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TARC Fall Classic 50k, 2014

After running the Miwok 100K last May, I took a sane and sensible break from ultra distances. In fact, my longest run over the summer was probably 10 miles (though I was logging about 40 miles a week). In September I started to ramp up the mileage, ramp up the speed, and ramp up the long runs — with the goal of finishing TNF San Francisco 50 miler in December… which will give me the 2 points that I need to enter the lottery for the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (aka, the race that will probably kill me).

I entered the TARC Fall Classic as a training run for the 50 miler, and because I love the welcoming, fun, chill vibe of TARC events.  The course is a 10K loop on relatively flat and mostly non-technical trails in a state park, so the race offers a 10K distance, half-marathon (2 10K loops with a extra loop around a field), marathon (4 10K loops with two extra loops around a field), and 50K (5 10K loops). I originally signed up for the marathon distance but switched last Wednesday when the weather forecast looked positive (LOOKED) and I felt strong. The race coordinator emailed me that I was the only person to switch to a longer distance out of the 20 or so people who switched distances, which made me feel like a crazy person.

I woke up at 6am and ate my typical pre-run breakfast (black coffee and spoonfuls of chia seed peanut butter, supplemented with generous drizzles of honey for the race). As I made the final preparations with my gear, Little Boy woke up and asked me to draw with him. It’s hard to refuse him, knowing I would miss his soccer game and be MIA for most of the day. So I drew Pokemon while applying Glide under my bra straps. Little Boy worked on his Laval portrait, which made me smile and beam with pride!

Little Boy's Portrait of Laval, from Chima

Little Boy’s Portrait of Laval, from Chima

The race is about a 30 minute drive. After collecting my race number and putting my gear bag on the tarps near the aid station/starting-finishing line, I chatted with friendly runners while the 10K runners took off at 8am and the rest of us waited for the 8:15am start. Two women who were doing the half-marathon commented that, compared to the other 50K runners, I looked so minimalist because I didn’t have a hydration pack or even a handheld bottle (my plan was to start carrying my handheld on the third loop). Indeed, I felt under-prepared in general — mentally, because the idea of five loops was daunting. One thing that I learned from Miwok is the benefit of starting ultra-distances with the mentality that the race is already done. The training is done, the hay is in the barn, and you just have to execute. I just didn’t have that feeling. I was worried about tripping and falling, I was worried about getting injured, and I couldn’t get into the mindset that “the race is already done, just execute” because my longest training run had only been 18 miles and that was mostly on road.

The Barn at the Aid Station/Start-Finish Line

The Barn at the Aid Station/Start-Finish Line

So the race started, and like most people I went out too fast. Not as “too fast” as some of the 50K runners, who were panting up hills at mile 2 (!). My breathing was relaxed enough to chat with a very animated guy, but I knew my pace was not sustainable. Unfortunately, it only got faster when the half-marathon runners (who had to take an extra loop around a field) started to pass us. It’s hard to quell that competitive edge and keep a sensible pace when dozens of people are passing you.

Also unfortunately: the temps were on the cool side, but it was muggy. Ugh. Being extremely sensitive to humidity, by the end of the first loop, I was already drenched in sweat. And I was still going faster than I wanted. And “four more loops” was even more daunting than five loops seemed before the race.

Fortunately, I starting running with two guys whose chatter distracted me from the nay-saying voices in my head. It was the first 50K for both of them and they just wanted to finish. I gave them encouragement and avoided voicing Debbie Downer opinions like “You shouldn’t be wearing a long sleeve shirt” and “You’re breathing too hard, it’s only mile 9″ and “We’re going too fast.”

At the end of the second loop I spied my co-worker. She runs occasionally and just moved here from Florida, and told me she missed having a running community, so I encouraged to come and volunteer at the race. She was helping to cheer and direct runners at an intersection; as I headed out for the third loop, I said half-joking “Why don’t you take a loop with me?” and she immediately jumped on the trail! She paced me for the next 4 miles or so and we chatted. Again, following her fresh legs, I was going too fast but was thrilled to talk to someone about non-running topics. (I did trip over a rock on this loop, but landed into a pile of soft leaves, which made me happy). The power of a pacer!

