kick those guys’ asses.” It was very blunt – no excitement in her voice – it made me laugh ūüôā

The course was in great shape considering the prior day’s weather – thanks to the race crew who spent the morning salting for us! Although my pace was slower than I would have liked to my surprise I was staying consistent. At some point past the halfway¬†mark I could hear that there was another girl closing in on me. When she made her pass I offered her words of encouragement – she was looking strong! One blatant error I made was opting not to take in nutrition. I normally would during a half. I was wearing my super-bulky-warm gloves and my gel was zipped into my back pocket. The thought of taking off a glove to get it seemed way too challenging. I justified this by deciding it would be a glycogen-depleting run. However I don’t think you should practice this during a race ūüôā Honestly I don’t think it hurt me – it was lack of fitness that got me that day – plain and simple.

Within the last 2 miles another girl passed me. Coming into the last mile I thought I may be able to catch her but I didn’t put in any effort to do so. I simply maintained. I picked the spot where I would kick and when I arrived decided I didn’t have it in me to kick yet. I picked the next spot, and again realized it wasn’t there. I wasn’t passing anyone, and I surely wasn’t anywhere near a PR, so I finished my race satisfied with my effort for the day. I don’t think I left it all out there, but anytime I thought I¬†should try to¬†go harder I kept the thought of this weekend’s marathon in the back of my mind.

Hitting the finish line. Strong Hearts to the front! Photo credit: Kendra Murphy

Hitting the finish line. Strong Hearts to the front! Photo credit: Kendra Murphy

I finished in 1:26:47 – minutes away from my PR but I will take it for an early season race in cold weather. I was the 4th overall female and placed 1st in the 35-39 Age Group. It always feels great to be back out on the race course and today was no different! Now I have a better idea of where I stand fitness-wise and it’s time to build off that.

All of the Strong Hearts crew had a great race in less-than-ideal conditions. A special shout-out to Suzie who completed her first half marathon! She’s been training hard for this day and she killed it! #strongheartsrun #tothefront

Joel finishing with Suzie

Joel finishing with Suzie Photo Credit: Thad Jackson

 

 

Advertisements

I found my match! Inov-8 Race Ultra Vest

To say I am picky about my methods of hydration is an understatement. Let’s face it – I drink A LOT while training and racing. Some people give me odd looks and/or make fun of me. I don’t care. I’m a thirsty girl. Of the many lessons I’ve learned over the years one of the most important for me is to HYDRATE! Waking up in an ambulance after collapsing on a race course from a heat stroke will do that to you.

Hydration is easy on the bike – so many options and places to store bottles of fluids. There are also various options for running – handheld bottles of varying sizes, waist packs that can hold multiple flasks/bottles/gel packs, etc. And then there are packs. All of them have their positives and negatives. If you are anything like me you’ve probably tried them all. I’m at the point where upon opening my “gear cabinet”, run-specific bottles and flasks come a-tumbling. I like options.

Handhelds are okay for shorter runs, but I¬†get really annoyed¬†by¬†carrying anything in my hands. Waist packs can also be good for shorter runs, and they offer options for conveniently carrying other gear like keys, food, and you cell phone. However I don’t always have the easiest time removing and replacing the bottles while I’m running. And of course there is inevitably some sort of “bounce” factor. My favorite way to go is the pack. They can hold large amounts of fluid which sets my mind at ease, and most have extra storage/pockets for other goodies.

Although I prefer packs, there are times when¬†they just seem like “too much.”¬†That was until¬†the inov-8 Race Ultra Vest came into my life. It may sound clich√©, but it was a game-changer for a hydration junkie like myself.¬†A dream come true for a thirsty minimalist! As soon as I strapped it on I was in love.
raceultravestConfession time:¬†when it first arrived I actually wore it around the house that day. I was so excited by its sleek design and badass look I just couldn’t resist! And the comfort? Okay it was empty at the time but it fit unlike any pack I’ve ever tried.¬†With adjustment straps¬†across the chest and on the sides you could practically¬†mold this¬†bad boy to your torso. A hydration vest that works well for a petite¬†female? Pinch me!

