Thursday, July 31, 2014

Painfully Slow Hills

Foggy morning, 5:45 am. I run across the street to do my hill workout. As I climb up Mt. A., before the workout even officially starts, I'm having trouble breathing in the heavy, muggy, misty air. The rocks are slick on the way down as I start the first loop. I feel like I am moving in slow motion. I bumble along, continuing my loops, willing myself up and down the hill, 8 times up and around. And as I run I wonder. I like to think of myself as strong on the hills. I have fond memories of climbing the 4000 footers with Ryan way back when, cruising the uphills with ease, always getting to the top first. Oh that was fun. I earned my trail name that way too, easily summiting the Georgia hills ahead of some fellow thru-hikers. But it sure feels like I am struggling out here these days on this damn little 75 foot hill. Shouldn't I be able to bound to the top, light-footed and fancy free? Is my climbing ability gone? Have all my days of simply running, with no real plan, no speed work, no hill work, relegated me to a rather mediocre plodding? Am I just getting old? Sigh. I'd like to run this hill into the ground, but instead it seems to be grinding me down. Guess it just means I'll have to come out again next week to see who will win the next round...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BTLT Run with Shannon

We've been trying to get our families together for weeks now, but somehow between our family schedules, we simply haven't found the time. Amazing how that happens. At some point in our emails back and forth, Shannon suggested getting together for a morning run. She said she'd been running on the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust trails around the Crystal Spring property, and wanted to show them to me. I am always looking for new trails, and it is always fun to run with friends, so I asked Ryan to be on kid wrangling duties this morning, and I headed over to Nate & Shannon's house for a 6:30 am start.

It was great to catch up with Shannon as we ran along, and I really enjoyed the trails! OK, so they are basically totally flat, but that is just how all the terrain is around downtown Brunswick/Bowdoin College. The trails were in really nice shape, were all signed, and there was a good variety for a small area. We ran through a big wide blueberry barren, stopping to pick some delicious berries along the way of course :), ran through some fields, nice woods, along a few little ponds and streams. A great way to get in 6 miles on a Tuesday morning. Thanks for a fun run, Shannon, and looking forward to meeting up with you next week to run again!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Afternoon Fun

No running today, just a few photos from yesterday afternoon. After a mellow morning at home, we finally decided we should get out for an afternoon adventure. Of course, as luck would have it, as soon as we got in the car, it started pouring. Since hiking in the pouring rain really isn't high on the list of fun things to do, we decided to take the opportunity to go to the Bowdoin Art Museum instead. There was a Richard Tuttle print exhibit on display, and Sam had fun doing the scavenger hunt the interns had made up for the exhibition. It was the perfect museum for a 4 year old - enough to see but not too big that it drags on.

We left the museum and noticed that the rain had dissipated, so we decided to stick with our original plan and set out for a short hike. Ryan and I have run by a conservation property on Bunganuc Road many time, and both have wondered what the trail is like. Today seemed the perfect day to find out. The Maquoit Bay Conservation Land trail is essentially a flat walk through the woods on an old road, ending at Maquoit Bay. It was the perfect place for a walk on a rainy, foggy day, except that the mosquitos were out in force and things were a wee bit soggy! Still, we enjoyed it (well, at least Sam and I did! Ryan got the brunt of the mosquito bites so he might say otherwise ;) ). There were a lot of mushrooms to look at, blueberries to pick, a newt sighting, and a nice view at the end. It was a bit too slick to get down to the shoreline so we contented ourselves with taking in the view from up high in the breeze before heading back home. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Head of Tides Lollygag

Another beautiful morning with a cool breeze blowing. I headed out onto the trails around 7:45 am, running the shortest route to Head of Tides, which clocks in at just shy of 4 miles. Amazing that it's really that close as it seems so remote when you leave the Cathance trails proper to head across the bridge onto the extension of the trail system. The pace was relatively slow both on the trail and on the dirt road, but I wasn't in a rush, stopping to eat some raspberries in the fields on the way out, and making a brief stop along the powerlines on the way back for some sun-warmed blueberries and the first blackberries of the season. Yum! My legs were a bit creaky at first, but warmed up nicely.