She returned to her volunteering duties and I headed out on the fourth loop. I removed my shirt, which was soaked and serving no purpose, and ran in my sports bra — an act that indicates far more pride in my body than I actually have. This loop was the low point. All the earlier speed began to manifest in my tired legs. I was running with people who felt just as defeated as me. “One more loop” didn’t sound palatable. It started to rain. As I neared the aid station to finish my fourth loop, a speedy 50K runner passed me, whooping because he was finished.

But then, who’s that waiting for me at the aid station? It’s Mr. P and Little Boy, coming from the soccer game to cheer me on! What a boost to see them. I resolved to finish the last loop as fast as I could so they wouldn’t be waiting too long. And just like that, I finally got into “the race is already done, just execute” mentality. At Mile 25, but better late than never! My legs felt strong and revived; I ran up hills that I previously walked; each mile got a little faster than the last. Meanwhile…


Little Boy, hanging at the Aid Station — who wouldn’t run fast on dead legs to see this smile?

With one more mile to go, I got it in my head that I didn’t want anyone to pass me (and I knew there were a few runners who were close) so I ran a strong 9-minute mile to the end.

I can see the end!

I can see the end!

People cheered. It was wonderful.


Can’t help but to smile at a 50K finish line

I finished the 50K in 6 hours and 22 minutes, which was squarely in the mid-pack and good enough for 8th out of 24 girls. My optimistic goal was to finish in 6h 30m, so actually I wasn’t going excessively fast in those earlier loops. I didn’t get injured or incur any open wounds. I ran with excellent people on a beautiful course. And most important, I got my ultra-mentality back.


My primary need at this moment was the need to put on a shirt








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Training Log: Week Ending 9/26/14

Weekly Total: 45 miles. This was a planned reduced mileage week to coincide with a fun/tough trail race in southern New Hampshire.

Saturday: 6 miles easy, including some loops around the high school track.

Sunday: 14 miles trail: the Pisgah Mountain 23K trail race.  This is an awesome race that has serious cred in the regional trail running community, hence the uber competitive field of tough southern New Hampshire runners. I’ve been waiting to do it for awhile. Certainly, after my summer of sloth-like running, I was not in racing shape; I’m still in training mode, and viewed this as a good hard training run. It was humid and slightly drizzly. I started out slow — slower than I needed to go, it turned out, because I finished much faster than I started  As usual, I passed people on the uphills, and got re-passed on the downhills. My goal was simply to finish, intact.  And I did that in 2 hours and 45 minutes.  Back of the pack! (though in my defense, the crowd at Pisgah was a pack of speedy wolves!)

The race was a good excuse for us to head to Brattleboro, VT to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary. Little Boy, Mr. P and I spent Saturday night dining along the Connecticut River, then stayed at a hotel and to wake up for the leisurely 8:45am start time. After the race, we grabbed lunch and then took a nice 3-mile-ish hike in the hills that overlook Brattleboro. Well, two of us thought it was nice! Little Boy had fun at the top but loathed the steep grade on the ascent.

Overlooking Brattleboro, VT

The night before, enjoying dinner along the Connecticut River

Monday: 5 miles, leisurely!

Tuesday: Circuit training with jump-rope intervals; 25 minutes spinning.

Wednesday: 8 miles, some speed work on the track (half mile repeats, 7:30 pace).

Thursday: 7 miles, fast hills, roads.

Friday: 5 miles easy hilly road, to the gym, for intervals

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Training Log: Week Ending 9/19/14

Weekly total: 54 miles, plus some long walks in great weather, and general happiness. Gearing up for a tough trail race next weekend — overall, feeling good and ready for increased mileage.

Saturday: 12 miles road. I had to be back home at 7:45am to get the Little Boy to his 8:30am soccer game, yet I wanted to sleep in on my Saturday… result: fast and furious!

