#TrailsRoc 0SPF – a humbling day

Gathering for the start. Photo credit: Ben

Gathering for the start. Photo credit: Ben

When Eric Eagan of #TrailsRoc invited me back to run the 0SPF 1/2 marathon trail race in Victor New York it didn’t take much twisting of my arm. I had a great time last year – the trails are well-maintained, the terrain offers a little bit of everything, and the race crew and volunteers make you feel like family. And yes, when you can go to The Red Fern in Rochester for a post-race meal…it’s a no-brainer! This year fellow Strong Hearts Vegan Power teammate Sean Scott joined me which was an added bonus!

Last year I was able to take the win and a new course record after racing the 2 previous weekends. I was fully prepared to beat last year’s time – this year I had almost a full month off from racing and with this race falling in the middle of a new build phase I was feeling strong! Perhaps I felt too confident because I failed to focus on some key components. So the race turned into a humbling experience – one that is needed from time to time to remind you that races don’t always go as planned, even when you go into it feeling 100%.

When we arrived in Victor the skies had cleared and the sun was shining bright! Turns out some pretty crazy storms greeted them early in the morning making the #TrailsRoc crew work extra hard to ensure the trails were ready for the racers. But along with those clearing skies and bright sun came humidity. What is the #1 thing I always pay attention to the week leading up to a race? The weather! Especially where heat is concerned. I can never guarantee how I will fare on a hot day but I can at least take some important steps to prep my body. Leading up to 0SPF I knew that there was a chance of storms, but I never even bothered to look at the temps and consider that this could be a prime condition for high humidity. I guess I figured the race was short enough that it wouldn’t matter. When we slip in our planning we are quickly reminded of it 🙂

In fact, when the race started I still didn’t think I would have an issue. Talk about being over-confident! In the first mile I was feeling overheated but we were also exposed to the sun for most of it and I knew soon enough I would be in the shelter of the trees, settled into my pace, and my body would calm down. By mile 2 my face felt very flushed and my head was throbbing like it was going to explode. Mile 3 came and I had to succumb to walking runnable hills – not because my legs were failing me but because running up them caused my temps to soar even higher. I was stepping off to let people pass me by this point – there was a lot of single track and I felt bad holding people back. I played my usual game when things aren’t going well and convinced myself that I would reach a point where things would improve and I would feel like myself again. My first point was 3 miles but obviously that had passed with no improvement.

Photo credit: Mike Lesher

Photo credit: Mike Lesher

I then told myself that after the turnaround I would feel great and negative split the race. Okay, sometimes the self-talk can be a little too far-fetched 😉 I was able to hit the turn-around still in 2nd place but the next few females were not far behind. Hitting those hills on the return I was close to crawling – I actually doubted my ability to walk up the steep ones as I was feeling a little dizzy. I filled my Inov-8 Race Ultra Vest with 1.5 liters of water thinking this would be more than enough for 2 hours of racing but it was draining quick. There were aid stations on the course but they did not provide cups (and the racers were well aware of this – thank you #TrailsRoc for avoiding unneccessary waste!) I knew that with my pack I would not need to stop for water but I now realize that in hot races I rely on dumping water over my head at every opportunity. I could have very easily packed my collapsible cup provided to all athletes at the Vegan Power 50k and solved this problem very easily. Another lesson learned!

I arrived at an aid station and the wonderful volunteers offered ice. I didn’t have to think twice about stopping for some! They were kind enough to shove a huge chunk down the front of my shirt and it felt amazing. At this point I was walking and jogging whenever I felt the urge. My GPS sounded off the 9 mile mark and I laughed at how much further I still had to go at this pace. Yes I laughed – at this point I was totally fine with how my day was going. No one ever wants to have a bad race but once it goes wrong there is nothing left to do but chalk it up as another learning experience! My finishing time was over 15 minutes slower than last year. That’s over a minute per mile slower! OOF!

Not a total loss though because I finished the race (in 5th place), I got to enjoy the company of some awesome runners, and you better believe I still had that post-race meal at The Red Fern – rainbow sprinkle donut sundae and all 🙂 And it snapped me back into race mode – or more importantly race preparation mode. With Escarpment coming up this weekend you better believe I am prepping for heat and humidity!

Thanks again to Eric Eagan and the #TrailsRoc crew for inviting me and hosting a top-notch event! If you are not familiar with this group – check them out! They are a non-profit organization promoting trail running, maintenance and preservation. The proceeds from their events support the maintenance of trails and their conservation efforts – a worthy cause to all of us.

Website
Facebook
Twitter

And of course…here’s your race video to learn more about the group and the event!