Someone had been out and nicely trimmed back some of the overgrowth in the field before the Ravine Trail; it was much appreciated. The deer flies were present, but not horrible - the breeze and relatively low temps no doubt helped. Still a big muggy though. I was fairly drenched by the time I got home for sure. Got in a mellow 8 miles to finish up the week.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mostly Big Brad

The plan was for me to run the TMR tour of the BBU course this morning, but then John texted Ryan to ask if we wanted him to hang out with Sam while we ran together. What a nice guy! Sam was happy to hear that she'd be spending the morning at the Brad with John and his little dog, Goldie, hiking and playing on the playground. And we were psyched to be able to do our long run together. Win win!

We set them off this morning, Sam happily skipping after John and Goldie with her hair in pigtails and her little Camelback on her back. Ryan, Nathan and I took the summit trail up to the summit and backtracked on the BBU course to the top of Lunchbreak hill, where we waited for the group to arrive. As soon as Ian (and the dogs), Mike, Blaine, Martin, Val, Xar and Mindy arrived, we were off. I was feeling a little off, but figured I'd settle in. It was a really nice morning, fairly cool although still humid, and it was fun to be running with a good group.

As we got back close to the park, there was John, Goldie and Sam. But Sam had a HUGE goose egg on her forehead and a good scrape on her knee. She had tripped and gone down hard. Poor Sam. Poor John. I know he felt terrible. They were headed back to the park headquarters to get an ice pack. When Sam saw us, it probably made it worse as she almost started to cry again, but after a few minutes we assured her that she would be OK, and after confirming many times with John, we headed out. We knew we could check back in again after our miles on the east side. The problem was that we went away feeling HORRIBLE. I was particularly anxious and was all out of sorts as we ran along. We caught up to Val, Xar and Mindy, and Val regaled us with a tale of dropping one of her boys at 6 months and having to take him to the ER, and Mindy told us the story of a toddler falling out of the window of a camper at VT. Ok, so these things happen, but we still felt badly. The ladies pulled over for a pee stop and Ryan and I continued on. I followed along but my head was not in it. I was feeling extremely anxious about Sam and felt bad for continuing the run when she had hurt herself. I was not in a good place. We talked back and forth, and finally agreed that yes, it sucked, but that we probably mostly felt badly about it because we felt guilty we weren't there when it happened. Still, I was glad to get through the singletrack and back to the parking lot. We ran down to the playground to check on Sam, and she was happily reading a book with John. Phew! With that reassurance, we decided to continue on with our miles, and headed back out.

Sam walking Goldie

Sam and Goldie (enlarge to see the bump on her forehead!)

Playground selfie with matching sun hats :-)

I immediately felt better. Hey, it only took 1:20 for me to feel "normal." I cruised up the Ski Trail hill, feeling good. We ran along at a decent clip and I finally felt like I had a rhythm going. We caught up with the rest of the crew along the Connector, each little group having done the miles slightly differently. The ladies dropped back up near the Quarry, and it was Ryan, Nathan, Mike and I, a good group, for the rest of the run. It was fun chatting and catching up with everyone.

At the summit

Although there was a nice breeze, I was pretty much soaked, and was drinking a lot of water. I had three Gus during the run, and probably could have used one more, as in the last mile up the Tote Road, I was suddenly feeling quite tired. Up at the summit, I was ready to head down as quickly as possible, and apparently, it was good timing for us to shoot down the Switchback Trail as Ryan got a call from John that they were thinking of heading over to Edna & Lucy's. After a quick wipe down with some wipes, we hopped in the car all together and went to get lunch. Yum!

Still, despite a bit of a mental breakdown early on and a bit of slogging at the end, it was a good 15 miles for the morning and fun to run the BBU course with friends. OK, yes, so we skipped Lunchbreak this time around, but still, it's a solid run. Man, the course is legit though, no messing around. Total time 3:05, with Strava saying 2:45 moving time.

