Mount Hood 50M race report (July 14, 2018)

View of Mount Hood from the first half of the race.

I’m having a hard time getting started, so here’s the “short version” of the Mount Hood 50 race report that I posted on Instagram, Strava, and Facebook a few days after the race:

This is it. Shuffle-run to the finish line, awkward jump to high-five the race director, and an attempt to smile despite having gone through some serious lows during the last few miles. I finished the Mount Hood 50.

I was very close to the back of the pack and honestly might not have made the cutoffs if the course hadn’t measured a tad short. The weather was HOT and there were some mean climbs in the last 22 miles. The views of the mountain were amazing, though, and the volunteers were the most enthusiastic and helpful ever. @gobeyondracing put on a most excellent (and environmentally friendly) event. All of the other runners were heroic. And the trails? SOFT! Pine needle cushioning!

Big thanks to @fransnyc for cheering me through the whole thing despite having a race of his own to run the next day. And to my dad for driving out to the middle of nowhere to hang out with dirty runners, watch me drain blisters at mile 28 (he documented it!), and catch me at the finish line. At which point I puked. It was great.

All the texts, emails, and Instagram/Facebook posts of encouragement from my Brooklyn crew meant a lot. Thanks, guys!

I’m gonna go sleep a little bit more now.

I can’t help comparing this race to the Bear Mountain 50k I ran in early May. That one was basically a 100% positive experience, executed with 100% confidence, despite the grind on the Long Path ridgeline and then at Timp Pass. This one was … NOT 100% positive, and nowhere near 100% confidence. I was fighting to talk myself out of quitting on my way into the mile 28 aid station, and I was fighting to keep going up the final 3-mile climb about 8 miles from the finish. I have no desire to do another 50 miler.

For background, my initial plan was to do the 50k at Mount Hood. But the lottery for the 50 miler opened up first and I put my name in … and got picked. Eek. Dummy. I didn’t have time to do a really solid 50-mile training plan, so instead I just ran the Bear Mountain 50k, took a week or two easy, and then rolled into a few weeks with 5- and 6-hour long runs on tough trails, which got me into the high 20s in long run mileage and the low 50s in weekly mileage. It was not ideal, but I was just hoping it would get me through the race in one piece. Here are the painful details:

Distance: 47.6 miles on my Garmin (I think it measured short for other people, too)

Total time: 12:53:24 (moving time 12:38:31)

Avg. pace: 16:15/mile (15:56 moving time/mile, EXACTLY the same as the Bear Mountain 50k)

Total elev. gain: 5,180 feet (a bit less than the Bear Mountain 50k)

Place: 128/135 overall, 49/54 women. I wish I hadn’t been quite so close to the back of the pack, but I’m trying to keep it in perspective: I finished 50 miles. Well, 47.6.

Goal: According to the spreadsheet where I record upcoming races and results: “Don’t die.” That sums it up. I didn’t know going into this if I would hit the cutoffs at mile 28 and 39. I barely squeaked through.

Weather: Thankfully the weather in this part of Oregon is much less humid than in New York, and it gets cooler at night, but it was still hot: bright sun and mid- or high 80s by midday. The course was pretty shaded except for one stretch between miles 28 and 34 (ish), which with the out-and-back was also miles 42-48 (ish). The final 4 miles of the race featured a bonus killer mosquito swarm, just to keep things interesting.

Logistics: I camped with Frans and some friends at Timothy Lake, and that was the BEST. I ate and slept well the night before the race. Our campsite was only 2 miles from the start and finish line, and I actually rode a bike to the start. My dad drove out for the day. The course was a double out-and-back: first to the north (14 miles out, 14 miles back, with crew at mile 28, which was also the start/finish), then to the south (11 miles out, 11 miles back, definitely the tougher part of the course). There were a total of 9 aid stations, and they were all amazing in terms of both food and volunteers. After-race cleanup when you’re camping is a little weird: I waded into the lake to rinse as much salt and sweat off as I could, then soaked my feet in a washtub with some dish soap by the campfire to get them cleaner. Despite my super-unsanitary blister draining operation at mile 28, nothing got infected.

