Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Marathon Madness

Photo By: Far North Endurance

"It's just a training run, it's just a training run"

These are the words that I continually told myself over and over the days leading up to and the morning of my first trail marathon.  I hadn't entered a marathon distance race since 2004 and that was the Vermont City Marathon.  Just about ten years later and with races ranging from 5k to 100 miles on my race resume I was very nervous. How fast should I go?  Do I need to fuel?  Should I have a consistent pace or aim for negative splits?  Should I be able to talk or running so hard that I really don't want to?  So many questions, but my answer to myself was "it's just a training run".

Typically I run the 50 mile distance when at Stone Cat Trail Race in Ipswich, MA, but because of where I was in my race calendar/training this year warranted the marathon.  In my mind running 50 miles seemed easier and less stressful to me.  My goal for the marathon was to run controlled and to get a solid workout in, but also to have fun and not put myself in a situation where I would have to take time off after the race to recover.

After the 50 milers started I peed one last time and hung out with Liz Gleason, Chris Tabb and Heather Furman as we waited to begin.  We would two small loops around a recreational area before heading out into the woods for two full laps on the course. Off the start it was a bit of chaos.  Runners with their headlamps running in all directions not completely certain where to go.  I fell into stride with Liz by my side, which made me really happy because I love her company.  As we completed our first small loop I told her to look around.  It was a full loop of streaming blurred headlamps.  It looked amazing, so amazing that I got distracted.
Geo & Chris after their Races

Finally one course I felt better.  There were two or three males in front of my leading the way and Liz was still with us.  The guys directly in front of me got frustrated finding the course so finally I heard them agree to "let the girl lead".  I was comfortable with finding the trail, but knew I was also doing more hard work by taking this role.  Then as the sun started to shed light the two gentlemen behind me decided it was time that they pass me and go on there way and now I was alone.

I struggled to find the right pace.  It was a lot of trial and error, this ones to fast, now I am being lazy, oh look a bird.  Around mile 9 I caught up to Geo who was running the 50 miler.  I was excited to see him and it motivated me to hear his cheers.  As my first lap ended I look at the clock and knew I was doing okay.  I grabbed a fresh bottle and my trucker hat and headed out for my final lap.  Within two minutes I saw Liz running at me on a two way part of the course.  I cheered her on and tried to increase my pace as she just about 4 minutes back on me.

Then around mile 16 I bonked and bonked hard.  I wanted to walk, I wanted to curl up on the side of the trail and rest.  I ate and drank and told myself to continue on and then re-evaluate in 8 minutes.  Yes my energy came back and I was finding my stride again.  I turned up my music and sang along and knew that each step put me closer to the finish of my training run.
Heather, Liz and I after the Marathon


After hitting the final aid station my pace intensified and now I was working.  Just a few miles to go and I knew I still had plenty in the tank.  As I once again passed the spot where I had broken my femur years ago I felt nervous, although also so grateful as I recalled those who were so compassionate during that ordeal.

As I started the final mile towards the recreation field and finish line I peered at my watch and felt content with what I was doing.  I crossed the line in 3:16 with a smile and relief.  I had survived the marathon and found myself wondering what I could do in a race situation and on pavement.  Yes that dreaded word....pavement.
A new course record, hours in the sun following watching and encouraging others while hanging out with good friends.  As always a big thanks to Marty Sullivan and his race crew at Stone Cat.  An amazing event that just always seems to top itself.  A big shout out to Chris Tabb who ran his first marathon on this day and rocked it from start to finish.  It didn't take him long to discover that the food after a trail race is awesome for recovery.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Home Turf - Vermont 50

The last time I ran the Vermont 50 I had my first DNF.  That year from my first stride I felt like crap, both physically and mentally.  I knew that this year I wanted to finis.  Even more specifically I felt the internal drive to attempt to finish faster than I had before on this course.  My fastest time came years prior during a very dry year as I finished in around 7:22. 

The day prior to this year’s race I was feeling excited, but very tired.  Around 3 o’clock I felt ready for dinner and bed.  I took notice, had dinner and went to bed early. Race morning came and I felt ready.  As I waited for the start I had the chance to catch up with friends and competitors.   The temperature was chilly, but I knew the day was going to be pristine.  Off the gun I ran with Amy Lane as we chatted and fell into stride with another.  After about a mile of gradual downhill we made a left and headed up a steep road.  As we continued to run, I picked my head up and gazed ahead at the hill in front of us.  Through the fog the hill appeared long and doubt filled my mind.  I hadn't done much hill work since training for Western States so was I out of my mind thinking I was ready to put forth a fast time?  I knew it was too early to allow doubt to control my thinking and running so I continued to let Amy’s stories occupy my mind. 
 
Amy & I Prior to the Start
After my mind settled back to a safe place I left Amy and my focus changed to seeing my mother and step father at the first crew station (mile 12).  I began catching bikers and found conversation with them, along with fellow runners.  Just prior to the first crew station I picked up my pace motivated by the sounds of cheers and cowbells.  I worked to take off my arm warmers and drink the remainder of my handheld.  Jeff was waiting at the start of the aid station so I threw my depleted supplies to him and then grabbed my Salomon fuel vest from my mother further down the line.  She let me know that the lead men were 4 minutes up on me, to which I just laughed.  I certainly was not chasing them, but I was ultimately chasing a time. 

