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TARC Spring Classic 2015

Up until one minute after the race start, I considered the TARC Spring Classic 50K to be just a training run… not something I’d run hard. But I felt good, the day was crisp and sunny, and I was running a TARC race — life is good! The momentous snow of the winter is gone. (Was it ever really here? Did I really spend the entire month of February running on a treadmill? How did I make it through a 2.5 hour run on a treadmill?)

So yeah, this race was supposed to be just “time on my feet.” No speed involved, because speed plus ultra distance requires recovery, and with the VT 100 and UTMB looming, I don’t have time for recovery. I must be constantly pushing the limit yet not exceed the limit. With this race, I definitely pushed the limit.

The Twin State 50K

My first ultra of the season was actually a month ago, in VT, the low-key Twin State 50K, which I ran last year. Because Mr. P was on call for his work, I drove up to VT by myself, ran 50K essentially by myself, and finished in a muck of excitable French Canadians.

Twin State 50 Starting Line

Twin State 50 Starting Line

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Twin State 50, Mile 12ish Aid Station, AKA a guy on the side of the road with Oreos

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Twin State 50K Finish Line! Cue the cheering Quebecois

So Twin State was a good race for me, given the hills. I finished slightly over 5:35 and showed great sportsmanship by not ratting out the Quebecoise who I saw cutting the course. Overall a nice way to commence the season after the horrific Spring Thaw.

Back to the Spring Classic…

With the Spring Classic coming a month after Twin State, and with my legs feeling strong and injury-free (thanks mostly, I suspect, to my renewed commitment to strength and mobility work) I knew I could do a pretty fast Spring Classic 50K. It’s a really flat trail, as far as 50Ks go. The weather was ideal. And the course is 5 loops of 6+ miles, so I only had to carry a handheld water bottle and I could grab PB&Js at the end of each loop.

Mr. P volunteered to go early and help park cars. Little Boy and I arrived at the race start in Weston just as the main parking area was filling up. Little Boy thought it was hilarious to see Daddy in the safety vest, directing cars to various areas of the field. They left shortly after the race start, as I didn’t want them to spend a Saturday spectating an ultramarathon.

When the race started, I was accidentally (really!) at the front of the pack and I could see that there were no 50K girls in front on me (confirming my suspicion that several of the really fast girls who signed up to run were not, in fact, running). During the first mile, about 5-6 girls did pass me, but I still had the motivation and the feeling like I could finish this race near the front of the pack.

So I went for it.

TARC Spring 50K -- in the first mile feeling cold, focused

TARC Spring 50K — in the first mile feeling cold, focused — photo by Edith Dixon

The first loop was crowded as the shorter distances began to pass us and the pack settled down. I was thrilled that the course wasn’t terribly muddy — the last race I ran in these woods was the TARC 50M almost two years ago, which was epic mud. My miles ranged from 8:30 to 9:40, which is much much faster than I typically go on trails. The second loop was more being passed and passing. I told myself I was going to “calm down” but I felt exceptionally good.

After each loop I passed through the starting line/aid station/drop bag area, where I filled up my handheld with water and grabbed two quarters of good ole’ PB&J. I ate nothing else the entire race, not even my typical “Oh, I earned them” peanut M&Ms.

Cruising on the second loop

Cruising on the second loop

The pack really thinned out on the third loop, as most of the half-marathoners had finished and the ones remaining were mostly walking and easier to pass. I finally passed another 50K girl I was leap-frogging with and didn’t see her the rest of the race. I slowed down a bit but still managed 9:40-11:00 minute miles.

The fourth loop was the loop that I dreaded. Miles 20-26, things get lonely, minds turn zombie. My legs still felt pretty good but my energy was falling fast and it took more effort to maintain my pace. Towards the end of the loop, I could hear two girls chatting distantly behind me. It took about one mile but they passed me; one was a 50K girl, the other was apparently a pacer. I was totally fine with her passing me except when the pacer girl said “Good luck!” to me, and in my tired mind I took that as an insult. Most people say “Good job!” or “Keep it up!”… but “Good luck?” Did I look like I was hurting so much that I would need, like, luck?

Luckily that was right before the end of the fourth loop, so I was quickly distracted by the thrill of going through the aid station and the PB&Js and whatnot, and then starting my fifth and final loop. Ah! Mentally I was relieved; every inch of trail I passed, I told myself “Last time I see that rock. Last time I cross this grass field. Last time I run this mud.”

