Bear Mountain 50k race report (May 5, 2018)

Before the race, feeling a little giddy. Photo credit

Immediately after this race, somebody (I’m fuzzy on who it was) asked me if I’d do it again. The “yes” fell out of my mouth before I even stopped to think about it. Yes, I would do it again. Despite it being one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Here’s more on the race:

North Face Endurance Challenge New York 50k race, May 5, 2018

Distance: 30.73 miles

Total time: 8:21:20 (moving time 8:09:49)

Avg. pace: 16:19/mile (15:56/mile moving time)

Total elev. gain: 5,354 feet

Place: 14/21 in my age group, about what I expected. I would love to be able to do this faster someday. But I’m just so happy I did it and was able to keep a pretty steady effort over a very, VERY gnarly course.

Goal: Mainly to finish happy and healthy; closer to the race I was estimating an average of 15:00/mile for a finish time of 7:45:00, based on how my preview runs on the first few sections of the course had gone. My final time was a little slower than that but ah, whatever! It was an incredibly hard course and my six months of training got me to a place where I could complete it. Win.

Weather: Race-day weather was a little warmer than it had been in the weeks before the race, but it wasn’t extremely hot. There were a few spots on the course (lower elevation, breeze-free areas in the final third of the race) where I felt the heat getting me and intentionally slowed down because the last thing I wanted to do was mess around with heat exhaustion, but it wasn’t too bad. And it didn’t rain.

Logistics: We (being me, husband F, and friend F) rented a house and a car in Peekskill for the weekend and made our way up there the afternoon before the race. Race morning, we were up at 4am and out the door at 5am, then parked and in line for the shuttle bus to the start/finish area around 5:30. The bus was quick, so we were at the start area before 6, for a 7am start. Luckily, husband F brought camping chairs and blankets, I had my tea and instant oatmeal, portapotties were nearby, we found a few friends … the time passed quickly. I’m not sure what I felt at the actual start of the race. Petrified but excited? I knew the first 9 miles of the course pretty well so no surprises there. Crew was allowed at mile 21 and I had plans to meet F and F there, and that was one of the main things I focused on for the first two-thirds of the race. I was thrilled to roll into that aid station and see their faces. I topped up water, got a little more food for my pack (not that I would eat much of it in the last 10 miles), washed my face, reapplied sunscreen, swapped my wet hat for a dry one, assured them I didn’t need to change shoes, and with a few high-fives was on my way. The next (and final) 10 miles included Timp Pass and were tough. I walked uphills and jogged flats and downhills wherever I could. For the final mile we were back on trails I knew, and I was moving slow but feeling gleeful as I left the trails, crossed the parking lot, and tried to pull myself into a sprint across the grass and under the finish line arch. It wasn’t really much of a sprint, and out of nowhere I was about to start bawling, but then I saw F and F and a volunteer put a medal on me and there was a table full of oranges and I MAY have rinsed my head under a water-bottle-filling spigot and the sun was out and I got to sit down on the grass with my friends which was the best feeling in the whole universe.

Gear: Altra Timps with lightweight Darn Tough running socks and Dirty Girl gaiters kept my feet happy (or as happy as they could be given 8.5 hours of more rocks than dirt). I wore capris, an Icebreaker tank top, a light hat, and sunglasses, plus my Ultimate Direction UltraVesta pack with lots of food in it and two 500-ml water bottles (one water, one Tailwind slowly fading to water) in the front pockets. My Fenix 3 watch has a long battery life so I didn’t worry about that running out. I carried my phone, too, and texted the time I was leaving each aid station to husband F–cell coverage was very spotty but I think a few of the texts got through.

Hydration/nutrition: I was determined to eat 100 calories (either a Clif Shot or half a pack of Clif Bloks) every thirty minutes for as long as I could handle it. I also had Tailwind in one of my water bottles, and I tried to drink that as much as possible–again, as long as I could handle it. Then I picked up whatever looked tasty at aid stations, which were every 4 or 5 miles. I did pretty good at this constant stream of calories until around mile 21, and after that point orange slices and Coke were about all I could stomach. There was a delicious vegetable broth at the mile 21 aid station, and if more of that had been available I’d have been really into it. But with 10 more miles to go, I figured I could get by on oranges and Coke. I never felt much of a low-energy bonk, and I stopped to use the portapotty at two aid stations, so I think I was pretty well fed and hydrated the whole time.

Worked well: Training. The 50k plan from Krissy Moehl’s Running Your First Ultra book felt like a great fit for me. Also my spectacular crew. Also staying near the race the night before and the night after–that cut down on a lot of driving/travel stress. Oh, and starting to work out the logistics two weeks before the race was a really good move. That final week got hectic and I was glad I had my lists and plans mostly together at that point.

