Although I said that I think an hourlong run can soothe stress and worry, the reality is that I run better when I am happy. Stress and anxiety don't fuel my desire to run like they do for others. When my head gets too full, I just want to shut down. The idea of 4 hours out in the woods with only my own thoughts to keep me company just doesn't sound appealing. Wednesday, Ryan lost his job, unexpectedly, with the company doing some downsizing, and while I am hopeful and think that in the end, it will work out for the best, I am also feeling panicky and very anxious. I know that we are lucky to have this be the first time we've had to deal with a layoff, but frankly it's kind of terrifying. In any event, it's been a bit stressful here and this morning, I seriously did not have my head on straight.
The plan was for 20+ but there was just no way that was happening. Ryan thought I should just skip the run, but I knew in the end that would make me feel worse. So I settled on a short-long run out to Head of Tides, taking my time and trying to get my thoughts to settle without letting them overwhelm me. Feeling how I do is not wrong, these feelings are valid, so I'm trying to acknowledge them but then let the panic go and move on. I am an optimistic person by nature, mostly because I know I feel better when I don't let sadness or fear or anxiety overwhelm me; the world is not a perfect place and things don't always have a fairytale ending, but for me, it's so much better to focus on what IS good and what I DO have in life. So this morning, I let my feelings wash over me, thought them through, and then chose to focus on enjoying the sun shining through the clouds, the late autumn colors and the roaring river as I ran 13 leafy miles on the trails near home. I didn't solve all the world's problems, and I didn't come up with an immediate solution to any of this, but I did take a deep breath and breathe in the autumn air and come away feeling a bit more calm and peaceful. And for that, I am grateful.
Late autumn reflections
I love the way the winterberry pops at this time of year! So colorful!
Ryan and Sam's jack o'lantern creation, mustache and all! :)
It's opening day for deer hunting for Maine residents today, so in order to avoid getting shot (always a plus!) I headed over to Pineland this morning for my run. The sky was still dark as I drove over, but as I turned the corner at the edge of the farm, the sky was lighting up with ribbons of pink, a light mist over the fields. Very pretty.
I ran out onto Oak Hill, the sun rising through the trees, the trails leaf covered but not wet, despite yesterday's rains. That's good drainage, for sure! I was hoping to go long this morning but my body was just not having any of it. My stomach was wonky and I was just feeling off. I ran to the end of Oak Hill and decided I'd turn around and do a reverse loop before calling it good and trying again tomorrow ;) Thank goodness tomorrow is always another chance to get it right! As if to solidify my choice, a cold rain began to fall from the sky. Sold. Home to more coffee and hanging out with the family it was! Despite not feeling how I'd hoped I would, I got in a nice early 8 miles for the day on the quiet trails.
Tuesday morning I got up and ran along the cart paths. My back had been tight starting after my run on Sunday, so I was a bit unsure how it would feel but thankfully it didn't bother me while running and in fact, the movement seemed to loosen things up. It was a nice morning to run 6 miles, cool and crisp - tights and hoodie weather - and with a nice glowing pink band of light rising along the horizon as the sun rose.
When I picked Sam up in the afternoon, we put on our hats and gloves and went for a short walk on the Mt. Ararat trails. Although she is often reticent to get out on walks like this, she almost always ends up saying it was fun and that she was glad we got out. Much like the rest of us, I suppose :) Gorgeous light, and a nice woodsy walk with my little love on a late autumn afternoon.
Late autumn woods
Wednesday, I once again failed to get up when my alarm sounded at 4:00 am. I didn't mind getting up at that time in the summer, as I knew it would essentially be light when I headed out the door around 5:00 but there is something about this time of year and the lateness of the morning light that makes Wednesday mornings hard for me. I settled for a 5:00 pm 0.4 mile walk around the block with Sam instead ;)
Thursday morning dawned cold and dark, and I hit the cart paths once again for another 6 miles. They are a safe, easy place to get in some pre-dawn miles at this time of year when the woods are extra dark and the trails, which are hard enough to navigate with a headlamp, can be downright treacherous now that the rocks and roots are leaf-covered. Much to ponder this morning. I'm not convinced we can outrun our problems, but an hour of running sure can do wonders to help soothe stress and worries.
