Sunday, December 4, 2016

2016 TARC Fells 40 Race Report

"At every endurance event, there comes a time when you'll say, 'what the fuck am I doing here?' And you'll say 'this is what I do.'"- Long Distance, Bill McKibben


The day dawned clear, cold and windy. A bunch of crazy ultrarunners gathered in a park n ride lot off 93, the parking lot under construction, the side of the lot lined with barbed wire. After a few words from the RD, we took off, at a walk, into the woods for laps along the 8-mile Skyline Trail. As the RD said post-race, the Skyline Trail is a cruel mistress. And that is no lie. A hiking trail with many steep rocky ups and downs, rocky ridgelines, views of Boston, rocky, leafy singletrack combined with little bits of runnable terrain, this trail is no joke.

Trail Monster crew ready to take on the Fells

Thankfully today, unlike in 2014, conditions were pretty much perfect. The rocks and roots were dry, the sun was shining, and although it was cold and windy, it was a good day for running. This time around, I chose to go right on the Skyline Trail vs. left, which is how the majority of runners run the loop, and I enjoyed the relative solitude of being able to run my own pace, even early on, and being able to see everyone going in the other direction.

Unfortunately, although I was able to fake it for the first loop (1:37) and the second (1:47), by 16 miles and 3+ hours, I was feeling the effects of having been sick all week last week. While I thankfully didn't have any coughing fits out there, I simply had no energy. I was moving forward but it was a battle the whole time.

Lap #3 was not a good day in the woods (2:02) and I was flagging. My lower right leg also began to get incredibly tight in that 3rd lap, which was a real bummer as it had been feeling good leading into the race, and I was just not able to run as much as I should have. I hadn't stopped at the mid-way aid station or even the start/finish station yet, but I did make a stop in that 3rd lap, as Ryan had inadvertently filled my bladder with Tailwind instead of water at 16 miles, and man, that is some disgusting stuff. Ugh. I dumped it all out and was so glad to be back to good old water!

Headed back out

I thought at the end of 24 miles that I was done, as it was nearly 5:30 on the clock and I was running out of time if I wanted to complete lap #4 in 7:30. Not what I had been hoping for with this race, for sure, but it was the hand dealt to me on the day and I was working with what I had, which honestly wasn't much ;) Ryan later said that I was as white as he'd ever seen me at that point and did not look good. Although my mind was saying 'don't keep going' and I had the lines from the Jaws song, "I'm tired and I want to go home..." rolling through my head, instead I changed into my yellow jacket as it was getting colder, grabbed a cookie and headed back out for loop #4 at 5:28 in. I had beaten a bit on my leg in the parking lot, and it did feel better so I continued my trudge.

Toward the end of the 4th loop, I kept looking at my watch, knowing I was nearing the time cut-off. Part of me wanted to slow down enough that I would get cut off but apparently, my legs, although tired and sore, did not agree, and I managed to come into the finish line in 7:29 and change, as close to the cut-off as I could get without being cut (1:59 lap). Why was I doing this?! I told Ryan I didn't want to go back out, that I wasn't having fun, and he said, no, you are going back out and of course it isn't fun. As the RD playfully whacked a stick in my direction, encouraging me to get my ass back out there before it was too late, I walked back out onto the trail, headlamp in my pack pocket, Ryan beside me, encouraging me, Keri behind in a scramble to get ready to join me for the loop. I know that deep down I really did want to continue on, to give what I had to the challenge and see if I could beat it, even if the rest of me wanted to curl up and take a nap, but it was a close call there for a few minutes ;)

I believe we are having a "discussion" here about whether or not I am going to continue for lap 5 ;) I was not a happy camper!

I am incredibly thankful to have had Keri with me on that last lap as she gave me a reason to keep my foot on the gas, as slow as that was at the moment. I didn't want to be a total disaster with a friend beside me. And so we ran what we could, powerhiked the hills, pushing forward in an attempt to beat darkness and the cut-off. Tami, Tammy and Emily had come out to the aid station to give Keri a headlamp and it was a boost to see them there cheering for us. I was hungry at that point, having not eaten a lot all day, and I grabbed a mini milky way at the aid station to eat as we hiked up the hill.