Learned for next time: If possible, do even more long hill/power-hiking workouts. The climbs on this course just. do. not. end. Especially on the Long Path ridgeline (around miles 12-13) and the Timp Pass climb (mile 28).

Up next: (whispers) 50-miler in Oregon in mid-July!

Bear Mountain 50k training: cycle 6/6

At the start line of the Bear Mountain 50k, feeling very unsure about what I was doing with my life.

The end of the journey!

Week 21 (4/9/18-4/15/18): Fine tuning. 47miles. Back into high mileage, but I’m not going to go beyond the 52-mile peak from two weeks ago! I did a midweek speed workout, which was kind of a nice change: 15 minutes warmup, then 6 sets of 5 minutes hard with 1 minute recovery jog between, then 15 minutes cooldown. The weekend long runs were hard – I did 20 miles on Saturday at the Rockefeller State Park Preserve in 72-degree sun, which was a shock after so much cold weather … and then 10 miles on Sunday at Palisades in 40-degrees-feels-like-34-with-windchill. Which was another shock.

Week 22 (4/16/18-4/22/18): Fine tuning. 38 miles. One hill/stair workout, one hilly run followed by stair machine, a few easy runs, and a final 18-miler up at Bear Mountain.

Week 23 (4/23/18-4/29/18): Taper. 23.4 miles. A speed workout early in the week, a few short runs, and a “long” run of 8 miles. Feeling weird not to be running a ton.

Week 24 (4/30/18-5/5/18): RACE WEEK. 39.5 miles. Super-light speed workout, a couple tiny runs, and suddenly it’s race weekend! I’ll write a separate post about the race report itself, but the summary is that I did it and it was amazing.

Total: 148 miles running.

Feeling: SO weird, confused, and unsure going into the race, and incredibly satisfied after it. Training pays off!

Bear Mountain 50k training: cycle 5/6

Steep snowy hillside, bare trees, clear sky.

Not actually a run. Appalachian trail in Harriman State Park.

Week 17 (3/12/18-3/18/18): Endurance. 45.2 miles. My training plan has some speedwork over the next few weeks but I’m swapping it all for extra hill work because the elevation situation on Bear Mountain is so intense. Lots of rock climbing this week. I tried for a long run on the 50k course in Harriman State Park but the snow was so deep it ended up being a hike. Sigh.

Week 18 (3/19/18-3/25/18): Endurance: 51 miles. I think this was my first over-50-mile week ever. I didn’t manage to do Saturday’s long run (20 miles) on trails–with serious snow earlier in the week, I was pretty sure the trails would be too snowy to actually run–so I ran 7 miles through Brooklyn down to Bay Ridge and ran a half marathon there along the water. 20 miles on roads was tough (okay, 20 miles anywhere would be tough) but I kept my pacing really even. Midweek long run (7 miles) was mid-snowstorm and awesome, though very hard. I did my workout the next day at the gym, alternating between treadmill hills and the stair-climber machine for 2 hours total. Hard work.

Week 19 (3/26/18-4/1/18): Endurance: 52 miles. Wow. This is hard work, you all. Have I said that already? But . . . I did it? Peak week of training, and most weekly miles of my life, checked off the list. The weekend was long: 5 miles on trails Friday, 10 miles on a section of the course at Bear Mountain Saturday (with a lovely crew), and 22 miles solo Sunday on the Long Path at the Palisades. I had a pretty good wipeout (scraped shin, nothing too bad) around mile 7 on Sunday but picked myself back up and finished 15 more miles. Finishing the 22 and realizing I’d kept a steady pace the whole way was just . . . wow.

Week 20 (4/2/18-4/8/18): Recover. 12.2 miles run/14 miles bike. Ahh. Easy runs, some rock climbing and strength work at the gym, probably a few too many ciders but overall an excellent recovery week.

Total 160 miles + 14 biking.

Feeling: Cautiously optimistic. I’m not gonna be anywhere near the front of the pack at the race, but I think I have what I need to finish in one piece.

Bear Mountain 50k training: cycle 4/6

At the top of the Beacon firetower.

I’m posting this so late! But here it is.

Week 13 (2/12/18-2/18/18): Endurance. 24.4 miles. This was a weird week in that it REALLY didn’t go according to plan – in the first twelve weeks of training I only missed two (minor) runs; this week I missed one regular run, one hill workout, and one speed workout! I didn’t feel very rested after last week’s “recovery,” plus my husband came down with a bad flu, and between all that and taking on too much freelance work I was lower on sleep and shorter on time than I should have been. Extending my recovery week, which is basically what I did, was a good thing, even though I’m feeling bad about missing workouts. I still got a lot of strength work in (two yoga sessions, plus some stuff at home and one rock-climbing session) and the weekend’s long runs were awesome: 7.6 miles with 3,000 feet of elevation gain on Saturday, then 12 miles flat but mostly snow and ice on Sunday.