Sunday: 14+ miles road + trail. Perfect morning. I could have kept going, but I had to return home for…

3 miles, Orchard House 5K

Mr. P had a long run to complete, and it was a beautiful day and I was in the mood for a race with Little Boy. I choose the Orchard House 5K because it started at noon, so I had the time to complete my afore-mentioned long run, come home, clean up (for the second straight week in a row I arrived home after a long run to find out I could NOT take a shower — this time because the downstairs neighbors accidentally switched off our water heater. Lord.) and take Little Boy to the starting line to register. Also, it benefited the Lousia May Alcott house in Concord, and I was an English Major…

Little Boy started out strong, but quickly fell into a walk. I tried to motivate him to walk/run, but when he ran, he RAN. Sprinted, for about a minute. And then fell into a leisurely walk. Which was fine — the sense I have about this Little Boy is that he’s motivated by a finish line, so an abstract finish line is just not motivating. I tried to encourage him by picking out small goals — “I’ll race you to that tree!” and that worked well.

Then, we neared the finish line. Us 5K runners merged with the 10K runners. We were jogging for a change! There were not a lot of runners on the wide open road, but I moved to the left side out of habit, and Little Boy started to follow me. Suddenly:

“Bawrgggh! Bargggdhhhh! Barrrgggghhhhh!”

A tallish young women wearing a skirt (AND ear phones, I add not insignificantly) ran directly in between us, bawling pure primal sounds at the top of her lungs right in Little Boy’s ear (and my ear, since she ran between  us and we were about two feet apart). It was scary and confusing; I couldn’t understand why, when the road was completely empty and wide, she was so intent on running and SCREAMING at us. I figured out later she was doing a respectable but certainly not winning 8:30/m pace. The screaming completely scared Little Boy and stunned us both.

A woman running directly behind the shrieking skirt lady said to me, “I don’t think that was necessary!” as she flew by. Which made me feel good, because the woman in the skirt just struck me as insane, screaming like that in a local road race at a 6 year old child.

We finished the race amid many kind spectators, clapping for Little Boy’s achievements. But he was upset, entirely focused on the woman who was yelling at him. I looked around for her, wanting to casually say something like “That wasn’t cool” without starting a Big Thing but I didn’t see her. What is probably for the better! All I can say is… she’s probably blogging about how she hates when people bring their 6 year olds to run races and they accidentally get in her way. This would never happen in a trail race. Trail runners have etiquette; the world is not their treadmill.

At the finish line -- no, we did not finish 5K in over an hour, but it was close ;-)

Three-time Boston Marathon winner Uta Pippig was there! and she was beautiful and gracious as could be!

Hint: Uta is the one on the left

Monday: 6 miles easy.

Tuesday: Interval training, spinning.

Wednesday: 6 miles, some hills. I could feel my quads from yesterday’s never ending wall-sits, which I guess is ultimately a good thing.

Thursday: 8 miles speed work. I headed to the track for one 8-minute mile repeats followed by 800-meter all-out sprints. Another beautiful morning.

Friday: 8 mile mix-up. The mornings are cold and dark. I headed out, throwing on gear to keep me warm in the 40ish-degree temperatures and steady winds. When dawn prevailed, I realized how absurd my outfit was, with its clashing array of colors: fluorescent orange, pink, deep purple compression socks, blue and gray shoes… in other words, I looked like a typical style-oblivious runner, typically found in America.

Cover your eyes

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Training Log: Week Ending 9/12/14

Saturday: 14 miles road, stopped at gym for light interval workout. It was a disgustingly muggy morning, and the minute the sun became fully evident in the sky, the combined heat index was well above anything I’ve subjected myself to this summer. I jogged along the Charles River, taking an easy pace, just trying to survive what has been one of my longest runs since May. I’m back in training mode and back on the weekend double-long run.

Sunday: 12 miles trail. The weather was nicer so I headed with great enthusiasm for Middlesex Fells. I alternated the fire roads with the technical single-track. The worst part was when I returned home, dripping with sweat and bug spray, and Mr. P informed me the shower was broken. Hello, kitchen sink sponge bath!

Monday: Interval workout with jump rope, 3 miles easy. I headed to the gym simply so I could take a shower afterwards, but squeezed in a good workout and lazy 3 mile jog outside along the Charles.