Gear: Basically the same as for Bear Mountain, but with new insoles with slightly more arch support in my Altra Timps. I’ve been dealing with some pain in my left heel (above where it hits the ground, but not as high as the Achilles tendon) and I need to figure out if this is tied to the Altras, or the insoles, or something else. I taped a lot of myself (big toes and under front and back of bra strap) with Rock Tape, which prevented a ton of chafing. My middle toes, however, just recently started blistering, and this happened during the race. It wasn’t bad enough to affect my stride, but I needed to drain and tape them at mile 28.

Hydration/nutrition: I drank and ate well in the first half, less in the second half as it got hotter and I got more tired. Surprise. I carried water and Tailwind – the Tailwind gets harder for me to get down as I get further into a race, but it at least provides a few more calories. I carried a variety of gels (Clif and Hammer) plus some Clif Bloks, trying to get 100 calories in every 30 or 45 minutes. I grabbed small snacks from aid stations but mostly relied on the food I was carrying. I’d like to get better at eating aid station food at races.

Worked well: Gear, crew, and logistics in general were pretty dialed in. Also, despite all the angst, I finished the race. Recovery was pretty quick, with my left heel taking the longest.

Learned for next time: As mentioned, I don’t think there’s going to be a next time with 50 miles. At least not soon. But I’d definitely train more thoroughly for the distance, and do everything possible to get on at least part of the course beforehand to know what it’s like.

Up next: Reykjavik Half Marathon. Because half marathons are awesome, and Iceland is awesome.

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!

Portland Marathon race report

Ready to run! This picture makes me so happy.

Here’s my attempt at a quick (and very delayed) summary of the Portland Marathon. It was a fun race, and I’m glad I did it. My final time was 4:47:44. That’s about a 7-minute PR. I’m happy to have beat my last marathon time, but I was really hoping to keep a more steady pace toward the end and finish in 4:30:00 or faster. Didn’t happen. Training was solid, but I think nutrition during the race didn’t go so well. I was too amped up and didn’t take enough calories in. Adrenaline does not get you through 26 miles. Ever.

The race was well organized, despite a lot of uncertainty in the months before the race about permits, and the weather was good. My dad, my husband, and a friend were all running it as their first marathon. The out-and-back course (with a bonus mini out-and-back in mile 3) meant we saw each other a few times and passed around some high fives. My entire family came to cheer, unexpectedly (I’d assume between twin nephews and an hour drive into Portland that wouldn’t work out). Grandma, Mom, two sisters, and toddlers holding signs in their double stroller right before mile 26? Best cheer section you could ask for.

I kept a solid pace of 10:15s for the first 16 miles or so. I should have kept these closer to 10:30s, but I was having so much fun! There was music along the course, and a lot of spectators considering it’s a smaller race. But then around mile 17 I started…slowing…down. I ran the whole thing, no walk breaks, but I was pushing into the 13:00/mile zone by the final miles and really hurting. I’m bummed about that. I need to be smarter about taking in calories during the ENTIRE race. I’m thinking Tailwind might be a good idea – it worked great at the Breakneck Point half which was a shorter distance but almost the same amount of time on my feet, and I didn’t feel crashed at all then. Also I think road running is just a LOT harder on my body.

Anyway, it’s done. I got sick right after and took a solid 3 weeks off to recover. I’ll run NYC next year, either pacing Frans or pushing for a new PR … we’ll see.

New York City Duathlon

Final run. My running form is mid-collapse and I am exhausted and soaking wet but LOOK AT THAT SMILE.

I signed up for the New York City Duathlon 6 months ago, despite the fact that it would take place during the final stretch of marathon training. What was I thinking?

