Tag Archives: Trail Running

2013 Ice Age 50k

Ten, nine, eight, seven… that was race director Jeff’s countdown to the start of the Ice Age 50k on Saturday. Two, one…go! And we were off into the woods. I wasn’t originally planning on racing Ice Age this year, but when registration opened in December and looked like it was going to fill in less than a day I made a last minute decision to sign up. There were lots of reasons why I shouldn’t. This is an Ironman year, I should be focused on biking, yada yada. Truth is, I needed to focus on a run first. After sitting out much of 2012 due to injury, I wanted some good time on my feet before I had to start focusing on the bike. I’ve made it no secret that I have a rocky relationship with being on two wheels, pedaling and pedaling all.day.long. I would rather be on two feet any day of the week. I figured the race would be good motivation to get my butt in gear over the winter.

Only it didn’t work that way. I struggled to find the motivation I needed. I am going to blame it on the longest and crappiest winter in the history of ever. Between snow and ice and bitter cold, I had a hard time getting out there. Last year I ran the trails all winter in preparation for my 50 miler at Ice Age. Every weekend I looked forward to hitting the trails for hours and hours. This year it was not to be. I was also struggling with how much I should be running. Every time my foot would get a little sore I used it as an excuse to take a day off. I knew I also needed to be swimming and biking, but wasn’t sure how to balance it all. After all, Ironman is the big race this year, I could run 50k in my sleep if I had to…Right?

But the truth is, when you lose all of your running fitness due to injury, you cannot expect to start running again and pick up where you left off. Last spring, I would think nothing of running 70 miles a week. A 25 mile trail run seemed like no big deal, same with running twice a day several times a week. Cue the frustration when a “mere” 10-12 miles felt hard and I looked back at what I was doing last year thinking I should be able to do this, with a little bit of shit, I was crazy back then! mixed inIt’s funny how endurance sports can skew your perspective on things. Sometimes I am shocked when I look back on my training logs for Ironman and see how much I was doing. It all seems so normal when you are actually doing it, but looking back at it from the outside it is easy to see why people think you have lost your damn mind. Needless to say, my confidence was waning. If I couldn’t find the motivation to train for a 50k, how in the heck was I going to train for Ironman?

I came to the decision that the best thing for me to do was to work with a coach. Best decision ever. Though I create training plans for other people all of the time, I lost the trust and ability to do it for myself. I needed someone with an outside perspective to tell me exactly what to do and when to do it. I needed to get out of my own head and not have to think about any of it. Not to mention the accountability factor. If I am paying someone to tell me what to do I am damn well going to do what she says.

Wasn’t this supposed to be a race report? Ok, back to the race. In the 8 weeks leading up to Ice Age, I did a mix of running, biking and swimming. Definitely less running and more biking and swimming than I would have done if left to my own devices, but quite a bit of overall volume (compared to what I was doing at the beginning of the year). I had some good long runs under my belt, but certainly not as many trail miles as I would have liked. The weather just didn’t cooperate for it. I felt prepared going in, and when the first few miles felt effortless, I thought I was going to have a great day out there.

Coming up to the first turnaround at mile 6.5, I counted that I was in 5th place for women. I concentrated on running easy and keeping the effort low. The first out and back section is tough, with lots of hills and uneven single track. I just focused on my nutrition plan and walking the big hills to save energy. By the time the first out and back section was over, I had passed two more women and was running in 3rd place.

The latter part of the race is made up of two identical 9 mile loops where the trails are much wider and easier to run on. I got a little boost when I passed through the start/finish area and saw some of my friends cheering me on. I was able to pick up some speed on the flat miles that followed, and I was feeling good. That good feeling lasted until I reached the back side of the loop and it’s relentless hills. By the time I hit mile 16, my quads were hurting. By mile 18 they were toast. I started to break things into small sections. The next aid station. The start/finish area. The flat miles. I tried not to think about the fact that I still had to do this entire loop again. I didn’t know if my legs would hold up. I did know that it was going to hurt.

Coming through the start/finish again, I stripped off my arm warmers and left them at the aid station. I saw some more friends cheering for me which gave me a little boost, but in my head I was struggling. My quads were absolutely killing me. I was grateful for the next couple of flat miles before I got into the hills again. I broke the rest of the race into 30 and 40 minute increments. When I would take my next salt cap and when I would eat my next gel. Then to the final aid station, then to the finish. Somewhere in there I thought I passed another women from the 50k. It was hard to tell because now we were mixed in with the half marathon runners. Turns out I did pass one woman, but another woman (whom I had passed early in the race) passed me as well, as I would find out later.

