Loon Mountain Race – US Mountain Running Championship

LMR logo

What possessed me to sign up for the US Mountain Running Championship? I guess I was curious and wanted to try something new. My love affair with trail running is quickly becoming my #1 addiction, so why not try racing up a mountain?

In the weeks leading up to the event the race was receiving more hype and I was starting to see the names of women competing in this event. Yikes! This was serious business. And what was I doing? Focusing on Ironman training ūüė¶ Being a multisport athlete is a blessing and a curse – I love being able to compete in so many different events, yet without ever truly focusing on one sport it’s hard to get your best performance in any of them.

In the days leading up to the race that’s when the real¬†doubt set in. I started questioning why I hadn’t done any hill repeat training on the trails when I live in the perfect place to do so. I contemplated squeezing in some stair climber interval workouts at the gym. Instead I worried about my long run for the week, and snuck in 13.5 miles on the trails Wednesday night. Although I was bummed that I couldn’t get a 6 hour ride outside on Friday due to the heavy rain, perhaps it was meant to be that I only mustered 3 hours on the trainer. Obviously a taper for this event wasn’t on the schedule. The constant battle in my head¬†between “the next race” and “the big picture” was raging as I started to regret the fact that I wasn’t going to be bringing my A-game to this race. I needed to change my mindset, and quick!

Luckily I had plenty of distractions over the holiday weekend. Saturday took me to the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary July Jamboree, followed by the long drive to NH. I stayed with a friend 90 minutes from the race site which kept me away from what I had to face the next morning. Arriving at Loon Mountain bright and early Sunday morning and seeing the terrain was super-intimidating – seeing the competition mulling around the parking lot – even more so! But the weather was better than anyone could ask for and it was time to give it my best shot!

Quietly tucked in behind the big guns

Quietly tucked in behind the big guns

I lined up at the start line for the women’s 8:00 am gun time. By this point the nerves were full blast so I took some centering breaths. Looking around me I knew that we would be going off at a crazy pace. “It’s only 8k” I kept reminding myself…
startI read that the leaders hit the .5 mile mark at 5:30 pace. Um, yeah…even though I was not right up front, that’s not where I should be running at a mountain race! Time to settle down, get my head in the game, and power through this the best I could.

Hitting the 1/2 mile mark before starting to climb

Hitting the 1/2 mile mark before starting to climb – I’m tucked behind Magdalena

The course? Up, up and up. The footing wasn’t exactly what I was expecting – rocky dirt trails that were dry and deep. When you hit the steep spots you noticed how loose it was. My inov-8 trailroc 150’s (my go-to trail shoe) were a great choice for this race. They have the grip and protection for the rockier spots, yet are super lightweight and flexible to carry me up the ascents.

Photo credit: Scott Mason

Photo credit: Scott Mason

The climb to the gondola was probably the most energy-sapping. It seemed to go on forever. I had not been sitting in a good position the whole race and was just trying to not get passed at this point. It’s a lonely race with not many spectators tackling the slopes to cheer us on. At one point there was a lone spectator and he told me “you’re still in the top 30!” Perhaps this was meant to make me feel better, but it surely didn’t. Everything ached – my legs of course, but also my arms and lungs. The only thing I knew going into this race was that the finish was up the infamous Upper Walking Boss – which averages a 40% grade for about a 1/2 mile. All I had to do was make it to that point.

1 mile to go & looking rough! Photo credit: SNAPacidotic

1 mile to go & looking rough! Photo credit: SNAPacidotic

I reached the gondola and it was nice to be greeted by spectators! What came next was a long descent. I feel like I have really progressed in my descending so I was excited to have the opportunity to make up some time. Unfortunately my legs were not quite as eager – they felt like rubber and I fought just to keep myself upright! I still managed to pass my first competitor at this point which gave me a small mental boost.

