Tuesday, June 30, 2015

HITS North Country 70.3 Race Recap - Bike Leg

Did you miss the swim leg? Check it out, here.

 Mike heading out for his 56 mile ride

 A bit scared about what is waiting for me

After running out of transition, I got on my bike and started the next 56 miles of the day.

 What we had to deal with

This bike course is tough, HITS isn't playing around here. Luckily, Mike and I knew about the big hills because if you went into it blindly, you were going to be really, really unhappy. Not that I wasn't a bit unhappy already knowing about what awaited me.

As soon as you leave transition, you take a quick left onto route 8 and that's where you stay the entire time for the bike course. It is an out and back with the turnaround at mile 28 for the 70.3 athletes and at mile 56 for the 140.6 athletes.

The first 5 miles are all uphill. There are a few "breaks" thrown in there, with just enough time to sit in aero for a few seconds before you keep climbing and climbing. It took me about 40 minutes to do the first 5 miles, yes I was that slow. My MPH these first miles ranged from 5.9mph to 9.5mph, the worst part about these kinds of miles it that it really hurts my back to sit up straight that long.

At some point, I don't really remember when since I was focusing on not sounding like a dying, wheezing animal, Mike's parents drove by me and cheered me on.

 Almost done with the first big hill!

"I hate this hill"

Our friend, Greg, told us that he was going to be on the hill somewhere. I just focused on getting to him. Around mile 4, there he was! I told him that I hated the hill and he told me that the steepest parts were over and that I only had about a mile to go to the rock elephant (and mile 5).

 The rock elephant

I have never been so happy to see this mile marker in my life!

Some people had passed me, but that's alright I just wanted to get the hill over with! FINALLY, I saw the mile 5 marker and knew that the tough part was over (for now).

The middle of the course is pretty nice. Right after the 5 mile uphill, you get a nice 4 mile downhill (which only means you have to go back up that in the end). One other triathlete was drafting me before the downhill and when I looked back at him, he told me I was fine. I said, well you are technically drafting me to which he responded he was too far away to be drafting. I explained that it was 3-4 bike lengths back and he quickly went around me. Not that there were any officials out (that I saw), but I didn't want him riding me on the downhill.

The 4 mile downhill gave my quads some relief and I even hit 30mph one mile. The rest of the bike to the turnaround is rolling, with one major hill at mile 27. I just took in the scenery and made sure to get my nutrition back on track (it was tough to get in a rhythm on the 5 mile uphill). I really enjoyed the ride, with the exception of the lack of shoulder on most of the road. The views were gorgeous and it wasn't too hot out at this point.

 Mike on the way back

Right around mile 23-25, I started to think I should see the leader coming back through. As I rounded a corner, there he was! I started to count how many people were making their way back, but once I got up to 11 or 12 I stopped counting.  About mile 25, I saw Mike! I asked if he was doing alright and he said yes (honestly, I was a bit worried because I thought I'd see him sooner but I had done math wrong. I thought he was only 3 miles ahead of me, but really he was 6 miles ahead. Oops).

A few miles before the turnaround someone in a DC Tri Club kit passed me. I asked him if he knew Gabi and Pablo and he said yes. I explained how I knew Gabi from blogging and how all of us did Ironman Louisville last year. It is such a small world! He told me that I must be used to all of these hills and I said yes, but these were pretty bad ones!

At the turnaround, which I didn't have any problems with luckily, a volunteer asked if I wanted anything and I said no. Then another person asked if I wanted something, and I said no. This same person told me that I was 11th female, which I thought was strange that a volunteer was telling me that and after a few seconds I realized that it was Mike's mom! I didn't even see his parents or the volunteer at the turnaround (I was so focused on not eating it and the cars that were waiting that I had my blinders on).

 Less than 28 miles to go on the bike leg!

I got back on my way and knew that some other female athletes would probably pass me, there were some pretty close to me making their way to the turnaround (and one woman did pass me a few miles later). I made it up another slight hill and then continued the rollers. I was probably averaging about 16-17mph during the middle portion of the course, but I was still below 15mph average overall.

The sun was starting to come out and as the miles ticked by, I knew that the final tough portion of the bike course was coming up. Right around when there were 9 miles left, we started to climb again. This hill was shorter and not as steep, but there weren't any "breaks" during it! It was constant climbing! I was near a few people at this point and we were all making our way up the hill.

