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 🙂

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 🙂

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 😉 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.
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Yeah! Not only did I get to race with Shari, but we got to share the stage too 🙂
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

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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 🙂

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 – it had a little bit of everything. A lot of single track but also some field crossings, road crossings, stream crossings, steep climbs and drops – a 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 🙂

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 🙂

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 – no 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 😉

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.
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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 – well 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 😦 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 🙂 )

8k in 56:59 – definitely 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

 

 

Long Course Duathlon National Championships

Last year’s motivating phrase on my pre-race bottle has faded long ago. I was waiting for another one to come along and strike my fancy. After Saturday’s race, I’ve decided that this one needs to stay:

“How long will it take you to arrive? However long it takes you to unlearn your doubt.”
bottle
This summed up my race entirely, as I was reminded to never count myself out or give up. I went into this race with 0 confidence. And it was showing. Not only was it hard for me to get into race mode for whatever reason, I also felt that my evident lack of bike fitness would make for a very depressing race. Knowing only some of the competition that was going to be there, and their abilities compared to where I was at, in my mind this was a race for silver in my age group at best (exactly what I thought in France 2012).

It was also a race where I got to see a bunch of friends so no matter what the day brought I knew it would be fun! As we were lined up at the start the words of Gail Kattouf rang true – “I’m going to give it the old college try.” And that’s all we can do – go out there and race our own races while having fun doing what we love!

With 338 Long Course finishers at a mass start, we knew this race was going to be chaotic. And starting with the men is never good for my pace 😉 My plan had been to hang with the lead females on the first 5 mile run to get a sense of what I could expect, but as usual I went out at my own pace and totally forgot the plan! When I hit mile 1 at 5:59 I felt relieved that I was keeping it under control. Another female blazed by me and I immediately looked for the “R” for relay on her calf – it wasn’t there. But I did see the age marking of 23 and knew it was best to let her go.

The first out-and-back run was uneventful. We met some challenges on the course with some flooded and muddy spots along a paved trail which proved to be very slippery. But now we knew what to expect for the next 3 passes. I came into T1 in 30:49 and was feeling good. Now, onto the bike…

As expected, within mere minutes Gail came blazing by me. I was excited to see her doing her thing and gave her some encouragement as she sped by. Gail is the strongest female cyclist I know, and it’s always cool to see her in action, even if it’s only for a brief moment 🙂 As the short course athletes were also on the course at this time, there was some bunching to start. And also some traffic. As I was behind a car waiting for an opportunity to get around, 2 more females passed me but I barely even noticed as I was focused on finding my own way out of this mess. Shortly after things started to open up and it was time to get into my groove.

Unlike my inability to stick to my initial run plan, I am happy to say that I was able to pace myself appropriately on the bike. Since my bike fitness isn’t where it should be, I knew that going out at a “panicked” pace would only make my day tougher. Fading at the end of the bike only to have to run another 5 miles is not the best scenario. At around mile 20 the next female arrived. She was the 2nd one I was expecting to pass me, so again, no surprises there. I now had the game plan of keeping her in sight for the remaining 12 miles.

This is where my negative self-talk really crept in, as I realized that this race was playing out exactly as I had imagined it. So there it was – my expectations of a mediocre race were coming to fruition – probably in part because it was already crafted in my head to end this way. My thoughts created my reality. That made me mad. At myself. I know how important the mental game is and I was losing. So I just put my head down and carried on.