But I knew this “break” would come to an end and soon enough I rounded a corner to see a sign “Welcome to Upper Walking Boss.” I took one look up and was in awe of this climb. I almost wanted to stop and soak it all in, but no time for that – the finish line was at the top of this mountain! Somehow I was able to pass a few people during this 10 minute climb. There’s not much excitement in power-hike-passing other power-hikers, but a pass is a pass! As we neared the pinnacle there were signs marking our distance to the finish. With 100 meters left to go I started to run and passed my last competitor to take it to the finish line. (there is a great picture of this, but I’m not willing to pay $28 for a copy, so we can just picture it in our minds ūüôā )

8k in 56:59 Рdefinitely felt like the longest 8k ever! Preliminary results placed me 18th so I was pretty excited. Later that day I was bumped to 20, then the next morning my final spot was at 21. What a bummer. But it also makes me hungry to come back next year and have a better showing!

Although this wasn’t my initial feeling upon completing the race, I can now say that I am looking forward to future mountain races!
LoonWomen_zps37f5dabe

 

 

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 РAfter 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‚Äôs 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 Рthat 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 ūüėČ 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 ūüėČ

Let me just sleep this off for a minute

Let me just sleep this off for a minute

Ana and Michael nailed it Рthe course was great and perfectly marked. The aid stations were well-stocked with smiling, helpful volunteers. Best of all Рbetween 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!

Leatherman’s Loop Race Report

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

inov-8 trailroc 150

inov-8 trailroc 150

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

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

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

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

chris tingue

Photo credit – Chris Tingue

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

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

david gordon first river crossing

Photo credit – David Gordon

david gordon first river crossing 2

Photo credit – David Gordon

john cummings splashdown

Photo credit – John Cummings

Plenty of mud:

chris reinke mud flats 2

Photo credit – Chris Reinke

ryan reinke

Photo credit – Chris Reinke

Sandy climbs like “the wall”:

tom casper the pit

Photo credit – Tom Casper

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

pine forest 2

Photo credit – Ciorsdan Conran

carol gordon

Photo credit – Carol Gordon

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

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

Photo courtesy of Michelle Blum

Photo credit – Michelle Blum

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

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

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

Top 2 lines from the race:

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

Eat, Play, Run

It’s not often I take a vacation –¬†usually my travels revolve around racing. So when I do get the chance, I like to spend my vacation the way every athlete dreams – fuel, train, recover, repeat. When I get to do this with my BFF, my sister, it’s even better! And when my sister lives in Albuquerque, NM I can train at altitude and the opportunities are endless! Here’s a synopsis of my eating and training escapades in the Midwest.

I arrived in Albuquerque Thursday night and after enjoying a nourishing dinner from my favorite NM eatery, Annapurna’s, we spent some time catching up before¬†I was off to bed to prepare for the weekend ahead.

Day 1 – Friday

Mileage: 9.7
Max Elevation: 6,500 ft

I awoke to find my sister in the kitchen prepping a delicious-looking pre-workout meal for the day.
granolaA homemade granola consisting of oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, apricots, cranberries, coconut oil and maple syrup. Hot out of the oven we covered it with almond milk – perfect!

granola 2

Final product

After we fueled up we were headed off to our first adventure. In order to ease into the change in elevation, my sister made the wise choice in heading to the foothill trails of the Cibola National Forest. This was a lovely greeting to start the trip:

Rattlesnakes, cougars and bears - oh my!

Rattlesnakes, cougars and bears – oh my!

The trails were perfect for day 1 – lots of single track, nothing technical, fun rollers, and of course, beautiful views!

cibola 2 cibola 3

After our run we checked out Loving Vegan in the Nob Hill section of Albuquerque for a nice recovery meal. I of course went for gold, getting the Bento Box, which meant I had the leftovers for dinner ūüôā
bentoboxDay 2 – Saturday

Mileage: 16
Max Elevation: 6,665 ft

Saturday morning the temps were warm enough for me to fit in a track workout before we headed to Santa Fe. With a high school just over a mile away from the house, it was perfect for me to run a warm-up on the way there. But not before enjoying another energy-dense breakfast prepared by my sister. Banana chia pudding topped with coconut and berries. Chia is the perfect fuel for a long day of training!
chia puddingDespite only having done 1 track workout outside this year, it wasn’t as painful as I was fearing. In fact, the company I had at the track made it fun!
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tumbleweed-roadkill_LRG

