Meet Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power

strong heartsWhat happens when you join 12 vegan runners for a Ragnar Relay adventure? A whole lotta awesome! On July 17th I received the following email from Joel Capolongo, co-owner of Strong Hearts Café in Syracuse, NY (a place I miss dearly…):

You ever do a Ragnar relay race? I am putting together an all-vegan team to run the one in the adirondacks in late September. What do you have going on September 27-28th?!!! =D

All it took was a quick check of the race calendar and I said yes! To be honest with you, if it would’ve been just a random team I probably would’ve hesitated and put some thought into it. But he had me at “all-vegan“. It’s no secret that I am a proud plant-powered athlete – just take a look at some of the articles on my media page. Although I never have a single doubt about my diet as it pertains to my athletic endeavors, it surely is the #1 comment from the naysayers. “You can’t be a successful endurance athlete if you don’t eat meat.” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that… I am happy to say that over the years I have shown these people that not only can you survive as an athlete on a plant-based diet – you can excel! Countless people have asked me about my diet as they realize there may be something to this way of life…

Although Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power is not out to break any records at the Ragnar Relay Adirondacks, we are coming together in solidarity to show everyone that being powered by plants is the perfect complement to an active lifestyle. With over 146 years of vegan living between the 12 of us, I believe we will make quite the statement! I am honored and proud to be a part of such an amazing crew (not to mention I can’t wait to enjoy all the vegan goodies we’ll be sharing along the way) 🙂

Here’s the lineup:



Runner #1 – Aaron Bell aka “MA Bell” – vegan 3 years – NY

Aaron ‘s reason for running Ragnar with the team is simply “Joel asked and it sounded like fun!” Joel describes Aaron as funny, laid back, and willing to take on a tough challenge on a whim – “just the kind of crazy we are looking for in a vegan teammate”. The story I heard is that Aaron ran last year’s Turkey Trot 5k barefoot. So I’d say he’s a perfect fit for our team!

Favorite running fuel“I always inadvertently eat something greasy or heavy before I run!

Song that gets Aaron pumped to runLately, anything by Sylosis


Peter w/ Yuri who came from Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

Runner #2 – Peter Nussbaum aka “Gramps” – vegan 5 years – NY

Why say yes to Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power? As a vegan runner, fellow teammate Scott Spitz (you’ll read about him next) has been a huge inspiration for Peter and he has followed his blog for 5 years. “I have never met Scott in person and the chance to spend a couple of days running with him was all the motivation I needed.” And I’m sure being able to “pass the baton” to his inspiration during this challenge will make it that much sweeter. Not dismissing the rest of us, Peter says the chance to meet the rest of the team and to help promote a vegan lifestyle is “icing on the cake”! Peter ran for many years as a non-vegan and made the switch at age 40 primarily for health reasons, however after his eyes opened to the tragic truths of animal consumerism, the animal rights aspect of veganism has taken over as his #1 reason.  Peter and his wife have been adopting rescue roosters and hens through Woodstock and Elmira Farm Sanctuary and their goal is to turn their farm into a full-fledged animal sanctuary. “Caring for them is as gratifying as anything I have ever done.” I think we should change Peter’s nickname to “Rooster” 🙂

Favorite running fuelVEGA mango tango protein powder, coconut water, frozen fruit and banana shake



Runner #3 – Scott Spitz aka “Upness” – vegan 19 years – IN

If there was a Scott Spitz Wikipedia page it would start with: Vegan Warrior.When asked why he is running the Ragnar relay with Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power he gives a very simple answer – “I have great respect for the team captains and it’s a great opportunity to promote veganism from both an athletic and ethical basis.” But his nickname opens another chapter to the story. Upness is a metaphor for overcoming mountainous obstacles (see And Scott is the epitome of “upness.” In early April of this year Scott was diagnosed with a rare and advanced form of stomach cancer. He underwent surgery to remove the malignant tumors a few weeks later only to have the surgeons halt mid-surgery when they discovered the tumors were much more advanced and dangerous than previously thought. Scott is currently in chemotherapy treatment to reduce the tumors to the point where surgery is again a viable option. A full account of his experiences can be found at his blog: I think I can speak for the whole team when I say that we are honored to be running with such a strong, committed fighter! Not to mention he is a phenomenal runner! “The Mountain: a metaphor for any tough obstacle in our lives. We could go around it, but we choose to climb it…without great speed, but with an unwavering commitment to the effort it takes to face it, head on.” Climb on Scott – you will have a team of fellow vegan warriors with you on the 27th!

Favorite running fuel“Coffee. But these new HUMA gels are a close second, though I only fuel if it’s a marathon or longer.”

