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!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Why?

Why?

That is a question that many endurance athletes are asked, sometimes by other endurance athletes (who don't "endurance" quite as far as others) and often by non-endurance athletes.

 About 21 miles into a 22 miler

Why?

Why are you going to run 31 miles at one time? Why are you going to subject yourself to hours and hours of potential, and in all likelihood inevitable, pain? Why are you training for this one event like it is a part-time job?

Why?

It is a question that for many there is no one clear answer.

For me, the answer to "why" has many layers.

Mike and I started running using the Couch-to-5K program back in April 2011. We were both swimmers growing up, from 7-8 years old through two years of collegiate swimming, and we both ran cross country when we were younger. I made it through my freshman year of high school and decided that 3 miles was way too long to run.

 I've improved my race photo face since then, ha

On the surface, when we started running we both looked "healthy". We weren't really, we were pretty sedentary, though we had both lost a significant amount of weight that we had gained after we had stopped swimming. The Couch-to-5K was something that we could do together and that was the biggest motivator for me to try to run again.

Running and triathlon has helped me gain a healthy relationship with food. I see food now as a way to nourish my body in order to do all of the things that I love. And quite honestly, I love food!

 Garlic knots? Yes please!

As I look back on my journey, it isn't surprising that I am an endurance athlete, an Ironman and a soon-to-be ultramarathoner. I thrive on setting the bar high, achieving my goals and setting the bar even higher the next time. I don't always achieve everything that I set out to do the first time, but that's what keeps me coming back and working harder to achieve it the next time (and in some cases maybe the third or fourth time that I try).

 We love jumping after a race

I love the friends that I have gained from becoming an endurance athlete. I met my best friend, Crystal, because of our love of running. I have met so many other people because of running and triathlon, and for that I am thankful.

At the same time, I have also come to know myself better. I have become stronger, both physically and mentally. You learn a lot about yourself when you are out there training for hours and hours.

 Sitting in the grass and reflecting is necessary in endurance sports

Those who know me, know that I am not willing to say that I will never do something. A 50 miler? Yes, it is possible. A double Ironman? Sure, I would consider it. Anything and everything is possible with the right mindset, motivation and hard work. I am not willing to limit myself and my abilities.

So I guess the short answer to the question is simple.

Why not?

Friday, May 15, 2015

On the 50K

Back in September, I sat in my living room with my cursor hovering over the "register" button for the Pineland Farms 50K. After some, slight, peer-pressure, I went ahead and completed my registration for the race.

Training has not gone according to plan and at times it has been downright frustrating. I often wondered how Mike and I got through 6 months of Ironman training when (I felt like) I couldn't even get through 19 weeks of 50K training. I was reminded a few times that Mike and I did experience struggles during Ironman training with skipped and shortened workouts, flat tires, windy rides, hot runs where we had to walk so much it almost felt like it wasn't worth it and swims so choppy that even this seasoned swimmer had to get out of the water early.

Trail love

Not everything is perfect and we usually remember the good times over the bad times (which is why endurance athletes continue to race long distances, even if it does hurt really bad while we are in the moment).

I am an overachiever and I like to push myself to the extremes in all aspects of my life. I started training for Pineland Farms on January 12th and the first few weeks were pretty uneventful. I was able to get in most, if not all, of my planned workouts. Then, February hit.

We had a difficult winter this year on the east coast and Rochester was no exception. I tried as hard as I could to get outside to run and to complete all of the miles that I had scheduled for myself, but it just didn't happen. I ended up running on the indoor track more times than I would ever like to again and I shortened numerous training runs.

 During my longest training run this cycle, a 22 miler

One of the hardest aspects of training for this 50K was that Mike was not also training for it. Sure, he was still joining me for the majority of my runs but once I hit a certain distance (and our 70.3 training started in March) he didn't run the entire workout with me. The fact that he did not have to get out there, made it that much easier for me to skip workouts (even though I really shouldn't have). I am not sure I want to train for something that Mike is not also racing ever again, yet, I have a feeling that my desire to run a 50 miler (and probably even further) and to do a double Ironman someday may force me to do just that.

So many snowy runs

Throughout my training, Mike was my biggest supporter (as he always is). He would run with me, when he didn't have to, he would make sure that I was safe at the end of my long runs by stopping along the way in the car, he cheered me on during my 18 mile race and he would tell me that I could do it. While I may not have always believed that I could do it, knowing that he felt that I could meant the world to me.

In the end, I have done what I could. I can't change the fact that we were post-holing during more runs than I would like to count, that I was freezing for the majority of my winter runs, that I ran on the indoor track (up to 12 miles), that I stood there screaming on the trails that I couldn't do it and that I was going to drop out of the 50K or that I didn't complete my Seneca Trail out and back attempt.

The day after an 18 mile race, running 12+ on the trails

I can give myself credit for what I did do. I have run 493 miles (as of writing this post) so far in this training cycle, I ran three 20+ mile training runs, I ran numerous back-to-back long runs on the weekend, I ran 12 miles on the indoor track (that's 96 times around, for those who don't know) and I didn't give up.

 I'll make sure that some of these crazy antics are going on next week!

As with any race, I don't know how next Sunday will go. I do know that I am going to give it my all and I hope to finish with a smile on my face and one of my greatest friends by my side.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mike Flew at Night

I love racing, it is one of the best parts of being a triathlete. However, when I'm not racing, I love to spectate and cheer on others while they are out there crushing their own victory laps!

It is even better when the person that I am cheering on happens to be Mike.

