VEGAN POWER 50K

VP50k15_captionLast June I raced the inaugural Vegan Power 50k (how could I pass on this event?) and finished 1st female overall. The award for this finish was pretty sweet – a 1 night stay at the nearby Red Robin Song Guesthouse. Since it is located a 1/2 hour from Pittsfield State Forest where the race takes place, why not stay there the night before this year’s race? I knew it was a vegan bed & breakfast, an animal sanctuary, and a beaver rescue. Other than that I had not heard anything about it and was excited to check it out. Now that I’ve experienced it, the actual “race” part of this report will have to wait as I tell you just how awesome it was!
RedRobin_AnimalSanctuary_Logo_sm-300x228Red Robin Song Animal Sanctuary is located on a remote back road in West Lebanon, NY nestled on 85 acres of land. The house is beautiful, inside and out. They have 3 guest rooms that can be reserved – each very comfortable and tidy. We had the Pelican’s Roost.

Our cozy room

Our cozy room

Jeff and Lisa are as friendly as can be – they are super-accommodating and happy to share their beautiful haven with their guests. After showing us around the house we took our dinner outside to sit at one of the picnic tables surrounded by animal enclosures. It was hard to focus on eating when I wanted to run around like a little kid visiting all of the animals who were anxious for attention from these new guests. I spent some time getting to know the donkey, goats, sheep, and of course…CATS!! Then I wanted to learn more about the beavers, and Lisa was more than happy to share.
donkey goatSome interesting facts I learned about beavers:
1) beaver babies are raised by their parents for 2-3 years, which is why rehab is very important. Most of the beavers they receive are orphans turned over by trappers. It turns out beaver fur is still a hot commodity (seriously people?!?). Some trappers turn the babies over to rehabbers. I thought this was odd but it makes sense – they want the babies to be raised and returned to the wild so that they can be trapped again as adults 😦
2) beavers are territorial and only 1 beaver family will occupy a body of water.
3) beavers cannot be released over state lines. NY beavers must stay in NY. So along with the two statements above, finding locations to release beavers proves to be difficult. If anyone in NY has water on their property and would like to host a beaver family, please get in touch with Jeff and Lisa. Private property is the preference so that the released beavers won’t find themselves in a trap again.

Lisa showed us a pond on their property where 2 of their beavers (Whittle & Timber)were released and had just started their own family. She brought them some apples in hopes that they would come on shore and we could meet them. Since they already ate and were unsure of these new strangers standing nearby we only saw them swimming around to check us out. Still very cool! As if I wasn’t already in love with everything about this place we returned to the house to see Jeff cradling a 7 week old beaver in a towel in his arms. That baby made the cutest noises!

Not the one we saw, but one of their equally adorable babies

Not the one we saw, but one of their equally adorable babies

Okay before I get to the actual race, let me just say that I was pleasantly surprised when I wandered downstairs at 4:30 am on race morning to find that Jeff & Lisa were already in the kitchen preparing an abundance of fresh fruit and oatmeal, which appeared to be the breakfast of choice for all of us (the other 2 rooms housed racers as well). Bananas, mangoes, grapes, blueberries and strawberries filled the table – talk about hospitality! I think they were a little disappointed that they wouldn’t be preparing their standard vegan breakfast extravaganza for us, but that’s all the more reason to go back for another visit 🙂

Onto the race…
One of the aspects of ultra/trail running that people love is the feeling of community. At the Vegan Power Ultra that sense of community is ten-fold when we all share the common interest of racing for a cause dear to our hearts. We arrived at Pittsfield State Forest bright and early and I was already excited to start seeing familiar faces. Race directors Ana, Mike and Jake were all smiles with warm welcomes as they know almost every runner by name. I was excited to see returning friends that I met at last year’s race along with fellow Strong Hearts Vegan Power teammates who joined this time around. And of course my circle of friends expands as I meet new racers.

As for the race itself, I’ll try to keep it brief. I could tell during the first lap – the first mile even – that it was an off day for me. My whole body felt fatigued, I didn’t feel smooth, and things just weren’t clicking. It was awesome to run that first mile with friend and fellow Strong Hearts Run Club teammate Jason Mintz who later went on to win the race! After mile 3 I convinced myself that it was just going to take a bit longer for me to warm up today due to the racing I’ve been doing and lack of training in between. This seemed to work temporarily and I finished loop 1 just under my target time of :45. As soon as I started loop 2 I realized I was fooling myself with this “warm-up” theory, and that today would be about endurance and mental focus. The focus was to just keep moving forward, preferably as fast as I could manage 🙂 For a good laugh, my lackluster performance was pointed out to me on loop 3 when an athlete passed me and said “C’mon…I’m never supposed to see you during a race. Unless you’re lapping me like you did last year.” Touche.

Photo credit: Ben Kimball/Northeast Race Photo

Photo credit: Ben Kimball/Northeast Race Photo

Each loop got consecutively slower but I still managed to defend my title as first overall female – with a time quite a bit slower than last year. Now came the real treat of the day – cheering on and hanging out with friends. And of course the amazing post-race vegan feast. I’m no stranger to Baba Louie’s delicious pizza and they kept us well-stocked!

In addition to this being an awesome race in a great location with amazing people who know how to do it right, the proceeds from the race go to Catskill Animal Sanctuary. In return they provided some sweet awards for the overall finishers: a one night stay at their guesthouse, a 1-year family membership, copies of the Director’s two books: Where the Blind Horse Sings and Animal Camp, and a Catskill Animal Sanctuary water bottle 🙂

All in all it was a perfect day. The race nearly doubled in size from last year and I’m sure it will continue to grow each year. You better believe I will be back!

 

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Ironman 70.3 Eagleman – A goal missed isn’t always a failure

emanlogoOn Saturday as I picked up my packet and racked my bike in the sweltering heat of Cambridge, MD I definitely questioned why I had chosen to do this race. It is well-known for brutal conditions – heat being the number 1 offender. Back in the day I used to love racing in the heat – did I really think I was going to enjoy it this time around? Sunday’s forecast looked much better than today’s though – I believe the high was set to be 84 with possible storms, meaning possible overcast skies. Even though 84 was still hot these conditions would be mild by Eagleman standards. So I focused on why I chose this race.

I’ve done Eagleman twice in the past. It was my first 70.3 distance back in 2005 – when the race was organized by the now defunct Columbia Triathlon Association and you hoped to earn the coveted bronze eagle head. I snagged one that year – for the 1st Overall Female 1st Timer. You don’t see awards like that anymore!