Advertisements

First Race of 2015 – Syracuse Half Marathon

syracuse halfThat title sounds so exciting, but unfortunately my performance was not 😉 But hey – you gotta get that first race of the season out of the way! So why not do it surrounded by some of your greatest friends – who both shared the race course with you and stood on the sidelines in less than ideal weather to support the team. Although I wasn’t thrilled with my race I wasn’t down about it because I knew this race was going to be a test of my fitness. I’ve been a hermit this winter – enduring most of my miles on the treadmill. I have only done one speed work session outside. And craziest of all – I haven’t raced on the road since…gulp…the beginning of September! And that was a 5k. This race would be interesting…

Last year I found myself ill-prepared for the race conditions after traveling to Syracuse with only my racing flats that have zero tread on them. The slick, snow-covered roads did not agree with my attempts to run hard. Instead I opted to have one amazing race experience by running with one of my dearest friends Kate. You may remember our finishing shot – I know I sure do – I love this photo of shared friendship!
syracuse half finishHowever this year I came prepared. And true to Syracuse fashion I awoke Sunday morning to look outside and see a fresh blanket of snow. It wasn’t nearly as daunting as usual – maybe I’m just used to waking up at Marc and Amy’s on race morning, taking a look outside, and contemplating throwing the covers back over my head to sleep right through the race. I also think that my mental state going into this race was “no expectations”. I set out to pick up my teammate Jeremy on the way downtown and it started as a slow drive on the slippery back roads. Soon enough the sun came out and it looked to be an awesome day ahead. The only other challenge was to survive the cold – the temps were in the teens and the wind chill took a good 10 degrees off that. But hey, I had my inov-8 Trailroc 150’s this year so I knew the terrain wouldn’t be an issue.

I was happy we arrived early because the Oncenter was jam packed. Bathroom lines were an issue as well as simply navigating through the building. Luckily they announced a 15 minute delay but unfortunately it wasn’t enough time to get the full Strong Hearts Run Club/Strong Hearts Vegan Power team into the group shot 😦 So here we are in two parts.

Ray, Jeremy, Joel, Peter, Sean, Suzie and I

Ray, Jeremy, Joel, Peter, Sean, Suzie and I

buffalo

Carrie, Julie & Scott

It was time to step outside and I had no time for a warm-up. I’ve gotten used to skipping my warm up for trail and ultra races, so I didn’t stress too much about this. But damn it was cold! The sunshine helped but I was ready to get started. The gun went off and what do ya know – I wasn’t slipping! I feel like I had a smile on my face because this race was already an improvement over last year. 2 girls led the charge and I simply concerned myself with settling in to a comfortable pace. I did not think that winning was on the table today, so I did not pressure myself to go too hard or chase anyone down.

When I hit the first mile I wasn’t happy with my split, but I also wasn’t surprised. To put a positive twist on it I convinced myself that maybe all of this ultra running has taught me to pace better. Perhaps I was going to ease into this race and get faster as I go. Well I was wrong there, but it was a good practice in positive mental attitude 🙂 I was able to pass the girl who was in 2nd place early on, but the leader was far ahead and there was no chance of me gaining ground on her. At mile 3 a spectator told me she was 400 meters ahead and although I always appreciate receiving feedback like that, I knew it wasn’t going to make me go any faster. There was a definite highlight of this race – passing one of the female traffic enforcers she simply said to me “Go kick those guys’ asses.” It was very blunt – no excitement in her voice – it made me laugh 🙂

The course was in great shape considering the prior day’s weather – thanks to the race crew who spent the morning salting for us! Although my pace was slower than I would have liked to my surprise I was staying consistent. At some point past the halfway mark I could hear that there was another girl closing in on me. When she made her pass I offered her words of encouragement – she was looking strong! One blatant error I made was opting not to take in nutrition. I normally would during a half. I was wearing my super-bulky-warm gloves and my gel was zipped into my back pocket. The thought of taking off a glove to get it seemed way too challenging. I justified this by deciding it would be a glycogen-depleting run. However I don’t think you should practice this during a race 🙂 Honestly I don’t think it hurt me – it was lack of fitness that got me that day – plain and simple.

Within the last 2 miles another girl passed me. Coming into the last mile I thought I may be able to catch her but I didn’t put in any effort to do so. I simply maintained. I picked the spot where I would kick and when I arrived decided I didn’t have it in me to kick yet. I picked the next spot, and again realized it wasn’t there. I wasn’t passing anyone, and I surely wasn’t anywhere near a PR, so I finished my race satisfied with my effort for the day. I don’t think I left it all out there, but anytime I thought I should try to go harder I kept the thought of this weekend’s marathon in the back of my mind.

Hitting the finish line. Strong Hearts to the front! Photo credit: Kendra Murphy

Hitting the finish line. Strong Hearts to the front! Photo credit: Kendra Murphy

I finished in 1:26:47 – minutes away from my PR but I will take it for an early season race in cold weather. I was the 4th overall female and placed 1st in the 35-39 Age Group. It always feels great to be back out on the race course and today was no different! Now I have a better idea of where I stand fitness-wise and it’s time to build off that.

All of the Strong Hearts crew had a great race in less-than-ideal conditions. A special shout-out to Suzie who completed her first half marathon! She’s been training hard for this day and she killed it! #strongheartsrun #tothefront

Joel finishing with Suzie

Joel finishing with Suzie Photo Credit: Thad Jackson

 

 

Blues Cruise 50k – Take 2

I was excited to return to Blues Cruise this year for a number of reasons. It was my first 50k, Blue Marsh Lake is a childhood landmark, but mainly because I wanted to see what I’ve learned from last year’s attempt. If you read my race report from 2013 you may remember that I was not even close to prepared to tackle the distance. I wanted to come back this year with the preparation, the training, and the knowledge of what it takes to successfully race a 50k.

