Back in the saddle

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Cathedral Ledge on a pre-run of the Kismet Course. I worked this race, sweeping for the long course, in September.

Two months after my last blog post and I am well on my way to training for a winter 50K.  Recovery was an interesting time for me, full of emotion and for a brief period of time, lack of motivation.  I wasn’t sure what was next and simply spent some time hiking and running easy until I my desire woke back up.

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Working my legs again just shy of one month post 100. Pre-running portions of the Ragged 75 (my “A” race for 2018!)

This was the longest recovery period I have ever taken.  It was certainly longer than some of my other friends, but I do not believe my base is quite at a point where hopping back into training any sooner would have been a smart idea.  To that point, I have been dealing with some pain in my left ankle.  For months, I couldn’t figure out why.  I had a few indications something was up:

  1. Left ankle soreness after Vermont, in the area where the peroneal tendon crosses over the outside of the ankle bone
  2. Minorly rolled that left ankle on both a short run on the Ragged 75 course and Mt. Chocorua.  The ankle felt unstable.
  3. Inability to hyperextend without discomfort.

I enlisted the help of my favorite chiropractor and PT to get things back in order.  The pain never grounded me and I started consistent running again mid-August.  The fact of the matter was it was a nagging soreness I couldn’t treat on my own.  While working in the barn today, I had an epiphany… I had written about this “phantom” ankle pain during my Vermont 100 recap.  That pain hit me between Margaritaville and Camp 10 Bear while negotiating some rocky trail sections.  It’s quite possible I rolled it somewhere in there and in true 100 fashion, didn’t give a shit.  I do remember the pain going away during the race (or at least I stopped paying attention) but it was there in the weeks that followed.

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The Whites…where my heart soars!

I always feel better when I can put the pieces of the puzzle back together when it comes to “issues.”  While I don’t know why or how I messed things up, I am well on the road to recovery.  Here is what the last few months have looked like:

  • August: 68.4 miles and 9,090 ft of gain
  • September: 88.4 miles and 12,292 of gain

I averaged 2-3 heavy weight workouts during both months and have been giving the blessing my Coach Chris to keep on lifting heavy for now.  The gym makes me almost as happy as the trails!  Speaking of which, I am continuing on with Chris with a plan that will take me into next year.  As it stands now, the structure is as follows:

  • December 2: TARC Winter Fell Race (50K): This race is gnarly and takes down runners every year.  The field is small, the weather sometimes sucks, but I have been told it’s epic.
  • June 2: The Endurance Society Infinitus Marathon: Like TARC Winter, this course is also supposed to be epic.  I wanted to choose events I hadn’t done before and would test my fortitude.  This should do it.
  • MY “A” RACE – August 2018 – Ragged 75 3-day Stage Race: I flipped flopped between another 100 and a stage race.  I wanted to head out west, but finances and time just won’t allow.  Instead, I chose Ragged.  This race was formerly known at the Emerald Necklace and is held on a trail network in New Hampshire.  I have crewed for this race a few times and worked it this past summer.  Now it’s my turn!  Stage racing is a different beast, as you run a predetermined number of miles each day, running point-to-point and camping each night.  Getting up each day and doing another marathon or 50K is the trick.  This will be HARD, but I am ready for the challenge.

Finally, as I find myself knee deep in training, I want to share that I taunted my coach one night.  I found myself with a glass of red wine in my hand and my phone in the other, writing an email about how I am done with being the slow girl on the climbs.  What that got me was an uphill running clinic with Coach Chris and instructions on how to be a better hill climber.  I now dry heave and curse on climbs on a regular basic.PreviewInstanceData

I am a very strong climber when it comes to fastpacking, but running them is a different beast.  I am ready mentally to take that leap.  Evidence of this came last weekend when I shaved significant time of one of the local race courses I ran for training.  I ran all of the ups and eased back to recover (while still running) the downs, which is the opposite of how I have been training.  Its hard, it feels different but I saw instant payoff.  THAT was enough to motivate me.

I want to take a moment and say how thankful I have been for the 2017 season I have been blessed to experience.  I was chosen late last year as an Altra Ambassador and wear nothing but their shoes (Lone Peaks and Escalantes are my favorite) while I tackled some magnificent goals this year.  I will continue to embrace zero drop as I take on some more huge challenges in 2018!  Altra changed my running life in 2016 and I haven’t looked back.

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Altra is more than shoes… for me it’s a mentality. This company embraces running, no matter where it takes you, and the relationships formed along the way. RTB2017 and I finally ran into fellow Ambassador, Emilie!

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Happily Recovering

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Truly resting.

Three weeks post 100 and I honestly feel great.  Would I go out and run 20 miles?  Nah.  I could, but I don’t think it’s a great idea.  While my energy level surged over the last week, I still occasionally feel fatigued (like right now as I hang out in my recliner).  Instead of pushing myself back into hard mileage, I have been resting and following the August plan Coach Chris put together.  I’ve been asked many times over the last few weeks how I have been feeling and what I have I been doing… here is what has worked for me:

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Easy workouts and climbs with friends!

Rest: Obviously.  I have slept in when my body called for it, done easy workouts starting 8 days post 100 and have generally been taking it easy. Sleep was vital to my training and has remained vital in recovery.  I am a huge fan of Onnit’s New Mood and have continued to use it for sleep.  My job is stressful and this helps to shut my brain off and leaves me well rested!