Tuesday: 7 miles road. Did a few solid long hill repeats. Darn, the sunrise is getting late.

Wednesday: 8+ miles road, hills, speed. I hit the track this morning and clocked a 7:45 mile with only a decent effort, which was encouraging. Training only for distance definitely compromises one’s speed, but luckily running 50 miles per week primes the physique readily for speed work. Hopefully visiting the track 2x a week will put a bit of pep into my fall races.

Thursday: 6 miles road. Lazy, humid, jut getting it done… but I do feel surprisingly spry for the end of a 50 mile week.

Friday: 60 minutes swimming. The pool was amazingly crowded this morning. It was such a beautiful morning that I felt torn hitting the pool. I’m thinking of phasing out regular pool workouts until December. I love the pool but my upper body tends to get bulky and muscled, even with once-a-week workouts. Plus, crowded pools kill me. I accidentally swiped a girl’s butt during a flip turn.

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Training Log: Week Ending 9/5/14

Saturday: 9 miles, 1700 feet elevation gain. The Jay Peak Running Festival 5K Hat Trick! This was an interesting race that reminded me just how darn slow I can be in short distances. 5K is a sprint distance, so I paced myself very differently than if I were running a 15K all at once. The first 5K was the hardest, the “Black Diamond,” with 700 feet of climbing and a section of tight technical single track. There were a slew of fast girls in my age group — more girls than men, actually, a rarity in trail races, and I finished mid-pack.

The first 5K

The second 5K, the “Blue Circle,” started an hour later; it was easier, but my inability to sustain a sprint landed me a bit better than mid-pack (though I beat this guy).

The second 5K


The third 5K, the “Green Square,” started an hour after that. This one, Mr. P was doing with Little Boy (and the friends we came with were doing it with their 6 year old and 10 year old). The third 5K was supposed to be the easiest but I didn’t find it easier than the second one at all; both had roughly 500 feet of climbing. I finished in about the same time (32 minutes). Little Boy did excellent, finishing in about 42 minutes! Overall, among the hat trick runners, I finished 8th out of 24 women. It was a good reminder to get some speed work in.

Sunday: 9 miles, treadmill. My quads were complaining bitterly after all of yesterday’s downhill running. In the morning we watched Mr. P finish the 25K race (4500+ feet elevation gain, which is insane).

25K Home Stretch (4000+ elevation gain)

He got third in his age group!

Third in his age group!

The weather was iffy all day. I needed to get in another run but knew it had to be flat and slow, so I opted for the treadmill in the fitness center, where I couldn’t even feel my quads. Same distance as yesterday, yet a totally different experience; not all miles are the same.

Monday: 4 miles hiking, 800+ elevation gain. Our last morning at Jay Peak, I hit the trails for some uphill hiking. Since I went straight up and straight down, I’m surprised it wasn’t more than 800 feet but that’s what the watch said.

Tuesday: 7.5 miles road running, 600 feet elevation gain. We’ve been terribly spoiled this summer by cool mornings with zero humidity, so I really shouldn’t complain about the hot sticky mess that has been September. Every part of my body oozed sweat.

Wednesday: 8.5 miles road running, 600 feet elevation. A slow, steady effort the whole way. The humidity was down a bit.

Thursday: 8 miles road running. 700 feet elevation.

Friday: 60 minutes swimming.

More pics from last Friday’s peak bag of Mt. Pemigawassette, aka the “Indian Head.”

The Apple of my Eye

"Daddy" by Little Boy

The View from the Indian Head

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First Day of First Grade!

It was yesterday. What a relief. 10 weeks of summer put a noticeable dent in Little Boy’s math skills (before summer, he was adding and subtracting numbers with ease; now, he throws out random guesses — “3? 10? 5? 8?”) and decreased his motivation to become an independent reader. The summer slump sucks!

He was a little emotional about going back, but insisted on going to his morning care program even though I had planned to wait on the playground for the official start-of-school line-up with all the other kids. That’s why his “first day of first grade” picture looks like he’s headed into a detention center.

Headed to the Morning Care Program

After school, as we walked home, I asked him, “How was your first day of First grade?”


“What did you do?”