Many thanks to John for watching Sam for the morning! She had a lot of fun despite the bump on her head :-)

Friday, July 25, 2014


OK, so running hills in the rain yesterday was totally unappealing, so I rolled over and went back to sleep. Maybe not the most badass thing to do but hey. Which meant that this morning was my last chance to get in my hill "workout" this week. The arm workout was left by the wayside after week #1 but the hills, well, I'm determined to at least keep those :) So off I went. It was nice and cool as I ran up Mt. A. to start the first loop. I decided to forgo the long loop on the first lap and just suck it up and run the short laps up and over the hill. Got in 8 loops and 4.5 miles for the morning. Although I am trying to run the downs and flats quickly, these miles are not fast miles. Sigh. But, two more loops than last week. For a 75 foot hill, Mt. A. sure is doing it's best to make me work!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Two Shorts

I'm actually surprised at how well I held up in VT. But if I have perfected anything as a mother it is functioning of little to no sleep. At least I found a good way to put that skill to work this past weekend ;-) I figure I got about 3 hours worth of sleep from 3:00 am on Saturday morning until 10:00 pm on Sunday night. I've been sleeping pretty well the past few nights and haven't managed to get up at o'dark thirty to run, although I did drag myself out the door yesterday at 6:30am for a 3 mile run around the block. I felt a bit off and rather rusty after 4 days of no running, little sleep and a lot of sitting around. This morning was a complete fail, so I went out this afternoon for another 3 miler. It was hot and humid, but the legs felt decent, so hopefully things are coming around.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

While We Were Away...

Sam had a great weekend of her own while we were in Vermont!

Fun at Popham Beach...

Steamers and lobster at Haraseeket Lunch...

Ice cream at Orange Leaf....

A visit to LLBean...

Lunch at El Rayo's...

A new haircut...

An afternoon at the splash pond at Deering Park...

I think it's safe to say Sam had a great time while we were away ;-) Many thanks, Mom and Dad for keeping her busy and happy!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Crewing at VT 100

The past two years, Ryan has headed to VT to crew in mid-July for the VT 100. This year, John was running and asked if we wanted to crew for him. I really wanted to see what all the fuss was about and be part of the adventure, so we asked Mom and Dad if they'd come up and hang out with Sam for the weekend. And so it was that on Friday morning, we loaded John's little car to the gills and headed off to VT.

It was a gorgeous blue sky afternoon when we arrived at Silver Hill Meadow, a field in the middle of nowhere VT. Tent city was going up in the grasses, and although we thought that Jamie and Kate would have already arrived, we couldn't find them, so we started to set up with Anne and George. As soon as we had the tent set up but not staked, Jamie came running over. Which led to this...

Tent fun

...and finally this...

TMR camp

Silver Hill Meadow

The Jedi and his Princess

Jamie and Kate

After the pre-race meeting, we all headed over to the house the Wieluns family had rented for the weekend. Many thanks for having us! It was a gorgeous spot, and so relaxing. There were raspberries to pick, a horse in the pasture, flowers, birds at the feeder (pair of Hairy Woodpeckers, one Downy Woodpecker, one very cool Red-Bellied Woodpecker on the suet feeder, goldfinch, a catbird, and a ruby throated Hummingbird too.) A perfect spot for dinner with friends.

Beautiful gardens


Early evening

Gorgeous vista

Cute little Emma

Mid-summer in VT

Our 3:00 am wake up came too soon, but all around us runners were up getting ready, headlamps shining in the field and tents lit up with lanterns. We headed down to the start/finish tent to get some much needed coffee and chat with friends before the start. Along with John, our Trail Monster friends Zak and George were running, as well as several others we knew. At 4:00 am, the runners were off into the night, a long line of headlamps heading out into the darkness, as we cheered them on.

Early morning fun

The Trail Monster runners

George and John

The start

And they're off!

The cool thing about the VT 100 is that it started as a horse race, and that tradition continues. We came back to the start line to watch the 5:00 am 100 mile horse race start. The horses were incredibly majestic and we enjoyed a nice conversation with one rider, learning a bit about the race as the 30+ pairs set off down the hill on their own adventure, just as the sun began to rise, the pastel colors lighting up the sky.

