Thursday, October 27, 2016

2016 Hartford Marathon

My New England's Finest poster in Hartford, CT...and me

Just when I thought I would never have a race like the 2015 Vermont City Marathon again, along came Hartford!! What an experience. I've been putting off my blog post about it because it just seems like so much to write. And it is! So I guess I'll just have to start off with the beginning of the week and work my way up! Don't worry, it will only take up an hour or so of your time. Haha. I do wish I had been caught up on my blog and had written this with a fresher memory, but I seem to do ok with it as you can tell with my novellas. :)

Monday, October 3, 2016- The one night I really didn't want to go out on any we did. I was nervous about work this week with the 24 hour shifts. Any lack of sleep could set me back for the marathon, so when it happened, I was pretty bummed out. I would just have to do my best to catch up over the week. I got in a 2 mile walk on the treadmill during the day, and took my typical day off from running.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016-

Foliage was really starting to pop. I took this from 113 in Madison.
I've started a tradition for the week of a marathon. It's not always at the same time of day or the same day of the week, but it's done at some point over the week. Today was the day for it this time around. The entire Mountain Division Trail down and back (with an extra .2 on the other end to make it an even 8 miles). The weather couldn't have been more perfect, and I was surprised the speed came easy. I badly needed a speedy run. Only the first mile was in the 7s at 7:01, which is typical since the first mile is basically my warmup. After that I brought it down into the 6s where it stayed pretty consistent hovering around 6:40 pace. I felt really good and took this as a sign that maybe, just maybe I was going to have a good race on Saturday.

Mountain Division Trail run splits

That afternoon. I had been putting off getting my concealed carry permit, so John and I drove down to the Sheriff's Dept in Ossipee to apply for one. That ended up being a waste of time since I learned I had to do it at the Albany Town Hall...the one I had passed right by on my way down here. Oh well, we continued with our plan to stop at the Sandwich Creamery for ice cream on our way to fill up on spring water at the Sandwich Spring. We stopped for a 2-mile walk on the Brook Trail with Spot and Phoenix on the way home.

I had the false impression we were taking a photo together, but at least he was playing with leaves and not on his phone.

This walk never gets old.
Typical evening involved John's ninja class and then beer for me. Tuesday falls in between my two non-drinking days of the week, so I try to save some of my best beers for Tuesdays. I had a Night Shift Awake, which doesn't keep me awake, thank goodness. Haha.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016- Since it was the weekend of the Fryeburg Fair, John's dad's parents rented out their house (where John's dad normally stays) as they usually do, so he needed a place to park his van for the week. I had no problem with him staying in the driveway (I swear I'm not cruel! He lives in his van because he wants to! Just needs a place to park it). This meant I wasn't stuck to the treadmill for my Wednesday morning run before work. With him there, I was able to get out on a dark road run through Cranmore Shores. I kept it really short and slow; no need to for speed or distance only 3 days out from Hartford. 4.3 miles, 8:06/mi pace. Perfect for just getting something in and testing out the knuckle lights I won at Greylock. The constant movement of the lights almost makes me a little dizzy, but I think I just need to either get used to it or stop overly swinging my arms as I run. The latter is unlikely, so I'll just have to get used to them. Way better than a tight headlamp on my head, for sure, though.

This next 24 hour shift wasn't too bad, and I fortunately slept all night. I went to sleep super early since I was tired, and actually woke up feeling pretty refreshed. EMS (Earn Money Sleeping) really lived up to its name this shift. During the days, I got a walk in on the railroad tracks, back and forth, back and forth for 2-miles.

RR tracks walk
I was extremely relieved during my Wednesday morning pulse check to find my resting pulse back to its norm in the mid-40s. Another sign that things were going to fall into place on Saturday. I was starting to get really nervous, but it was coupled with optimism. Yay!

Thursday, October 6, 2016- I had a lot of errands to run today in prep for the weekend away, so I got my run in first thing right from work. It was nice just having a short, easy trail run. I parked at the Thompson Road trailhead in North Conway and did a lollipop loop on the mountain bike trails. The trails were still clear of leaves, to it made for some enjoyable, mindless running in the woods. 5.6 miles with a decent amount of gain at 747ft, but the slow pace made it barely noticeable.

Redstone Quarry, the farthest point of my run before looping back. 
I went to Frontside Grind after the run and did something I never do. I ordered a sweet coffee drink, the Maple Latte! I spotted it on the sign and for some reason just really wanted to try it. I stopped drinking sugar in my coffee and cut out all other sweet coffee drinks one day in April 2007 (when we were housesitting in Gloucester). I decided the day before that I was going to stop. I followed through on it the next day and never looked back. But today, I decided to do it since it was maple syrup. I just wanted to try it, and damn was it sweet, but very good. Would I order another one? Nah, but worth trying once. The barista made it with a heart. Too bad it wasn't special for me, though. Everyone was getting hearts. Haha.

Maple Latte from Frontside Grind
 I also got a sausage, egg and cheese bagel and a day old donut. I rarely eat donuts either, but it was there... in the day old basket. How could I not? I really shouldn't have. I needed to be eating healthier so close to the marathon, but I knew I would be busy all day running errands and wouldn't eat again until dinner, so I didn't care.

While I was at Frontside Grind, I got a Facebook notification...

Thank goodness for the reminder or I might have forgotten!! Haha! It certainly did remind me to be nervous, very nervous. Only 2 more days!!! I didn't even do any marathon-specific training for this! Eek! I was feeling good, but running a sub-3 is pretty fucking hard (for me). You have to be on your game and everything be right. Things can change in 2 days. I only did 3 long road runs since VCM. I had no idea how I was going to pull off a sub-3.

