Vermont 50 Race Report

If you read my last blog about signing up for this race, you would know that I had a different goal in mind when hitting “REGISTER”.  I was 14 weeks out with a very low level of fitness. I hadn’t run more than 6 miles in ages, and my body was broken.  However, my thinking was that by signing up for this race I would force myself to start focusing on recovery, diet, and increasing my fitness level. My simple goal of this race was to just get out of my current funk and just finish it.

As the weeks went on and I stayed committed to my training plan, I started to feel stronger and my goals started to shift.  I was back in my zone, loving the trails, and asking myself, “why not you?” So, with about 6 weeks left to race weekend I started to voice my stretch goal.  “On a dream day I could win this race.”

The funny thing is, I had not worn a Garmin since last October.  I simply did all of my training based on time (hours) and I had no clue what my pace was.  My only measure was a 5k I ran as part of a duathlon that had me at a 6:45 overall pace.  So, I’m not sure what made me think I could win this race.  I guess just believing in my training and knowing I was not only doing the work, but pushing hard.  However, with about 3 weeks until race day things started to shift. After 2 long training weekends (4.5 hrs on Sat and 5 hrs Sun) my body started to scream at me.  I have some major hip and back (psoas) issues and just standing for more than 30 minutes was becoming unbearable.  Mix that with just stresses of life, I started to wonder where this race would go.

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Erik and I left Saturday morning, went to race check in, then headed to the house we would be staying at.  I have to  mention and thank a few people here.  When Kyle, my amazing childhood friend, found out I signed up for this race she immediately text me and told me she may have a perfect place to stay.  Her friends parents live a few miles from the start and they would probably love for us to stay.  I told her I didn’t want to put anyone out, and was fine sleeping in the car at the race location (a common ultra running practice) She called me nuts and said she talked to Mr. Klene and he would love to have us.  I cannot thank Kyle and Mr Klene (Roger/Home Owner) enough for this generous offer.  The Klenes property was literally one of the most picturesque settings I have ever seen! 60 acres with showcase views of Ascutney Mt. Combine that with being surrounded by truly amazing company, this was an experience that really added to my race weekend.

We got to the race start around 530am for a mandatory pre race meeting.  It was freezing cold (35 degrees) and dark. Race start was 630am. My brother and Dad arrived, we found Justin who was also running the 50,  and before I knew it we were off.

We started on the road, and I decided to stay with the lead pack.  The pace felt very aggressive for a 50 miler, but I was with 3 other females and I decided I was either going to race this for the win, or just to finish.  I made a game time decision in those first few miles that I was going for it.

During this time I ran with Liz, her and I chatting while settling into 2nd and 3rd female.  I knew she was strong because her time at Cayuga 50 was 8:45ish, while mine was 9:13. I said to her at that point, “OK Liz, lets vision us 1st and 2nd female” She probably thought I was a nut, but this is a huge part of my training. You will hear about it more later, but I visualize a ton for every race.  I think it is so important.

A cruised into mile 12 aid station, feeling good.  This was the first one I was able to see my crew at.  **A side note here for all of you aspiring ultra runners: do not mess around at the aid stations! Think about it, if you spend 1 extra minute at every aid station that could add as much as 10 minutes to your time.  I have 2 water bottles filled with my nutrition and I literally pass the old one off and take the new one.  I am so thankful for all I learned from Amy Rusiecki when I ran my last 50 with her, and this is one big thing she taught me.** My crew told me I was in 2nd and I corrected them, I was 3rd.  I knew there were 2 girls ahead of me. I wouldn’t see my crew again until mile 30.  That was tough to swallow.  I can’t tell you what it did to me mentally to see their faces.  Erik, Matt, my Dad, Kyle, Drew, Roger…all giving up a day and weekend to support me.  I am so freaking lucky to have such amazing support in my life!!

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The next 18 miles (as well as the majority of the rest of the race) is kind of a blur.  It was A LOT of UPS and DOWNS.  It was mentally just tough all around.  The terrain. The elevation. Being solo almost the whole race. Fearing that my hip/back/hamstring would go out at any minute. Just tough.  I finally got to mile 30 and again my crew says, “2nd female” …”NO!” I say, “3rd!” but I find out the girl I thought was in 1st was a relay!! 2nd female it is!