Color on the horizon
The rain came in late on Thursday, falling through night and with no abatement in sight come mid-morning. Ryan, rightly so, thought I was rather foolish for heading out for a run, but he can skip it today as he's in taper mode. I've got 5 weeks to go until Fells, so miles are needed ;) That being said, it was certainly not a day for a long run, so I am thankful I can save those miles for tomorrow. Around 10:30, I suited up in tights, gloves, hat, rain coat and warm shirt and headed out into the Cathance for somewhere between 5 and 8 miles. Thankfully, once I got moving, I felt nice and warm, and although it most certainly was rainy, blustery, slippery and wet out there, it wasn't too bad in the woods where I was protected from the wind. The river is running quite high and there trails were laden with wet leaves and puddles, but what's a bit of rain and wind, after all? ;) Ha. I can only say that since after an hour+, I got to come home and hop right in the shower!! Ended up running my typical 7 mile loop out there, which felt just right in terms of time and distance on a day like today.
About that 12 mile run... it never materialized, unless you want to add the two 6 mile runs I had over the weekend together and count it ;) Saturday morning dawned rainy and dreary and honestly, I just didn't want to run 12 miles. So I didn't. This morning was about 20 degrees colder and windy and still dreary. Hmmm, not happening today either. But that's OK. Just a bit more of a recovery week than I had anticipated/hoped for, which I suppose is fine as when I look at my Strava log I see I haven't had a week in the 20s since the week of VT 100.
Got in a misty, foggy, sticky, soggy, warm 6 miles out on Highland Green Road yesterday before taking Sam to swim lessons. Then later in the day, she headed off to a movie, dinner and sleepover with her best little friend Anne to celebrate Anne's birthday, and Ryan and I headed off to dinner followed up by fun at Mindy and Pete's fall party. It was fun to catch up with everyone, and a good evening for sure!
I had already had a drink at dinner, but I couldn't resist a Dell's ;)
This morning, I ran down along the river. Oh, what a difference a few days and more than a few inches of rain make make! It was a six mile, four deer, high water, cold wind, leaf covered sort of morning.
I'll got ahead and say up front that I had a longer run planned for this morning, but I think my brain is still a bit tired from Sunday and so the thought of running in the rain for 2+ hours just didn't sound like what I wanted to do. So, I figured I would save my 12 miles for tomorrow or Sunday and run a leisurely 7 out through the Cathance instead. It was warm and misty, rainy and foggy, leafy and slick, brilliant and beautiful. All colors seem to pop more on overcast days and today was no exception. Yes, a lot of the leaves are down but there are still gorgeous reds and yellows to be found. Makes me feel insanely lucky to be able to get out and experience the woods as the seasons change. Each day is different. And boy has this October been incredible.
Leafy trail, like really leafy
Knock your socks off color
Blueberry bush brilliance
Rain and leaves and river
A side note to say that my watch is driving me batty and will not download my run data from the past two days. The run was glorious, the technology not so much!
Isn't the rule of thumb something like 1 day off for every 10 miles raced? Or something like that. I don't know, I seem to recall that from somewhere... In any event, Sunday I was very very tired, but of course I could not sleep. Honestly, Monday night I couldn't sleep much either, but finally Tuesday night I did, so I decided it was better to sleep a bit more and not get up at 0-dark-thirty to run Wednesday morning. I probably should have, as my legs had that you are now feeling more creaky from not running than from your race feeling all day long, not to mention it was like the most beautiful October day, but alas, I had a finance meeting from 3:00-4:30 so could not even sneak out for an afternoon run. So instead, Sam and I stopped and got a pre-dinner ice cream, because, well, I never got that ice cream I was craving after Sunday's race, and why the heck not on such a beautifully warm October evening? I mean, seriously folks, any excuse for ice cream ;)
As for the race, results have now been posted. Happy to see that I managed to increase by lead on Abby, lady in white, by 7 minutes in the last 6 miles. Nothing like fear as a motivator ;) My friend Sam, in the blue shirt/red vest, finished very soon after me but glad to have held him off on the last big downhill.