It was quiet out there now, a change from seeing runners on every lap along with many people out walking with and without dogs. Not many runners still running. We ran into John out running a loop of the course and he encouraged us on. The late afternoon light atop the rocky ridgeline was lovely and the view of the city near the tower pretty. The wind whipped and the woods got dark.

In the final mile, Keri took the lead, pushing me to run faster and finish before a headlamp was needed. Mercifully, we soon reached the final descent down to the flat path that led to the finish. There, we saw John and another runner ahead. I so wanted to finish that I started to sprint, well, if 9:00 pace can be considered sprinting ;) But it felt that way after many 14:00+ minute miles! That final sprint is all that kept me from being DFL, as I only managed to beat the guy I passed by 12 seconds and he ended up being the final finisher.

And then, finally, at the end of the straightaway, redemption! I lifted my arms and smiled as I reached the finish line and then two steps later said "F**kers." ;) I'm pretty sure that sums up the race right there. It had just taken me almost 9 1/2 hours to run 40 miles. So grateful and thankful to be done, proud to have finished, but man, if that isn't one tough course. F**kers indeed! It sure wasn't pretty, but I had finished and now I never have to run that race again ;)

There are a lot of thank yous on a day like yesterday. Many thanks to the RD and all the volunteers for standing out in the wind and cold all day yesterday, and for their encouraging cheers and smiles. Huge thanks to John and Ryan for crewing all day long - it is tough work! As always, Ryan knows me better than I know myself and knows when to push and how to prod me forward. I may have been disgruntled, but I am glad he got me back out there for that final lap, and I always appreciate his belief in me. An extra big thank you to Keri for joining me and pushing me on that last lap. I probably would still be out there if she hadn't joined me!!

Also, huge congrats to Emily for her 2nd place 32 mile finish and to George and Carolyn for their finishes too. Tami and Tammy got in two laps before stopping due to injured leg and ankle, but it was great to see them out there along the way!

The Fells is one tough, unforgiving course and a serious challenge. Almost half the field running the 40 DNFed yesterday, and although I can hardly believe it took me 9:28 to finish 40 miles, who cares, I finished!

14 of 15 finishers (27 started) (5th of 5 women)

I have yet to see a photo from the race in which I'm smiling, which is probably an accurate account of how I was feeling all day long, but I swear I did smile for a few photographers out there, so if I find any that depict happiness, I will be sure to post ;)

Meanwhile, Sam spent the day helping Dana and Irene decorate the Christmas tree. Sounds pretty good, right? Many thanks to Grammie and Grampie for keeping her occupied and entertained while I ran around in the woods all day long :)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Ready Or Not

Well, Fells 40 on Saturday, ready or not!

I had been feeling really strong, especially with a solid last long weekend of 20 hilly miles at Bradbury and 9 hilly miles at Thorncrag the weekend before Thanksgiving. But the past week has given me pause, since I picked up Sam's cold and now can't quite shake the congestion that remains in my head/throat/upper chest. I don't know how much it will impact things on Saturday, but I definitely felt it when I went out for an early and dark run along the cart paths on Wednesday morning. In the glint of my headlamp in the woods before hole #6, I saw a pair of eyes glowing. The dim light enabled me to just see the white tail of a deer as it gracefully bounded off into the woods. As I ran past that spot, I turned to look and saw not one, but two, pairs of eyes staring back at me. I wonder what they thought of me running past. Five cart path miles for the morning.

This morning's run was a bit better. I'm still congested and legs felt kind of crappy (hopefully from the taper which seems to bring that on. Why is that?!?) but it was nice to get out on a sunny morning and loop around the Heath.

We'll see what tomorrow brings. I'm nervous as it's a stout course with a stout time cut off but I'll give it I've got!!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Forced Taper

Well, because it is just how things go, I managed to pick up Sam's germs and now have a cold. Gah!! Managed to catch some extra sleep on Friday and Saturday, and spent all day Friday lazing around, watching the rain fall and the kids run around wildly, both of which were good but I had really hoped for some miles on Friday! Ah well.

