Sunday, September 18, 2016

Boulder Field 50k Race Report 2016

Race Summary - Short Version

What went well

1. More speed than I knew I had.  2nd female overall! That was SO unexpected.      
2. Stomach/nutrition good.  Aid stations and volunteers were excellent.  
3. Amazing weather and an interesting course - perfect day.  Cloudy and temps in low 70s.    
4. Only 2 small blisters / feet did well on a rocky course.  My Hyner Smart wool ankle socks seem to do the trick for me.  I do want to try my Injinji socks again.  
5. Did well on down hills / let go of fear (mostly) and was aggressive.   
6. Did well with 1 headphone in last 14 miles. I haven't used them in trail race before because I'm usually with my friend Michelle. It was a treat and if someone started talking to me I just turned them off. 
7. I met a runner who lives near me who has done a couple 100s and am hoping to stay in touch.

What went not so well

1. Forgot my Tailwind - luckily had Nuun and 33Shake with me. I was very hungry by end of race.  Luckily this was the only thing I forgot since I wasn't well prepared and need to prep father ahead (per coach Ann's instructions).
2. There was allot more running and less hiking than I expected!  Only 2 climbs in 1st loop and then some big ones at end. I'm accustomed  to hiking allot more so was pretty tired in last 6 miles. I learned during this race that I like more mountains.  
3.  I missed my friend Michelle. I think I've gotten so used to running with her that I've become somewhat dependent. At around mile 14 I had some mental bumps, but my headphones helped allot. 
4. My right leg is sore - kinda the usual. I took one stumble early on around mile 5 that was kinda jarred my whole body.  One fall isn't bad though.  
5. I kept thinking - how will I ever do 100?  It got in my head and I think it's because I was running faster than normal for that distance. 
6. I need new shoes.  I like the stability and handling in my Saucony Peregrine, but I have 2 complaints - the laces always untie at some point (regardless of dbl knot) and they are tight by the end of the race.  Maybe I will try Altra or Innov8 again.
7. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but I definitely didn't follow my race plan to start more conservatively.  I think that for longer distances with more elevation I will need to take pacing more seriously.  

Race Report - Long Version

There were a couple reasons I signed up for the Boulder Field 50k:
  1. I have lived in PA for over 10 years and am constantly talking about the Poconos so I thought this was a great way to see a new park - and it's only a 1.5 hour drive away from Ambler.
  2. I like UberEndurance Sports events - their German themes remind me of my German parents and all their friends I grew up with at our German Club in Troy, NY.
  3. My friend Amanda was also doing it and it's nice to have a familiar face there.   
  4. Coach Ann thought it was a great training race for the Mountain Massochist 50 miler I am signed up for on November 5th.


Not gonna lie - I almost bailed on this race last week.  The kids starting school and me starting a new job had the majority of my attention and energy.  I was logistically and mentally under prepared, but I knew I was in good physical shape.  My new boss and husband Mike encouraged me to go spend some time alone in the woods - I won't read into that too much!  Part of the benefit of having a coach is that Ann sends me a note and asks me for a race plan and goals.  So, at a minimum I had thought the basics through.  Here was my race plan:
Pack tonight - weather forecast looks great.  Packing 33 shakes and Tailwind for my pack.  There are aid stations 5-6 mi apart so i don't feel I need a drop bag.

Depart at 4:45 for race, packet pick up 6:20, Race starts at 7am
Race is 4000 feet of elevation gain total - so not too bad.  
I plan to take the 1st 10 miles on the more conservative side, the 2nd 10 more moderate, and the last 10 all I have left.  I may stay with a friend to start and then will likely break out on my own for the rest.  
Hydrate every 30 mins min and calories every hour is my plan!

A goal - finish in 6 hours (11:35 pace - aggressive)
B goal - finish is 6.5 hours (12:30 pace - possible)
C goal - finish in 7 hours (13:31 PACE - doable)
non time goal - enjoy the day, talk to people, thank volunteers, have fun with my friend on the ride, be grateful for a healthy strong body :)

Race day

Great moon to light up the arrival of the Boulder Field 50k at 6:15am

Amanda and me uncharacteristically cool and collected at the race start

Starting line - no one lined up yet 5 mins before the start - gotta love trail runners

Sunrise at Sand Spring Lake
The race started promptly at 7am after some opening remarks from Stephan the race director.  He let us know the course was a figure 8 where the first loop was 12 miles and the tougher of the 2 loops. The 2nd loop after coming back through the start was 19 miles and we would reach the Boulder Field at mile 20.

