traprock ultra

I’m just here for the scenery…

”Running is a road to self-awareness and reliance …

you can push yourself to extremes

and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations

or coast quietly down a solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet.

But when you are through, exhilarated and exhausted, 

at least for a moment everything seems right with the world…”

-Unknown

finishline

“I’m just here for the scenery” was the half joke I made at the start of the Chatfield Hollow State Park 50K yesterday morning. The truth is I WAS there for the scenery, but I was also there for a very important reason- raising money to support CT-ALIVE (The CT Alliance For Victims of Violence and Their Families). This was my forth year fundraising for victims of domestic violence, and I certainly wasn’t going to sell them short with anything less than an ultra distance. I picked Chatfield Hollow because one year wasn’t a long enough to wipe Bimbler’s Bluff from my memory. Plus, I thought it would be fun to race in a new venue.

1920353_716524838438154_2140869296790059930_n

Nature walk to the start. That’s my kind of race!

I was surprised when I looked at the registration list and found only 15 runners had signed up for the 50K with most runners opting for the shorter distances. Of those 15, only three were women… Clearly the rest of the ultra community (and majority of the runners present) knew something I didn’t.  Rather than get nervous over this revelation, I figured the low numbers were due to the close proximity with Bimbler’s. Besides, I was too busy enjoying the gorgeous scenery to worry about the brutality that awaited me!

Plus, I figured that if I could survive Bimbler’s, I could handle anything they threw at me. I just couldn’t imagine it being any worse. What a silly notion!

What I didn’t take into consideration was the stricter time cut offs. The total allotted time for the course was only 8 hours (an hour less than Traprock and 2 less than Bimbler’s). Like Bimbler’s, the course was extremely rocky with a good amount of technical single track trails. There were parts that literally involved scaling up and down rocks which definitely slowed me down. I am not the biggest fan of running on rocky terrain because I am clumsy to begin with; so overall the unstable footing was a detriment to my pace. That’s not to say that I didn’t still enjoy myself because I totally did!

The course was composed of five 10K loops. (Spoiler Alert: I got DQ’d after not meeting the time qualifier on my third lap; however the officials took pity and allowed me to still run a forth!) The thing that was really challenging about this specific ultra is the entire loop was up and down. Every other ultra I have run, all the really horrible climbs are either in the first third of the course OR at the beginning of the loop (For example, at Traprock of the 10 mile loop, only the first three miles were horrific and the rest were more manageable).  This race had hills throughout the loop, including rock faces that had to be scaled at the end (well played race organizers, well played). In a word, it was BRUTAL… and this is coming from a girl who did Bimbler’s as her first 50K and finished a Half Ironman less than two months after gallbladder surgery.

10418904_716524945104810_4785371998643999263_nAll that being said, throughout the race I really felt good. I was going slow, but I wasn’t hurting or miserable. I felt better on my third lap than I did on my first or second, and that was in spite of having to repeat a mile and a half section that I accidentally missed on my second time through (in my defense, the course was marked going in two different directions and I choose the one with the flags to my left because that is what we were instructed to do… I definitely had a little internal struggle about making up the part I missed knowing I was already flirting dangerously with the cut off. However, I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. I didn’t want to get credit for finishing unless it was for the entire course).

At that point, I was a little tired of all the climbing and descending and the pounding on the rocks, but not to the degree I expected given the difficulty level.  It definitely helped that there were some great views and really fun sections which were enough to keep my mind off any aches or pains. Not to mention, I was too busy trying to simultaneously watch my footing and for trail markers to pay attention to much else! On a side note, I have to be honest that the scenery alone makes this run worthwhile… rocky terrain, continuous climbs, and all.

If the Chatfield Hollow SP 50K is a race you are considering doing, my advice would be to expect very rocky terrain and make sure you are prepared for it. Also, all the race distances start together, so expect the first few miles to be crowded and slow unless you get to the head of the pack. Another consideration is to plan on bringing your own water/nutrition. They have an aid station at the start/finish with some food, but the other two aid stations are just water stops without volunteers. There’s not going to be anyone handing out your snacks or water, so that’s something to keep in mind (Think “self serve”).