Right before the 5 miles of downhill, there was a guy riding on his trainer at a scenic overlook. He told me I had about 1 to 2 minutes left of climbing and then it would all be downhill from there (literally). After four miles of slow mph (between 6.6 to 10.4 mph), I was FINALLY done climbing!

The last 5 miles flew by. I tried to stay in aero as much as possible, but I did have to put the brakes on a few times. The steepness and curves scared me! There were times when I couldn't even hear anything because of how fast I was going down the hill. My fastest mile of the day was 33.3 mph! Mike had close to 40 mph clocking a 39.5mph mile! Although the last 5 miles went by fast and I barely had to pedal, I still don't think that they made up for how tough the rest of the course was. I am glad it ended on a downhill, though!

Done with the bike leg!

I made it back to the turn and took the right back to transition. Mike's parents were there cheering me on, and Mike's mom said I was doing great. I didn't think I was doing great at that point, so I just said that it was a training race. I was actually worried that I wasn't going to break 7 hours since both my swim and bike legs were slower than at Musselman in 2013.

 Glad that is over!

I ran my bike back into transition, threw on my running stuff and made my way out on to the road to tackle the final 13.1 miles of the day!

Bike Leg (56 miles) - Jamie: 3:50:33 (14.6mph), Mike: 3:14:19 (17.3mph)
Transition 2 - Jamie: 1:23, Mike: 1:55

Monday, June 29, 2015

HITS North Country 70.3 Race Recap - Swim Leg

This past Saturday Mike and I raced our second-ever 70.3 at the HITS North Country Half in Hague, New York on Lake George. It was a gorgeous location for a race, but we both knew that the course would have its challenges - specifically on the bike leg.

 Beautiful location for a swim

 The finish line all set up

Friday we drove to Hague to pick up our packets, step into the water (it felt great) and relax before the race on Saturday. Luckily, the way we drove into Hague took us on the bike course so we were able to get a feel for what we would be tackling the next day. We also re-drove the first 5 miles so that we could see how the uphill portion was - it was going to be tough!

Saturday morning we woke up at 4:45am and left our hotel at 5:15am. We stayed in Ticonderoga so we had about a fifteen minute drive to the race start. When we got there lots of athletes were getting ready for their 70.3 or 140.6 mile day. HITS is still on the smaller side and there were about 110 people who finished the half distance.

 Because everyone needs a photo near the port-a-potties

Our designated transition areas were right next to each other (they do it in alphabetical order) and we got all of our stuff set up. Mike's parents came to support us and they arrived around 6am.

After going to the bathroom a few times, we saw our friend Greg drive by. He came to support us as well!

 Ready to go!

Right before 7am, we made the walk down to the lake for the mass start of the swim. The race director, who was also racing the half distance, gave brief pre-swim instructions and then we had about 5 minutes until the start.

Everyone making their way into the water

Mike and I walked out into the water and got in the front of the line. Before we knew it, we had 30 seconds to the start.

Then we were off! The water was pretty shallow in the beginning but I started swimming right away, some people were running near me in the beginning. It took a few minutes to get away from most of the people and then I made the first turn.

The beginning of the swim wasn't the best for me, I just couldn't get in clear water. Two people were constantly on top of me and I had to throw some elbows to finally catch a break! Once I was by the second red buoy (of four), I was in a good rhythm.

I made the turn around the fourth and final red buoy and the sun was in my eyes. I just followed the splashes of people in front of me because it was hard to tell where we were supposed to go. I'm not sure if there were other buoys that we were supposed to follow on the way back or if we were supposed to be near the original buoys. Either way, I just kept swimming back to the start. One of the people who was on top of me in the beginning caught back up to me (he had a very unique wetsuit) and I had to get away from him again.

We had been told before the swim that we would make our final left-hand turn around a small red buoy (it should have been a big one) before making our swim back to the beach. I was sighting off of what I thought was the red buoy, but it was actually a "no wake" marker for the lake. Some people skipped the red buoy and started swimming toward the yellow buoy we went around in the beginning, cutting the course a bit short. I hesitated for a second on what to do, but I went to the red buoy to follow what we had been told to do (Mike did the same thing).

I went by the red and then yellow buoy and knew I was almost done swimming. I had looked at my watch once and knew I wouldn't beat my time at Musselman, but I hoped that I would be close enough. I kept swimming until my hands kept touching the bottom of the lake and then I ran out of the water.

 Mike was the 6th person out of the water!

When I looked at my watch it said that I had swam about 1.4 miles! Most people after the race said that they recorded a long swim course too (Mike had about the same on his watch). I was a bit upset about my swim time because it was so slow, but in reality the course was long.