There were less than 200 people running so it didn't feel congested at the start.  Amanda and I went off together comfortably down the road before we hit single track and got conga lined for the next mile or so and got separated.  I was trying to remind myself that it was a long race and it was A-OK to be hiking, but admittedly the start and stopping had me antsy and as soon as I could comfortably pass I did.    

The course map and pace/elevation chart from Sunnto.

I ran pretty fast (for me) for miles 2 through 10 and I felt really solid.  Mile 3 was my 2nd fastest mile of the race! I took one spill taking in the view around mile 6.5 and tripping over a rock, which jarred my body.  Luckily I fell to the side since the alternative forward was a decent ledge.  I was nervous standing up to see what was going to happen, but all was good!   

I spent much less time than normal at aid stations, but grabbed water refills, gummi bears, and bacon. The salt was so good!  I talked to a couple guys and only passed one woman, which I found a little odd at this point, but didn't think too much about it.  I was more worried that I was going too fast and I was going to bonk.  But, those thoughts didn't change my effort.....

Around mile 9.5 we re-crossed a small footbridge and then started a 2 mile gradual climb back to the starting line.  There were great views along the way including a cool waterfall.  During this 2 miles I passed the last woman I would see until the finish.   

Back at the starting line I took a little bit longer of a break at the aid station to enjoy some amazing PBJs.  Why does PBJ taste so good during races?  I have a mental block with loops and going through the starting line.  But, I quieted my mind, looked at my watch and noticed I was a little over 2 hours into the race, and got back out there.

The next section of the course was tough for me for me.  I felt like it was the slightest of uphills - not enough to warrant hiking and enough to make running a big effort.  I decided that my "reward" at the 15.5 mile aid station would be use one headphone and listen to some music. My normal running partner Michelle wasn't with me and I didn't have that ray of sunshine that I was accustomed to.  I've never used headphones during a trail race and admittedly kinda turned my nose up at those who did. It worked out great for me- my mood lifted and I found that when I wanted to talk to someone I just turned them off for a bit.  

 The boulder field was created about 20,000 years ago
 during the most recent glacial period
The terrain for the next 2 to 3 miles leading to the Boulder Field was fairly rocky and technical - reminding me of my last race in August at the Escarpment in the Catskills - the highlight of the race for me. The Boulder Field was so unique and the photo doesn't capture the expanse of the field of size of the individual boulders. I totally took my time and enjoyed it.

At the end of the field a woman told me I was the 2nd woman she saw and the 1st woman wasn't too far ahead (turned out she was quite a bit ahead)!  I was so surprised.  That was the boost I needed to keep pushing on hard rather than slowing down to something closer to my comfort zone.

After the Boulder Field aid station I was very focused on moving strong and steady to the final aid station.  After looking at the course data I see I was running downhill which definitely was a big part in why I felt like I was flying!
Cool/creepy tunnel.

The last aid station showed mile marker 24.5 on my watch and the guys said they thought we were at mile 26.  I knew I was tired based on the mental annoyance I had at the discrepancy.  I got over it.  Those last miles were tough.  There was a little bit more down after the aid station, but after that it was climbing for the next 3 plus miles.  There were a couple sections where I would spot a tree and set that as my goal.  I just made manageable chunks of landmarks so that I could have mini mental celebrations.

I caught up with a runner named Tom that I had been leapfrogging with and we chatted a bit about his 100 mile races experiences. Part of why I love trail races is how generous runners are with their advice and encouragement.  I did my best to keep up with Tom the last mile and it was my fastest of the race!

I ended up being the 2nd female overall and finished in 5:27:24.  My watch read 29.5 miles, which is a bit short of 50k, but I wasn't complaining.  It was cool to run faster than I expected, see some new trails, and make new friends - a success for the day!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Escape the Cape Oly Tri 2016 Race Report

I signed up for Escape the Cape in November with my race partner Michelle and it snuck up on us!  I think we had so much attention on our 50k that it just wasn't on our radar.  We got a last minute hotel reservation in Wildwood Crest that was a short drive to Cape may and included a pool and was right on the beach - perfect for our 3 kiddos.