On that same note, while there are some people at the start/finish area, there are not a lot of volunteers on the course. Be10675731_716524988438139_6863402278390244130_n prepared to spend some quality time by yourself because you won’t find a lot of company or support out there (like at some other races with larger numbers). Personally, I like to think that the secret of ultra running to be really comfortable with yourself. Otherwise, it’s an awful lot of time to spend with someone you don’t like. Any demons or insecurities you have are going to be brought on on this course, so make sure you either deal with them ahead of time or have a strategy come race day.

Lastly, don’t get caught up with the time cut offs. I spent a good part of my first loop worrying about not being fast enough before I realized there was nothing I could do about it. I was doing my best, and it was either going to be go enough or it wasn’t. It turned out that it wasn’t; but, surprisingly, the world didn’t end. No one pointed a finger at me and told me I wasn’t good enough. In reality, getting pulled and not finishing did not even remotely detract from the experience.

I took on a course that was WAY out of my comfort zone, and I didn’t quit… even after I was technically disqualified. I am immensely grateful to the race organizers for allowing me to run that last loop and get in as many miles as I could. In addition to being a great opportunity for me to cry it out and work out my frustration (which lasted about 30 seconds until I reached the first climb up a set of stairs… what is it with ultras and stairs anyway?) it was also a terrific chance for me to savor the scenery and run for the pure joy of running.

photo.PNG

Okay, so in reality they said it was for finishing the 20K

(I might have to write in a little x2…since I techincally did the it twice.)

In truth, when I did get pulled after my forth loop I felt great beyond just not being sore and feeling like I could take on another lap. Every problem I had stressed about during my hell week of tapering had completely dissipated. Sure, there may have been a little fraction of disappointment; but, for the most part, I was just happy and grateful and having had the opportunity to spend a whole day doing something I love.

At the end of the day, I’m not in this sport for the finish lines or medals (although I do appreciate the bling too… shiny things, what can I say?). I do it because I LOVE the trails and constantly challenging myself. This course was INDEED a challenge, and a glorious one at that.

As far as I’m concerned, any day spent on the trails in good company is a fantastic one in my book.

Would I do it all over? 100% YES! I have absolutely no regrets.

ctalive

As much as I did this event because I LOVE trail running, this race wasn’t about me. It was about raising awareness and money for victims of domestic violence so that other women have the chance to THRIVE after abuse that I did. CT-ALIVE was there for me when I needed help, so I am happy to endure any kind of torture a race course can throw at me if it means raising funds for them to help someone else. In fact, I’ll even do it with a smile on my face.

Thank you Trails 2 Trails for a wonderful race experience and definitely living up to your “We Don’t Do Easy” advertising… although, for record, I think running 50K is hard enough without you trying to make it more challenging with 8 hour time cutoffs and such. 😉

Advertisements

Enough

“All I can tell you really is if you get to the point

where someone is telling you that you are not great or not good enough,

just follow your heart and don’t let anybody crush your dream.”

-Patti LaBelle

enough

There are a lot of things in this life that I am not good at… that I struggle with in fact. At the top of that list is feeling like anything I do is ever good enough. Despite being a complete devotee to self love and acceptance, I have to admit that I am by far my own worst critic. I am pretty sure I am not alone in this admission. The thing is, it’s not because I’m unhappy with who I am. It’s that I’m not happy with where I’m at.

I have accomplished EVERY major goal I set my mind to in the past year. I overcame numerous obstacles including not knowing how to bike or swim, surgery, and injury (and FEAR!) to not only become a triathlete, but complete my first Half Ironman (in less than 7 hours!). I finished not one, but TWO 50K ultras with a third in the works, AND ran in my first sponsored race thanks to Bondi Band at the Ragnar Adirondacks.

Beyond the athletic sphere I have made strides in my personal life as well. I successfully negotiated for a better (and more importantly healthier!) position at work with better pay and a better schedule… which means seeing the hubs more… YEA!!!! I also have spent another year actively involved with CT-ALIVE in various projects to raise funds for victims of domestic violence, including my next run for the Running For The Color Purple Campaign this weekend.

I have taken on every challenge full steam ahead without ever taking my eye off the goal. Yet, despite everything I have achieved, I have yet to ever feel satisfied or fulfilled. Sure, it’s exciting when the task at hand is accomplished, but almost immediately my thoughts turn to the next challenge. There is no resting or stopping to savor the moment. I simply don’t know how to slow down.