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Food: Eat the good stuff, and the salt water taffy too.  My appetite remained huge for about two weeks.  I continued eating the healthy salads and lean proteins, but didn’t stay away from white bread and candy as I craved it.  My weight has come back up to non-race standards but my muscle mass continues to grow and my pants are still loose.  My appetite is still raging because I started to hit the gym hard this week.  Here comes the after burn!

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All of the food.

Mobility and Rolling: I have a new mobility routine put together for me by Coach and really like it.  I enjoy using it before my gym workouts and as a means of getting joints moving post desk jockey work days.  I became a HUGE fan of rolling, dynamic stretching and dry needling during training.  I have not had a needling session since mid June and don’t feel the need for one right.  

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Easy runs: It’s so nice to lace up my Altras and simply cruise around with no expectations.  It’s been great for my brain and my body.  I had a hard time getting out the door for my Friday AM run but once I had been moving for about two miles I was incredibly happy!  Running really does bring me joy!  I have also been enjoying power hikes and climbing too.  I want to get back out in the Whites a bit more before winter and SEE what I missed on those runs.  I can’t wait to use my new tent and soon will be be buying my new pack and sleeping bag!

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Back at the gym and upping the weights!

 

Reading: I am drooling over possible goals for next year. I have some things in mind (most of which I refuse to talk about yet!) and have been eating up blogs and race reports.  Running Vermont opened up huge doors for me physically and mentally.  I really don’t want to stop!

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Training Throwback – Pemi Loop

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I promised this would have it’s own post and I have been meaning to get to it for weeks.  This training event deserves it’s own post because it was so much more than checking off miles and elevation on the calendar.  This was redemption for me.  The one day Pemi is known as the 2nd hardest hike in America, so it’s no joke!

In 2016, I attempted a one day counterclockwise Pemi loop three weeks after my first 50K.  It was a HOT day in the Whites and I simply didn’t have it in me.  I bonked between Garfield and Lafayette and just couldn’t get it back.  In retrospect, I believe I wasn’t recovered from the 50K and failed miserably to fuel properly.  For the first time ever, I knew it was time to bail in the Whites for safety reasons.  Tony and I came down our pre-planned bailout at the Lafayette false summit (ALWAYS have one! That is one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give you for the unforgiving Whites) and I ended the day vowing to go back.  I squeaked out about 19 miles of the Loop that day and knew when I went into 100 training I wanted to complete the entire Loop.

I watched my training calendar click away and the Pemi got closer and closer.  Here are the pinnacle training runs last two months of 100 training looked like:

  • Pineland Farms 50 miler – May 28th
  • Stairs Mountain (11 miles) – June 3rd
  • Belknap Double Traverse (21.1 miles) – June 10th
  • One day Pemi Loop (30 miles) – June 17th
  • Mt. Israel Mountain Repeats (14.5 miles) – June 25th

I did over 29,000 feet of gain in June to prepare for Vermont.  Note the location of the Pemi on this list… I had already logged serious miles and elevation before I rolled into that day.

Tony and I camped the night before just minutes from the trailhead.  It was fantastic and allowed me to practice camping, fueling and an early start… all critical points for my 100.  We ate a good dinner and went bed early.  I did drink a celabratory Boom Sauce given to me by a good friend for finishing my 50!  We should have camped after the Pemi (lesson learned!).

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Boom Sauce and excitement!

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Campsite Creep

We were up and hitting the trail around 6:22AM.  My excitement and nervousness was palatable.  I KNEW what I was getting myself into!  Bear in mind, I am not the fastest trail runner, but have the ability to just keep pushing (recently I was dubbed the “Bulldozer”) so I knew I would be on my feet for a long day.  I had eaten well before the start (Mountain House Eggs and Bacon and an Apple) and was well hydrated.

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6:22 AM Start at Lincoln Woods!

Our packs were heavy…. and as it turned out we could have gone a LOT lighter.  The original forecast was for 50s and rain.  In the Whites, you have to plan for the 50 to mean 40.  The mountains have their own ecosystem.  In our packs was extra layers.  Instead of this forecast, we had bluebird skies and temps in the mid to high 70s.  Needless to say… I spent the day weight training!  I used my Ultimate Direction 30 pack, carried 90 oz. of water at a time and had poles and my first aid kit too.

We started in Lincoln Woods for a counterclockwise Pemi loop.  This starts with an easy, relatively flat 4.8 mile walk towards Bondcliff.  Once the climbing starts, it almost never stops for the entire day.  The day was cloudy and misty at our start, but as we broke tree line just below Bondcliff we were welcomed by a gorgeous undercast!  I started hiking in 2002 and have been waiting for an undercast like this since then!  What a treat.  We continued moving towards Galehead Hut.  I was fueling well, felt strong and was climbing well.  I used Tailwind, plain water, some natural gels (Endurance Tap!) and Fuel for Fire pouches.  We made it to Galehead Hut by the six hour mark.  I had a Chef Boyardee Ravioli cup at the hut (cold, salty and delicious!) for lunch and we refilled our water.  It was already HOT and we suspected we would need to collect more water at the Garfield tentsite to get us back to the car.  Tony and I both carry Sawyer Minis to filter water.

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That undercast!!!

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The section between Galehead Hut and Lafayette is an absolute BEAST.  It was this section that yanked the wind out of my sails last year and set me up for failure.  I’ve hiked it a number of times in both directions and it literally busts your balls every time. Despite my best effort to eat and drink like I champ, I found myself irrationally hungry.  I was working HARD on those climbs, was really hot but never have been more determined.  We grabbed more water at the tentsite and kept on moving to Garfield.  I felt a little relief when I got there and felt better than I did last year.  The section between Galehead and the Lafayette false summit took me 4 1/2 hours. There is a LOT of elevation gain and loss in this section.