I focused on running comfortable, but staying true to my pace and not allowing myself to slack.  I ran all the hills at a persistent pace and found humor with playing lead frog on the ascents and descents with the mountain bikers.  Luckily most of them laughed at my jokes and found my humor to be funny, or at least they had me fooled.  Reality was I just needed to keep my mind out of trouble as I continued to put miles behind me.

Luckily not much to report for the next 15 or so miles, that is until I came up behind two shirtless gentlemen on course and heard one of them yell “Hey Aliza is that you?  I knew you were close, but didn’t think you were that close!”  I quickly discovered it was Jason Lantz and Paul Monaco and I was blown away to have caught up to them and to be in their presence.  We formed a three person train and worked our way towards the next crew station at mile 32.  With their company and consistent pace we made quick work of the miles and before I knew it I was grabbing fuel from my parents. 

We all left the aid station in close proximity of another and then reconvened on the trail.  Jason and I took turns leading and encouraged others to join our train when we motored past.  The trails were in amazing condition and watching Jason make quick and easy work of them with his effortless stride was inspiring. 

My focus was now getting to mile 40 where I would meet my pacer Brandon.  I had never met him before, but was excited to share miles with him.  Knowing that I wanted to arrive to him with energy I continued hydrating and fueling on a regimented schedule.  With continued conversation miles ticked by and our three person train found arrived at mile 40.  Brandon was excited to see us coming and didn't let me break stride as he arced behind me and joined in.  After saying hello, I introduced him to Jason and Paul and now we were four strong. 

Brandon took the lead on single track and kept our pace honest.  His spirit and the bounce in his stride kept me moving.  Jason also reminded me that we were now in the single digits and headed for the home stretch.  I tried not to get over ambitious knowing that nine miles was still a fair amount of ground to cover.  Brandon and I started in on getting to know each other and story telling, while taking in the beautify scenery.   Paul ended up slowing his pace and then Jason started to bonk after missing a drop bag.  I encouraged him along and tried to help him keep pace. 

Coming In to the Finish Photo: Scott Livingston
Around mile 45 I ran out of water so stopped taking in fuel and tried to just stay steady until seeing my parents at the last aid station (mile 47).  Brandon and I were moving fast, so fast that I knew I was digging myself into a hole.  Jason had now disappeared behind us, but I felt like he would press to catch me before the finish.  Then as Brandon and I approached the last aid station, which sits part way up a hill, I bonked, and bonked hard.

After trudging up the hill I made it up to my parents and the aid station and looked for the most sugary looking beverage I could find.  Down the hatch it went and off I went.  I was barely moving, but didn’t want to walk in fear that I wouldn't start running again.  I ate three shot blocks and told myself it would get better.  As I meandered up the hill and onto the wooded single track I told myself I needed to be patient and I needed time.  

Brandon helped me stay focused and told me that in 7-8 minutes my body would have some of the sugar and fuel it needed.  Each step got faster and stronger.  My watch had died so I had no idea time wise where I was, but that was okay.  I was running my race, listening to my body and enjoying my company.  Making our way down to the finish line I could hear the cheers and I was excited to see family and friends.  Brandon had asked if he should bail out prior to the finish and I said no.  He was part of my day and a contributing factor to my success so I wanted him to cross the line with me. 

After finishing I was told I had run the race in 7:01.  I had accomplished my goal of beating my old course record.  I was pleased because I ran smart and I enjoyed the highs and lows throughout the day.  It was great to have my parents there crewing, to have my husband on course at the same time running the 50k, and to have meet new people. 


A big thank you to Mike Silverman and his crew for putting on such a great event in Vermont and a special shout out to the volunteers and private landowners.  It was also great to have Salomon be a sponsor this year and see the local rep Dave there spreading the good word about Suunto and Salomon products.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

H is for Hiatus

My blog has been neglected and collecting dust in cyberspace as my last post was recapping my 2012 season.  I think with an abbreviated season this year and with a house under construction things have fallen to the wayside.  I have worked to once again find my stride and fall into rhythm.  My mind and body have been craving this place and also needing it.  I need movement, I need freedom to explore, I need to let myself get lost.

I feel like I always need to be in some sort of constant movement, being sedentary brings me a sense of worry and a feeling of uneasiness.  This time of year as we transition from summer to fall it brings me great joy and a sense of amazement to be out in the woods.  Everything is changing rapidly and with the blink of an eye you miss it.  The trails that I have known like the back of my hand are now new and different with a few leaves that have descended to the ground before the others.  The muddy sections are covered with animal prints that head in every direction as each prepares for the changing of seasons.  The sounds are even different this time of year as well as the smells.  I love catching a glimpse of a scent of a wood stove being fired up for to help take the nip out of the air and hearing the wind currents make their way through the forest.  I know that the snow will be here soon, but for now I will continue to embrace the fall season and all the change that comes along with it.