Song that gets Scott pumped to runTimebomb by A Perfect Murder – this was the song playing in Scott’s head when he PR’d at the Chicago marathon in 2009 with a 2:25:55



Runner #4 – Mario Mason aka “Super Mario” – vegan 17 years – NY

Mario is one well-rounded teammate. He’s a PGA golf professional, plays on a broomball team in the winter, enjoys watching hockey, and can soon add Ragnar Relay Runner to his list. He is running because he has never run a distance race like this and enjoys challenging himself. Taking on the challenge with 11 other vegan athletes is another perk!

Favorite running fuelbananas and water

Song that gets Mario pumped to run1000 More Fools by Bad Religion



Runner #5 – Mike Pease aka “Easy Peasey” – vegan 19 years – NY

Mike ran cross-country and track in high school and loved every second of it. After high school he switched his attention to weightlifting but every once in a while he would get back into running kicks. The Ragnar Relay is giving him something fun and interesting to train for, and he’s looking forward to racing with like-minded people. This will be his first competitive race in 13 years – what a way to get back into running! “Oh yeah, and I’m vegan and wanted to represent.” And represent he does – Mike owns 2 vegan restaurants in NYC  which serve “delicious, organic super foods seasoned like familiar favorites.” Make sure to check out one of the locations when you’re in town!

Favorite running fuel saltine crackers and an apple right before a race. “I’ll be picking up some Strong Hearts Buffalo Wing pizza as a reward for after the race (not recommended before running…).”

Song that gets Mike pumped to runIn contrast to the rest of his teammates, Mike uses mellow music to get him in the mood for distance running. His go-to album – R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People



Runner #6 – Alan Vedge aka “Hungry Legs” – vegan 10 years – IN

Alan is a distance runner who loves the feeling he gets from running 28 miles before he starts his work day. He also runs for an amazing cause – if you are not familiar with the non-profit organization Back On My Feet you should check them out! They use the positive benefits of running to create self-sufficiency in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. He once ran a half marathon inside a prison through Indiana Re-Entry Foundation to raise money for BOMF. Alan is running the Ragnar Relay because it sounds like a great way to promote veganism, and have fun doing so!

Favorite running fuel“Coffee beforehand. Whatever I can get my hands on during. Cookies afterwards.”

Song that gets Alan pumped to runif Alan had to pick a run-hard-and-throw-down song, it would be Screaming at a Wall by Minor Threat.


Joel w/ Ivan, a 16-yr-old goat who lives at Farm Sanctuary

Runner #7 – Joel Capolongo aka “Cappy”vegan 20 years – NY

The captain and founder of this team of awesomeness, Joel saw a web banner for the Adirondack Ragnar relay event and as soon as he clicked on it and read what it was all about, he decided right then and there that he could “round up enough like-minded vegans who would be up for the challenge.” Joel already has a major positive impact on the lives of others – he provides amazing food for the vegan population in upstate NY, but more importantly he introduces the non-vegan population to a new experience proving that vegan food can be amazingly delicious! Forming this Ragnar team is another way he is spreading the word and the love! “There’s so much misinformation out there about the dietary requirements to perform at an elite athletic level, or even a respectable athletic level, so I think it’s incredible that 12 vegans can get together and run nearly 200 miles purely on vegan power!” Joel is also motivated to run this race because he has never done anything like this before. He’s been running on and off for a few years and he wanted a good challenge for his fitness level and to focus his training.

Favorite running fuelbananas, a PB&J on sprouted grain bread, and coconut water

Song that gets Joel pumped to runAnything by the bands Terror, Hatebreed or Earth Crisis. “I tend to lean towards the more heavy, angry-type stuff. I seem to run harder and with more determination when I am pissed off.”



Runner #8 – Me aka “Wonder Woman” – vegan 8 years – PA

What more can I say. I’m excited to be on a team that is going to show people what can be accomplished purely on plant power. And to meet, run with, and get to know such awesome, compassionate people who share my love for running – what more could a girl as for? Okay, maybe treats – lots of yummy vegan treats 🙂 Oh did I mention that already?

Favorite running fuelI’m a Vega girl – I always use Pre-Workout Energizer, Endurance Gel, and Recovery Accelerator.

Song that gets me pumped to runI have a pre-race play list that has grown over the years (and remains top-secret). But since day 1 it has started with Push It by Static-X.



Runner #9 – Jonny Rieth aka Jonny Herovegan 19 years – MI

Jonny joined Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power because he loves running, but more importantly “to show the world that vegan athletes can do it better!” The best way to introduce Jonny is to let him do it himself. “Basically I am awesome, and very rarely am I serious. One time I ate 2 ½ dozen vegan donuts on my way home from Seattle to Vancouver because I didn’t want to share any with my ex-wife, she just didn’t deserve any.” I just hope I can keep Jonny in my good graces during this adventure so that he will share a donut with me 🙂 Jonny says he would never have made it this far in life without his friends and family. He’s about to extend this circle at Ragnar!