100 Mile Horse race start

Then our crewing adventure began. Ryan, Jamie and I set off in John’s car, traveling the back roads around Woodstock, Vermont in a quest to meet up with John at all nine of the crew accessible aid stations along the 100 mile route. I can't even begin to describe all we did over the next 28+ hours, but I will say that Ryan knew the routes between aid stations like the back of his hand, that Jamie and Ryan were the perfect people to crew with as we careened across the countryside, that the area was beautiful, replete with rolling hills, lush greenery, magnificent estates, gorgeous horse farms, and that crewing is an ultra in and of itself! We stopped here and there to grab food to eat, and we spent a lot of time along the roadsides with many other crews, cheering on runners, waiting for John to appear, when we would quickly refill his pack, talk to him to see how he was doing, make sure he got some food and drink at the aid station and then send him back off down the road or trail, following the yellow pie plates that marked the course. It was a lot of hurry up and wait, but it was a lot of fun. 

John coming into Pretty House, mile 21

Amazing jumpsuit at Stage Road, mile 31.4

Zak getting expert crewing from his sister, Sarah

John, all smiles, coming into Stage Road

The 100 Head Heart Feet crew

After the Stage Road aid station, we headed to Lincoln Covered Bridge, mile 39.6, where the Trail Monsters were manning the aid station, headed up by Kate. This was the longest stretch between crew accessible aid stations, so we thought we'd help out for an hour or so at the aid station before continuing on our journey. It was a lot of fun to see the Trail Monsters there, and to help the runners as they came through. It was starting to get muggy, but overall the weather was pretty nice, especially for July in Vermont. Kate was very glad for our help, as a lot of runners came through in little packs, and many needed water refills, etc. All hands on deck! The runners were all very appreciative of us, and that was really cool. 

Trail Monsters manning the aid station

Cutting up fruit

Helping the runners as they come through

Ann and I

Yeah John!

Zak, looking strong and happy


After an hour or so of aid station help, we headed out, stopping for a quick roadside lunch break before continuing on to Camp 10 Bear, then out to Seven Seas, where Jamie and I took naps J Hey, by this time, we had been up for many hours! Ryan, of course, just stuck with Red Bull! Ha.

Crewing is tough work!

Jamie, taking advantage of the warm grass and sunshine

Seven Seas view, mile 59

The crew

It was a quick trip from Seven Seas to Margaritaville, where we managed to get John to eat some real food, and realized too, that his hope for a buckle (24 hour or under finish) was pretty much not going to happen. Although we knew he was slowing, we also knew he was in a good mood and seemed to still be feeling strong, even if he was having trouble on the hills and his feet were hurting. And the next  stop was back at Camp 10 Bear, where he would pick up Jamie as his pacer for the final 30 miles.

Cheeseburger (sans cheese) in paradise :-) (Margaritaville, mile 62.5)

After seeing him off, we made a quick stop for dinner and headed back to Camp 10 Bear. Camp 10 Bear was a busy spot again, with runners coming and going, medical checks and pacer pick up. It was a bit chaotic to say the least, especially as the light began to fade and night fell. 

Jamie and John take off from Camp 10 Bear, at mile 70.5, off to tackle the last 30 miles

After Jamie and John headed off down the road, we stayed to see if we might be able to see George before having to move on. Night fell. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to see him come through, but we did see Val, Mindy, Rick and Xar, along with Bob Dunfey, waiting for his runner, and that was fun. Then it was Ryan and I for the remainder of the night.

My view for much of the day :-)

It was pitch black by the time we arrived at Spirit of 76, mile 77. We could hear the generator humming as we walked down the road in the dark. The aid station was like a mirage, bright Christmas tree lights sparkling in the night, and the way up the hill lit by little candles. 