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Breaking through the clouds at Bondcliff

I got to the false summit and told Tony I had to stop.  What I should have said is “I have to stop and eat” but instead I said something like “I can’t go any further.”  He got worried (like he does) as I sat down and ate another Ravioli.  He was texting Lise and expressing his concerns I wouldn’t get this done and he didn’t want to be on the ridge in the dark. He told me his concerns and said we may have to bail.  Instead I literally yelled “NO F*&KIN WAY!”  in my head.  I did not come this far to bail again at the exact same spot I did last year.  NOPE.  I finished my food, packed up and took off.  Tony was still texting Lise and didn’t realize I was gone until I was picking my way towards the summit.  Yep.  Take that dink.  I had a new life to me.  Most likely due to the food, but the motivation didn’t hurt!

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Lots of climbing between Galehead and Garfield

I hit the Lafayette summit and made my way across Franconia Ridge.  The view from here is amazing for me because I get to not only see where I came from, but the end was in sight!  There are over 10 miles left from the summit of Lafayette to the bridge we started at, but I knew we could get across the ridge in daylight.  I had that in me!  It was getting foggy as we made our way to Liberty and Flume so I stayed strong and consistent. The worst part of this section was losing my “up button” by the time I hit that last Flume climb.  Tony took the lead and “pulled” me up that peak.  We summited Flume around 7:30 PM with heavy fog but still some daylight.  As we started our descent, I started to smile huge!!!  I was in the homestretch with six miles to go!  My quads, lower legs and core stayed strong all day so that descent was not hard.  If my pack hadn’t been so heavy and bouncy I would have been able to run.  As much as i like this pack, I have never been able to tweak it to run comfortably in it and it will be replaced for future fastpacking.  It just doesn’t work for me.

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Franconia Ridge never gets old… and we had it to ourselves

We made our way back to Lincoln Woods trail in the dark and in silence.  What I didn’t know is Tony was having a tough day.  Silence between us isn’t unusual as we spend long days on the trail.  Its the comfortable silence among friends.  I was giddy with excitement and getting choked up as I marched by way down Lincoln Woods back to the bridge.  I DID IT!!!!  HOLY SHIT!!!!  PEMI LOOP!  It has been a bucket list item for me for years and I pulled it off.  I was happy, nothing hurt and I was ecstatic!  I hit the bridge, whipped around and hugged by best friend.  I was crying (as usual) and he told me later he got choked up.  I was so excited he did this with me and pushed me through.  This is why our running relationship works.  I didn’t even hold the bailout comment against him! 😉

We got back to the truck, stripped what we could of our smelling gear and clothes and started the drive home.  We got McDonalds (my favorite post hike treat… don’t judge, it’s my thing) and sang songs all the way home.  We should have camped again, but because we are dumb it never occurred to us!

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Coming down Flume!

As you know, I am a Brand Ambassador for Altra and Born Primitive.  I want to speak on two invaluable pieces of gear:

Altra Lone Peak 3.0: I absolutely love this shoe.  The pair I wore had nearly 300 miles on them that day, but my feet stayed comfortable and they are excellent on the wet and dry rocks of the Whites.  I had not foot discomfort or blisters.  I paired these with Smartwool socks for the win.  Lone Peaks are zero drop with a wide toe box (all standard on Altra shoes) and have an medium amount of cushion.   The 3.5 just came out and has just minor differences.

Born Primitive Rhapsody Bra: This is my go to running bra.  I have a number of Rhapsody Bras and I cannot say enough about their comfort.  I wore one bra for the entire fifteen hours, and while I sweat tremendously and had a heavy pack on all day, I had no rubbing or chafing issues.  My heart rate monitor fits well under them and I forget I am wearing it.  I wore the Rhapsody for the entire hundred (changed once at mile 70).  I will never wear anything else at this point!  Want to try their stuff at a discount?  Use my code LIFTNRUN15 at http://www.bornprimitive.com for 15%!  They have a complete line of athletic and leisure clothing that is to DIE for!

Thanks as always for following along my running journey!

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15 Hours Later – CCW Pemi Loop DONE!

28 Hours in a Day

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I can’t believe it’s been a week… I rode the high of finishing the Vermont 100 (and achieving my goal) this past week and this weekend find myself being gently laid down to the world of “normal.”  I waiver between “did that really happen” and “HOLY SHIT I DID IT! I RAN 100 MILES!”  I am reveling in the feelings of completing this race because it represented such a huge first in my adult athletic career.

This post will serve as a basic race recap as well as a photo dialog of that amazing weekend.  I am so blessed to have the support network I do and will never hesitate to repay the favor.  They selflessly gave up sleep and time to make this dream happen for me and I will be forever grateful!  And as Lise said “horsewomen make the best crew.”  True statement.  Horsewomen are used to holding their ground with dirty, headstrong 1000 lb. beasts.  I comparison, a dirty 100 mile runner is easy 🙂

Here goes nothing…

Friday 07/14

Tony, Lise, Amanda, Jess and I made our way to West Windsor, arriving just before 10:00AM.  We staked our claim on camping spots in the field and set up our home away from home for the next two days.  The field was wet (compared to the drought of last year), but we found a drier spot and managed to set up our pop up tent with a tarp to block out the mist of the day.