I ran by Mike's dad and toward transition. There were wetsuit strippers but I skipped them (Mike used them though). I ran into transition as the 15th person overall out of the water and the 4th female.

 Wish this transition had been a bit faster!

I fumbled through transition a bit, my top was so wet it was tough to put my bag with Clif bars in it, and then I grabbed my bike and ran out of transition. I knew that the next part of the race was going to be one of the most challenging rides I had ever done!

Swim Leg (1.2 miles) - Jamie: 35:55, Mike: 33:27
Transition 1 - Jamie: 1:38, Mike: 1:11

Monday, June 22, 2015

70.3 Season

It's been a little while I guess! Since the Keuka Lake triathlon I have continued to enjoy my time off from work. This is my last full week off for a little while, the next time I am off of work for that long we will be going to Alaska and I can't wait!

Mike and I have ramped up our cycling mileage since my 50K back in May. It was tough training for a 50K and a 70.3 at the same time and I always feel like triathlon training takes a back seat to any other training. It has felt amazing to get some higher cycling mileage in and I am excited about some potential longer rides this summer, including a century ride just for fun!

 In the middle of a 52 mile ride a few weekends ago

Our toughest training day so far was just this past Saturday. For some reason, who really knows why I do the things I do, I wanted to do a 25 mile bike/5K run/25 mile bike/5K run brick. I figured it would be a good training day before the start of our 70.3 races, and also a nice way to get in some more cycling. Mike and I were able to accomplish the brick and other than the hot temps toward the end it went well!

We finished out the weekend by spectating and cheering on friends at the PAIN in the Alleganies triathlon. Our friend, Greg, did the Intermediate distance and CRUSHED it! I always think spectating a race the weekend before your next race is a good way to get pumped up!

 Beautiful location for a triathlon

Speaking of our next race, we have our second-ever 70.3 coming up this Saturday! It is crazy to think that we have only done one 70.3 throughout our entire triathlon career. We will make up for that fact over the next three weeks since we have the HITS North Country Half in Hague, New York this Saturday and then we are doing the DoubleMussel in Geneva, New York on July 11th and 12th. The DoubleMussel consists of doing the Sprint triathlon on Saturday and the 70.3 on Sunday.

My goal for either of the two 70.3s that we are doing is to get redemption and get my sub-7 hour 70.3! When we did Musselman the first time, my finishing time was 7:00:05. I was only 6 seconds away from a sub-7 hour finishing time!

I am a bit unsure whether or not I can make it happen this weekend, but I am going to give it my all. I think that I can have a swim time right around what I did at Musselman in 2013 or a little faster (my time was 32:18). The run is relatively flat with around 300 feet of elevation gain, so as long as I have something left in the tank I should have a faster split than back in 2013 (I ran a 2:39:08).My transition times should be a bit faster if not the same as Musselman.

The one determining factor on whether or not I get my sub-7 hour 70.3 will be the bike leg. While I did the bike leg at over 16mph for our Ironman, I have not been in the saddle as much this year. Also, the bike leg of this race scares me!

Scary!

Check out those hills! There is over 3,000 feet of elevation gain over 56 miles. If we had been riding more and training out on hills more it wouldn't be as daunting, but we haven't. I hope that once I get the first 5 miles of the bike leg done that I can make up some time on the rolling hills and then push the downhill on the way back. My time for the bike at Musselman was 3:43:18, if I can survive the hills on Saturday I would love 3:30 or less!

In reality, I just need to make each leg (including transitions) about 1-1.5 seconds faster than at Musselman in 2013. The courses are different and our training has been different, though we are stronger than we were in 2013.

 Good times back in 2013

Either way, I am going to go out there and have fun racing my second-ever 70.3. I am excited to see Mike out there on the course, both the bike and the run legs are out and backs, and have some friends and family there supporting us!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Keuka Lake Intermediate Triathlon Race Recap

This past Sunday Mike and I made our return to the triathlon that started it all for us - Keuka Lake. Keuka Lake is special, it was our first triathlon (and as a result our first sprint triathlon) and our first (and only) Olympic distance triathlon. The only year we haven't raced there was last year, since we did the 100 mile triathlon instead, yet we still went there to cheer on our friends who were racing.

