Race Report: Tupper Lake Tinman 2018

When I crossed the finish line at Ironman Mont Tremblant in August 2016, I would have never guessed it would be almost two years before I would cross the finish line at another triathlon.

That fall I started a new job in a new field. I threw myself into work 100% and was working a lot of extra hours. I stopped training. I gave up my coach. And the one triathlon I had registered for in 2017, I DNS-ed and volunteered instead.

I was able to get back into running seriously enough to finish some races as 2017 came to a close, including the Cloudsplitter 50k, but it was a triathlon-free year. One of my best friends, Megan, and I joked that 2017 was “the year work won.”

During my volunteering stint at the 2017 iteration of Tupper Lake Tinman, I signed up for the 2018 race – frankly, because it was so ridiculously well-priced, in addition to knowing I wanted to get back into triathlon in 2018.

Fast forward to this year. I’m trying to get myself back into shape for Ironman Canada, but dealing with some other stuff (as we all are). I headed to Tupper Lake not sure what to expect of myself. At the very least, I was looking forward to a week away with my mom and Megan.

My mom and I drove up to Tupper Lake on Thursday and the weather was GLORIOUS!  We stopped for lunch at the Adirondack Hotel in Long Lake. We could look right out at the water and it was amazing.

We left there and headed to Tupper, where we checked into our hotel. We were there all of 30 minutes and I was already in a lawn chair by the lake soaking up the sun.

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Friday was another beautiful day. I went for a short spin on the bike around Tupper Lake to make sure everything was okay with my race wheels (which have also been sitting around for 22 months…) and my new cassette. I went for a short shakeout jog with Megan and then we got into our wetsuits and went for a short swim to one of the race buoys and back (one of the many benefits to staying at the motel next to the race site). The water temperature was perfect and we both felt good.

We went to lunch at Big Tupper Brewing (get the apple pie bites if you go there!!) and then to packet pick-up at the local ice rink.

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Megan and I registered so early for the race last year that we were bib numbers 12 and 13 – AND THE NUMBERS ONLY STARTED AT 10! As has been my experience in both of the years I have come to the race, everyone associated with the race is SUPER friendly and the vibe is very low pressure, which I love.

On race morning, we only had to wake up at 5:00 (VERY late in race day terms), since we were so close to the race site. Even though the weather forecast had predicted otherwise, it was raining when we got up. We knew we had plenty of time so we tried to wait-out the rain before setting up transition. Even though the rain did let up a bit, we decided to just put all of our stuff in plastic garbage bags like you would do at an Ironman to keep everything dry.

The nice thing about having such low bib numbers is that we were in the very first row and wouldn’t have any problems finding our stuff!

The weather was chilly on race morning and we were glad to be in sleeved wetsuits to keep us warm before the start. I had the pleasure of meeting Amy Farrell from the Coeur team, who I follow on social, before the swim start. Megan and I said our good lucks and waded into the water.

So, issue number one for me was that the water is really shallow where you start and I should have filled my wetsuit with water, but I didn’t because of the fact that it was only to my knees. I should have known better, but this is why you have a race to shake off the cobwebs before doing your first IM in two years!

Additionally, I did not listen to my coach and start at the back of the swim, so that’s on me. Hand up. I wanted to swim with Megan, so I lined up with her mid-pack and that was dumb. The swim start was quite rough and I immediately regretted that decision. It really through me off and it took me a long time to recover. #listentoyourcoach

On top of all of this, 1.2 miles was much longer than I remember! I’m kind of kidding, but kind of not!

Suffice it to say my swim this year was SIX MINUTES slower than my 2016 swim. OUCH! I will leave it at that.

I was so thrilled to get out of that damn lake and move on to my bike. Megan was still in transition when I got there and was waiting for me. If you know her at all, you know that is SO Megan! She is too nice for her own good! I yelled at her to go (twice!) and she finally obliged.

I tried to move swiftly to get everything out of my garbage bag. I struggled a bit to get my bike gloves on, but with the rain I really wanted to wear them to help me grip my bottles.

I ran out of transition, said “hi” to my mom as I mounted my bike, and then off I went. Shortly thereafter an ambulance came by – lights flashing, sirens blaring – and the only reason I mention this is that the bikes that didn’t pull over for the ambulance to pass encompass everything everyone hates about triathletes.

The bike course has some notable hills, but going out, I was able to keep a strong effort once I got going post swim (that always takes me some time). My race plan did not include going all out on the bike this time around and I did feel like I was able to strike a good balance between working hard and holding back ever so slightly. I was trying to remind myself to drink, even though it was cold.

On the way back, my speed slowed and I’m not sure whether that was a result of all of the passing I had to do on the way out (#shittyswimproblems), a nutrition issue, and/or a result of the wind, but knowing my goal for the day was to come in around 3:00, I wasn’t overly concerned. That being said, I know my biking is stronger than that right now, and I hope that shows in Whistler. I did have some issues getting into the big ring on the ride, and I will obviously get that looked at before Canada next month.