With these frustrations already clouding my mind, the last portion of the bike led to even more irritation. Around mile 25 a pace line of 3 guys passed me. I dropped back, only to find that they had slowed down their pace. So I passed them. Nothing annoys me more than blatant cheating – even if it’s not affecting me. It’s just embarrassing. Of course, they passed me again. This time after I dropped back I let them move on ahead. I did not want to be anywhere near them. I was happy to be back on my own until about 3 miles from the finish – all of a sudden packs of riders are flying by me. The effects of the mass start were now hitting. There was no way out of this. If I wasn’t being boxed into the shoulder, I was on the outside feeling like I was blocking as riders were 3-4 across the lane the whole way through. Here I was feeling like I was finishing the bike strong, only to see my position threatened by other females in the pack. Perhaps this is what fueled the start of my second run…

I came into T2 in 5th place (however I forgot about the 2 girls who passed me that I didn’t know, and thought I was in 3rd). I fumbled a bit in transition, but it was good enough to head out onto the run in 4th place. I felt strong. I thought I had mentally lost my fight, but it was still here. I was right in front of Rachel and I knew she was a strong runner. If only I could hold her off, I could take 1st in the age group.

About a mile in I look up the road and see Gail. This brought mixed emotions. I know Gail would have crushed me on the bike, and since she is an equally strong runner, she would’ve been way ahead of me. Coming back from a year off I figured this was injury-related, and no one wants to see their friend struggle. Being the amazing competitor she is, she greeted me only with a smile and words of encouragement pushing me along. Love this woman! A true athlete. Now it was up to me to forge ahead.

As I neared the turn-around I came upon my friend and travel companion Marty Stiegmann also hobbling and in pain. Man – this course was tearing up my friends! Next thing I saw – females #1 and #2 coming back. Damn! I forgot about them! I had much more work to do. It was time to dig deep and use my strengths. The back side of the course had a lot of short risers and I had been feeling strong on these. So I used them to gain some ground and try to increase the gap on Rachel whom I knew was right behind me. I finally got the first 2 in striking distance and at around mile 4 I made my first pass as we gave each other some encouragement. 1 down, 1 to go. And I was losing real estate.

The first female was looking strong. Although my confidence was building and I thought I had a good chance of taking the lead, I also knew that I had to be smart about it. Time to come up with a game plan – and quick. I knew that when I made the pass, it had to be with total conviction. I had no doubt that she would be able to respond. I also thought about the last turn into the park which had one last riser into the last 1/4 mile. I had my 2-pronged attack mapped out. Make the pass and stick it, and then find that last gear as I entered the park. I came up on her quietly and when the moment was right, I made my move. It worked. I didn’t know if she was responding or not, but my legs were doing exactly what I asked of them. I turned into the park and surged one more time. Running this final rectangle allowed more than one opportunity to see where she was. And man did I want to check. But I didn’t want to give one ounce of weakness away. So I let out my final kick down to the finish line and made it across with a 16 second lead.
finishAn awesome day of racing indeed! The weather was perfect, so many great friends were there, and many of them on the podium. Even if this race wasn’t the National Championship I still would’ve been there to compete. Marty, Dave and I have to keep the tradition going! Even as I awkwardly dangle in this photo, we now re-create it annually to celebrate our friendship and our passion in doing what we love. 2014groupshot

Marty pulled his calf during the race and still managed to take the silver in his age group – now that is grit! Dave on year 2 of his comeback, and after being hit by a car only a few weeks prior, rode 3 mph faster on the course this year. His relay team took 1st overall. I am a lucky girl to have met such amazing friends on this journey, and I am always looking forward meeting many more!

Run 1 – 30:49
Bike – 1:25:02
Run 2 – 31:34
jersey

Leatherman’s Loop Race Report

logoI had been looking forward to this race! When I decided to race the Spring Dual I was thinking it was short enough to not affect my performance at this prestigious race on the following day, but as the weekend approached the nerves were building. I was invited to race Leatherman’s Loop by a friend of a friend and I did not want to disappoint. Luckily I had no soreness from the prior day’s race – legs were just a little tired. But I convinced myself it was only 10k… When I arrived at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, NY my first thought was that this place was beautiful! My excitement was building. The energy at the race site was buzzing – all positive, happy vibes – and it kept my nerves at bay. I had received a detailed description of the course and what it entailed, and I had been going back and forth for the past 12 hours trying to decide which shoes to wear. Having choices is a great thing, and having to make such a tough decision because I love both shoes so much isn’t a bad position to be in either 😉 My inov-8 Mudclaw 265’s would provide the best traction over the many mud flats/pits we encountered, and also help me to scale the sand hills. However my inov-8 Trailroc 150’s have awesome traction at a much lighter weight, which would allow me to really open up on the more “relaxed” terrain. Love them both so much, but I went with the Trailroc’s.

