Monday, September 25, 2017

2017 Vermont 50 Race Report

So apparently if you want to run a race in unseasonably hot weather, you just have to make sure I am entered! 😂😂  This year's edition of the VT50, in its 25th year, was held in a heatwave, with none of the typical mud that everyone talks about in reference to the race. All week long, predictions were for near record high heat across New England, and Mother Nature did not disappoint, with the actual high for Ascutney reaching 90 degrees on race day. Now, that is hot!!

Stress levels for the week were running a bit high, with the high temps weighing heavily on my mind, along with the fact that Sam had picked up a cold earlier in the week and had developed a pretty bad cough. I was worried about dragging her along when she wasn't feeling great and wondered if I was just being selfish in wanting she and Ryan to come with me for the weekend. Such is the reality of being an ultrarunning mom. There is always something (or someone) to worry about! And just focusing on the things in your own control is tough. I know Ryan was wondering whether I'd be able to put the stress out of my mind enough to focus and complete the race, but we decided to get the car packed up anyway and hope for the best. After all, sometimes just making the decision to get out the door is the hardest part.

We headed over to Vermont on Saturday morning, stopped for lunch along the way and got me checked in for the race before heading to set up our campsite at Ascutney State Park. There was free camping available in the field near the race start, but I was willing to shell out a few extra bucks for a nice, quiet campsite and a good camping experience for the three of us.

The campground was quite nice, and after dinner at Harpoon Brewery, we headed back for a fire and marshmallow roasting before going to bed fairly early in anticipation of a long, busy day on Sunday.

Home for the night...

Dinner outside

Carbo loading is a good thing, right? And this Cranberry wheat beer was delish!

Fire!

Firelight family selfie ;)

We had picked up some different cough medicine for Sam and she konked right out, allowing all of us to get a better night sleep, which was a welcome relief!

I woke up at 4:00 am for breakfast and coffee and to get organized, and apparently there were a bunch of other racers who had had the same idea as us, as there were headlamps moving around at all the campsites around us :) Ha!

We headed over to Ascutney for the 5:30 pre-race meeting. It was a bit surreal arriving and finding the start area overtaken with bikes. This is a pretty big event overall, with 6 waves of bikers (650 finishers) going off before the 50 miler runners started at 6:30 am.

That's a lot of bikes...

While we were milling around (the pre-race meeting was essentially useless), we ran into Dave Bidler, who was there to crew and pace a friend running his first 50. It was fun to catch up with him for a bit before the race start.

As the sky lightened, the waves of bikers headed off down the road and the start area thinned out. There were plenty of port-a-potties, which was nice, as I think between the runners and bikers there were over 800 people there. Crazy!

Pre-race family portrait :) Love my crew!

At 6:30, with little fanfare, us crazy runners lined up and were soon off and running down the paved resort road. My plan was to keep things as easy as possible. Especially given the predicted heat, this was to be a time on my feet effort and running fast had no part in that plan :)

The first hill came just as my watch beeped mile 1. OK, Vermont, I see what you are doing here ;) The views as we hiked up the road were spectacular, mist rising up from the valley, the hills off in the distance. We passed cows grazing in the field, beautiful houses, grassy fields, and the hills just kept on coming. The race was a good mix of dirt road, fields and single and doubletrack through the woods. I had been a bit worried about the roads, but in fact, it was nice to be able to get into a groove and just go on those sections. And the singletrack, which in other years apparently has been quite muddy, was this year a soft dusty track between rocks and roots.

I tried hard to keep my pace really really mellow in the first 12 miles, and people were simply flying by me like I was standing still. Aid stations were nicely spaced every 4-6 miles, and I did stop to use the port-a-potty at the first aid station before moving on to the singletrack through the woods.

I came into the mile 12 aid station and ran right to the bathroom before meeting up with Ryan and Sam for a quick water and gel refill, and a little chatting to get caught up on their morning. It was only around 8:30 in the morning and I was already soaked. It didn't feel super warm yet, but the air was heavy. I wiped the sweat off my face with a cloth and headed on.

Heading out of the mile 12 aid station

The next crew stop was at 50k, but with several aid stations in between, things were nicely broken up. I got into a groove of powerhiking and passing the group of guys I was around on the uphills, only to have them fly by me on the downhills. Classic. Around mile 15, I realized that the sweat was starting to run down the back of my shorts into my shoes. Things were warming up indeed. 

