Sunday, October 18, 2020

RACE REVIEW:MINE FALLS 50K

"When you run your first marathon, more things seem possible.  When you run your first ultramarathon, everything seems possible."

~ Michael D'Aulerio

Last Sunday I raced the Mine Falls 50K  Not virtually.  It was a real, live, in person event with other runners, bib numbers and start and finish lines.  I know some of you have already gotten out there again but this was my first official race of 2020 and by the time Sunday rolled around I was giddy like a toddler on Halloween.  Seriously, I have never been so excited to race, maybe ever.  And while my expectations weren't super high simply on account of the fact that, for me it honestly didn't really matter how organized or well attended this even was, the first annual Mine Falls Trail Running Festival did not disappoint.  

Running is such a simple sport, you know?  But then, I guess when you're out in the woods for multiple hours during a pandemic it becomes a bit more involved.  As of Saturday our forecast looked perfect.  The race was taking place up in Nashua, NH which is about a forty minute drive for me.  Temps were expected to be in the low 50s at the start and then work their way up to the mid to high 60s for the finish.  I have a couple new run friends, Brian and Addie, who are ultra experts and both have been incredibly helpful to me as I have started to dip my toes into these uncharted mega mileage waters.  No joke, I would have been up shit's creek without their guidance as I prepared for this rodeo.  The race director let us know that there would be water and fuel stations but asked us to consider carrying our own fuel in an attempt to avoid over crowded stops.  Fine by me.  I've been practicing with a water vest for my last half dozen long runs so I was happy to wear it.  I laid out my stuff the night before the race and then checked in with Addie to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything.  I told her headphones were "optional but not recommended" and asked if she thought I shouldn't bring mine.  "Fuck that" she said.  "I always have to have my music."  Clearly I was very glad to hear this from an expert.  See how helpful she is??  Since I was driving up in the morning for the 7:00am start, I tucked myself in around 8:45 which is a full fifteen minutes before my usual bed time.  I know...crazy.


I needed to be out the door by 5:30, so I set my alarm for 4:45.  Oddly my eyelids popped open around 4:15.  Too early.  Couldn't get going.  I went back to sleep for thirty minutes which actually felt like thirty seconds.  Holy crap was it hard to roll out of bed at that hour.  I slithered down to the coffee machine and started brewing the magic.  My dogs, of course, heard me and came down to be fed after which they assumed they'd be getting walked.  How they are able to spring to life so quickly at any hour totally blows my mind.  I got all my stuff together and got going right on time.  It was a quick and easy drive, most of it in the dark, though the sun was starting to rise just as I got to NH.  I got off the exit and made my way to 1 Park Street.  It was a big, empty parking lot which I thought was odd as I figured the race crew would be in full deal mode by 6:15.  I drove down the street, back around the block and over to the lot again.  Nope.  Nothing.  Cue the panic.  I got on Facebook and found the race company and a listed phone number.  Praise be.  I did feel bad calling someone who might not be at the race that early in the morning but I had no choice.  Thankfully, Chris, the race director, picked up and explained I needed to go to Park Street Extension which was about five miles from where I was.  I calmed myself down and drove over to the right location, reminding myself that one doesn't really need to warmup up for a 31 mile race so I still had plenty of time.


Mother Nature did not disappoint and though it was a little on the cool side since we were further North, it was otherwise perfect.  I picked up my bib and shirt, dropped them at my car and walked down the hill to the race start.  By now it was about 6:45 so I just took in the moment and worked to keep myself warm while pretending to look super focused as I had no one to talk, too.  As you can see, the scene was pretty mellow and absolutely nothing like the start of a typical race which was a welcome change.  I was still pretty nervous as this was my first legitimate ultra but the pre-race pressure that I normally put on myself was nowhere near as high.  


THE RACE:
LAP 1
The 50K runners would be doing four, 8 mile laps.  Normally, this might sound kind of painful.  But given how long it had been since I'd raced I probably would have still done it if it was 30 laps on a one mile track.  And, I mean, check out the scenery?  So, yea, I was totally good with the laps.  The entire loop was on trail; a lot of single track and some parts more technical than others.  We set off on a main part of the trail but were directed off to the right shortly after we got going.  We'd be weaving on and off of that main trail for most of the course.  I'm not exaggerating when I tell you I felt like I was floating.  The miles just clicked by.  Pace didn't matter.  People were around me, passing me, smiling at me; the vibe was so awesome.  I did make the mistake of following the group in front of me around mile three which went off in the wrong direction.  The course was marked with pink tape and the lead guy missed a piece that had gone downhill and since I was a newbie I just followed the leader.  Lesson learned.  They took me about a half mile out of the way but clearly that was all on me.  No big deal.  Aside from this, I had no other issues and I cruised comfortably through the finish chute on my way to lap 2, still feeling like the situation was almost too good to be true.