I went home, showered and then back out to run my errands and walk the dogs. My first stop would be my biggest decision of the day. What color nail polish for my nails?! I stared at the wall and then it caught my eye. A sparkly green. I picked it up, then put it back. An assorted glittery polish said, "Pick me!" so I did. Sat down and while I had a fill done on the acrylics. Watched America's Got Talent streaming on YouTube that they have up on a tv. I never really watched the show until I started getting my nails done here, and I find it to be really good! Amazing people on there. Anyway, it came time to put the polish on, and when he did, the color turned out to be a dud. It went on clear, no glitter. So I walked back over and picked the green again. And that's when I noticed the name "Running in Circles". Oh hell yes! That was the one!

From there, I parked at LL Bean and took Spot and Phoenix on a short walk on the Audubon trails down to the Saco. I still can't get over how low the water level is. Just crazy.

After that, I had some clothes shopping to do. John and I were going to Ellen Tidd and Tom Raffio's wedding on Sunday, so I needed to find John a nice looking outfit. I spent forever in TJ Maxx and walked out with only socks for John and a new dress for me to wear to the wedding. They had absolutely nothing in his size other than sportswear, so it meant a trip to Walmart. I hate the place, but I knew they would have what I was looking for. I had to go there anyway for a few things for the weekend, so it worked out. The last stop was Discount Beverages to buy a beer for Friday night. I didn't want to rely on what I could find in Hartford for my pre-race beer, so I picked up a Stoneface Porter.

After I got home, I broke out a beer and started packing for the weekend. I actually had no plan. The marathon only gave us Friday night at the hotel, so I didn't know what to do yet on Saturday. But instead of making a decision, I decided to leave it all up in the air to be decided after I finished the race. We might just go home. We might drive part of the way to Pat's Peak, where the wedding was to be held. Or we might just spend another night in Hartford. I had no idea, but since we could potentially be gone ALL weekend, I had to pack for it. That meant A LOT of stuff since we would have to bring the wedding clothes, as well. It took me HOURS to pack. It's not like I was going to the middle of nowhere, but I didn't want to have to buy anything I didn't really need while we were there. John's stuff was pretty easy to pack since he mostly just lives out of a bag to go back and forth between his dad and me. I always just make sure he has clean clothes and what he needs in the bag. The rest of it stays with me in his room at home.

I got done in time to relax and watch my favorite two shows on tv (and pretty much the only shows I watch). It was the season premiere of Those Who Can't, and wow, that show is way over the top but hilarious.

Friday, October 7, 2016- I got a pretty good night's sleep and woke up at 7am. I got right on the treadmill first thing for 3 miles that I ran in 22:18. Super easy. I woke up John up at 8am so that he would have 2 hours to play his games and/or watch YouTube before we had to leave for Hartford around 10am. I had a schedule for the day in my head that was already stressing me out. I had booked one of the free massages for 4pm at the Expo so we had to get the rest of my schedule in prior to that in order to get back for the pasta dinner they had for us back at the hotel. I was stressed about it which in turn led me to yell at John when he complained about going to "another stupid race". Before you call me a bad mom, it should be known that I gave him the option of not going with me for this one. He told me he wanted to come with me, and I reminded him of this. The complaints continued so I had to throw out the fact that there was money on the line. Big money, in fact, and that I needed to race well and not have him complaining the whole time. I had gone over the whole weekend with him many times, just like I did for VCM, and I ended up extremely stressed out for that one.

We left about 30 minutes late, and I proceeded to stress all the way past Worcester. And finally, I just decided to email the massage guy and cancel my appointment. I realized that this appointment was what was stressing me out the most. I needed to cut something out, and as soon as I did, I was relieved. All stress, GONE. This would turn out to be the most relaxed and fun I've ever had the day before a marathon. The whole weekend in fact! Everything was so easy. We could walk everywhere. And I didn't have to worry about John while I ran. When we got to the Radisson in downtown Hartford, I parked my car and didn't have to drive it again until the next afternoon. We checked into our room, and some kid I know definitely stopped complaining.

John getting to live the high life!
One of the best parts about being invited to these races, especially New England's Finest at Hartford, is that John gets to experience a little bit of the privileged life. It's almost just as special for him as it is me. I think the Hartford Marathon really impressed him. Fancy hotel room, the free snacks, the free dinner, the elite tent with bowls of candy and as many hamburgers as he wanted. The kid was in heaven! Haha.

We went down the two floors to the NEF/Elite room to check in and grab our bib #s, gear and credentials. John even got his own ELITE tag to wear. We met Ken in the there. He pretty much ran the show for us both days. I can't say enough about his kindness. Really helpful and just so nice. Ken was constantly making sure John and I were ok throughout the entire event. He was busy making sure everybody was taken care of. Before we left the room to go back upstairs to our room, Ken made sure we took all the snacks we wanted, so John grabbed bags of cookies. Haha.

Cute idea the Radisson gave us.

Cool 1/4 zip they gave us. The only problem is that long hair covers up the "New England's Finest" part. haha. I still love it.

Never thought I'd be wearing one of these
When an old hiker friend who was also running the next day posted a picture of my giant poster on FB, I came up with a plan. I knew they did posters, but I didn't know I was going to be chosen for a huge one! Scott Mason mentioned they wanted a photo, but I doubted I would be a chosen one. Sure enough I was. I didn't want to do the token boring photo standing next to myself one, and voila! The photo this blog post began with was born. I had to do something funny. I make myself laugh CONSTANTLY and could not stop laughing over my idea. It was finally time to execute it.

John and I walked down to the expo, and there I was! The first poster visible outside the building from the direction we walked. I had overlooked the fact that I would be doing this in the middle of a busy downtown sidewalk, so it was a little awkward when I started stripping down to my copy cat running outfit with school kids walking by. Some woman walked by and asked if that was me and then offered to take a picture of John and me with it.