“I don’t know.”

“Was your teacher nice?”

“Yeah.” He thought about it, and then said darkly, “But teachers are always nice at the beginning.”

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Training Log: Week Ending 8/29/14

Saturday: 7 miles, pancake loop. Oh, the irony! I choose to do a fast, flat run around Fresh Pond because we were going camping and I wanted to preemptively minimize contact with insects. An added bonus was the access to modern bathrooms, and my digestive system was feeling rather productive that morning… too much information, but what happened not ten steps away from the bathroom was a shot of insect-given pain behind my knee — spider? flea? — that radiated through my entire upper calf. A red dot marked the epicenter of the bite; it didn’t start to swell until later that night, when I awoke in a tent feeling as if my entire right knee was on fire. Oh, the irony.

Sunday: 9 miles. A little bit of technical trail, a little bit of pavement, mostly dirt road. We camped in north-central Massachusetts at our favorite local campground. We’ve been there about a half-dozen times and I’ve gradually discovered a network of short trails that can constitute a longish run. I needed this run — I loved every moment!

A Lily Pad Pond

Last Spring, I discovered a small nineteenth-century cemetery grandly named New Boston Cemetery, with gravestones for men who fought in the Revolutionary War! But I am drawn to Sally’s tombstone.

Sally's Tombstone

More scenic waterways.

Otter River tributary

And then I returned to pond at the campsite, where Little Boy and Mr. P frolicked, built canals, and tried to catch fish. Lovely, lovely camping trip.

Summer Fun

Monday: 8 miles, Bread and Butter Loop. Last hard effort before the taper for Saturday’s race.

Tuesday: 60 minutes swimming. Tuesday is the day the fast girl shows up at the pool (she told me she goes to three different pools around the area, depending on her work schedule). When I give a hard effort, she’s actually not that much faster than me, but her flip-turns are wicked fast. If the pool is too warm, she’ll bitch about it and leave notes to the pool maintenance man. She is intense; I don’t usually swim on Tuesdays, but when I do I feel somewhat challenged by the fast girl.

Wednesday: 30 minutes circuit training/jump roping; 30 minutes swimming. I must admit that I am majorly in love with the jump rope. For awhile my gym had a small stash of jump ropes that I grooved on in 1-minute intervals in between planks, wall sits, kettle bells, and stretching, but the jump ropes disappeared. So I bought my own — a red-and-black beaded jump rope that is serious exercise fun. I’ve improved technically, so my limitation is often purely cardio. After jumping and planking myself into a sweaty mess, I hit the pool for a half-hour of solid crawl.

Thursday: 7 miles easy hills. After two days off running, this last run before my hat trick 5K on Saturday felt pretty easy.

(planned) Friday: 60 minutes swimming… and hopefully a mid-day peak-bag!

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The 6-Year Old Artist

I remember way back when, in the beginning stages of the adoption, Mr. P and I were in the mandatory interviews with the social worker. She asked us to imagine what would happen if the adoptive child had very different talents and interests than us, or didn’t “achieve” to our expectations. Of course this is something that every parent needs to consider of their offspring — and dare I say that it might be more disappointing if our biological child failed to “achieve” — but we answered that we’d be okay with it, we had lots of interests (camping, swimming) that every kid loves, and then I quipped something along the lines of “And if the child turns out to be an artist instead of a writer or engineer, I think we’d be okay with that.”

Of course, Little Boy turned out to be an artist — certainly not a writer, perhaps with engineer tendencies, but solidly a kid who can sit down in front of a piece of paper and draw and is very interested and critical of art and drawings we look at. When we were on vacation in Colorado, we spent many hours drawing Pokemon. One of my favorites is his Jigglypuff:

Jigglypuff Pokemon by Little Boy

So when he saw this old book of Mr. P’s about Diego Rivera (husband of Frida), he demanded it be his bedtime story for three nights running and also tried to emulate several of Rivera’s masterpieces.

I came across this one when I was decluttering the living room:

Rivera, interpreted by a 6-year old boy

Ah, this Little Boy. The joys just keep coming!