This year, we did the Intermediate (Olympic) triathlon again as a training race for our upcoming 70.3 races. A few days before the race, I set four goals: set a course/distance record (my time in 2013 was 3:11:55), go sub-3 hours, have all three of my leg times be faster than in 2013 (2013 times were: swim - 28:52, bike - 1:43:19, run - 55:52) and set a 10K PR during the run leg (my current PR is 54:42). I had a feeling I could achieve at least two of these goals, if not all four, but it would all just depend on how race day went.

Saturday Mike and I picked up our packets and we went down to the water to see how it felt. It wasn't too bad, but I figured it might be colder in the morning. After that we checked into our hotel about a half an hour away from the race start and went to dinner at the same restaurant we always go to, ha.

Sunday morning we woke up around 4:45am and left the hotel around 5:15am. Transition closes at 7:15am, but I am always worried about finding parking and this race designates rows but not specific spots in transition. I like to be as close to the bike out/in as possible!

We arrived at Keuka College and got our bikes ready. It was pretty chilly out, around 45-50 degrees, so Mike and I were both worried about being cold on the bike. At this point there wasn't really anything we could do about it (I did bring a jacket for the bike, but I knew I wouldn't want to deal with it in transition so I just left it in the car).

We got into transition and chose our spots as close to the bike in/out as possible. After that we got our body marking done, went to the bathroom and then went back into transition to make sure everything was set. We saw a few friends and chatted with them for a little while. We were lucky enough to be able to put our backpacks underneath their triathlon team's tent while we were racing.

 It was a beautiful morning!

Before we knew it, it was time to get our wetsuits on and walk down to the water to the start.

Swim Leg (1.5K or .93 miles) - Jamie: 26:37, Mike: 23:12

Mike was in the first wave and I was in the third wave of the Intermediate triathlon. After his wave took off, the second wave got in the water and my wave walked into the holding corral. Then it was our wave's turn to get into the water.

We had been told in the morning that the water temperature close to the shore was 61 degrees, but that it was a little warmer further out into the lake. It was COLD! I got up in the front of my wave and dunked under. Right after I did that, we were all called back and were told that there had been a miscount (they count athletes in and out of the corral to make sure that the same number of athletes in the water is the same as the number of athletes out of the water). We had to go all the way back out of the corral in order to be counted again. This took some time and our wave started a little later than we were supposed to.

Luckily, the second time the numbers matched and the announcer said we had thirty-five seconds to the start. I had dunked under the water again and I was ready. At the horn, I took off!

The water was still freezing, but I tried not to worry about it. I knew that I would warm up and I hoped that the announcer had been right about the temperature further out in the lake. The course is a big triangle and the Intermediate athletes had to follow the yellow buoys. The wind was causing some chop on the way out to the first yellow buoy and I felt a little bit out of breath, I just attributed this to not training in the water as much and the temperature. Admittedly, I was dogging it a little bit and could have probably gone a little bit faster. Oh well.

I could tell that I was in the lead group of females (my wave was all female athletes) and I just tried to get to the first yellow buoy as quickly as possible. When I made the turn, another swimmer bumped into me. She wouldn't go away but eventually I was able to free myself from her! It was hard to sight the second buoy due to the sun, but I just followed the previous waves' splashes.

When I rounded the second buoy, the tailwind provided a bit of a relief. I went by all of the in-between buoys and had started to catch up to the previous waves. Luckily, due to our later start it wasn't as congested as normal. I finally made it to the final two buoys and when I turned toward the home stretch, I was welcomed with colder water and chop. I was so happy to get to the beach again and I swam all the way up until my hand touched the bottom and then I got out of the water. I walked/ran along the beach and up the stairs, and I heard a man say, "6th female".

I still hadn't made it to the timing mat yet and I ran by a woman walking toward transition, which made me the 5th female out of the water.

Transition 1 - Jamie: 1:56, Mike: 1:49

As I ran toward my bike, I remembered that I needed to start getting my wetsuit off. This triathlon doesn't allow you to start stripping your wetsuit until you are up the stairs for safety reasons. My mind was a bit jumbled so I had kind of forgotten about it until I was already in the transition area.

I got my wetsuit off my shoulders and then I was at my area. I was a little cold due to the water and air temperatures so I put my sunglasses and helmet on first. Then I got one leg out of my wetsuit, put on one shoe, got the other leg out and put on my other cycling shoe. I noticed our friend, Greg, was already out on the bike course. We had said before the race that I would probably pass him in the swim (and then he would pass me on the bike), but due to my wave's late start and his KILLER swim, I didn't catch him.