Training leading up tho this race was pretty lop sided toward running.  My swimming was minimal and I did a 25 mile bike a couple weeks before.  I did some spinning on the trainer, but most of my training was on the trails.  With that in mind, my goal was to finish under 3 hours and have fun.  In all honesty I wasn't super excited about this race.

The race itself went pretty well and it was fun to have our families with us to make a weekend out of it.  I'm on the fence if I will do it again next year.  It could be allot easier with logistics since we know what we're doing now.

The good:
1. I was very comfortable in the water.  The waves were the biggest I had ever swam in, but I had been told that the current was in our favor.  After jumping from the barge into the water and getting my bearings I was able to kinda coast in.
2. My bike time was fast for me.  On the bike, I'm better on flats that climbs.  18.6 mph avg pace.
3. The kids and mike were there to cheer me on.  I always love having them there and appreciate that it's a PIA for Mike.

The Not So Good:
1. The run was hot and kinda boring.  I've been spoiled by shady trails with beautiful scenery at a slower pace.  This was an out and back course in the hot sun with 3 beach stretches.  I was also ready to have my tri suit OFF at this point.
2. Hurry up and wait to get on a bus to transition, wait to get on the ferry, wait for the ferry to leave, wait in the food line, wait to get bike out of transition.  Lines, lines, lines.  It's a big race, I guess that's how it goes.
3. The bike course had allot of turns and was 2 loops which I'm not a big fan of.  I'm not a great cyclist so the turns complicated things for me.  I saw a gnarly crash and the course was pretty congested.  I almost crashed once when an oblivious lady swerved right in front of me and I hit a cone.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Worlds End Ultramarathon 50K 2016 Race Report

How can you resist a race named, "Worlds End"?  I couldn't and dragged 2 friends, Michelle and Amanda along for the ride!

Start 7am
Time 8 hours and 5 mins
Distance 50k (31.4 miles)

After taking some time off in March to rehab my Achilles/heel spur on my right foot I wasn’t so sure World’s End was going to happen for me.  My coach Ann helped me train smart to be prepared and not injured for the long term so I could toe the line on May 21st at the WE 50k.  Think aqua jogging and incline hiking on the treadmill combined with spin, yoga, and graston treatments...... As I finish this report 4 days post-race and 1 recovery run complete, I am feeling surprisingly fantastic – my quads aren’t as crushed as post Hyner in April and my heel feels fine!

Michelle, Amanda and I did a course preview in January so we had some comfort in knowing half of the course and what we were getting ourselves in to.  Michelle and I drove up Friday afternoon so we could make it to Eaglesmere Inn which was about 15 minutes from the start and grab dinner at a local watering hole that had lots of bear taxidermy.  We met a local couple who are care takers for a section of the trail and gave us lots of "advice" for snakes (don't step on them) and bears (bring a gun).  There was a rare sighting of a black bear in the Wissahickon where we did the majority of our training so we had bears on our mind.  
Michelle showing the bears who's boss

View from High Knob 
We had time to check in at the start and grab our goodie bags (Bason coffee, cool shirt, and a Worlds End branded buff - hooray for great swag).  We stopped at High Knob overlook for a treat of an amazing view in the sun.  We laid out our clothes, hung out and turned in early with the help of some Calms Forte.  I like Calms Forte because it doesn’t leave me groggy in the morning.

Race Day
We had a 5am wake up call, ate crazy double yolked hard-boiled eggs, and headed to the start to arrive by 6:15am.  We got our bibs, met Amanda, ate pancakes and took a swig of glorious coffee, did about 5 last minute bathroom stops, and then listened to the pre-race talk where we were warned of rattlesnakes, bears, and porcupines. 

The race start ambiance was super light – lots of smiles and good energy. My plan was to hydrate often, eat after 45 minutes and then every 30 minutes after.  I was going to hike the ups, attack the downs and be reasonable about the flats early on.  Michelle and I are matched well so we stayed together the length of the race.  We met Amanda at AS1 and ran a bit together. 

Sometimes the miles can blend together.  It’s easy to piece together a race from aid station to aid station. 

