What’s Next?

What’s Next?

You may have remembered me saying on Facebook or on this blog that I was ready to be “normal” for a while.  Sleep past 6am every once in a while.  Workout once a day for an hour.  Skip a day of working out if it didn’t fit into the schedule.  Play lots of golf.

Why? Well, for the last 3 years I have had “key” races on my calendar that I worked hard for.

2015 the 50 Mile Championships at Cayuga.

2016 Vermont 50 where I trained for the win.

2017 IRONMAN Lake Placid.

This meant lots of early morning wake ups.  It meant saying no to a lot of social events and dialing in nutrition and sleep for maximum performance.  It was lonely and it was tough.  It brought blood, and LOTS of sweat and tears.  It made me question what the hell I was doing and broke me down physically, mentally and spiritually.

So, why did I do it?  Why?  Because when I look up at those three races listed and I think about those days….June 1, 2015….September 25, 2016 and July 24, 2017…..I can’t stop the tears from streaming down my face.  Those three days…and the thousands of hours that got me to those finish lines…taught me more about myself then ANYTHING ever will.  The amount of joy I felt in those 29 total hours of racing cannot be described.  The pride I felt at the end of each of those races were worth every ounce of pain I endured.

blog5However, after IRONMAN I thought that maybe it was time to take a year off.  For the first few weeks it worked well.  “So, this is what it feels like to be a regular person?”  However, it quickly became old.  I kept trying to convince myself that this is what I needed to do.  I needed to give my body a rest.  I needed to not have the stress of training for something.  I listened to those around me, “take some time off…stop doing this to yourself.”  Yes…this is what I needed.

One thing…I was lying to myself and I knew it.  What I need to do is keep pushing myself EVERY DAY and EVERY YEAR to be a better me.  And waking up late(r), doing casual workouts, etc IS NOT WORKING!

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I don’t regret these last few months.  I learned a lot during them and also gained a perspective that will serve me in my career as a coach and personal trainer.  I learned that mental toughness is a habit.  It is a muscle that needs to be trained the same way any other muscle group has to be trained.  It becomes so EASY to give up during a workout when giving up is an option.  It becomes so easy to start eating shitty food when it won’t affect your performance.  It becomes easy to become MENTALLY WEAK and start to convince yourself that this life is okay.

When you aren’t stretching, growing, and training for something bigger than you, you lose a certain “something”.  I KNOW THAT NOW.  These last few months have taught me that.  The only way you know what I am talking about is if you have been through it.  I have realized long ago that you can NEVER explain to people why you would want to “run for 50 miles” or “do these crazy things”.  It is hard to understand until you have done it.

blog3Being on the other side of it right now, when 3 miles on a treadmill feels like an eternity….I can understand why people think it is impossible.  I can understand why people think it is stupid and crazy.  I am there now.  I understand.  But I don’t like it.

However, what I have going for me is I’ve seen the other side.  I know I have it in me to push through this funk that I am in and get back to the other side.  I know I am capable of 50, 100, 200 mile races even though 3 miles feels SO. DAMN. HARD. right now.  I KNOW I need to get back to spending time with those who are stretching their limits and living a life of passion.  Those that are literally CHANGING PEOPLES LIVES by what they are doing on a day to day basis.  I realize that by distancing myself from them it made it easier to think, “this life is okay.  It’s okay to just live this life that may not challenge you.”

blog4Ha!  Nope, that’s not me.  It physically hurts me to not be that person right now.  I know deep in my soul I was born to be the person I am when I am training for these events that I once thought were impossible.  I know I am a better wife, daughter, sister, friend and person when I am that person.

It has been something I have known for awhile, but it has been easy to bury it down because I’ve been so busy and not able to spend much time with those who inspire me.  Then last week happened.

blogIt started with a mission FITNESS meeting.  A sat there and looked around at my coworkers who are so freaking inspiring.  Each one of them makes me want to be better in one area of my life.  The are all working every day to be the best version of themselves, and it is so special to be a part of.  Toward the end of our meeting, Matt took time to thank Kim as we celebrated her 4 year anniversary at mission.  Anyone who knows Kim knows what she has done for mission.  It is incredible.

To think of the lives she changes each and every day brought tears to my eyes.  Isn’t that what life is about? I am so passionate about the fact that it is our DUTY to make this world a better place by being in it.  My TEAM at MF does that, certainty Kim.  He then said, “I don’t know how you do it.  I wake up at 430am and you already have an inspiring post on MFers on a mission Facebook Group.  You work full time, your a single Mom and in July you are going to do an IRONMAN.  I don’t know how the hell you are going to do this, but I know you will.”