Time to put the vest to the test

The first time I used the vest I opted to fill the reservoir only which holds 2 liters. The reservoir fits nicely into an insulated sleeve which then drops into the large stretch mesh pocket in the rear. The straw is insulated as well and can be fed through the shoulder straps on either side of the pack.
raceultravest2The nozzle has an on/off option and a cap that can either be used to keep dirt out or be removed entirely. I tend to use¬†the cap¬†only during travel and remove it when it’s time to run. When using the pack without the bottles this opens up 2 large pockets in the front to stash lots of handy items – cell phone, trail snacks, etc. But fear not, there are still 2 additional stretch mesh pockets on each side that although may be narrow at the opening (which is great for security like your key and/or money) can hold a lot of items as well!
raceultravest3I set off on my run with a full pack and immediately fell in love with the snug fit that kept the vest from bouncing around. I realized that I would be relying heavily on this vest for training runs!

The big question for me –¬† would the addition of the 2 –¬†500 ml bottles throw me off by making the pack too wide? Surprisingly they were not in the way at all. They are angled in a¬†fashion¬†as to not hinder your arm swing, which also makes them easier to retrieve and replace on the run. Each pocket has a bungee strap that stretches over the cap to¬†keep the bottles from flying out on rugged terrain.¬†The small pull tab make the bungees easy to maneuver as well. So now I can have 2 liters of water and another 1000 ml of electrolyte drink. Score!

Other cool things to mention? The whistle that is latched onto the chest strap of course! Go ahead bears, try me.
braveheart bearAlthough the vest is not made for a ton of storage, the reservoir pocket on the back is stretchy enough to allow for some gear. So far I’ve used it for a trail map (I’m forever getting lost), gloves and sleeves. I’m sure you could stash a few¬†other small items in there as well.

I’ve now raced twice with this pack – once with the bottles and once without. Complaints? None that I can find yet! And although I’ve (mostly) given up wearing it around the house, I have definitely put some miles in. I’ve even used it on a shorter run that required me to carry some gear. I removed the insulation sleeve and reservoir and had lots of space to store things.

The pack in action!

SRT 20 miler - with bottles. Photo credit: Tom Bushey

SRT 20 miler – with bottles. Photo credit: Tom Bushey

Blues Cruise 50k - without bottles. Photo credit: Jim Blandford

Blues Cruise 50k – without bottles. Photo credit: Jim Blandford

So there you have it – the Race Ultra Vest is the perfect fit for me. It’s no surprise that this vest has been¬†the recipient of some big time¬†awards. If you love getting lost in the trails for hours and are looking for a minimalist pack that provides all the necessities while at the same time is barely noticeable – I highly recommend you check this one out!
Race_Ultra_Vest_awardSee you on the trails!

SRT 20 miler

I’m very lucky to have so many amazing trails within minutes of my house. Since moving to New Paltz, NY in February, the Shawangunk¬†Mountains have¬†been my playground.

I decided to participate in the Shawangunk Ridge Trail run/hike 20 miler as a tune-up and test for my 50k this coming weekend. In the inaugural event, Ken and Todd offered 3 days of racing to those who share the thrill of running wild on the trails of Hudson Valley. A 74-mile jaunt began Friday night. Out of 5 starters, only one man finished – kudos to him for toughing it out! Saturday hosted the 32 mile option – this one tempted me but I am not yet prepared to run such long distances so close in proximity. Plus, I heard that the first section of the 32-mile race was brutal! I opted for the 20-miler on Sunday, which turned out to be a perfect option for me.

Trail blazes marked our course

Trail blazes marked our course

The race was point-to-point and un-supported which made it interesting. The trails were blazed by the Trail Conference, but there were no other markings. There was a GPS app you could download and 2 checkpoints along the course, but beyond that you were on your own. About half of the race took you through some great technical trails. You then transition onto the roads and run down the mountain before turning onto the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail for the last few miles to the finish.

When we were released onto the trails, I went off the front along with 3 other guys – I could tell this was going to be a fast race. As the leader Jason pulled away I jumped in front of the other 2 guys for our first section of climbing. Before long we hit some descents and I could hear the 2 guys coming up quickly. I stepped aside to let them pass – this was a “training” race and I was not about to take any risks. This allowed the 3 guys to open a substantial gap on me but I was fine with this. Before even hitting 2 miles one of them went down hard with a twisted ankle. After making sure he was okay I once again took off into the woods – still a lot of miles ahead!