I started hurting bad after mile 30 and I started to let the head take over. “You still have 20 miles left. 2nd place vs. 3rd doesn’t mean that much.  Walk if you need to.” My stomach started to turn a little and my body just kept hurting more & more. It was a low point for me, but that’s endurance racing. Highs and lows.  You just try to actively ride out the low to hit the high again.  I definitely walked a lot of sections in the next few miles.  Some because I should have, others because I wanted to.  The only things keeping my spirits high was the fact that we had joined the 50kers at this point and I was passing a lot of runners.

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I stopped feeling sorry for myself, however, when I ran upon 2 guides who were leading a blind runner. “Rock to the left. Slight turn to the right.” I waited for a large gap in the trail and passed them, choking out an “incredible job” as I held back tears. Who the hell am I to feel sorry for myself at all right now?

At about mile 42 I looked behind me and see a female runner looking strong.  I look at her bib….green.  I look at mine…green. Shit! How does she look so good?!? As she runs by me I ask, “are you relay?” (Ha!) She says no, I ask her name (Jordan) cheer her on, and settle into 3rd as she opens up her stride on the road we just hit. I accept 3rd easily …I thought I was in 3rd for 30 miles and was okay with it.

The last (and 3rd) station I could see my crew at was mile 45.9. As I run past them they yell out, “2nd female.” Again I correct them, “THIRD!” (Man, looking back maybe they chatted with Meg and were pulling some Sports Psychology shit on me!)  Just ahead was the aid station, which I ran right by, but not before seeing Jordan walking away from it. As I pass her, “you got this Jordan!”  “Thanks Darcy.  Nice job.” I love this sport!

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This was ultimately where the race started. 4 miles to go and I had heard rumblings of it being some of the toughest miles of the race.  It was at this point that I had to ask myself: “What are you made of? This couldn’t be scripted any better.  It’s all about mental toughness and grit right now.  Are you able to step up and practice what you preach and tap into all of those motivation videos you listen to and get it done?  Or are you going to let this girl out-tough you?”

It is in these next 4 miles that I learned things that no video or book could teach me. It was my own journey, my own self discovery, and in those 4 miles I gained so much more than a podium finish.  I learned that when I feel I have NOTHING left to give, that there is always more.  That I am capable of so much more than I even know, and the mind is truly everything.  So many people don’t understand why us endurance athletes do these “crazy” things.  However, until you get to that point of ultimate exhaustion and you push past it…you will never understand. It has nothing to do with running, it’s about life.

The last two miles I ran with everything I had.  I had so many people comment on how I was killing it and I was passing people like crazy.  I was in a zone and I had a clear vision of high fiving my Dad on my way to the finish and the hug I would get from my brother. With one mile to go, I look behind me and I see Jordan Running HARD. She seemed to be gaining on me and I somehow ran even faster.  I don’t want to exaggerate, but I would guess my last mile was maybe a sub 7.  It was a sprint. With only 50 yards to go I hit my crew, the moment I visioned for so long.  I made sure Jordan wasn’t right behind me, and I start to take it all in.  2nd Female. 9th Overall. 7:48 finish.

This may be the hardest race I’ve ever done.  The elevation was 9,000ft vs Cayuga’s 12,000ft.  It took me 7:48 hours vs 9:15 hours at Cayuga. On paper you would think Cayuga was tougher, but this race just destroyed me….In. The. Best. Way. Those last 4 miles will stay with me a long time.  The thoughts I had, the feelings I felt…they are mine and I am better today because of them.

 

Thank you to everyone who supported me.  The texts, the phone calls, the hugs, the support is everything to me. All my mission FITNESS peeps..YOU inspire ME!  To those who joined me on runs and bike rides during the training. To my best friend Meg who is ALWAYS there for me and lucky for me she is a mindset specialist and sports psychologist! To Bill who not only told me to sign up for this race but shared so many runs with me & listened to way too much complaining. (I told you Sayulita would podium) To Mr.Klene for being the most amazing host and just an incredible guy. Kyle and Drew, I could never thank you enough for making last weekend so special. Kyle, every girl needs a friend like you. To Erik who is my biggest supporter in life and on the race course. To my Dad and Brother who left CT at 3am to be there for me (and my Mom for babysitting so they could) That high five from my Dad and hug from my brother was what kept me going.  Thank you for being the two men that made me the athlete I am today.