We headed down to runner check-in, which I breezed through quickly.  Holy crap, this was really happening!  We took the obligatory silly number pictures and then made our way back to “camp” to relax and calorie load.  I had already done a crew meeting the week before (complete with the mini crew binder chock full of notes and space for the crew to track my progress) so there was no need to recap.  My crew was ready to go and so was I.  

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I proceeded to eat for the rest of the afternoon, a combination of fruit, veggies, carbs (freeze dried meals… rice and then pasta plus bread and butter), cupcakes (thank you Heather!) and lots of water.  I felt satisfied and full when I settled into my tent.  After dealing with some loud runners (who Tony set straight) I was able to get about four solid hours of sleep before the 02:45 AM alarm went off.

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Saturday, 07/15!  Start to Pretty House (21.3 miles)

Arrival Time: 08:35 AM

From my crew book:

  • “I saw a cow humping another cow” – Me
  • What’s good? The smell of horse sweat!  Abs and eyeballs feel good!

I started my day at 02:45 AM.  I did my best to choke down a Mountain House Eggs and Bacon (¾ down) but couldn’t get my apple down.  My stomach just wasn’t awake yet.  I drank a full cup of coffee and struggled into my clothes.  Truth be told, I was groggy as shit, but reminded myself I would wake up on the go and could eat early to catch up on calories.  I chose my Lone Peak Neoshells for the first leg of this race as we were warned at the race meeting of wet trails and the risk of trench foot.  These shoes have high miles on them, but are still comfortable and have a water resistant exterior and warm lining.  This would allow me to assess the trails, stay warm in the cool temps and make a decision at Pretty House regarding shoes.  

My crew took me to the starting line, said their goodbyes and left me in the sea of headlamps.  I started crying.  Hard.  I was crying because the realization of what I was about to do hit me… and not in a bad way.  This flood of emotion represented all the planning, hard work and dedication I put into this very moment.  I kept wiping the tears away and waiting for the start.  We finally took off (it felt like an eternity but I think it was only about 3 minutes) and I settled into the back part of the crowd on purpose.  I wanted to warm up slowly and get my rhythm.  The fact I would be out here for so long was still daunting so I wanted to ease into the day.

The trails and road to Pretty House were rolling, as was the rest of this course.  I fueled and hydrated well and made it to my crew before the heat of the day.  My first indication of foot pain came not far outside Pretty House.  My feet started to ache and I blamed it on the hard Neoshells.  Little did I realize it had NOTHING to do with that.

I was excited to see my crew all day and the first crewed aid station was no exception!  I did a shoe change into my Lone Peak 2.5 (wore these for the next 50 miles) as well as a sock change.  I felt strong coming out of here and was excited to see the crew again at Stage Road.

Pretty House to Stage Road (21.3-30.3 miles)

Arrival Time: 10:48AM

From my crew book:

  • “She’s still smiling!” – Amanda
  • Smell Scale: 4 (per Amanda’s assessment)
  • What’s good?  Abs and eyeballs, plus heart rate is normal!

I really enjoyed this section, which included some amazing fields and the Sound of Music!  I felt strong as I came through this section and was taking back some ground from runners who had passed me early on.  I did not eat much between Pretty House and Stage but did take my first round of Chef Boyardee (lunch!) at this aid station.  Tony warned me about the Suicide Six climb I was about to hit, but assured me it would be just like what I practiced in training.

I was mentally preparing myself for the heat of the day at this point, knowing I would have to hydrate well (I was scolding by my crew at Stage for drinking very little over the last two hours) and needed to continue to eat.  At this point, I was getting warm, but effectively sweating and starting to use my new cooling buff.  This thing was amazing!  All you have to do is dunk it in water, snap it and it goes cold.   I kept it around my neck for nearly 50 miles, dipping it in horse buckets left out by people along the course.  

Stage Road to 10 Bear #1 (Big Bear as Amanda calls it!) 30.3-47 miles

Arrival Time: 3:17PM

From my crew book:

  • “I met baby goats and a Jack Russell named Winkey!” – Me
  • Surgery performed
  • “Looking good.  Practically made love to iced tea” – Amanda
  • Smell scale: Heather – 5, Amanda – 5

The Suicide Six Climb was nearly ¾ mile in length and was 15% grade in some places.  I chunked it off, and was alone for most of the climb.  I was pleased with how I felt at the top but was definitely starting to overheat.  I walked a bit, cooled down by hydrating and continued to run when the opportunity presented itself.  Somewhere around the 40 mile mark, my quads and feet started to get pissed.  Up to this point, I was doing well.  I had no hip pain, marginal foot pain and my hamstring and knee was fully cooperating.  The downhills into 10 Bear #1 were taking their toll on my quads and I knew I had a nasty blister on the side of my left foot above the heel as well as my big toe.  Tony met me as I cruised into 10 Bear.  My crew remained so positive all day and provided me cards from friends and had awesome signs waiting for me!  They were under strict instructions to ask me “What’s good?” and nothing close to “how are you?” or “how’s it going?”  I repeated said my eyes, back and arms were good 🙂  

At 10 Bear #1, I popped my blisters (controversial but has always worked for me), taped them with my favorite athletic tape and did a sock change.  My feet were getting beat by the hard as concrete Vermont Road, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  I changed by singlet here, had some delicious Iced Tea and told Tony my stomach felt a little bloated and sour.  He gave me a Gas-X chewable and we chatted about strategy.  He told me to keep eating.  My appetite was good, I was just a little uncomfortable.  I was snacking at every aid station along the way and eating 400 or so calories of my own food between aid stations.  I sustained well on water, Tailwind and Skratch throughout the race.