Passing through checkpoint one it was time for the long, gradual climb along Old Minnewaska Trail. I could see one, then both men ahead of me as I made my way along the path feeling both strong and confident. When I made my first pass I urged him to hop on as Jason was just ahead of us, but I continued on alone. When I reached Jason I let him know that no one was with me and we chatted for a while as we hopped onto the Undivided Lot trail – one of my favorites! I offered to take a turn pulling but Jason had a different idea. He said he would pull me through the woods if I pulled him up the hills and along the road. I have to admit Jason – I did not want to be pulled through the woods ūüėČ But I am not opposed to working together, and thought maybe it was a smart idea to settle in for a while and save myself for later in the race. Jason again took the descents with a tenacity that I was not¬†willing to¬†partake in¬†that day. And sure enough he took a rough tumble in turn. He appeared to be no worse for the wear and continued on. Once we got to the first “climb” in that section it was my turn to take over and pull. But I realized pretty quickly that Jason wasn’t coming with me. Sorry Jason – it was time to run my race! (read Jason’s race report here)

Photo credit: Tom Bushey

Photo credit: Tom Bushey

Crossing over the road onto Chapel Trail – I forgot how tough that¬†section is! I resorted to power-hiking at that point – this year I have learned when to embrace the power hike as a smart move and not to be ashamed of it! I was excited to arrive at Spring Farm because I knew there was only a little bit of climbing left to do on this course. I became anxious when I did not see a checkpoint there, as this was the section of the course I was unsure of. I came across Ken and asked him about the trails ahead. He assured me that I wouldn’t have any issues finding my way and I left it at that – forgetting he doesn’t know me and how easily I become lost ūüėČ Sure enough I popped out onto the carriage road, turned in the direction I knew was correct, but quickly questioned my route. I stopped halfway up a climb to look around, then started heading back down the hill before realizing I would have to run it again if it was in fact the correct route.¬†I then resorted to pulling out my phone, pulling up the app, and confirming that I was on course. Phew! Now I took off at almost a sprint to make up for that unwanted break.

Photo credit: Tom Bushey

Photo credit: Tom Bushey

Before long I hit the second checkpoint onto Mountain Rest Road. This is a long, steep, and curvy downhill that I love…to ride on the bike. It was refreshing to hit the¬†pavement and pick up the pace, but within only minutes I was ready to get off that road! My quads were not happy with the pace I was tackling and the¬†undulating stretch¬†seemed to go on forever. Once you get to the bottom of the mountain you turn onto another road that offers a short climb (to which my legs were not happy to¬†respond) before turning down another road with a steep descent. I reasoned with myself that the faster¬†I ran, the sooner I would be on the rail trail ūüėČ

20140921SRTrace

Photo credit: Tom Bushey

Onto the rail trail at last – at a spot where I run a majority of my recovery miles. A section where miles¬†tend to tick away quickly and effortlessly. Not today! The heat and humidity were starting to really take their toll and I felt like I was moving backwards. Passing the Rail Trail Caf√© where I knew I’d be enjoying lunch soon gave me that last boost knowing I had less than 2 miles to go. And finally the trestle bridge – with no shade¬†and thick, hot air I definitely got that dizzy feeling that the diagonal planks create. The finish line was just ahead and I was happy to see it!

Throughout the day runners continued to venture in – everyone wearing smiles from an awesome adventure on a challenging yet fun course. The race was exactly what I had hoped for. I was happy with how I paced it and how I felt – just the confidence boost I needed! And of course I was aiming for the overall award…
SRT awardCongrats to everyone who tackled any of the SRT challenges! Thank you to Ken and Todd for creating such a cool event. And of course thank you to Inov-8 and 110% for providing¬†gear that allows me to run my best! This was my first time racing in my x-talon 190’s. I knew they would not be necessary for the road and rail trail portion of the race, but I was definitely happy to have them for the technical sections. And they did not feel uncomfortable or slow me down on the road and rail trail. This was my first time racing with the Race Ultra Vest and testing the full fluid capacity (2 liter reservoir + 2-500 ml bottles). I will be writing a product review of this vest soon, but for now I will tell you this was more comfortable to race in than I imagined! Another staple to my trail racing are 110%’s Flat Out Sox. Tackling long miles on uneven terrain my legs welcome these fatigue-reducing compression socks to keep me feeling fresh through the finish line.