Late morning on Saturday after the fog had lifted, Ryan and I headed out on the roads for the Weldon Farms loop, at a more reasonable pace than Thursday. Nice to have a chance to run with Ryan! Doesn't happen too often!! Not sure the five miles did much in the face of all the leftovers but it was a good run :)

Sunday, we were back at home and the cats woke me up early. Of course ;) So after a leisurely, quiet start to the day, with Ryan and Sam still sleeping, I snuck out at 8:00 for a run. It started to rain about a minute into the run, and I decided to keep it short with a cart path/Heath loop. Definitely not feeling great but it could be worse. Got in a 5 mellow miles before coming home for a shower and cup of tea.

So a bit more of a forced taper this week than I had hoped for but hopefully with all the ammo I can throw at the cold, a bit of extra rest and a few miles next week, I'll be ready to go for Fells. Fingers crossed!!!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving Fun

Thankful for time with the family this weekend!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Chasing Turkeys

Despite the uncertainties of these past few months, there is, as always, much to be grateful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Eat, drink, be merry and enjoy the day!

Kicked off the morning with a 5 mile run around the Georgetown block, chasing a gaggle of turkeys in the first 0.1 miles. Gobble gobble!! ;) felt good and was surprised to see 7:52 for the second mile split. Huh. Well, might as well try to keep it up! Never said I was smart... but just over 40 minutes for the loop is good in my book! So, 500 calories burned, time to eat :)


Tuesday was 6 miles on the cart paths mid-afternoon as it was a half day for Sam. Wednesday morning, I got out for a very mellow 4 miles around the Heath. There was a thin layer of snow still on the big bridges. Trying to be good and taper, but running is just so much more fun ;)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Till We Meet In Hell 2016

Yet another fun Trail Monster event at Thorncrag! This year it was rainy, misty and damp, but there were a lot of good miles and smiles to be had! I somehow managed to run the majority of the 1 1/2 hours alone, despite the fact that the loop was only 1.5 miles. I started off for a few tenths with John, Tyler and Anna and then pulled ahead, staying in my own little bubble until somewhere around mile 7, when I ended up running for a lap and a half with Chad. Of course, along the way, there were short little stretches of out and backs where we could all cheer for each other and shout hello and give high fives, which is always fun.

While I was running, Ryan and Sam hiked a lap, taking photos and enjoying walking in the rain. I passed them once out on the loop and then caught up with them again at the statue, where we did a family pose for good measure ;)

Ultrarunning, oh the horror!

Wispy light and smiling family (even if you can't see it!)

I ended up with 5 laps plus an extra 0.5 miles, Chad telling me we were going to push to see how far we could get in the last 6 minutes. Then we ran back up to the start, and seeing as I was soaking wet, I figured I'd be happier if I just ran down versus walking and getting cold. In the end, I managed 9.1 miles and just barely eked out a 50 mile week. Definitely happy with that, and extra happy that the legs felt good after yesterday's 20.

As always, fun to run some miles at Thorncrag with and around friends. After a quick change, we headed off to Guthrie's for our end of the year get-together and a few hours of laughter, chatting, acknowledgements of adventures had, and a few drinks too. A great way to spend a rainy Sunday for sure!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Loopity Loop: Bradbury 20, Round 2

Yet another 20 miles running loops up, down, around and back again on the mountain side of Bradbury. I pulled into the lot a little before 7:00 am, the only car there. I did notice, however, a car out on the road, which looked like Andy's. And indeed, as I was summiting from one side, there he was, coming up from the other. We said a quick hello before he sailed off down the trail, moving quickly as usual ;) I stuck with a similar loop like I had used last time, up to the summit via Ski Trail and Northern Loop, down Tote, out to Boundary, back on Reverse Mindy, up Tote with a cut back over to Boundary a la BBU, and then down from the summit to the parking lot. The first loop down I took the Terrace, but it was slow going with a lot of leaves which made the middle portion seem even more uneven than usual. Pretty light in these first miles, as the sun was still rising up above treeline.