One thing I should note is that the roads are open to traffic for the race and in some places the shoulder is quite rough. If you haven’t ridden around a lot of cars, you should before the race, and you should get used to looking for traffic before passing (I cringed a few times as I saw athletes oblivious to what was happening around them).

The bike was relatively uneventful. I had one guy who kept passing me and sitting up. I really wanted to say “Bro, you doing intervals?” but I didn’t. I also saw one young woman with an older guy (her dad?) pulling her the entire way, which really pissed me off, but what can you do?

I came in from the bike, saw my mom again, racked my back, grabbed my bike stuff, made a quick porta potty stop, and off I went for the run.

I did not feel great for the first few miles. This is not an easy run course and I was feeling that. The negative thoughts started rolling in. Then I remembered the old “smile even though you’re feeling shitty” trick. I started talking to the volunteers and other runners and sure enough it worked. Around mile five of the run I reminded myself I was supposed to be trying to run fast and I snapped right out of my funk and started moving. It was bizarre. It was as though I had the longest warm-up ever to an 8 mile run.

I definitely do not remember the run course being this hilly in 2016, but it was a bitch. I was so proud of myself for keeping up a strong pace even with the hills. one of my miles was an 8:37, which is great for me on a hard course in a 70.3! I ended up with a 2:03 run, which I was quite pleased with.

I ended up with a 6:00:12 total race time compared to 5:56:51 in 2016, which, all things considered is pretty good.

I can’t say enough about how much I love this race. There is TONS of on course support – plenty of aid stations on the run (which is such a huge help to the athletes), and during the swim you are never far from a paddle board or canoe. The town really seems to support the race, which I always love to pay back in turn by patronizing all of the local businesses that support the event. Huge thanks to the race director, volunteers, sponsors, and the town of Tupper Lake for another great race! I will most definitely be back in 2019 for the 37th Tupper Lake Tinman!

If you want to join me, you should sign-up soon. If you register between now and Tuesday, June 26th, you can use the code RACEDAY10 for 10% off the earliest registration. Guys, that’s 145 bucks (including all fees) for a 70.3!! Registration is available at: https://register.chronotrack.com/r/40259.

Hope to see you in gorgeous Tupper Lake next June!

 

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Two Month Countdown to Whistler

I haven’t posted a training update since March. Two weeks after publishing that post, we found out that one of our two dogs had a serious issue with his heart. Within two months of that diagnosis, we had to let him go. His kidneys were failing and, I’ve learned, it’s very difficult to treat heart and kidney issues concurrently. He was almost 13, which isn’t that old by Yorkie standards and we thought we had many more years left with him. It’s obviously been a very difficult time for our family, especially me. When I first moved to D.C., before I had a job, or met my husband, it was just the two of us all on our own. He was the best snuggler and always greeted me when I got home from a morning run. My heart is broken.

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I’ve never made this blog about my personal life. It’s always been focused on my training and racing (and sharing a few recipes) and I don’t plan to change that now. But, sometimes, life interferes with training. And sometimes it does so in a very big way. Over the past two months, I’ve missed a bunch of training sessions and many of those I’ve done have lacked focus, with my mind wandering to other things. Ironman training is never perfect and I’m not going to beat myself up given these circumstances. It is what it is and that’s going to have to be good enough.

Despite all of this, with just about two months to go until Whistler, I’m actually feeling quite positive about my bike. I did my first triple digit ride of the season at the end of April (103 miles with 7,000-ish feet of climbing), followed by the Tour de Skyline (210 miles with 18,000 + feet of climbing over two days), and then the Mountains of Misery century last weekend (which ends with a four-mile 12%–16% graded climb to the finish). That gets me four triple digit rides already for the year, with lots of climbing, which is just what I need for Whistler!

Skyline with the besties!

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Skyline 2018!

My running is fine, in the truest sense of the word. Nothing to write home about, but no major concerns either (knock on wood). I’m hoping it will stop raining at some point this century so that I can get out for a few good trails runs. While I’m focused on Whistler right now, I intended to finish my first 100k trail race in the fall!

Swimming is swimming. I’m actually looking forward to the open water swim at Tupper Lake Tinman later this month, since that water is gorgeous and it will be my first open water swim in 22 months. Hope I don’t sink!

So, that’s where things are for me on the training front with a little less than two months to go until IM number 3!

 

 

 

 

 

March Training Update

I am long overdue for an update on the blog and, unfortunately, I finally have time to post one because I am on a bit of a training hiatus, but let me back-up a bit.

After a shitty year on the training/racing front in 2017, I was super excited to get started with my 2018 training. On tap for this year, I plan to do the Tour de Skyline in May, Tupper Lake Tinman in June, and Ragnar Trail West Virginia in August, all of which I have done previously. My two big races for the year are Ironman Canada in July, which will be my third Ironman (God-willing), and attempting my first ever 100k trail run at the Cloudsplitter 100 in October. As part of my bike training for Whistler, I’m planning to do the Mountains of Misery ride with Megan in May. 