Well, I’d been intrigued by the idea of a duathlon for a while. A bunch of my running club friends are getting into triathlons, and while the swim leg doesn’t appeal to me (I like swimming, but more in a flopping-casually-around-in-the-ocean sort of way, and there’s no way I have time to get myself to a pool regularly), I love both biking and running, so why not combine the two in a race? So that’s what I was thinking.

But … marathon training. Yeah. I started out with high hopes of getting two quality bike rides in each week, in addition to my four weekly runs, and that worked for a while, but then it was just one bike ride a week, and before I knew it, I hadn’t been on my bike in a month and the duathlon was right around the corner. Eek. I almost bailed, thinking it was just stupid to go in with basically no bike training. But then a friend texted offering a ride to the race (plus support and cheering during it), and someone pointed out I’m really comfortable on my bike, even if it’s gathered a little bit of dust lately, and I decided to go through with it.

The only duathlon-specific training I did was two days before the race, when I convinced my ever-accommodating husband to set up camp (as in, his folding camp chair) in the park and watch over a transition area I put together so I could go through all the motions of the race. I arranged my bike, helmet, bike shoes, and gloves, then took off for a half-mile run. After the run I swapped shoes, got my bike gear on, and rode a little loop of the park. Back at base, I dropped the bike, switched shoes again, and went out for another half-mile run. I returned triumphant and convinced that at least I wouldn’t die during the race.

Race day dawned and it was raining, but not as heavily as it had been earlier. We loaded bikes onto the bike rack, drove to Central Park (it’s easy to find parking at 6:30am!), and started sorting ourselves out. I picked up my timing chip, which goes around the ankle with velcro, racked my bike in the right spot, and fiddled with the layout of my helmet, gloves, running shoes, and plastic bags (for rain protection) under my bike. I should’ve taken my bike out for a quick spin – there was plenty of time – but I was nervous and didn’t really think of it. Participants trickled in – we counted around 200 on the registration list but they definitely didn’t all show up. Everything was friendly and well-organized. An announcer talked us through the course, the national anthem was played over the sound system, I started feeling cold and decided to just run in my gloves instead of putting them on later, and then suddenly we were all on our way to the start line.

Leg 1: 2.2-mile run. The run portion was an out-and-back, starting uphill on Cat Hill. I took off aiming for a pace between 9:00 and 9:30, but eventually settled into more of a mid-8:00 groove. Which was sustainable for 2 miles, no problem, but made me nervous in the overall context. Run 1 official time: 19:34 for 9:19/mile pace (but on my watch, 19:25 over 2.28 miles for a 8:32/mile pace).

Transition 1: Felt reasonably quick and controlled, though untying and retying shoes takes time! 1:11.

Leg 2: 12-mile bike. Wheee! Okay, I LOVE going as fast as I can on my bike. Two loops of Central Park is a hard course, and the hills kicked my butt (see: didn’t train), but I did my best to conserve energy by being smart with my gears. The road was slick and the rain was picking up toward the end, so I was cautious on the big downhills and even braked once or twice. I went through my entire bottle of water during the bike ride. Official bike time 45:55 for a 15.7 mph pace (15.9 mph on my watch).

Transition 2: My first experience of rubber legs. Wow. As I jogged my bike through the transition area to my rack I was yelling, “This feels so weird!” over and over. Then I got to the rack and found a dude in my spot with his bike upside-down, fixing a flat. What to do? I looked around frantically then finally just leaned my bike against a fence, and a volunteer told me that was fine, but I had to grab my shoes from underneath flat-tire guy, which I apologized for (really, he should’ve been apologizing, right?, but I was a little loopy), and I swapped shoes and headed out on the run, took a wrong turn, got sorted out by more volunteers (thank you!), and ran at a weird stumbling pace back up Cat Hill. 1:12 for the transition. I think the wrong-turn business got counted as part of the run leg.