 

 

 

 

Vermont 50 and IRONMAN Lake Placid Registration

I really just moved to Florida to get away from the Winters. I knew it would just be a place we would hibernate, make some money, and leave when May came.

I had no idea what would come next. Would we spend the Summers in Coastal Maine? Would we take the camper and go out West and see the National Parks? Would we end up back in CT?

If you asked me last October, the last option was not my favorite. I knew financially it would be the best option, but I was ready to explore. Nothing about going back “home” for more than a few weeks made me excited.

Fast forward 2 months. As I came down from my “Marathon High” I quickly lost any desire to train. My body felt broken, and my head was in a bad place. I would hear about, and see pics of my bro training “Bill” who would soon be attempting MT. EVEREST. He would send me pics of them in the trails, doing hill repeats, etc. For the first time I started to want to be in CT.

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That’s when I started to realize the significance of being surrounded by people who make you want to be a better athlete and person. Something that seemed so normal at home was actually not so normal. I wrote a blog about it, expressing how what we have at MF could NEVER be replaced.

Three months later we were offered an amazing opportunity to come back to CT and stay at a beautiful Lake house. It was all of a sudden a No Brainer. I needed to go back and surround myself with my MF Family…”Yes, we’ll take it!!”

Within hours of stepping off the plane I was at a mission FITNESS bootcamp. I left that night on a high that I hadn’t felt in 6 months. “This was what I need.” I thought. “This is home.”

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Leading up to this point I had taken a month completely off from working out, trying to mend my broken body. I was unable to even stand without immense pain. I had done Yoga 30 days straight in an attempt to be able to begin running again when I got back to CT.

Well, 1 week after my return I had a date to meet Matt (my brother) for a trail run at one of our favorite spots. I was nervous, given my running was nearly non-existent for the past 5 months. I show up to the trailhead and Matt says, “Bill’s coming.” Shit. I’m running with my brother and a man who just came back from climbing Mt. Everest. Any other day I would have been psyched, but I was unconditioned like I’ve never been.

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The run started off manageable. Bill says, “this is a good pace” Matt responds, “yeah, none of us are trying to kill ourselves” Bill was still suffering numbness in his toes from Everest, Matt was battling back and knee pain, and my hip and back were still sub par. We continue to run, holding a casual conversation. Then came the 1.5 mile climb…

Matt all of a sudden took off. My lungs and legs immediately felt the absence of ANY elevation and as we neared the top, I was doing everything I could to not walk. Bill was behind me, and I told him to go ahead. (I wasn’t about to walk with him behind me. Not after what he just did on Everest.)

Unfortunately, he said he was fine and stayed behind me. So I pushed. I wanted to walk. Vomit. Stop! But I kept going. Because Bill was behind me and he just did freaking Everest!!! It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast, but I made it to the top.

After that it’s about 2 miles to the car, mostly downhill. The 3 of us, all hurting from injuries, took off. I want to say we probably averaged a 7 minute mile to the finish. Where the hell did that come from? Here’s what it was..it was 3 like minded people feeding off each other’s energy. Not one word was spoken in those last 4 miles, but no words were needed.

That run was a turning point for me. My soul had reawakened and I was ready to start training again. Not 3 weeks later I text Bill, “I’m thinking of doing Vermont 50. Should I do the 50K or 50 Mile? I don’t feel ready for 50 miler.” His immediate response, “50 miles.  Sign up today” Five minutes later I sent him a screenshot of my registration. I was back!!! Back home and back with people who make me better!

Since that day I have enjoyed my time in CT like I never thought I would. My training has been going great, and I’m loving being back in the trails.  I am also doing some road runs, biking, swimming and strength.  My heart is happy with such a great group of people to train with and I feel so lucky!

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Just last weekend I joined my brother and a bunch of other MFERS to cheer on our peeps who were competing in IRONMAN Lake Placid. I attended this event in 2011 for the first time and it was such a powerful experience for me. I remember standing at the finish line, eyes full of tears and saying, “I’m doing this event”

Years passed and although I continued each year to spectate and be incredibly inspired, I never took the plunge. I watched my brother run the Olympic Oval to the finish, full of pride & happiness, yet still feared making the commitment myself.