Part of the issue I had with getting my training done last year was motivation – I wasn’t really excited about anything. So, that I’ve taken care of with the schedule I mentioned above. I am truly excited about all of these events and I want to be in good enough shape to enjoy them. The motivation is there.

The other major issue I had last year was time, which is especially challenging with the work I do. My job is not a 9-5. I have a lot of weeknight and weekend events to attend and I have no offsetting flexibility during the week.

This year, I switched gyms in an effort to make workouts more convenient to my office. I can get in the pool there an entire hour earlier than my old pool, and it’s only 5 minutes from my office, so my commute is already taken care of before I swim. On the really big workout mornings, I pack coffee to drink along with my Bobo’s bar on the way to the pool, so that takes care of breakfast, too.

I started back with a real training schedule on 1/1 and while the 4:30 a.m. wake ups were a shock to the body, I loved being tired and sore from training again.

Back at it on the treadmill.

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Unfortunately, I only made it through about 2.5 weeks of training and then injured the cartilage in my ribs (totally a freak injury). Rib injuries are painful. I would say I wouldn’t wish one on my worst enemy, but truthfully, it’s the perfect thing to wish on your worst enemy! It’s that bad. Even sneezing hurts.

I took a few days of total rest and then was able to do some work on the trainer, but I didn’t swim for almost a month and only did a few baby runs in that time.

Actually missed being in the pool during the rib injury.

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I finally started getting back on track after the injury and then my routine was disrupted again when I went to California on a work trip over the long President’s Day weekend. I was working 18 hour days on this trip and really just wore my body down. I took a red eye home that Tuesday and then went to a work event that same day. I didn’t let myself have any downtime and I think it just all caught up with me.

I ended up getting sick and just couldn’t get better. I would have one okay day, and then exercise for two hours and work a ten hour workday and wonder why I felt sick again the following day. I actually took a sick day from work and stayed in bed an entire day (my first sick day ever at this job), but even the day home didn’t do me any good.

I tried getting out for a run one Sunday afternoon, but regretted it on Monday when my cold was worse again.

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I finally got to the breaking point and went to local urgent care clinic. The NP who originally greeted me in the exam room was lovely, but I guess she was in training. Her boss came in – a spunky older lady – and read me the riot act. She basically yelled at me and told me that I have a “Type A” personality and needed to give my body a break or I was going to end up with pneumonia. She told me I wasn’t allowed to run for 8 days. I replied “how do you feel about swimming?” and I actually thought she might reach across the bed and grab me by the neck and kill me. This woman meant business. I left with five different drugs and strict orders to rest. Not what you want to hear with less than two months until Skyline.

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Rest for any more than two days is too much and I am currently driving my husband and coworkers crazy because I don’t have training as an outlet. 

For my sake, and theirs, I hope to be back at it soon! 

Mini Race Report: Rehoboth Marathon 2017 

It’s always more fun to write race reports for PRs, but despite my somewhat lackluster result in Rehoboth last weekend, I’m in a delightful mood as I write this because I’m Hawaii-bound for a long-awaited vacation with my husband! I am literally typing up this blog post from 34,000 feet in the air (isn’t technology amazing??). This is our first vacation that’s (1) just the two of us, and (2) not planned around a marathon or triathlon, since our honeymoon in 2011, which seems like an eternity ago.

What better way to get over a disappointing race, than spending some time on the beach sipping a frozen drink out of a pineapple, right?

So, to sum up my performance in Rehoboth, my goal was to run under 4:10 (and my training led me to believe I might even be able to approach 4:05), with a worst case scenario result being a 4:30. I ended up splitting the baby and coming in at 4:19. Definitely not the worst race of my life, but slower than my training would have indicated.

I’m dealing with a minor injury and it was apparent at around mile 10 that it was going to be issue. I ended up taking four ibuprofen during the race (and I had taken two before the start), which I don’t recommend. I’m back to seeing Dr. Grove who says I should be back to normal in about four weeks, just in time for my 50k in January.  From her lips to God’s ears.

Although I ran 8 minutes slower than last year, even though this year’s race had better weather conditions (much less wind), I’m still in love with this course and recommend it to anyone who wants to race a scenic, flat course. It’s really as close as you can get to running a trail race without actually running a trail race.

That being said, I’m not sure I’ll be back again next year. I’ve registered for my first ever 100k (eek!), which will take place in October 2018. I’m not sure how training will go for that and how my body will recover afterward, so for now, I’m not planning to make any marathon racing decisions for next December.

However, if you are looking for a fun marathon experience on a fast course, I definitely recommend Rehoboth.

Race Report: Richmond Half Marathon

I’m not exactly sure why or when, but sometime over the summer I decided to register for the Richmond Half Marathon on November 11.