I had been doing a decent job of taking a gel every half hour, but at the mile 18 aid station, I started in on the Coke, my ultra fuel of choice, especially in the heat ;) A cup of water, two cups of coke and I was back on my way. Then again at mile 22 and again at mile 26, with ice in my hat at both of those aid stations too. Although much of the course was actually in the shade, the heat was pervasive and with little air movement, things were getting more than warm, it was just plain toasty out there. 

Sometime in the span between mile 26 and the crew stop at mile 31, I started to feel a bit woozy, I wasn't sweating much, I was having thoughts of stopping at 50k, rationalizing that I didn't really need a 50 miler, that 50k was more than enough, that I could do a big weekend next weekend too, that surely Ryan would understand. As the trail wound through open woods and the dust kicked up and stuck to my sweaty legs, and the ice melted, leaving me hot and tired, I was sure I was going to drop. I mean, who cares? It was just supposed to be a training race...

Meanwhile, Ryan and Sam had had lunch, gotten ice for me and were waiting in the blazing sun at mile 31. I ran out of the woods, into the field and was surprised to see so many people at the aid station. Where had they all come from?! I swear there were not that many people around me out on the trail... turns out it must have been an influx of 50kers coming in from another direction, but it was disconcerting to me and Ryan just thought I was plain crazy ;)

Brian Rusieki, 2nd place runner, running into mile 31

Beautiful view

Coming into 50k

Ryan had set up a chair and our stuff over in the shade so I bypassed the aid station out in the blazing sun and ran over to sit down. I told him I wasn't feeling good, and he said of course you're not. I told him wanted to go home with them, but he said that was not an option and shoved a popsicle in my hand. Well that Minutemaid Frozen Lemonade pop from Dave's cooler was just the best thing ever! Delish! I also chugged back some coke, had a few fritos and grapes, and let Ryan put the ice bandana around my neck. I hadn't been sure I wanted it, but man did that cold ice feel good!

Iced up and being pushed back on the trail ;)

Of course, once I said the words aloud and Ryan dismissed them, I knew I was in it for the long haul. I felt much better having sat for a few minutes, taken in some calories and gotten cooled off. It was going to be a long day, for sure, but once I left, I didn't have any more noise in my head about stopping. The only thing to do was to push to the finish. 

Cranky runner endless waiting :) My littlest crew member 💗💗

The stretch between the 50k aid station and the 37 mile aid station seemed to go on forever. The trail was some lovely singletrack but it just wound on and on and on and it never seemed like we were getting anywhere. Not to mention, I kept hearing music and thought for sure we were close, when in fact, it was an impromptu aid station set up in someone's back yard, offering beer, water and ice, and there were still several miles to the real aid station. I declined the free beer, much to Ryan's chagrin when I told him the story, but I loved their energy and was glad to take some more ice for my hat.

Finally, finally, we reached mile 37, where I hit the port-a-potty once again, got more ice for my hat, chugged some coke and headed back off into the woods. Walking down the hill with one of the guys I had been leadfrogging with all morning, he said, I have to keep walking, I mean, I can just feel my core heating up like crazy. And indeed, it was just damn hot, but there was nothing to do but keep putting one foot in front of the other, albeit with a lot of walking involved at this point. We were both buoyed by the fact that the next aid station was mile 41, even if both of our watches were showing mileage shorter than the official race aid station distances.

The mile 41 aid station was also the spot people could pick up pacers, so there was a fair amount of activity. I saw Dave there waiting for his friend, and once again had a few cups of coke, put some ice in my hat and took off across the hot, open field. There was much walking. Soon after, the trail entered the woods and there were nice ribbons of singletrack twisting and turning through the countryside. On a good day, I'd run it all, but here, with the heat and miles beating us down, most of us were walking. I decided I would try to run more. My quads were starting to cramp up but I knew, the more I could run, the sooner I'd see Ryan and Sam at mile 47 and the sooner the finish would come. I did end up passing a fair amount of people in this stretch, despite moving at a fairly glacial shuffle.

The trail popped us out on a downhill road, and I wanted to move faster but a shuffle was all my legs had to offer. Still, it was enough to pass a few people here and there as we came out to a road junction with a view of Ascutney down and to the right. More roads and fields and some singletrack, and then a flat road along the river, with a woman outside of a house offering to spray runners down. Oh yes please! That cold water felt so good. And then, across the river, I could see cars in a field and heard Ryan yell out, and around the corner for the final aid station. Ryan had once again parked in the shade, and I sat and had some coke and cold water and a few grapes and had my ice bandana, now long melted, refilled for the final stretch.