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Training Log: Week Ending 8/22/14

Total: 41 miles. Slight taper in preparation for next week’s race (9 miles) in Vermont!

Saturday August 16: 6 miles run to gym, circuit training, 4 miles run home. It’s been a few years since I’ve used a Smith machine. I understand, in the “functional fitness” circles, it’s out of vogue because free weights activate more muscle fibers, stress joints less, and just generally make you look like a badass. But it’s been awhile since I’ve squatted and deadlifted heavy weight/low reps, so I felt safer with the dowdy Smith machine.

Sunday August 17: 10 miles road run, 1000 feet elevation gain. Surprisingly the sorest part of my body after yesterday’s weight workout were my pecs/triceps. It was a cool but humid morning and the smell of bacon wafted out of more than a few houses. Hamstrings were fatigued on the last hill but overall I killed it on the hills.

Monday August 18: 60 minutes swimming. Pecs and triceps still sore and, 5 minutes into the swim, I worried I’d have to retreat to the sauna. But everything loosened up and I swam 30 minutes without stopping, then broke up the remaining time with some kicking drills and freestyle laps.

Tuesday August 19: 2.5 miles to gym, circuit training, 3.5 miles run home. This summer’s weather has been blissfully mild, crisp insanity. I will stay in New England forever if it stays like this!

Wednesday August 20: 3.5 miles to gym, foam rolling and light weights, 3.5 miles home. Ditto.

Thursday August 21: 6 miles slooowww running. I stopped at the gym again… more for the bathroom than for the weights and foam roller, although I availed myself of those, too.

Friday August 22: 6 miles, hills. Can the weather please stop being this good so I can take a freaking rest day? I finally found a jump rope at the gym!– about a half-foot too long, which precluded one-legged jumps, but I laid out some solid blocks of ‘rope.

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Training Log: Week ending 8/15/14

I’m restarting the Training Log, in an effort get this blog consistent. I hate to be that runner who is narcissistic, preening, exhibitionist-prone, and self-centered… you know, the way that I’m always outside, running instead of entrenched in my home, watching television and surfing the Internet like a proper human. But it’s something I can write about without having to search for a topic. Because I’m always training.

I have three races on my calendar for the fall, the big “A” race being a 50-miler in early December. Finishing that 50-miler — The North Face San Francisco, on many of the same trails of the Miwok 100K — will qualify me to enter the lottery of the most prestigious and difficult ultra in the world, the UTMB in France — which is in proximity to our Alpine condo — for next August 2015. Essentially, I am already in training for the UTMB. Because it’s a dooooozy.

But not this week. This summer’s weather being simply wonderful, I have been running more than expected. In much of July and August, I had 60 mile weeks, on trail and road, loving the early sunrise coupled with pink-tinged sunrises during 10-miler weekday runs. This week I took it easy.

Saturday August 9: 6 miles, flat and easy, early morn. I know we would be headed up North to bag a few 4K-footers.

Sunday August 10: Finished the Mt. Whiteface and Mt. Passaconway loop. About 11-12 miles total, with (wild guess) 4K elevation gain. I was a bit deprived on nutrition overall and babying my knee on the downhills.

Monday August 11: 6 miles easy. Quads a bit sore from the hike.

Tuesday August 12: 7 miles, some hill sprints and pushing the speed.

Wednesday August 13: 60 minutes swimming. Lots of triathlon men in the pool, huffing and puffing after a lap. I kick water in their faces on the flip-turns!

Thursday August 14: 6 miles running to and from gym, circuit workout. My shameful secret of the summer: I have not been keeping up with my core and lower-body work at the gym. I know this only invite injury and doom, so I’ve vowed to resume the kettlebells thrusts, the squats, the deadlifts, the wall sits, weighted planks, etc etc etc. Surprisingly, going through the circuit my legs felt great — increased blood flow, perhaps — and I jogged home from the gym on a beautiful cool morning, feeling great.

Friday August 15: 60 minutes swimming. After yesterday’s weights, my glutes were tight and my hamstrings were downright sore, so I headed to the pool. Unfortunately my shoulders were also sore — probably the kettlebell work — so I was definitely moving at a leisurely pace.

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