inov-8 trailroc 150

inov-8 trailroc 150

The weather was beautiful which added to the peaceful, upbeat vibe at this race. With over 1200 runners making their way to the park, we had a delayed start. Normally this starts to put me on edge, but today I was just enjoying the surroundings and atmosphere. When we were finally corralled for the start, I found myself in the middle of a rather wide start chute, and a few rows back. It didn’t seem like people were lining up according to pace but I figured it would all sort itself out quickly. Boy was I wrong! leathermanAfter some course info was shared, we heard a recitation of the traditional Navajo/Irish blessing of beauty:

Beauty before me as I run. Beauty behind me as I run. Beauty below me as I run. Beauty above me as I run. Beauty beside me as I run. Beauty within me as I run.

I see Beauty all around. In beauty may we walk. In beauty may we see. In beauty may we all be.

From there, at the quack of a duck, the race began! The bottleneck was even worse than I expected – everyone swarmed front and center and I felt like I was being sucked backwards. I started to panic and let negative thoughts creep in “if I can’t make my way through this congestion I don’t stand a chance.” startI scrambled to the outside and swung wide trying to get into a better position. After running through the meadow we were greeted with the first section of mud flats leading into the trails. I was able to make some ground here, even as I hurtled over a lone shoe that didn’t survive the first of many pits. By the time I reached the first turn, less than a half mile in, I realized there were not any women in front of me. Phew – back to my comfort level of going out too hard and running scared 🙂

chris tingue

Photo credit – Chris Tingue

I was told that the 2nd half of the race was much easier than the first, so the plan was to try to keep it under control until I hit the 2nd sand hill climb (after going out too hard to get my lead of course), and then push to the end.

 What can I say about this course? It had everything! Multiple water crossings:

david gordon first river crossing

Photo credit – David Gordon

david gordon first river crossing 2

Photo credit – David Gordon

john cummings splashdown

Photo credit – John Cummings

Plenty of mud:

chris reinke mud flats 2

Photo credit – Chris Reinke

ryan reinke

Photo credit – Chris Reinke

Sandy climbs like “the wall”:

tom casper the pit

Photo credit – Tom Casper

Single track with roots & rocks, twists & turns, and wide open sections of soft terrain:

pine forest 2

Photo credit – Ciorsdan Conran

carol gordon

Photo credit – Carol Gordon

There were some short steep climbs but also plenty of descents. I was enjoying myself so much on this course that I was barely noticing the fatigue in my legs. Once I reached the top of the 2nd sand climb, I took a moment to look back to see if anyone was behind me. Coast was clear! At this point I was starting to feel very relaxed and was enjoying every second.

 I was about a 1/2 mile from the finish when I could hear the crowds cheering very loudly. As I approached the final water crossing, the splashdown, it was an awesome site to see so many spectators lined up along the climb out of the water. I jumped in, not at all expecting to sink down to where the water was shoulder height.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Blum

Photo credit – Michelle Blum

And boy was it cold! I made my way across and started the climb to the finish, spectators surrounding me making all kinds of noise Tour de France style. You hit the meadow and the finish line is in sight, but it’s also windy and your legs are feeling frozen after that ice bath. Crossing that finish line was bittersweet. Sure I was tired, but it was so much fun!

I definitely plan to return to this race. The land, the course, the race organization, the volunteers, the fellow runners – all made for a top-notch event! Awards were strudel, pies, and other local goodies. I got the motherload bag which contained a bottle of wine, 2 bundles of homemade pasta, a mega-jar of honey (looking for a good home), a Trader Joe’s dark chocolate bar, a jar of strawberry rhubarb jam, and curry cashews. BINGO!