Right from the start the cards were stacked in my favor this year. Last year’s temperatures soared which was odd for the time of year. Sunday we were lucky to have what I would call the best running conditions. Temps were in the low 40’s at the start with an anticipated high in the low 60’s for the day. THIS is fall running! Love it!

The course changes direction every year, with 2014 running clockwise for the one-loop, 31 mile trail around the lake. I was told this was the easier route and I was determined to take full advantage of it. Lining up at the start of an ultra is so relaxing – there is no need to sprint out of the gate.
start lineRace director Stephan Weiss let out the command to go and this year’s start was more relaxed than the last. I was able to quickly settle into my own pace and for once I was not letting others dictate my pace. Progress! I spent a few miles lagging behind 2 guys who were only slightly further up the trail. I felt like I could have easily cranked up the effort for a short time to latch on and stick with them, but I felt it would be wiser of me to follow my plan. It paid off when I was able to pass one of them later in the race.

In fact, I felt so great during the first 10 miles running only slightly under my goal pace. I had a big smile on my face and was wondering if it was too good to be true. I felt so relaxed, in control and confident that I questioned whether or not I was taking it too easy. Luckily I talked myself out of that thought!
Pace for the first 10 miles – 7:32

Photo credit: Jim Blandford

Photo credit: Jim Blandford

At mile 12 I came across race photographer and amazing ultra runner in his own right Jim Blandford. He informed me that I was 9 minutes ahead of the next female. Eek!! This was too close for comfort. A bit of panic crept into my head as I spent the next few miles reasoning with myself. I wasn’t even halfway through the race – it was too soon to pick up the pace and risk blowing up. But what happens if this gap starts closing? I continued on, strong and focused. No need to panic just yet.

As I hit mile 20 I was excited to see Jared as he knew I wanted some data. He told me that I had at least 15 minutes on the next female. YES! This was such a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Time to enjoy the last 11 miles of this course, which in my head were going to be the easiest (I obviously didn’t remember the first 11 miles from last year…).
Pace for the second 10 miles – 8:26

These last 11 miles were definitely not passing as quickly and easily as I had expected. Even though my pace hadn’t changed, my effort level felt way harder. I had spent my day running by myself and at this point was really craving some company. I heard a pack of guys making ground behind me and was not at all upset about the thought of them passing me as it would at least give me some running partners. Eventually 2 of them caught on to me and then made a pass. This definitely helped me mentally to have runners around me for a short time. As we tackled these last hills that continued to taunt us so close to the finish, I worked to keep one of them in sight. At last, I popped out onto the road and was so happy knowing that finish line was quickly approaching. Even better? Not only was I going to surpass my goal of 4:15 – I was also going to snag a course record!

Photo credit: Jim Blandford

Photo credit: Jim Blandford

There was much for me to celebrate – I achieved so many goals. I got a better handle on pacing, I raced my own race instead of getting caught up in what others were doing, I stayed relaxed, in control, and confident – I didn’t once let negative talk creep into my thoughts.
Pace for the last 11 miles – 8:24

Photo credit: Jim Blandford

Photo credit: Jim Blandford


I cannot say enough great things about this race. To start – Stephan Weiss, Mike Yoder and the Pagoda Pacers do an amazing job at making sure everything runs smoothly so that you have an enjoyable day on the trails. The sense of community they create is second to none! The aid stations are well-stocked with friendly, lively volunteers who are eager to assist you with your needs. Furthermore there is no shortage of fuel. The course is spectacular just in its uniqueness alone. It’s not often that you will find a one-loop 50k course. The trails offer a little bit of everything while being extremely runnable. Single track, open fields, stone trails, dirt trails, rocks and roots – you’ll get it all. I went with my main squeeze – the inov-8 trailroc 150’s again this year to tackle the course. They never let me down! Although I love all of inov-8’s trail shoes, these are by far my favorite.

And I can’t fail to mention the swag…all finishers received a long sleeve tech shirt, a water bottle, a tech hat, AND a custom kitty throne!
swagWe all know I’m a sucker for unique awards. This sailboat definitely ranks in the top 5!

Photo credit: Jim Blandford

Photo credit: Jim Blandford

Again in 2014 Blues Cruise was the RRCA Regional 50k Championship. Congrats to Mike Dixon who also broke the course record.

Photo credit: Jim Blandford

Photo credit: Jim Blandford

Also congratulations to the masters champions, Justin Krebs and Elisa Edgar.

Photo credit: Jim Blandford

Photo credit: Jim Blandford

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this cool race video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Kn1cHCZMJc

Now…time to focus on JFK!

Finish time – 4:09:17

 

0 SPF with #TrailsRoc

logo

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

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!

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 😉 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 🙂

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 🙂 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 🙂
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!
roadrunner2028Medium29

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 🙂 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 🙂
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 🙂 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 – a 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?