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Sometimes the timing just has to be right. Sometimes you just know when it’s your moment. I left this years IRONMAN on such a high. I felt drunk with happiness and inspiration watching our MFers finish, but still went home that Monday with no real thought of signing up.

Then the texts starting pouring in. Many asking if I was going to sign up, and a couple from 2 bad ass chicks (one a close High School friend) saying they had signed up!! With the thought of moving back to Florida in October looming, I suddenly realized that this may be the year. I could work on my swimming in Florida and hopefully stay motivated with the focus of being an IRONMAN while down South.

I reached out to 4 men that I admire deeply. I admire them for how they push limits and do things that many don’t even think is possible. Mt. Everest. A TRIPLE IRONMAN. 100 Mile Trail Races. Each one of them gave me their own bit of advice. Then I hovered over the “Registration” button for a good 30 minutes.

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Then something clicked. These amazing athletes that I have the pleasure of surrounding myself with have shown me that FEAR and our MINDS are what hold us back from so much. Once I get rid of that, I am unstoppable. And this was the first step. 140.6 miles scares the shit out of me. Especially that first 2.4. However, I wasn’t meant to be average or to live an average life. And I’m sure each one of these men will try to explain that the reason they do this “crazy” stuff is because it is the closest to LIVING that you will ever get.

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So, in the next year I will do another 50 Mile Trail Race and an IRONMAN. Then I will continue to keep doing Races, Adventures, and LIVING. Life is short….Time to start getting uncomfortable.

Why Do I Run Ultras?

It’s a beautiful, sunny Saturday. The sun is shining and a majority of the population is poolside or at the beach sipping on a cocktail. I am 2 hours into my run, drenched in sweat, sipping on my Camelback hose. Why am I out here, in the middle of the woods, training for another crazy race? Here’s why:  I HAVE NEVER LOOKED BACK AT A DAY AT THE BEACH AND GOTTEN CHILLS AND LET OUT A SOB THINKING ABOUT IT!!!!!

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However, 15 miles into our trail run on Tuesday I couldn’t stop myself from crying while explaining to Matt (my brother) the feeling I had when I rounded the corner to the Finish of my first 50 miler.  How I saw my husband, who had been there with me every step of the way leading up to the race, and at EVERY AID STATION along the race, and what that image does to me to this day.  As I type this I am crying.  It is a feeling I will NEVER forget.  It had very little to do with finishing that actual race.  It had to do with those days that lead me to that Finish.  The 10 hours of running every weekend while my friends were poolside.  Those moments on the trail when all I wanted to do was quit.  On those days I gave myself every excuse in the world why I could just cancel this race.  Why it was stupid and not even healthy to run that distance.

But guess what?? That would be taking the easy way out.  And if I did stop when it hurt and got uncomfortable I would have lost out on so much growth.  It is in those moments, when everything in us tells us we are done and we continue, that a whole new world opens up.  On the other side of that wall is a life worth pushing for.  On the other side of that wall we are stripped of all of the barriers we have put up and are completely vulnerable.  We find out who we really are, and more importantly what we are capable of.

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I am not interested in an average life.  I’m not interested in running a race that is comfortable for me at a comfortable pace.  Because COMFORTABLE will NEVER give me chills.  Comfortable will never bring tears to my eyes at just the thought of it.  And for many, it doesn’t even need to be an ultra marathon.  What it needs to be is pushing yourself past uncomfortable.  When what you have done even inspires you looking back at it.  Sometimes it may not even be sports.  However, for me…it is in those woods that I find myself.  I don’t say that nonchalantly.  I literally find out what I am made of on those trails, and with that it carries over into every aspect of my life.  Lately, I have had many people comment on how I just fall into great things in my life.  Trust me, if I chose to settle for average in my training and in my racing I can GUARANTEE you my life would be average.  But I was not put on this earth to be average.