I felt silly because people were walking and driving by looking confused.
Um, I didn't mean a photo with "me" while you looked for Pokemon. haha.
John then took many takes of me spoofing myself until I finally got one I liked. I didn't realize until later that I had my left arm wrong. Damn. It was actually hard to copy me running up a mountain while standing still on a flat sidewalk, but I still think it was awesome. I got dressed and then we walked into the expo...and there I was again! Haha. This time I did the token pose with my photo, but I made John kiss my feet. I couldn't believe he did it, and after he did he was dying laughing! We definitely had some fun with the posters. They're actually mailing me one of them, but where in the world do you hang something like that without looking completely full of yourself?! Haha.

There were only two things I wanted to do at the Expo. The first was find a new visor. All of my Headsweats visors had worn out elastic, and I didn't want to wear a safety pinned one for the race. The second was eat as many samples as we could find. Haha. We accomplished both! I could only find one visor that fit the bill, a black Bondi Band headsweats visor. It would do, so I bought it, and we left. Funny thing happened, though, right after I bought the visor. We just happened to walk right up to the massage area where I had my, now cancelled, 4:00pm 3:56pm. Haha. All of that stressing out, and we would have made it exactly on time without trying. Oh well, it was too late now, and we left.

We stopped in Starbucks so I could grab a coffee then walked down the some different streets of downtown Hartford on the way back to the hotel. And, man, what a shame to see such beautiful infrastructure and so much potential wasted! Empty storefronts and odd shops that you used to see in cities in the 80s. There were some neat restaurants tucked in there, but it could be so much better. Part of the problem, I would learn, is the parking situation, but I don't want to go on and on about that. Pretty boring. It's just that I got to participate in city planning for my hometown of Athens, GA when I was in college, so I just end up with so many ideas for a place like Hartford swirling in my head. Haha.

We were in no hurry to get back to the hotel so we took our time. When we did get back, we had time to relax until the pasta dinner was ready for us in the room across from the NEF/Elite room. Since it was right downstairs, I didn't have to drag John all around. The dinner wasn't quite ready so he was able to just go back to the room by himself and hang out until I texted him that it was ready. I couldn't get over how relaxed and laid back the atmosphere was. All of the runners, too. I knew quite a few people there and ended up sitting with Scott Leslie (who ended up having an awesome race, finishing 3rd!!) and Matt and Caitlyn Germain. There were two other people at our table that we didn't know, but they were nice. The dinner was pretty awesome. Chicken parm, pasta, garlic bread then really good cookies. Although I could have, I didn't stuff myself. haha. I actually don't eat much pasta anymore, so I only got a little of that and opted for a big piece of chicken parm and garlic bread. So good. This was so the way to go instead of trying to get into a busy restaurant. It was nice to sit there and have a relaxed conversation with Scott and Caitlyn. John came down eventually to eat then went back up to the room while I hung around for our pre-race meeting. Many more familiar faces trickled in, including a very frazzled Eric Narcisi. He and Brenna were both sick, and they had gotten there so late. He wasn't feeling too optimistic about the next day. Amanda DeBlauw was there, but also not feeling good about the next day. So many familiar faces. It was pretty cool. The meeting was quick and then we were sent on our way.

I went back to the room to find John sound asleep. I was actually relieved to see this. He tends to be a night owl, and we were up super early the next morning. Him getting a good night's sleep would mean a less grouchy kid to wake up the next morning. It also gave me time to sit in the quiet, drink my Stoneface Porter and just relax. What a huge difference from this night and the night before VCM. I have never been this calm and stress-free the day before a marathon ever. I owe a lot of it to the Hartford Marathon for setting everything up for us in a way that would mean as little worrying as possible. They really treated us like royalty. And I can't thank them or praise them enough. I was so thankful to be part of the New England's Finest program as I sat there drinking my beer and looking out at the window. I was still nervous about the race, but nothing more than the usual pre-race nerves.

As soon as I finished my beer, I used my juicer to make vegetable juice then hopped in the tub for an epsom salt bath. I'd never done that the night before a race, but I think I'll need to make a habit of it. It was off to bed after for an actual sound sleep, also a first for me the night before a marathon. Everything just seemed to be falling in place perfectly so far.

RACE DAY, Saturday, October 8, 2016- I came to the Hartford Marathon with 2 goals: 1)Sub-3 finish 2)Finish 1st Female Master. I wasn't expecting to run anywhere close to my 2015 VCM time of 2:55:49. I had trained very hard and specifically for that race. I was also about 5 pounds lighter for that one. So I was not holding myself to the same performance. I just wanted a sub-3, and the way I was feeling, I felt like I could definitely pull that off. As far as masters goes, I only knew of one person who would be there. Mary-Lynn Currier. I was pretty sure I could beat her, but I didn't expect it to be easy. At 52, she may be slower than what she used to be, but she's still damn fast. So those were my goals for today.

After drinking coffee and eating this granola, that I'd never had and decided to experiment with the morning of the race (dumb), I woke John up. I had allowed plenty of time for him to not be rushed. I was actually surprised to see him get up easily and not complain at all. He seemed to finally get how important today was for me. I made sure he had everything he needed in his bag while I raced, then we walked to the race. The sun was just coming up, and it appeared to be the start of an absolutely perfect weather day. Finally!! After Boston and VCM and Bobby Doyle and Seasons and...I could go on, I was due a perfect weather day. Temps in the 50s, sun or fog, the whole race.

John was loving being in the city because there were Pokemon everywhere, so the walk to the Elite/VIP tent area was enjoyable. Slow, but enjoyable. Haha. When we got into our private area, I was so impressed. Our space was small, but we didn't need anything more. We had our own porta potties, and for post race, they had a fancy trailer set up for a buffet and a bar for the free beer. Tables and chairs lined the finish line area. We were literally right next to the finish line. I got John situated in a chair, and Ken came over to make sure we were ok. I took a few pictures, then went out on a warm up.