Kim then said with so much certainty, “I WILL”  That’s when I lost it.  See, it isn’t about the IRONMAN.  It is more than that.  Kim will do this IRONMAN and know that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.  More importantly, she will now take away so many peoples excuse that they “don’t have time”.  By her doing this IRONMAN she knows she is affecting hundreds of peoples lives.  That’s powerful.

Fast forward a week.  I have a new fire under me.  I woke up again and realized it is my duty to inspire others through my actions.  It’s what I chose to do in my career and I know it’s what I was put on this earth to do.  So, my workouts picked up a notch after that.  Wednesday I was on the treadmill, finishing my last half mile at a 7:02 pace.  I was dying.  Then…Kim walks in.

She walks over the treadmill and asks how much longer I have.  I say 1/4 mile.  She says, “well pick it up then.”  Suddenly, my 7:02 became 6:45.  I felt her energy, “that’s it!” 6:20.  “Hell Yeah” as I finished at a 6:02 and I felt amazing.  3 minutes ago I had nothing left.  What changed?

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What changed was who I was surrounded by.  I jumped on the bike and talked to Kim for the next 30 minutes.  She listened as I poured my heart out to her after she asked, “what are you training for?”  She didn’t need me to explain why I needed something on the schedule.  She gets it.  And I realized in that moment that this is what I need…this is why I feel my life is so broken right now.

Surround yourself with those who get it and that will push you to your greatness.  I couldn’t be happier to have so many of those people around me…it’s time to start spending more time with them and time to get something on the calendar.

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Racing With No Expectations….

….Except Maybe a Win!!

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I went into this weekends race with no idea of where my fitness level was. I have not worn my Garmin for over 6 months and have been running solely by feel. The only way I was able to gauge where I was at was by how I felt on climbs, and by one run with my brother where he stated, “this is a pretty good pace.”

I guess you can say that ditching the Garmin was a strategic move. For one, I feel like by monitoring my pace while running I was in a way holding myself back. I had an “idea” in my head of what my pace “should be” and I feel like I was limiting myself by staying in that zone. What would happen if I just ran by feel? Ran until I couldn’t run any faster without over-exerting myself?  Based my effort on my heart rate. I just felt that this was a better training move for me.

So, while I felt like my fitness level was pretty good going into the Summer Solstice 5.5 mile race, I had no idea what to expect. Was I capable of an 8:00 pace or a 7:00 pace? I honestly didn’t know, but I did have a hunch. I had a feeling that I could trust the fact that EVERY training run was done at maximum effort, and with a clear vision of what I was training for.

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That brings me to the importance of this race.

THE HISTORY:

2012:

41:06/7:29 pace

3rd Female/24th Overall

My first year running this race. I ran the entire race flip flopping 2nd and 3rd place with who I would later learn to be Lisa. Lisa ended up placing 2nd, while a few seconds later I finished for 3rd place. I learned I had done a 7:29 pace, which blew me away. On the trails, that pace seemed extremely fast to me. I was happy!

2013:

41:22/7:32 pace

2nd Female/16th Overall

This is the race that has probably fueled a fire inside me more than any other.  I held on to first place until about the 5 mile mark, when I was passed by the girl who was on my tail the whole race. I remember the exact spot she passed me, and from that day forward every time I run the red trail at Gay City I attack that same hill harder than ever. It is true that for every failure, it brings you a step closer to success. There is a finish line picture of this girl breaking the tape with me about 10 ft behind her, trying like hell to catch her. That picture has been burnt in my head as my motivation for the last 2 years

2014:

38:44/7:03 pace

2nd Female/7th Overall

I wasn’t even sure if I was doing this one.  I was running my first 50 Mile Race just two weeks prior, and I was uncertain how my legs would feel.  However, this was the first year we had partnered up with Hartford Marathon Foundation, where we lead a 6 Week Trail Running Series prepping runners for this race.  So, I wanted to run to represented mission FITNESS and our partnership.  I was surprised with my pace, but unfortunately I knew winning this race was going to be difficult as I got past early by a High School girl wearing an All-State Cross Country shirt. I was happy with my 2nd place finish!

2015:

38:29/7:00 pace

1st Female/9th Overall

As I stated earlier, I had a lot of uncertainty going into this race.  However, I also had some things I was certain about.  I had a realization once back in Connecticut and in the woods that Trail Running is my passion. It is when and where I find complete happiness.  It’s my exercise.  My meditation.  My therapy.  But, more than anything, I am starting to realize that it is something I have a lot of potential at.  Racing and placing 6th among very good competition at the Cayuga 50 Mile National Championships last year made me realize I may be able to compete at a higher level.  Being back in CT made me realize that I want to represent mission FITNESS and make my clients and the Owner (my brother) proud.