Favorite running fuelBefore running – carbs, during – Vega Sport Gel. “Kinda tastes like the inside of a kangaroo’s pouch but it works.”

Song that gets Jonny pumped to runRide the Wind byPoison, To Hell With the Devil – Stryper, and most Snapcase songs.

Laura R

Laura R

Runner #10 – Laura Ryan – vegan 5 years – NY

Laura has been running on and off since high school doing small 5k races, and at the age of 24 she has recently completed 2 half marathons and will soon do her 3rd. Her ultimate goal is to run marathons. Laura is the general manager at Strong Hearts where Joel approached her about being a part of the team. Like me she was in on the spot, but admits she was skeptical that Joel could find a full team of vegan athletes. She was excited when he proved her wrong! In addition to the guaranteed 2 days off from the café 😉 Laura is looking forward to a new adventure and enjoying the Adirondacks at this beautiful time of year. Laura creates awesome vegan food at the café every day, and also enjoys cooking and baking at home. She even has her own blog where she shares her recipes and vegan adventures ( “Food consumes me, not the other way around.” In addition to running Laura spends a lot of time outside hiking or roller blading with her pup.

Favorite running fuel – “I find that a good hearty bowl of oatmeal and a few cups of black coffee get my body in motion.”

Song that gets Laura pumped to run – Superbass by Nicki Minaj & Wannabe by the Spice Girls. “My music rule is anything that makes me want to dance will make me want to run.”



Runner #11 – Becca Wellner aka “The Shark”– vegan 7 years – NY

Becca decided to join the team for a few reasons. “First and foremost, I am running to support and promote the vegan lifestyle. I hope that by people seeing our team and hearing our stories, it will encourage them to think about what they are putting in their bodies and consider a change in diet.” She is also running for her health. After she started putting on some weight, both Becca and her parents knew it was time for a change. When her parents tried to talk to her about it, she became defensive. Then with a new approach, her mom suggested they do Iron Girl together. Becca accepted and immediately began to train. She was most scared of the run, so she put that at the front and tackled it head on using the couch to 5k app. After racing Tipp Hill in March she was hooked, and even took on the challenge of the Boilermaker 15k in July before completing Iron Girl in August. Ragnar is her next adventure and she is looking forward to meeting other vegans who love to run!

Favorite Running Fuel – Jelly Belly Sport Beans

Song that gets Becca pumped to runI’ve Been Gone a Long Time by Every Time I Die



Runner #12 – Jared Avigliano aka “XVEGANX” – 15 years vegan – NY

Jared joined the team because he saw it as an awesome opportunity to spend time with a group of like-minded, compassionate folks and work through an adventure as a team. He was on a Ragnar team years ago and just days before the event he suffered an overtraining injury that prevented him from running with his team. Since then his goal has been to get himself back together and compete in the Ragnar. He is excited not only that he has another chance, but that he gets to run with a vegan team. “I’m truly honored to be on this team and I’m totally inspired by my teammates.”

Favorite Running Fuel – Jared’s go-to smoothie mix: frozen banana, frozen strawberries, as much kale and spinach as he can shove into a Vitamix, dates, chia seeds, flax oil, whatever nuts are lying around, Raw Meal Protein powder and almond milk. “I’m no nutritionist by any means, but all those things taste good and seem pretty healthy so I normally down one a day.” I’d say you have a great mix going on Jared!

Song that gets Jared pumped to runThe New Ethic by Earth Crisis and Total Liberation by Gather

Thanks for taking the time to meet Adirondack Ragnar Relay Team #185 – Strong Hearts Vegan Power, or as Captain Joel calls us, “the rag-tag band of vegan misfits”! If you’re racing, look for us out on the course and make sure to give us some love 🙂 You’ll know who we are by the backs of our shirts – we will have our name, and will each have a different number. The number represents the years each of us has lived a vegan lifestyle. Plantstrong!


We’ll be documenting our adventures along the way so make sure to keep up with us via #strongheartsrun!

Trails and Ales

When a race is described as “An unusual challenge for road or trail runners“, that sounds like my kind of race! The Mount Cuckoo 30k caught my eye for a few reasons. First it is an Uber Endurance Sports race, and they have a reputation for hosting some lively and fun events in the area. According to the web site this race hasn’t caught on, so this year was going to be the Mount Cuckoo Farewell Party. I couldn’t miss out on my chance to race this course! Second, it was 2 weeks out from Vegas, so it would be a perfect way to get in one last long run effort. Third, it combines my two loves – I’ve had a long and loving relationship with road racing, and am also enjoying a dirty love affair with trail racing. Being able to spend time with both of them in the same race was a great way to celebrate this love triangle 🙂 And last but not least, it conveniently took place right across the street from Stoudt’s Brewing Company, where Microfest was being held after the race. What a perfect way to “recover” and celebrate another wonderful day of racing.