Week 14 (2/19/18-2/25/18): Endurance. 38.6 miles + 13 biking. This is more like it! I was still feeling pretty beat from the weekend’s runs, but I dragged myself through a speedwork session on Tuesday, got in a long (8-mile) midweek run Wednesday, and swapped things around to do my Saturday long run (14 miles) on the treadmill Friday morning. It sounds worse than it actually was.

Week 15 (2/26/18-3/4/18): Endurance. 44.7 miles + 9 biking. As far as I can tell, this was my highest mileage week ever! Cool. It included a 7.7-mile hill workout, a 9-mile midweek run, and weekend runs of 15 miles (Rockefeller State Park Preserve) and 8 miles (Prospect Park). Plus quite a bit of rock climbing. I’m feeling pretty beat, and definitely ready for a recovery week.

Week 16 (3/5/18-3/11/18): Recovery. 15.4 miles + 0 biking. Lots of rock climbing and yoga.

Total:   123 miles + 21 biking.

Feeling: A little worried about the next four week. They’ll be my peak mileage weeks.

Bear Mountain 50k training: cycle 3/6

Bear Mountain was beautiful. But I’m glad there’s not gonna be any snow or ice there in May.

I just hit the halfway point! Overall I’m feeling VERY good. The hard stuff is hard, but it’s not knocking me out. I’m eating well and being much more deliberate about getting enough sleep (I actually write down how many hours I slept in my training notebook, which helps keep me honest). I’m trying very hard to be good about time management and healthy eating. Also, it’s super fun running in the woods every weekend.

Week 9 (1/15/18-1/21/18): Speed. 28.6 miles + 17 biking. Speedwork on trails is intense but kinda fun. This was also my first time throwing in some just-for-kicks hill repeats (like steep, power-hiking-style hill repeats) during my long run.

Week 10 (1/22/18-1/28/18): Speed. 36 miles + 15 biking. I got out to trails in New Jersey both Saturday (South Mountain) and Sunday (Palisades).

Week 11 (1/29/18-2/4/18): Speed. 35.7 miles, no biking. Midweek runs were lighter but weekend runs were longer at 12 speedy miles (Palisades) and 8 icy miles (Bear Mountain).

Week 12 (2/5/18-2/11/18): Recovery. 20.4 miles, no biking. This didn’t feel quite as “resty” as the recovery weeks in the first two cycles. I guess it was about 5 miles more than them, plus I threw some bouldering in, plus I had one very late night working at the Empire State Building Run-Up.

Total:  120.7 miles + 32 biking.

Feeling: Some awkward combination of hopeful (I can do this?) and realistic (there’s still a lot of hard work ahead of me).

It’s 2018!

It’s time for a quick review of 2017 plus some goals for 2018.

2017: I ran 1,106 miles total. That’s almost exactly what I ran last year and NOT very close to my goal of 1,500 miles. Oh well (*shrugs*). Mileage peaked in August as I was preparing for the Portland marathon and again in December as I got seriously into Bear Mountain training.

I ran 21 races in 2017, and I hope to never run that many races in a single year again! It was just too much, but a lot of it was chasing the NYRR 9+1 qualifier to get into the New York City marathon for 2018. My favorite race was the Breakneck Point trail half marathon. I raced my first duathlon and got a big kick out of that. I trained for and ran the Portland marathon, and even though I wasn’t thrilled with how I did I loved having so much of my family involved either as spectators or as first-time marathoners.

2018: I want to run trails, hike, and go rock climbing. I have my eye on five races this year (I’m actually registered for three of them already) and I really want to keep it limited to these: two trail ultras, two road half marathons, and the NYC marathon. I’m really enjoying the current training approach (4-5 runs weekly, 3 weeks on, 1 week off) that I’m following for Bear Mountain so I’d like to keep something similar going as I prepare for all of this year’s races.

I have a handful of wonderful running buddies, including my husband, and I want to keep spending time (and miles) with them. I need to stay focused on nutrition as I’m getting close to completely vegetarian. Sleep and recovery time continue to be hugely important.

I think that’s about it. Happy (belated) 2018, everyone!

Bear Mountain 50k training: cycle 2/6

Mission Trails Regional Park, right around the time I realized it was going to be a HARD run and not as many miles as I’d hoped.

Another four weeks done!

Week 5 (12/18/17-12/24/17): Hills and strength. 30.5 miles. Weeks 5, 6, and 7 all have a tough hill workout. I found myself wishing for longer and slightly steeper hills in Prospect Park.

Week 6 (12/25/17-12/31/17): Hills and strength. 34.5 miles + 8 biking. I bought a bike trainer from a friend and joined Zwift so I can do some indoor cardio since experience has shown I do NOT get outside on my bike in the winter.