Finish time – 2:32
Lunch on the course – vegan bean & sweet potato burrito ūüôā

Canadian for a day – 5k Road Race Championship

torontoToronto! A city I’ve heard so many great things about but had yet to visit. This was the host city of the 2014 Canadian 5k Road Race Championship. As an American, this wasn’t a race I had any reason or interest to compete in…until…my long time friend and fellow athlete Shari Boyle suggested¬†it as¬†the¬†innagural race we compete in together. Over years of friendship we have often talked about racing together. Shari focuses on track running throughout most of the year while I on the other hand have been devoting my time and attention to longer distances. A 5k was a great compromise ūüôā

Here's a picture of us enjoying bananas. Because, why not?

Here’s a picture of us enjoying bananas. Because, why not?

The B&O Yorkville Run has traditionally attracted fast runners. We’re talking way outta my league runners. Which meant this was a nice race to go into with no pressure¬†and a field competitive enough to possibly pull me along¬†to a PR. It was a great opportunity to¬†run my own race, test my legs, and enjoy a trip to a new city spending time with a great friend.
vegfestAs an added bonus it also happened to be the weekend of Toronto Vegfest – which is¬† the largest Vegfest. This is like a dream come true for a vegan but a curse for a runner who is racing the following day. We checked out the vendors, had a few samples, and I may or may not have snagged some goodies from Apiecalypse Now for the drive home Sunday…
apiecalypse nowBack to the racing… Deep down I wanted a¬†PR. However I haven’t raced an “open” 5k since January of this year – in the snow. My training definitely hasn’t been geared towards 5k racing so I wasn’t sure what I could do. That made it exciting ūüôā

It was a perfect day for racing – sun was out but it wasn’t too warm or too cool. I arrived at the race site and met up with Shari for a warm-up run. It was so cool to finally run with her – I was having so much fun catching up that it took my mind off the actual race. The course was somewhat rectangular with a¬†modest downhill start and a slight but steady “uphill” in the middle. Turns out Shari races like me – go out hard and hold on ūüėČ We decided this was the perfect course for our type of racing. We would take advantage of that fast start for sure!

It was time to line up and I still wasn’t nervous – ready to go out and see what I could do. I lined up with Shari because I knew absolutely no one there. They set us loose and sure enough the pace was fast! So many females ahead of me, but that’s what I was expecting and it didn’t¬†concern me. For once I was racing myself.

My one regret is that I didn’t keep track of my splits. I didn’t take the time to check what my goal kilometer pace should be so I didn’t bother even hitting the lap timer on my watch at each marker. Although it would’ve been nice to know my pace, it was also refreshing to race totally by feel. Because of this I was¬†more aware of how I felt the whole race and that ended up being what made it most memorable. I didn’t run a PR, I didn’t run a sub-18, but I felt steady and strong the whole way. I was able to pass 2 women – both of whom ended up being in my age group. I had a strong kick through the finish which first surprised me, then made me feel kick-ass, but then had me pondering¬†– did I¬†run¬†hard enough the entire race?

Note to self: if you want a finisher pic, make sure to pass the dude in front of you.

Note to self: if you want a finisher pic, make sure to pass the dude in front of you.

Overall I was happy with my race and my effort. Running all these long, slow miles – mostly on trails – with very little speedwork had me thinking I would come up empty at this race. My result just fueled my training fire!

Shari ran along with me the entire race and her strong showing earned her 3rd overall master! A great result…and she got the BIG check!

Cha-ching!

Cha-ching!