LAP 2
This lap was much quieter.  The 80 or so of us doing the 50K were now pretty spread out and I was happy to have my tunes for a distraction.  I thought I'd have no issues finding my way through the course on my own since I'd already done it.  But I quickly realized that I'd leaned heavily on those in front of me during my first lap and found myself having to slow down or even stop once in a while to find the pink tape.  I had a couple moments in this lap when I worried that I was backtracking as I saw the tape but felt like I'd already gone by in the other direction.  What happens then, I thought?  Do I get disqualified?  I had no to one to ask so I just kept going and hoping I was getting it right.  Finally I saw the set of wooden stairs that were about half a mile away from the finish area and breathed a sigh of relief knowing I'd gotten back to home base.  

Katrina in the blue shorts above

LAP 3
The legs were definitely getting tired by now and my excitement was waning a bit.  It was also getting a little warm.  But, as I set off for my third lap I just reminded myself how lucky I was to be out doing what I love and to embrace it all regardless of how I was feeling.  About a mile in people started passing me.  Lots of people.  They were literally flying by me.  I felt a tap on my shoulder and responded with a "yep" meaning, I know, I hear you & I'll get out of your way only to look and see that it was my friend Aaron who smiled and waved as he cruised by me.  Several more people passed me and I started to worry that I was falling apart at the seams as I couldn't move my legs any faster.  Then Aaron's wife, Katrina, tapped me and said "Hey Trax!"  I asked how far she was going and she let me know they were running the 8 mile race.  Ohhhhh.  Well, that made more sense.  We chatted a bit and I ran behind her for a while on the trail until it opened up and she flew off to a first place finish.  Seeing them was such a boost for me and gave me a new burst of energy that I so needed at this point.  Once I got to the finish area and waved to them again I knew I had enough in me to bang out my last lap.  I took off into the woods with an ear to ear grin on my face for my final push.


LAP 4
Cruising past the finish area where those who raced the shorter distances had their feet up and were drinking cold beers....well... that was tough.  When you're talking about 31 miles and change, 8 miles sounds like nothing.  But when you're in the woods, climbing up a hill that requires putting your hands down for balance, 8 miles sounds like a GD marathon.  I was so ready to be done and I had over an hour to go.  Oof.  I put my head down and forged ahead.  I will say, the playlist I created for this race was so good I almost felt like I was cheating because I had it and my competitors didn't.  Every time a new song came on my batteries would get a mini re-charge, if you will.  Thank goodness I listened to Addie as things would have been very different without my music.  Picking my feet up over the rocks and roots was getting significantly harder due to the fatigue in my legs.  It was also tricky to keep the pink ribbons in site as having to focus on more than one thing was kind of tough.  For a while, I had a guy running right on my tail which was kind of unnerving but at the same time it was nice to have his company.  The trail was tight but whenever I could I moved to the side in case he wanted to pass which he eventually did.  I was happy to give him the lead and follow in his footsteps for a while thus taking the navigation element off the table for a bit.  When the trail opened up again he moved to the side and I took the lead back.  And this is how we finished.  I had one part where, yes, even after three laps I couldn't remember where to turn, so I looked back and he pointed me off to the right.  I was very gratefull for that.  And once I popped out of that final small section I knew I was home free.  Well, I had 2.5 miles to go, but basically home free.  Finally, I saw the clearing up ahead and the finish line with volunteers waiting with medals.  Sweet Lord above, I was done.  It was probably the most anti-climatic finish I'd ever experienced.  Aside from the medal guy, no one was even near the finish and those who were were sitting off to the side, totally engrossed in their own worlds.  This made me smile.  I found a spot in the grass, took my shoes off and just laid in the sun basking in the glory of having successfully knocked out 32 miles.


In the end I ran about a mile extra due to my wrong turn and a couple other small turn errors that I made when I was by myself.  My watch has me at an 8:41 average which is just too good because, as you may know, 41 is my favorite number.  I placed 7th overall and was the second female across the line.  I was thrilled.  Though, honestly, none of this mattered.  I could have cared less about place and time, but still, it was just really exciting to have this first ultra behind me and to have it go so well.