First loop was right at 5 miles. Second loop, same as the first, except I came down Northern Loop at the end instead. At the junction with the Ski Trail, I saw Alan coming up the trail. He joined me as I ran back to the parking lot, changed my hat and gloves, and refilled my pack with water and a few more gels. Then we ran back up to the summit and down Tote Road together. From there, he headed back to the car and I continued on the Boundary trail, but it was nice to have him join me for those 3 miles!

On the third loop, I decided to come down South Ridge for a change of pace, which was wet and slow going, for me anyway. I was bummed to see that my watch was only reading 14.5 back at the playground, so I hiked up the Summit Trail, which was getting busy with families out hiking and then returned to the lot via the Switchback Trail.

Then it was onto the final 5 miles, this time sticking to the "original" loop. Many more people and many more dogs this time around. It was a gorgeous, relatively balmy morning for mid-November, and a lot of people were out enjoying it. Which is great, but in terms of making it easy to run, it was not ;) Lots of stopping and walking around dogs and kids. I did run into our friend Dave and his family hiking up with their two kiddos, which was fun! Had to add on a short little bit at the end to get the watch to read 20, so I ran across the street to check if John was home to say hello to. He wasn't, so back across the street to run until the final beep at the edge of the parking lot.

Happy with how the run went. I felt solid, and thankfully, unlike last time, I didn't have any mental lack of focus. Another 4 hilly hours in the bank, and feeling ready for the taper!

Fauna report: Five deer jumping across the trail on the reverse Mindy trail and one Downy Woodpecker.

Weekday Wanderings

As I ran up the gravel road, the sky was aglow. Fiery, bright and colorful, alight with brilliant pinks on the horizon. And then, just as quickly, it faded quietly back to gray.

A beautiful sunrise this morning. Ran the cart paths and the Heath loop, in reverse for a nice 7 miles. Nothing spectacular about the run, except oh, that glow.

Thursday, I ran the regular 6 mile cart path run, the first 1 1/2 miles by headlamp. Nice light but no spectacular sunrise today. And when I uploaded the run to Strava, I was informed I've run this route 41 times. That's a lot of cart paths :) 

This morning, I got out around 6:20 and enjoyed the light as I ran along the leafy trails in the Cathance. Lots of water roaring in the river. Lovely. On the way back, I ran across the Connector and took the new "trail" that runs from the end of the Highlands road up through the woods to the town hall. It's really a wide paved bike path but will be a nice winter addition should the powerlines be too nasty to run on down to Highland Green Road. A solid 8 miles for the morning.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Weekend Running and Fun

Motivation is waning slightly at the moment. I don't know. I guess with the election and the still unknown of Ryan's employment status, my head isn't as focused on running as much as it should be at the moment. Went out yesterday morning with the intent, at least kinda-sorta, of running long, but only ended up with 7. Ha! Ran the cart paths and added on the Heath loop in the middle. Nice cool morning. Scared up a half dozen turkeys along hole #3 and they ran off across the green, flying up awkwardly into the pine trees. Honestly, just wanted to be home with the family and was happy to get home to go to Sam's swim lessons and relax with them around the house after lunch and get a few things done instead of being out running for hours.

Of course that meant this morning that I did want to get in some decent mileage. Amy had asked me if I wanted to meet for a short run, so I decided I would go get in some time on my feet before meeting up with her and get somewhere between 14 to 20 miles. It was an overcast morning but with some nice light. I parked at the pond and ran Oak Hill forward and back, starting a little before 7:00 am. The trails were surprisingly leaf covered but it is always nice running on that side of the farm. Back to the car around 8:15 where I met up with Amy. We headed onto the farmside trails, enjoying the quiet and the pretty sky above the browning fields. Much to catch up on, as I don't think we've run together since sometime in early July. Ended up with a good 15 miles and was content with that. Of course, we finished up the morning with coffee and huge bagel for me and huge cookie for Amy :)

Later in the afternoon, we headed over to Anne's house for some football watching, bagel making and what else but sparklers?! :) The girls had a great time, and Kristen and Phil fed us delicious stuffed pretzels and bean soup. Yum! A good way to finish up a good weekend!