Aid Station map - we didn't have this with us - oops

·         AS1 BAGPIPES: was right after the bagpipes and had some glorious, glorious watermelon.  It was also my first pit stop – the coffee was worth it though!
·         AS2 POND: was at the lake where we had our 1st pbj of the race.  I forgot how good pbj on white bread is!  There was a really nice family there manning the aid station.  It started raining here and we made a pact to tact it easy on the rocks.
·         AS3 FRUIT: was in the woods and had a great buffet of cut fruit.  My heel had started bothering me so I put my gel heel cups in.  Not sure if that really helped or was a placebo, but I felt better afterwards!
·         AS4 START: was back near the start.  I had chocolate chip cookies here and more pbj.  It felt cool to know we were over half way done!    
·         AS5 BACON: was after some big climbs and they had bacon!  This AS was hosted by a running club who isn’t too far from us in Philly.  There was actually a real bathroom here!    
·         AS6 PARTY: The aid station hosted by the Pagoda Pacers out of Reading, PA at mile 27 was a blast. We were having a great race, but let’s be honest, 27 miles is a long distance and we were in need of a pick me up.  We heard them hooting and hollering miles away.  When we arrived to a smiling crew who were ready to fill our water bottles, give out hugs, and to Michelle’s caffeine addicted body – a shot of coffee.  She was a seriously new woman after that.  They had to kick us out of there. 

Race Highlights
At around mile 20 we were going downhill and there was a tree smack in the middle of the trail.  I saw the tree.  My brain said, “go right” and my feet said, “huh”?  In slow motion I ran smack into the tree and became a literal tree hugger.  Michelle is usually about 5 steps in my shadow and she yelled, “Coming up behind you!” and we made a little tree hugger sandwich.  We just stood there laughing until we cried for about a minute hugging that tree.    

It’s always fun meeting new people and seeing familiar faces from other trail events.  Michelle says these races bring out “friendly Nicole” – which I think is a compliment.  I really do like talking to people at these events (I like people in normal life too)!  Allot of people who don’t run the trails think the terrain and distance is crazy, but after you meet such great, unique, supportive people it starts to become clear that it’s much more than going for a long run.

  • We met 2 runners at the Inn we were staying at – Erman did the 50k and Dan was attempting the 100k.  
  • We ran a bit with our friend Amanda who was at the race with her husband Mike – it was nice to see him at AS4 and the finish.  There's something about having a familiar face that's always a pick me up.
  • At the race we saw our friend Dan D. who we ran most of the course preview with in the cold temps back in Jan and saw at Hyner.
  • Speaking of Hyner, we met more people that did the Hyner that did not!  Lots of Hyner hats and socks!
  • We were lucky enough to have a great pacer after AS2 and got to know a gentleman from DC who had done a bunch of ultras.
  • We got yelled at by a jovial pair of “old ladies” who gave us a hard time for not being faster than them – they were a hoot and I hope I’m running as fast as them when I’m in my 50s. 
  • There was an older gentleman who kicked butt – he fist bumped me and Michelle leaving AS6 and said, “Make me proud girls”.  
  • At the after party we met Tom who finished Eastern States 100 in 2015 and gave us some tips – aka “just finish”.  We'll see....     
    Photo cred Rusty Glessner

Things that went well:
.          NUTRITION – I didn’t experience any stomach issues during the race. I couldn’t resist the pancakes at the start and was worried that would haunt me later, but it didn’t so I might have a new pre-race ritual!  I started with tailwind and then switched to Nuun active for hydration and was really good about drinking allot since I had to refill ¾ of my 2 10oz. UD soft pouches at each aid station which were about 5 miles apart.  I had 4 pouches of 33Shake and enjoyed the aid stations (fruit, pbj quarters, and some jelly beans).  I didn’t feel hungry, but was super happy there was a big spread and enjoyed homemade mac n cheese, burgers, and chocolate chip cookies at the finish!