To commit to being EXCELLENT at something is scary.  I think I always knew I could be an Elite Trail Runner, but I was never ready to ADMIT it and OWN it.  Once I did that, it meant things would get uncomfortable.  I was no longer in my “safe” AVERAGE zone.  I was stepping into territory that few have the desire (or maybe courage) to enter.  However, after endless hours of listening to motivational videos it became so clear to me that I DO NOT WANT TO KEEP ASKING, “WHAT IF?”

I don’t want to look back and think about what might have been. If I could have been one of those runners I follow on Instagram who get to run for their job.  I don’t want to wonder who I could have motivated at mission FITNESS if I chose to become that runner I dreamt to be.

So, my runs started to have purpose.  As I ran the trails, did hill repeats, etc. I would visualize crossing that finish line at the Summer Solstice Trail Race.  The picture was so clear.  My brother would be there with a big smile, and a high five.  He would hug me after, proud of me for representing mission FITNESS for everything it is.  My runners from the Trail Running Series would congratulate me, knowing they were lead by someone who knows what they’re doing.  What I didn’t know is that my amazing husband and Mom and Dad would also be there. As well as an amazing, inspiring friend (Melissa) who gets this trail running thing more than any other friend…and REALLY gets my history with this race.  It was really a dream finish.

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The vision was so clear for me, that instead of wearing our Trail Running shirts from the clinic (which had an image of trees on the front) I would wear my mission FITNESS tank.  A strategic move so the finish line picture of me breaking the ribbon would advertise the BEST fitness facility in Connecticut:

MISSION FITNESS. 

   DREAM IT.  BELIEVE IT. ACHIEVE IT.

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No Equipment Workout

I haven’t posted very many blogs in the last few months. This is for a few reasons, but mostly because:

A) I’ve been insanely busy working two jobs in their prime seasons (golf course & fitness)

B) my training the last couple months consisted mostly of running, running and more running.

However, as you may have read in my Cayuga Race Report my race is done and my long training runs have subsided and I am starting to get back to more strength/plyometric workouts.

I have also been told by several people in the last 2 weeks that they miss my posts, especially the workouts. Hmmmm. Who knew people were actually reading. Hahahah

So, if you ARE READING and ENJOY IT please let me know.

10 ROUNDS:

10 Burpees

10 Plank to Push Up

10 Squat Jumps

10 Hand Release Push Ups

My First 50 Mile Effort at Cayuga 50

This morning I woke up to a text: “Yep! Yesterday was real! You did it!”

Confirmed. It was not a dream.

14 weeks ago, in the thick of winter, I sat at my computer listening to Motivational Videos, searching for the words that would snap me out of my Seasonal Depression.  Eric Thomas and Les Brown were preaching to me. It worked.

Les Brown: “You see when you are not pursuing your goal, you are literally committing spiritual suicide. When you have some goal out here that you are stretching for and reaching for that takes you out of your comfort zone, you’ll find out some talents and abilities you have that you didn’t know you had”

“Unless you attempt to do something beyond which that you have already mastered you will never grow. What is it that you have looked at at some point and time and decided that you couldn’t do it. That you talked yourself out of it”

Eric Thomas: “if you’re still talking about your dream, if you’re still talking about your goal, but you have not done anything, just take the first step!”

So, I did. I stopped talking about doing a 50 miler and I took the first step. I signed up for the Cayuga 50 Mile USATF Trail National Championships. And the training began.

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I followed a plan I found at runnersworld.com. The early weeks had me on the roads a lot since trails were covered in deep snow. I bought Microspikes, which allowed me to get back in the woods, but even with those my options were limited! Finally  the snow melted and I got to enjoy some time in the woods. Then it became A LOT OF TIME IN THE WOODS. My mileage peeked around 78 miles a week, all of which were trails. A number I never thought I’d hit. During those weeks I was doing back to back long runs on weekends (24mile/29mile) While I was blown away with my ability to basically run the equivalent of 2 marathons every weekend, I also hit a wall where I started to burn out. I work two jobs, a Personal Trainer/Bootcamp Instructor and a waitress.  Both were ramping up as my mileage was doing the same. I was leaving work early to run for 5 hours, all while missing out on just about every social invite I received.  I started to feel isolated and alone. I felt like no one understood. “Can’t you just skip the run?” they would ask. But that’s not me. If I have a goal I stick to it. In those 14 weeks I didn’t miss ONE workout. I fought through until the 5th hour when all my body wanted to do was call it a day. I knew it was for a good reason. I knew it would pay off. And it did…

Fast Forward to this weekend. Erik and I worked Saturday morning then began our 5 hour drive to Ithaca, NY. What a drive. Beautiful. We picked up the race packet then headed to our campsite. Such a cozy spot. Perfect.