Runway up the hill

I'm not quite sure where we first knew that it was going to be a really long night - but Bill's proved just how rough it is to crew for a runner who is hemorrhaging time. We knew he could do it, but how slow it would be, we didn't know. After starting out comfortably at around 21:00 hour pace, John settled into right around 24:00 hour pace until around Seven Seas. This seemed to be sustainable, but then the pace got slower until we knew that buckling (24 hours or under) almost 100% wouldn't happen. He was still in good spirits at Margaritaville, and even back at Camp 10 Bear, but the pounding of the hills and the miles were taking their toll. Plus, his feet were hurting and his go-to food wasn't working and we were concerned about fueling. It is so tough to get it all right and so much can make things go awry. 

We had 12 miles before John and Jamie would arrive at Bill’s. We weren't sure how long it would take them, but we figured John was likely right at 26:00 hour pace by this point. When we arrived at the parking lot at Bill’s, we pulled in and promptly took a brief nap. The alarm went off and then it was down to sit in the cold darkness and wait. And wait we did. Those miles and minutes took forever. We watched as runners cycled in and out of the old barn, most walking slowly. It was a bit surreal. 

Crewin'. In the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.

Bill's, mile 89

We weren’t saying much, huddled up in our chairs, trying to stay awake and stay warm, but I know we were both wondering what was happening. What could we have done. When was he going to get there. I kept looking up the hill, hoping that each time a pair of headlamps came down the chute, it would be them. And finally, it was. And it wasn't pretty. John was barely awake, stumbling, head bobbing, eyes shutting, shivering. We got him weighed in, then sat him down and convinced him to drink some coke and eat some warm broth. Finally, a bit of spark came back. He was alive again. But it was close. 

Minutes later, George and Team S&S came through. It was what we needed to get John back out there. George asked John if he wanted to walk with him. We basically answered for him and got him up, got his pack on and got them out the door and into the darkness. We hoped George's Jedi powers could keep him going.

We drove to Polly's, mile 95, and settled in for another nap. When we woke up, it was daylight. Beautiful spot. 


Polly's, mile 95

We waited. Runners we recognized came through. Then runners we didn't. Then we saw George, Val and Mindy. George requested a can of Gingerale. He looked rather green. But he didn't stop. He just kept on shuffling out of sight. And still we waited. John finally came in, walking with Jamie. Rough going for sure. But less than 5 miles to go. He was going to make it. Our last crew stop before the finish. 

After a brief stop in town for a breakfast sandwich, we made our way back to the finish. We found many of the Trail Monsters camped at the finish line. We chatted and waited. Zak had finished in 20:03 - an amazing feat, and an hour PR! George had finished in 26:49, an hour PR from last year's finish. Many other runners finished, shuffling across the finish line, arms raised, eyes teary. It was pretty amazing. And then finally, I spotted Jamie's TMR shirt through the trees. They were here! John got a loud cheer from us all as he crossed the line in 28:21. Yes, his finish time was hours off what he had hoped, but he hadn't given up, he had kept going, and damn if he wasn't a 100 mile finisher! 

The finish!

Congrats, John, on your 100 mile finish!

We walked him immediately to the med tent, where he promptly fell asleep on the cot. He awoke briefly for some food and to get his feet tended to (big blisters), but went back to sleep, dead to the world. While he slept, we packed up camp, got ourselves some food, and talked with other runners and friends. John woke up just in time for the awards. No belt buckle, but that plaque is pretty cool!

Fast asleep

Getting his feet tended to.

Do you think I can make this into a buckle? ;)

John, all smiles

John's VT 100 team.

Even the Jedi gets tuckered out :-)

I think that attracts us all to ultras of any distance is that no matter what you plan for, there is always the unexpected. It is how you react to the unexpected that makes or breaks you. John had a rough day out there, but he kept going. He finished, and in doing so, he made us all very proud. What an accomplishment! And so many similar stories out there. Many congrats to all the runners, both the winner who finished in record time and the last one, who came in just minutes under the 30 hour cut off. Everyone's finish here deserves to be recognized and applauded. This is one hell of a sport. It truly was amazing. And crazy. And awe inspiring. I am so glad to have been a part of the crazy, chaotic, impressive, sleep-deprived experience!

And now, well, I need some sleep ;)