I am slightly obsessed with tumbleweeds…

After returning from the track I enjoyed some of the wonderful treats my sister prepared – coconut chocolate and cherry chocolate balls. Raw, vegan, and a perfect post-run treat! Then it was a quick shower and change and we were headed north! Today’s run would be in Ojo Caliente which is¬†50 miles¬†north of Santa Fe. Since we had a 2 hour drive ahead of us, we were going to need some pre-run fuel along the way ūüôā We stopped off at Rasa Juice Bar in Santa Fe which had plenty to offer.
RasaWe went with the Grounding Green juice – a blend of romaine, kale, beet, carrot, apple, lemon and ginger. And we couldn’t pass up some of the tempting treats in the cooler!We each had a lemon chia macaroon (I just can’t get enough chia!) and we split a fig bar. All raw, vegan, gluten-free, and delicious!

Back on the road to the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs. As if another day running in the trails wasn’t enough – starting and ending at the springs made it even more energizing. I set off into the trails to tack on another 9.75 miles to my morning track workout. I was again greeted with a variety of terrain and views. There were twisting hard-packed single-track trails, rolling hills, deep sand beds leading into ravines – a wonderful way to spend a Saturday!

ojo 3

If you look on the horizon you can see the snow-covered mountains in Santa Fe

ojo 2

ojo 1

Footbridge over Bosque River

By the end of my run I was definitely feeling the morning’s effort and couldn’t wait to get into those mineral spas!
one-of-ten-mineral-pools

“Our sulphur-free, geothermal mineral waters have flowed from a subterranean volcanic aquifer for thousands of years. Ojo is the only hot springs in the world with four different types of mineral water including lithia, iron, soda and arsenic. Over 100,000 gallons come to the surface, revitalizing those who soak in these legendary, healing waters. Our eleven pools are filled with different types and combinations of these waters with temperatures ranging from 80-109 degrees.”

We soaked in the iron spring and the arsenic spring – just what the body needed!

The Iron Spring

A Native American legend tells that the giant rock in the iron pool guards the place where the ancient people of the mesa once received food and water during times of famine. The warm, iron-rich water bubbles up from the natural pebble floor, providing hot spots to discover in this mystical outdoor cliffside pool. Iron is considered to be beneficial to the blood and immune system.

The Arsenic Spring

The arsenic water is believed to be beneficial for relief from arthritis, stomach ulcers and to heal a variety of skin conditions. Water from the iron and arsenic springs is blended in various pools throughout the property.

Feeling relaxed, it was time to head home. But not before stopping for dinner at my favorite NM eatery – Annapurna’s! Go big or go home seems to be my motto when it comes to recovery meals!
anapurnaI enjoyed a young coconut water to replenish electrolytes. There’s only one way to enjoy it – straight from the source! A hot cocoa because, well, I love hot cocoa. And a wonderful falafel chapati wrap with a side of greens and bowl of my favorite…beet coconut soup. I could eat that soup daily!

Day 3 – Sunday

Mileage: 14
Max Elevation: 10,678

Sunday already?!? I was just getting started… Although I was bummed that my trip was flying by so¬†fast, I woke up with excitement that my sister saved the best¬†run for last. La Luz. A seven mile trail starting at 7,000 feet and ending at 10,678 feet. I couldn’t wait to tackle this one! I fueled up with an Emergen-C, a¬†banana and a scone from Annapurna’s – one of my favorite treats!
sconeI filled my inov-8 Race Pro Extreme 4 one last time.¬†Then I was off¬†to run 7 miles at ~12% grade before turning around to descend that same trail. It was single track the whole way – ribbons upon ribbons of switchbacks across the mountain as you made your way to the pinnacle. There was no way pictures could capture the beautiful views, but of course I tried ūüôā
la luz 4 la luz 3 la luz 2 la luz 1

A race is held on this trail – they start on the road and run 1.8 miles on pavement before climbing their way to the top. In the Fall 2001 issue¬†of Trail Runner¬†Magazine, La Luz was selected as one of the “12 Most Grueling Trail Races in¬†North America.” There are only 400 slots available and registration is done by lottery. I hope to do this race someday, but not this year, as it happens to fall on the same weekend as the Wedding of the Century!