I hope that I can begin to dust off my blog as I work to get my priorities back in order.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Season To Remember

My 2012 Season
How does one put months and months of  trips to the chiropractor, physical therapist and doctor, training, racing, and travel into words?  It has taken much reflection for me to even consider to begin to attempt to do so.  When thinking back over my racing season from start to finish I quickly note a theme, that being family and friends.  Not to dismiss the importance of my friends, but here I am solely going to focus on my family.

My racing became a family affair this season and I that made it something beyond what it normally is.  Everyone was involved with not with seeing and experiencing sacrifices because of my training, but also the joys and struggles that I experience during races.  I few key races that one or several family members decided to brave along with me were Bull Run Run, Western States and Run Rabbit Run.  

Bull Run Run
My season began in April as I ventured to Bull Run Run in Virginia.  My father offered to join me and crew for me during the 50 miles, and it was to be his first experience with me throughout an ultra.  I knew he must really love me because he too hates flying and this race required an aircraft.

From start to finish the excitement that he had for me during the race was contagious and gave me an indescribable feeling.  He was so eager for me to get in and out of aid stations and continue to push forth.  He seemed to be as competitive as I was, if not even more as I chased down friend and fellow Vermonter Bob Ayers.   As we exchanged bottles and fuel he documented the brief moments we saw each other.


Looking at the footage after we returned home just reiterated to me how much my family helps me along the way. I think my dad was hooked on the ultra scene after just one race, which made me just smile even bigger. A great way to start the season!

Western States
When the Shuttle Breaks Down...Make Friends
Geo and I flew out to Western States three days prior to the start.  It gave us some down time and time to hit all the needed grocery stores and such.  He enjoyed mountain biking with I held down the couch and drank Americanos.  We had some good laughs and meals together.  

The afternoon prior to the race my mother and step father flew into help crew. They knew the drill from the previous year, although since we were back to the regular course their day would be more comprehensive.  My family split the early aid stations making two crews and then rejoined at Forest Hill for the remainder of the race.  The hours and countless miles of driving and attending to details was appreciated and paid off.  I think they got in a solid workout with the amount I had them lugging around.  It was always reassuring to know that I would be taken care of at each crew station.  I knew they would be there, I knew they would have silence if I needed silence, or the correct advice/motivation if that's what was needed.  Mostly what they had was excitement and encouragement, while I truly had the feeling that my effort and performance was a team effort.                                     


An added bonus was that this year was the first time I had my mom pace me for a few little stints.  It was fun hitting our stride and we were all smiles the whole time.  As you can see above she made sure we led the way into the school as Nikki, Rory and their crews were right behind.  It even felt like we got competitive with each other as we headed down the last mile onto the track.  Geo would take the lead, then my mom and then I would push to keep up and pass.  No competitiveness in my family!

I am excited to know that they are again willing to join me at Western States this coming season.  It truly has been something I look forward too and having them there helps me toe the line with more confidence than I normally would have.  

Leadville
After finishing his epic bike race from one end of the Colorado Trail to the other end self supported I was lucky enough to spend a few days with Geo before he had to head back to Vermont.  I picked him up in Durango and then trucked him back to Leadville. He must really love me because within 24 hours of finishing his 5 days on his ridged single speed he was out with me hiking Hope Pass. He also did the hike in shoes that were a size too large as his sneakers where in Denver where he started his race. As the photo reveals though one of us had a bigger smile than the other. 

A week of exploring and hanging out at altitude with my father and step mother was a treat. We did some interesting shopping in downtown Leadville where you can buy anything from fresh made cookies to antique sheriffs badges.  Also with the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, Transrockies and the Boom Days there was plenty to keep me occupied.   To keep active my dad and I did many early morning runs at Turquiose Lake together and even hiked up the Winfield side of Hope Pass.  It was the first time he had been over 8,000 feet hiking so very magical to see him power up to 12,000 +.  At the end of the hike he said "These bad boys are going to be sore!" as he pointed to his quads.  Of course throughout the time there, like parents often do, my step mother and dad spoiled me at Melanzana and at the grocery store, everything a gluten free vegan could ever want or need.  

When race day came we were all as prepared as we knew how to be.  The hugs I got before the race fueled me and we were off.  As the day progressed my running and health started to crumble.  I couldn't breathe and it was beyond an issue that my inhaler could solve.  I continued to press on, they continued to support me on the fly as we all tried and tried to make it work.  The wheels had not only come off, but my lungs had broken.   
Photos By: Rob Timko
Above my father was consoling me at the Twin Lakes aid station.  I couldn't breath and it wasn't getting better.  He held me tight and I knew no matter what he loved me.  I could come in first, last or not finish and it didn't matter to him, what matter was that I was okay.  I never told him, but I thought a lot about how strong he has been in life and perhaps how stubborn he has been too.  He has overcome numerous heart surgeries and continued to do what he loves.  Life isn't always comfortable, but ultimately we have to believe that we do know our bodies and what is possible.  

I continued the race and eventually finished even though it was far off what I had planned for.  I knew if I could keep making it to crew station after crew station all would be okay, they would ensure it.  After I finished and got medical attention my step mother gave me the "You scared us talk".  I learned a lot that day about myself and how much my dad and step mom do truly care for me.  