Note the wooden medal shaped like New Hampshire.  I love this.  Of the three ultras I've done, two virtual and one in person, all the medals have been unique like this.  The ultra world has a whole different character compared to the regular race scene.  It's warm and friendly and, as I already said, mellow.  And having been racing somewhat competitively for the past ten years or so, it's such a breath of fresh air.  I literally can not wait to get back out there.  I just need to make a few more friends in the area so I'm not hanging out by myself before and after my next race.  Or Steve, my running partner who recently moved to Vegas, needs to come home and start doing these things with me.  I'm not holding my breath on this one.  Next up....an 8 hour race in NJ.  In December.  So, yeah.  Next level crazy.  Bring it.

Listen to this:

Feel Good (feat. Bre Kennedy) - Super Duper 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

TOP 10 SIGNS THAT I'M AN ULTRARUNNER

"Just like life, long distance running is a beautiful struggle with challenging obstacles to better ourselves."
~ Michael D'Aurelio

Post-run...waiting for my coffee.

On Monday I ran twenty eight miles.  It took me just under four hours.  That's a long damn time on my feet.  And plenty of time to dream up a good subject for a blog post, map out the post in my head, edit it multiple times and then repeat it out loud for the next three hours so I could hopefully remember it all.  Naturally, I came up with a post about this new (for me) ultrarunning world that I have quietly crept into this year.  I have yet to do an official ultra with a race bib on and a finish line to cross for obvious reasons but I have done several virtual events on my own.  You know, for fun.  And in so doing I have begun to notice a few key signs that I am now fully invested in the life of an ultrarunner.  Beyond the fact that I can't really find anyone to run with me anymore primarily because he/she doesn't have the time and/or interest in running for more than two hours (fair), below are a few of the other obvious indicators that the ultrarunner's life is now my own.

TOP 10 SIGNS THAT I HAVE OFFICIALLY TURNED INTO AN ULTRARUNNER

Post-run....the next day.

1. During marathon training my recovery runs used to be between four and six miles.  Now they are ten. Minimum.

2. I used to wonder how one could possibly be running long enough to wear a vest that carries water.  Now I have two of them.  One for long runs.  And one for longer runs.  And I can't imagine not having them.

3. The first thing I want to do after my long run is brush my teeth which honestly feel like they're rotting mid-run due to the amount of gels and chews I eat for fuel.

4. I've started exploring completely new genres of music (ie. Electronic, Bluegrass & Americana) as my current playlists now only cover about 1/8 of my weekly mileage.  Also digging around in other artists' playlists on Spotify like the one below by Electic Guest.  So many gems in there.

 

 5. When I tell my husband or kids that I'm going out for a run and they ask, "For how many?" they are referring to hours not miles.

6. When I only have eight miles left of a run I feel like I'm basically done.

7. I am burning through running shoes like candy.  Not great for the wallet.  And, no, I don't throw them out when they're shot.  I wear them to the ground.  And then a little more.

8. Squirrel's Nut Butter is my new best friend.  Never go anywhere without it.

9. I used to think a marathon was long.  Now I do one a week.  Usually on Monday.  Followed by a trip to the grocery store, a walk with my dogs, a few loads of laundry and then cross country practice.  Maybe a little Bed, Bath & Beyond if I have time.  I never know.

10. I used to think I drank a lot of coffee.  Ah ha ha ha.  Don't ask.

Listen to this:

You Do You - Bear In Heaven

Friday, September 18, 2020

#RUN

We're on a night run
No telling who we're running from
In a world of secrets and demons and people hiding from the sun
Sending my message to everyone losing control
Better not stop 'til I get home
~ Night Running, Cage the Elephant & Beck