Sam having fun in leaves near the aid station at mile 47

The aid station itself was up a steep hill from where the crew were parked, so I stopped there for one last cup of coke, and then began the ascent up through a big field. I could see people snaking on the grassing singletrack winding through the meadow. Up and up and up. In the sun, it was so hot, my quads hurt, the urge to run was nill. I took a few running steps here and there, but mostly just trudged upwards. Finally, we reached the top and the singletrack cut into the woods, winding us down and around and up through the forest. This last stretch seemed to go on forever. I passed several people here, and I knew we had to be getting close but it felt endless. Finally, a sign that said 1/2 mile to go and we popped out along the ski trails. The trail crisscrossed back and forth, and Dave and his friend flew by me. I was putting out as much as my legs were willing to offer but there wasn't much to give ;) and I had to let them go. I crept past a few other runners struggling down the steep slopes and finally, that glorious finish chute!

Sam at the finish line

Final stretch to the finish!

I finished in 10:35 and there was a smile on my face as I crossed that line, for sure! While I feel like on a perfect day I could beat my 50 mile PR from Stonecat (9:25) on this course, I also knew that going into this as a training race without a full taper that I was realistically shooting for more like 10:00. Given the temps, I feel like 10:35 is pretty solid and it put me right smack dab in the pack, for 73rd of 146 finishers (230 starters, so only 61% finish rate). The relentless hills combined with the heat made for a rough day out there and it certainly wasn't pretty at times out there, but I'm proud to have pushed through and gotten it done!

Overall, I thought this was a really well-done race. Yes, it was one of the bigger races I've done and with the bikers, it had a whole different feel, but it was a good event. I didn't have any problem with bikers out on the course - in fact, I think I only leapfrogged with about a half dozen of them out there! Perhaps with the dry course, the bikers could go faster, or perhaps because I started slowly and was more in the midpack, I missed the chaos of it all, but I had no issues. I thought the course was quite beautiful with lovely views through the fields and out over the hills, gorgeous streams and waterfalls along the singletrack in the woods, and a good mix of terrain that was never boring. The aid stations were well stocked and run, and there were port-a-potties at almost all aid stations, which I really appreciated! The volunteers were friendly, and the course was well marked, with almost all road crossings guarded by local policemen. With a large field, there was a good camaraderie out there, and I enjoyed leapfrogging back and forth with people and not being alone for long stretches of time, which I feel I often am in other long races. Plus, at the finish line, the Lazy Cow was giving out free ice cream cones to all racers at the end, which just made my day! :) 

As I type this out, I am exhausted, I have chafing all.the.places, I am sunburned on my face and neck, my quads feel like they've been beaten to a pulp, and part of me wonders why I do this to myself. But on the other hand, I'm proud of having been tenacious enough to start and to finish, and I really enjoyed this race in the way you can only enjoy a race that makes you suffer.

Many many thanks to Ryan and Sam for spending the day trekking through the VT countryside to bring me ice, cool me down, feed me snacks, support me and cheer me on! This couldn't and wouldn't have happened without both of their never-ending support and it meant so much to be able to have them both with me at this race! I am one lucky gal 💕💕

And now to rest up for a few days and get back to training!

10:35:16
73/146 overall
19/39 women

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mellow

A mellow week for me leading up to VT 50 on Sunday.

My legs had been feeling kind of cranky and tight last week, which had me a bit worried, but after a whole lot of rolling and tennis balling over the weekend and before my run on Monday, things felt better. Got in a dark, foggy, misty, humid 5.3 miles down to the river and back. Nothing much else to report.

In my slight panic over my tight legs last week, with VT looming, I booked a massage with my friend Lauren on Tuesday afternoon. If you are in the Brunswick area and are looking for a good massage therapist, check Bluewave Bodyworks out. It felt wonderful (and slightly painful) to get the knots and tightness worked on and smoothed out! I was thankful to be able to fit a visit in, as I think I really needed it.

Wednesday morning I got up and out early for a slightly modified run around the neighborhood with a trip out onto hole #3 and along the edge of the Heath thrown in to make the loop 4 miles. Yet another misty, foggy, muggy, heavy morning.

Last run for the week before VT was this morning at the Brad with Mindy and Val. It was cool and windy, my legs felt good, and it was wonderful to catch up as we ran along. Val took us on the outer fringe of the Bruiser and we got in a nice mellow 5.4 miles for the morning. Perfect!