The fact is, no matter what I do or goal I reach, I always feel like I have more untapped potential that I am just wasting. So many people go through life fearing failing above all else. I, on the other hand, fear not trying. I would rather chase a dream I only have a fraction of a chance of completing than go after one I know I can obtain. I want to live every moment to the fullest and know I used every ounce of my potential. I don’t want to waste a single second! When I leave this earth, I want to be sure I made the absolute best use of my time here. That is why I constantly feel pressure to do more to make an impact.

I know there is something greater I should be doing with my life; and, at times, I struggle with trying to figure out exactly what that is. I am well aware that I am not the brightest, most charismatic, or talented person out there, but I do have the desire, drive, and resolute determination to make a difference. I want to inspire people to chase their dreams. I want to change the way they view what is possible. I want to educate the public, demystify domestic violence, and give a voice to those victims and survivors who can’t speak for themselves. I want to do all these things on a larger scale than I am now. I want to affect lives!

That is why I see myself as an author and public speaker. I am already taking steps to get there. I have no idea how long it will take, but I intend to stick with it until I am successful. All the women I admire (Diana Nyad, Meredith Atwood, Brook Kreder…) all have something in common- They are inspiring others, particularly other women, by chasing their dobetterdreams. They all took on goals that other people questioned their ability to obtain, and they found a way to make them happen in spite of any obstacles. These are my role models. They have achieved the type of impact I want to make. (Okay, so realisticly, I am never going to achieve Diana Nyad levels of inspiring, but I would settle for my own TED talk… just putting it out there, Universe)

It may all sound a little looney; but I am a firm believer that the people who possess the power to change the world are those who believe they can.

I believe. I just need to figure out what my path is to get there.

In the meantime, I have been trying to remind myself that while it is great (and completely healthy) to constantly strive for more in life, it is also necessary to accept yourself as enough. It may sound contradictory, but it falls in line with Maya Angelou’s quote “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

I may not feel like I have reached my full potential in life yet, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t continually strived to become the best version of myself. Everyday I am doing the best I can with what I have to work with. That in itself is something to be proud of. I will continue to push outside my comfort zone and challenge myself until I grow into a person capable of changing the world. However until then, rather than focusing on the destination, I intend to make a better effort at appreciating the journey and trusting that the universe will guide me.

I EAT MILES FOR BREAKFAST (TRAPROCK RECAP)

“Run often. Run long. But never outrun your joy of running.”
-Julie Isphording

Image

“I eat miles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”  That was my race mantra for the 7 hours and 30ish minutes it took me to complete the Traprock Ultra 50K yesterday.  That is a full 1.5 hours faster than my last ultra finish at Bimbler’s Bluff by the way… just in case you were curious. 😉  While I would like to say the faster time was related to my veteran status as an ultra runner (with one whole 50K under my belt…), the truth is it is much more likely related to the fact that this run was shorter (um, yes they were both 50K but this one was actually 50K… as opposed to the 50K-ish course at Bimbler’s Bluff which was closer to 34 miles… if you didn’t get lost, which I did… repeatedly) and really well marked.

One thing it was not was EASIER.  There were two ridiculously steep climbs within the first couple miles, including one right at the start.  Since the course consisted of 3 loops, we had to do both 3 times!!!  … And thats not even counting having to run the first one (which was by far the worst) in reverse 3 times as well!  So the people who designed Traprock were sadists as well, but then what trail runners and trail race organizers aren’t?  I mean honestly, when have you ever done a trail race that wasn’t filled with ridiculous hills? Or finished a race thinking “gosh that course was easier than I expected?”…. Never? Yeah, me either.  Of course, the hills on this course were steep and technical even by trail running standards.

The good news is, after the quad-busting climbs in the few first miles, there was a nice descent (not so nice going in reverse) followed by a very friendly and supportive aid station and the Lollipop section of the course.  This was the first out and back and it was super fun to cheer on all the runners who were already on their way back.  I think this was my favorite section because it was dirt (minimal rocks!) and consisted of a gradual uphill which became a fast, easy down on the way back.  From there it was anotherImage aid station cheer section and back up (literally up… sadists I tell you) into the woods on a lengthy stretch of up and down.  This felt like the longest section of the course to me.   I think partly because after picking up speed in the lollipop section, the steep parts of the hills made me feel like I was grinding to a stop.