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The first step to making this change is to surround yourself with like minded people. It will be very hard to make the leap without the support of extraordinary people.  I was lucky enough (well, it isn’t luck) to spend my day poolside yesterday.  Except, instead of drinking cocktails, I was with my childhood best friend who is a Sports Psychologist/Mindset Performance Coach.  And around me were 3 others who are some of the most successful people I know.   Forward thinkers.  Elite Minds.  Endurance Athletes. The hardest workers I know.  We spent almost two hours working with her on strengthening or mental game.  These 4 people support my dreams and believe in them, as I support their dreams.  And for that I am one happy girl.

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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

 

 

What Is Your Why?

I haven’t written a blog in awhile. One with thoughts. Deep thoughts. Probably for many reasons….

*It has been an uneventful winter. No races. Lots of snow.

*I get depressed in the winter. Like, very depressed. I love the outdoor, but loathe the cold. Not a good combo for a New England winter. No one wants to read about how depressed I am.

*I only write when I have clear thoughts. Those “ah-hah” moments. My thoughts have been all over the place lately. Lots of soul searching. I guess that’s what hours on the bike trainer and treadmill will do.

But, here I am. I’m ready. I may still be depressed, but I am starting to have some clear thoughts, thanks to the motivational videos I have been listening to.  They have gotten me through some tough workouts and I’ve played a few clips at bootcamps, and have gotten some great feedback from clients. I truly believe that if you have any desire to be better at ANYTHING, just listening to 6 minutes of these videos a day would make you better.

The one question that has stood out for me:

WHAT IS YOUR WHY?

This question can be asked to anyone.

Why do you want to be successful in business?

Why do you want to lose weight?

And for me: Why do I run these “crazy” races?

Why do I work so hard to try to be a top finisher?

Continue reading

My First Ultra Marathon: Bimblers Bluff 50Kish

I haven’t decided yet if this is going to be one LONG post, or if I will break it down into a few.  It is amazing how the race day has so many elements.  The pre-race, race, and post-race almost feel like 3 different events.

Pre-Race:  

You all know about the FEAR I had as I went into this race.  I saw myself tip-toeing nervously on my hurt ankle for 32 miles, trying not to get hurt.  That would make for a REALLY long day. So, I called my best friend who happens to be a sports psychologist.  I had her talk me through some visualizations, and fill me with some positive thoughts for the race.  Then I contacted my rock star friend, Katie for some nutrition advice.  I followed her advice and had my last meal around 5pm (small plate of pasta) and then a bagel with coconut oil and half a banana at 5am. (3 hrs before the race)  These were 2 big changes for me.  Usually I eat a later, bigger dinner the night before the race, doing MOST of my carb loading at that time.  However, after lots of reading and researching I learned to start my carb loading 3-4 days before.  I also hate waking up early, so for most of my past races I wake up about 90 minutes before the race and eat breakfast then. I am hoping all these changes lead to this great change in my pre-race events:  I did not have to “use the bathroom” once at the race and during the race!  Since most people reading this are probably runners or friends, I am not embarrassed to admit this.  And if you are a runner with issues like this, you know how huge this is!!   So far so good as I toe the start line.

The Race:

I went into the race with a goal of finishing under 6 hours.  Based on my training, I knew I was capable of this.  I knew I could definitely place top 10, possibly top 5, and on a REAL GOOD DAY top 3.  However, this was my first ultra, and only my 4th trail race. Before this my longest being the Bimblers Bash 10k.  This was a whole new ball game.  I stalked this race, over-researching details as I do with everything in life.  I watched the video from 2011…2 hours of taking in details:  Aid stations, terrain, what runners did, wore, etc.  I then looked at the confirmed entrants.  I compared them to the past years results, seeing which racers who finished as top females were competing.  It looked as though only a few were.  AND, I see that the girl who beat me by 3 seconds in the Summer Solstice Trail Race for 1st Place  was running.  The competitor in me saw opportunities all around.

Before the race I saw a girl who looked strong, heard her name was Amy, and heard talk of course records.  I assumed it was Amy Lane, and thought, “I swore she didn’t sign up.”  (I found out later it was another Amy, a Team Inov-8 runner who represented the USA in the World Championships of Trail Running this year).  I also saw the girl who beat me at Gay City, and went over to say hello.  She said she was looking to do under 6 hrs, so I thought I would maybe pace with her.  (After a lot of back and forth in my own head I made the decision to only use the clock on my Garmin, not the pace or mileage.)