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It must be noted that my husband spent the next 24 hours waiting on me and making my pre race/race flawless. He is a true gem. Everything from setting up Golden Girls in the tent for bedtime, to waking at 3am to make me coffee and a bagel, to working his ass off during the race to make sure I was following my hydration/nutrition plan. Marriage is more than I knew it could be at the early age of 23 when I said “I do”. I’ve said it before, he is the BEST teammate I have ever had!

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Before I knew it, it was 6am and we were off. My biggest concern was that I would go out too strong and not finish the race. I had a time goal of under 10 hours. I based that on last years top 10 females, knowing that it would not translate to top 10 this year with the stacked field. But honestly, this was the first race I started with the real goal to JUST FINISH. I found my way into a pack of runners within the first few miles and hung with them for awhile. By mile 6 I spoke to a couple girls I was running with one of which said she finished in 9:16 last year but felt stronger this year (she went on to place 3rd Female Overall-6 minutes behind Krissy Moehl!). The other was doing Western States in a few weeks. Uh oh.  Did I need to dial back? I wanted to stay with them for the sole purpose that they were all chatting, helping  me to take my mind off the race, but unfortunately, my bladder was full and I needed to stop.

The next mile or so (with only the sound of my own thoughts in my head) confirmed my belief….I needed to find another buddy.   At about mile 9 I saw someone that looked familiar. I follow a ton of ultra blogs, and I trying not to sound too creepy I asked, “Are you Ashley Moyer?”  It was. Uh oh. Another top runner. One I read about in the preview as a possible podium finisher. We chatted for a bit and with a little hesitance I told her it was my first 50 miler. Throughout the day I would always say this with hesitancy. I know people would think (and sometimes say) “just be careful. Don’t go out too hard”. I was so appreciative of how people would give me advice throughout the day. Ultra Running is really a different breed.

However, I trained hard and I felt the pace I was doing was very comfortable, so I kept going. We soon bumped into Amy Rusiecki, the girl who beat me at Bimblers 50K. Again, like a creeper I said, “Hi Amy. Not sure if you remember me..we did Bimblers together”. She remembered me and we started a conversation. I am guessing this was maybe at mile 10?  Again I thought, “ok, this is another REAL DEAL runner. Are you sure you belong here?”  Amy told me her and her husband had just done Masanutten 100 miler TWO WEEKS AGO and wasn’t trying to kill this race. It made me feel a little better and from that point on my goal was to just stay with her as long as possible. The next 40 (?) miles deserve their own blog post…..but, I’ll try to sum it up in this one.

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Amy basically taught me what ultra running is in this race. I followed her lead, LITERALLY. She lead us, we chatted, when she walked I walked, when she ran I ran. I had a really bad feeling this was poor race etiquette and I asked a few times if she wanted to pull ahead, stop talking, etc. She seemed pretty genuine in her response that she was enjoying the company as much as me. And again, she wasn’t looking for a podium finish. She wasn’t even sure how the race would play out for her just 2 WEEKS POST 100 MILER.  Incredible!

I hustled through each aid station to catch back up to Amy and I will never forget when I was started to fade a Buttermilk Aid Station (mile 37.5) She marched up the stairs and yelled, “get up here Darcy!”  The day was getting HOT and I ran out of water a few times between aid stations. I knew the open field section was coming up with blazing sun and told Amy how I was a little nervous about it. For that mile (?) of open field Amy dug in and got us through there at a good pace. She would later tell me how my concern of that section made her push harder. She said the teammate mode kicked in and it wasn’t about her at that point, it was about getting me through that section as fast as possible.   Are you kidding me? This, my friends, is something that will stay with me forever. Sometimes racing Ultras isn’t all about YOU. Everyone has their races that are their key races where it is. But, there are some that have a different meaning. This was one of them for me.

At about mile 43, Amy sensed they I may have a little more in the tank then she did and she told me to go ahead. I told her there was no way. First, she got me to this point. Without her I am not even sure if I would still be running.  I KNOW I would not have enjoyed it so much. She gave me a CLINIC on running an ultra. I wasn’t going to leave her. Secondly, I knew if I went ahead there was a VERY good chance she would catch me and pass me in a mile and I would be hiking my way home.  Third, even if I went ahead, and finished ahead of her (highly unlikely) it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable as sharing the last miles with her.

A client and good friend gave me this personalized card before the race.  It pretty much sums up my race experience at Cayuga!