Weather predictions for Sunday are showing a high of 91, which is a bit too toasty for my liking, but at least it appears the humidity we were feeling earlier this week has dissipated. I'm hoping for cooler temps, for sure, but I know I can suffer through a warm weather race with the best of them, and I'm looking forward to a good solid training day out in the hills of VT! :)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Swim Team and Fall XC

Now that we are back in the swing of the school year, after-school activities are also ramping up! Last week was the start of Sam's fall XC season, and this week brought the the start of swim team and the first XC meet. We are going to be a busy family for a few weeks while Sam participates in both sports, and although two nights of swim and two nights of running make for a tired girl, we stand behind her in her desire to keep up with both running and swimming this fall and are glad to help foster her love of both sports. I'm pretty sure she is the smallest and youngest kid in both her swim team group and running the 3/4 mile this year, but she has fun and gets it done and makes us proud :)

Last night was the first night of many sitting watching that pink swim cap cut through the water...

...and today was the first XC meet of the season! Go Topsham Threat go!

Start line selfie with Coach Heather

Happy 3/4 miler 💗

3/4 miler girls (photo by Coach Heather)

Nearing the final turn

Kicking it in...

...and moving on!

Sprint to the finish line

Happy runner (photo by Coach Heather)



Sunday, September 17, 2017

Cathance Running

First off, a few photos from this past weekend's Bruiser run. Being surrounded by friends for the final 12 miles while running the UXBBA was such fun! :)





And now back to the past few days....

On Friday morning, after dropping Sam off, I headed out into the Cathance. It was incredibly humid and the roots and bog bridges were quite slick as they often are in this type of weather, but the woods are starting to look a bit fallish and it is always nice to spend time out on these trails. I saw four deer, two Hairy Woodpeckers, one Downy Woodpecker, and a group of teenagers and their teacher twice ;) Kept things nice and mellow, as to be honest, I'm feeling pretty tired from the past few weeks of training and although the idea is to train "through" next weekend's VT 50, I still want to be rested up enough to be able to enjoy and complete it! (9 miles)



Mama deer was eating grass right along the sidewalk. She just sort of looked up at me when I stopped to watch her, and then finally after a few minutes took off into the woods...

... where her fawn was waiting. Still a few spots on its back haunches, but not many.

Saturday morning, I waited until it was light to head out and had hoped to see the sunrise, but there was a persistent heavy, low fog, so no beautiful colors to be seen this morning. In fact, it was so heavy and muggy out that it was pretty much raining on me. Ah, gotta love humidity... Ran down to the river and back, taking the longer way home to get in a bit of extra mileage. (6.1 miles)

Later in the day, the skies had cleared and it was warm, sunny and still very muggy when we headed over to Rocky Ridge Orchard to meet up with Anne, Thistle and Kristen for some apple picking. The Cortlands and Honeycrisps were ready to pick so why not? Yum! Fun apple picking with friends on a warm September afternoon.









This morning, it was once again foggy and humid. I headed out into the Cathance to run down along the river and out on the Blueberry Loop. Legs still felt a bit tight and tired but better than the past few days. Not sure this weather helped any, as I basically felt like I was running through soup. Ugh! Saw two deer, three turkey, one snail, one Northern Flicker, lots of mushroom and a whole lot of spider webs. Finished up with an extra run up and down Mt. A. (10 miles)

Nice contrasting color on an otherwise grey morning (mushrooms were much oranger in person!)


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Beautiful Skies

I took off Monday and Tuesday, although there was a small amount of running done on Monday night at Sam's first XC practice of the season. Thankfully, although the kids started out fast and I was initially waddling along behind on my stiff legs from Sunday's miles, they know nothing of pacing and I sure as heck can outlast those little suckers so it was me who was running at the end while they needed walking breaks ;) #slowandsteady

Wednesday morning, it was up and out early for a tour around the golf cart paths with a lap of the Heath thrown. It was a four deer, one porcupine, beautiful sunrise kind of morning. Glorious. (7 miles)



This morning I headed out slightly later and was able to catch the glorious colors spreading through the sky as I hit the back of the Highland Green road loop. Another beautiful morning. (6 miles)


Sometimes it is hard to drag myself out of bed in the darkness, but mornings like these make my heart happy. There is something truly wondrous about watching the sun rise.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Weekend Adventures