Leg 3: 2.2-mile run. My legs are broken! The rain is crashing down! Everything is uphill! I am so hungry! I felt pretty disastrous for the first half mile but then my legs started working a little better and I realized I was so close to the finish and was going to make it. The rain got heavier by the minute, and my stomach was growling at this point, but I passed a few people and managed to stay at a pace just under 9:00/mile. The downhill stretch to the finish line was fun. Run 2 official time: 19:56 for 9:29/mile pace (but on my watch, 8:43/mile pace).

Results: I finished 60/104 overall, 14/38 for women, and 4/9 in my age group, with a final time of 1:27:50. I’m really happy with those results and with the fact that I stayed strong through the whole race and didn’t fade (much) at the end.

Gear: I wore capris and a short-sleeved tech shirt. This was warm enough, even with the rain. A little padding would’ve been nice – I might look at tri shorts if I do this again. My Giant road bike is nothing special but it’s like my two-wheeled best friend. I rode clipped in with a pair of Giro lace-up shoes, and I ran in a lightweight pair of Brooks. Regular old helmet and bike gloves. Sunglasses were not necessary in the gloomy weather.

Lessons learned: Next time I might bring a little food for the bike leg, or at least put Tailwind in a water bottle. Having friends at the race for support is the BEST. Duathlons are super fun, but you should train for them. I’ll definitely be doing another one.

Breakneck Point half marathon race report

Breakneck starting line. Not nervous – just ready to get the work done.


Okay, that’s out of the way.

I volunteered at an aid station at the Breakneck Point half/full marathon races last year. It was a great experience and I was blown away by the idea of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at aid stations (yeah trail races!), plus I love hiking in this area, so I used my volunteer credit to sign up for this year’s race. Then I talked my friend T into signing up, too. I’m not sure I explained clearly what we were getting into (or even fully understood it myself) so it was a very good thing that we previewed part of the course last weekend.

The race started at 7 a.m. Perfect weather: partly cloudy, starting in the low 40s and getting up to the 60s midday. I ran a total of 13.3 miles, with 4,489 feet of elevation gain over the course, and finished in 4:28:50. I hadn’t thought much about goals, other than surviving, but I was thinking I’d finish in around 5 hours. I was really happy with how it went and how I stayed strong through four and a half hours of tough trails and grueling climbs. In the results, I landed at #128 out of 202 half marathon finishers, and #32 out of 79 women half marathon finishers.

Training: I went into the race not trained quite as fully as I’d like, but with some solid trail running, hill work, and rock climbing under my belt. I feel like the rock climbing was seriously helpful – both for the hand-over-hand scramble sections (the signature climb on mile 6 and a few others) and for general stability and core strength. It would’ve been great to get up to the Hudson Highlands for more runs in the months before the race, but there just wasn’t time in my schedule so most of my trail preparation was in the “wilds” of Prospect Park.

I took one selfie while I was running. Here it is.

What went well: Hydration and nutrition! I carried 500 ml of water and 500 ml of Tailwind in my hydration pack, refilling them and grabbing a few pb&j quarter-sandwiches at both aid stations. And that was enough. The Tailwind sits well in my stomach, I didn’t bonk, and I don’t feel like I got too dehydrated (I’d also been hitting the water with Nuun really hard the day before the race, and I think that was good). Running club singlet, sleeves, capris, and running cap were the right outfit for the weather. I wore fingerless biking gloves with a leather palm, which were just perfect for confident hand placement in the scramble sections. I remembered my sunscreen. I printed out the cue sheet and a little map and laminated them. I understood the course pretty well. I went out conservatively and, even though the course was crazy hard work, I still had a little bit left to push at the end.