I you love running trails, I highly suggest you throw your name in the basket next year for the lottery registration. You won’t be disappointed!

Top 2 lines from the race:

1) “I hope I don’t shit myself.” – we’ll leave that one anonymous 🙂 2) “Seriously” – a spectator’s “word of encouragement” to me as I ran up one of the hills

Spring Dual Race Report

spring dualRace #1 for the weekend was the Spring Dual Against Cystic Fibrosis. It had all of the elements of a great race – less than 1 mile from home, a short but intense distance to warm up for the upcoming season, and it raised money for a great cause.

It had rained the previous night leaving wet roads, but we were lucky that the weather cooperated with us race morning. For a small local race, I was excited to see some sexy bikes and fast athletes in transition. This was going to be fun!
StartThe runs were identical – a 2 mile loop – half on a cinder rail trail and half on the road. My plan was to take it slightly easier on the rail trail, and then open up once we turned onto the road heading back to transition. The plan worked well and I came into T1 with an 11:53 split. Despite realizing during the national anthem that I left my gloves in transition (frozen fingers strike again), I had an uneventful T1 as I headed out onto the bike course.
1st TransitionThe bike was a 12 mile TT – an out-and-back on a flat road. It was here that I noticed my lack of training outside. It wasn’t windy per se, but it sure felt like it as I struggled to maintain a respectable pace. After the turnaround I felt a little more settled in and was able to pull off a negative split. That was probably due to 1) seeing the chasing females behind me, and 2) perhaps there was a tailwind 🙂

It’s always exciting for me to get off the bike and start run #2, because that is where I feel strongest. As you may have already seen in the video that was posted, as I was dismounting the bike I hit the brakes only to have the rear tire fishtail behind me. Oops! Gotta get those first race mishaps out of the way. The roads were still wet, and I had my training wheels on the bike – that tire has been on the trainer for over a year and is in desperate need of replacing!
2nd TransitionTime to finish the race with the 2nd run. And this is where I put the most thought in prior to the race. With a tough trail race the following day, I wasn’t sure how hard I wanted to push if I had a big enough lead. But at the same time I don’t like getting into the habit of “letting up” when I feel confident in my lead. I was feeling good at this point so I decided to stick with a solid 2nd run. I aimed at passing a few of the guys and finishing strong. Had I been paying attention to my splits I would have tried to push that 2nd run a little harder to more closely match the first run, but I was happy with my finish.
FinishOverall the race was great! Well-organized, great volunteers, and a fun course. Other than needing some more work on the bike, I felt great. Now it was time to have a celebratory lunch at Karma Road with some friends – Evan and Jess who tackled their first duathlon – and smiled the whole way!
Evan and JessNext up on the duathlon schedule…Cary Du Classic🙂

Run 1 – 11:53
T1 – :31
Bike – 31:50
T2 – :33
Run 2 – 12:34
Total – 57:22

* all photos courtesy of Jared Avigliano

Vegan Power 50k Benefit for Scott Spitz

vegan-power-banner-revised-

http://www.gofundme.com/8pfhh8   

The page is up! The Vegan Power 50k is only weeks away and I’m ready to start putting in the miles so that I can race with as much heart and drive as Scott exhibits with everything in his life: his running, his battle against cancer, his work, and his love for others. I appreciate your time to check out the page!

Now I’m off to the trails!

-Laura

Syracuse Half Marathon

Sometimes it’s just not your day to race. You have to be okay with this, put a smile on your face, and make the most of your experience. When you have the chance to run, you take it.

Waking up Sunday morning to the sound of howling wind and snow plows only added to the reasons I was not ready to race. But racing is what I love so I went through my usual routine before heading out to meet up with some friends and head downtown for the 2nd annual Syracuse Half Marathon. I was prepared for the cold weather that we were experiencing – that was in the forecast. What I wasn’t expecting was the snow shower that quickly covered the roads.