Finishing happily together
       DISPOSITION – My friend Michelle and I are a great match both from a pace and balance of personalities perspective.  She’s faster than me, but runs behind so I keep her steady and she pushes me.  She has a genuine love of running in the mountains which is infectious.  We ran every step of the Hyner 25k together and had a ball.  The time goes by really fast when you are having fun and smiling.  A couple fellow racers asked what we were doing to make it look so easy – we were genuinely having a good time!  We planned vacations (Disney cruise 2017), got psyched up for WV Ragnar trail in August and a maybe a big race (Eastern States 2017?? - yikes), made a list of potential pacers for ES (FYI  Mike W, Megan P, Amanda, Audrey, Mike K, Jenn B, Shari), decided we will run Hyner 25k in 2017 and destroy our 2016 time which will require we take Monday off from work, made lodging plans for our tri in June, discussed parenting strategies to make sure our kids turn out ok, and gave ourselves lots of excellent nicknames – my hands down favorite being ‘Ultra Mother F*&%ers of the Forrest’.  

      PERFORMANCE My goal was to have fun and finish, and as a stretch wanted to run hard and do well finishing under 9. It's a tricky balance between being smart in the unknown and testing limits.  This race was a test of how to problem solve and see how my body would react when I hit miles I hadn't experienced before.  I felt stronger mentally and physically than I expected and am ready to try and go faster and longer.    
Lessons for next time
1.       CLOTHES - Dress less!  I didn't need  along sleeve to start and shorts instead of capris would have been the bomb.  Need to look at my underwear situation since Michelle saw me pick a wedgie about 500 times.  I'm so sick of thinking about stupid underwear and will consider all suggestions.  I had 2 blisters on the outside of my big toes.  They weren't too bad at 50k, but I imagine at any more mileage they would've become gnarly. 

2.       NUTRITION - more tailwind for the next race since this really worked for me.  Maybe a better/more thought out pre-race meal the night before.  

3.       WATCH - my Suunto died at 6 hours.  I guess it's time for an upgrade!  

4.    PERFORMANCE - I think I can push harder now that I know what I can handle.  I have room to improve hiking uphill and being more aggressive on the downhills - especially the more steep/technical downhill.    

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hyner View Challenge 25K Race Report 2016

What’s better than doing a favorite trail race a 2nd time around?  Doing it with your 4 cherished trail running friends and spending the weekend in a beautiful cabin on a creek that looked up at the Eastern States 100 trail. 
Bear Lodge in Waterville about 30 mins from the race

Enjoying the creek

Bunk beds galore!
At the starting line.  Shari had a cool fold up bike and escorted us each in to the finish.
What went well:
  •        At the top of the last climb – aptly named “SOB” I felt really, really good.  I looked at my watch and our time was 3:15.  I knew that the rest of the course was mostly flat and there were some big downs.  Could we break 4?  HECK YEAH!  I knew Michelle would be up for it. We chugged our drinks and I looked at her and said, “You want to break 4?”  In her normally cheery and up for anything voice she smiles and said, “Sure!” and we were off.  I really didn’t think we could break 4, but I felt AWESOME – my legs were springy, lungs were full, feet were fresh.  We flew by a pack of very fit looking men and they cheered for us, which felt amazing.  We looked at each other and gave a fist pump.  Then it was all business.  Our heads went down and we charged ahead.  We made it in for a time of 4:00:36!  The lesson here is that being smart about hiking the climbs leaves a good amount in the tank for a strong finish.

Conga line before things got real on Humble Hill


Hyner View

  •           Nutrition was just about perfect during the race.  I had focused on hydrated well the day before the race and it paid off.  I drank frequently during the race from my UD vest and took a couple small Gatorade cups at aid stations.  I started with my 33 shake pouch at the 1st aid station – which was after the 1st big climb at mile 3.  I would usually wouldn’t eat so early, but we were waiting for friends so I was filling time.  I think this made a big difference.  I ended up doing 1.5 33 shake pouches, a small cliff bar at mile 9, and Swedish fish at the last 2 aid stations (mile 9 and 12). My friend Amanda made homemade cinnamon buns for Sunday morning which were amazing and I definitely had seconds.   The lesson here is eat early and start well hydrated!
  • No feet on the ground!
  •  From a pace perspective, I am really well paired with my friend Michelle.  She’s faster than me, but she likes to run with a partner so it works.  She has the best attitude and is delighted by all the sights and nuances of the trails which is infectious to everyone around her.  There was a section of the trail carpeted in moss which felt like I was running on a cloud.  I think I appreciated that more because running with Michelle has made me notice those things more.  The lesson here is to enjoy every moment that nature hands to you and you will be gifted with a rich experience that will outlast any PR.
Right before SOB - still smiling!