I tried shoving my energy chews in my tri top's back pocket but my hands were too cold and the top was too wet. Eventually, I just gave up and threw them back on the ground (I didn't need them for the bike but figured I could save some time later on) and ran out of transition. I probably lost a little bit of time because of the chews and being a little bit disoriented. Hey, that's what the first tri of the year is for - getting the kinks worked out!

Bike Leg (40K or 24.85 miles) - Jamie: 1:34:57 (15.67mph), Mike: 1:17:51 (19.11mph)

After mounting my bike at the mount line, I headed out on to the bike course. As soon as I started riding, a USAT official went by me on a motorcycle. She hung around for about two miles and then when we took a right, she went straight.

The first 5 miles of my ride went pretty well. I was holding decent speeds and thought I might be able to keep them up for the majority of the bike leg. Then we made a left hand turn and the headwind proved otherwise. It wasn't horrendous at this point, but I could tell I wasn't going as fast as I would have liked. Some people that I had passed in the swim were starting to catch up to me, which always happens, and I just tried to pedal as fast as I could.

Both the Intermediate and the Sprint courses take you down into Branchport, where you turn around to go back up the hill you just came down. I took advantage of the downhill as best as I could and made the turn just fine since it is a wider turn. I settled in as I started to go back up the hill. When I made it to the "top" of the hill, I turned right and was greeted with a brief downhill. Then it was the start of what I affectionately call, "the death hill".

This hill is tough. It is about two miles long and pretty steep. I struggled on it the first time we did the Intermediate and on a training ride last year. I threw my bike into the little ring and just grinded it out. When I made it to the turn at the top of that hill, a volunteer said, "that hill has no mercy". I agreed.

The incline doesn't end there, the next four miles or so are also uphill and there was a headwind. I waited a little while to put my bike back into the big ring (I have dropped my chain a few times so I wanted to be sure that I wouldn't during the race) and started the slow ride to the second turn around. I saw Mike and our friend, Greg, on their way back down. Mike later told me that I didn't look happy, and I wasn't. I am a little frustrated with how slow these miles were. I guess I just need to ride more!

Finally, I made it to the second turn around. Right before someone flew by me to make it to the turn before me. I just focused on making the turn safely, but I almost ate it when I turned onto the side of the road in the gravel. I finally got myself back on the pavement and the fun started.

The rest of the course is amazing. I love it. If I could ride this fast all the time I would be happy. The combination of the downhill and the tailwind helped me to achieve amazing speed (according to Mike I still don't push hard enough, though). Miles 17-24 were as follows: 20.8, 21.4, 22.7, 23.6, 25.0, 25.8, 25.7 and 18.8 mph. Mike had one mile above 30 mph!

I made the second to last turn and knew it was almost time to start running. I didn't know how the final leg of the race was going to go, but I was going to give it my all. I made the last turn toward the dismount line, unclipped both feet and got off of my bike.

Transition 2 - Jamie: 1:37 , Mike: 1:46

When I got into transition, I racked my bike and started to get ready for the run. I put on my spibelt with my bib on it, put on my socks and shoes (I ride without socks) and then put my energy chews in my tri top's back pocket. I took a sip of water from my water bottle on my bike and as I was heading out, the guy next to me said, "have a nice run".

When I crossed the timing mat, I saw that my total time so far was 2:05. I knew that I was going to have to work hard to achieve my sub-3 hour goal.

Run Leg (10K or 6.21 miles) - Jamie: 53:01 (8:33 pace), Mike: 46:46 (7:33 pace)

The first thing I noticed when I started running was that my feet were numb. I hoped this wouldn't be an issue and I just kept running. As usual, my first mile was a little fast coming in at 8:03 pace. I was able to reign it in a bit and started to run around 8:30 pace.

Eventually, I saw Mike on his way back to the finish. He told me to stay strong and I kept going on my way. I was taking water at all of the water stops and I was passing a lot of people. A little while later, I saw our friend, Greg, and he cheered me on.

The run course is primarily flat, however, for some reason the slight inclines were taking more of a toll on me than they should have been. I attribute this to our lack of brick workouts this year. I kept telling myself that I would be upset if I didn't come in under 3 hours and that I could tolerate a little bit of discomfort for a few minutes.

I skipped the final water stop before the turn around and my pace had slowed a bit. It was still under 9 minute pace, but I tried to pick up the pace. When I made it to the turn around a volunteer said, "only a 5K left and with a tailwind". I was so happy to hear that! I was eventually passed by a few people, including someone in my age group, but I didn't let that bother me. The fourth mile was my slowest at 8:52 pace.