Run Rabbit Run
After some last minute piece work, as I had the belief that I still had a lot of legs and heart after Leadville I found myself back in Colorado to race Run Rabbit Run 100 miler.  A long way from home and a big task at hand my mother volunteered up my step father Jeff to join me and crew for me.  Due to work and an appointment Jeff would arrive in Steamboat around 12 AM the morning of the race.  Then after the race he would fly home to Burlington before heading to Washington D.C for work three hours later.  Talk about commitment and sacrifice!  I felt so honored and blessed to have him join me.  He is so attentive to details, from travel / race details to what I need, so I knew once we got rolling my race wouldn't come down to a lack or crew/support.  

"Having A Wonderful Day & Feeling Good"
Photo: Bryon Powell 
On race day frustration quickly emerged inside of me as just a few miles in I struggled to follow the course.  The foliage was completely breath taking as was the single track so I tried to stay focused.  By the first time I saw Jeff at the first crew station over 20 miles in I had already tacked on so many extra miles that I wanted to drop.  Several others were dropping and my mind automatically went to that place.  I felt so far behind, disoriented and was honestly afraid of losing the course in the dark.  Jeff gently encouraged me to continue for more miles to see if it got better.  I recall him saying, "Give it some more time".    

For several miles things did get better, as I had Jenny Pierce for company.  Then after departing ways with her I continued on my way solo once again.  Jeff was waiting for me in Steamboat to help run me through traffic on the main roads.  I will never forget his outfit.  He was dressed more for warmth than pacing, but I think he easily won the award for most trendy.  A Burton button down flannel collared shirt was the key article of key pacing/crewing attire that made me smile. Unfortunately I have no photo of his outfit or us together from this race so I have a photo documenting me eating what an aid station worker told me was gluten free and vegan.  Instant mashed potatoes with bacon, YUM!

After a few more loops over the mountain and back into Steamboat I saw the sun start to rise.  I had made it through an entire night of darkness, which almost seemed impossible to me.  I knew that I had banked too many extra miles to my body to make the finish realistic without putting myself in a huge hole.  My mind and heart hadn't been in the race for hours and they were not to be convinced on this day.  As I ran towards Jeff I said "I'm done".  He hugged me with a sigh of relief and then I walked over to the check-in table and said I was dropping.  Jeff and I got in the car and drove off and it was great to feel the support despite having not have accomplished what we had originally intended too.  

Family Fun!
I am blessed to have a family who supports me as I pursue my passion.  They are the voice of encouragement, and when I need it, the voice of reason.  The moments that we have shared are so valuable and memorable.  It gives me great joy and energy to see them smiling out on the course.  Knowing that beyond the pain, darkness, cold, heat or whatever, they will be waiting to comfort me in anyway possible.  



Thursday, September 27, 2012

Run Bryon Run!

As I scurried around Steamboat frantically I tried to locate my lost luggage through United Airlines customer service line and simultaneously devise a back up plan.   During my moments of organized chaos I also attended the Run Rabbit Run pre-race meeting and caught up with fellow runners.  Eventually I received word that my bag had arrived at the condo unit and as I looked at my watch I had just 15 minutes to assemble my drop bags before the cut off.  After throwing a bunch of clothes and fuel into bags I ran around the village like a lost puppy trying to find my way to the drop bag location and in the process I stubbled into Mr. Bryon Powell.  

With video camera in tow I knew that he was out preparing his intel for the upcoming race.  I ignored the camera and since I hadn't run since arriving in Colorado I inquired if he would join me for an easy shake out run.  He said yes and he asked if we could do an interview and I think I proceeded to changed the subject.  For some reason I was really giggly and smiley on this eve and was having a hard time committing to doing the 5 minute or less talk.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep, stress and/or pre-race nerves.  We wondered around the village as the sun began to set and I dug in my heels.  I finally agreed, but also disagreed, as I argued that I am not interesting and two interviews was plenty for the season. In my mind I thought there was no need to bore the irunfar reads with more on me and came to the conclusion that someone who is far more interesting and not often investigated was Bryon.  

As Bryon joined me in front of the camera I hesitated in fear, but took over.  I wasn't sure if he would roll with it or if we would start over.  I felt like as the seconds passed and then minutes we both settled into the idea.  It was an honor to ask him so questions as I think highly of him as a coach, reporter, writer and friend.  Seriously think about it, where else can you keep up with ultrarunning news to the degree that his site allows?  His work emxemplifies his passion and dedication to the sport and his patience with me is priceless.    



I honestly hate hearing or watching myself, but this video will always make me smile.  I felt so nervous, so awkward, but at the same time enjoyed every moment of it.  Bryon has shown me that it can be difficult and daunting to follow your dreams, but despite this, it is possible.  Like ultra running, life and your career can having highs and lows, but it is how you ride them out and work with each that determines how things end up.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

CHECK IN
As I stood in line to do medical and check in I was enlightened about the prize money Pearlizium was offering up to the first male and first female to the top of Hope Pass Outbound.  Wow, $500 sure did sound nice.  Cold hard cash...would the IRS be chasing the recipients down the backside of Hope Pass? I did think about the money longer than I would have imagined, but kept coming to the conclusion that it just wasn't worth the race to me.   I did imagine though that the money might change some racers race plans.  Would anyone be willing to race to the top?  All and all, having the money out there, just seemed to make me more nervous. The more I thought about it the more I thought that in all honesty I would have rather seen Pearl give the winners the money.  Needless to the money gave me something to dwell on as I stood in line.  Yes I passed medical check in, no need for a pulse as long as you weighed something and had paid the entry fee you were fit to toe the line.  I was given an aggravating timing bracelet on my wrist and I felt like part of a hospital gang or like I was under house arrest.  I really wanted to bedazzle it and make Rory proud, but there wasn't a craft store in the area to be found.