hard earned s'mores around the campfire!
The lessons for next time:
  •  My heel spur has been feeling great (miraculous), but I still kept the inexpensive Dr. Scholls gel heel cups in my shoes.  I think these were overall good, but they annoyed me on the downs at the end.  I iced after the race twice and my heel is really in great shape.  My quads are pretty fried though (as expected) – up the steps ok, down steps and sitting on toilet elicits a groan!  I need to get my shoe/foot situation figured out before World’s End in May.
  • Stupid underpants.  Wedgies, chaffing, etc. = distraction.  There has to e a better solution out there.  I need to think about this and find underpants that work for me.
  • We placed ourselves closer to the start line than last year strategically in front of a tree that I remembered, but it was still too far back.  Next year we need to be even farther up so that we can get a bit more of a jump on our placement in the conga line for the 1st climb up Humble Hill.  Next year be gutsy and get closer to the start
Amanda, Michelle, Audrey and Shari say they want to come back next year, so I'm taking that as a good sign!  Maybe next year a couple of us will give the 50k a shot.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

World's End 50k - Course Preview

Never say never.  Boy is that true.  I think I'd been listened to the Trail Runner Nation podcast  and decided I was an ultra runner through osmosis. The criteria for what makes a good ultra for me are: point-to-point, scenery, not too big, within 5 hour drive, and not crazy technical trails. World's End Ultramarathon 50k in May fit the bill for the most part so I peer pressured a couple friends and we signed up.      

The race directors hosted a race preview on January 30th, so we got up at the crack of dawn and carpooled up to Forksville, PA.  

In summary - 17 mile course preview was FANTASTIC!  I'm so glad I went to check out the 1st half of the World's End course. About 6 hours in the car with great friends made the time go by in a flash.  I got to meet lots of nice folks and the race director, Jeff Calvert, actually ran with a group of us for the last half.  The course wasn't marked and I think we would've been okay with the turn by turn maps, but it definitely would've taken us allot longer!  He gave me lots of tips, like stretch at the aid stations and walk the hills.  He talked about how the races in the PA area are starting to sell out so fast and some of his concerns about the community changing.  It was cool to hear his perspective.  We covered allot of ground! 

So, the good:
1. My hip feels amazing.  No pain at all.  I'm totally and pleasantly surprised.  I think the bridges and clam shells have helped and last week had this pressure point machine thing done at the chiro done - I was skeptical, but maybe just maybe that helped?  
2. The course was fantastic - I loved the climbs and then opportunity to stretch out on some runnable portions.
3. I ran with a slower friend and I think that was a good lesson that a slower pace may be a good idea for a longer distance.  I felt like I could've gone longer even though I haven't trained at higher mileage yet.
4. My mental state was really good for 99% of the race.  I felt confident, happy, and joyful out there.  
5. I think the incline work helped me for the climbs.  Climb 1 was ~850 feet, which about what I usually do in a whole run.  The elevation gain over the day was 2457 feet.
6. My 4.5 mile recovery run on packed snowy/slushy trails felt great!   

The lessons:
1. I got the Ultimate Direction Jenny hydration vest which is very comfortable, but the water bottles leak so my shirt was wet (not great in 30 degree temps).  I need to replace them.  When I replace them I may get  bigger bottles.  
2. Speaking of hydration.... I've been using Nuun and probably need to try something else.  I drank 40 oz of water with Nuun and was major dehydrated at the finish.   Tailwind is all the rage I hear.  I used Skratch for my 1/2 ironman and it was okay.
3.  Speaking of fuel.... I was starving at the race finish.  I had oatmeal with fruit at 5am, then a bagel at 8:30am.  We started running at 9:12 am.  I had a full package of Cliff shot clocks and 1 GU gel.  I guess that wasn't enough over 5 hours.  
4. My calves are super, super tight today.  I've rolled and stretched.  Shins are a little sore too.  Knees started feeling achy at mile 16, but are fine today.
5. I have a long pointer toe  on my right foot that has been black for about a year (is it called a pointer - no idea - the toe next to my big toe!).  It's sore today.  I wish the stupid nail would just come off!
6. My hiking is slow.  I think this is an area I can improve on!  
7. I hate getting passed even.  Must let that ego go.