The lovely Tammy Lynne got this finish line shot of me, in which I am sure I am trying to sprint and get there as fast as I possibly can but am instead rather hobbling along with cramping quads ;)
Three days off seemed like enough, as I've got 40 Fells miles to run in December, so it was back at it this morning with a 6:00 am run on the cart paths. Kept the pace easy and cut off holes 1 and 2 to keep the distance at 5 miles. My legs felt a bit creaky but not bad. Started in the dark and watched the sun rise, softly glowing through the trees and lighting up the still beautiful foliage along the golf course. Happy to be back out.
Some races, the pieces all fall into place and it is just *right* out there. Some days, thing don't go your way but you gut it out and push on through and you get.it.done. Other times (see TARC Fall Classic 2016, Fells 2014, Pineland 50k 2010), it just doesn't happen for one reason or another, and you get a big, fat, sad DNF next to your name.
I think we learn from each and every race we run, but obviously the first scenario is the most fun. And Sunday, well, I lucked out and the pieces fell into place. I felt focused and good, I didn't get in my own way, I wanted and was able to push and it all worked out to what I would call a really happy race experience that I'm proud of. I met my goals, I enjoyed being out on the trails, I felt happy and strong and just plain *good*. And because I know they won't all be like this, it's even sweeter.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that this course intimidated me and I get nervous running where lots of people I know are watching. I have a competitive nature that I like to deny and I didn't want to let anyone (or myself) down with this race, even though I know no one really cares in the end. Sometimes it seems easier to race in anonymity far away than in front of all your friends and the awesome running club you run with. Perhaps that makes no sense to anyone but me, as TMR is *awesome* and totally supportive and of course, on race day, it was great to have everyone out there cheering me on. But in any event, that was what was in my brain, so, to lessen the stress I was feeling, I had framed the race in my head as a training run. I took a down week the week prior, but had run two 50 mile weeks before that. And during race week, I put in enough miles to make the full week a solid one, so my taper was perhaps a bit less taper-like than might have been wise ;)
The other complicated aspect of this race was that Ryan was manning his aid station out on Lawrence Road all day long, so me running meant Sam would have to be out there with him too. I was a bit unsure about how it was all going to work out, as I wanted her to have a good day and I didn't want her to get in the way of his job out there. We talked it through a number of times and Ryan convinced me she would be fine. So, at 7:15 am Sunday morning, with Sam in tow, I headed over to Lawrence Road, where I dropped her off before I headed to the start/finish. Thankfully, Sam was incredibly awesome all day long and had a lot of fun. I am so thankful that she just sees this stuff as normal and was content to run around and play with her little friend Emma for the morning, and knit with Keri, play in the leaves with John and Tyler, and help fill water cups and food bowls at the aid station and in general be an all-star kid for the day. I feel truly lucky to have such good friends who will play and hang out with Sam and to have such a great kiddo! It made the day much easier for me! Of course, she also apparently sat in dog poop while she was out there and waited a few hours before telling Ryan about it, but overall, I think we can call it a good day ;)
It was a beautiful morning, clear and cool. Despite the chill in the air at the start, I knew it was supposed to warm up, so I stuck with my plan to wear shorts and short sleeves, adding in a pair of arm sleeves and gloves to keep me warm at the beginning. We took off right at 9:00 am, headed uphill towards the park. I didn't want to start too far back in the fray, so I tried to place myself at the back of the front of the pack, or the beginning of the middle, which meant I probably pushed a bit more up Lunchbreak and out on the east side than I might have otherwise as I was either part of or leading a train in the first 7 miles or so, but I was just going with the flow and although I was working, I didn't feel on the brink. I knew that Jennifer VanDongen would be first female overall and sure enough, she took off like a rocket with a pack of fast guys at the beginning. I fell in behind a woman with a white shirt, and we ended up leap-frogging a fair amount throughout the first 7 miles before she got ahead of me.