I passed a few 50K guys on this loop. Towards the end of the loop I passed one guy who was breathing heavily. My passing seemed to invigorate him, and for about one mile I could hear him panting behind me. The fear of being “chicked” finally pushed him passed me about 2 minutes from finish, though he was wheezing like a dying man.

Finish! 5 hours, 36 minutes. 6th girl out of 33. (It turns out the girl with the “good luck” pacer was a mere 30 seconds ahead of me, but I had no way of knowing.) Overall another great TARC race.

 

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Easter, 2015

On Monday, Little Boy came home with this “Weekend News” writing/creative exercise — (a much anticipated highlight of every Monday):

Weekend News

Weekend News

For those not versed in Little Boy… “I went to a shelter and my dad and me saw a ladybug and we put it in my mom and dads chocolate box it was cool!”

I saw the first phrase and gasped. You see, we did not go to a “shelter,” we went to the AMC Lodge at Mount Cardigan in New Hampshire. It’s a “lodge” (with plenty of creature comforts, including heat, bathrooms, warm showers, a library, rocking chairs… literally the works) not a “shelter” in mountaineering terminology, but obviously either Mr. P or I had once slipped and called it a “shelter.”

Of course, most people hear “shelter” and think “homeless.” I hedged with Little Boy:

“Did any teacher ask you about this?” (His regular teacher had actually gone into labor the day before, so there is his long-term sub and the assistant).

“Mrs. C asked me why we went to a shelter,” he said.

“And what did you say?” I asked.

“It was my Mommy’s idea to go to the shelter,” he said. (This is actually inaccurate. It was totally Mr. P’s idea to go to the lodge.)

Great. So now his teachers think we live in a homeless shelter. Maybe, best case, that we volunteer at a homeless shelter. Either way, pretty inaccurate.

At the "shelter", on the rocking chairs, after a rousing game of Spit (can no longer play easy with Little Boy)

At the “shelter”, on the rocking chairs, after a rousing game of Spit (can no longer play easy with Little Boy)

On the hike to the waterfall, across an ice bridge. We actually tethered Little Boy to a rope so he wouldn't slip away.

On the hike to the waterfall, across an ice bridge. We actually tethered Little Boy to a rope so he wouldn’t slip away.

Enjoying Easter chocolate as a respite.

Enjoying Easter chocolate as a respite.

Smiles ;-)

Smiles ;-)

Mommy's Pasty Legs, basking in 45 degree spring sunshine

Mommy’s Pasty Legs, basking in 45 degree spring sunshine

Two Weeks before, decorating eggs at the grandparents

Two Weeks before, decorating eggs at the grandparents

One week before -- hubby hubba!

One week before — hubba hubba!

Happy Easter and (sorta) Spring!

Happy Easter and (sorta) Spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A PR, and a PW

It’s Spring, supposedly.

PW (Personal Worst)

My first race of 2015 was the TARC Spring Thaw. Last year I came in second place by running 28.5 miles in six hours — the trail had some snow and ice, but it was minimal and manageable. This year, there was a 1-2 foot snow pack that caused ankle-tweaking postholing and just general unpleasantness. I went to the race with low expectations, and after completing one 4-mile loop of mostly walking in a long conga line of equally frustrated trail runners… I was done. One hour, 15 minutes for 4 miles… Sure, I could have done more loops, but given the scheduling constraints of the day, plus my realistic fear of damaging my ankles/lower calf in ridiculous conditions, I decided to pack it in and go run 13 hilly road miles.

This gave me a ridiculous 14.04% rank on Ultrasignup (based on the total miles of the top woman — a local legend — which was 28.5 miles). Embarrassing Internet result… but in ultrarunning, there is a very fine line ‘tween grit and foolhardiness. I am content with my 4 miles and 14.04% rank.

At the start, with hardier runners than me

At the start (far right) with hardier runners than I

PR (Personal Record)

This past week, we visited family in Pennsylvania. Since all of the early-spring road half-marathons in Boston have been cancelled due to snow banks, Mr. P and I decided to look for a half-marathon around Philly… and serendiptiously found the Caesar Rodney half-marathon in Wilmington, Delaware. It was hilly, but I decided to go for a PR road half-marathon (judging my previous PR — 1:47 — to be soft).