I departed 10 Bear (not before being accosted by medical) and made my way up a climb out of the aid station.  Here the mental trials began for me.  I was 47 miles in and about to enter the unknown.  My longest race to date had been 50 miles and my longest time on legs was 15 hours (Pemi).  

10 Bear #1 to Margaritaville 47-58.5 miles

Arrival Time: 6:35 PM

From my crew book:

  • “Looking good, smiling, laughing” – Amanda
  • What’s good? Abs good, Agony Hill not bad, I LOVE POTATOES

I felt like this section was a lot of climbing!  I remember two hard and steady climbs between 10 Bear and Margaritaville.  Once again, I marvelled on my ability to climb even as my feet continued to decline in condition.  I felt strong both on the mountain road climb and the final climb up to the aid station.  Tony told me when I came in that my form looked better than 90% of the runners on the course.  I contribute this to a massive amount of core and upper body work over the last two years.  My stomach came back to me too.  I contribute this to my continued intake of my food, the introduction of small amounts of Coke, as well as potatoes w/ salt and watermelon.

Margaritaville to 10 Bear #2 58.5-69.4 miles

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Arrival time: 9:36 PM

From my crew book:

  • A drawing of the wagon and it says = The Balls
  • “There is something nipping at my nuts” – Tony
  • Smelly scale: Heather – 7, Amanda 2 (I just baby powdered myself all over… slowly)
  • “Yes!  Bye bye Tony! Ain’t nobody got time for that!” – Amanda and Lise

My quads had come back to life at this point and after my dinner “meal” of Chef Boyardee, I was able to run most of the next five miles back towards 10 Bear #2.  I was so excited to get to Tony, was happy that my wheels weren’t coming off the bus and my climbs remained strong.  I was able to ignore much of my foot pain at this point.

While happily running along, I came into contact with “Phil.”  I eventually had to tell “Phil” to buzz off.  Don’t get me wrong, I spent a lot of time chatting on this race and getting to know a few people I was yo-yoing with.  I even gave a girl a poncho late night.  I love sharing space with other runners in a race.  It helps pass the time.  The problem with “Phil” is he informed me he was a solo runner who regularly makes a habit of “leaching” onto other runner’s pacers.  NOPE.  Not a chance was that happening.  He also started to boss me around and telling me when to run.  NOPE.  Bye PHIL.

My running came to a grinding slog when I hit a nasty Class 4 road covered in rip-rap.  Know what that is?  As the wife of a dirt guy I do… this is nasty sharp angled rock dropped in wet, muddy roads to help sure up the surface for trucks.  I just couldn’t find a path to run and had to pick my way through it.  It was pretty dark at this point and I was getting ansty to get back to 10 Bear.  My feet were throbbing and I desperately wanted a clothing change.  The cool, dank night air was making me a little chilly.  I pushed through this section, battled a phantom pain on my left ankle and FINALLY made it back to my crew.  Just in time, I thought!  That last section was irritating at best!  It was the best feeling in the world to RUN down the hill into the aid station!  I was getting my pacer!!!

I rolled into 10 Bear, got my change of clothes and shoes, and my 70th birthday card from my dear friends Bill and Meg 🙂 That made my night!  I knew I had a big climb ahead of me, and despite shitty feet, I was ready.  I was about to enter the part of the course I paced last year.

10 Bear to Spirit of ‘76 69.4-76.2 miles

Arrival Time: 12:00AM

From my crew book:

  • “Listened to Pink at mile 72. That makes me a lesbian.” – Heather
  • ‘Merica bitches – Amanda
  • “Sass is still strong with this one [Heather]” – Amanda
  • Tony of the Tiny Shorts

Here is where my memories start to get scattered and Tony will remember more than I will.  I took the climb out of 10 Bear strong and eager.  My feet was absolutely trashed but again, it didn’t matter!  

Coming out of the climb, Tony fired up the “My vagina hurts” playlist I had him build over the last few months.  We ran along, alone, singing out loud to Hall & Oats “Maneater.”  It was one of my favorite memories from this WHOLE race!!!  We listened to tunes on and off along the last thirty miles.  It provided momentary distractions.  

I came into Spirit of 76 ready for some different food.  I asked for grilled cheese and started having broth which was delicious.  I was still drinking well and my crew gave me a small serving of Spark in a pouch “just in case.”  Spark is caffeinated and meant to be a natural energy drink.  I can run on it without issue.  I became thankful for this in the miles that followed.

Spirit of ‘76 to Bill’s 76.2 miles-88.3 miles

Arrival Time: 4:00 AM

From my crew book:

  • “Good pee… tripod… almost tinkled on hand” – Heather
  • Still have up button and laughing – per Amanda
  • Good Tunes

I look back at these times now and realize how SLOW I got through the night.  I can tell you that after I left ‘76 I literally started bobbing and weaving like a drunk baby.  I am pretty sure I fell asleep while walking.  Tony made me start sipping the Spark slowly.  That woke me up pretty quick.  My appetite had slowed considerably but I was still munching and drinking broth at aid stations.  My feet were SO bad.  The only way I can describe the feeling was like 10 tiny knives poking up through the bottoms of my feet.  The pain was equal in both feet and at times mind numbing.  I focused by thinking about the night sounds, chatting and passing people as I could.  I was still shuffling on occasion through here, but it was excruciating!  My damn feet!  I stand by feeling that if my feet hadn’t failed, I would have been still running here. Systematically I was TICKING!!!  It was exciting!