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After the pre-race briefing we lined up at the start for the National Anthem.  I knew we would do a lap around the field and enter the woods right after.  From watching the video and reading blogs I knew if you entered towards the back it would bottleneck, forcing you to walk up the first climb.  So my plan was to enter in the Top 20ish.  I did this, staying right behind a girl who looked like a strong runner.  She looked familiar and I had a feeling she was a top female.  I ended up running right behind her for the first 9 miles or so. I settled into her pace, which seemed to be strong, but not too fast.  I was instructed numerous times by my “training partner” to go slower than you want at the start.  However, without my Garmin I did start to worry, “is this too fast?”  After about a 8 miles the guy she was chatting with turned around and said, “you’re quiet back there.”  I told them I was just trying to stay with them because I didn’t want to get lost (my biggest fear) and it was my first ultra.  I soon found out the girl I was pacing with was someone I “knew of” (another Amy) from Bimblers Bash and who finished a few spots ahead of me.  Right before we entered the 2nd aid station was the first time we “got lost”.  It wasn’t bad, just 3 of us, standing still saying, “which way?”  We would eventually find the trail and continue.

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At aid station 2 I saw my hubs and parents, refilled my nutrition, and then headed for the Bluff Climb.  I knew what to expect, as Erik and I had done this part of the trail when checking out the course.  As we climbed, I realized one area I need to work on…my hiking/climbing.  Amy pulled ahead as I huffed up the mountain.  Once at the top, I caught back up and we continued to chat.  This was by far my favorite part.  We found out we had mutual friends, talked about triathlons, IRONMAN, etc.  It was effortless and the miles and time flew.  WELL, it was soon after we realized we were off track.  We were descending a rocky, gravel road when a kid in front of us yelled up, “do you see any markers?”.  I then said, “I was just thinking I haven’t seen any in a while.”  Big decision: do we keep going down this hill, looking for markers, making the climb up longer if we are off track?  I decided no, and told them I am heading back up.  My adrenaline was pumping.  I was so upset.  The race was going perfect.  We were running as 3/4th female and I was feeling good.  How far off track are we?!?!  I went WAY too hard trying to make up time, found the turn, yelled to them, and continued to go as hard as I could to make up time.  However, now I was paranoid and I would descend a hill, not see any markers, run back up, wait for someone who would say it was right and then keep running.  So much wasted time and energy.  Urgh.

Finally, I got to the 3rd aid station.  I figured I lost a lot of time and places, which is why I was very surprised to leave the woods and  hear, “3rd female”.  At this aid station (mile 16) I refilled my pack with water, and proclaimed “we got lost”.  I was informed everyone was saying that, and I was still only 2 minutes behind my brother (who got lost at the same spot).  It was right after this station I hit my first wall.  I am not sure if it was from the adrenaline filled hard pace I had just come off of, or the fact that I was now solo.  I started to walk climbs that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.  There was no one in sight.  No one behind me or in front of me.  Part of me wondered, should I let Amy catch me to make this less miserable?  I decided to keep truckin’, and finally spotted someone, and passed him as he stretched.  I asked if he was ok, he said “yeah, I just keep worrying I am off track”  Ok, I wasn’t the only one.  This was my first ultra, and I wasn’t sure if what I was experiencing was just me.  I then hit an area of single track mountain biking trail.  It seemed to wind, twist, and turn forever.  Even worse, it was marked all pink ribbons and I had no idea if it was even the course.  All the other ribbons were red and white.  I didn’t see any of those.  Was this talked about pre-race and I missed it?!!?  I literally wanted to cry at this point.  Was I even running the right trails?  Finally I popped out and soon found white and red ribbon.  I ran up the trail, but found people running in all directions.  “Are you looking for the Aid Station?” “What mile are you at?” “Is it an out and back?”  I saw my brother and after running up the trail a little more, decided to turn back with a few others.  I felt like I had been out there more than 6 miles and I started to worry I skipped over 4th aid station.  I started to see signs stating, “soup is near” and knew I was close to an aid station, but which one?  As I popped out of the woods to see my hubby and fan club I knew it as the right station. Phew!