Over the last four years, Mike and I have raced a lot. Granted, we have cut down on races now that we are primarily racing longer distances but we still love to race. I have had the opportunity to race a few times while Mike was a spectator. He is my greatest supporter and having him on the sidelines cheering for me is amazing!

When I registered for my 50K, Mike told me he wasn't going to do it too. This has been the first big race that I have been training for by myself (more on that in another post, most likely). While talking about our racing calendar for the rest of the year, Mike decided that he was going to do the Fly by Night duathlon. Since it was only two weeks before my 50K, I said that I would spectate.

Ready for the Formula 1 Du: 1.7 mile run, 10.2 mile bike, 1.7 mile run, 10.2 mile bike, 1.7 mile run

This was my first time spectating a race that just Mike was racing (unless you count when I had to DNS Cast a Shadow and a few years of the Corporate Challenge). Our friend, Greg, came with us. We had a great time going back and forth between a few spots while Mike raced around the Watkins Glen International race track.

 Around and around he goes!

While I don't know if I ever want to train for a race that Mike isn't also training for again, I did have an amazing time supporting him this past weekend.

Mike flew at night! Finishing time of 1:49:23

Being on the opposite side of the race course makes me appreciate what he has done for me even more and I can't wait to see what the rest of our triathlon season has in store for him!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Medved Madness Race Recap

On Sunday, Mike and I participated in the Medved Madness Trail Race. It was our first year running the race and I am really glad that we did! I had a lot of fun and will definitely try to run this again in the future.

I went in to the race knowing that I would be using it as a training run for my 50K. Saturday we ran 10 miles on trails in the morning and rode 33 miles in the afternoon, so I was just hoping my legs would cooperate enough to get me through the race.

Medved Madness consists of three, approximately 5 mile, loops (the race ended up being a little short, around 14.4 miles total) throughout the entire park of Mendon Ponds.

We lined up for the start around 8am and after a brief explanation of which colors to follow (white/blue, pink/black and then orange) it was time to start! I settled in toward the back and just took my time through the start of the first loop.

The start! Thanks Laura for the photo!

I really liked the first loop, it wasn't too hilly but it did take you through some muddy portions in the woods. I saw our friend, Ron, taking photos a few times and he cheered me on. I was wearing my new hydration vest and used the bladder for the first time, I had too much liquid on me but that was the point so that I could test it for my 50K.

I started off a bit too fast and so I pulled back during the third mile of the race. I was still with other people at this point and passed a few. Toward the end of the first loop, you could see across the pond and I saw other runners making their way through the course. The first loop ends with a nice little romp through the pond. I tried to run the entire time in the water but I felt like I was going to lose my balance so I sloshed my way through and up the grassy hill toward the start/finish area. Some of our friends who were doing the relay and just there to spectate cheered me on.

I went through and finished the first loop in 51:07 and then it was time to start the pink/black loop. I knew that this one was going to be more difficult, and it was. There were more hills and we ran through grassy fields that didn't have any tree cover. It was hot out, around 65 degrees already, and I just kept taking in water/Gatorade every mile or so and took my energy chews every 2.5 miles. I was able to pass a few more runners in this section, but some of the relay teams passed me later on in this loop.

Toward the end of the pink loop, our friend Ron was taking pictures at the top of a hill. He told me that Mike was doing well and having fun, and then I made my way down the hill to only go up another hill.

I got to the end of the pink loop and I only had 9 miles on my watch, I got nervous that maybe I missed something but figured that the third loop would be longer. My loop two time was 46:22 and my total time at this point was 1:37:29. Our friends were still there cheering me on and one told me that Mike wasn't too far ahead of me.

I ran down on to the trail and started to follow the orange markers. I thought that the beginning of this loop was a little confusing and I was concerned that I was going to miss a turn (a volunteer had to tell me to go up at one point because I almost missed a turn).

I was starting to get really hot at this point, but I just kept pushing on. This part of the course was through the woods and also through some grassy areas. There was another race going on in the park and they had used pink flags to mark their course. Since some of the three loops overlapped for our race, I thought that I had missed something during the pink loop and that's why it was so short. Eventually I realized that wasn't the case, but it was a little bit confusing having two races happening at the same time.

About one and half to two miles into the third loop, a friend of ours passed me. He was on a relay team and he was running great! We were running through the cross country skiing trails at this point and I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. We eventually cut through the woods to leave the cross country trails. There were these two guys behind me the entire time, and I could hear them talking but they hadn't caught me yet. I tried to keep them behind me for as long as I could.

As I kept going, there were some hikers on the trail that we were using for the race. I ran by them and eventually had to walk since we were going up a pretty steep hill. One of them asked me if I had been in Starbucks that morning, and I said that I hadn't. When we got to a flatter point on the trail, the guy next to me said something to the effect of that it was flat so I could start running again. So I did.

There were two women in front of me and I was gaining on them. We went through some more grassy fields and some mud and then I eventually got ahead of them, but the guys behind me passed me!

We finally reached what I had been waiting for - Cardiac Hill. This hill was so steep that it was difficult to keep moving forward without stopping. This was my slowest mile coming in at 12:50 pace.

When I reached the top, I walked a few steps to catch my breath and then started running. I could tell that we were getting close to the end since it was marked with pink and orange markers. I ran down the final hill and out of the woods. A volunteer told me to go around a tree and through the finish line. Our friends were cheering me on and Mike and I high-fived. Then, I was done!


I ran the third loop in 1:03:46 and finished the 14.4ish mile race in 2:41:14 overall. Not bad on those trails! Mike did great and finished in 2:25:01.

Now it is time to start tapering and the next time I toe the line it will be for my first 50K!