Catching Pokemon while walking to the elite tent.

John in the elite tent

Pre-race selfie. Caught Matt Garfield in there.
I didn't need to do a long warm up so I just ran a mile around Bushnell Park at an easy pace, a little over 8 minutes. It was chilly out so it felt good to warm up my muscles. When I got back, I used the bathroom 2 more times, and then it was time for our us all to walk to the start. It was cool walking together over there. I walked next to Mary-Lynn, and we chatted. When we got over to the start, they opened the gate and let us all in at the starting line. I was standing near Matt Garfield and Amanda so we wished each other good luck. Then it was go time.

Right off the line, I immediately tried to get Mary-Lynn in sight. She always goes out way too fast, so I didn't want to match her pace. I only wanted to make sure she stayed in view the whole time. The first mile is super fast, but I didn't want to get caught up in it. My goal for the first mile was a 6:40, which I hit right on the money. Good sign. That meant pace was matching feel. The race thinned out very quickly when the half marathon runners split off to the right, never to be seen again... until the finish. I was happy to see that because I didn't want to be running with people going that fast. Once out of the crowd, I found myself alone by mile 2. There were a lot of people, but for some reason, I had a huge gap in front and behind me. It was odd. I hit mile 2 at a way too fast pace 6:29. I don't know why, but I immediately backed off the pace a bit. I had no intentions of running a pace near that today. Granted, it had a good downhill, but even so, I would have been ok with something closer to a 6:35 at the fastest. But it was ok. On mile 3, I all of a sudden was feeling the effort in my legs. I got a little worried at this point since I should not have been feeling the effort like this yet. I'm not really sure what it was I was feeling, but it didn't affect my pace at all, and I was still feeling great otherwise. I managed to stay very consistent through mile 5 with 6:43, 6:41, 6:40. Mile 6 had a bit of a climb, so 6:46 was perfect. I hit the 10K mark in 41:09, a tad fast, but I was ok with it. These miles of the course were very enjoyable. Just a beautiful section to run. Flat and easy which led me to quicken my pace a little too much, running miles 7 and 8 at 6:33 and 6:25. But what can I say, I am queen of positive split races! Haha.

I don't remember the mileage point, but it was somewhere early on. Photo by Scott Mason. 
At this point, I had planned to try to stay around 6:40, but I ran it just a little too quickly before slowing it back down as we started to make our way out of downtown and onto Prospect St. I was still feeling good, though, and I noticed that I was finally, yet slowly, reining in Mary Lynn. I got my pace back to a very consistent one with miles 9 & 10 both at 6:39. Just past mile 10, I finally caught up and passed Mary Lynn. I was pretty sure that put in a position of first master, but I wouldn't know for sure until the out and back section when I could check to see who all was in front of me. Just as I passed Mary Lynn, we both got passed by a younger woman, who would go on to run around a 2:54. I could tell I was out of her league today, so I just let her go on and didn't try to stay with her. Somewhere in mile 11, we passed the marker for mile 23 on the opposite side of the road. That was a little defeating since it seemed FOREVER away at this point.

Capstone photo. I think near mile 9.
I hit mile 11 in 6:38. Still too fast, but for some reason, I couldn't get myself to slow down. I was being consistent at least. Haha. I knew I couldn't maintain this pace another 15 miles, but then I hit 6:38 again for mile 12, which I had actually been warned was a gradual climb. I remember thinking at the time that I must be remembering the mile wrong because this was easy. Mile 13 was a reality check, and I hit the mile at 6:47. That was more what I was looking for for an overall average pace for the race, so I was happy with that. Came through the half in 1:27:31. It was too fast. I wasn't running a 2:55 or better today, and that's exactly what I was on pace for. I saw positive splits in my near future! I knew this. I accepted it, and just kept on trucking. I actually felt pretty good, even though the course had some very quiet boring sections. At some point around this time of the race, I thought to myself that there would be no wall today; just as I finished that thought, I saw a Trump sign. I laughed inside and thought, "Fuck you, Trump. There will be no wall!" Like I said, I make myself laugh. Haha. Mile 14 was at 6:44.

I was definitely starting to feel the distance in my legs at this point, but, thankfully, the faster runners began to come into view on their way back from the 17 mile turnaround. This was great and gave me something to focus on instead of the pain I was beginning to feel. Miles 15 and 16 were quicker at 6:40 and 6:39, and I cheered on all of the people I knew. Matt Garfield looked strong, so I was sure he was finally going to get the marathon time he was looking for. Eric Narcisi looked like he was hurting, but he was hanging in there just fine. I was so excited when I saw Liz Ryan come into view in the lead for the women. I didn't know that Erica Jesseman had dropped until now. And Liz looked great. I was so happy for her to be in the lead.

Mile 17 was the other long, gradual climb I had been warned about, and my legs were really feeling it. I expected a slower pace and was really happy with a 6:46. This was the turn around point and time for me to see who was on my tail. Just as I predicted, Jenny Goswami and Laura Brustolon were probably a minute back. I knew the two of them would be passing me at some point. Jenny looked like she was just warming up. Mary Lynn was right with them. A little too close for comfort, but I had a feeling she wouldn't be catching me. So as of this point, I knew I was first master. My plan was to keep that. I didn't see another person who looked like she could be a master anywhere close. Where mile 17 was a gradual up, 18 was a gradual down. I normally love running downhill, but at mile 18 in a marathon, it really doesn't feel that great to pound the downhill, so I held back and hit 18 in 6:40. Mile 19- 6:40. Mile 20- 6:40...and then I started to lose it.