Photo courtesy of Joel Capolongo

Photo courtesy of Joel Capolongo

I realized that this is month 5 of racing in the snow – the weather that rolled in wasn’t something that should throw me off or take me by surprise. So why I would neglect to bring proper footwear further shows that my head was not in the game. It’s Syracuse – I’ve lived there for 8 years – I should know that snow is never out of the question. As much as I love my inov-8 Road-X-Treme 118’s, with the tread of a ballet slipper they were not the shoe for Sunday’s conditions. On dry or even wet roads they are awesome, but throw some snow and/or ice into the mix and you may as well be running on an oiled slip and slide!
slipperyshoes

After a brief attempt at a warm-up I realized that this was going to be an issue and lined up at the start hoping that conditions would rapidly improve, or there would be adequate salt on the road giving me a spot with some traction. When the gun went off I started in a controlled fashion. Yes it was slick and there didn’t seem to be any spots on the road that were not affected. I noticed how tense I was running in anticipation of each step. The power I was attempting to obtain from every stride was being met by instability as my foot slid in random directions. I hit the first mile at 6:17 and was not surprised. The steady climb up James Street felt like twice the effort, but I heard this was the main “climb” on the course so all I had to do was get past it. Once this changed over to a downhill that’s where I really started to struggle. At each slippery footfall I started to feel twinges in my knees, which started a chain reaction up my leg. After a short time my quad became so tight I thought I pulled it.

I had to slow down, which does not come easy to me mentally. I told myself that I couldn’t give up over challenging conditions and discomfort. But then I also told myself that ignoring the kinds of issues I was feeling is exactly how I’ve gotten myself into trouble in the past. This conversation in my head didn’t last much longer. Right around the 5k mark there was another slight downhill – I had another big slip, sending another shooting pain from the inside of my knee up through my hip, and I decided that this race was not worth the chance of a setback. I would finish, but I wouldn’t “race”.

This race wasn’t just for me – it was another Strong Hearts Run Club event – I also had committed teammates tackling the course. I waited along with some spectators cheering for my friends and teammates as they ran by. I decided to finish this race with teammate Kate – what better way to enjoy a 10 mile run than with a friend who has so much passion, energy, and true compassion.
syracusehalf2

Races tend to be lonely for me. I’m in the zone – focusing on the task at hand. And other than thanking volunteers along the way, I rarely interact with anyone. What a pleasure it was to run with Kate! We had wonderful conversations and I didn’t even notice the miles ticking by as I was enjoying the company during one of my favorite activities. I can’t say I remember much about the course after that first 5k – I was in the zone, but a different kind of zone. I was sharing an enjoyable experience with someone I admire and taking in what was happening around me. When the sun came out there were sections along the course that were no longer snow-covered, just wet. I was happy to stay right where I was. Kate and I motivated each other over these 10 miles and crossed the finish line together with smiles on our faces.
bib

When I picked up my bib in the morning I commented to the volunteer that 5 is my lucky number. And although my race didn’t go as planned, I can definitely say that lucky number 5 didn’t let me down – I had an amazing time at the Syracuse Half Marathon! And now it was time to celebrate with my teammates by enjoying the well-earned Strong Hearts post-race meal 🙂

My decision to pull back and run instead of race was the best decision I could’ve made. The drive home was painful but once arriving home I iced my ankle and knee and I was back to normal training the next day. Not only did I save myself from possibly hurting something, but I also ran a wonderful 13.1 miles with someone I am honored to call my friend. It wasn’t my day to race, but although there are plenty of opportunities to race, there aren’t enough opportunities on my calendar to run with my friends!

Next up is a 10-miler this weekend. I’m hoping that these snowy races are behind me for the year, but you better believe I’ll be bringing a back-up pair of inov-8’s – just in case!

Tipp Hill Shamrock Run

shamrock runAs the 2014 season approaches, I best be getting in the habit of providing race reports! The Tipp Hill Shamrock Run has always been a favorite of mine. Not only is Tipp Hill a very vibrant and welcoming neighborhood to run through, but the race is also a great early season “tune-up” to check in with your fitness level. While this was not my first race of 2014, the snow-covered roads at the Chilly Chili 5k in January made it difficult to gauge your current race ability.