I was excited to get to Bill’s and climbed hard and strong all the way to the aid station, picking off other runners.  Here is where I passed off a disposable poncho to a girl I met on course way earlier in the day.  She pulled away from me around mile 30 and I hadn’t seen her again.  When we came upon her before Bill’s, she was wrapped in a trash bag.  She still had her singlet on and was freezing.  I told Tony to get the poncho out of my pack and we helped her into it.  She was visibly shaking and I was worried about her.  I later learned she finished!

At Bill’s, I crushed another Chef Boyardee ravioli (hence my nickname, Ravioli, dubbed by Jess).  I was in great spirits and wide awake.  I knew the sun would be up soon and knew I had less than a half marathon to go!  The carnage at Bill’s was what you expect as mile 88… lots of downed runners and suffering.  Again, I was so lucky.  I had been on my feet for 24 hours and still had gas in the tank.

Bill’s to Polly’s 88.3-94.9 miles

Arrival time: 5:41AM

  • “You are the dick beneath my wings”
  • “Polly wanta cracker”
  • Amanda’s thoughts: I love this barn.  You are strong.  Be tenacious.  You will do this.

I did alright leaving Bills and up to approximately mile 92 or so.  The woods and fields in the first section were a welcome relief from the roads and I managed some more running.  I clearly remember being excited about the sun coming up, but was working really hard to keep my mind of my feet.  The pain hadn’t gotten any worse, but was distracting.  The tiredness started to creep up on me and with about 8 miles to go, I started to sob.  I didn’t stop, I marched and cried.  Tony wrapped his arm around me and told me how proud he was.  That helped.  I knew I just needed to get to Amanda and Lise for a little mental reprieve.  Tony told me later he was tearing up behind me watching me push through.

I made my way into Polly’s, wiping tears away from my face in a futile attempt to regain my composure.  Those tears started again when I couldn’t get into the porta-potty.  Amanda came over to me and wrapped her arms around me.  Suddenly, she pulled away and started going through her phone.  I learned later she remembered a video Lauren had sent her for encouragement.  She and I watched the video together and I started to cry again.  Which made Amanda cry.  I seriously have the best friends.  Between the cards from Bill and Meg, Lauren’s video, the signs, the text messages through the night from Julie and others, plus the countless encouragement messages I got leading up the race…. My heart is so full and will be for a very long time.  I can only hope to be there for those people when they need the favor returned!

I bucked up and headed out of Polly’s.  It was somewhere around mile 98 when I told Tony I had to fart.  Fifteen seconds later he was blushing and trying to find the words to deal with what just happened… priceless.  At the mile 99 sign I pushed as hard as I could to the end.  I could feel the finish line… I have never wanted something so bad in my life!!!!  As it came into view I was overcome with happiness!!!!  I did it!  WE did it.  While I did the physical work, this was a team effort!!!  My official finish time was 8:03 AM, 28:03 minutes after I started.  Two sunrises, one silly night and countless calories later I came across the finish line!  The Vermont 100 finish was mine.

** the crew notes I included were the only ones I dared to share.  The rest will never be revealed beyond my crew! **

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The daily eats….

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I often get asked what I eat, how my “diet” looks and my choices for run food.  I have been meaning to do a post on all of that for some time and now is that time!  I am going to start by outlining a daily rundown of my food… no bullshit… please keep in mind I generally eat to stay full and do not seek to lose weight.  Any weight I lose is done intentionally through cutting simple carbs like bread and beer combined with an increase in workout load.  I adhere to protein, high fat, lots of veggies and minimal bread philosophy.  It’s not a diet.  And simply my opinion.

Here goes nothing… feel free to judge 😉

Pre-Breakfast Coffee: one to two cups with added Onnit Emulsified MCT Vanilla oil, coconut nectar and almond milk.

Breakfast (on non-workout mornings): One egg and one Fage Yogurt (Total at 10% fat or the 2% – I grab the cups that contain fruit) and a travel mug of coffee comes to work with me.  Occasionally will sub the yogurt for half a bagel and cream cheese if it’s the weekend and I am running soon.

food

On gym mornings: One cup of coffee followed by a granny smith apple while driving to the gym.  I have an Ascent protein shake (one scoop chocolate powder with almond milk and Onnit oil) while driving from the gym to work.  After morning meeting I eat Good Food Made Simple frozen breakfast burrito OR a meal prepped scramble egg and bacon (depends on the week).

Morning snacks: One or two of the following: Fruit (dried fruit OR apple, banana or berries) or Powercrunch bar.

I usually have a large Dunks Iced Tea on my desk during the day.  Once that is done, I start on Nuun or plain water.

Lunch:  Usually salad with a protein dressed in olive oil and seasoning salt.  My other go to is whatever protein we ate the night before plus a cup of cherry tomatoes, queen spanish olives and sharp chedder cheese sticks (x2).  Some days, I treat myself to a bacon cheeseburger and fries ** once every two weeks on average **.  In a pinch, I will eat Good Food Made Simple frozen lunch bowls.  I try to NOT eat sandwiches at work.

Afternoon snacks (one or two) of the following: Single serving peanut butter cups, nuts, Powercrunch bar (if I didn’t eat in the AM), cut raw veggies, small Ensure shake.