My pace for mile 21 is a bit deceptive. I actually wasn't really losing it quite yet. Mile 20.5 was where the last elite table with our water bottles was. I ran right past it! It wasn't too far really. Maybe 10 yards. I would have kept going, but I really needed that last gel I had taped to the bottle. Like really needed it. So I turned around and ran back to the table, grabbed my bottle and ran on. I think I lost a little momentum from this and lost the pace I had been maintaining. To be honest, I think it actually threw me off for the rest of the race. I hit 21 in 6:54, and I was once again mostly alone. There was a relay runner and one other guy in front of me, but that was about it. I did use them to try and get back to the pace I was on, and, even though I was able to speed up, I just couldn't get myself back down to the 6:40 range. Mile 22 and 23 seemed to drag on FOREVER. 6:45 and 6:49 for those two miles.

I officially lost it from here to the finish. Just lost it. I was done, but to be honest, I didn't care. I had figured out my time and knew I was finishing a sub-3 no matter what, so I just went with it. Right at mile 24, Jenny passed me. She looked super strong and tried to get me to stay with her, but I told her I couldn't. I said, "I'm all done." I had full-on pain face. It was so quick how I went from ok to just done. Mile 24- 6:52. Not horrible, but I knew we had the evil climb back up over the bridge coming up and there was no way I was going to stay under 7. Somewhere in here (no idea if it was in mile 23 or 24), a guy I know from the Mountain Series rolled up next to me on a bicycle. He had run the half and then biked back to cheer the marathoners on. He started riding next to me and yelling what he thought was encouragement, but he was just repeating himself over and over and loudly. I felt really bad, but I really couldn't take it and told him that I needed quiet. When I'm at that point, I can't have someone screaming in my ear. I need to be able to get inside my own head and talk myself through it. He immediately got quiet and rode up ahead. I apologized to him later, but he understood.

I watched my 2:56 finish time drift away. Haha. Just before we hit the on ramp, I saw Todd Brown who briefly cheered me on, and then I crossed the mile 25 point in 7:04. Ouch. It was uphill from here and through the chute marking one more mile to go. That was the longest mile of my life. The bridge felt like a mountain.. I saw the photographers at the top of the bridge,and out of all 92 Capstone photos, one of these turned out the best. Go figure. Haha.

Hard to tell, but I'm on mile 26 in a world of hurt.
The downhill didn't bring much relief since I could see the uphill right after it. I kept looking at my watch, but I'm not sure why. I knew I was going sub-3, and I knew it would be 2:57:something. So who knows. I hit mile 26 in 7:19. So awful! It should have been at least 30 seconds faster, but it is what it is. And only .2 to go.

Then there it was, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, and I was about to make that left turn to run under it. I was about to finish. I think the relief of knowing I was finally about to stop made that last stretch under the arch and to the finish not painful. I saw Scott Mason there taking photos, and I know how hates watch stopping photos. This actually made me smile as I came through the finish. When I stopped. I paused for a second and then dramatically stopped my watch. I don't know how I was able to smile through that, but it was probably because I was done. 2:57:30. Hell yes! 12th Female. 1st Female Master. Both goals met! I was psyched. Full Results

Finishing Hartford with a smile
I grabbed water. They tried to put a heat sheet on me but I ripped it off. Too hot! I never got a medal. I think I missed them because I turned right into the elite tent before I got them. I honestly didn't even care nor notice until I saw Eric Narcisi with his. I was like, "Oh yeah. I didn't get one." Haha.

While walking over to John, Liz thanked me for cheering for her, and I congratulated her on her awesome win, running a 2:45:59. Wow! John came over to me, and I was excited to see him, but a little out of it. Ken came right over as well to ask if I needed anything. I uttered Gatorade so he got me one, and then I stepped back out of the tent for some space and air. I took a few minutes and then went back into the tent. I was finally starting to come back around. Eric Narcisi came over and asked if we could take a Level Renner picture together since I had worn the singlet. Oh, so I guess I should explain why I wore the Level Renner singlet. I actually thought about what to wear for awhile before the race. It wasn't a team race or a USATF-NE race, so CMS was out. I thought about Six03, but it still didn't seem to fit. That's when I remembered my Level Renner singlet, and, honestly, how could anything else be more fitting? Level Renner represents all of New England running. This was a New England race, and we were part of the 2016 New England's Finest. So the Level Renner singlet it was. It was also a way for me to show my gratitude for the support and coverage that Level Renner has given me for the last 2.5 years. I spent over 6 months as their cover photo on their FB page last year, and now, I'm on it again with Scott Mason's photo of my Hartford finish.

Eric Narcisi and me representing Level Renner

The double photo bomb. Haha.
I got changed as soon as possible since I was really gross. Those marks on my singlet are spilled Tailwind since I have a "drinking problem" while I race.

(My favorite movie of all time. If you let the YouTube video continue, be prepared to laugh.)

John had a big pile of food trash from the last three hours, but he said he was ready for some real food. The spread in the fancy food area was pretty sweet. He grabbed a hamburger and sat down on the couch. We helped ourselves to the candy dishes. Haha. Then it was time to grab some free beer! Finally! I can't touch food for hours after a marathon, but I can stomach beer! That and ice cream are the only things I can stomach. There was a bar there with Harpoon Beer all complimentary (I left a tip before we left!) I ended up drinking with Scott Mason, Bob Fitzgerald (Fitz!) and Michelle.

Candy bowls. We left with cups full. :)

Harpoon Flannel Friday

John and I enjoying a comfy couch while he ate his burger. 
This picture is so funny. So much going on. Me, Fitz, Scott and Michelle
We hung out for as long as we could, but we had to check out of our hotel room at 2pm. I went with Eric Narcisi and Brenna over to the Vermont City Marathon tent to get our stuff for doing the New England Double. Jess Cover was over there and gave Eric a bunch of Heady Topper. Eric is always generous and shared one of his Heady Toppers with me. I said goodbye to them then went back to the VIP area to get John and our stuff for the walk back to the Radisson.