My triathlon career started in MD in 2004 and I have done multiple races in Cambridge. I ran my first marathon in Cambridge in 2005 as a relay runner for Chesapeakeman (now Ironman Maryland). Coming back to race Eagleman this year was partially a nostalgic decision. My mom now resides on the Eastern Shore as well so it was also a chance to spend some time with her in accommodations not too far from the race.

Race morning arrived and I was surprisingly calm. For once I was racing a 70.3 with little pressure put on myself. I was not looking to secure a slot to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. I was not feeling 100% – not even close. I had strong doubts that I was fully recovered from the Cayuga Trails 50 two weeks prior. Sure I always aim for the best possible outcome and I was going to put my best effort out there but I did not have high expectations. This course does not play to my strengths – it is pancake flat on both the bike and the run. My goal for the day was ~ 4:45.

Despite driving to the race site on a dark rainy morning where the only light in the sky was from flashes of lightening, by the time I made it to the transition the skies were clear and the sun was making an appearance. I had an hour wait between the time transition closed and my wave went off so after a quick peek at the swim course I plopped myself down in the parking lot to wait. It was a non-wetsuit legal swim which I had been mentally preparing for all week. Long gone are the days where those words caused instant anxiety. I had my trusted TYR Torque Elite Swimskin – which may provide more mental assistance than actual advantage 😉

Swim
At last the women’s 35-39 age group wave was underway. The start was not super-aggressive which was a relief. I vowed to focus on settling into my pace from the get-go instead of going out too hard like I normally do. Not only did I accomplish this but I was feeling relaxed and actually in the mid-pack, which for me is a huge deal! After making the first turn it definitely looked like the outer buoys were a bit out of line. Not uncommon for a swim. The rules were to keep the buoys on your right so that’s how I swam. As we neared the next buoy I saw a few athletes cutting the course instead of swimming further out to go around the buoy. Frustrating, but oh well. By the next buoy I saw that practically the whole field was now cutting the course. I couldn’t hear any whistles from the swim marshals in the water like you usually do if someone is swimming off course. I guess I’m just a stickler and would rather be a good example to others rather than follow the flock. I’m not going to cut a course and ignore the rules simply because “everyone else is doing it”. One other girl from my wave came with me as we struggled to get around the buoy that was drifting further out as we approached. We both popped up seeming somewhat confused and she said “I thought we were supposed to keep the buoys on our right!” I confirmed that we were and we continued on. The swim into the finish felt like an eternity – the tide was strong and my poor swim ability was no match for it 🙂 My watch confirmed this as I stood upon reaching the very shallow section far from the shore line. The long trudge to the beach made time tick by even faster.

A shallow swim exit. Photo credit: Zachary Rose

A shallow swim exit. Photo credit: Zachary Rose

Swim time – 46:48
Swim place – 30
(it’s okay that you’re laughing right now)

Bike
I was counting on the bike to be my strength today. I had major doubts on what my run could produce. With the little running I did between the 50 miler and this race my legs always felt very heavy. Therefore I avoided running at any effort and did the bare minimum in mileage hoping that when race day arrived the legs would be ready to go. I immediately felt good on the bike and attempted to settle into a steady pace. The bike course was very congested. And for a very long time. It wasn’t until the halfway point that it started to thin out slightly. Nutrition and hydration went as planned – with ~225 calories per hour, I drank both of my bottles on the bike throughout the course while also grabbing a bottle of water at each exchange to guzzle and squirt into my helmet and onto my body. I was slightly behind my goal bike split but I was happy with my effort considering what my legs had in the tank. I felt steady throughout the 56 miles and continued to pass females in my age group right through the end.

Photo credit: Zachary Rose

Photo credit: Zachary Rose

Bike time – 2:33:56
Bike place – 6
(When I got out onto the bike course I set a goal of passing 20 females in my age group. I knew I would need to pass more than that but I didn’t want to aim too high. I was fairly certain I was at 20 when I passed the 50 mile marker, so I then aimed to pass 1 girl per mile in the last 5. So close!)

Run
Now came the true test. The run is normally where I shine. Today it is where I melted. I was pleasantly surprised that my legs did not have that heavy, uncooperative feeling that I was dreading from the previous 2 weeks of training. What I did notice was how oppressive that heat felt as soon as I got off the bike. Was it really only 84?? And for those who have not experienced Eagleman, there is no shade on that run. I hit mile 1 at 7:17. A bit off pace but I told myself this was fine. It’s better to ease into this run. I would focus on keeping it under control until the turn-around and work to negative split the course. Time to fall into my aid station ritual:

– 2 cold sponges, squeeze over my head, place one down the front of my tri suit, the other down the back
– 2 cups of ice – one down the front of my tri suit, the other down the back
– 2 cups of water – 1 over my head and 1 to drink
– 1 more cup of ice to eat

Mile 2 was 7:12. Still doing okay. But damn that heat! I quickly realized that my idea to “slowly ease into” and “negative split” the run were laughable. Mile 3 – 7:33, mile 4 – 7:51, mile 5 – 8:06. You get the idea. It only gets worse from there. At this point I knew that my goal time was way out of reach and it was time to focus on finishing. The moment you realize you’re not going to reach your goal can be pretty mentally defeating. I am proud to say that today it wasn’t. I was just so focused on getting to that finish line I had no care of what place I would end up in. Perhaps it would’ve been harder to swallow if other athletes were out there crushing it, looking great and having a blast. But you didn’t see much of that. Sure some people looked better than others but we were all suffering together.

I made it to that finish line with a finish time of 5:07:31. Quite slower than my original goal time of 4:45, but the success came in finishing, and heading directly to that med tent all on my own 🙂
emanfinishRun time – 1:44:12
Run place – 3

I was shocked to find out that my effort earned 3rd in my age group. I was not shocked to find out that the actual temperature at the finish was 97 with a heat index of 123! It was tough to “cool down” after leaving the comforts the med tent provided so I didn’t stick around long. I declined a slot for the World Championship (that’s not my goal this year), grabbed my award, and loaded my burnt to a crisp body into the air conditioned car headed back to a cooler NY. No sense in delaying my taper for this weekend’s 50k 🙂
EmanDespite the tough conditions Eagleman is still a great race. You gotta give it to those volunteers – they are out there often longer than we are. They’re enduring the heat along with us, they’re getting sunburn like we are, but most importantly they are keeping us as safe as they can. With over 2,500 athletes on the course that is not an easy task. I tip my hat to all of the athletes who toughed it out, all of the spectators who stood by to cheer, and to the volunteers who make our experience a great one.