Not much has changed since my last post.  Still running a shit ton of miles.  Still not racing.  Still walking my dogs about seven times a day.  Still drinking more coffee than I should.  Still going to bed at 9:00pm.  And, if I'm being honest, I have to fight to make it that late.  I am a real winner, aren't I?  School did start this week but my girls are only in the building for two days a week.  Who knows how long that will last.  That said, I am beyond grateful that they now have something to do that doesn't involve me or the use of my vehicle.  And Grace is finally playing soccer again after six months off the field.  No heading, throw-ins, corner kicks or human contact of any kind and a mask has to be worn for the entire game.  But, hey, they're out there.  And she's just happy to have some social interaction with her teammates.  So what if they can't really hear each other.  Next week, my high school XC season kicks off.  There are about a thousand rules and the kids have to run with masks on.  Which is still one hundred percent worth it as far as I'm concerned.  Fingers crossed we can make it work.  So, yea.  Things are about the same with the addition of modified school and sports.  It's worth noting that I am currently registered for two ultras, one in October and one in December.  Whether or not they actually happen is still to be determined.  But I might as well train for them.  And it's fun to dream.  Ultimately what it comes down to is this.  My family is healthy.  We have what we need.  Fall is coming.  Life is weird and challenging and there's no end in site.  But we're doing okay.  And that's gotta be enough for right now.  No surprise that running continues to be my saving grace.  It's keeping me sane and healthy and relatively happy.  I get as excited about hitting the road as I do about my first cup of coffee.  Now that is saying something.  Seriously, I am running to live and living to run right now.  Below you'll find a playlist that I put together this summer.  All the songs have RUN in their title.  Now, I'm a big music fan and I love a good Bruce Springsteen song, but 'Born To Run' is not on this list because the classics just aren't cutting it for me lately.  These are a bit out there.  Hopefully there are a few new ones on here that you dig.  And maybe they'll get you fired up to run or cut a rug.  Regardless, they'll have to hold you over until my next post.  Which may or may not be a race review.  We shall see.  Rock on, my friends.

Listen to this:

#RUN

Friday, August 21, 2020

THE POWER OF PERSUASION

"Somewhere on the journey we all bound to get tired
When life get lower, we get higher
The roads all open, the views get wider
Live long, head strong, shoulders, lighter"
My Power by Chika


So, I met this guy.  He's a runner.  An ultra runner, actually.  His name is Brian.  The two of us were both running long on the Cape Cod Rail Trail a few weeks ago and we started chatting.  We threw out some of the typical runner questions like Are you training for something specific? and What's your preferred race distance?  Brian was training for the Ghost Train 100 miler which was originally happening in October but got canceled.  And I had planned to run Boston, first in the spring and then in the fall when it got moved but that, too, ended up getting canceled all together.  As it turns out, Brian has done quite a few ultras and is hoping to do the Massive 100 this fall.  Fingers crossed.  I mentioned that I'd started dabbling in the longer distances since Covid as I'm trying to mix things up and keep myself motivated by trying something new.  As of now, I told him, I'm hoping to run the Hamsterwheel Ultra in November and I'm shooting for the 12 hour race.  Again, fingers crossed.  I think.  Well lucky for me Brian was chock full of information on all things ultra like how to find local races (which I need because I'm not going to fly to a race any time soon), pacing strategies, preferred gear and fuel (I have never carried water on long runs before this summer. Note the new vest in the top photo), specific race suggestions for the newer ultra runner to start with and so much more.  We cruised along together for about four miles, exchanged info so I could reach out with more questions and said our goodbyes as we went our separate ways.  I mean I don't necessarily believe in the whole "it was meant to be" thing, but given where I am and what I'm trying to do as far as running goes I couldn't have gotten much luckier to have found this guy.  Two weeks later, Brian reached out to let me know he was headed back down to the Cape and to see if I wanted to join him for a long run.  Here's how our conversation played out:
Brian: We're coming down to the Cape this weekend.  I'll be doing long runs on Saturday and Sunday (he does back to back 20s) on the rail trail if you're interested.
Me:I'm actually doing the Falmouth Road Race, a virtual 7 miler.  I'm aiming for 6:30s.  You're welcome to join in if you want some speed work for a change.
Brian:Ha. I think I might die if I try that.  I was thinking 20+ around 8 minute pace.  I'm considering running the rail trail from start to finish.  I think it's 26ish.  I might register it for an FKT (Fastest Known Time).  I don't think anyone has done it yet.
Me:Bummer.  It would have been so nice to have some company for a long run.  But, I have to squeeze this in.  I mean, I paid for it so, you know.  
Brian:OR you could do your fast 7 on Saturday and then do 26 on Sunday.
Me:I knew that was coming.
Brian:Glad you're in....What time do you want to start on Sunday?
Me:Wow. You're good.  Okay.  I need to think about it.
In a matter of minutes I went from, No, I can't run long with you on Sunday because I'm racing on Saturday and will need to recover the next day to I guess there's no reason I can't do both so I might as well check in with my coach and see what he thinksWhich I did.  Obviously.  And we both agreed that given my new foray into the ultra world and the fact that I've been doing a shit ton of mileage these last couple months I could probably handle both the race and the long run.  He told me not to go all out on the 7 miler, maybe 95%, so I had a little in the tank for the next day. And then he reminded me that I'd be pretty wrecked for a few days after this double whammy.  And then, as you probably guessed, he gave me the green light to go for it.  And that's all she wrote.  