Week 7 (1/1/18-1/7/18): Hills and strength. 27.5 miles + 6.5 biking. This week was a bit weird as I had a sick day (dizzy?! what?!) and we were traveling over the weekend so I ended up doing my hill workout and an easy run on a hotel treadmill. Which was rough. But Saturday’s long run was on some serious trails (Mission Trails near San Diego) and was both daunting and fun.

Week 8 (1/8/18-1/14/18): Recovery. 14 miles + 8 biking. I ate better this week than my last recovery week (vegetables! hooray!) and got mostly decent sleep.

Total: 107 miles + 22 biking.

Feeling: excited

Bear Mountain 50k training: cycle 1/6

Coach Fuzz.

Okay, I’m just posting a single training log for every four-week cycle of 50k training. Otherwise I’d spend my whole life posting training logs. And I’d rather spend my whole life either eating or sleeping. Or running on the snow.

Week 1 (11/20/17-11/26/17): Base building. 20 miles. Really fun to be doing almost every run on dirt. I’m so glad there are good trails in the park right next to our apartment – there’s a great 4-mile trail loop, and by adding on side trails I think you could easily run 7 miles in an “extended” loop without seeing anything twice.

Week 2 (11/27/17-12/3/17): Base building. 30 miles. Also doing strength twice a week – either the rock climbing gym or a yoga/myrtls/strength routine at home.

Week 3 (12/4/17-12/10/17): Base building. 31 miles running + 10 biking. Yeeeah.

Week 4 (12/11/17-12/17/17): Recovery. 14 miles. I was totally ready for an easy week, and it felt good. I didn’t really keep my nutrition or sleep on track like I should’ve this week, though.

Total: 95 miles

Feeling: good

Palisades trails

Trail, bare trees, and the Hudson River.

If you take the subway to 175th Street in Washington Heights (northern Manhattan), cross the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, and take a right, you’re all of a sudden in the woods, running on dirt trails along the Palisades cliffs and spotting deer, hawks, and other runners and hikers. It’s great! I did 9.5 miles out at the Palisades last weekend and it was just lovely.

The trails aren’t quite as technical and the elevation doesn’t change as much as it will in the 50k on Bear Mountain, but it’s still a good workout and a nice change from running park trails. There’s no water available in the winter (and only a single water fountain I’m aware of in summer) so you need to carry whatever you need. There are two main trails – the Long Path along the cliff tops, and the Shore Path down by the edge of the river. I almost always stick to the Long Path, running an out-and-back, but I suppose going back and forth between the two on the handful of connector trails would give some good elevation gain. Maybe next time.

Looking north along the Hudson River.

Bear Mountain 50k: I’m doing this!

For a few years now I’ve had my eye on Rainshadow Running’s Gorge Waterfalls 50k in Oregon as a race that I really want to run as my first 50k. I entered the lottery for the spring 2017 race but didn’t get picked. Now the spring 2018 race has, sadly, been canceled due to the terrible fire this summer. But I’m in a spot right now where I feel like I have the time and energy to train for a 50k. So? Plan B: the North Face Endurance Challenge Series 50k on Bear Mountain, New York, May 5, 2018. I’ve registered and this is my first week of training.

Logistics: This will (duh) be my first race longer than a marathon. 50k = approximately 31 miles, so around 5 miles longer if all goes as planned. The elevation gain will likely be around 4,500 feet across the 31 miles. To put that in context, the Breakneck Point half marathon I ran this spring had about 4,500 feet of elevation gain across 13 miles. I’m not saying Bear Mountain won’t be hard, but the climbing won’t be as fricking insane as it was at Breakneck. Race start time is 7 a.m. and a ten-hour cutoff means I’ll need to finish by 5 p.m. All during daylight; no headlamp needed. I would love to average 12- or 13-minute miles, but even 15-minute miles on average would keep me well under the cutoff.

Training: For a training plan, I’m using the “first 50k” plan from Krissy Moehl’s Running Your First Ultra. The book itself is a little sparse and could’ve used some editorial work, but the plan seems very solid, built on four-week cycles of three weeks of increasing workload then one week of recovery, with weekly totals that aren’t daunting except for two or three weeks near the end. It’s a 24-week plan so it will be the longest I’ve ever trained for a specific event. I’m going to include as much strength work as I can and also focus on quality daily nutrition (vegetarian always, vegan when possible) and getting tons of sleep. I’m lucky that there are trails right here in Prospect Park that I can use for mid-week runs and speed/hillwork. I’m hoping to get out of town most weekends, by train or bus, to run on Bear Mountain itself or around the Cold Spring/Beacon area.

I don’t really want to post a weekly training log but maybe I’ll post one for every four-week cycle. And hopefully I’ll post about some of the trails I get out to run on, outside the city. Plus general ramblings about gear, nutrition, and general preparation. Here I go!