I didn’t think Americans were eligible for awards at the Canadian National Championship, but sure enough they called me up to the stage as the first overall female in the 35-39 age group.
19481-0991b5-23114507

Yeah! Not only did I get to race with Shari, but we got to share the stage too ūüôā
awardsI’m excited that we’re going to make this an annual tradition. Not necessarily in Toronto, but we’ll find a 5k to race every year. Fun adventures ahead! For now, back to ultra training (although I still want a 5k PR before the year is over…)

Finish time – 18:04

0 SPF with #TrailsRoc

logo

When I saw that there was a USATF Niagara Regional Trail Championship Race in Rochester, I said “why not?” After 2 weekends of short course racing a half marathon on trails seemed more my speed. I was looking forward to this race but at the same time I was off my game leading up to it. Normally for a new race I research past results to generate a race goal for myself and check out the course map and profile to get an idea of what I’m up against. For this race I went into it knowing nothing. And it was¬†a¬†refreshing change ūüôā

I arrived at the race site feeling relaxed. Eric Eagan, the incredibly welcoming and generous race director, asked if I wanted any information about the course to which I declined. At this point I was ready to find out for myself. As the race start drew closer I started to see GVH jerseys milling around and that’s when I realized that this was going to be a tough race with some fast runners!
profileSure enough when we were released onto the trails the pace was fast and there was a female hanging tight.¬†I was feeling rough¬†and was afraid that the pace I was running would surely lead to a melt-down later. Although I¬†didn’t know¬†where the 2nd female was in that first mile I could hear her behind me. My descending skills have¬†been pretty sharp this year, and I feel that during the first major descent I was able to put a small¬†gap on her. That gave me some relief as I worked my way along the out-and-back course.

Photo credit: Michael Lesher

Photo credit: Michael Lesher

The course itself was great Рit had a little bit of everything. A lot of single track but also some field crossings, road crossings, stream crossings, steep climbs and drops Рa great all-around trail course. The road crossings were the most challenging for me. There was no stopping traffic for this race so on the way back I had prolonged breaks at each crossing waiting for traffic to clear. I tried to embrace these breaks, but instead I was concerned about the 2nd female closing on me.

Chair hill. Photo credit: Tim Raggets

Chair hill. Photo credit: Tim Raggets

After the final road crossing there was one more challenge to face – the hill leading up to the power lines. I will admit that¬†I was reduced to some power-hiking at this point. Hearing a photographer cheering from high atop one of the towers gave me that extra push. He also let me know the time gap I had on the 2nd female which helped my spirits ūüôā

Power line hill on the way down. Photo credit: Michael Lesher

Power line hill on the way down. Photo credit: Michael Lesher

One of my favorite things about an out-and-back course is knowing exactly what you have to go through to get to the finish. I knew what was ahead of me and I knew what my lead was, so I was able to enjoy the rest of my run into the finish line.

Heading to the finish line. Photo credit: Michele Fanton

Heading to the finish line. Photo credit: Michele Fanton

finish line

After crossing as the first overall female I was told that I had the course record! Bonus ūüôā

A congratulatory high-five from Eric Eagan - a top-notch race director!

A congratulatory high-five from Eric Eagan – a top-notch race director!

I was happy with my race and really enjoyed both the course and the and the atmosphere that the #TrailsRoc crew created. For anyone living in the USATF Niagara region – I highly recommend this race. Also check out other races in the #TrailsRoc series – I am sure they are all a blast!

Finishing time – 1:57:10

Maryland Olympic Duathlon

This was my 3rd year racing Rip It Event’s Maryland Olympic Duathon and the 3rd year I’ve had a great experience with a well-run event. Dan, Suzy and their crew have race organization and execution nailed! This is what keeps bringing me back year after year.

I arrived at Western Regional Park and was greeted with the usual flawless procedure. Suzy sees me and grabs my packet for me Рno waiting. Then I quickly gain entry to the transition to find my marked spot. I am a total creature of habit and thrive on consistency. Knowing that I can show up at this race each year and have everything run so smoothly means I can stay focused on pre-race prep. As an added bonus this year, the elite field had T-Blocks for racking their bikes. If you have experienced racing with these, you understand how exciting this was! Especially when you are vertically challenged like me and your mini bike always dangles from the rack. I knew that faster transition times were on tap today! (my 1st transition was 2 seconds faster and my 2nd transition 5 seconds faster than last year!)