The hills were killing me. The downhills were almost worse than the uphills because of my trashed quads. It was time to think about putting one foot in front of the other, of doing nothing besides moving forward. One thing I have learned over the years is that no matter how much it hurts during a race, no matter how slowly the miles tick by, and no matter how much your body is telling you to stop, there is always an end. And when that end comes and you are finished, no matter how good or bad the race was, it always seems that the day has flown by. I always think about this when the going gets tough, that there is indeed an end, and it will come soon enough. I will not hurt forever, so I might as well keep moving.

So that is exactly what I did for the rest of the race. And sure enough, the end came.

It is always sort of surreal when you train hard, race hard, and it is over.

I have no idea why I am smiling in this picture. I think I was so relieved that it was over, and in a bit of disbelief over how much my legs actually hurt. Mostly I was just so happy to be done. I can’t remember a race where my quads hurt that bad, except for perhaps my first or second marathon ever. Certainly not during the 50 miler last year or during any Ironman. But that’s how it goes. All you can do in any given race is give it all that you have on that particular day. You can follow your race plan and take in your fuel and do everything right, and sometimes your legs just freaking hurt. I did everything I could, I gave it all that I had, and this time it was good for 3rd place overall, 2nd in AG.

I would find out later that 2nd place was a mere 34 seconds ahead of me. My mind immediately went to thinking about all of the places in the course of 31 miles where I could have shaved off 34 seconds. A few less seconds walking on some of the hills, a little speedier on the flats. But the truth is, I gave it my best effort, and if I could have shaved off those seconds I would have. I am proud that I was able to push through the pain in my legs and finish strong.

Special thanks to my friend Cindy for bringing a cold water foot soak to the finish line. You are the best! 🙂

Ice Age 50k Official Result:

5:01:47

3rd overall

2nd female 30-39

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3 degrees of trail running

A few weeks back (before I was completely and totally over winter) I was craving a good trail run. There was exactly one morning that week that I could squeeze it in, and it was 3 degrees outside.

Proof:

I briefly contemplated hopping on the treadmill, but I wanted to trail run. Bad. So I geared up and got out there before I could change my mind. Turns out if you wear the right gear, the cold ain’t so bad.

Ready to go:

And at the half way point of my 7 mile run:

Yes, that is frozen breath on my neck fleece. I always like to see what other people are wearing on their runs, you know so I can add to my wish list. So here’s what I wore in case you’re into that sort of thing:

The North Face Winter Warm Tights

These tights are thicker than a basic tight, and are fleecy on the inside. Once I got going, my legs weren’t cold at all.

I had three layers on the top. The innermost layer was a thin Nike base layer that I have had for years. Next was The North Face Impulse 1/4 Zip Top.

I love this shirt either over a base layer or as an only layer when the temps are 40 or above. And my jacket is The North Face Animagi Jacket:

This is the best running jacket I have ever owned. It’s really light, but the core is insulated and it keeps me shockingly warm as my body temp heats up.

Accessories: I wore a fleece neck warmer that I’ve had for years and originally bought for snowboarding. I also wore these winter runners gloves that you can convert from mittens to gloves as your hands heat up.

I also wore two thin running hats and my trusty yaktrax to help with footing in the snow.

Now, you are probably thinking what the heck is with all of the NF gear, do you work for them or something? Well yes, yes I do. It’s one of the several part time jobs that I currently have to get me through school. And lucky me was able to get all of these things at a steep discount. That said, I will tell you while I love the pants, shirt, and mittens, it is the jacket that I would probably say is worth the retail price. I usually only need to wear one shirt under the jacket, and added the extra one only because it was below 10 degrees.

So while it was stupidly cold and it took me as long to get dressed for this run as it took me to actually run it, it was worth it once I found myself in the woods up close and personal with these guys.