START TO MAYQUEEN
Around 3:50 AM everyone started making their way into the start area. Despite the early hour there was a good vibe and buzz in the air.  I looked to those around me and wished them luck.  There was nothing I could do now, but relax and do my best to enjoy the day.  I know that I had worked hard to prepare for this race and now I needed to execute and remain patient.
Photo By: Rob Timko 

The shotgun fired and we were off as a pace car lead us out of town.  A few miles in I looked at those around me, Darcey, Liza, Tina and Tony?  I thought to myself, "How crazy is this, I am running next to Tony Krupicka!"  He commented on how fast the boys were setting off and that he had never run the start of Leadville with girls before.  Once off the paved and dirt roads the field started to settle and I was running in second not too far behind Liza.  A few miles of single track around Turquoise Lake as we passed a few campgrounds before seeing our crews for the first time.  At this point I just wanted to take it easy and warm up.  Campers had early morning fires going and the smoke combine with the cold air was not playing nice with my lungs.  I used my inhaler and didn't put any thought into it as being an issue for the remainder of the race.   I had planned on ditching my light at Mayqueen, but the sun seemed slow to rise so I held on to it.

MAYQUEEN TO PIPELINE
My parents were ready to swap packs and trade my visor for buff.  Without stopping we handed off and now I was eager to get to the Colorado Trail.  Just a short stint of uphill pavement and we would be in the woods and back on trail.  Just over 13 miles in and the massive field had already started to really spread.  I could see Liza up ahead and was running with a gentlemen named Jason and Paul Terranova.  We made what seemed like quick work of the trail and by the time we hit Hagerman Pass (dirt road) I was able to turn my headlamp off.
Photo By: Matt Trappe
Once on the road Liza seemed to open her legs up, but I stayed with my trusty pace.  Just about a mile on this road before we would start climbing Sugarloaf.  I knew that the entire 2 plus mile climb was runnable so again I harped on patience.  By the time we had plateaued on Sugarloaf I was about 10 seconds back from Liza.  On the climb we had be blessed with one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen.  A blazing pink fireball slowly rose in front of us shedding light on the mountains and lake were we had just emerged. On the downhill I gave Liza lots of room as we worked our way down the notorious  rutted out power lines section.  Then as we turned onto the pavement road at the bottom she and I exchanged conversation before heading into the Fish Hatchery aid station.  I swapped my pack for a handheld, my headlamp for sunglasses, took a sip of fuel and was off and running as I was eager to get the next section of pavement over with.  I looked at my watch and was faster than planned.  I thought about my effort and pace.  I felt very comfortable and in control so continued to roll with it.

Before I knew it I was running with Mike Arstein (The Fruitarian) and we did some catching up.  I then reverted to listening to my ipod for a bit to help me get over the pounding of the pavement.  Straight and flat, urgh but I could dream of the mountains as we were surrounded by them.  Eventually we made a right hand turn onto a trail that followed a fence line, this was one of the course changes so I didn't really know what to expect.  Luckily before I knew it we were upon our crews again and I gave up my handheld for my pack as the next section was long.

PIPELINE TO TWIN LAKES
Photo By: Leadville 100
This next section was one of my favorites.  Everything felt so remote, not a house in sight, not a car to be heard, nothing but nature and you.  Mike Arstein said something along the lines of "We are over a quarter of the way done already!"  Wanting to still run my own race I let the guys get a bit ahead of me. It was on this section that it really started to dawn on me that I hadn't walked yet.  All and all the terrain had been extremely runnable and I wasn't working hard so was that okay? I honestly really didn't know the answer.  I focused on enjoying the trail and staying on top of fueling and hydration.  The temperature was finally coming up and a beautiful day was in the works, but again my breathing was off.  Still it strike me as something to really place worry on since I really haven't had major asthma issues in years.  At the Mount Elbert aid station, just about 3-4 miles shy of Twin Lakes I decided to top off my pack.  Off course it turned into a major struggle for the volunteers to get the top back on my blatter and they were slow to turn what they deemed a puzzle back over to me.

Finally off and running again I was loving the gentle downhill single track, it felt like a playground.  The gentle grade eventually turned into some steeper jeep road with loose gravel and rock.  As I headed down the last short grade to the aid station I went to put the brakes on and my feet slid out from underneath me.  I went backwards and went down.  The crowd at the aid station gasped and not knowing what to do I got back up and threw my arms up in the air.  Thankfully this lead to cheers, phew I guess I turned that one around.