Elite female bikes in the T-BLOCKS

Elite female bikes in the T-BLOCKS

After a short warm-up (man that humidity was already thick for my now-northern blood!) it was time to line up at the start with the tough competition this race draws year after year. I didn’t have an exact plan or strategy for this race. I feel totally comfortable with¬†the course¬†and although last year was a bit of a let-down, my plan was simply to improve on last year’s time. I wasn’t feeling great but I wasn’t feeling bad either. My biggest hang-up was not having race wheels on my bike, but I figured I would use that disadvantage to ride harder ūüėČ

Elite female start

Elite female start

The gun went off – I am used to leading the first run at this race but that wasn’t the case this year! Last year Julia Roman-Duval, the super-runner, was hot on my heels and came into T1 a mere 3 seconds behind me. This year about 1/4 mile in she made her pass, and I was smart to let her go! She was running strong and it wouldn’t have been¬†a good¬†idea for¬†me to try to stay with her. I finished the first 2 mile loop in 12:14 – 9 seconds slower than last year and 10 seconds behind Julia. I was able to make up that time and was first out of T1 onto the bike course for the lonely first loop through the rolling hills of Western Howard County. Once again the course was well-marked and well-staffed with volunteers – a fun yet challenging ride!

Heading out on the bike

Heading out on the bike

It was like deja-vu as I was finishing loop 1 of the bike – at the last turn I looked back to see Emily Richard closing fast. Starting the second loop she made her pass but I didn’t let it get me down. I planned to keep her in sight and reminded myself of Nationals in May where I was able to come from behind after being passed on the bike. If I didn’t let her get¬†too big¬†of a¬†gap, I should be able to make it up on the final 4 mile run. The rest of the ride was uneventful. No other females passed me so I kept my confidence high. I felt comfortable but still not as strong as I would like to feel. Despite not having race wheels this year my bike was 11 seconds faster than last year.
bike

T2 - ready to run

T2 – ready to run

Coming into T2, as I was running the bike in I saw Emily heading out onto her run. I had work to do. Normally my second run is where I feel strong, but this time my legs felt like I was running through peanut butter. I was not happy about this and hoped I would feel some improvement quick. I saw Emily up ahead and she was running strong. I felt like I was slowly closing the gap but was going to need more if I wanted to make this happen. We made our way down the hill to the 180 turn to head back up. I drew from my strength on the hills and convinced myself I could do this. As we entered the park I started closing on her and at about 1 1/2 miles in I made my pass.

I don’t feel comfortable making a pass if I can’t create some cushion with it. Coming towards the transition to start loop 2 a spectator told me she was right there –¬†just as I expected. I used the crowd to draw some energy as I headed out onto loop 2. The heat and humidity were taking their toll – nothing unusual at this race! With only 2 miles to go it was time to dig deep. Did I think about last weekend’s race up a mountain? You bet! I told myself that these hills were nothing compared to what I endured at Loon Mountain.

That was the motivation I needed to¬†push me to the finish. I made my way up the little risers into the park and knew right where I wanted to launch my final push. At this point I saw that I had a substantial gap so I didn’t need to turn myself inside out. As I neared the finish line I saw that I was about to beat last year’s time. Success! I was over 2 minutes faster than last year for the win! Still not as fast as my first victory in 2012, but I was happy with how the race played out. Next year I definitely need to shoot for a PR!
finishAnother awesome MD Olympic Du in the books Рwell worth the trip. I always meet such awesome competitors at these races. Emily Richard, Jessica Koltz, Julia Roman-Duval, Jennifer Cortesi and Alison Gittelman made up the elite field of women, and they were all the most friendly and fierce athletes. It was also nice to see other familiar faces in the mix. Laura Bergmann took the age group overall, Tracy Lempke took 4th in her age group, and Jim Drumm took 6th in his age group. Congrats to all!

Me (1), Emily Richard (2), Jessica Koltz (3)

Me (1), Emily Richard (2), Jessica Koltz (3)

Run 1 – 12:14.0
T1 – :48.9
Bike – 1:16.01
T2 – :52.4
Run 2 – 27:21.0
Total – 1:57:18.1

 

Loon Mountain Race – US Mountain Running Championship

LMR logo

What possessed me to sign up for the US Mountain Running Championship? I guess I was curious and wanted to try something new. My love affair with trail running is quickly becoming my #1 addiction, so why not try racing up a mountain?

In the weeks leading up to the event the race was receiving more hype and I was starting to see the names of women competing in this event. Yikes! This was serious business. And what was I doing? Focusing on Ironman training ūüė¶ Being a multisport athlete is a blessing and a curse – I love being able to compete in so many different events, yet without ever truly focusing on one sport it’s hard to get your best performance in any of them.