 

 

Cayuga Trails 50 – The highs outweigh the lows

Photo credit: Ron Heerkens

Photo credit: Ron Heerkens

What is the best way to race your first 50 miler? On a course that is equal parts challenging and stunning on a day where the weather is as close to perfect as you could wish for. I am known for paying zero attention to my surroundings when I race. I get into a zone and often when people ask me about a race course I have little recollection. The Cayuga Trails 50 course – that is a different story. You can’t help but notice the breathtaking scenery throughout this course. I am sure there is still a lot I missed but it was definitely a day where I felt lucky to be out there doing what I love in a magical place. It helps you through the rough patches for sure.

Photo credit: Ron Heerkens

Photo credit: Ron Heerkens

6 am

The start time for the race. While I was a bundle of nerves coming into this race I was also calmed by the notion that the longer the race distance, the more relaxed the start. Instead of trying to tame a racing heart I can just focus my mind on settling into my pace. It also helped having my two Jason’s lined up with me. Jason Mintz from Syracuse was kind enough to bring me on a training run to scope out the course in April. Jason Friedman is a training partner here in New Paltz. Both are very talented and experienced runners – both having raced Cayuga Trails previously. I was in good company.

The Course

We run two 25 mile “loops”. The loop is more of an out-and-back, so the best way to tackle this was to split it up into 4 sections. As you can see below, each section provided some steep climbs and descents!

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile

Part 1

The first and 3rd sections were in my mind the most challenging. My plan was to run them conservatively – especially on loop 1. There was no point in me running the steep hills or the stairs (did I mention there are like, a million stairs? Yeah, I’m pretty sure it is a million). I also made it a point to take the descents conservatively too. This is a quad-bashing course and I wanted to save as much as I could to finish the longest race (and run) I’ve ever done. My main goal mentally in this race was not to worry about what other racers were doing. There was a list of very talented and experienced females on that start line and I had no business concerning myself with position. Within the first mile Amanda Basham passed me and it was actually a relief to know that I wasn’t going out too hard (so I thought). When she passed me again at mile 3 (I only passed her back because she stopped to tie her shoe) I gave her words of encouragement as I knew I would not see the back of her again over those next 47 miles. She was obviously strong and there to kick some a$$.

Water crossing #1 took me by surprise. Photo credit: Mountain Peak Ftiness

Water crossing #1 took me by surprise. Photo credit: Mountain Peak Ftiness

I was surprised at how quickly the race thinned out. It was already very lonely on the course. At this point I was wishing I had more people around me simply because there were times that I was questioning if I was on the right trail. At a few sections just as I was ready to stop and turn around I would see another pink marker. As I got closer to the turnaround another runner joined me and I was definitely pumped to have some company. Joe Murphy from NYC and I chatted for a few miles and I shared a gel with him since I had just one to spare. We were both looking to finish our first 50 milers today and he was on track to exceed his goal. Soon after the turnaround he pulled away from me and I was on my own again.

Running with Joe Murphy - Photo credit: Ron Heerkens

Running with Joe Murphy – Photo credit: Ron Heerkens

Part 2

Everything was going fine heading back to the start until around mile 20. Nothing significant happened but I noticed that I was feeling really beat up…already. I was expecting to feel this around mile 30-40, but 20 miles in was way too soon. My goal for the first loop was 4:00 – 4:10. I set this goal realizing that I am not a negative split racer. I wanted a decent but manageable first loop knowing that I would fall behind on the 2nd. Here I was not even at the end of the first loop wondering if the wheels were falling off already. Was my first loop goal too ambitious? Was this a result of not hitting my goal weekly training mileage at all this year? Was I not yet recovered from American Zofingen 2 weeks prior? All of these questions were running in my head as I was trying hard to avoid going into panic mode. My answer now is that it was probably a combination of all 3. I convinced myself that I just needed to finish this first loop and then things would turn around. I crossed the line at 4:06 – right on target but I didn’t even care about that goal anymore – I was now concerned with not crashing and burning.

Finishing Loop 1 - Photo credit: Mountain Peak Fitness

Finishing Loop 1 – Photo credit: Mountain Peak Fitness

Loop 1 fun stats: 4 bathroom stops, 1 bloody nose

Part 3

When I was coming into the finish/start I passed Amanda on her way back out. Her gap was what I thought it would be and she looked strong. As I was heading out onto my 2nd loop I saw the next female, and then the next 1, 2, 3…4. There they all were – the heavy hitters that I was expecting to dominate this race – all together and ready to pounce on this no-name multisport athlete who decided to try a 2nd attempt at a 50 mile race in the middle of what should be triathlon and duathlon season. Aha – here comes that “what am I even doing here moment?” Which starts the domino effect. I wasn’t expecting to podium at this race. Once I saw the lineup my goal became top 10. So seeing all of these girls right on my tail was not hard to swallow – it was the thought of being passed by them all at once 😉 I would much rather be picked off one by one.

A better crossing the 2nd time around. Photo credit: Kate Paice-Froio

A better crossing the 2nd time around. Photo credit: Kate Paice-Froio

This 3rd section was rough. Really rough. As I was about to climb Lick Brook I turned around to see Jackie Palmer right behind me. I knew she was going to be a top contender and I was excited to see her opening up her race on loop 2. We both took it easy up the climb and at mile 33 she made her pass. It wasn’t long before she was out of sight. Mile 35 brought the next pass – Liz Gleason flew by looking strong and fresh. At this point I was in 4th place. I didn’t even mind being passed – I was happy to see someone having a good time and looking energetic. I was not.

Photo credit: Ron Heerkens

Photo credit: Ron Heerkens

Every weakness in my body from the strength/stability work I neglected recently felt magnified. Then there was the knee that I smashed at JFK last year which led to my demise. I took time off to let it heal, it did, and it hasn’t been an issue since. Now it hurt at the exact spot. Where was this coming from? I kept telling myself it was in my head. However most concerning is the one I can never shake – pain in my pelvis where I had my fractures, and twinges in my groin leading to it. I never have an easy time convincing myself that this pain is “all in my head.” So I started to panic even more. I remember saying out loud “what did you do to yourself?” I was imagining that I just put the rest of my season at risk by running this race. I made myself sick to my stomach. Yep – that pretty much sums up where my head was.