On Sunday morning we left Little Boy with his grandparents and drive to Wilmington. We don’t go on dinner dates anymore — just half-marathon dates. And it was such a treat to go to a race with Mr. P! It was windy. Well-organized, about 1000 runners? Delaware Senator Tom Carper — who was running — gave a speech at the starting line. Over the megaphone, I couldn’t understand a word. When the race started, Mr. P ran ahead of me and I fell into a 7:30 pace, knowing the first six miles were flat and fast. The hills were madness. Still, with all the winter’s treadmill speed work, I easily attained a new PR in 1:42.

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Oldie But Goodie

4 years old… actually, just-turned-5. Generous smiles, unabashed Mommy Love. Good times.

No snow… warm, sweaty warmth. Good times!

Summer 2013, frolic with friends

Summer 2013, frolic with friends

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Respite, and Snow Shoe

Primarily, it’s the consistently insane cold that’s been keeping me on the treadmill. Yesterday morning it was -6 without the wind chill. I felt no shame spending 2 hours on the treadmill. I mean, what, I’m going to run in -6 degrees, on sporadically shoveled sidewalks, surrounded by 5-foot high snowbanks? Really?

But today was a different story. Today was a brief respite from the cold, with a warmish morning (30 degrees) warming up to a sunny 40 degrees!

I needed to be in the woods. I had hoped to run bare-sneaker, but the trails at Prospect Hill weren’t packed enough. So I strapped on the snow shoes and galavanted for 4 hours (actually, I galavanted for 3 hours and then got sidetracked for another hour… I got lost trying to get to the trail I had hoped to take back to the car, then when I reached that trail it was completely unbroken, forcing me to trudge through thigh-high powder to break the trail). Still, it was lovely to be outdoors and not suffering.

View of Waltham & Boston from Prospect Hill Summit

View of Waltham & Boston from Prospect Hill Summit

Obligatory selfie

Obligatory selfie

After a leisurely lunch, Mr. P went for his long run and I took Little Boy in search of sledding. He rejected all our usual haunts so I decided to take him to an unconventional sledding hill: Lone Tree Hill, a conservation area off the beaten path with few suitable sledding slopes. At least we would have soothing solitude and sustaining sunshine! (and Little Boy did get a few good runs in)…

Attempting to sled at Lone Tree Hill

Attempting to sled at Lone Tree Hill

Gorgeous afternoon!

Gorgeous afternoon!

A relief to spend so much quality time outdoors. Winter, you have not won yet.

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I’m Not a New Englander After All

This was our front yard last Friday:

Could it get any worse?

Could it get any worse?

It couldn’t possibly get worse than that…

Could not possibly…

Can’t get worse…

BAM.

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I got home from the gym this morning at 7am. It was -2 F degrees without the windchill, probably -15 or more every time the bitter Arctic wind gusts. Mountains of snow are everywhere. There is more snow coming. There is not a day over 32 degrees in the 12-day forecast (and that is a snow day).

“I’m done,” I told Mr. P. “Done.”

I’m so ready to run away to San Francisco. It turns out I’m not a hardy New Englander. I like being outdoors. I don’t mind some cold, I don’t mind some snow, but…

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Snow Day #6

This is the third Monday/Tuesday in a row that school has been closed because of the ridiculous amount of snow that is besieging Boston metro. It’s the third big storm that has dropped between 1-2 feet of snow on our densely residential neighborhood (which has become a treacherous network of unofficial one-way roads because of the ten-foot high snow banks). It’s absurd. Absurd. We can’t even go outside and sled because there’s too much snow. And it’s cold. There’s not a day over 25 degrees and a night over 12 in the ten-day forecast (which also has, alas, more snow).

We have the good luck to share a small-dwelling condo with a man who loves, loves his snow blower. He’s out there for hours, carefully moving piles and grooming our driveway and sidewalks, creating access points, clearing the storm drains, etc. Before this latest storm, he moved all of the snow near the driveway to our front yard. If we didn’t have this neighbor, this is the winter that would have buckled our resolve to remain hardy shovelers and bought a snowblower of our own. It would be the only way. You simply cannot shovel your way out of this.

In the below picture, Little Boy is laying on his stomach on a huge solid block of snow (and this was in the middle of the storm).

Our new front yard

Our new front yard

It’s a historic, unprecedented amount of snow. The only bright side is that it’s mid-February, and up until a few weeks ago we were having a pretty nice winter — cold, but dry. This will all end soon. It’ll melt…. probably in June, and probably ruining our grass and flooding our basement, but it will melt. We’ll beat you yet, snow!