TWIN LAKES TO WINFIELD
A fresh pack and I was now mentally focused on crossing the stream and making my way up Hope Pass.  The field section leading to the river crossing felt mind numbing, but luckily there were people out cheering.  I had really feared that the stream crossing would stop me dead in my tracks, but it actually felt refreshing.  After crossing I was followed by a Salomon photographer for a while and then was alone.  As I hit the base of the climb I went from a run to a walk.  I had no intent on running any portion of the climb.  I knew if I hiked it would save energy and in the scheme of things time.  Mike A. passed me on the hike up and reminded me to eat and focus on getting a lot of calories in on the climb.  I had no intent in keeping up with him and wanted to continue to do my thing.  I had practiced this part of the course 3 times so knew the terrain and what I was in for.
Photo By: Salomon

Photo By: Pearlizium Craziness on Top of Hope Pass
As I came across the Hopeless aid station I topped off my pack, said hello to the llama's, thanked those who had trekked up to volunteer at the aid station and then continued on my way.  I could see the saddle and focused on getting there as I sipped on my fresh water.  After a few switch backs I peered back to see if anyone was in sight. There was no one in eyes view so I stayed with my easy rhythm as I took in the views.  When I crested the top and was greeted by some very enthusiastic spectators from Pearlizium.  They congratulated me and asked if I wanted the $500 now or later.  I smiled and said "Now of course!" And one of them responded with doubt saying "Really?".  Apparently they were not really prepared for a yes response as they went to dig it out of a bag off the trail.  I tucked the money into my hydration pack, thanked them as I  looked around at the views and then headed down.  Once out of sight I took a pee break and then continued down the trail making sure not to pound my quads.
Photo By: Matt Trappe
I came to the intersection near the bottom and veered right onto the new trail.  It was beautiful, but it seemed to be holding heat like an oven.  The temperature felt good, but again my asthma seemed to be getting the best of me even though my pace was normal.  About a mile on the new trail and to my left I could see a large cluster of cars parked at Winfield, I was getting close.

WINFIELD TO TWIN LAKES
The crowd was lively at the turn around and I moved in and out without much slowing.  Jumping on the scale in stride and only being about a half of pound of my original weight I took off without thought.  In retrospect this may have been a mistake.  A new pack on my back and Meredith and I headed out and shortly thereafter saw Liza headed in.  We started uphill and immediately my heart rate spiked drastically.  I felt like my heart was going to explode.  Never before had I felt it beat so prominently.  We stuck with a light run until we reached the drastic incline that marked the start of the climb back up Hope.  Meredith handed me my poles, but at that point I wasn't really getting enough air in to make sense of what to do with them.  I was moving at a snails pace, but my heart rate was racing.  I didn't know what to do, nothing seemed to remedy the problem so we kept plugging away one small, slow step at a time.

Finally out of the trees and onto the sweeping switchbacks we could see Liza not far behind.  To be honest I didn't worry, all I could focus on was the idea that I thought my heart was going to explode.  I thought about what a mess it would make and how it would suck to have to drag my sticky body off of the pass.  I felt bad for those who would have to complete that task.  Finally as we came to the top Liza and her pacer passed us and went blazing down.  Not able to take a deep breathe I was not blazing, but rather just trying to stay upright.  I still had faith that my breathing issues would resolve and Meredith reassured me that once we got lower things would improve.  Even though I didn't feel like it was altitude, but I still believed her.

Down, down, down we went as we navigated our way past those coming up.  My legs wanted to fly down the hill, but I couldn't.  By the time we hit the flat section that lead us back to Twin Lakes I felt like I was breathing threw a pinched straw. We crossed the river and shortly thereafter I fell to all fours and started to dry heave.  Frustrated and angry I eventually got back up and kept moving and then was passed by Tina who was looking like a rockstar. We then came across Meghan Hicks who immediately knew something was wrong.   I couldn't think, I felt like I was done, that Twin Lakes would be the end for me and at that moment I was ready for the end and some help.

I made my way into the Twin Lakes aid station and my father greeted me and then heard my breathing. He hugged me and said "That's enough dear, your done!"  I don't blame him.  I sat in a chair, tried not to breathe, because it hurt so much and heard my pacers deciding to switch me over from a pack to bottles so not to have the constriction and weight on my chest.

TWIN LAKES TO FISH HATCHERY
Photo By: Salomon
My father walked away and I was told to start up the hill.  I walked up the hill and remember doing so because I didn't want to be stared at as I struggled to breathe.  I got to the top of the hill and wanted to sit against a tree, but was greeted by Amy Lane, Brian R. and Dave James.  Such great words of encouragement and support as they kept me standing.  We started to move up the trail and I don't really know how it happened or even why.  Eventually Adam Chase came up behind me to take over the pacing duties.  I had my poles and he was carrying two handhelds for me.  We walked many of the uphill sections and then in my mind made quick work of the downhills.  My body was now starting to reject shot blocks and gu was out of the question.  Despite this I tried to stay on top of hydration and salt.

Truly frustrated I tried to keep my head in it.  If only my breathing could keep up with my legs.  We made it to Pipeline, refilled bottles, gave up poles and then ran all the way to the pavement section that would bring us back to the Fish Hatchery.  Once on the pavement my stomach went sour.  I felt like the hard surface would make me puke if I ran so I walked.  Adam entertained me with story after story as we walked and walked.  I apologized for being slow and pathetic, because that's what I felt like.  I think he should have made me run a mile for every story he told.  Either way we made it to Fish Hatchery and Adam turned me back over to Meredith.