What didn’t go well: While I was passing the people who were running my pace overall on the uphills and scrambles, I was getting passed frequently on the downhills. I think this was partly me being an over-cautious person, partly a lack of training on rocky hills, and partly my shoes. I wore my newish Hoka Challenger ATR 2s, and while I love them for a lot of reasons – sweet cushioning, good grip, light weight – they didn’t feel quite right for this race. They were a little sloshy. My feet were moving around too much inside them and I didn’t always trust my landings as much as I wanted to. The Hokas are great for long runs but I’m thinking about looking for a different trail shoe (more narrow? tighter?) for really technical trail stuff like this.

Breakneck Point half marathon elevation profile

Overall thoughts: I’m doing this again next year!

What’s next: The Redding half marathon is three weeks away and I’d like to PR there. So I’m thinking a week of recovery, a week of training, and a week of taper.


Thanksgiving races

A friend said we look like Thing One and Thing Two.

A friend said we look like Thing One and Thing Two.

The week of Thanksgiving was wild. An opportunity to move into a bigger apartment in our building came up out of the blue – Frans and I sorted out the paperwork, got the keys, and realized we had the week of Thanksgiving (which, thank goodness, included a four-day weekend) to complete the move. We’d signed up not just for the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning  – which would be Frans’s first time participating in what is my FAVORITE local race – but also for the Pelham Half Marathon, a tiny race just north of the Bronx that would be homeboy’s first half marathon, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. After a short discussion we decided to go through with both races despite the move.

And you know what? It all worked out. Both races were awesome. I PR’d at the Turkey Trot (5 miles in 43:59), then waited a few minutes and cheered Frans across the finish line. Two days later we ran the half together and he held a steady pace, like a champ, through the whole fricking thing. We crossed the line holding hands like a couple of cheeseballs. We got everything moved and by the end of the weekend I was unbelievably exhausted but it was done.

After the Leaves Have Fallen trail half marathon race report

Distance: half marathon (but my watch measured 12.6 miles)

Total time: 2:19:12 (11:03/mile avg)

Elev. gain: 1,096 feet

5-mile splits: 53:04, 56:34, then the last 2.6 miles in 29:34

after-the-leaves-half-elevGoal: Somewhere in the back of my mind I was hoping for a half marathon PR. That wasn’t realistic, given the carriage trail surfaces and the 1,000 ft + elevation gain. A more realistic goal was to run a consistent effort, and I managed that for the majority of the race.

Weather: Ohmygosh absolutely perfect sunny fall weather.

I had a bit of a forced taper because I tripped on a trail last week and bloodied up my knee, but the knee was not a problem during the race and I’m sure the taper was helpful. Overall I feel like I ran really strong, especially on the push up to the high point around mile 8. I slowed a little on the last (small) uphill but I was happy the entire time – not always comfortable, but happy – and I feel like I gave it my best.

The race itself was so well organized and the scenery – two lakes, cliffs, falling leaves – was just spectacular. It was fun to see some of the Brooklyn Trail Runners crew, and T was, as always, a great race companion (she placed 9th in her age group!).

Worked well: I really liked carrying my Nathan handheld and refilling it at aid stations. Also, using Rock Tape (similar to KT tape) where my bra band rubs in front has completely solved the chafing issue.

Learned for next time: I bonked a little at the end – in retrospect I should have taken a gel at that high point instead of pushing through the whole race on just water. Also it is well past time to get new trail shoes. Mount Saint Helens chewed these ones up and spit them out but I’m still running in them.

Up next: Um, winter? Probably focusing on speedwork and running as many trails as I can.


Steamtown Marathon 2016 race report

Last year’s NYC Marathon was my first marathon ever, and it was rough. I enjoyed it (well, part of it) and learned a lot, but I didn’t necessarily want to run another. Then my dear runner/editor friend T brought up the Steamtown Marathon. “Net downhill course!” she said. “Pennsylvania countryside in fall!” she said. “A field of around 3,000 runners!” “We can share a cheesecake afterward!” I didn’t really need a lot of convincing.

Approaching the finish line.

Approaching the finish line.