Most of us are probably familiar with the really dark place deep inside us where we sometimes need to go. I try to avoid going there but it was time. I tapped into that well – remembered why I am here and why I do this. And I knew not to stay here – just take what I need and get back out – if I stayed there I may not finish the race. At this point I was descending one of the steeper hills of the race and the downhills were hurting the most – sometimes reducing me to a hobble. Eventually I made it to the aid station at Buttermilk Falls – 1 more section to go!

Part 4

I don’t know exactly what happened but I felt like a new person climbing out of Buttermilk Falls. I think my body was happy to be going uphill instead of down, and mentally I was re-energized as it was the last portion of the race. Not that I was running any stronger at this point but the improvement I felt overall made it seem easier than that last section. At around mile 40 I heard someone behind me and turned around to see Karen Holland right on my tail. It was obvious she was next in line to pass me. This would put me in 5th place and that was totally acceptable to me. But I decided I should at least try to make it a challenge unlike the last 2. I started to pick up my effort and before long I didn’t see her behind me.

The Flower

At the top of Lick Brook I came across another female athlete who just tackled the climb. She handed me a purple flower and told me to take it for good luck. She said it had been given to her for good luck up the hill and it worked, so now she was passing it on to me. This was such a sweet gesture and I happily took it and thanked her. I didn’t realize at the time how much this flower would mean to me in my exhausted mental state 🙂 I kept holding onto that flower even after it was totally wilted and falling apart. I convinced myself that if I let go of this lucky flower, I would most surely be passed.

Clenching the wilted flower in my left hand

Clenching the wilted flower in my left hand – Photo credit: Kate Paice-Froio

Once I hit the single digits of miles remaining I was feeling more and more energized. I was “running” up some spots that I had been walking the last time around. I was just so excited to finish this race. As I came off the trail and onto the park road it was time to make the u-turn onto the grass field which left you a 1/2 mile to the finish. After making the turn I looked across to see Karen was right there. She saw me too. I had a feeling this could be a battle to the finish so I needed to turn it up right now. I was running a sub-7 minute pace – desperate not to be passed in the last 1/2 mile. With about 100 meters to go I finally had the confidence to toss the flower and hit the finish line just 1 second under 8:52 in 4th place.

A familiar face, Jeff Merritt was also there to cheer me in.

A familiar face, Jeff Merritt was also there to cheer me in.

Finishing was a great feeling, not so much for my legs but for the rest of me. My crew was there – Jared, Kate, Suzie and Thad who spent hours chasing me around the course to cheer and take pictures. I cannot express how great it was to see their smiling faces every few miles! I was also greeted by my new friend Joe who had an amazing race, along with Jason Mintz who nailed his time goal and placed 13th overall. Jason Friedman had a PR for the day too. Success all around!

Loop 2 fun stats: 1 bathroom stop, 1 bloody nose

Post-race

Here is the progression of my thoughts during the hours after the race:

1) I don’t plan on racing another 50 miler for a long time.
2) Next time I race a 50 miler I’m going to make sure that I can devote my training to racing a 50 miler.
3) I can’t wait to race another 50 miler now that I have learned so much.

That is the excitement for me and what keeps me going. I am driven by the potential of doing something better. No matter what the outcome I am hungry for more. I really wish I could find a way to fit all of my race goals into my schedule. This season has already been a testament to how I can’t do it all and expect my best performance. As long as I am putting my all into it and having fun!

Ian Golden of Red Newt Racing put on a top-notch event. It was cool to have USL.tv providing live coverage and tracking for those following along at home. And the aid stations were well-run by the Finger Lakes Runners Club, Ironheart Racing crew, and my buddies from TrailsRoc.

Although I was 4th overall in the race, I was 3rd Overall for the USATF 50 Mile Trail Championships

Although I was 4th overall in the race, I was 3rd Overall for the USATF 50 Mile Trail Championships

I can now check a 50 miler off my list 🙂 I know I will do another one sooner rather than later, but probably not this year. Next time I want to do it right. I want to make it my A race without having to prioritize other training and racing disciplines. Okay let’s be realistic, I want to at least try to devote my training towards my next 50. For now, it’s time to race an Ironman 70.3!

And of course another awesome race video courtesy of Jared:

 

“The Vegans” take over Cape Cod

Ragnar Cape Cod – May 8th and 9th 2015. What an experience! You would think that being stuck in a van with 6 other people for so many hours without sleep would feel like a never-ending endeavor. It never is. It always flies by in a flash and once we all part ways to go back to our everyday lives we wonder why it had to come to an end so soon. We wish we could be back in that van – in desperate need of a shower, a wholesome hot meal, our beds… just because the experience is so positive, motivating and downright fun. Some of us show up to this event as absolute strangers but we leave as close friends. We’ve shared a powerful experience and although we may all come from different backgrounds we share 2 common passions – running and promoting ethical veganism to both our supporters and the naysayers. And I’d say we do a damn good job at both!

Let’s start with the obvious reasons why this Ragnar event took our cause to a new level of awesome:

sponsor

We wanted to take over the Cape and we succeeded! There were plenty of comments about how we were everywhere. “How many of you are there?” Our shirts are bold, our attitudes positive and our message clear – anything you can do we can do vegan!

We did have a goal going into this event. Out of the 3 teams we created Team A to include the fastest runners of our group. We wanted to win. The A Team was the last to start – at 1 pm on Friday. In our ~22 hours on the course we passed a LOT of teams – all getting the view of the back of our shirts:
2015 back logoMission accomplished! Out of 332 Mixed Open (co-ed) teams we were 1st Overall! 3rd overall out of 456 12-person teams, and 4th overall out of 512 total teams (including the ultra teams). As co-captain Scott Spitz pointed out in regards to the team who has the fastest finishing time, “the team consisted of college kids who were not running with the accumulated emotional baggage of divorce, kids, unemployment, employment, etc….so factor in that manner of “life grading”…and we basically won.” 🙂

A Team

A Team – Top Row from Left: Scott Gilroy, Suzie Constantin, Jeremy Ritz-Totten, Adrian Centoni, Ian Sherlock, Clifford Dean, Sean Scott, Mike Pease, Chris Cooney. Bottom Row from left: Micah Risk, Scott Spitz, Laura Kline, Aaron Zellhoefer, Christine Tylee

Team B Ragnar 3 Finish

B Team – Top Row from left: Peter Guarino, Jonny Hero, Scott Barras, Jonathan Auyer, Skott Daltonic, Jason Young, Martin Rowe. Middle Row from left: Laura Ryan, Kaitlin Long, Dana Portnoy, Meghann Wilson. Bottom Row from left: Sheila Bailey, Becca Wellner, Stephanie Crumley.