It’s a convenient local-ish race and one I have quite a positive history with. While I’ve never run the half marathon distance, I’ve run the Richmond Marathon a total of three times. It was the site of my very first marathon (in 2009) and the third time I ran it (in 2014), I achieved a pretty big PR. Because of that, Richmond has always held a special place in my heart. Richmond is also known as “America’s friendliest marathon” and while that may be a bit of hyperbole, I have always appreciated the tremendous course support at the race.

Registering for the half distance this year created some training challenges, as I’d be coming off the Cloudsplitter 50k, just 5 weeks earlier on October 7. Suffice it to say, training for a trail 50k and training for a road half couldn’t be more different. The former requires a strength/endurance focus, while the latter, speed. I didn’t have much turnaround time – just three weeks – once I factored in recovery after the 50k and taper for the half. My training largely consisted of some of my “favorite” Team HPB speed sessions on the treadmill and one two-hour tempo run outside two weeks before the race. I was able to nail that tempo session, which made me feel fairly confident heading into Richmond, but you never know how you’ll feel on race day.

Speaking of race day, the weather leading up to race day was a bit of a puzzle for me. I usually run hot, but with temps predicted to be in the 20s, I wasn’t sure how to approach dressing for the race. I ended up packing three outfits with progressing levels of warmth – (1) capris and a lightweight long sleeve; (2) tights and a lightweight long sleeve; and (3) tights and a mid-weight long sleeve and a very lightweight wind vest. More on that shortly.

Richmond is always a Saturday race, which I normally love because you have Sunday to recover. However, this year, it presented some challenges for me. I had a work event the day before and it wasn’t something I could skip or leave early. My normal eating would also be thrown off, as lunch would be catered in and there weren’t any vegan options. I should have packed a PB&J, but hindsight is 20-20.

In any case, by the time I left the event and drove down to Richmond in rush hour traffic I was tired and starving. I’ve never, ever, moved so quickly to get in and out of an expo. I probably spent a total of two minutes running in, grabbing my bib and teeshirt, and running out. My bib number was 12666, by the way. Not a good omen.

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After I left the expo, I checked into my hotel (the Candlewood Suites, which I highly recommend if you’re doing this race!), ate spaghetti I packed from home, laid out all of my gear for the next morning, and went to bed.

On race morning, I settled on the medium warmth outfit – tights and a lightweight long sleeve. I followed my standard race morning routine with regard to breakfast, got in my car, and drove the ten minutes into Richmond only to realize that I didn’t have cash to park in the parking garage. #racemorningfail

Luckily traffic was light and I was able to scoot back to my hotel, grab cash, get back to the parking garage, and run to the start just in the nick of time. It definitely wasn’t an ideal way to start the morning.

By the time I got to the start line I was feeling really hot. I normally leave on a layer of throwaway clothes – at least a light shirt – at the start when it’s cold (and in this case, temps were in the low 20s), but I was so warm, the only extra layers I wore were gloves and a headband. I ditched the rest of my layers in the coral. I assumed I was warm because I had a bit of a frantic morning, but it ended up that I was coming down with a stomach bug – more on that in a bit.

My race strategy was similar to what I did at the Rehoboth Marathon in December 2016. I set my Garmin to only show my pace and distance for the mile (lap) I was in and as soon as the mile past, I put it out of my mind. I tried to focus on staying relaxed and getting into a rhythm, but I just didn’t feel right. I didn’t know I was getting sick at the time, so it was a mystery to me, but I just tried to focus on my cadence and nutrition. I’ve learned over the years that you can only focus on what you can control during a race.

At one point, the half course has an out and back section and I noticed there were some speedsters heading back as I was heading out. I figured I would probably see Alyssa during this stretch, so I moved to the right so I had a better line of sight. I did end up seeing her and I was able to give her a quick cheer. It gave me a boost, too, to see a familiar face.

I ditched my gloves and headband in the park (at about half way) and in retrospect, might have been better off in a tee shirt and arm warmers because it was warming up (or, I was warming up). I definitely should have worn sunglasses. It was really perfect fall racing weather with the brisk temps and sunny skies.

My only physical issue during the race was a tight left hip flexor, which I paused to stretch, but was otherwise able to work through.

The half marathon course was definitely not as scenic as I remember the full course being in my three prior Richmond Marathon experiences. Maybe that is true, maybe I am remembering incorrectly – OR, more likely, maybe I’ve been spoiled by all of the trail running I’ve been doing over the past year. In any case, between that, the cold temps keeping the spectators away, and not feeling quite 100%, I can’t say this was quite the usual Richmond experience for me. That being said, I kept my head in the game, focused on my nutrition, and ended up crossing the line in 1:56.28.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to celebrate a solid race because after I got back my hotel and showered, I ended up getting quite sick with a stomach bug. I will spare you the details, but it was unpleasant to say the least and definitely not the ideal way to recover after a race effort (especially with a full marathon on the schedule just three weeks later).