Dinner: Protein (mostly fish and chicken, some beef) and veggies.  Usually grilled. We eat a lot of salads, so one or two days a week its large salads at dinner too.  Some weeks are better than others.  I love home made pizzas, burgers and subs (steak and cheese and sausage/pepper/onion).  I try to keep those as treats.  I am italian and love pasta, but keep that to about once per month.  I am starting Blue Apron again this week since training has slowed and I have more prep time.  We do not generally do takeout, but when we do it’s sushi, salads or pizza.  I usually have a beer before or with dinner.

After dinner: Wine (red… love it) and cookies or chocolate.

wtffood

I am coming into this race at 126 lbs (down four from my average and at my happy race weight).  I never feel hungry and I tend to be a grazer.  If I know I will be on the road, I accommodate that.   Trust me… I have been known to hit up a drive through and I am a sucker for chicken nuggets… but I do my best to avoid it as a habit.  I know I could be thinner, but I have found what works for me, my insanely stressful career and my training schedule.  I adore the taste of Cabernet so I haven’t cut it out.  I make choices knowing what is good and bad.  Life is short, so I choose wisely and sometimes pick me to make me happy.

Run food will be covered in my next post!

Training is complete!

I say this with excitement, anticipation and sheer happiness!  I loved the training process… the great runs, the good runs and even appreciated the bad runs.  I adored that my plan contained weight work that continued to lean me out and get me stronger. Finally, I am so grateful for the memories I gathered along the way.  This winter and spring was truly a blast.  I am one of those people that adores the process and while I don’t know what’s after this, I am sure it will entail another “process.”

Here is a snap shot of the last weeks, with the top being this week and the bottom being the week of my Pineland 50 miler.

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And here are the June stats:

  • Mileage: 138.5
  • Elevation: 29,089

Holy shit!!!!  For the third month in a row (ever) I broke 130 in mileage and had my biggest mileage month EVER!  I am truly blown away at how well I kept up with the training plan Coach Chris put together, as well as my recovery.  I had some beastly elevation weeks and kept on knocking them out.  For the sake of organization, here is a recap of my big training runs post Pineland.

Stairs Mountain (recovery): Six days out of Pineland, I climbed Stairs in the Whites. This is my favorite sub 4,000 footer in the Whites and generally it has an epic summit. This particular day it was in the 40s, socked in with fog and rainy.  Didn’t matter to me… it was time to see if my legs worked.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out they did.  No detrimental effects from the 50 miler and my hamstring and glute were great!

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Foggy, socked in Stairs Mountain Summit 06/03/17

Belknap Out and Back (9 hrs. on legs): For those of you in the New Hampshire region, some will be familiar with the Belknap range in Gilford/Alton.  This 11 mile stretch between Gunstock and Mt. Major is gnarly, known to eat up runners and hikers.  It’s extremely difficult to pull a double off without running out of water.  The terrain resembles anything you will find in the Whites, but it’s close to home.  My original plans for this weekend fell through, so I subbed this in.  I have done the out and back once (last May) and know the trails extremely well.  I set out at 6:00am, solo, and pulled this off on my own accord.  My legs did’t have a lot of run, so I fastpacked as hard as I could.  21.5 miles, 7500 ft. of gain later I was done.  This was my first “hot” run and I suffered a bit.  I used the streams to soak my buff which helped.  I ran out of water 5 miles from the end and filtered water to get through to the end.  It was a great test of my fuel and solo perseverance.  Coach had me envision this run as the last 30 of VT and get into that mindset.  Overall, I enjoyed this training run… and have bragging rights over Tony 😉

 

Pemi Loop (15 hrs. on legs): WOOOOHOOOO!!!  This one is getting it’s own post.  Standby on that one.  29.5 miles, 9200 ft. of gain and a bucket list item.  I was on my feet for fifteen hours and gained confidence I needed!

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Amazing undercast on Bondcliff!  Pemi recap on it’s way!

Mt. Israel Mountain Repeats (6 hrs. on legs): This was my last hard effort at 14.5 miles and 6,000 ft. of gain.  I ran up and over Mt. Israel four times.  It was the best feeling to still have climbing weeks at the end of this cycle and after some monster climbing weeks!

 

So, that’s a wrap.  On to the taper and battling nerves and excitement.  I do trust the process, and the training, so all I have to do for the next 13 days is stay healthy and show up ready to take on the beast known as the Vermont 100!  I am so grateful for the support I have received from friends, family and my coach.  Whenever the going got tough, I found it in me to gut it out because of my belief my in support network and myself.

I am also thankful for the opportunity afforded to me by Altra Running.  Being an ambassador for Altra has allowed me the ability to train in shoes that work for me and share my love for the technology!  The process has been a hell of a ride!!!

I qualified!!!

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2017 Pineland Farms 50 miler (VT100 Qualifier) Done!!!

It’s official…. I’m going to Vermont.  In order to qualify for the 100, I had to put in community service time (I assisted with the Special Olympics Winter Games in March) and a sub 12 hour 50 miler completed before June 1st.  Nothing like cutting that one close!

I’m still in a state of “did I really do that?”  I started running 5ks in late 2011 and got serious about running in 2012.  Here is my first WordPress blogpost in 2012.  When you read it, you will understand why I named it Learning to Run.  I still am in fact!  I’m not a lifelong runner, but no stranger to hard work.  My background in equestrian sports makes running an individual challenge versus one of competing with other runners.  I am competitive in so far as I like to pick off other runners late in the race (four this past Sunday) but I am in a habit of only competing with myself, much like I used to when riding a dressage test or competing in a equitation over fences class.  Only my last scores matter.  This sport works really well with my prior sporting background.