I was starting to get hot on the way back so whenever I took water, I would take a sip and dump some over my head. I had checked my overall time on my watch and I knew it was going to be close. I couldn't let my pace slow and I was able to speed up a little bit with mile 5 and 6 coming in at 8:34 and 8:47 pace.

 Happy to see the finish line

I finally made the last turn toward the finish line and as I got closer I heard Jenelle cheering for me (she crushed the Sprint tri!) and I saw Mike. I ran up the grass toward the finish line and I was done, I had finished my second Olympic distance triathlon.

 Finished!

Finishing Times - Jamie: 2:58:08, Mike: 2:31:24

After finishing, I found Mike and we went to look at the results that were already posted. We found out that he came in third in his age group! I am really proud of him.

Nut butter and wine, the typical award in this area!

Due to aging up, my age group is a little bit more competitive (the overall female winner is in my age group to put it in perspective). I did achieve all four goals that I set for myself, though, so I consider this race a success! I know that I can do even better (especially on the bike), but given that I just raced a 50K two weeks ago I am proud of myself.

I am excited for the rest of triathlon season!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Happy National Running Day

Happy National Running Day!

Mike and I woke up early to run in the morning before he had to go to work (I am lucky enough to be off work right now so I got back in bed and read for a bit).

Running is such an important part of our life; it has brought so many adventures, memories and people into our life and has provided us with an outlet to set goals and achieve those goals. Not every moment while running is "happy" but I am happy and thankful that I am physically able to run.

I thought I would celebrate the day with a few of my favorite moments that wouldn't have been possible if we didn't start running a little over four years ago (coincidentally today is also our triathlon-iversary, we raced our first sprint triathlon three years ago).

Finishing my first 50K with a smile on my face

Becoming an Ironman

Running on trails with friends

Finding my true best friend

Supporting others during their victory laps

 Internet friends who become in real life friends

Running my hometown marathon with two friends by my side

Running with Mike

Crazy race faces

Isaac pacing me during a race, not once but twice

There are so many other moments that have happened over the past four years. It is amazing to think of all that we have done, seen and accomplished because of running.

I give running two thumbs up!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

My Kind of Crazy

This past weekend was so inspiring. Mike, our friend, Greg, and I volunteered at an inaugural trail half marathon and marathon in Ontario County Park on Saturday. We have never run out there (we are hoping to change that next weekend), but from Facebook posts and friends' descriptions of the course we knew it was a tough challenge. Add to that the brutal heat and humidity, I am in awe of what they all accomplished.

 With HBO, our friend who rocked the marathon!

Seeing so many of our friends achieve their goals further proved that I need to try to achieve a goal that I (loosely) set for myself this fall. Some time last year, a friend mentioned that she was thinking about doing a 50 miler this year - with two potential race options picked out. Being me, I said that I might be interested. Then 50K training didn't go as planned and I dropped the idea, or so I thought. 

During the dark miles of my 50K, I told Isaac that I didn't want to do a 50 miler anymore. I didn't want to suffer like I was suffering at that moment of my 50K. Then, with some water, Gatorade and watermelon in me (plus some lovely cloud cover), I changed my mind. I said, "don't count me out of a 50 miler". I hadn't even finished the race and I was already changing my mind.

 Crazy race faces are a given

I admit that my dreams are just a bit crazy. Most people don't even drive 50 miles in a day, let alone run 50 miles.

The people that Mike and I surround ourselves with are just my kind of crazy. They push me to dig deeper and to believe that I can achieve things that I never thought possible.

We have friends who are attempting 100 mile races, others who dream of swimming across all of the Finger Lakes in less than 24 hours, friends training for Ironman races and others who participate in multi-hour orienteering events. And those are just some of their dreams and accomplishments.

These people help me believe that anything is truly possible with hard work, determination and just the right amount of crazy.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pineland Farms 50K Race Recap

It is hard to sit here and write out this race recap, not because it was bad (though there were some bad moments), but because it was a blur! I don't know how something that took me more than one-fourth of the day can feel like it was over in a second.

Mike and I broke our trip to Maine up over a few days, it is a long drive from Rochester and with Bernie in tow it is better to stop multiple times. We ended up boarding Bernie during the race, since no dogs are allowed on the property other than those participating in the Canicross race on Saturday.

We woke up at 5:50am on Saturday (from Mike's parents' house) so we could get to Maine in time to drop Bernie off at boarding, go to packet pick-up and then figure out what else we were going to do for the day.