The stomach bug was mostly better in about 24 hours, but I didn’t feel right for several days. With the short turnaround time to the Rehoboth Marathon, I didn’t have much time to rest and recover. Just one week post race I did a 3:30 easy effort so that I would get in at least one long endurance run before the full. That run actually went decently well, which was a pleasant surprise. I was even able to go to a “Friendsgiving” and have fun that evening, which is pretty good considering I ran over 21 miles.

Now, I’m tapering and focusing on nutrition, rest, and recovery for the next two weeks as I prepare for Rehoboth on December 2. I also want to keep stretching out the hip flexor so that I don’t have to worry about that on race day, and foam rolling to make sure I can stay injury-free for my last race of 2017. My goal in Rehoboth is to run a 4:10 or faster, which will be a challenge, but is certainly within the realm of possibility, as I ran a 4:11 and change there last year.

Race Report: Cloudsplitter 50k

The stars have aligned and I find myself with a rare day off on the day after returning home from my big 50k, which means I can actually blog about my race in a timely fashion! #smallmiracles

While my Cloudsplitter 50k experience is still sinking in, I can absolutely without a doubt say that everything about this weekend was amazing and I will be back again next year!

So, let me back up and catch up on the blog from where I last left off, which was after Ragnar Trail WV in August. September was a really tough month for me with lots of travel and events. I lost a weekend of training to attend a USA Triathlon coaching certification clinic and to coach at a race in Williamsburg, VA; and another weekend to attend a family event in New York. I also ran Ragnar, Washington D.C., which was a TON of fun, but not ideal training for a trail race (and, if I’m being totally honest with myself, left me not in the best place on the sleep/taking care of myself front). Don’t get me wrong, all of those were good things, but my training definitely took a back seat.

Having fun at Ragnar Washington, D.C.

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In light of this, I wasn’t feeling super confident in the weeks leading up to the race, but as Megan said, we told too many people we were doing it to back out, so we were going to go for it and hope for the best!

Megan and I left for Norton on the Thursday before the Saturday race. Half of Megan’s car was filled with food. Truly, if we would have needed to, we could have driven cross-country and back and still had plenty of food to spare. #triathleteproblems

Traffic was nuts with the long holiday weekend and it took us something like 7 hours to get to Norton, which is the Westernmost city in Virginia, from Oakton (poor Megan tacked on an extra hour of driving before she even got to me).

Norton is a small town, with absolutely gorgeous mountainous scenery and the friendliest people you could ever meet. Megan and I joked that I need a “Norton’s #1 Fan” tee shirt for next year. More on that in a bit.

We didn’t do much on Thursday other than checking in to the Super 8 motel in Norton and going to bed.

On Friday, since we didn’t have anything to do before the pre-race meeting at 6:00 p.m., we went for a short shake out run (ohh-ing and ahh-ing over the scenery the entire time!) and then we made the short drive to Jenkins, KY to visit the Coal and Railroad Museum. The museum is tiny, but I think for both of us, it really started sinking in that this area of the country has been hit hard by the coal industry’s decline. These are hard working people who truly built America into what it is today, and it is a shame to see the area struggling.

We spoke to two older ladies at the museum and before we had an opportunity to tell them we were in town for the race, one of them shared how the warm winter led to an abundance of Copperhead snakes this summer, especially at night.

Megan and I just looked at one another without trying to show visible distress. Not exactly something you want to hear the day before a trail race that you are anticipating finishing in the dark, but bless her heart, she didn’t know that!

After a quick stop at the grocery store for even more food, we headed back to the hotel.

We both reviewed the race guide and website one more time and were happy to discover that what we thought was going to be a 35 mile race with almost 10,000 feet of climbing was actually going to be a 31 mile race with 7,700 feet of climbing. The race moved from Kentucky to Virginia over the summer and course profiles on the website hadn’t been updated until recently. While this was still going to be a BIG challenge, the easier course profile came as a pleasant surprise to two ladies who have been in better shape in their lives!

Megan and I originally met back in the spring or summer of 2015 when we were both training with Alyssa for our first Ironmans later that year. I can’t remember exactly when we met, but we really got to know each other at Team HPB Camp East that summer. That was back in the day of two-a-days every day and 100 mile bike rides. Neither of us has seen that kind of training in awhile.

Unfortunately, we found ourselves both taking a break from Ironman in 2017 (we’re calling 2017 “the year that work won”). As I’ve talked about a bit here, I started a new job about a year ago and getting into the swing of things there really took priority this past year.

In any case, Megan had messaged me back in April saying that she was thinking about doing a spring trail race and wanted me to join her. One of the races she was considering was the “Rhododendron Run” which was scheduled for June. I read about the race and it sounded amazing, but the date wasn’t going to work for me. She said another race on the same course was happening in October – Cloudsplitter. That’s when I really got excited. Reading the messages now is funny, but we had some discussion back and forth about doing the 25k versus the 50k distance. Megan said “We aren’t doing Ironman. We might as well run for 10 hours. Or 13 hours.”