Fast forward two weeks.  It's 6:30am and I'm getting myself both mentally and physically ready to bust out a 7 mile race.  On my own.  Yes, I absolutely could have just run 7 miles easy, submitted it and called it a day, but what would have been the fun in that?  Honestly, I'm a big believer in pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and as much as I dislike the shorter race distances I know they are good for me to do every once in a while.  I considered pinning on my race bib but last time I did that I got a lot of baffled stares from those who were out and about and in hindsight it probably does look a little weird to have a number on when you're running solo.  It was about 70 degrees outside and a little humid so I made a note that my pace would probably not be as fast as I'd planned, though I was still going to give it a shot.  After a warmup, I was ready to rock.  I pumped up the tunes, got my game face on and took off.  First mile was a 6:30. Right on the nose.  Boom.  Mile two?  6:40.  Yikes.  Get it together, Rebecca.  Mile three was a 6:32.  Back on track.  Ok, I can do this.  Mile four was 6:35.  Good.  I'm still in.  Stay focused.  Mile five 6:49.  Oops.  Or don't stay focused?  Clearly not.  I don't know what happened but let's just say I was in la la land for that fifth mile.  Thoughts like, why am I doing this? and maybe I should just stop at five and oh look, there's a coffee shop started entering my mind and it pretty much went downhill from there.  The wheels didn't completely fall off but I never really managed to get myself back together or closer to my original goal pace.  I managed to run both the sixth and seventh miles right around 6:50 giving me an overall average of 6:42 for the full seven miles.  After which I concluded that I am never running another virtual race on my own as I just don't have the mindset to push hard when I'm not surrounded by other runners and pulsing with my typical race nerves.  Lesson learned.


Might as well go run a marathon the next day.  For fun.  Right?  The plan was for me to drive to the finish of our route and for Brian and his wife, Sayra, to meet me there so she could drive us up to the start.  Yes, she is a saint.  My alarm went off at 5:45 so I could make myself a cup of coffee and wake up a bit before hitting the road at 6:15.  


As I laced up I found myself, once again, wondering what the hell I was doing.  Don't think.  Just go.  That was the mantra for the day.  Note the Falmouth Road Race coffee mug in the photo.  I earned that puppy! And then I was off.  To meet up with a stranger and run a marathon.  I do realize how this sounds.  Not that I cared.  Sarah and Brian scooped me up at 6:45 and we made our way up to Wellfleet where we'd be starting this adventure.  Again, Sayra got up with her husband at the crack of dawn to drive him thirty minutes South to pick up a random woman and drive them an hour North so they could run for four plus hours.  I mean, if she doesn't get the medal for coolest wife ever, I don't know who does.  Okay, so we hopped out and took a quick photo.



I won't give you the play by play as that will take too long.  We got incredibly lucky with the weather as it was cloudy when we started and lightly drizzling as we finished.  We cruised comfortably at about an 8 minute pace.  We took one wrong turn and had to back track about a half mile.  And as we finished we realized that I parked my car a couple miles further than the official trail end which made those last miles a bit painful.  But we did it.  


We ended up running about 28 miles give or take a few point somethings.  We were totally drenched by the end.  And my legs were pretty angry with me.  But, hell, you only live once.  I dropped Brian off at home and drove myself back to my in-laws house. And I quietly thanked the running gods that it was raining which would make it easier for me to be somewhat lazy at home with my family without feeling too guilty.  The rest of that day is a bit of a blur.  I was dealing with a new level of exhaustion.  And it made me a little worried about my new goals as I couldn't help but wonder how I'd be able to push myself harder than I just had.  But, I suppose that's the point.  It's not supposed to be easy.  My coach tells me this all the time.  He also reminds me that we have to scratch what's itching.  The marathon isn't really doing it for me anymore.  I'm eager to wade out into uncharted waters and see what I'm capable of.  This weekend just gave me a little taste of what's to come. I'm pretty sure I like it.  Actually, I might have to get back to you on that after I've had a seat at the table for a while.  More on that soon.  Stay tuned. 
 

Listen to this:
My Power (from Project Power) by Chika