The plan is for one more 20 miler next weekend followed up by a taper going into the Fells. In theory, it's all doable, as long as I keep my head on straight :)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Ocean and Woods

A nice day off with the family today. I slept in a bit this morning, or as much as the cats would let me :), and made my way over to run through the Commons down to the ocean a little after 9:00 am. It was a nice leisurely start to the day. The sun was bright, temps were in the 50s and I was wearing shorts, but the wind was blowing fiercely. I ran through the woods and then out through Pennelville to Simpson's Point, buffeted by the swirling wind. As usual, though, it is lovely out there and a pleasant change to have a few flat miles in the middle of the run during which to pick up the pace. Got in a solid 10 miles and felt happy.

After lunch, we all bundled up and headed over to the Cathance for a hike. We took the woods trail out towards the end of the preserve and enjoyed the water rushing along the river and kicking up the leaves along the trail. We could still hear the wind whipping around, but were mostly protected down along the river and got in a nice 1.9 mile hike on a beautiful November afternoon. Always good to spend time in the woods with the family!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Darkness and Light

Now, I won't pretend that I like leaving work in the dark at the end of the day, but what I do like is having light to run in on my morning runs! I will never say no to daylight at 6:15 am and being able to run without a headlamp :)

Lovely crisp morning on Tuesday to start off the running week. Ran out in the Cathance on the normal seven mile lollypop. The trails are extremely leafy right now and slightly dangerous in that regard but being able to run them in the daylight makes it all more manageable. Pretty sunrise through the trees and frost on the raspberry brambles. Cold but windless. Felt good.

Stopped at the polls and voted before I headed in to work. I exited feeling hopeful.

However, I awoke on Wednesday morning and the first post I saw was Valerie's: "I am so very disappointed with people." I started shaking. I simply don't understand it, and while there is no run of any distance that could quell the feelings of sadness, disappointment and dismay that I feel over our nation's choice of leader, there is a calm to be found out running through the darkness as the sun rises. And, I will take those little things today. I need them. 6 miles for the day.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Stonecat Weekend

We missed Stonecat last year and in 2011, but it's one of those races we've been to a lot - 2010 (marathon for me), 2012 (marathon for me) 2013 (first 50 for me), and 2014 (50 mile attempt for Ryan). It's a great race course and always a fun atmosphere, and this year, we headed back this weekend so that Ryan could complete that 50!

Keri and Tami were running the marathon, with Bob Dunfey, George and Linda joining Ryan in the 50. TMR did well, with a 100% completion rate and some great races! Yah team :) Ryan ran a very smart and strong race, churning out of PR for the distance in 8:26:xx. Impressive! It was awesome to see him running well, and I am very proud of all the hard work he has put in this year to stay healthy and get to the start line ready to have a solid run. It was fun to see and to be a part of it all.

It was great to have a bunch of Trail Monsters running, as well as a number of us crewing and cheering for the day. John set up the tent, we cooked pancakes, bacon and sausages, drank more than our fair share of hot coffee, Irene and Dana brought us warm pizza at lunchtime (delicious!), we all had fun chatting, catching up and helping the runners along the way, and we survived a round of hail (yes, hail!) and some very chilly temps in the morning before the clouds finally burned off and it got warm enough for me to take off the second jacket I was wearing ;) Ah, crewing! But I wouldn't have it any other way!

Can you feel the excitement?! ;)

50 mile start

Marathoners rounding the field


TMR base camp, with everyone all layered up!

Sam crafting in the morning before they came over to the race

Fun with paints

End of lap #2

Coming into the finish

That's the face of one happy 50 mile finisher! Yah Ryan!

I hadn't really looked at the weather past Saturday, so was surprised to find that it was raining, and hailing (again!), this morning. What wacky weather! So instead of me going out for a run first thing, we all went out for breakfast - yum! - and I waited for the weather to clear before heading out around 12:30. Unfortunately, the rain hadn't cleared the area as much as I had thought and a cold rain fell during most of the run, which combined with a still full stomach, tired legs from standing around in the cold all day yesterday, and too many cars on the road made for a lackluster run. Then my run wouldn't upload, which annoyed me even further. Yah, running! I love you so ;) Ha. But no big deal. 7 road miles done to finish up a 45 mile week. And back to Maine and perhaps even a run start tomorrow morning with no headlamp needed now that it's daylight savings time!