A client and good friend gave me this personalized card before the race. It pretty much sums up my race experience at Cayuga!

At that point were running as 6th and 7th female and on our way to easily break my 10 hour time goal. I couldn’t ask for more. Sometime between Underpass and the last Aid Station we caught the 5th place girl. I old Amy to finish strong and snag Top 5. She told me to stay with her, and I tried like hell, but this girl is AMAZING!!  For the next 3 miles I kept her in my eyesight and finished the race with Amy waiting for me with open arms. I was blown away that she would be thanking ME as we hugged!  Apparently I helped her get through this race, but she will never know what she taught me in the process of this race.

She taught me how to run a 50 miler. She taught me that Ultra Running is a community of special people who look out for one another. She is a true ambassador for the sport. She cheered on every runner who ran by, asked every person who was stopped if they were OK, thanked every volunteer, and gave one girl a race to remember!

Finish Time:  9:13  

6th female overall.

2nd in Age Group

33rd Overall

 

 

It’s All In The Head: A Lesson Learned Spectating the Traprock 50k

Last weekend I decided to head over to the Traprock 50 to watch my friend and some top female trail runners compete. I also thought this would be a great way to get a long run done in a new area. Running 7 hours EVERY weekend has lead me to exhaust the excitement of exploring new trails. Don’t get me wrong, I still love running well known trails, but being in a training slump last weekend, I needed the excitement that new trails would bring.

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So, after teaching my morning bootcamp, I set off to Bloomfield, CT (30 minutes away) getting there around 10am. I was just in time to see the top racers come through on Lap 1 of 3, including one of the females I was there to see, Kristina Folcik. I wanted to see her in action. I’ve followed her career through her blog, and how she has become one of New England’s top trail runners. She will also be doing the Cayuga 50, to defend her first place title. Needless to say, I would be stalking her every move. Her aid station visits. Handheld or Backpack? Walk the steep inclines or run them? Not because I think I can beat her at Cayuga (I’m not there yet) but just to see how the top runners work. It’s the details that separate the good from the great.

After I saw my friend come through, I set out on my run. I tried to stay off the course in the areas that had out and backs, as to not confuse females into thinking I was running the race.  Otherwise, I ran in the opposite direction, cheering on runners as they passed, stepping off to the side on the single tracks. I loved the hilly terrain of the course, the technical sections, and more than anything, the amazing views!

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Not only did I get to experience the amazing energy that a trail race provides, cheer on my friend, and see a top trail running female in action (she beat CR by 15 minutes with a 4:51 time), but I also was able to get my 4 hour (24ish mile) run in. And with that, I learned a very valuable lesson that has stayed with me since. That training run felt better than almost any I have done to this point. The terrain was tough, but the body is trained for that. What I haven’t done well enough yet is train the mind. I “suffer” the last 2 hours of my long runs because I think myself into that suffering. THIS day did not give my mind time to suffer. It was too busy producing smiles, “nice jobs” and feeding off the energy of the other runners. Take the mind out of the game, and your body is capable of so much more.

This is has lead me to some comfort in knowing that the Cayuga 50 is a double figure 8 loop. This means lots of smiles, encouragement, and hopes of keeping the “suffering” at bay!

Cayuga 50 Training

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Cayuga 50 Course

I’m not even sure if I have even announced my big decision: I signed up for my NEXT LEVEL race: The Cayuga 50 Mile Trail Race. 10,000 ft elevation. Some of the top trail runners in the country.  Oh My. I knew it was the next step in my process, but what I didn’t expect was for it to be so soon. June 1st. Yikes.

It happened in a moment of weakness. A moment of frustration. Depression.  A moment of WINTER!  After MANY consecutive days of sub zero temps I needed something to uplift me.  Literally. Uplift my ass from the couch. So, after Eric Thomas gave me his daily motivation, I did it.  I’m not going to lie, that “submit” page stayed open on the browser a good 15 minutes before I pressed it with a shaking finger. Then I cried. I’m not playing…I cried.

So, I’ve been in training mode the last 4 weeks. Jumped in to a 16 week plan, welcomed by Week ONE with a 3 hour run.  Well, “hello ultra training”.   My mileage wasn’t very high going into this plan, so I have been trying to be smart, while still upping my mileage. So far so good…except the plan is based on trail running, which is really not an option right now because of this damn weather. So, instead of doing what is asked (4hrs or 20-22 miles) I do the “or” which is 20 miles, but HARDLY 4 hours. Oh well, at least my legs are getting the mileage, and let’s hope the trails will open up soon!

So, that’s that. Wish me luck as I continue to battle the cold, wind, ice and ROADS.  Stay tuned for some ‘deep thought’ blogs!