 

C Team -

C Team – Top Row from left: Laura Gardner, Michael Harren, Scott Henderson, Julie Henderson, Joel Capolongo, Peter Nussbaum, Kendra Murphy, Kate Paice-Froio. Bottom Row from left: Summer Keown, Carrie Hineline, Alicia Ford, Jasmin Singer, Melissa Centoni, Molly Wason.

What about the running? Well, I barely remember that part 😉 A whole lot of work was put into making this event happen, and I’ve never been so exhausted before the Ragnar even started! Once we all converged at the Whole Foods in Hingham, MA – the chaos began! Organizing 42 people, tons of food, race gear, binders, etc. into 6 assigned vans was quite the task. It basically looked like a party erupted in that parking lot before the store even opened, and it wasn’t long before the manager of Whole Foods came outside to check it out. He was super-cool and supportive of our efforts, and minutes later emerged with a shopping cart full of cases of water to donate to our cause.

Thank you Whole Foods!

Thank you Whole Foods!

We all made it to the start line with just enough time to get C Team ready for the first start, and our awesome team photo (in the sponsor picture above). One by one each of our 3 teams set off to run 192 miles from Hull to Provincetown, MA. We would only see each other again for a brief time at one of the major exchanges when we all caught up to one another.

Coming into the exchange after my first leg

Coming into the exchange after my first leg

The real fun started as each of our teams reached the finish line. We were finally able to see everyone again and do some relaxing now that our journey was coming to an end. As each team arrived, we all ran through the finish chute together. It was quite a sight when Team C finished – all 42 of us, and even a few of our awesome vegan volunteers – storming the finish line with the announcer saying “Here come the vegans, surrounded by butterflies. Everyone loves the vegans!”

We placed our mark on the Ragnar Wall before heading out to our meet-up spot to celebrate and hand out awards.
wall2
wall1It’s difficult to sum up how awesome this opportunity is for us. We all see the tide turning as more and more people are not only accepting, but praising and seeking information about veganism. One of the greatest things we do at Ragnar (beyond our awesome running) is talk to people. Runners, volunteers, even residents of the towns we pass through see our shirts, our smiling faces, and the fun that we are having. We are often approached by people who want to know more – they want to learn about our cause, why we choose veganism, what we eat. All of our teammates are happy to share our experiences and that is what this is all about. Other vegan runners are excited to see us – they come up and thank us for doing what we’re doing and ask how they can be a part of it.

We rarely hear negative comments or even the ever-so-popular “I love bacon!” Mainly we hear “Go VEGAN!” and “damn those vegans are fast!” I’ll wrap this up with a bit of humor – here are 2 exchanges I learned about through other teammates:

At C Team’s start line:
Announcer: “And here they are with their healthy diet – Vegan Power!”
Skott Daltonic: “It’s more than just a diet man, it’s a lifestyle. Also have you seen me at a vegan bakery before?”

In the shuttle parking lot on the way to the finish line:
A burly member of Team Taekwondo: “If you want to perform like a bull, you have to eat like a bull!”
Alicia Ford: “Yeah but bulls eat grass.”
Burly dude: “Damn, and you are smarter than me too!”

Oh how I love this team!

One last note – we are currently fielding teams for the Ragnar Adirondacks on September 25th and 26th. If you are a vegan runner who wants to be a part of something amazing, please get in touch! If you are a vegan who doesn’t love running, we’re going to need drivers too! We had 6 awesome drivers who were so inspired by this event – they will all be running the next one! Check out our website and our Facebook fan page to keep up-to-date with what we are doing!

And last…check out this awesome video that Chris Cooney, of The Vegan Zombie fame, made during the last few hours of Team A Van 2’s race.

(that’s right, there’s not just 1, but 2 Runners World cover models in this video!)

STRONG HEARTS TO THE FRONT!

A well-executed race plan – American Zofingen

Apprehensive, intimidated, anxious – these are just a few words to describe how I was feeling in the weeks leading up to this race. I was not worried about the 20 total miles of trail running – that would be the fun part for me. My concern was the 84 mile bike in between. My longest ride of the year was 61.57 miles – 2 loops of training on the course – and that was a month ago. I actually haven’t ridden more than 84 miles since 2012 and I haven’t raced more than 56 miles since…gulp…2005! Yes, I’ve been a slacker on the bike. Not that I haven’t been riding, but when it comes to endurance training I’ve been devoting my time to running 🙂

I even emailed a few friends last week to discuss my thoughts about possibly dropping down to a shorter distance (as it turns out many racers did). Luckily along with my vote the ruling was to stick with the long course race. 1) I am training for Powerman Zofingen (for which this race is modeled after) in September, and 2) once I put it out there that I’m racing long course I don’t want to back down! I knew that completing the distance wouldn’t be an issue – my bigger concern was how much of a hole I would put myself into with my first 50 miler (2nd attempt) only 2 weeks after. It was time to come up with a smart race plan and execute it. And that’s just what I did.

My next concern was the heat. Yes I’ve talked about my infamous heat stroke quite a bit and you’re probably sick of hearing about it but it was honestly the scariest thing that has ever happened to me athletically and it is something I take very seriously. On top of that I have dropped out of 3 races since then due to heat, and that is 3 races too many for me! The temps for today were set to reach 87 along with high humidity. Add to that a very challenging course and I knew I had to pay much attention to how I was feeling.

Speaking of the course, let me give you a quick rundown. It starts with a 5 mile trail run at Spring Farm in Mohonk Preserve. The 5 mile loop contains 900 feet of climbing. You run through grass fields, over wood plank bridges, through single track, over rock and root-filled ascents and descents, and the best part – the forgiving carriage roads.

Run course elevation profile

Run course elevation profile

Next you head out on the bike for 3 loops totaling 84 miles, with 8,406 feet total climbing. The toughest climb greets you right as you leave the park so you better finish that run feeling good!

