SRT 20 miler

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

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

Trail blazes marked our course

Trail blazes marked our course

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

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

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

Photo credit: Tom Bushey

Photo credit: Tom Bushey

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

Photo credit: Tom Bushey

Photo credit: Tom Bushey

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

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Photo credit: Tom Bushey

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

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

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

0 SPF with #TrailsRoc

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

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

Photo credit: Michael Lesher

Photo credit: Michael Lesher

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

Chair hill. Photo credit: Tim Raggets

Chair hill. Photo credit: Tim Raggets

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

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

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

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

Heading to the finish line. Photo credit: Michele Fanton

Heading to the finish line. Photo credit: Michele Fanton

finish line

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

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

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

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

Finishing time – 1:57:10

Maryland Olympic Duathlon

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

I arrived at Western Regional Park and was greeted with the usual flawless procedure. Suzy sees me and grabs my packet for me – no waiting. Then I quickly gain entry to the transition to find my marked spot. I am a total creature of habit and thrive on consistency. Knowing that I can show up at this race each year and have everything run so smoothly means I can stay focused on pre-race prep. As an added bonus this year, the elite field had T-Blocks for racking their bikes. If you have experienced racing with these, you understand how exciting this was! Especially when you are vertically challenged like me and your mini bike always dangles from the rack. I knew that faster transition times were on tap today! (my 1st transition was 2 seconds faster and my 2nd transition 5 seconds faster than last year!)

Elite female bikes in the T-BLOCKS

Elite female bikes in the T-BLOCKS

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

Elite female start

Elite female start

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

Heading out on the bike

Heading out on the bike

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

T2 - ready to run

T2 – ready to run

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Vegan Power 50k

vegan-power-banner-revised-

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!

Spring Dual Race Report

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

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

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

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

* all photos courtesy of Jared Avigliano

Syracuse Half Marathon

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

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

Photo courtesy of Joel Capolongo

Photo courtesy of Joel Capolongo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.
stoudts

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!)
whistle
But what I was really shooting for was the overall finisher award – an authentic cuckoo clock!
cuckoo

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!
microfest

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 🙂

Cheers!