FISH HATCHERY TO MAYQUEEN
With poles back in hand the plan was to try to keep the heart rate and breathing under control as we made our way up power lines.  The sun was finally starting to set, but the temperature was still solid.  We were joined on the climb up by Paul and his pacer Drew.  Paul kept me entertained with his duck like walking, which was brought on by sore quads.  I am not sure why I found this so amussing, but I did.  Once we crested and started down the backside of Sugarloaf we were forced to turn on our lights. We took it easy as I focused on staying upright.  The night sky was spectacular with not a cloud, just stars as far as the eye could see.  I thought a lot about my husband and hoped that he too was looking up at the sky.

Amazingly I made it down Sugarloaf in one piece and we turned right onto Hagerman Pass.  Paul wasn't far behind by the time we hit the Colorado Trail.  We noticed lights behind us and it turned out to be Ashley Nordell and her pacer Sean.  We let them go past as they were making much quicker work of this section than I was.  I cheered Ashley on, she is an amazing runner and person.  I had sore spots on my feet so I was babying them on the technical sections.  I needed to land just right to avoid the pain.  I had faith that I would make up some time on the short road section leading into Mayqueen. As Meredith and I made our way off the trail and onto the Pavement we almost got plowed by an oncoming minivan.  Not really something you want to deal with 87 miles into a race, but with Mayqueen in sight we focused on getting in and out quickly.

MAYQUEEN TO FINISH
Leaving Mayqueen I was about 10 seconds back from Ashley as we headed down the road towards the trail that would lead us around Turquoise Lake.  She had me pass her before entering the trail and this made me nervous.  I knew my breathing wasn't good and that they would want to go past in a short period of time.  Meredith and I would run and then my breathing would lag behind so I would be forced to walk.  My legs wanted to go!  Finally I had to resort to literally saying "Slow" to my legs.  I tried desperately to find a pace for my legs that my breathing could keep up with.  As expected many of the campers along the lake were out cheering us on and had fires.  I kept cursing them inside my head because the simple pleasure of a nice campfire was killing me.

Over the next few miles I would gap Ashely and then be forced to walk.  She did a great job with her pacer keeping things under control.  We hit the road at the end of the lake not far apart.  Now the tempeature was really starting to drop and the cold air just componded my issues once again.  She went past and I couldn't respond and that was the last I saw of her.  I started to walk and within a few minutes my stomach went from bad to worse. I stopped dead on the side of the road surrounded by nothing, but darkness and cold.  Of course Mer was there, but for her sake I wish she hadn't been.  I started puking.  I would puke and then try to breathe, puke again and then try to get some air.  I felt like I threw up 8-10 times in a row.  Stomach clearing, just all out puking.  Down the road we saw lights and it was Paul and Drew.   Paul asked what we were doing and then noticed the puddle between my legs.

Now empty, cold and short on air we continued.  My teeth were chattering, my body was shaking, my lungs and ribs sore, but I knew we had to move even if all I could do was walk.  So that's what we did for the last 3-4 miles, we walked.  It was frustrating, it was hard, but we did it.  As we came to the last stretch Meredith told me that at the car on the right we would run.  We came to the car and my walk became a "run".  My dad met us about 2 blocks from the finish and we all ran in together.  I vaguely remember crossing the line, I was told it was a time of 21:14 and then I was immediately being greeted by the medical personel.  Off to the medical tent to get some help after a long day of battling with not being able to breathe.

AFTERTHOUGHTS
Thanks to my crew, my pacers, coach, volunteers and all those supporting me out there, it truley was a team effort on this day.  I honestly couldn't do what I do without everyone and whether your words of encouragement came via email, text or phone call prior to the race or in person on race day they all helped carry me each step of the way.  Also thanks to my sponsors for the great products you make and for continuing to believe in me.  Leadville truly is a special town and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to be welcomed there will open arms.

RACE DAY GEAR
Shoes - Salomon Sense
Pack - Salomon SLab
Socks - Drymax Cycle Sock
Glasses - Julbo Trek
Watch - Suunto Ambit
Poles - Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-Poles



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

VT To Leadville~Great Living @ 10,200 Feet

Colorado, a beautiful place, but not home. My trip started with connecting with a long time childhood friend and ice hockey teammate Anna in Aurora, Colorado. She and her family were kind enough to share their home and gluten free/vegan stash. Even though I wasn't at home they sure did make this Vermonter feel as if she was. My running was supplemented with the kids planning activities for me such as floor hockey, swimming, x-box connect, soccer, Olympic updates and arts & crafts. To be honest it was comical, yet special, to have a second grader read me a bed time story as a kindergartner peered at my sleepy eyes and made sure I was tucked in tight.  