We had perfect race weather as we set out onto the roads to begin the first loop. After my poor pacing during my first 30k, I really tried to control myself during this first loop. I was happy to have a familiar face with me for a while – Mark Stoltzfus, who I had just met and run with 2 days prior – was right up there as we turned off into the trails. The terrain was great – the roads were smooth and the trails were not overly technical – what a great mix! The miles were ticking by quickly and before long we were at “the longest and steepest driveway in Berks County” where we were greeted by an accordion player and “Heidi” serving beers at the summit. I politely declined as we turned around to descend the monster driveway. About halfway down I saw the next female on her way up, and realized that I better start picking up the pace. As we hit the trails again Mark pulled ahead and that was the last I saw him during my race (other than the out-and-back sections).

I finished loop 1 feeling great, and although I didn’t know whether or not the next female was doing 2 loops or 1, I figured I better I better keep up the pace on loop 2. To pick my goal for this race, I looked at last year’s results. The winning female ran a 2:40, so I simply wanted to run sub-2:40 🙂 Finishing loop 1 in 1:11, I was in good shape. Heading out on the roads for loop 2 I saw the 2nd female coming in, and it appeared I put a bit more of a gap on her in the 2nd half of loop 1. Once we hit the first trail section, that’s when the fun began. At this point a majority of the runners were finishing the 15k loop, and because we were on singletrack trails, there was a lot of pulling off to the side and stopping to let others pass. I welcomed this interruption – it was a chance to finally interact with some people, and it was giving me some breaks running up the hill! One woman called me a “stud” – wasn’t sure if that was a compliment – it must be the hair… Another woman told me I was her hero. Runners are awesome. Period.

I was happy to make it to the driveway again, as I would have a chance to see where the next female was on my descent. Oh the relief I felt when I made it back to the bottom without another runner in sight! I could relax a little, but not too much. I decided to run with a hydration pack. I didn’t want to worry about the aid stations being too far apart and it was worth the extra weight to me. I’m glad I made that decision – with less than 3 miles to go I was close to empty, which also meant my body’s bladder was full. Feeling confident in my lead, I pulled off onto another trail briefly for a nature break before heading to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 2:26:51 – well below my goal. I was first female overall and 3rd finisher overall. I was pleased with my result, and also with how I raced. I collected the best finisher “medal” ever (this alone makes the race totally worth it. Yes, it’s a whistle!)
But what I was really shooting for was the overall finisher award – an authentic cuckoo clock!

Thank you Stephan Weiss for an awesome, memorable event. And of course the most unique “trophy” that hangs on my wall and provides some background “music” while I work. I sure hope this race sticks around for at least one more year, and if it does, you definitely don’t want to miss it! (the age group awards are equally awesome)

Now it was time to head across the street and celebrate at Microfest. Of course I went straight to Saucony Creek Brewing Company where they were serving 2 of their best beers – Stonefly IPA, and my favorite, Captain Pumpkin’s Maple Mistress!

I also sampled some of the beers from other great breweries like Evil Genius, Victory, Monocacy, Susquehanna, and of course Stoudt’s! (sorry, Saucony Creek is still the best – I’m not biased or anything) Stoudt’s hosted a great event with awesome live music, food, and plenty of lively people who share a love for beer. Recovery at it’s finest 🙂


Syracuse 70.3

I signed up for this race less than a week prior to the event with one main goal in my head – finish. Of course I had been incessantly stalking the weather for race day, and I would be a liar if I said I wasn’t worried about my ability to handle this race in the heat that was predicted. Yes, my morale has been a bit low after Quassy but as Craig reminded me multiple times, I needed a finish to restore some confidence in myself. So off we went to our old hometown to see family and friends, and to tackle this race.