In the days leading up to the race that’s when the real¬†doubt set in. I started questioning why I hadn’t done any hill repeat training on the trails when I live in the perfect place to do so. I contemplated squeezing in some stair climber interval workouts at the gym. Instead I worried about my long run for the week, and snuck in 13.5 miles on the trails Wednesday night. Although I was bummed that I couldn’t get a 6 hour ride outside on Friday due to the heavy rain, perhaps it was meant to be that I only mustered 3 hours on the trainer. Obviously a taper for this event wasn’t on the schedule. The constant battle in my head¬†between “the next race” and “the big picture” was raging as I started to regret the fact that I wasn’t going to be bringing my A-game to this race. I needed to change my mindset, and quick!

Luckily I had plenty of distractions over the holiday weekend. Saturday took me to the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary July Jamboree, followed by the long drive to NH. I stayed with a friend 90 minutes from the race site which kept me away from what I had to face the next morning. Arriving at Loon Mountain bright and early Sunday morning and seeing the terrain was super-intimidating – seeing the competition mulling around the parking lot – even more so! But the weather was better than anyone could ask for and it was time to give it my best shot!

Quietly tucked in behind the big guns

Quietly tucked in behind the big guns

I lined up at the start line for the women’s 8:00 am gun time. By this point the nerves were full blast so I took some centering breaths. Looking around me I knew that we would be going off at a crazy pace. “It’s only 8k” I kept reminding myself…
startI read that the leaders hit the .5 mile mark at 5:30 pace. Um, yeah…even though I was not right up front, that’s not where I should be running at a mountain race! Time to settle down, get my head in the game, and power through this the best I could.

Hitting the 1/2 mile mark before starting to climb

Hitting the 1/2 mile mark before starting to climb – I’m tucked behind Magdalena

The course? Up, up and up. The footing wasn’t exactly what I was expecting – rocky dirt trails that were dry and deep. When you hit the steep spots you noticed how loose it was. My inov-8 trailroc 150’s (my go-to trail shoe) were a great choice for this race. They have the grip and protection for the rockier spots, yet are super lightweight and flexible to carry me up the ascents.

Photo credit: Scott Mason

Photo credit: Scott Mason

The climb to the gondola was probably the most energy-sapping. It seemed to go on forever. I had not been sitting in a good position the whole race and was just trying to not get passed at this point. It’s a lonely race with not many spectators tackling the slopes to cheer us on. At one point there was a lone spectator and he told me “you’re still in the top 30!” Perhaps this was meant to make me feel better, but it surely didn’t. Everything ached – my legs of course, but also my arms and lungs. The only thing I knew going into this race was that the finish was up the infamous Upper Walking Boss – which averages a 40% grade for about a 1/2 mile. All I had to do was make it to that point.

1 mile to go & looking rough! Photo credit: SNAPacidotic

1 mile to go & looking rough! Photo credit: SNAPacidotic

I reached the gondola and it was nice to be greeted by spectators! What came next was a long descent. I feel like I have really progressed in my descending so I was excited to have the opportunity to make up some time. Unfortunately my legs were not quite as eager – they felt like rubber and I fought just to keep myself upright! I still managed to pass my first competitor at this point which gave me a small mental boost.

But I knew this “break” would come to an end and soon enough I rounded a corner to see a sign “Welcome to Upper Walking Boss.” I took one look up and was in awe of this climb. I almost wanted to stop and soak it all in, but no time for that – the finish line was at the top of this mountain! Somehow I was able to pass a few people during this 10 minute climb. There’s not much excitement in power-hike-passing other power-hikers, but a pass is a pass! As we neared the pinnacle there were signs marking our distance to the finish. With 100 meters left to go I started to run and passed my last competitor to take it to the finish line. (there is a great picture of this, but I’m not willing to pay $28 for a copy, so we can just picture it in our minds ūüôā )

8k in 56:59 Рdefinitely felt like the longest 8k ever! Preliminary results placed me 18th so I was pretty excited. Later that day I was bumped to 20, then the next morning my final spot was at 21. What a bummer. But it also makes me hungry to come back next year and have a better showing!

Although this wasn’t my initial feeling upon completing the race, I can now say that I am looking forward to future mountain races!
LoonWomen_zps37f5dabe