Saturday morning, I got up and out just after sunrise for some miles before Ryan headed over to the Brad for course marking. It was a lovely cool morning with a beautiful sky - I actually wished I had gotten out a tad earlier so that I could have watched the sunrise as I ran, but it was nice to start a morning run without a headlamp. The roots and bog bridges were awfully slick out in the Cathance from yesterday's rain but it was gorgeous along the river and as I ran along the Heath as always. (7.0 miles)

Morning reflections

Once Sam got up, we headed over to Frosty's as I had seen that pumpkin donuts were back on the menu and they are the best! Yum! 🎃 💕  

A pumpkin donut with a cup of Wicked Joe's pumpkin spice coffee = delish! 


Later in the morning, we met up with Anne and family for some fun at the Bowdoinham celebration. Bounce houses, coin search, food carts, balloon animals, oh my!

So cute 💕  Waiting patiently for their turn in the coin search

Coin scramble! Sam came out with $6.25 in quarters!! Wow.

Bounce house fun

My cutie pie

Sunday morning dawned early as I headed over to the Brad in the dark for my UXBBA run. It was hard to figure out exactly when to start the run, as I wanted to finish in time for the start of the Bruiser but not with so much time before the start that I was standing around for too long. In the end, I started at 5:48 am, a few minutes after I had anticipated, but with what still seemed like enough time. It was dark enough to need a headlamp for the first few miles and I was trying to keep the pace an "all day" pace so the combo of the two ended up with 11:00ish minute pace for the Scuffle. Perfect. A quick stop to drop off my headlamp in the car at John's place and say hello to Sam and Ryan and then I was off across the street for the Breaker.

I really enjoy running on the mountain side but I've gotten used to my "own" little loop over there and I honestly avoid most of the Boundary Trail as a rule, so I had forgotten how rooty it was! Although I felt like I was moving steadily and felt good, the Breaker definitely took a bit longer than I had expected, and in the final few miles, I was looking at my watch, thinking, "oh my, this is going to be close!"

And that it was ;) Rolled into John's place while Ian was doing the pre-race announcements, changed shirts, put on my number (badly, I might add, as I lost a pin between the car and the startline and Ryan had to run and find me another one as I was standing on the start line😂 ), had a few swigs of Coke, had Ryan help me re-fill my bladder, stuck a few more gels in my pack, said, "this is stressful" and quickly trotted over to the start and tried to position myself in the back of the middle in what I hoped was a spot that would make sense. It was slow start off the line and I finagled a position with Ally right next to me on the singletrack. Turns out Kelly and Chad were right behind us, so we had a merry train winding through the Island and further out onto the course. It was a lot of fun chatting and catching up as we ran along at a steady but not unreasonable pace. I was so happy to be with friends and it really made the miles fly by. We wound in and out of trains of runners, keeping a steady pace, and passed some friendly faces along the way too, which was fun.

Once we turned to climb up the snowmobile trail, we lost Ally and when I stopped for water at the aid station, I lost contact with Kelly and Chad, but was able to catch back up as we turned into the singletrack. I was feeling decent but was definitely starting to feel the miles. We ran into John just before the O and he led the way into the intestine that is the 2+ mile O. We had fun discussing why it was named the "O" - Oh s**t? F*&kin O? O F*&k? O D@*m? So many amusing options ;) Kelly had never run the O before and as we kept winding around and around, she and I were definitely feeling it! Chad moved to position himself at the back of the train to encourage us and keep us moving - ha ha! - and all the while, he was practically prancing along having run the UXBBA yesterday! So impressive! I was extra glad to have the company and the motivation to keep up as we ran, trundled and complained along the twisty singletrack. When we saw the arrows up at the end of the trail, we all let out a big sigh and yelp of relief and excitement - almost done! - and Kelly and I kicked it in to the finish - what fun :)

I was super happy to finish feeling good and strong and with friends. I haven't run the dirt series since 2013 and I think this was the first time I have ever really enjoyed running the Bruiser. Maybe I just need to run the two other courses beforehand and run with friends every time :) Overall time for the UXBBA was 5:31 with a moving time of 5:18 with my watch showing 27.4 miles. (Official Bruiser time: 2:17:11)

Sam had a great time with the kids and then we all wiled away the afternoon at the Pineland Market after the race was done and clean-up accomplished, eating and catching up further. Definitely a good day in the woods, and so happy to have such good friends to run with and to hang out with afterwards!

Having fun in the hammock with Elise