Believe it or not, once I got going I didn’t feel cold at all. It goes to show that with the right gear you can be comfortable no matter the conditions. That said, this past week I reached my breaking point with winter weather, and have lost all motivation to brave the nastiness any more. Last night it was 10 degrees and windy, and I chose spin class over a group run. I am counting the days until the clocks leap ahead and we get an extra hour of daylight in the evening. To me that means spring is coming for real. 18 and counting…

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Filed under The run, weather

Colorama 10k

I have mentioned before on the blog that the Lapham Peak Colorama 10k is my favorite race of the year. It’s on my “home trail,” it’s usually great fall weather, and with the hills it hurts in a way no other race I’ve done can quite match. This was my fifth year in a row running this race, and after coming in 2nd place in 2009, 2010, and 2011, I knew I probably didn’t have a chance for 4 in a row. I am still making what feels like a slow come back from my injury, and my speed just isn’t there yet. I was hoping to be within 2 minutes or so of my blazing 44:19 from last year, but I knew it was a stretch.

As soon as the race started I knew I felt off. I actually wasn’t feeling quite right the night before, but I wrote it off as having a busy and tiring week. My legs felt totally fine, but my energy was nowhere to be found. I was having a lot of trouble breathing the cold air, and I felt like I was slogging up every hill. I took off in front, but one woman passed me within the first five minutes, and I knew soon after that I would not catch her.

I did my best to hold a decent pace, but I was hurting. Shockingly, no other women passed me, and my time of 47:47 was good for 2nd place. Again. I know I am being hard on myself and I shouldn’t expect to have my speed back already, but I can’t help thinking that if I could have run within 2 minutes of last year’s time like I wanted, I would have won. This would have been my year. I realize that 2nd place is still pretty awesome, but one of these years I WILL win this race and receive a winner’s plaque instead of an age group medal.

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32 days

The North Face Endurance Challenge is a mere 32 days away. Earlier this year I put this race on my calendar with intentions of running my second 50 mile race. When I became injured in early June, I thought I may have to drop down to the 50k. Well I was out of commission for much longer than I expected,  and was hoping to be running in time to run the half marathon. I am now officially registered, and I cannot wait! It will not be a fast race for me. In fact, it may be a run/walk depending on how my foot feels. But I will be racing none the less and I can’t tell you how excited that makes me.

I have been running every three days or so, all trails, all at a super easy pace. My foot seems to be holding up pretty well. It gets tight every time I run, but it doesn’t get any worse afterwards or the next day, so I think I am on the right track. I am also getting treatments twice a week at work to get myself back into balance. The last thing I want is to go full steam ahead with my body all out of whack and end up right where I started. I am grateful to be running again, even if it is a just a tiny bit compared to where I was before. I have to admit it is frustrating to see my average pace so slow, but I know over time if I work hard and play things right my speed will start to come back.

Two weekends ago Steve and I did a 6 mile run/walk at my favorite place, Lapham Peak.

And this past weekend we met up with our friends Cindy and Scott at Scuppernong. I ran 7.5 miles before I forced myself to stop (see, playing it smart!), while Steve and Cindy continued on for a total of 12 miles.

Running friends are the best!

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North Face Endurance Challenge 2012

One of the races I look forward to the most every year is the North Face Endurance Challenge. I have run the race for the past three years, the half marathon in 2009, my first 50k in 2010, and the half marathon again in 2011 just one week after Ironman WI. Did I mention I met Dean?

This year I was looking forward so much to running the 50 mile. Then this happened, making a 50 miler 80 days from today pretty much out of the question. I will be racing this year, hopefully the 50k but possibly the half marathon depending on how things go with my foot.

I am excited to be a part of the Endurance Challenge blogger team for the second year in a row, and am happy to help spread the word about this awesome race. One of the best parts is that there is a distance for everyone from the newbie trail runner to the seasoned ultrarunner. There is a 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, marathon relay, 50k and 50 mile, all spread out over 2 days on September 15-16. I have installed a handy link to registration in the left sidebar, so go do it!

Will I see you there?

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Filed under Races, The run

Ice Age Trail 50 Race Report

I have given myself a couple of days to process, yet somehow it still doesn’t seem quite real. I often have this feeling after big races, as if it all might have been a dream. I woke up to my alarm clock at 3:40 am on Saturday morning after a surprisingly restful sleep. I did all of my usual pre-race things. Coffee, dressed, packed, pb&j, banana, car. I ate half of my sandwich along with the banana during the 45 minute drive to LaGrange. I wasn’t nervous, just ready. I arrived at the race site around 5:15 am, plenty of time to pick up my bib, use the facility, and hang out with some friends before the 6am start. Part of what I love about trail running is how laid back everyone is. There is no vibe of nervous anticipation jitters that you would feel at the start of a road race, just a bunch of people who would like nothing better than to spend the day running through the woods.