My training since Quassy has been spotty and labored so I didn’t have a taper week and trusted my base to get me through. Try as I may to squash any doubts about my heat issues, it was my only concern. And because I know that letting these thoughts get into my head is the worst thing I could do I convinced myself that the portion of the race I did finish in Quassy was the only heat training I needed to get through my day. My secret weapon was going to be my arm coolers. I bought them after my heat stroke and although I’ve trained in them only a few times I never raced in them. For some reason they always missed my packing list when really they should travel with me everywhere. They were going to be my shield – just like my alter-ego Wonder Woman’s bracelets.
wonder woman bracelets

I was happy that the water was cool on race morning – I wanted all the help I could get. There’s not much I can say about the swim. Was I panicked about my timing chip? Yes. Swimming through those weeds didn’t help. When one wrapped around my ankle, only to loosen and fall off shortly after, I pulled my leg up to check and make sure the chip was still there. I was nervous every time someone touched my ankle. For some reason I swam the course wide but otherwise I thought I was doing well, until I got out and looked at my watch… That ranks up there with one of my worst swims yet for no reason other than my ever-failing ability to become a shark in the water. But exiting that water with my chip intact made me feel like I was already ahead of the game 😉

Time to head out on the bike and as usual my heart takes over my head when I realize how far behind I must be from the swim performance and I must now catch up as quickly as I can. Never a good idea, and especially not on this course with the early climbs. Soon enough I was able to talk myself back down and settle into a decent pace. I was still a little off on my nutrition strategy early on but was able to correct it and all was good. There was more wind than I had expected on the bike course but I looked at this as a positive in terms of keeping me cool. The bike course was great – I wouldn’t change a thing! I didn’t ride as strong as I had wanted to and didn’t hit my goal, but I know what work needs to be done and am prepared to tackle it.

Coming in off the bike I was definitely nervous about how I was going to feel heading out onto that run course. I tried to keep the positive thoughts flowing and reminded myself that I already felt better than I did at this point in Quassy, and that I was going to finish this race. That was pretty much what went through my head during the whole run – “I just have to finish. I am going to finish.” The run course is definitely a challenge, especially when you know it’s a 2 lap course and you have to tackle those hills twice. I didn’t have a strong pace going out but I knew pushing it would only lead to my demise. I had a good system going – in addition to getting the necessary fluids at each stop and the cold sponges that felt amazing, I would dump a cup of ice down my top. As needed I would reach down my top for a piece of ice to chew on. I didn’t care what it looked like – it was quite convenient! I felt really good coming back in on the first loop and was actually excited thinking that my 2nd loop would be even stronger. That was until I rounded that long…stone trail and started the 2nd loop.

The amazingly talented Kendra Goffredo came up from behind with her posse of strong females and urged me to join them – pushing each other through this tough 2nd loop. It was so refreshing to have the 4 of us cruising through the field of competitors working together as a team. The mood on that course was dismal and this was just the lift I needed. Soon 2 of the girls fell off the pace and it was just Kendra and I. She was motivational beyond words and I felt bad that I could not return the inspiration as I was fighting just to keep up the pace. Sure enough we got to the next aid station and I fell off as I rounded up my necessary items and off Kendra went on looking strong and determined. She was ON and I didn’t have it in me. She went on to take 1st in her age group and 3rd amateur for the day – FIERCE! I’m honored I got the chance to meet her and run with her for that short time.

But for me the race was getting tougher. I had to do the unthinkable – I took 3 walk breaks on the 3 hills. I realized that I would be able to walk faster than the pace I was trying to run, and I was feeling a bit wobbly. It was heartbreaking – I was so close and I knew I was going to finish, but I wanted to finish strong. I was well beyond my time goal at this point but once I got on to Apulia Road I vowed to pick up the pace as best as I could. I had no idea where I was during that race in relation to the others in my age group and I didn’t even care – I had a one-track mind – the finish line. Craig was right – I just needed to finish – and in doing so I was satisfied.

I ended up placing 4th in my age group and should be receiving a roll down slot to the 70.3 World Championship race in Vegas this September. Not the way I wanted to get it, but I have time to step up my game 😉 It was great seeing so many familiar faces on the race course. And also having Craig, his mom and her husband there for me afterwards. The sliced cucumber with salt she brought was just what I needed after that race! Congrats to everyone out there who battled it out in the heat – we are all that much stronger as a result!

Swim – 44:26
T1 – 2:30
Bike – 2:45:52
T2 – 1:04
Run – 1:42:57

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – Rev3 Quassy Race Report

The Good: It was a perfect morning at a beautiful venue. Sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, and I was feeling race-ready. I swam a very short warm-up in the lake and waited on the beach for my swim wave to start. It was a run-in start, and I was smart to position myself off to the side so that I wouldn’t try to get caught up with the swimmers I had no business being near 😉 My plan for the swim was to go out at my own pace and settle it. The gun went off and I stayed relaxed – got right into the water and swam at a pace with which I was comfortable. The plan was working – I felt strong and I even started passing some girls in my wave by the first turn. The back stretch of the swim was a little tougher as we were now swimming into the sun and sighting was tough. I just tried to power through this section, knowing that after the next turn I’d be on the home stretch.