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My goal for the next 8 miles (which I was warned by many blogs and the race instructions would “feel much longer”) was to pay attention as close as possible to NOT GET LOST.  The issue was, at this point my eyes started to get real blurry (I started to worry about this, but later found out it is “normal” from looking at the leaves for so long) and couldn’t see the markers until I was right on them.  With the sun shining through, the white ribbon was hard to spot.  I had MANY moments of, “oh no, is this right?” but would luckily decide to keep going and soon see a ribbon.  It began to bring me so much relief, and I chose to use these sightings as “energy”.  Part of the sports psychology 🙂

All reports were right, it seemed much longer.  I ran out of water and I was hurting.  I was trying to do math in my head.  A volunteer told me 10K left, 6K to next aid station.  Was I going to hit my 6 hour goal?  A little later I saw a hiker who told me just over a mile to the aid station.  Oh my, will this ever end?  Just then, a blister must have popped because I had a burning pain on my toe that hurt like hell.  Finally I saw my girlfriend on the trail and she started to run with me.  She said, “oh no, where’s your brother?”  What?!?!  I never passed him, which meant he was lost again.  Shit!

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I was approaching the aid station I had dreamt and visualized about.  Only 2.5 miles to the end.  In my dreams, however, 2.5 miles felt so much shorter!  My Dad gave me a high-five as I entered the last aid station and my fan club, Mom and Hubby cheered me on.  Erik then says, “listen babe, it’s your song!”  Out of some hidden speaker I hear, “Let Her GO’ by Passenger.  A song I am currently OBSESSED with. The sun was shining, the fall colors bursting, and (looking back) it was perfect.

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All I could think for the next 2.5 miles is DO NOT GET LOST.  This section actually seemed to go by pretty quick.  Well, looking back that’s what I remember!  Music to my ears was when a volunteer told me 100 yards left.  I just thought, “just a football field.”  I ran down the last hill, making sure I didn’t fall, and felt strong as I crossed the FINISH.  My time read 5 hrs 44 minutes!  To my surprise I was told I was 2nd female and 12th overall!  As I hugged my parents and hubby I was immediately handed a chocolate milk by one of the top finishing men.  What I read is true, ultras is a different breed.  How nice of this guy.  He made sure I was ok and told my the blurry vision was normal.

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5 minutes later my brother crossed.  He was 13th overall.  His Garmin read 35 miles!  Oy Vey!  What a day we had.  I learned so much, and could not believe how stressful it was.  I was so mentally and physically exhausted.  I guess this is ultra-running!

While I am very pleased with my results, I know I was not the 2nd best female.  The girl who was in 2nd the whole day must have gotten VERY lost during that 8 mile stretch.  A hiker had told me around mile 23 she was about 4 minutes ahead of me.  I also know I was in 18th most the race.  Many would argue this is all part of Ultras, but I will take from this race what I needed from it.  I have a lot of work to do to place in the big races, but I also know I am not too far from being a top racer.  Now I need to decide where I go from here.

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I have what it takes, but it will take everything I got!

Why Not Me?

Iwhy not me have never thought of myself as a runner.  I ran to get ready for soccer season.  I ran as fast as I could up and down the basketball court.  I did “fun-runs” with my softball team, jumping into random people’s pools as we ran.  Going back even further….I ran as I child. Sometimes for safety as my brother chased me.  Sometimes as fast as I could around the block (1/3 mile) as my brother clocked me and other neighborhood kids seeing who could do it the fastest.   I ran the mile testing in elementary school, always one of the top females.  Not just because I was an athlete, but because even in 6th grade I was a competitor.   It was all I knew.  I HAD to be the best.

I guess I have been running as long as I can remember.  However, once I ended my collegiate basketball career I became a little lost.  Now what?  My whole life I stayed in shape for the competition.  To not puke during preseason. For the last 5 minutes of the basketball game.  Now what was I staying in shape for?  I would still run to stay in shape, but I never enjoyed it.  There was no end goal.  I wasn’t fond of running, and it became pretty miserable for me.  Then I signed up for my first 5K. My brother gave me a goal of under 24 minutes.  I did it.  Okay.  This was better.  Now I am running as competition and with goals. Training for a reason.  Then came the half marathon, then the marathon.  The big kahuna of races.  This was supposed to be IT…However, I still didn’t LOVE it.  As I raced I would place in my age group, and sometimes overall, but I still dreaded every training run.  I never felt like a runner, more a washed up athlete who still had a little speed left in her.