This seriously weighs about 3lbs

I realized after I finished that there was no way I could sit in a car for 3.5 hours after running. I would have been in so much pain. So I decided to find a local hotel with an indoor pool. I really wanted to book the Hilton, but it had sold out. The only other hotel left that wasn't over $200 was the Holiday Inn, so I booked us a room there. We walked back to the Radisson and got out of our room at literally 1:58pm. Haha. We drove around for awhile until it was check in time at the Holiday Inn then got to our room. This hotel ended up being a disappointment. For as much as it cost me, it should have been way better. The indoor pool wasn't heated! The whole reason I chose it was for that. I was bummed because I wanted to swim, too. John still swam for about 30 minutes, but that was all he could stand. Definitely a let down. Check out was 11 instead of noon, and there was no continental breakfast. Just a restaurant where you could spend more money. The rooms were nice enough, though. John liked the desk chair.

I finally showered, which felt great, then we drove over to City Steam Brewery for dinner. I could finally stomach food and was STARVING. We decided to sit outside on the patio. I ordered their porter, which was pretty good, and a French Onion Soup burger. We walked out of there stuffed.

Back at the hotel, I broke open the Heady Topper while we watched Aliens, then called it a night. I was SO tired.

My eyes were bloodshot, I was so tired.
So what an awesome day and experience! I really can't say enough good things about being a part of New England's Finest. It was nice to feel special for a day, since that never happens. Haha. John even enjoyed it all and didn't even complain when his phone died! We really soaked up the experience. I often feel like I don't deserve any of this, but when it's offered, I accept it! I wasn't going to decline the NEF two years in a row. No way. I'm so glad that got to experience it.

This song is perfect! The chorus is exactly what happens during a marathon!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Bretton Woods Fell Race 2016

Now, on to the less stressful part of the week. :) I ended up sleeping very soundly that night, but it was an early rise for me on Friday morning since I had a massage appointment with Tina in Dover at 10:30am. As per the usual, I wanted to get a run in beforehand, so I was out of the door by 6am. I had noticed a few friends on Strava had run on this trail in Durham called the Sweet Trail, so I looked it up earlier in the week and decided this was where I wanted to run. It's a trail of rolling hills that runs through the woods and ends at Great Bay and a little over 4 miles in length. I had planned to do an out-and-back. This was supposed to be my easy week, but after what had transpired the day before and me not getting the run in I really wanted, I decided to hit the Sweet Trail with the intention of running it as fast as possible AND taking all of the Strava CRs. Going after Strava CRs other than my own is not something I usually do, but I had some anger that needed to be run off. Justifiable anger, in my opinion. Haha.

I got to the empty trailhead around 7:30am and started my run. It was such an opposite experience from the night before when I was running with uncertainty. This time I felt safe; I was running in a place Michael would never find me. Obviously, some other creeper could have attacked me in the woods, but the specific stress of the day before was gone, and it felt good. It also felt great to fly along these trails. Little ups and downs, a little technical, and very beautiful. I love experiencing new places, so this was just really fun. I only stopped briefly to snap a picture of Great Bay to send to a friend. Then I turned around and followed the same trail back.

Great Bay
My pace was really consistent both directions, except for mile 8. I'm not sure why it was almost a minute slower, and I don't recall running slower, but I guess I was. I accomplished what I came out to do...

I took all the women's CRs for the Sweet Trail.

It was really one of the better runs I've had in a long time. Quick and fun. 8.5 miles at 8:29/mi pace with 328ft of elevation gain. The elevation gain doesn't seem like a lot, but it's deceptive since the entire trail was up, down, up, down, etc.

I went right to Adelle's Coffee House from the trail for a quick latte and NON gluten-free banana bread. I just don't dig the gluten-free stuff (except for Peace of Mind Baking Co which I mentioned a blog post way back when. SO good).

It was finally time for my massage appointment with Tina and to figure out whether I was injured or just tight. This visit was as amazing as the others. Tina is newly trained in Cupping Therapy, so I got to experience this for the first time. She also taped me up with Rock Tape, another new-to-me thing. She really worked out where I thought I might be "injured". She found every single spot that had been giving me pain and even worked on the opposite side of my back where she found kinks I didn't know I had. I was happy to walk out of there once again pain-free!! Amazing!! 8 days until Hartford, and I was finally starting to feel optimistic about the race. (As of this writing, I'm in dire need of seeing Tina again! Haha!)

Talk about a fantastic morning. I was having the opposite experience of the day before so far. I didn't have much time before I needed to get home, but I still met up with Tom Hooper at Stoneface Brewing in Newington for some beer tasters. I wish we had had more time to hang out, but 30 minutes goes by quickly, and I drove home.

That evening was bib pickup for Bretton Woods Fell Race at Tuckerman Brewing. Any excuse to go to another brewery, right? Not many people showed up, so Paul Kirsch, Chris Dunn (and Karen Dunn later) and I ended up getting flights and discussing...running! Haha. Go figure.It was actually a lot of serious running conversations about the USATF-NE racing in general and how to improve the field of the ever-aging Mountain Running Series. I really enjoyed hanging out with them. John was busy playing Galaga and Mrs. Pacman for most of the time so he had fun. An evening well spent with good people and good beer.

Paul and Chris wearing aR shirts. I was wearing 5 separate singlets representing all different teams. ;) 
The next morning, John and I were up early for one of my newly favorite races of the year, the Bretton Woods Fell Race! It's such a unique race, and I'm really surprised by how many people shy away from it. It's not like a fell race in England where you're in no man's land and carrying survival gear. It's the freakin' Bretton Woods Ski Resort. I think some people just really prefer the marked course so they don't have to think about it, but that really is a lot of fun and creates a whole new level of competition. I won Bretton Woods last year just based on the nature of the course and not because I could run fast. I could barely even walk I was so injured!