So, fast forward to the pre-race meeting in Norton on Friday evening, I was starting to get really nervous and to question why we thought doing this race was a good idea. Everyone at the meeting looked extremely fit and I was intimidated. As I said, the Cloudsplitter 50k course consists of 7,700 feet of elevation gain over 31 miles, which is by far the toughest course profile I’ve ever encountered in a running race.

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The closest thing I have to compare that to is riding about 10,000 feet of elevation gain over 105 miles on my bike on Skyline. When something feels hard on a bike, it’s going to feel *really* hard on foot!

We both checked-in, got our bibs and race shirts, and checked out the race bling. I was excited to see the medals in person, as they are absolutely stunning and very different from other race medals I’ve seen.

We took our seats and then heard from Fred Ramey, the Norton City Manager. As I said on Facebook:

In all of my years of racing I have never received such a warm welcome from local officials as I did tonight from the City of Norton, Virginia! They were clearly so excited and appreciative about this race coming to their town. This area has lost a lot of coal industry jobs and their economy has taken a hit over the past several years. They are trying to reposition themselves as a destination for outdoor enthusiasts, and being here for just a short time, I can see why. If you like the outdoors, hiking, mountain biking, etc., this is a beautiful place to visit! I hope to come back again! Thank you for the warm welcome!

For the rest of the weekend, I referred to Fred as “my favorite city manager.” I have seriously never, ever, met someone so excited to have a race in his town!

We also heard from a wildlife expert (I believe his name was Seth), who spoke to us about some safety topics (e.g. “announce” yourself so that the bears know you’re coming), but also provided interesting information about some of the unique wildlife species in this area. For example, High Knob has something like 50 species of mussels, many of which are endangered. As an aside, you have GOT to take a few minutes and watch this video about Hellbenders, which are North Americas largest salamanders and can grow to two feet in length!

Seth was also really excited about the race being in town and you could tell was so proud to share High Knob with us.

The race director then explained the course markings. In addition to yellow dollar-sized blazes on the trees, we should also watch out for pink surveyor’s tape along the course. The surveyor’s tape also had reflective tape attached to make the marks visible in the dark.

We got back to the hotel and sorted through our clothes and food for the following day. We also packed up our shared “drop bag,” which we would be able to access around mile 9. It’s kind of like an Ironman special needs bag and I overpacked, of course!

On race morning, I made a game time decision to use my trekking poles after seeing several other racers with them at the start. It was also dark at the start, which we hadn’t expected, so I decided at the very last minute to wear my headlamp. Based on our paces from Ragnar Trail WV, especially when running at night on the more technical trail there, Megan and I estimated we needed about 12 hours to finish Cloudsplitter, so we planned to finish in the dark, but not to start in the dark. Thankfully, we were prepared. 

We took a quick photo, I took one last swig of Gatorade, the local boy scout troop fired a black powder rifle, and off we went!

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The first mile of the out and back 50k course is on pavement and mostly uphill. Less than two minutes into the race we overheard one of the runners say that she hadn’t practiced running hills because she does Crossfit. Considering the elevation gains on the Cloudsplitter course, I’m not sure that was the most advisable of training plans, but I digress.

Megan and I trotted along up the hills. Many people walked this, but we both wanted to warm-up a bit, and we most definitely weren’t setting any speed records. We got to the trailhead and proceeded to form a long train with other runners along the single-track course. We followed their lead and ran when they ran and walked when they walked.

This first section of the course (the most difficult for the 50k distance) included several steep sections that left me out of breath even hiking. We went up one particularly challenging climb only to see my favorite city manager standing at the top cheering us on, taking photographs, and directing us along the trail!

Fred Ramey took the photo below. I’m third in line here, wearing a dark colored hat. 

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I was definitely glad I chose to bring the trekking poles along this portion of the course, as getting my footing was tricky in several stretches.

At the first aid station, around 4-5 miles in, we checked in (in lieu of having timing mats along the course, runners needed to check in at every station by bib number for safety reasons and to ensure no one cut the course), and I grabbed some pretzels. The volunteers were fantastic, as they would be throughout the day!

We didn’t linger at the aid station because we wanted to be able to stay with our group. We were with a great group of runners – one 100k-er, a couple of 100 milers, another 50k runner, and I’m sure others who I couldn’t quite hear.

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One of the 100 mile runners, Aimee, has FOUR kids and this was her third attempt to finish a 100 miler. One man from West Virginia trained for an ultra running one-mile loops around his neighborhood when his wife was pregnant. So many stories. Everyone was chatting and very friendly. The experienced runners were answering questions and offering advice to us. We figured out that several of us had connections to Ohio – either living there or going to school there. It was like a party and it made the miles go so fast! Again, we followed their lead and ran when they ran and walked when they walked.