Then I learned about trail races.  I had always LOVED the woods, and have even done some trail running while prepping for an Adventure Race and even the marathon.  This was a whole new ball game for me.  I LIKED this.  Running in the woods made me feel like an athlete.  Twisting, turning, jumping through obstacles.  I felt free.  I felt a sense of, “this is where I belong”.  I started to LOOK FORWARD to runs.  I did what I never DREAMED of doing on the road…I ditched my headphones.  I wanted to hear the sounds of nature, or better yet, the sound of SILENCE.  I was alone in the woods, away from the cars, cell phones, people, and the craziness of life.  My mind went to a meditative state and my thoughts became so clear.

I signed up for a couple of trail races (you can read about them: Summer Solstice 2013, Bimblers Bluff 10K, Summer Soltice summer solstice 2013 22012 ) and started to read blog after blog about them.  Not only did I love trail running, but I begin to fall in love with the community of trail racing.  They seemed to have a more laid back mentality and also a very “green” approach.  I am learning that many enjoy a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle and also share many other beliefs as me.  I think I have found my post-collegiate-athlete-calling.  So, I took the next step.  I signed up for my first Ultra-Marathon.  32.5 miles in the wioods.

So, I sit here a day after completing my longest (hours) training run (or run in general) ever.  My brother will be doing the race with me, and we ran 24 miles yesterday through Case Mountain and Gay City.  Over 4 hours.  I know I risk sounding very corny and cliché when I write these posts, but whatever..It is what it is.  Yesterday was a journey for me.  A journey of emotions, physical pains, mental roller coasters, doubts, joys, etc.  I’ll Explain..

There will never be a better training partner for me than my brother.  He is a ridiculously good runner, but more than that, a mentally strong runner.  His text he sent me the night before the run sums it up, “you are way more prepared than me, but what I lack in physical I try to make up mentally”  I have learned so much from him in this category, and I still have so much more to learn.  As we ran that 24 miles I had so many thoughts.

  1. “Okay, I told him we need to start slow, why are we doing a 9 min mile?”
  2. “Just tell him to go ahead, don’t risk your training run just to stay with him.  Run your run.  Dial back and let him go.”
  3. “He is pushing you outside of your comfort zone.  Stay with him.  Maybe you are capable of this.”
  4. “Why haven’t you been training with him more.  He is what will make you ELITE”

I survived the run with him.  When we crossed over to Gay City to do our last 6 miles I started to feel good.  I picked up the pace, and the Garmin was reading a sub 9 minute mile.  He told ME to dial back because we will never make it up the last hill if we maintain this pace.  This was when the back and forth of highs and lows began.  I would bonk, he would get energy.  I would just try to stay with him.  Roles would reverse.  Back and forth.  Then we hit that last hill.  The one we had both been thinking about the last 6 miles.  I hit that hill and just thought, “keep moving”.  At this point I was leading (a little strategic move by me.  I mentally couldn’t deal with him racing ahead without quitting, but also knew I would keep moving if he was behind me)  Well, we made it to the top without stopping.  And I would like to think it was a decent pace.  Once we hit the top Matt said two words, “great climb”.  Those words meant the world to me, because his words have always meant the most to me.

DSCN2516_0001Later that night he sent me a text that summed it all up, “…The only way I made it up that last hill was literally by not looking up, but just staying fixated on your feet and thinking ‘If they keep moving, I’ll keep moving’ Good partners push each other at different times. One doesn’t dominate the other.”

I had no idea how much I was pushing him up that hill, but he has no idea how much he pushed me most that run and through life.  I was the athlete I was in High School and College because of him and my father, and I am hoping to be the runner I think I can be because of him.  After yesterday’s run, 24 tough miles at a sub 10 min mile, I can’t help but think, “why not me?”.  Why can’t I be elite?  If I can dial in my nutrition and stomach issues I think I can be.  I KNOW this.  Just admitting that is a big step for me.  After this 50K I will have a better idea of where I am at, but maybe it’s time for me to start thinking the way I did my whole life, starting as a child running around that block.