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Smiling on the outside, crying on the inside

 

 

 

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The Woman in the Iron Vest

Winter continues: Snow, ice, cold. Another foot of heavy white stuff is expected to add to the heaps during the next two days. I’ve been treadmilling and such. We went XC skiing today at Great Brook Farm. It’s winter, and given that it’s near mid-February, I know that, theoretically, it will all be over in 6 weeks or so.

I have a weighted vest. It’s a vest with about 20 pockets in which one can stuff bags of sand, with a maximum of 20 pounds. When I was shopping for the weighted vest on Amazon, I was actually considering buying a 40 pound vest. Woah. That would have sucked.

So why did I buy a weighted vest? Oh, come now. I think my sanity is a well-established wild card.

I wear the weighted vest as I’m doing chores around the house — taking loads of laundry to and fro the basement, vacuuming, tidying. It does stress my back enough that I can pretend it’s a form of legitimate training for a 100 mile race.

It feel so good to take it off. Such a relief.

Behold the Weighted Vest

Behold the Weighted Vest

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Training Log (One Snowy, Cold Hot Mess)

No training logs these days … not because I haven’t been training, but because it would read something like “5 miles treadmill, 7 miles treadmill, 12 miles treadmill (yikes)” with the occasional “2 hours backcountry XC ski bliss!”

Winter has smacked New England hard in the face. Sure, we won the Super Bowl… and that was oddly satisfying… but we have mountains of snow on the ground and more on the way. 4 snow days in the past 2 weeks. Frigid temperatures and running out of room for snow.

This was after the first big storm last week:

After First Snow

After First Snow

Woah, look at that… big snow, right?

Then yesterday this happened:

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Another 14 inches

(6 miles treadmill, 8 miles treadmill…)

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His “ninja” pose

Pretty soon it’s going to be “15 miles treadmill” and I will sob.

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Training Log: Week Ending 1/23/15

A terrifying thing has happened: I won the lottery and gained entry to the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, a 104-mile, 30K foot elevation gain race in the Alps next August. I joke with Mr. P a lot about how the UTMB will probably kill me, how there’s no way I’ll finish in the 46-hour time limit, how I’ve made a horrible mistake… but actually I do think there’s a chance that I’ll be able to finish. I can climb these steep but mostly non-technical Alpine trails all day (and night — I also handle sleep deprivation pretty well). I think major challenges will be the downhills — will my knees hold up? I’m planning lots of downhill sprints in the spring.

Since getting into UTMB, I’ve bumped up the training several notches — not going ‘all-in’ because it is still January, but definitely getting a base. I’ve signed up for a number of races, including the VT 100 in July (6 weeks before UTMB). I’m excited and scared. This is a challenge, and I may not succeed in finishing… but that’s the sign of a true challenge!

Sat 1/17: Very, very cold this morning — 10 below with the wind chill. I headed to the gym and started with my 30 minute jump-rope and mobility circuit, then 90 minutes of the treadmill, varying the speed and the grades — about 7.5 miles. Later, when it warmed up, I took a 30 minute walk in my new weighted vest.

Sun 1/18: Warmer today, so I headed to Prospect Hill. The road and the trails up the hill were icy. 10 miles, 2.5 hours, 1200 ft elevation gain. In the afternoon I hit the gym for some mobility work and a short but speedy treadmill run (30 minutes, 3.4 miles).

Mon 1/19: 5 miles slow jogging on slightly icy roads. Then — pleasure! Skiing 4 hours with Little Boy at Wachusett. This kid is a fast skier. He did ask for frequent lodge breaks, but when we were on the trails we blazed.

On a ski lift

On a ski lift

Tues 1/20: Gym: short mobility workout, then 50 minutes medium effort treadmill. Evening: 1.5 mile walk with weighted vest.

Wed 1/21: 9 miles, Bread and Butter loop plus extra hills, 750 feet elevation gain.

Thursday 1/22: 8 miles (ran to gym and home, with extra hills); some mobility work at gym

Friday 1/23: This should have been a rest day, but snow is forecast for tomorrow, and next week it looks like there is another 2-3 feet coming. I’ll probably rest then. I had to work from home for some work we’re having done on our house for the new dishwasher, so I was able to sneak in some running in the mild snow-free sunshine — last time until April, probably! 2 miles hills (walking) in the morning, followed by 5.5 miles running at lunch, followed by 8.5 miles on trails in the early evening.  (And happy anniversary! Today is the 7th anniversary of our “living room” wedding.)

 

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