Megan and I kept reminding each other to eat and drink. She would yell to me “I’m taking a gel!” I would check-in with her “Are you drinking?” It was perfect!   

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The scenery was amazing. Unfortunately, most of my GoPro photos didn’t come out, but it was beautiful. Sometimes I would have to look up (even though it’s always advisable to look at your feet so you don’t trip) so that I could take in the views. Although this course usually has numerous water crossings, it’s been a dry summer and we had only a few tricky streams to navigate. The foliage was just starting to change and I was able to snap a few pics of the treetops.

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Soon enough we hit High Knob Tower, which we decided to visit on our way back, and then the second aid station shortly thereafter. I decided to leave my poles in my drop bag. I drank some Coke, refilled my pack with fluids, and on we went.

At the High Knob Observation Tower sign the first time around.

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We hit the third aid station, which was about .5 miles from the turn around for the 50k. We ran along a gravel road (it actually reminded my a bit of Ridge Road in Charlottesville) to a metal pail that housed a book. We had to rip a page out of the book and run it back to the aid station as evidence that we completed the full distance.

At this point, I was feeling fantastic and we were WAY ahead of our estimated turnaround time (about 90 minutes ahead of schedule). I had another cup of Coke, took some ibuprofen, and we started to head back the way we came.

Even though I felt great and would have loved to run more of the course on the return, we were either dealing with steep ascents/descents or lots of loose rocks on the flats.

This was one of the sections that had a lot of loose rocks. I can’t imagine what this was like for the 100k and 100 mile runners, who had to pass through this section after the rain on Saturday night.

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Unfortunately, most of our group was continuing on past the aid station, so when we turned around, it was primarily just the two of us heading back. We ran a few miles with Bobbi from Fail, Laugh, Learn, who I had the pleasure of meeting in person at Cloudsplitter (on the course, no less!) after connecting online through our blogs.

Being by ourselves, we had to pay much more attention to the course markings, as opposed to just following along with the group. There were a couple of times where I felt like I had gone a bit without seeing a marking, but we were actually always on course and just needed to go a bit farther to see a mark.

On our own on the return.

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We got back to the aid station with the drop bags, and although we didn’t think we would have access to them this time, our bag was, in fact, there. That was a pleasant surprise. I had some more Coke at this stop and I believe this is when I started eating my peanut butter-filled pretzels.

Shortly thereafter, we made it back to High Knob Tower and this time took a moment to check out the views. The photos don’t do it justice AT ALL, but you can see four additional states from the tower – NC, KY, WV, and TN. It was nice to take a bit of a break and we had been told at one of the aid stations that after the tower it was downhill, so it was a nice place to mentally regroup.

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We arrived back at the first aid station, which meant we had less than 5 miles to go. I was in a great rhythm at this point and didn’t want to stop, but one of the volunteers told me that the runner two in front of me had a bear “encounter” with three black bears. From that moment on, I kept thinking I was hearing things in the woods.

Megan and I started “announcing” ourselves, as per the wildlife expert’s recommendation. “Bears, we are announcing ourselves!” “Bears don’t like eating vegans anyway!” Megan had the best announcement of the day: “We have a dog!” I could not stop laughing about that one. All I could imagine was our Labradoodle, who is afraid of his own shadow, encountering a black bear and being scared out of his mind, but for some reason Megan thought a dog would be a *really* big deterrent to a black bear eating us for lunch!

With maybe 2-3 miles to go, Megan said I could run ahead, which I did. I felt a little stiff, and my feet were hurting, but I otherwise felt really great, and I was able to pick up the pace, especially once I hit the pavement for that last mile. 

I ended up finishing in about 8:45, which was much faster than our predicted 12:00 (but of course slower as compared with my last 50k which was around 6:30). 

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As I was waiting at the finish for Megan, none other than my favorite city manager arrived. Apparently, he saw Megan running toward the finish and gave her a high five. God, I love him! He was at the finish to take more photos and cheer the runners on. We chatted for a bit and I introduced myself. I had some water and then I saw Megan coming down the street.

Megan is a tough chick and even though she was clearly in pain, she finished strong, with a big smile!

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Back at the hotel, we assessed our blisters (NOT a good situation!), considered whether we were better off just throwing away our smelly clothes (we did not), ate all the food, drank wine, and watched the Golden Girls. It was the perfect way to end the weekend.

I can’t wait to go back to Norton for Cloudsplitter again next year!

Next up for me is the Richmond half marathon on November 11, followed by the Rehoboth full in early December. I’ll be returning to the PHUNT 50k in January and then focusing on the bike for Whistler. 

Cloudsplitter Training Update & Ragnar Trail WV

In what surely must be a sign of the end of times, I find myself with nothing to do on this Sunday evening but to recover from Ragnar Trail West Virginia, so I thought I would pour myself a glass of wine and catch-up on the blog.