Bike course elevation profile

Bike course elevation profile

It was a very small start line for the long course athletes who went off at 7:00 am – the F1 (middle course) distance is the most popular event featuring a 5 mile run/29 mile bike/5 mile run/29 mile bike/5 mile. After the bagpipe played the National Anthem we were off to woods! The pace was totally relaxed and it felt great. I knew the key to this race was to take it easy on that first run and I picked the right person to keep me in check – last year’s winner Colin Martin. I was loving the course and loving the pace – the first 3 miles have the toughest climbs and for the last 2 you can really settle in. I finished my first run in 39:18 and was feeling awesome!

Time to head out on the bike with a plan – hold back. After tackling that first climb you meet an equally intense descent. Saturday night’s rain left us with foggy conditions and wet roads this morning and I found myself being extremely cautious – hoping that by the 2nd loop I could have a little more fun here. Otherwise loop 1 was uneventful – I settled in and focused on not worrying about what was happening behind me. Having trained on this course I felt very comfortable with the terrain which was definitely a benefit going into this race. My goal was to make it through lap 1 without being passed (by females) and I was thrilled to make it to the park meeting that goal.

Photo credit: Martin Weiner

Photo credit: Martin Weiner

Out onto loop 2 – that first climb felt tougher but I tried not to think about the fact that I would need to tackle it one more time. The fog had lifted and the roads were drying so I was able to open up a bit more on the descent. Next it was time to settle into the long trek up to Minnewaska. I felt stronger than I had on the first loop and this was a huge mental boost for me. But now it was time to focus on my hydration plan. Racers were alerted the day before the race that the nutrition/hydration sponsor failed to send the supplies the race organizers needed to stock this race. They would have bottles of water and limited bottles of Heed on the course. This meant I would be stopping to mix my own bottles of hydration – not ideal but worth it for me to take the time in order to have what I really need in these conditions.

Photo credit: Martin Weiner

Photo credit: Martin Weiner

I arrived at the bottle exchange on loop 2 and pulled over to see what was available. Luckily they had a bottle of Heed so I dropped my 2 empty bottles in exchange for 1 bottle of water and 1 bottle of Heed. The problem was that the replacement bottles were tall, but instead of taking the time to dump the contents into my existing (smaller) bottles I worked one into the bottle holder on my tiny frame and placed the water into my cage between my aerobars. This went smoothly and off I pedaled. Not even 1/4 mile down the road I hit a bump and the bottle between my bars launched – it was too tall to properly sit in there. I stopped and turned around to retrieve it thinking it was not a good idea to go without. As I picked it up off the side of the road the water was gushing out of it – the bottle had cracked and was useless. Oh well – I wasn’t going to go back to the water exchange – I could make it to the next exchange with the bottle of Heed. I saw more of these bottles on the road along the way – I think other riders had the same fate.

Finishing loop 2 I swapped the empty Heed bottle for 1 bottle of water. No point in trying to place another one between my bars and this also wasn’t the place to stop and mix a drink as I was about to climb the toughest section for the last time (yay!). Although a snafu with my Garmin didn’t allow me to track each loop of the bike, I am sure this final loop was my slowest. But I was still holding the lead and was now determined to make it through the 84 mile ride in first place. I was very happy to get to that last aid station so I could grab a new bottle and mix what I now believe was my secret weapon in beating the heat at this race. I pulled over for a bottle and ripped open my tube of Skratch Labs Hyper Hydration Mix and it was like an egg timer slowly emptying into my bottle. I was at that anxious point of the race feeling like there would be someone coming up right behind me so I impatiently forced about 3/4 of the package into my bottle and was on my way! The plan was to drink that whole bottle down before I finished the bike.
skratchNormally I consume 100-150 calories per hour on the bike but with a race of this length I decided I should aim for higher. I decided on 200-250 calories per hour on the bike. I wasn’t sure how this would work for me because I have a hard time taking in calories in that kind of heat but I stuck to the plan and I’m glad I did.

I was so excited to see that aid station one last time as I turned into the park to transition to the run under my goal time for the bike. The transition was smooth and I grabbed my hand-held bottle of the Skratch Labs Hyper Hydration mix that I had prepared anticipating a great need for it during the run. I was really excited to be off the bike and moving onto my strength. That excitement disappeared super-quick as soon as I made my way through the torturous gazebo and out onto the loop. The gazebo is agonizing because you pass through it every loop while the racers from the 2 other distances are enjoying the post-race party. It is great to have a cheering section but when you have to go back out there and run that loop, and then again, and then again…it is tough!

Back to my legs – they were feeling nothing short of tanked. I felt really good about my bike and now I was experiencing the fallout from the effort and distance that I was not trained for. I couldn’t prevent the negative talk from creeping in. If I felt this bad during mile 1 of this 15 mile run, I could very easily destroy my whole race. I stuck with the plan of power-hiking the steep climbs. I mean, that’s all I could do at this point. Minus the “power” part. Seeing that first aid station was like a desert oasis – I was stumbling in, trying to take in a gel, and unable to answer the extremely helpful volunteers who were offering me drinks. I took a few seconds to drink a full cup of water and then dump a full one over my head. I did this at every single stop (3 per loop) through the rest of the race while also nursing the bottle of Skratch.

Photo credit: Martin Weiner

Photo credit: Martin Weiner

After leaving that first aid station I started to perk up and by mile 3 I was finally starting to come around. Yes! I’m back! Finishing that first loop I looked at the race clock and felt confident enough to change my race goal to 8:15. If I could continue the next 2 loops at the effort I finally found at the end of the 1st one, I could do this! And that’s exactly how it went. At each aid station I took the time to get what I needed to keep me going. During both the 2nd and 3rd loops Jared told me my lead was 25 minutes. Although I wasn’t running strong by any means I now knew that I could back off even more. I had the 50-miler in 2 weeks to think about. And think about it I did. If I am feeling like this at Cayuga, will I back off and just finish? NO! I will power through and finish as strong as my body will allow. So that’s what I did. Around mile 3 you have the long steady downhill on carriage roads and I ran that section conservatively throughout the race to save my quads. Now I picked it up – time to leave it out there and get that time goal. When I came around the corner with the gazebo in sight I saw 8:14 on the race clock. Yes!