After several fake outs (as in “nope, not leveling out yet”), there was yet another aid station at the top of the ridge.  BTW I will say there were some spectacular views along the way, and a nice breeze at the top.  The volunteers at this aid station were also AWESOME.

I just can’t say enough about how wonderful each station was!  They cheered, they played music, they asked how I was feeling and what I needed.  They even filled my hydration pack for me so I didn’t have to take it off.  It was definite pick me up each time I saw them.  This last aid station was roughly 3 miles from the finish and led to a (longer than I would have liked) paved section consisting of a gradual up and down.  The thing I hated about this section (aside from my obvious dislike for running on pavement) was that there was not much shade, and I felt like the sun was roasting me.  By the time it finished I was happy to get back on the trail, even if it meant repeating that merciless hill from the start.  Thankfully, it was slightly less awful in reverse.  Plus, it was a another loop part of the course so I got to cheer for all the runners coming out on there second loop.

Finishing the first loop meant running through the finish and then turning around and heading back up the way we came (yes, up the evil hill again).  It was slightly cruel, but not as emotionally damaging as getting lost and backtracking through the entire Bimbler’s Bluff course.  Unfortunately, during my second loop I started to feel sick.  Anytime I tried to eat anything resembling solid food, it just didn’t agree with me.  I had stomach cramps and a headache, and I was worried I might have to drop out.  It was much warmer than it has been recently, so I was not acclimated to running in the heat.  I tried to increase my fluid intake and see if that helped.  Luckily I had added a protein mixture to my water and was able to keep down the cliff bloks I brought.  It was frustrating because my legs and joints felt good.  I decided just to slow down and not push myself.  After all, it was a gorgeous day and beautiful course.  I Imageam a trail runner first and foremost.  There is truly nothing that makes me feel happier or more at peace than being on the trails.

My main goal for this race was to finish.  The time cut off was 9 hrs, which is just about what it took to run my last 50K.  I figured I should be able to make that as long as I didn’t get lost.  My secondary goal was to finish in 8 hrs.  Given that I was running over 30 miles, I thought shaving a full hour off my previous time was a reasonable aim.  When I finished my first loop in just over 2 hours (well behind most of the field btw… Ultra Runners are beasts!  And possibly part mountain goat…) I knew I had the time to slow down, and give my body a chance to recover.

My plan worked, and by the start of loop 3 I was feeling great.  I still did not push hard for fear of causing more GI distress; so instead I socialized with the runners nearby and walked the hills. YES! I walked.  I walked any reasonable looking hill.  I am no dummy.  I ran almost the entire Bimbler’s Bluff 50K, and the only thing I accomplished by doing so was burning out my legs on the hills.  This time I had nothing to prove, and I wasn’t about to mess with the heat.  Guess what?  I went faster!  I figured it was better to walk and run than crawl… which is what I would have been doing had I not walked some of those inclines!  It was so much more enjoyable too!  Because my legs weren’t super fatigued, I was able to actually run the flats and downhills, which is so much more fun than poking along at injured pace.

My whole goal for loop 3 was really just to enjoy it, and honestly I did.  Once I got through the hills on that first section I was so pumped to have “the worst” of it behind me.  The aid station volunteers commented on what a big smile I was wearing as I came into view.  I hollered back “The hard part is over! Just the fun stuff left now!” and I truly meant it.  I sailed through the entire lollipop section as if my legs weren’t tired at all (ok, well my version of sailed).  In fact, I felt strong right up until I ran out of cliff bloks.  Then I, again, got into trouble with the cramping.  This was unfortunate because I was heading into the sun-scorching paved section again.  The last 5K was the longest 5K I have ever run in my life.  Most likely because I was barely moving in spite of my best efforts.  I had given everything I had and left it on the course.  There was simply nothing left in me.  That is until I had the finish within my sight.  Then I came down that hill and hurled myself at it as fast as my legs would carry me!

ImageEven being one of the last finishers, there were still plenty of people cheering at the finish.  I was just happy that I had finished before they shut the course down!

I am no expert in Ultra running by any means, but I would definitely recommend this course to any one considering running one.  Normally I am not a fan of any kind of repeats in a race.  However, in this case, it was one of my favorite parts.