Pre-race meeting. Game face or just plain fearful? ;)
The start, right next to the lady in white (Photo by: Tamerella's Photographs)
The course had been leaf-blown in a lot of spots and was very well marked, and the early miles went by quickly. I was feeling good and focused and didn't need to stop at Kate's aid station at 7+ miles, but I did make a quick stop at the bathroom there before continuing on. I had lost the girl in the white shirt and ended up with another woman trailing me for a few miles after that but eventually lost her going up the Connector hill to Tryon.
Loved the new boulder section at the beginning of Lunchbreak Hill!
Leaf-blown goodness ;)
I was looking forward to seeing Ryan and Sam out at Lawrence Road and dropped my arm sleeves there before continuing on down to the road stretch. I like Snowman's loop - it is a good mix of terrain and fun to run. I ran with a few guys out there, chatting with them along the way and quickly enough was back at the aid station. Somewhere along the way, I ended up running and leapfrogging and chatting with a guy in a blue shirt and red Salomon vest. We would continue to run near each other for the rest of the race, me running faster on the uphills and him on the downhills.
Sam having fun in the leaves
Tyler burying Sam in the leaves
Awesome crew at Snowman's aid station
Coming into Snowman's aid station at mile 10 (Photo by: Tamerella's Photographs)
Heading out onto the 3 mile loop
Ryan had asked me as I was leaving the aid station to head back up the hill if I wanted to know what place I was in. I said no, but I had a guess. I was guessing I was in 3rd, as the woman in white and Jennifer were ahead and I had managed to get ahead of two other women who I had been running near prior to the aid station. From Lawrence Road, it's only 3 miles back to the school but there is a good climb to get up near the summit before the downhill on Lunchbreak. My time coming through the first lap was around 2:52 and I was certainly happy with that. I had set up a chair with my water bottle and box of gels, etc near the drop bag area, so again, I skipped the aid station table and headed right over to my spot. My bladder was almost empty and the day was getting warm so I shed my gloves as I restocked my gels and filled my bladder up. I was sad to see that my snickers bar had melted in the sun but the Reese's PB Egg didn't seem too mushy so I grabbed that to eat as I walked up the hill. It was a fairly quick stop and soon enough I was off again. Only one more lap to go...
A bit more walking up Lunchbreak this time around but I was still feeling good. I also liked that I had a bit more space on this lap to do my own thing and not feel caught up in a group. Of course, as I came up to the summit and then down into the park, there were a lot of people on the trail, but they were people out walking and enjoying the day. Most were courteous and stepped aside; others not so much, but I tried to be polite and say thank you as I wound my way around them. I had had 6 gels on the first lap, and then ate my PB egg up Lunchbreak so I didn't feel the need to stop at Kate's aid station down in the park and just rolled on through.
Heading onto the east side at mile 17+
Coming back through at 22
Crossing Rt. 9, I saw Jennifer coming towards me, looking strong. 5 miles ahead of me already! WOW! Super impressive. I managed two gels on the east side loop, and although I know I was running slower this time around, I focused on keeping the pace up and not getting lost in lala land and really slowing down. And it paid off as when I was passing Kate's aid station the second time around, I saw the lady in white and her friend right up ahead.
Last year at TARC 100, I had gotten ahead of the woman in 2nd place on my final loop, but the stress of knowing I was in 2nd and that she was trailing right behind me was too much and I couldn't handle it; I told Val I needed to let her by. That might be my one and only regret of that race. I suspect I could have held her off but I just was not in a place mentally to do so. So, here I was, coming up on the 2nd place woman at mile 22+ in this race. But honestly, in this scenario, there was no hemming and hawing. I was going to pass her, for sure. I made my pass at the end of the field as we headed back onto the trail, and worked hard to make it a decisive enough pass that hopefully she wouldn't be tempted to try to pass me back ;) I said hello, and she said the first lap was more fun, to which I replied, it always is, and then I took off. I didn't sprint but I just powered up the trail as if it was nothing.