When we got to packet pick-up, we met up with Isaac who would be running the entire 50K with me. Mike wanted to run, and of course Isaac was game to join him, and I needed to do a shakeout run. Mike and Isaac ended up running about a 10K and I ran 2 miles.

After some lunch with Isaac, we parted ways until the morning. Mike and I just relaxed at the hotel, went to dinner and then I got ready for the next day.

 All packed and ready to go!

We again woke up around 5:50am and I started to get ready for my first 50K. The entire time leading up to the race, I wasn't nervous (I was more nervous about how Bernie would handle being boarded somewhere new, luckily he loved it there!) I still wasn't nervous in the morning, so I hoped that meant it was a good sign.


Hoping he would bring me good luck

We arrived at Pineland Farms and we found our friends. Some other friends were also racing, ranging from the 50 miler to the 25K. We found Isaac, Andy, Danielle, an internet friend Monica and some others and started to get ready for the race. Before the race started Sara, who raced the 25K, showed up and it was nice to be able to chat with her for a little bit.

 50K runners (minus Isaac)!

Waiting for the start

Then the announcer told all of the 50K runners to start making their way to the start line. Isaac and I made our way over and went somewhere in the middle of the pack. At the start of the farm bell, we were off!

 Here we go!

I told Isaac I wanted to start around 11 minute pace, but I knew that the pack of runners and the net elevation loss in the beginning would make that hard to do for the first few miles. Mike surprised us and he walked from the start area over to two sections where you could see runners during the first mile. I wasn't expecting him to be there! Isaac's friend, Wes, was also out there cheering us on and it was nice to have friendly faces greeting us as the miles went on.

 Not expecting to see Mike here

The 50K course consists of two loops of the 25K course. The 25K course has two smaller loops, one was about 10 miles and the other was about 5 miles, so we were able to go by the start/finish area a few times.

 About 2K in to the race

The race started at 8am, and the temperature was already in the upper 50s, so I knew that it was going to get hot out there. The terrain of the course is primarily cross country roads, some grassy fields and there was a small section with pavement (though I ended up running in the grass next to it both times).

Isaac and I did start out a bit too fast, but we were able to get our pace under control during the later miles. The first 25K went really well for me, except for my calves feeling really tight the first 5 miles or so and my feet going numb on the first section of the grassy field. I also didn't really like the grassy fields (luckily, they were dry!) because of how hot it got on them, the pitched terrain and the holes throughout. I was much happier when we would go back in the woods, and my pace would improve.

Coming up on mile 10

 Still smiling

I didn't walk the first few hills, but later on my strategy was to walk up the hills and run everything else. Isaac was brilliant and tied my hydration vest so it would stop moving around and chafing my neck around mile 9. As we got to the aid station near the start/finish area we saw Mike and Wes again and then got back into the woods.

 Coming through the start/finish area

The way back to the start/finish line from that aid station was longer on the way back than on the way out. Pretty soon we saw Mike and Wes in the distance and I gave Mike a high-five as Isaac and I started the smaller loop of the course. The 25K runners were just about to start their race as we went through.

I really enjoyed the smaller loop of the course. Even though there were some grassy sections, the trails were really runnable for the most part. One time these two runners passed us and asked where we were from, after we told them one guy started listing everywhere that people had told him. He even told Isaac that he may have been the first person from Maine!

 The rooster overseeing us using the misting tent

When we came through the start/finish area, I asked Mike to BodyGlide my neck (to help prevent any more chafing), Isaac and I went into the misting tent and then we were on our way to start loop #2! We came through the 25K mark at about 2:55 and I told Isaac that I didn't think that the second loop would be as fast as the first. He told me I might surprise myself, and I even let myself think for a second that a sub-6 hour 50K might be possible.

 Isaac's commentary during the video is pretty funny!

We saw Wes and Mike at their usual spots and I finished eating a pureed fruit packet that I took at the halfway point. I didn't have the aid station refill my bottle with water in it (I had water and Gatorade in two bottles in my vest and I didn't use the bladder since the aid stations were every 2.5 miles or so) - this turned out to be a big mistake.

As soon as we left the aid station, I was starting to not feel that great. The pureed fruit I had eaten wasn't sitting well in my stomach and I had to walk a bit more than I was the first time around the loop. It was also getting HOT out there. The high for the day was around 78 degrees.