I have not run the Tipp Hill Shamrock Run since 2009 – pre-injury. I’m also far behind on my run training this year. My few attempts at “speed work” on the treadmill have not felt productive. These factors left me unsure of how I would run at this race and therefore I didn’t put much thought into a goal. In the back of my mind I threw the number 25:00 out there just so I would have something to shoot for. One thing I knew is that based upon my feelings of unpreparedness along with the hills that the course traverses, it was going to hurt. I just kept telling myself “it’s only 4 miles. You can push yourself for 4 miles.”

Strong Hearts Run Club pre-race, with a few missing

Strong Hearts Run Club pre-race, with a few missing

This was another race for the Strong Hearts Run Club – a team of highly motivated, inspirational, and compassionate runners. The team is building momentum as spring nears and I’m always very excited to join forces with such an awesome group. And with over 3500 finishers at this race I got to see so many of my non-run club Syracuse friends which is always an added bonus!

Considering the challenging winter we’ve had the weather on race morning was exceptional. The roads were wet but not snow-covered and the temps were as mild as we could hope for. I was able to run a short warm-up before lining up at the start. I know that over the years this race has grown more competitive, and wow what a lineup on display!
tipp hill start

The gun went off and I had my usual motive – go out hard and hold on for dear life. (disclaimer: do as I say not as I do!). I knew this was not the time, nor the race, to pace with the front runners. But as usual I wanted to be the lead female from the start so I placed myself there and tried to settle in. When I hit the mile mark at 5:25 that all too familiar feeling of oh shit hit me and I reminded myself “only 3 more miles of this.” The hills on this course are not anything insane, but when I’ve been chained to the treadmill all winter I definitely noticed them more than I wanted to. Which meant that on the downhills I pushed hard – harder than I would’ve pushed had this been a longer race. I apologized to my quads as I did this…

Photo courtesy of Mike "Rideabike" Lillis

Photo courtesy of Mike “Rideabike” Lillis

“Hold on for dear life” over the next 3 miles is all I could muster. Since I’ve run this race previously and have lived in Tipp Hill I am familiar with the roads. There were no surprises – just the will to succeed. The main thing I noticed about my running is how horrible my form was. This was a product of not feeling comfortable at this pace. When I am the front runner I depend on the spectators to clue me in on where my competition is. I do not like to look back. Throughout the race people were cheering me on as the first female, but I also heard plenty of “go ladies” shouted. Which meant someone was hot on my tail. You hit mile 3 on Coleridge Ave before you make the turn into the park for the final loop. It’s a sharp turn into the park so I used that spot to sneak a peek at who was behind me. Yep, she was right there. And I swear my legs were spewing curse words at me by this point. Nothing hurts worse than getting passed in the last mile for 2nd place, so it was time to focus. I’ve run the loop around this park so many times I could probably do it blindfolded. So I pushed hard and started my sorry excuse for a kick right where I wanted to. I never looked back – I had confidence in my ability to finish stronger. But boy did I just slip in under the wire! I crossed the line at 25:00 on the dot, with the 2nd female coming in at 25:07.

Photo courtesy of Mike "Rideabike" Lillis

Photo courtesy of Mike “Rideabike” Lillis

Overall the race was a success and I got exactly what I wanted out of it. I always love having such strong competition keeping me on my toes. It was also cool to finally race in the inov-8 Road-X-Treme 118’s again – they’ve been in hibernation all winter and oh how I’ve missed them!
Tipp Hill shoe
The Strong Hearts Run Club put out some awesome times. The dedication these runners have is showing with some major improvements all around! There was only one thing left to do – celebrate our accomplishments and our camaraderie at Strong Hearts Café 🙂

Next up for the crew – Syracuse Half Marathon on March 23rd! I hope to see many familiar faces there as well! But I better get back to training…I already feel unprepared…again 🙂