Coming into my 4th year of running Bretton Woods, I was definitely at an advantage just by knowing the mountain well enough by now. Plus, I had gotten Dave Dunham's notes on a good route to take. I even learned of a section I had no idea existed. It was fun sitting down with my map and his notes and spending about an hour plotting my route on my map. I seriously wanted to have a 3rd win so I wanted to do it right.

I was super psyched when I picked up my bib number the night before. It was so perfect!! I don't typically save bib numbers, but I sure as HELL (heehee) saved this one.

Why, if it isn't the devil herself!
I got John settled in the lodge and then realized I didn't have much time left for a warm up, so I just went out for a mile up and down the slopes. When I got back, I only had a little time to make my final prep and get on the starting line. Just before Chris gave the pre-race announcements, I shuffled over to Todd Callahan, the king of the Best Route at Bretton Woods, to verify we had the same route planned for the first 2 checkpoints. We did. Phew. I've followed Todd's lead many times here since he always scopes out the best route possible with Google Earth and then tests it out prior to the race. (His route would end up being crazy fast giving him his first mountain race win ever!)

The race started and everyone scattered across the slope heading up the mountain for checkpoint A. I love this part because there's no single line, but instead a mass of people stretching across the slope. This would be the longest climb of the race, so I went out with the plan to run the whole thing at steady pace. Not too fast. This was just the beginning. Jamie Woolsey and I started off about even with each other, while Hanne Heinrich moved out in front. I knew that she was just doing the short course, so I didn't push myself to catch her. I just maintained my pace and very quickly moved ahead of Jamie and caught up to Hanne. We ran nearly side-by-by side until about halfway up the mountain when she dropped off, and I moved ahead. This was a long-ass 1.1 mile climb that gained about 1260 ft of gain. Checkpoint A was still another .1-.2 miles from where it topped out, but it was a welcome downhill that I just ran all out. When we had turned left off the slope, I peeked back to see no woman in sight behind me, but in a fell race, that didn't necessarily mean much, so I still wanted to run as hard as I could just in case I made a mistake in my course navigation. Which sure enough, I did. The run over to Checkpoint B at Stickney's cabin was pretty easy. A long downhill followed by a short easy-graded uphill. I passed a lot of people here.

My plan once I hit B was to take a sharp left to take a glade trail down to Mountain Rd and run up that to stay high until dropping down to C. It all went as planned, but only briefly. I hit the glade alone since everyone else opted to stay right still following the marked course (the marked course is the short course and only goes to checkpoint C). I flew down the hill and then hit a road that I assumed was Mountain Rd but a quick look at the map made me think twice so I ran back down running into some of the guys who had ended up behind me while I chose the glade. My little mistake cost me some time but not much. I was really confused at this point so I stopped and looked at the map. I was pretty sure I hadn't hit Mountain Rd yet so I decided to continue down the glade, which was now, once again, the marked course. Jeff Hixon, the course designer for this, came flying by and yelled out that the marked course was the fastest way to C. That couldn't be right. There was no way, but I followed along still hoping to hit Mountain Rd and run back up and across the mountain. Somehow, I missed Mountain Rd. I still don't know where or how because it's a ROAD. By the time I realized my mistake, I was so bummed because I was too far down the mountain at this point to turn around and go back up. The glades were just so steep that it would have been too slow. So I continued on with Jeff and a couple of other guys feeling frustrated as we kept descending and descending and descending, all the way down to only about 120ft higher than the race start. UGH! This only meant we had to turn around and go all the way back up to C. I was relieved when this finally happened. And the run back up was steep but it went across maybe 2 slopes before cutting over to C, so it wasn't at terribly steep grade. I knew it had cost me a lot of time, though, when Paul Bazanchuk and I met each other right at the checkpoint. He was coming from the direction I had meant to take. So I lost almost 2 minutes by going the wrong way. My experience of knowing the mountain did not help me here! But that's what I love about this race! I didn't know who was in front of or behind me now. (I finally spotted Jamie not too far back, so I had to continue to work hard to keep my lead.)

I passed through C and started the climb back up the mountain. From where we had bottomed out before C, we climbed another 1000ft in 1.4 miles up to D at the top of West Mountain. Once back on the ridge, I followed my plan to take the West Wall Hiking Trail (as per Dave's suggestion). I was in a decent pack of people, but only Jonathan Kovar followed me. This trail was not easy to spot, and most people just ran past. Paul B and Todd Brown both attempted this trail but went off in the wrong direction. Jonathan and I followed it perfectly. It was definitely the way to go. Not only was it shorter, it was more gradual. The only downside for some people would have been it's technical footing, but this was perfect for me.

We exited out of the woods behind Checkpoint D and proceeded to Checkpoint E... all the way back across the mountain. I passed most of the people who had been behind me who were now much further back due to our shortcut. I realized quickly as I ran down Joseph's run that we had chosen very wisely. This was steep, wet and grassy. Running down it as opposed to up it was the right call. I even slid down on my butt and continued down the trail a few feet before I could stop myself. That's how steep it was. We passed all of the people, including Jamie, who hadn't been too far behind us, now much farther behind and still on their way up West Mountain.

The run across the mountain over to Checkpoint E was very quick since most of it was on a gravel road. We passed Latitude 44 and continued down to E, only to turn around and go all the way back over to Chutters. When we passed Latitude 44, I took some water from the water stop, and Erica Khan took the only race picture of me.