I have to admit, I felt like my dark miles on the course lasted for about 5 miles, but looking back at things it was probably only about 2-3 miles. The grassy field was difficult with the sun and I was running out of water. I even told Isaac that I shouldn't feel the way I did at 18 miles and I was worrying that I wouldn't make it. He was amazing and told me that I could do it and that I just needed to get to the aid station to refill my water.

I tried to take in more of my energy chews (that I had been taking in every 2 miles) and I spit them out immediately. They weren't going to go down. I kept drinking Gatorade and then FINALLY we were at the aid station!

I had them refill my water, Gatorade and I started dumping water on my head. I ate some watermelon, drank some Coke and then Isaac and I were on our way again. This was one of our slower miles, but the time spent at the aid station was well worth it. We had to keep going around some grassy fields, but then we were back in the woods again. I did start to feel better and by the time we got back to the same aid station (we hit that same area about three times each loop), I knew I would finish.

I was still walking a bit more than I had been the first loop, but I was also running a lot. A lot of the miles have blurred together a bit, but as the time went on the more confident I got that I was going to finish. While we were approaching the aid station near the start/finish area, I said that when we got to the start/finish we would be at about a marathon distance and then I would be running in new distance territory.

I was still really hot at this point

 Another misting tent, ahh.

Mike and Wes greeted us near the aid station and Mike took my water bottle to be refilled. I had asked him to have another fruit puree packet but I told him I didn't want it. I said that I was eating watermelon and oranges, as well as, drinking water, Coke and Gatorade. After restocking our stuff, eating a bit and going through the misting tent we went back into the woods. Luckily, some clouds came out and started to cool everything off!

5-6 more miles to go!

I couldn't believe that I almost had 5 more miles left of my first 50K. The last part of the race FLEW by. It was crazy. We went through the start/finish area and saw Mike and Wes one last time before the finish. As we were rounding the corner toward where you get to the smaller 5 mile loop, we saw our friends Andy and Eric running toward us (and in my delirious mind and their too similar twin-look, I confused who was who, ha). I high-fived each of them and then ran into the woods.

The last part of the race, Isaac kept saying only a 9K left, only an 8K left.. My mind couldn't grasp that I was really that close to the finish line.

Soon we were at a 5K left. A 5K. Like Isaac said, a 5K is how this all started for me. The Couch-to-5K brought me to this moment. The moment of almost being an ultramarathoner. I still couldn't grasp it, I thought the signs were lying about the distance. I thought I had so much more to go, but after the aid station in the woods it was only 2.something miles to go.

Then we only had 2K left. As we climbed out of the woods, the final aid station greeted us. I dumped water on myself, ate a final piece of watermelon and then kept going.

We only had .9 miles to go.

I didn't even hate the grassy fields anymore, I knew that as I made my way around the field that I was almost done with my first 50K.

We crossed the road and there on the sidelines was Andy! I was so happy to see a familiar face. He did tell me that they moved the finish line 2 miles away (mean joke, Andy) but I just laughed. I could see the finish line!

 So close I could almost touch the finish line!

We did it!

I saw Mike cheering me on and Isaac and I put our hands up in the air and crossed the finish line!

I was an ultramarathoner. I had done it!

 So happy!

I finished in 6:38:11, and accomplished the only two goals I set for this race: to finish and to come in under 7 hours.

I still can't even believe that I ran 50K. 31 miles. It doesn't feel real. I still feel like the signs were wrong and I have more miles to make up out there, ha. Maybe someday it will feel real to me.

 We didn't even plan to match

I would never have been able to do this if it weren't for Isaac. He ran with me the entire time, helped calm me down when I thought that all was lost, tied my vest so my neck didn't get even more chafed than it already is, made me laugh and ran with a GoPro the entire time so that my first 50K experience could be filmed (if you are curious you can go watch it, here). Then, he went out and ran more miles with one of our friends who ran (and finished) her first 50 miler. He is truly an amazing friend and I can never repay him for what he did. I am very lucky to have him in my life.

All of our other friends, new and old, who came to cheer, high-five, stayed for the finish even after racing their own race and who filled up my water bottle after the race - you are amazing. I wish we lived closer to you because you are our friends for life.

 This guy <3

And Mike, my constant supporter. My training partner in life and triathlon. You are the main reason that I made it to the start line of this race. You pushed me to keep going, through a seemingly impossible winter, and you always believe in me. Seeing you out there, taking photos, updating our friends and family on how I was doing and being genuinely happy to see me cross the finish line are just some of the reasons why you are the right person for me. I can't wait until your own 50K victory lap!