The Bad – Before hitting that 2nd turn, the wave behind us started plowing through our field. This is nothing new to me – if I’m not in the last wave, you better believe I have people swimming over and around me during the final leg of my race – so I’m comfortable with this. What I wasn’t expecting was for someone to grab my ankle, which had my chip attached, and it pull off. It was one of those slow motion moments – I could feel it happening but couldn’t stop it. I immediately stopped swimming and turned around in an attempt to recover this chip. Of course, this was a lost cause – I couldn’t see anything, and more swimmers were coming through. I gave up on trying to recover it and realizing there was nothing else I could do at that moment, continued to swim. So many scenarios were going through my head – was my race over? Should I continue to race even though I wouldn’t have any times recorded? Should I just make the rest of the day a training day? Or just cut my losses (including the $110 fee for a lost chip) and go home? At this point I was swimming at a leisurely pace as I’m trying to digest what just happened. Rookie mistake – this is why you always prepare for these things – so when they happen you can continue “racing” without much thought. Then the idea came into my head that hey, maybe they can get me a new chip and I can keep racing. So I finished that swim like I meant it 😉

I got out of the water and told the first volunteer I saw what had happened. He said he would go ask somebody if there was something they could do for me. We went through transition together, and I gave him my bib number and showed him where I was racked so he knew where to find me. I got to my spot and started to transition like I normally would, but the whole time I’m watching this guy to see what was going to happen. Slowest transition ever, but when I saw him running towards me with another volunteer I knew my day had been saved! They gave me a replacement chip and I was on my way. Kudos to the Rev3 staff coming to my rescue!

I headed out on the bike feeling totally energized – I had some time to make up but I was still in this. The bike course was challenging but beautiful. I was powering up the hills and passing girls by the handful – one advantage of being late onto the course 🙂

The Ugly – I decided to try a different nutrition strategy for long course racing. Although I had been practicing it during training, I never had a chance to train in this kind of heat, which is what I believe complicated things. About an hour into the bike my stomach was cramping, but it wasn’t a major concern. It was feeling worse as time went on, and right around mile 40 on the bike is where things started to get ugly. By this point I had cramps, was nauseous, and felt like I couldn’t get enough fluids in me. In addition to the 2 bottles I carried, I took a bottle of water at each exchange. Some was squirted into my helmet, some onto my body, and the rest I drank. After the last bottle exchange I was wondering how I would make it in without more fluids. My body just didn’t seem to be assimilating what I was taking in. I skipped my last sleeve of Clif bloks because I was sure my stomach wasn’t going to handle them, especially without more fluids. In the last 10 miles I was passed by 2 girls – both in my age group. I couldn’t even keep them in my sight – I was fading fast. But I still had the run, and that’s my strongest leg of the race.

I came into transition, dismounted, and as I started running with my bike it was like I ran into a sauna – I felt really dizzy, which I had not been feeling at all on the bike. I was a little concerned, but was able to pull off a decent transition and head out. Since having the heat stroke in 2007, I am now hyper-vigilant of my condition in this kind of weather. Perhaps that is holding me back… As I ran out of transition I decided to check myself – I recited my name, address, and telephone number to myself. I passed – I was okay. Running out of the park is where most of the spectators gathered to cheer on the athletes. Normally I feed off this energy and it gets me pumped. Today all I wanted is for the yelling, whistling, and cowbells to stop – my head felt like it was going to explode. I was barely able to slap the hand of the very-enthusiastic guy on the course who was encouraging every athlete – he was standing between me and the aid station and I had a one-track mind. 2 cups of ice down my top and 2 cups of water to drink. I told myself that once I hit that 3 mile mark I would be settled in and ready to race. I felt like I was barely moving but I kept thinking things would shake out. I hit mile 1 at 7:46 – ouch. I told myself I could easily make this up later in the race. I wasn’t willing to admit that I was kidding myself.

I was having a sharp pain deep in my abdomen when I ran, and each step felt like I was being stabbed. It wasn’t cramps, it wasn’t a side stitch – I didn’t know what it was. I got to the first rest stop and decided I should walk through it and make sure I got enough fluids. That walk turned into a walk/shuffle for the next mile. I stopped alongside of the road at a turn – there was shade and I had a decision to make. 2 spectators were there and told me I needed to sit for a while, and offered to call someone for me. I was ready to turn around and go back, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I starting walking again, telling myself to just keep moving forward. If I had to walk 13.1 miles that’s what I had to do. Many of the athletes were asking me if I needed help as they passed, and one guy told me he was doing a 12:30 pace, and that I should join him. The camaraderie of triathletes always amazes me. I thanked him for his offer, but I knew I couldn’t hold on to his pace. I hit mile 2 and hit my lap button (habit) – 12:24. I passed another spectator and asked her where the next aid station was. She told me she didn’t know, but that I could have her water – so awesome of her. I told her I could make it and thanked her as I kept walking. Finally the rest stop was in sight – I arrived, grabbed a cup of water, and collapsed into the grass behind them. Mile 3 wasn’t happening, and mile 13.1 certainly wasn’t.