At 6am, we were off. I reminded myself over and over to take it easy though the first 9 mile loop. I wanted to feel like I wasn’t even starting to breathe hard, virtually no effort. I knew that it was going to be a long day, and that I’d better pace myself if I was going to enjoy it.

[photo copyright Ali Engin Photography]

The first couple of miles seemed really long to me, but I just tried to settle into an easy pace. I listened to a lot of conversations going on around me, but didn’t really talk to anybody. Once I got into a groove, the loop was over before I knew it. I started counting down the miles until I would see Steve at mile 17. I made it a point to eat early and often, and arrived at 17 feeling great, except for my right ankle which was feeling pretty stiff.

I asked Steve if he had any Advil in his car and he said no. Oh well. I continued on towards the turn around. The next portion was easily my favorite part of the race. I started seeing a lot of people I knew who were ahead of me coming back the other way, and cheered for each of them as they passed. I also counted the women ahead of me, and determined that I was in 12th place. My two best-case goals for the day were to break 9 hours and to finish in the top 10 for females.

After the turnaround, I saw a ton more people I knew that were still heading out. I said hi to everyone and great job. At one point the guy running just in front of me said jeez, did you bring your whole hometown to the race or what? I said no, just a really awesome running club. At mile 26 I saw Steve again, and he had procured some Advil packets from a gas station. I stuffed them in my pocket and kept running, still feeling good.

After a while, the miles started to wear on me, and I had my first low point of the day. All of a sudden my legs felt awful, I was sucking wind, and I didn’t know how the heck I would be able to finish. By the time I started up the hills on the last out-and-back section, I was hurting with nearly 20 miles to go. I took a walk break and threw an electrolyte tablet into my water bottle. Then I remembered the Advil and decided it couldn’t hurt to take one. I was a little nervous that it would upset my stomach because I’ve never taken anything like that while running before, but it turned out to be fine. I also ate half of a Larabar at that point and hoped for the best.

I don’t know what did the trick, but within 10 minutes I was feeling great again. The trail had flattened out and I felt like I was flying. I started to pick people off one by one, and I was so glad I had taken it easy in the beginning. I came into the final turnaround at mile 40 feeling nothing short of amazing.

With 10 miles to go, the end was in sight. I knew there would be one last really tough hilly section, but I got through it knowing how close I was to the finish. When I got to the final aid station at mile 48.5, I somehow confused myself into thinking that there were 3 miles to go. Don’t ask. Imagine my delight when a guy ran past me and said less than a mile to the beer!  This was the first time all day that I checked my total time, and I was absolutely shocked when I saw that I was about to finish well under my 9 hour goal.

My official time was 8:48:25, 8th female and 1st in my age group. I could not be happier with this finish, and I am so proud of this race. To train hard for months and then have everything come together perfectly on race day is a feeling like no other.

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Ocean breeze

What a week! In short, I ran my highest mileage ever including a 34 mile trail run, worked, prepared to go on vacation, and drove for 20 hours to the Outer Banks in NC, which will be our home for the next seven days. Here is our back yard:

Let’s back up. Saturday morning there was a group build up training run for the Ice Age 50. It was slated to start at 7:30, but I opted to meet up with three other guys bright and early at 6am to hit the trail. I figured the earlier I got done running, the earlier I was on vacation. I ended up running 34 miles and felt fantastic. We took it slow, and I made sure to eat a ton of food as an experiment for race day. Things I ate during the six hour run include 2 PB Gu’s, 1 Tangerine PowerGel, 1 apple pie Larabar, peanut butter pretzel nuggets, pretzel M&M’s, and roasted potatoes. I never thought I would be able to stomach all of that while running, but I did it with no problems and never bonked at all. That run brought my total to just shy of 90 miles in 7 days. I am feeling confident for the 50 mile race in three weeks, especially because Saturday’s run was on the race course.

Right after the run I came home, showered, finished packing, and Steve and I were on the road. We drove straight through to North Carolina in about 20 hours to meet his family. It was raining when we got in and we couldn’t check into our house yet, so we stopped for lunch. I thought it appropriate to kick off vacation right with a big glass of sangria.

Now we are relaxing on the couch enjoying the ocean breeze and the sounds of the surf.

And later tonight…hot tub!

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Filed under Fun, Nature, The run, Travel