Of course, this meant that if my assumptions were correct, I was now in 2nd place and I wanted to stay there. With 9 miles to go, I still had a lot of ground to cover but I just kept moving along, steadily. I unfortunately ran out of water along the Connector and my quads began to feel a bit crampy. I had a few salt tabs with the little bit of water I could eke out of my bladder and hoped for the best. I wondered if my bladder was leaking as my back and pack were awfully wet, but Ryan told me later that a lot of people seemed to be struggling with dehydration and the warmth and humidity of the afternoon, which had snuck up on us after a cool morning. So, probably I had just drained my bladder, and before I had even hit 10 miles into the loop!
So, obviously, this time around, I did come to a full stop at the aid station and while Ryan and Tammy fill my pack, I drank back two cups of coke in quick succession. I knew I wouldn't be having any more gels. My stomach hadn't been thrilled with the last one around mile 21, as is sometimes the case when I'm pushing hard, and I knew the coke would do the trick. Nothing like sugar and caffeine to fuel the final miles of an ultra! ;)
As I got my pack back on, I asked Ryan to keep an eye out for the lady in white and to let me know how far back she was when I came through the aid station for the final time. I was running a bit scared, for sure. And with that, I took off down the road, following my friend in the blue shirt/red pack. A little more walking this time around but still pushing.
Downing a cup of coke before I take off for the final 3 miles
Fourth, and final, time through the aid station. Ryan said she was 3 minutes back to which I am sure I replied, "Shit!" One more cup of coke and another for the road, and I was off. No time to waste. I pushed as much as I could, but I was tired and my quads were seriously unhappy with me. I had no more salt tabs left so I just ran as much as I could and walked as fast as I could on the uphills and hoped I could hold out without succumbing to cramps until the finish. I mean, come on, Danielle, it's only 3 miles. But still, 3 hard miles! At some point on the Connector, I passed my friend in the blue shirt/red vest. I pushed and I hoped and I got down Lunchbreak as fast as I could. I tried to sprint across the line but it was more like a hobble. HA! Still, I finished with my watch showing 5:57 so goal #1 of under 6 hours achieved. And there had been no breakdowns, no negative talk, no nothing, just focus and happiness and a good attitude, so goal #2 of enjoying it while working it also very much accomplished. And yes, I had come in 2nd. Secret pie-in-the-sky goal #3 of getting a top 3 spot also achieved. Of course, Jennifer finished more than an hour ahead of me, and in other years there were certainly women with times in between Jennifer's and mine who would have bumped me out, but still, I was really happy with how I ran the race, and proud of my effort. And, oh so glad to be done :) It was a good day!
Odds and ends/shout outs/thank yous:
1) One of the really fun things about this course was that with the few two way traffic sections, I was able to see a lot of my teammates and friends along the way. It was great seeing Brendan and Mike rocking the 50k, and Jennifer too. I saw George when I was at the top of Lunchbreak the second time around and he was all smiles as always. I saw Laura, on her way to 1st female in the 50 miler, and Carolyn, Chad, Mike and Xar too. It was a boost each time I saw a friend out there. Congrats to everyone who rocked it out there!
2) Val, Mindy and Ian and the whole TMR crew put on a great race, with smiling, friendly volunteers, great food at the finish line, and one heck of a course. Sunday was a gorgeous day to be out running in the woods on the trails I know and love, and I am happy I made the decision to race this year. It was fun to experience this race from the runner's perspective after volunteering for multiple years.
3) And speaking of, to all my friends volunteering at the aid stations, thank you thank you thank you. This race couldn't have happened without you! Your cheers and smiling faces and help out there were awesome!
4) And of course, to Ryan and Sam, thank you for being so awesome all day long, and for believing in me as always :) I am one lucky lady. Not to mention, it was great to drive back to the aid station after I had finished and changed and chatted with friends and had some food, to find Sam still happily playing away, not wanting to leave. Future crew and ultrarunner in the making, with 9 hours out on the race course and still smiling :)
5) My prize was this awesome shoe, decorated by the kids from the elementary school. How cool is that?!