On the way from E to F at Latitude 44. Nice to see Gary Reuter there cheering me on.
This is where I parted ways with those people who had been near me. I continued the high route while they continued low. Their route appeared to be faster on the map, but they would learn that this route dropped them much further down the mountain than they thought and meant a climb back up. It wasn't too much of a climb, but it was just enough for me to get a good 1-2 minute lead on some of the people who had been with me at E. My run across was pretty easy over to Chutters where I spotted Glade West to begin the descent to F and the finish. Glades are rough footing and steep as hell, but if you have little fear and can do technical downhill, then it's the way to go. This glade seemed to go on forever, and a guy who had been behind me passed me. He had actually taken the slope next to Glade West briefly before cutting over. He had been ahead of me after E but chose the low route and had to make up time to get back ahead of me. He flew down the glades and I lost sight of him quickly. As I exited the glades, I ran right through checkpoint F and then right onto Coos Caper for the fast run down to Short Cut which cut across to Big Ben for the run down through the finish. And just like last year, I finished with a huge smile on my face. I can't express just how much fun this race is!! I finished first woman in 1:20:50 coming in with 7.5 miles and a total of 2,558ft of elevation gain. This course was fun with its back and forth across the mountain, and my legs felt totally trashed. Oops. I only had Hartford a week later. My quads would end up being so sore that it lasted until Thursday, only 2 days before Hartford! Haha. Full Results

After the race, it took me forever to get out for a short cool down with the dogs. So much socializing! It's good, though, since this was the last mountain race of the season. This last race is always sad because you know it's going to be awhile until you see everyone again. I made sure John was all set then finally made my way out for a mile run up one of the quiet slopes with the dogs. They chased some turkeys along the way, so they did one stride each. Just as we reached the top of our run, I all of a sudden bonked. Like really bad. I hadn't eaten anything but a gel before the race, and it had now been over 2 hours since that.

He really wanted to put his head out the window. I fixed it so he wouldn't hurt himself  but got a picture first. 

The Devil dog fits right in

First awesome foliage of the season during my cool down with the dogs.
I had enough time to change clothes before the awards when I got back, but I made it quick because I needed food asap. I was all of a sudden shaking uncontrollably. I'm not a fan of Big Dave's Bagels (just the bagels; I love the burritos there!) so I was happy I had gotten a boissant at Bagels Plus on the way up to the race. I took it upstairs to the awards that were just starting and found a place to sit to shove this boissant in my face. I couldn't believe how badly I was shaking. It didn't take long for it to stop, though, thank goodness.

The awards were quick, and then Chris held the raffle. And what did I win?! 603 Beer of course! Hahaha! Without fail! So funny.

Long course winners
Me with Freddi Pare post-race

Me, Freddi and Mei. Of course I always look like a giant. Haha. I'm only 5'5"!

Todd Brown took this of me

2014-2016 award signs. The mountain goat was from Sleepy Hollow last year. I'm not into stuffed animals...except that one. 
With Bretton Woods being the last race of the USATF-NE Mountain Racing Series, I once again took the women's win for the 2016. Not only that...but the masters women's win. So that's pretty cool. I remember talking to some North Carolina trail racing friends back in 2010 before we moved back to New Hampshire. I told them that I was "going to try to get into that mountain racing series they put on up there". We all thought it sounded so cool and so hard. Haha. Little did I know that 5 and 6 years later, I would be winning the Series for the women. I actually never thought I'd be where I am with ANY of this racing stuff. It's all pretty fucking cool!

I also won the Granite State Mountain Series. I wasn't even trying, and had someone else run all four of races (no one did!), I wouldn't have. But that was kind of neat since I won a free pair of Salomon shoes. I just hope they're better than the last ones!

After Bretton Woods, it was time to get John some exercise. My friend/coworker, Jeff, had mentioned that he was doing some high angle rescue training up on Elephant's Head and told me to wave as we drove by. Well, screw waving. I decided John and I would just hike up there. It was funny the look on Jeff's face when he saw us appear up there. He totally wasn't expecting that. I knew another guy up there doing the training, but the rest I had never seen so they must all be from up there north of the notch.

I stood off to the side to watch the training while John picked the red leaves that had changed already and set them up in a row with rocks on them. He seemed to be really enjoying himself, and we were up there for awhile. It was nice to see him playing like that.

John on Elephant's Head

He's so goofy. Haha.
When he was ready, we walked back down and drove home. Dylan came over for a sleepover, then the three of us went to Flatbread Company for dinner. I had a free flatbread from responding to a 911 there. They always give us all free flatbreads when we respond there which is really cool. We got the best seat in the house, the couch table. I had some pretty good beers from Sebago Brewing, the Local Harvest Ale and Simmer Down.

Dylan, John and me at Flatbread
John being a goofball after we got home.
On Sunday, I woke up with extremely sore legs. I think it was mostly from Bretton Woods, but also from the deep tissue massage. I decided to run an easy 3 miles in the neighborhood. My legs were so stiff that I had to take it really easy. Made it easy to do negative splits. haha. 8:09, 7:48, 7:37. 23:56 total.

I finally followed through on my yearly promise to take John to Kahuna Laguna at the Red Jacket. I have this fun pass book that I get every year that gives us a discount there. It's still ridiculously expensive, but once a year is doable. We brought Dylan along. I just spectated. I went twice with John when he was younger, but I spent hours freezing to death there. Haha. So now I make sure he goes with a friend, and I just watch. I'll admit it was a bit excruciating because we spent 5 hours there!! But they were having SO much fun. It's such a treat for John to do this so I'm willing to sacrifice my day. He does it for me every weekend with my races, so it was my turn.

His goggles got knocked off in the waves.

Evening beer

Lounging with my tiny dog

With Bretton Woods all said and done, it was time to put my mental focus into Hartford. I was starting to feel nervous about it, but also optimistic at the same time. I had to do everything right for the next 5 days and show up at the start line feeling strong both physically and mentally.

"Free Animal" by Foreign Air