At mile 4.5 I hit the snow pack. I knew this was coming, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it to the top if the conditions were rough. I passed a group of runners putting on their microspikes and figured that wasn’t a great sign. But I was determined! I passed a¬†few groups of hikers – all wearing either microspikes, heavy-duty hiking boots, trekking poles, or a combination of the three. Although I was moving pretty slow, especially over the thick icy spots, I was impressed with how well my inov-8 Trailroc 150’s were handling the conditions. I think the people I was passing were impressed too ūüôā¬†I love these shoes more and more every time I wear them!
trailrocWhen I finally made it to the top I had a bit of a Rocky Balboa moment…
rockyI climbed to the observation deck to take it all in, but barely even looked out over the horizon – the winds were high and it was cold!! Time to race back down the mountain.

Of course this run deserved, you guessed it, lunch at Annapurna’s! I was so hungry after that run,¬†my meal didn’t even¬†last long enough for a photo. A dosa stuffed with roasted veggies, a cup of dal, and a side of chapati.¬†Oh and¬†of course another young coconut! Sweet, sweet recovery.

The rest of the day was spent hanging with my sister and enjoying our last bit of time together before flying out early Monday morning. This included a joint effort on dinner Рa Protein Power Goddess Bowl from Oh She Glows.

Does a mini-vacation get any better? Awesome trail running in optimal weather, quality time with my sister, and amazing vegan food. I wanted more miles. When can I do it again?

Race Elite 220 Thermoshell

When new gear arrives in the mail I feel like a kid at Christmas. I tear open the packages with reckless abandon and immediately want to play with my new “toys”. The¬†product I was most excited about is inov-8’s Race Elite 220 Thermoshell.
thermoshellWith plenty of cold weather still in the forecast it was perfect timing. I picked a sunny, 27 degree day to take the Thermoshell, my Mudclaw 265’s, and the Race Pro¬†4 Extreme¬†out for 16 miles on the trails of Mohonk Preserve.

The Details
The main highlight of this jacket is its versatility. A quality reversible jacket is a must when you’re running in the mountains and experiencing varying conditions from start to finish and¬†top to bottom. The reversible options of this jacket are not only about the sweet¬†colors. Reversing the jacket with the Pertex Quantum on the outside provides 10% more warmth. I’m all about more warmth! I started my run with this option – working my way up the mountain.

Reverse option for 10% more warmth

Reverse option for 10% more warmth

About halfway up the mountain I was working up a sweat and it was¬†quick and easy to shed the jacket and pull it on in reverse. Now I also had the external¬†chest pocket to stash my chia bites¬†for¬†easy access ūüôā
jacket purple 1

The outer and inner layers are constructed with 100% nylon ripstop and the jacket has a polyester fill. The Primaloft is zoned at 40g/m2 through the body and 25g/m2 through the arms and collar. The Pertex Quantum ultralight fabric offers high levels of both windproofing and breathability. They also utilize body-mapped stitching for regulating body temperature.

My Favorite Features
Beyond the options (we all love options) and the jacket being both visually appealing and comfortable enough to sleep in, there are a few more features I would like to highlight:

  • Athletic female fit – a contoured fit is a must for performance
  • Monkey Paws – I’m always a fan of these thumb loops that allow you to
    stretch the sleeve cuffs to cover your wrist and palm. Keeps your sleeves in
    place and adds extra warmth!
  • Weight – not only is the jacket super lightweight (7.5 oz), but it comes with a¬†stuff sack for easy packing

    Stuffs into a sack smaller than my kitten!

I’m glad to have this latest jacket in my collection. It serves as a functional jacket before, during, and after runs. And with the winter/spring we’ve been having I’m sure I’ll still get plenty of use out of it before the warm weather arrives!

tower

Skytop Tower at Mohonk

Happy Training!! ūüôā

 

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā

Cheers!