I set my goals for this race based off the winning performances from past races. I set slightly higher run goals and gave myself a little cushion on the bike since I didn’t feel like I would have a strong day. It feels good to meet all of your goals:

Goal Actual
sub- :45 1st run 39:18
sub- 5:15 bike 5:08:28
sub- 2:30 2nd run 2:25:19
sub- 8:30 8:15 Overall 8:14:27

As far as I could look back at results, the 2nd fastest time for this race was 8:34:55 in 2006. I have no idea if this race course has changed over the years. Do I have a course record? I don’t know. I am extremely happy with this race because I executed my race plan and I conquered the heat. 2 big wins! And now I feel like I have a great practice race under my belt for the main event – Powerman Zofingen – in September!

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this cool race video!

Congrats to everyone who endured that heat on a tough course!

First Race of 2015 – Syracuse Half Marathon

syracuse halfThat title sounds so exciting, but unfortunately my performance was not 😉 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 😦 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 🙂 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 🙂

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 🙂 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

 

 

JFK 38 Mile

DNFAs you probably already know, I did not finish the JFK 50 mile race on November 22nd. This was my goal race for the year. I spent a big chunk of my season preparing for this race. I was excited and I was ready. I researched this race more than I have any other. I read a book about it, I read so many race reports I felt like I could run it in my sleep. I watched every YouTube video I could find. I wanted this race! Sometimes you just don’t have a good day – it happens quite often. Sometimes you stick it out and learn a lot about your body and yourself. And sometimes you throw in the towel. Was I bummed? Of course. But the decision to pull out at mile 38 was totally my choice. There was no one or nothing to blame. I had a bad day and I chose to end it.

I am not new to the dreaded DNF. Although it doesn’t get any easier mentally I must say that either with age, or simply the ever-growing number of races I have done, I have come to terms with weighing the pluses and minuses of the decision and feeling “okay” with it. Many say that the pain of not finishing is far worse than the pain of sticking it out. I can understand that. Some may say that quitting is a sign of weakness. I understand that view too. For me, I don’t have that burning desire to finish when something is going on with my body. Of course the thought of walking the final 12 miles popped into my head. But that thought was quickly squashed because 1) that would only make me feel worse both mentally and physically, 2) I didn’t feel the need to simply finish the race by walking, and 3) I had a support crew out there in the cold who, although he would’ve supported me the whole way, didn’t deserve to endure the additional hours it would take me to walk.

I know there will always be another race. And another race. And another race. Although I spent a lot of time and miles on November 22nd talking to myself about the decision, I feel that I made the right choice for me personally. Having a fellow runner whom I met at Blues Cruise going through the same physical and emotional pain with me at the same point was very helpful. Those last miles would have been exponentially more painful without Mike Dolan by my side. So without further delay, here is my race report of the first 38 miles of JFK.
jfk logoI don’t think it was even 20 degrees when we left the hotel during that dark Saturday morning to head to Boonsboro high school. A chilly reminder as to why I’m not a huge fan of fall racing 😉 But nothing could deter the excitement I had to get out there! The cold wasn’t even a big deal – you have the pre-race meeting in the gym which was warm, and then 15 minutes before the race you walk about a mile to the start line, where they start on time! The sun was out by now and it was a beautiful morning.

The start was pretty congested as expected with a race of that size. Plus there is no regard to lining up by your projected pace, which was evidenced when a guy next to me was telling his running buddies that he would be thrilled with an 11:00 pace. However there are 50 miles ahead – plenty of time. Plus the start takes you along roads before transitioning to the Appalachian Trail so there was no rush to get your spot right out of the gate. The gun went off and by the 1/2 mile mark things already started to shake out. There were 2 women that immediately stood out. Justine Morrison, who finished 2nd overall for the day, took the early charge up the winding hills along the road. Quick to chase after her was Sarah Bard – the overall female finisher for the day. It was tempting to stick with them but I held myself back. It was way too early for me to worry about my position, and I really wanted to run my own race. I kept them close, and as we were about to enter the trails Sarah popped off into the port-a-pot and I slipped into 2nd place.

I was excited to be on the trails but again tried to keep calm and stick with my plan. The trails were rocky but not very technical compared to what I’ve trained on both in PA and NY. It was hard to hold back when I feel that trails are my strength but at the same time I was trying to baby my left knee that was causing me problems in the 3 weeks leading up to the race. I hadn’t run any trails in those 3 weeks in hopes of keeping the injury at bay so I was unsure of how the rocky terrain would affect it. To my delight everything was feeling fine! Upon arriving at the next road section along the AT I spotted Justine just ahead of me. I was elated to see that she wasn’t too far ahead but I also knew that Sarah had to be right behind me. I kept reminding myself “the race is not won on the AT”.

I was feeling good, I was sticking to my pace, and I was feeling confident. And then…BAM! Right around mile 11 – it wasn’t an overly technical spot – it wasn’t even a downhill. I tripped and went down hard – my right knee smashing onto a nice big rock as my body flung forward, twisted, and my hip took the next impact. The guy who had been running behind me stopped saying “oh no – are you okay?” He bent over and grabbed me to help pick me back up but I told him to keep going. I was extremely appreciative of his concern and offer to help but I didn’t want to throw him off his pace. And really – I wasn’t ready to get up yet 😉 I laid crumpled momentarily – in shock that I just tripped for no apparent reason, taking stock of what was going on, and dealing with that rush of nausea you get when a flash of pain hits. I quickly gained my composure and remembered that this was a race – keep going!! It was a painful limp/jog for the next mile and as expected Sarah soon passed me. I was frustrated with my carelessness and remember telling myself “I am not going to let my demise come from a fall on the AT”. I wasn’t even 1/3 of the way into the race! After about a mile, things started to feel better. Kind of like when you’re new to trail running and you constantly twist your ankle. It hurts so bad that you feel you can barely run, but then before long it’s like it never even happened. I was still feeling pain and my knee was bleeding through my tights but I was able to run again – and before long I was back on pace. YES! Just a minor blip. All I needed to do was make it off this trail without further incident and once I hit the flat and forgiving rail trail my worries would be behind me. I was able to pass Sarah again as we started to descend – my confidence was back!

I completed the AT portion just one minute over my goal at 2:16. By the time I got onto the C&O canal I was in first place. That moment of holding the lead was brief though, as both Justine and Sarah came flying by me. Again I knew to let them go. I could tell they were both strong  runners and that pace would blow me up for sure. My plan was to maintain my goal pace and see what I could do once I got to the final portion of the race – the 8+ miles on roads. My pace felt comfortable as I was settling in both physically and mentally for the marathon on the rail trail.