There was another racer there with the same issue, and he told me they already called for a vehicle to come get him. The volunteers at that rest stop were amazing – with tons of athletes coming by they kept making sure that I was okay and had everything I needed. It was along wait for the car to come get us, which meant a long time of thinking about the decision I had made. And the irony of my day – losing my chip, thinking my race was over, getting another chance with another chip, only to fall apart later in the race. Another athlete joined us with the same feelings of disappointment along with a small sense of pride in making the tough decision. The car took us back to transition and as we passed that finishing chute I felt even worse that I didn’t have the chance to run through it. Next year…I will be back!

It was a huge disappointment not to finish my first 1/2 iron distance tri in 4 years. I was really looking forward to this day, the course, and the feeling of finishing. But I am still lucky to be able to race, and that I had the sense to use my head instead of waking up in an ambulance having no idea what was happening. The thing that bothers me most about my heat stroke was that I had no idea it was coming. Most people know that I am a control freak, and that feeling that I had no control still haunts me. I believe I made the right decision to stop at Quassy, as mentally painful as that is. No one wants to be a quitter. Kudos to everyone who raced – it was a tough day. Now I just need some heat to train in so I can better prepare my body…

Even Uglier – A few days after the race a huge patch of poison ivy appeared on my stomach. Do I even get poison ivy?!? The next day it showed up on my right leg. Then the left leg, then my right arm. A week later and I’m still covered in poison with new batches cropping up daily. A not-so-pleasant reminder of what happens when you DNF and then proceed to lay in the shady grass on the side of the road 😦

A Perfect Match

We all have things in life that go great together. Some of my favorites are: peanut butter & jelly, chocolate & cherries, Craig & I, compression & ice. I could go on, but you get the picture. Perfect pairs make us happy. They make us smile. Put a little spring in our step and make our day just a bit brighter. You could even say that sometimes they save the day.

Then there are the things that don’t go well  together and have the opposite effect on our mental state. For example, body symmetry issues and running. Most of us have experienced this at some point. Through trial and error, triumph and heartache we struggle when find these limiters. They may not be performance inhibiting, and they may not be causing a great deal of pain. But they’re present, they can be annoying, and just down-right concerning. They remind us that we need to pay extra special attention to our bodies or we may face greater consequences down the road.

As you know, I love to run. I mean love it! For those of you who have been around me when I cannot run, you understand. Through lessons learned over the years my goal is to keep myself running as long as I can. And that means lots of attention paid to my body – training, strengthening, nutrition, recovery – the whole shebang. I try my hardest to look into my crystal ball and find exactly what I need to do, but it sure isn’t easy.

My right adductor has been a constant sore spot for me after having the stress fractures in my pelvis. It’s one of those nagging pains that requires my constant attention. A few months ago I went to see “Magic Mike” Walters, who is THE man to see for body work and massage. As usual I give him my  laundry list of problem areas, which always includes my right adductor, and he works his magic to make me feel like a million bucks when I walk out the door. This time he had a new suggestion for me in an attempt to alleviate the annoyance in my right adductor. He told me to wrap an ace bandage nice and tight around the problem area when I run, as the compression would help keep the muscle lengthened. That’s when the lightbulb went off – what a perfect match! I told him that I had just become a 110% Playmaker, and that their Kick Back Quad Sleeve would provide compression over the exact area I needed to target. “Even better!” he said.

110% Kick Back Quad Sleeve

110% Kick Back Quad Sleeve

Since that day I’ve been doing all of my runs wearing a quad sleeve on my right leg, and oh what a difference it has made! My adductor feels secure, less-fatigued, and keeping the muscle lengthened takes the stress off the surrounding muscles. I’ve been extremely happy with how my running has been progressing so far this season, and I’m sure the Kick Back Quad Sleeve is contributing to it!

Thank you to 110% for your support, and for making the quad sleeve, which just so happens to be a perfect match for my issue! And of course thank you to Mike Walters for making the connection that I didn’t notice was right in front of me 😉

Happy Training!

Good Things Come in 3’s

3 finger

2013 is off to a great start! I’ve done 3 road races in 3 months at 3 different distances and have 3 new PR’s! 🙂 It started with the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon in March, followed by the Valley Forge Revolutionary 5 mile run in April, and this past weekend was the Turkey Hill Country Classic 10k.

Although hitting a PR is always a goal when I race, I didn’t have a goal time in mind going into this. I was more excited to run my race, and then watch Craig race afterwards. During this time of year it is rare that we get to spend a lot of time together on the weekends. And…I had a feeling the course was going to have some hills, so why worry about time?