First, the fact that the course was a loop meant it was well marked with frequent aid stations (ie. cheer sections).  It also meant by the second and third loop that I knew where I was going, which made it easier to watch my footing (and not face plant).  Furthermore, it was helpful in terms running more efficiently due to knowing where to push hard and where to coast.  Finally, it was a great way to interact with the other runners!  Ultra running can be such a lonely sport when you sign up by yourself.  It’s nice to see a friendly face every once in a while when you spend hours of your day running in the woods.

While I loved my experience at Bimbler’s Bluff, I cannot say I enjoyed the course as much as I did in this ultra.  I had put so much pressure on myself last time to run well and finish.  This time around I really wanted to just embrace the experience.  That is exactly what I did.  Sure plenty of (ok most) people may finished ahead of me, but I doubt any of them enjoyed the experience as much as I did.  For me, trail running is pure bliss.  Even when I’m tired and it hurts, I still love it.  That being said, Traprock has earned a special place in my heart.

The Mystery Illness

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

-Christopher Reeve
Image
 

Last night I started to get sick again…  Not as back as last time with shaking chills and the whole nine yards, but I can’t seem to keep much in my system. It’s been great in terms of weight loss for Fit Challenge; however, I was not really aiming to lose any weight and this wouldn’t be my preferred method of going about it.  

Speaking of which, Adam and I both had weigh ins again and I am holding steady at exactly 139.2 (for two weeks now- the difference between last week and the week before being that I didn’t work out before hand so I probably weigh even less).  Adam is still under 200. Our challenge was to hold a wall sit for a cumulative time of 15 minutes with two attempts per day (just like the plank challenge).  It took us three days, but we completed the challenge without any issue… per usual.

However, feeling less than stellar and not being able to tolerate much in the way of food has really been hampering my workouts in general recently.  The other day I tried to run, but after 2 miles I was feeling sick and called it quits.  I did still manage to run 15 miles total for the week and got in a over a mile of swimming before the dreaded illness set in.  As far as cycling, I missed spinning on Saturday because the hubs realized when we got there that he forgot his shorts, so those miles were a fail.  In his defense, he did offer to wait for me while I went to class without him, but I didn’t think it’d be particularly fair or fun to go without him.

We also did two workouts with the trainer, and one was pull ups, chin ups, and close grip pull ups (can you picture me brimming with glee as you read this? If not, you don’t read this blog regularly enough… ) with rows, lat pull downs, and back extensions in between.  We used the bands as an assist, which made me feel totally badass (in spite of feeling crummy)… especially now that I only need the green one to do 10 in a row! 🙂  Pull ups, I will OWN you this year!

As far as still being sick, all I can think is it’s a combination of things: being run down from swapping back and forth between regular and night shifts, the stress of being promoted to manager, the dog drama and having to re-home Ellie, my parents having to sell their house and move… the list goes on and on.  Taking all that into consideration, I guess I am actually doing pretty well. 😉

So given all of that and the fact that I was feeling like garbage again this morning, I came home from my session with the trainer and Imagesigned up for another 50K trail ultra in April.  Why?  Well first, who wouldn’t be inspired to go run 30+ miles on brutal trails when they have these kinds of inspirational posters?  Second, I feel like I’ve plateaued and finishing another ultra will help me get back on track to feeling accomplished again.  

Furthermore, my race goals for this year all involved triathlon, but if there’s a chance I may be pregnant it makes it hard to register.  I am not stable on my bike, so that is the one thing I do not want to be doing in a race while pregnant.  The ultra, on the other hand, I think I could handle.  Especially since it’s not that far away and it’s a loop course so I’d have plenty of opportunity to drop out if I needed to for any reason.  Finally, I have already done one, so I know I can do it.  Plus, I have been training consistently since the last one.  If anything, I’m in better shape now.

I suppose that is all my big news for today: still sick and signed up for another ultra…  Totally seems like those two should go hand in hand.  As far as the mystery illness, I am just going to have to find ways to try and relax without exerting myself too much… like blogging and plotting Thriver World Domination. 😉  To me, it’s just another obstacle to work through, and it may be that I just need to start incorporating low intensity weeks into my training schedule.  For now, I’m doing my best to chill out and not worry about it.  After all, I think I have enough on my plate. 

#thriveon