JFK

C&O Canal Trail – Photo credit: Pulin Modi

Only a few miles in I could tell that my rock collision was going to cause problems. My theory that the rail trail would be gentler on my body was proving to be wrong. My knee was screaming with each step and my hip was as well. I convinced myself that this was going to be a painful race, but not impossible. The pain could wear off again like it did on the trails. However it wasn’t wearing off – it was only getting worse. And with no one around me on the trail it was getting to be dark place. Literally – other than the aid stations I spent most of those 20 miles completely alone. Alone with my pain and alone with my thoughts.

The idea started to creep in that I was going to need to stop running. That of course is followed with the argument in my mind “quitting is not an option. You will not DNF.” No one wants to give up that easily. My pace was slowing but I was still running – that’s all I needed to do. As I was approaching mile 27 where your support is allowed to meet you I was prepared to call it a day. As Jared handed me the items I had requested at that stop the tears came as I explained to him what was going on. He wasn’t having it as he coaxed me to keep running while he handed over my supplies. I really just wanted to stop for a minute. Crying and complaining about the pain I was in made me feel like a big baby and really quite silly, so I pulled up my big girl pants and carried on. And for a moment I mentally felt good again – like I could overcome this. Heck – I was more than halfway done – I could keep going. That mental boost was short-lived as reality set back in. And around mile 30 I really started to fall apart. I was reduced to a jog/hobble and kept repeating “just keep moving forward”. Over and over. Forward progress is progress. This was followed by walking breaks. Ugghhh…dreaded walking breaks. Is anything more annoying? I don’t even know why I was doing it – it wasn’t helping the situation at all.

This went on until about mile 36 when during one of my fabulous walking breaks I turned around to see a familiar face. Mike Dolan had passed me in the last few miles of Blues Cruise and we talked after the race about…well JFK of course! He seemed to be in trouble too and he stopped to walk with me. We shared our stories of our unraveling – both of us had fallen on the AT and you can only outrun a damaging impact for so long. I of course felt horrible that someone else was sharing my bad experience today, but I was also very grateful to have him alongside me – sharing the same mental and physical pain together. Misery loves company right? We both decided that we would pull out at mile 38 – the next stop where your support had access. We talked about walking the rest of the race…more than once, we did math in our heads to determine how long this would take, we weighed the options of whether or not that was even worth it. We were now both freezing since our exertion was low, and we considered the people who were there for us. We probably sounded like crazy people as we kept bouncing thoughts off one another. We cursed, we made fun of ourselves as people passed and yelled “great job!”, but most of all we lifted each other’s spirits. We tried to run a few times – each time getting only a few steps before one of us felt the need to stop again. We planned to jog one minute, walk one minute the rest of the way and we only made it through one interval of that. We were a pathetic duo but at least we were not alone.

That 2 mile walk felt like an hour (it may have been for all I know!). Finally we approach the 38 mile rest stop where Mike is happy to see his wife hadn’t bailed on him 😉 I knew Jared was there because Pulin had just started driving down the road along the trail on a search mission. Mike and I said our heartfelt goodbye’s and reminded each other that we will get the next one. Once I got into the car that’s when the emotion hit as well as the doubt as to whether or not I made the right decision. My brain knew I did, but the heart wasn’t totally on board yet. Next we had to drive to the finish line to drop off my chip. Just driving along the course towards the finish line made me feel an inch tall. With the last twist of the knife, Sarah was coming towards the finish. She looked great and I was excited for her – this was her first 50 miler and she nailed it! Congrats on a solid performance!

That is it. My race and my season ended by a tumble on the trail. Hard to swallow but you do, and then you move on. Some positives for the day: I feel like I was nailing my nutrition – at least for those first 38 miles. My gear selection was spot on. I chose to race in my inov-8 Roclite 243’s.

inov-8 Roclite 243

inov-8 Roclite 243

They were perfect for this race as they are the most versatile shoe. They offer protection, grip, and responsiveness on the trails while being lightweight and not too trail-like and cumbersome for the roads. A lot of people change shoes once they come off the AT and I specifically choose the Roclite’s so that I wouldn’t feel any need for that. I also wore my inov-8 Race Elite 200 tights for this chilly day.

inov-8 Race Elite 220 tight

inov-8 Race Elite 220 tight

These tights feel like pajama pants to me, so that is really a no-brainer. Comfort and warmth – win! Then of course there was my trusted inov-8 Race Ultra Vest.

inov-8 Race Ultra Vest

inov-8 Race Ultra Vest

I ran the AT with only water in the reservoir, and then (the plan was) grab bottle of electrolyte drink at the support stations. I believe this was the perfect set-up to fuel my race and stash my nutrition. (see my full review of this vest here) Anytime I run trails I like to wear my 110% Flat Out Sox for targeted compression and stability.

flat out sox

110% Play Harder Flat Out Sox

Under my race singlet I wore my 110% Katalyst Short Sleeve top.

110% Play Harder Flat Out Sox

110% Play Harder Katalyst Short Sleeve

They are not kidding when they say it is like a 2nd skin. It’s form-fitting without feeling tight and constrictive, the thermal regulation is like no other top I’ve worn, and you never have to worry about chafing. A hands-down must-have for an ultra event.

Even without completing the race, I can say that the JFK 50 miler is a well-organized and high energy race. Although you spend many lonesome miles along the rail trail, each aid station is well-stocked with happy and helpful volunteers. I will definitely be back!

I of course thank Jared for his support. Not only during the race enduring hours in the cold but also for dealing with my pre-race craziness, and post-race breakdown. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive and caring person to be by my side. Thank you to Pulin Modi who drove up from DC to cheer for me. And take the only decent picture to document my day 😉 And of course a big thank you to all of my friends who sent such supportive and encouraging messages. I am surrounded by the most amazing people!

Another great season is in the books (year-end wrap-up coming soon…) thanks to my sponsors Inov-8 and 110% who keep me well-equipped and outfitted in top-of-the-line gear. Having gear that you can trust and performs as you need it to is a major contributor to success. Being able to race in the industry’s best gear means I only have to worry about one thing on race day – me. Specifically, not falling 😉

The mental pain has mostly faded. After running for only the 2nd time since November 22nd my knee is reminding me that it’s not quite ready to forget the pain. Rest and recovery are on the menu, as well as lots of time in the gym re-building strength and stability. As I start planning 2015 I am super-excited for another season of awesome racing, unforgettable friends, and many more learning experiences.

Take care and enjoy the holidays!