The course did not disappoint! The first half was fairly easy – I hit the 1 mile mark at 5:52 and was happy with this split. When I went through mile 3 feeling strong at 17:41, I thought I was well on my to a PR. And then we turned off River Road… Mile 4 was by far my slowest. We’d get to the top of 1 roller just to see the next one ahead. It seemed like a never-ending stretch, and I was happy to turn off that road and work my way to the finish. The hills did slow me down, but I was able to cross the line at 37:54 to take 1st place for the females. I was happy with my time and especially with how I felt.

turkey hill podium

Women’s 10k Podium

Hitting these PR’s early in the season is a great sign for my upcoming races. It’s also great reassurance that my coach (yep, that’s me) is leading me in the right direction. Although I know that coaching myself is the best fit for me, getting results lets me know that I am on track.

After receiving my award in front of a very large cow I resisted the urge to devour hot dogs & ice cream and frolic in the bouncy houses. It was time to cheer Craig on as he raced on the same course (only his with multiple loops and a nice steep climb added). He’s been having a great season and it’s always exciting when I have the chance to watch him race. Today was no exception, as he took 8th overall in the Men’s 1/2 race – way to go Craig!!

turkey hill craig

Craig crossing the finish line

Do I Half To?

I knew I was going to race this past weekend. It was the kickoff weekend for the USATF Mid-Atlantic Grand Prix series, and I wanted the opportunity to score some points for the Keystone Track Club.There was a 5k race on Saturday, and a 1/2 marathon on Sunday. Being the queen of indecision that I am lately, I teetered back and forth between the 2 races. I would stand a better chance of being competitive at the 1/2 marathon because I feel my endurance is more of a strength than my speed. But at the same time I hadn’t run a 1/2 marathon in well over a year. In fact I haven’t run longer than 10 miles since I don’t even know when. I decided to wait it out until after the Cary Duathlon, to see how I felt at that race.

I was feeling pretty flat for most of the week following the Cary race (I’m blaming it on the time change), so I decided to suffer through a nice short 5k. But alas, online registration had closed, and there was no race day registration. The decision was made for me – the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon in Wilmington, DE. I can’t say I was looking forward to the race, but I was okay with it. Then my inov-8 team kit arrived on Friday, and I was definitely excited to race!

It was a brisk and windy day in DE, but considering the weather the day before, we were lucky. I felt calm and relaxed prior to the start of the race. I had no goals for placing and didn’t have a time goal in mind either. I simply wanted a respectable time, and to work on pacing properly so I didn’t fade in the last few miles. I found teammate Katie O’Regan at the start line, and she filled me in on the details of the course which was helpful. We were both positioned further back from the start line than we were used to, but when the canon went off it wasn’t too tough to work our way through the crowd. With a downhill start, it was very easy to go out too fast, and I was happy when I hit the first mile marker at 6:00.

For the first few miles I was feeling amazing. I felt strong but relaxed and in control. The miles were ticking off quickly, and I was feeling really happy about racing that distance. Katie was ahead of me the whole race, and it was fun to watch her form as she picked off the male competitors. At mile 6 the hills began. It felt like miles 6 through 9 were all uphill. Then throw some wind into the mix and the course changed from flat and smooth to rather challenging. But I was confident that the change in terrain was not wearing me out, and I loved how strong I was still feeling. I mean, wind and hills are my life training in Solanco – so it was easy to draw upon my training, and how I’ve learned to maintain my pace through the strong winds. I was really enjoying myself when I thought I would be in agony.

I held 5th place the entire race. I knew the 4  ahead of me were not going to be caught, but I didn’t know who was behind me. As long as I could finish strong, and not be passed, I would be satisfied. Coming into the last 1/2 mile we made a turn and there was one last hill to conquer before seeing that finish line. And that was where I felt it. I passed a guy going up the hill, and pushed him to stay with me and finish strong. The course leveled back out into the finish and I didn’t have much kick left. I was looking at the clock, and remembering that Marty Stiegman had predicted a time of 1:23:45 for me the day prior to the race. I just fell short of that goal, but it was nice to have something to push for.

I didn’t realize until I checked my PR spreadsheet on Monday (of course I have a spreadsheet for this!) that this was a PR for me 🙂 So now I really couldn’t be happier. Hitting a PR in March for a distance I have not trained for is a good sign of things to come this season. Since I will be focusing on long course events, the 1/2 marathon gave me the confidence boost I needed. Training is on track!

Katie was 3rd overall for the day, and I discovered the Keystone Elite team members who raced the Adrenaline 5k also had an awesome showing. We are off to a great start. Congrats all!

Finishing time: 1:23:48