After a hard goodbye, which lead way to a promise to return soon I left the Denver area and head for the mountains to do some training on course. A friend of a friend had graciously agreed to let me stay with him for a week. Shortly upon arrival in Leadville Chris and I went out for a short run so I could stretch my legs out. We decided on running an out and back on a early dirt section of the course. As anticipated I felt like I had been dragged by the airplane to Colorado.  All and all I felt sluggish, heavy and just couldn't find my stride. I chalked it up to travel, inconsistent meals and the reality of coming from sea level to altitude. That evening Chris and I walked downtown to see what was happening for the Boom Days festivities in town. Before I knew what was going on a gun fight broke out. Okay it was a staged gun fight, but in the moment I had no idea. Very nice to meet you Chris, now let me dive behind you to use you as a shield.  I never really did understand the craziness of the Boom Days, but I think that this made them highly intriguing.


The next day brought an opportunity to run Hope Pass. Chris and I started on the Twin Lakes side and headed down the Winfield side. Rumor was that the new trail section at the bottom would not be used during the race because the permits were not granted, but we ran it anyways. The new trail was well built and added a little more climbing. I really enjoyed the sections of aspen trees and the views. After arriving at the camp ground near Winfield we turned around and headed back up the pass. It didn't take long to realize that this side is much steeper than the other, although the trade off is constant views.  On the return trip up I ran out of water and after two plus years of playing it safe after getting giardia I filled my pack with stream water.  Very cold, refreshing and hopefully plague free.  


Once Chris and I got back to the car I had 5 missed calls. My husbands mountain bike training partner Marc wanted to let me know that George was on schedule to finish the Colorado Trail Race (502 miles self supported) that evening. After getting back to the apartment I threw a few things in my backpack, made an almond butter sandwich and Durango became my next stop. 

On my drive there I was receiving tracking updates from Marc and my mom. About two hours into the drive I was told that Geo had stopped moving, an hour passed and he still wasn't moving. My first thought was that it was a break to eat or a mechanical issue. Then another hour passed without movement and I started to fear that he or the guy he had been riding with had sustained a serious injury. Finally after no moment for about 2.5 hours my mom phoned to tell me he was back to life. A little over 5 hours later I arrived at a trail head in Durango and asked others in the parking lot if I was in the right stop. Alyssa Wildeboer was quick to introduce herself and put the pieces together that our husbands we riding together. I also realized she too was running the Leadville 100. We chatted, paced back and forth and called others for updates. We finally received news that Travis and George had decided to seek shelter under a small pine tree because an electrical storm had moved in. They both napped rather than dodging lightening and that explained their lack of movement for hours.  

CTR-5 Days-502 Miles
Eventually I got impatient and started heading up the trail. It was getting dark and of course I hadn't thrown a headlamp in my pack. I had this hunch that just a little further and then a little further beyond that I would see them. Shortly after that I saw two lights headed towards me and I skittishly said "George? Travis?" before I knew it Geo was off his bike with his arms wrapped around me. I shook Travis's hand and told the boys to get it done. What an inspiring endeavor and very motivational for helping me prepare for my race.  Some photos, food and conversation at the finish and then we were off to find a hotel.  The next morning after Geo impressed me with his breakfast (2 full size waffles with peanut butter and honey, fruit, yogurt, chips, cinnamon bun, etc.) Now with a halfway hungry biker who was also barefoot we headed to Leadville. A stop for shoes, clothes, more food before hundreds of miles of driving. 

Hope Pass 12,600 Feet
The next day Chris and I headed out for an out and back from the east end of Turquoise Lake to the top of Sugarloaf. On this run it dawned on me that is course scared me because of its ruannability. Miles and miles of terrain that could be run. 

The following day brought a trip to Denver to drop Geo at the airport and another opportunity to spend some time with Anna and her family. After a good night sleep she sent me off back to Leadville with homemade gluten free brownies, cookies and cinnamon raisin bread. In the midst of driving I was able to arrange company for a Hope Pass out and back with Salomon teammate Jen Segger. It was a pleasure to get to know her and the next day we met up with Ashley Nordell to tackle the power lines section. I don't often get to train with females so I really enjoyed our time together.  

2,000 Bikers Streaming Past

Oh yes power lines, mountain bikers, the Leadville 100 mtn bike. The roads, trails and town were becoming overrun with lycra, shaved legs and expensive bikes. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to watch the start as approximately 2,000 bikers rolled to the line.  From what I saw of their course it appeared to be more of a road race on mountain bikes, but what do I know. The gun went off as I cheered for a new found friend Garret and then I ventured to Turquoise Lake for a run.  A nice run, a dip in the lake and I was now headed back to Denver to meet my parents who would be crewing for me. I was becoming overly familiar with the drive between Leadville and Denver. Alas this was the last time I would have to make the trek before the race.  

With just under a week until I toed the line I partook in a few short runs with Paul and Meredith Terranova and a hike up Hope Pass with my father as I tried to keep myself in check yet happy. Slowly throughout the week the town had emptied of bikers and filled with runners. 
My Dad Taking in the Views Headed Up Hope

























I had the opportunity to connect with more Salomon teammates and watch the start of day two of the Transrockies. Also great to see and cheer for fellow New England runners Amy Lane, Brian R, and Dave James.  When I ran TRR two years ago I enjoyed the opportunity, but was happy that I didn't have to race 6 days in a row this year.  
















As much fun as I was having socializing in the coffee shop, training with new and familiar faces and taking into the sights it was time for final preparations. Medical check in, drop bags, racer meeting, pacer coordinating, crew details, so many details to finalize as the race quickly approached.