So I trained all summer and, as rough and humid as this summer was, especially at the end, I truly loved the training process. The structure was good for me, I worked in a nice balance of solo runs and group runs, and I just thoroughly enjoyed a few of the long runs – especially the last 20 miler with JackRabbit and my solo 12 in Boston a week before the race. I was much more deliberate this summer about prioritizing running (and it helped that F was training for a half marathon most of the time, and understood what I was up to and why I was going to bed before 9) than I was when preparing for NYC. I didn’t work weekends, which took a lot of pressure off compared to last year. The two weeks we were in the Pacific Northwest, I built “off weeks” into the schedule so I wouldn’t be stressed about getting runs done in addition to all the gnarly hiking we were doing.

My goal for the race was a finishing time of 4:30:00, which translates to about 10:17 per mile. (There was a side goal of running a negative split and getting a free pair of shoes from Strava, but we’ll just let that go.) I really thought that pace, for 26.2 miles, was within reach, but in the end it wasn’t. At least not the day of the race. My final time was 4:54:13, which gives an average pace of 11:17 per mile. On the one hand, ugh. On the other hand, this was still a 38-minute improvement over my time at NYC last year.

Finish line smiles.

Finish line smiles.

In terms of logistics, race weekend was a dream. T and I gave ourselves plenty of time to get to Scranton, hit the expo for our bibs and some accidental shopping, ate well, and slept early the night before the race. On race morning we were up, coffeed, fed, and on the bus to the start line right on schedule. We met up with two of my running club friends while we waited in the high school before the start, which was great. The weather was cold but dry – actually a little colder than I’d expected, but we were able to wait in the high school gym until about ten minutes before the start. I wore shorts, my club singlet, and my sleeves, and I felt chilly only for the first two miles. Shoes were my fresher pair of Hoka Clifton 2s.

After the (real!) cannon went off, I started running with the 4:30:00 pace group. They went out a little fast and I went out a little fast – closer to 10-minute miles for the first half of the race. I took my Clif Shots at around 1 hour 15 minutes, then 2 hours, then 2 hours 45 minutes. I had water at every other aid station, more or less, and a little Gatorade – the Gatorade was gross and probably a mistake. I should’ve skipped it and had another Clif Shot or two. Sticking around 10-minute miles, I cruised along happily until mile 14 or 15, and at that point I began to gradually slow down even though the effort level was staying the same. From then on, it was a gradual slowing until the finish, with a little bit of walking at the final hills. In the final miles I was working hard to talk myself into keeping the shuffle going. It was a lot of “this is SO HARD” over and over in my head, but also realizing “duh, of course it’s hard!” I managed the tiniest kick at the finish (cheering teammates were so helpful). I feel like I simply didn’t have the energy I thought I would have in the second half.

So what happened? I went out a little fast. Of course, I’m calling 20 seconds per minute “a little fast” and it could’ve been much more significant than I realize. During the first half, I thought I was running closer to 10:10s on average, but I still knew it was too fast, and I should’ve been smarter about it. Another thing: I came down with a head cold the Thursday before the race – my nose was running like a maniac but I didn’t feel bad – and that could’ve had more of an effect on my system than I realized. Other possibilities? I might have run those two last long runs – 18 miles two weeks before, and 12 miles a week before – too hard, and still been recovering from them. Or maybe I simply wasn’t trained and ready for the pace I thought I could handle. I won’t ever really know, but I’m pretty certain that going out too fast WHILE I was recovering from a cold was Not Smart.

On the bright side, nothing feels injured. I had sore quads for two days, but there were no blisters, pulled muscles, or other weird pains to deal with. Also, I’m proud that I was able to keep going (even if it was a shuffle) at the end – I think that shows a strength of will that I didn’t have a year ago. I am incredibly impressed with how well T did (qualified for Boston) and how well my teammates ran. I’m feeling so lucky to have supportive family members, friends, and teammates.