My first 50 miler.  Wow.  So many words to express how it felt.  Here is my recap (I apologize for the length!)

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Leading up to the race  we spent a few days at the house we rent near Pineland Farms.  It’s a wonderful way to combine the holiday weekend with racing.  On Saturday, a few of us headed to the races to watch friends compete in the canicross 5K and the 5k.  Excitement was in the air and I was starting to feel the adrenaline.  I looked at the finish line and just kept telling myself I was coming through that Sunday.  I did not eat as clean as I should have during the weekend, but got plenty of rest and was well hydrated.  I may have consumed a few too many salty snacks over the weekend and paid for that a little during the race.  My back and legs felt great and the chiropractic adjustment I got on Wednesday held.

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Pre-race antics!

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Seriousness.

Race day dawned clear without a cloud in the sky.  Temps rose into the 70s, but I managed fine despite little heat training.  My crew for the day consisted of my best friend Amanda and loyal race crewwoman Lise.  Tony signed up to run the entire 50 with me.  They will never know how grateful I am to them!  Coach Chris met me right before the start with a hug and a last minute check-in.  I got to see his sweet wife too, as well as some friends from Six03 who were cheering and running.  I love race days because they are all about connecting with new and old friends.  I was SO excited to see Krista and Astrid from VT!!!

Miles 1-19 (lap one plus 5K) took a bit for me to settle into the groove.  My goal for this race was an 11 hour finish.  The first two miles felt fine, I was moving smoothly and started to get a feel for pace.  Then my legs started to tighten, particularly both calves.  Both of my hands started to swell (I couldn’t get my wedding ring off for the duration of the race).  I had fueled well (banana, egg, yogurt, one cup of coffee, water en route to the race) and didn’t believe I was dehydrated.  I have enough experience to know these aches usually subside.  Around mile 5, my glute started to act up.  I worked on that for awhile and eventually it behaved.  No hamstring issues until much later.

Lap 2 took me through mile 36.  Tony and I made our way around the course for a second time and got our dry feet wet again.  I was fueling well (loving Endurance Tap maple gels and Fuel for Fire packs!), eating at aid stations and drinking a lot of water.  Amanda diligently applied sunscreen often as we were unprotected in the fields.  That girl continues to amaze me.  She thought nothing of smearing sunscreen on my very dirty body, picking up my nasty socks at a shoe change and feeding me all day.  I love her to death.  I hit a personal distance record on this lap when I passed the 32 mile mark and started to make peace with the body aches… or so I thought.

Lap 3 and it was time to finish this!  I want to stop and just say again how amazing this race is!  There is a barbecue happening along the course and people literally stop eating to yell for the runners.  Fifty milers seem to get a lot of attention from spectators and runners alike.  The encouragment on and off the course was amazing!  The cowbell and screaming every time Tony and I looped back to the start finish from our respective team tents was incredibly motivating.  I can’t thank our friends enough for being there!  It didn’t matter that my legs ached, that I was tired of the sun or that I wanted a cheeseburger… the cheers kept me going!  I loved seeing fellow runners on the course, like Lori (who crushed her 50 miler), Liz (pacing), Maureen and Holly during their 50K, Josh pacing the 50 Mile winner, Randy and Tracy who gutted out a 50 mile finish, Astrid who finished again (along with a big hug near the end) and fellow Acidotic racers.  Coach Chris gave me firm and encouraging advice every time I looped through. I was starting to get a little fuzzy around mile 36 and told Amanda to make me accountable for food intake.  I learned a lot about what notes I will need to write for my crew for the 100.

Chris sent me back out while Tony did a shoe change and I had my legs for a bit!  I ran solo and smiled.  I have wanted this for SO long and was living each step.  I started to crack jokes on this lap, but couldn’t have Tony make any because I need my abs!  The laughing kept throwing me off.  I was still running my downhills strong with solid quads. That made me so happy!  After finishing the fields (and the paths mowed by the drunk farmer!) we made it back into the start finish to do the last six miles.  Shit got a bit sillier here.  I had to pee bad in the woods and got experiment with making that happen with broken hip flexors.  I called it my tripod pee.  More laughter.  Around mile 48 I started to trip.  I could still run downhills, but flats got me.  Twice.  The second one, Tony saw my hamstring actually spasm as I stopped myself from bellyflopping.  He didn’t tell me, thankfully.  I said out loud that I didn’t want to run anymore.  What’s funny about that was my body was still working.  My heart rate was steady all day and remained that way.  Evidence it was in my brain.  Tony kept pushing.  With a mile to go, I told him I wanted to stretch and then I would push.  I worked my hip flexors then I ran.  I passed four 50 milers in that last mile and cruised towards the finish line.  As it came into view, I saw 10:54 on the clock and smiled so big…. I had come in under my goal!!!!  I cruised in at 10:55 with a 13:07 pace.  Rock on!!!

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Heading into the finish shoot under goal time!

Dirty hugs followed and a chat with Coach before I left.  The swelling subsided before I got back to the lake house and I had a healthy appetite for the night.  Overall, a very successful 50 miler!  I’m recovering well and feeling antsy to keep training.  Less than two months to the 100…. oh boy!!!

On my way out, I got to see Krista one more time.  I figured out that she dropped during the race but didn’t know why.  Her training has been so rock solid and I was worried.  She told me she had tummy troubles, but I have no doubt she will work through it.  She’s so strong!  I love that about the running community…. the solidarity in the long distance trail running world is amazing.

On to Vermont!!!!

 

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