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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Vegan Power 50k

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After waking up at 3:30 I arrived at Pittsfield State Forest around 6 am Saturday morning with great energy. The weather was perfect, I was surrounded by vegan runners, and most motivating – I woke up seeing $1,325 out of $1,500 raised on my GoFundMe page. No matter what the day would bring, I was running this for Scott Spitz.

After recovering from an extremely debilitating surgery to remove the cancer that has invaded his stomach he has been working hard and showing extreme resilience & persistence through 17 infusions and endless side effects from the drugs being pumped into his body. Running is still his main passion and he has continued to run as much as he can throughout this experience. He is now preparing for his 2nd major surgery in hopes that it will restore his body back to where he was physically before this nasty diagnosis was thrown at him.
scott hospitalBoth Scott and I are so very grateful for the outpouring of generosity our friends have shown. For any of you runners out there, don’t forget the More Fire Benefit Runs taking place in Indy, Syracuse, and Boston in August. We’re in the process of gathering some great giveaways as we come together to run in solidarity with our brother Scott before his surgery. I will be attending the Syracuse edition and I hope to see you there!
More Fire SyracuseOnto the race…we lined up at the start as race directors Ana Wolf and Michael Menard welcomed us and shared words of encouragement before we were sent off for six 5-and-some-change mile loops through the park.

VP50k start

Photo credit Ben Kimball

Loop 1 – After a countdown to the start we were sent off into the woods. Niko Viglione, Shaun Evans and I went off the front into the beginning climbs of the course. We were going along at a smooth, controlled pace and it felt great. Three vegans from NY, chatting away, making the miles tick by quickly and effortlessly. We finished loop 1 in 42:20.

Loop 2 – Another loop with the frontrunners. I was telling myself that this was just like a training run with friends. On loop 2 we learned about Shaun’s awesome adventure he’s planning with his 8-year old son Shamus – they will run 3,186 miles across the country next year – Shaun pushing Shamus in his “running chariot”. Be sure to check out this amazing family as they raise money for Ainsley’s Angels – to promote involvement and active lifestyles for children with disabilities. Inspirational stuff! I came through loop 2 in 42:09. Off to a great start!

Loop 3 – At one point Shaun asked if I was hanging with them, to which I responded that I didn’t think I would be able to. The first 2 loops felt great but they were running strong, and with 4 more loops to go I was already feeling fatigue that I wasn’t expecting this early on. The guys went off ahead while I settled into a lonely pace. Loop 3 – 44:48.

Loop 4 – I was happy to hit the halfway point at 2:08:57 and was hoping I could keep up the pace for the 2nd half. Still running alone, I did my best to keep my stride but I definitely felt it slipping. I was also feeling overheated which I wasn’t expecting. The temps weren’t very high and we saw little sun during each loop, but I felt like the humidity was really getting to me. Seeing all these shirtless runners was making me want to strip off my own, but I was running in my Strong Hearts Vegan Power top and I was pulling the strength from my team. As expected, the mud pits on the loop were getting progressively sloppier as the runners passed through them time and time again. Mud is definitely fun, but you could feel every twinge of instability as you’re passing through them. Finishing lap 4 in 49:41, I knew I was in trouble.

Photo credit Ben Kimball

Photo credit Ben Kimball

Loop 5 – by far my worst loop. I was breaking down both physically and mentally. I felt like all injuries from my past were flaring up, and every body part was yelling at me. The negative thoughts were creeping in big time – mainly that I didn’t prepare for this race as I should have. Although this race was more about gauging my fitness, I was fully expecting to better my time from October’s Blues Cruise 50k. At this point I knew this wasn’t happening – not even close. Just push forward.

The benefit of a 6 loop course is the amount of support you receive. There was the main aid station at the start of every loop, and another one halfway through the loop that you passed twice, giving you 3 opportunities for nutrition and hydration on each loop. I had gone back and forth about whether or not I should carry fluids. I am a heavy drinker when I run – that is for sure! In my mind the weather and the amount of course aid gave me the freedom to run without carrying anything which was enticing. Just in case, I had a hand-held bottle waiting at the aid station to fill if I felt like I needed it late in the race. Truth is, I needed it. But I was so focused on trying to power through this the thought of having to obtain and carry one seemed so cumbersome.

I had been eating Clif Bloks and fruit during the race and decided on a gel to fuel the final loop. I had been experiencing some hand numbness for 2 loops now which is part of why I didn’t want to deal with a handheld bottle. I put the gel in my mouth to rip off the top only to find that I couldn’t grasp the gel hard enough to pull. Uh oh. This was not helpful. I kept at it and finally got it open and down. I finished loop 5 in 52:33 – over 10 minutes slower than loop 1!

Loop 6 – as miserable as I felt during loop 5, the fact that I was starting my last loop gave me what I thought was a last boost of energy. I was walking the hills like I did in the prior 2 loops – looking to conserve whatever energy I had. I was really starting to feel overheated and a little loopy, cranky, and all that fun stuff. I did my normal check – recited my address and phone number to myself to be sure I was “okay”. When I arrived at the midway aid station some Endurolytes were offered to me. Brilliant! Why wasn’t I thinking of this earlier? I swear I left all common sense somewhere on that course during loop 4…

I continued on my way and suddenly felt very nauseous. Great – the Endurolytes would be wasted. The wave passed and I was fine – just looking forward to getting back to that aid station for more liquids – I was parched! Just as the table was coming into sight, my right hamstring seized. What? I haven’t had cramping problems in years! It stopped me in my tracks and I think a few expletives flew. Obviously this wasn’t going to stop me, but it would surely slow me down when all I wanted to do was cross that finish line and call it a day. I started to walk but it wasn’t going well as I drug my right leg behind me. Within a few steps it was starting to work itself out and before long it loosened so that I could run again. Phew!

For the rest of the final loop I was feeling great. Mentally that is – not physically 😉 Although those last miles seemed to be growing by the minute I knew that once I made that final road crossing back to the start line I would be finished! Although this final loop felt better than the previous, a time of 58:05 was showing how badly I had crashed. I finished the race in 4:48:36 which placed me as 1st overall female and 5th overall for the day.

VP50k finish

Photo credit Casey Nelson

Despite feeling totally spent at the end it was a great day of racing with wonderful people. Every race is a learning experience. And any day I get to race is a great day. I was hurting but happy. Time to enjoy some of the all vegan post-race food – yum! After a little recovery of course 😉

Let me just sleep this off for a minute

Let me just sleep this off for a minute

Ana and Michael nailed it – the course was great and perfectly marked. The aid stations were well-stocked with smiling, helpful volunteers. Best of all – between the race entries and one competitor who was fundraising on her own, over $2,500 was raised for Farm Sanctuary! Win!

I know one thing for sure – next year this race will at least double in attendance. With talks of adding a 25k option they will be sure to draw even more competitors to the area. Be sure to check it out – I know I plan on returning.

This one was for you Scott. May you tackle this surgery with the strength and mental attitude that has brought you this far in your journey. I’ll see you at the start line next year. Strong Hearts to the Front!