A few words about the Steamtown Marathon itself: It is amazing. It is a fast course, early fall, capped at 3,000 runners, and really, really well organized. The pre-race emails were both helpful and hilarious. The expo was great, the start- and finish-line experiences were superb. There was chocolate milk ready for me within 20 feet of the finish line. Five stars, highly recommended.

What’s next? A few weeks of running for fun. Entering the lottery for the Gorge Waterfalls 50k next spring. Climbing. Trails, dude, trails. Maybe a 26.2-mile run on my own in a month or two, just to see what I can do.



Long Island Greenbelt 25K race report

LIG 25k map screenshot

North to Cold Spring Harbor then back.

“Challenging but fair”

Distance: 25K = 15.5 (but my watch gave 14.6)

Total time: 3:29:53 (14:21 avg. pace!)

Elev. gain: 2,238 feet

5-mile splits: 1:00:02, 1:24:49, then the last 4.6 miles in 1:05:02

Goal: Finish happy. Yeah, it’s dorky, and this is the first time I’ve ever had this as my goal, but I think it was the right thing to aim for. This was my first trail race in excess of 6 miles and I only registered five days before the race.

Training: I trained well for (and PR’d at!) the Redding Road Race half marathon a week earlier. Running the Greenbelt 25K was a last-minute decision so my week of training was basically two days of rest, one super-easy run/walk, 4 easy miles on trails, and 4 miles of easy road running. The last run was the night before the race – not ideal but it was important to get a run-to-dinner in with my husband, and I was looking at this 25K more as a training/test/try-it-out than a race.

Overview: The website described this as a “challenging but fair” course and I felt like it was.

I met up with the Brooklyn Trail Runners crew at Penn Station for the early train to Hicksville, and the race provided a shuttle from Hicksville to the start/finish (the Greater Long Island Running Club clubhouse). Everything was really well organized, aid stations were well stocked, trail was marked as well as a trail can be, and both races (there was also a 50K) started on time.

My two main concerns going into this were navigation and staying strong over the combination of distance and hills. The course was an out-and-back, and during the “out” leg I stayed with a group of runners and had a chance to take a good look at the markers: white blazes along most of the trail, plus orange tape along straight stretches and green tape at turns. We got more spread out on the “back” leg but by that point I felt confident about where I was going – and actually helped someone else get un-lost! In terms of staying strong for the whole distance … well, I did my best, and I think with more training, especially on hills, I’ll get better. I was happy that I was able to keep a decent jog going for the last few miles after feeling seriously exhausted by the hills in the middle miles. I hiked most hills – definitely the sensible option, in my opinion.

The course actually measured a little under 25K (14.6 miles on my watch, rather than 15.5) but I wasn’t complaining. The first third was net downhill, the middle third was rough with lots of steep elevation change, and the final third was net uphill (it was an out-and-back). The weather was uncomfortably cool before the start and after the finish, but just right for running. The trail was mostly single-track but not overwhelmingly technical, apart from a few areas full of roots, which might be a result of recent rain and erosion.

I finished about 2/3 back in the pack, which didn’t really surprise me. I’d love to improve on that in the future.

LIG 25k elevation

Elevation chart shows the nasty spikes in the middle five miles.

Worked well: I set my watch to just give me 5-mile splits and otherwise didn’t look at it. This worked well because I didn’t want to worry about time, just have a general idea of how I was doing. I think I was smart about staying hydrated (water and Nuun), eating watermelon (yum!) at every aid station, and taking a Clif shot before I felt I needed it. Ultimate Direction’s Ultra Vesta hydration pack is a winner.

Learned for next time: Don’t pin my bib where my hydration pack’s going to bump it and make crinkly sounds! Duh. Don’t forget to use Body Glide to avoid sports-bra/ribcage chafing. Bring warmer clothes for before and after. And I think it’s almost time for new trail shoes.

Up next: More biking and climbing than running for the next week, then hopefully a good combination of speedwork and trail outings through early summer.