Cloudsplitter training is going well. I’ve had a few training adventures since my last update, including running Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park with Megan in Front Royal.

If you’re at all familiar with this part of Skyline, you know that the first 4.5 miles from the park entrance to Dickey Ridge are almost exclusively uphill. It isn’t a steep incline, by any means, but it’s long and steady. We started by running downhill from Dickey Ridge (video here), which felt great until we stopped at the bottom to take a photo and then started running again. The quads definitely felt that descent.

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We headed back uphill at a much slower pace, but with the humidity, I was soaking wet by the time we got back to the car. For running just 9 miles, I was more sore than I would have liked, which means we need to tackle this one again in the coming weeks.

Last weekend, I did a long trail run on a trail that I haven’t run since last December, when I was training for the PHUNT 50k. I thought that surely the run would feel easier with all of the trail-specific training I have been doing, but, alas, trails are humbling. I always start with so much excitement that I wear myself out, and it’s a good reminder to me that I need to start Cloudsplitter with a very slow and measured pace.

I stopped around half way to send this photo to Megan, with the message “I’m dying!” or something along those lines.

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Why do trail miles always feel twice as hard as road miles?

The following day, I did one of my least favorite Team HPB workouts on the treadmill, thinking that running a hard workout on tired legs would be good Cloudsplitter training. Unfortunately, about an hour post-gradient set and near death, I arrived to coach our youth athletes and instead of riding around in circles at 15 mph, I ended up riding 20 miles with our junior team, which is a very different kind of workout! Did I say trails were humbling? Nothing humbles like trying to exercise with people who can’t even drink yet.

After a few easy swim and jog-only days, it was off to West Virginia for Ragnar Trail. I did a road Ragnar back in 2013, and while I didn’t love that experience, I knew this would be great training for Cloudsplitter.

The trail version of Ragnar is very different from the road version. You have a team of 8 runners, instead of 12. You camp out (something I haven’t done since high school) instead of moving from place-to-place in vans. There are three designated trail routes – one “red,” one “yellow,” and one “green” trail. From a central starting point, each of your team’s runners take turns running each loop one time. The first runner runs the green trail and when she returns, the second runner leaves for the yellow trail. When she returns, the third runner runs the red trail. When she returns, the cycle starts again with the fourth runner running the green trail. So on and so forth, until your eighth runner finishes her third run.

Seven of our eight runners are members of Moms Run This Town (MRTT), and Megan joined in on the fun to train for Cloudsplitter.

You’re always rolling the dice when you do these kind of things, but I have to say our team was awesome! Absolutely no issues or drama whatsoever and we didn’t have “that person” (unless “that person” was me!) who inevitably always pisses everyone else off.

Our theme was rainbows, which meant rainbow everything all weekend long – nails, wrist bands, tattoos, outfits, glowing hair thingies, etc. ((Photo credits go to my teammates, as almost all of the photos I’m posting were taken by someone else and at this point I can’t remember who I stole which pic from!))

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My favorite of the three trails was the yellow trail, which included running through a breathtaking pine forest. It was truly stunning. Yes, this was the least technical of all of the trails and probably did the least to help me for Cloudsplitter, but goodness, it was fun!

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It took our team a total of 29-ish hours to complete all of our runs, so we were running through the night. Megan and I doubled-up on two of our runs, so our night run was about 2:40 long (consisting of a red route and a green route) that started around 12:30 a.m. Running trails in the dark is MUCH harder than I anticipated, and I thought it would be hard. The fear of tripping and breaking a limb is real, and was especially so on the red trail, which was BY FAR the most technical of the three (the colors seem to have corresponded with the length of the route, as opposed to the technical difficulty of the route). We kept saying that if we got injured there would be no Cloudsplitter, so there was more power walking than running through much of the night. Thank God I’m from New York and power walking is in my blood!

This is Megan and I right before leaving camp for our nighttime runs. Sparkly hair thingies courtesy of our teammate Ashley.

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I ended up with about 22 miles total and my last of my three runs was the strongest. YAY for nailing my nutrition over the course of the first day! #thanksalyssa Whenever I wasn’t running I was thinking about what to eat and making smart choices. As soon as I finished my runs, I was getting in calories whether I wanted to or not. I think this is what made the difference between my first Ragnar experience and this one. I also felt absolutely no pace pressure from my team, which made the whole event so much more fun for me.

I loved getting to run with Megan (pictured in the GoPro shot below) and I think we are both feeling more positive about Cloudsplitter after this experience.

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I could honestly write a zillion more things about my time in West Virginia, but I will spare you all of those details. Suffice it to say, it was a great trip and I’m already looking forward to next year!

My only other update since my last post is that I registered for the 2018 iteration of Ironman Canada. I really missed doing Ironman this year, and although I have absolutely no clue how I am going to manage my day job, coaching, and Ironman training, I’m sure I’ll figure it out!

Two months to go! #cloudsplitter50k