Doyle's Emerald Necklace

Doyle's Emerald Necklace

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

2017 Ragged 75 Stage Race

If you do this race, this marker will forever be in your head. I hung this one on my deck. 
I couldn't believe it was finally the second week of August. My goal race all year was upon me! It was actually supposed to be a 2016 race when it was called the Emerald Necklace. That was cancelled, and I was pretty bummed until Roxanne Serrecchia told me Tom Hooper was bringing the race back under Six03. I asked Tom, and he said it was. Sweet! I signed up as soon as it opened. Seemed like forever ago until I realized the race was now just a few days away! I was nervous as hell.

I'd never done a stage race before so that would be totally new to me. I also hadn't really trained for it. It wasn't that I just didn't do the training; I had plans months in advance with the April marathon and the May 50, but with the high hamstring issues, I obviously had to back out of those. I did partially train for it by really hitting the mountains as much as possible starting in April. My injury forced me off the roads which in turned forced me to somewhat train for Ragged terrain-wise. Definitely not distance-wise. My goal coming into the weekend was just to finish the stage race. Not to win it and not to compete in the 50K USATF-NE Championship race that was the same as our third day. I just wanted to basically learn how to do a stage race. The idea of it is daunting when you've never done it before. 3 days in a row of that crap! And I was told the third day was the hardest. Great! Haha. I really didn't know what to expect from my body going into it. My plantar fasciitis had gotten so bad that I had to consider the fact I might have to drop from the race because of it. If 11 miles of pain from it at the Mansfield Double Up was almost too much, how could I do over 20 miles a day on it?? This thought actually made me sad when I thought about it for the two weeks leading up to it. A DNF because of my stupid foot. UGH. I knew that if that happened, I'd be pretty depressed for awhile afterwards. I SO didn't want to walk away from this race with it unfinished.

Normally, I struggle to run 50 miles a week, but since I knew (or hoped, at least!) I was going to be running 75 miles over the weekend, I thought it would be cool to run my first (and probably only ever) 100 mile week. It actually wasn't that easy to get in 25 miles Monday-Thursday since I didn't want to do any crazy mileage on Thursday, the day before the race started. Monday was a zero day. So that meant I had to get most of the miles in on Tuesday. I planned it all out as best I could and hoped for the best. All runs would be slow leading up to Friday. That was a definite.

Monday, August 7, 2017- Zero running day. 2.2 mile walk around the building in 42 minutes. I just walk easy and listen to music. SO fortunate to sleep all night. That had been another worry of mine. Getting sleep Monday and Wednesday nights. Well 1 down, 1 to go.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017- I left right from work and drove to Chocorua Lake Rd to do 10 miles out and back. One of my old favorites. Not too crazy of a run and the perfect amount of miles. It still had 933ft of elevation gain, but I ran it at such a slow pace that it wasn't strenuous at all. When I got to the 5 mile point at the end of Fowler's Mill Rd where I had planned to turn around, I changed my mind and decided to continue onto Old Mail Rd and make the run a loop. It added on 2 extra miles, but running a loop is way better than an out and back. 12 miles total in 1:34:39. 7:52 avg pace. It perfect. I didn't wear myself out at all. When I got back to my car, I found a photo on my phone that John had sent me.

Ermahgerd! So cute! Haha.
I got in my one and only upper body and abs workout for the week. I had planned it that way since there was no way I was doing any workouts over the weekend.

Mid-afternoon, John and I went for a bike ride on the Mountain Division Trail. That kid can out-pedal me easily. It was a beautiful day, and John spotted a blackberry mecca just off the path where we stopped to pick blackberries. There were so many that I actually had to stop eating them or risk a bad stomach ache. Haha. We biked out and back for a total of 7.9 miles in over an hour.

Waiting for John to finish picking berries. 
I had to run a few errands after that for race prep. Once again, back to EMS in hopes of finding an actual useful camping item that our particular EMS has very little of. I was also hoping to get some Honey Stinger Waffles. Good news was that they actually had (some!) fuel canisters. Bad new was that they stopped carrying ALL nutrition/fuel time food. Why would people who are exerting themselves in the outdoors want that? Hrmph. Oh wait. I forgot. The North Conway Eastern Mountain Sports is meant for people who LOOK LIKE they exert themselves in the outdoors. Baffling. I mean, the entire camping/hiking gear section literally takes up about 1/6 of the entire store. Ridiculous. And most of that had empty shelves. Nothing against the employees there. They're all locals and super nice. I'll just feel bad for them when this store goes out of business, too. My plan is go in there as little as possible now. Haha.

I thought I would have better luck at Walmart with some other things, but their camping section was picked clean. Not really surprised, though. It's seriously the ONLY place here to get camping supplies that aren't overpriced. The one thing I wanted was a small container to make as a gel flask for maple syrup. I had decided to carry maple syrup for fueling at the race but needed a small container for it. I ended up in the toiletries section instead buying a 97 cent soap/shampoo container that would end up working out perfectly.

Made in Chiiiiiiina
We had a little time to go home after and then off to ninja class, the only "sport" John has stuck with and still loves doing. I hear the grumbles occasionally when I tell him we have to go, but once he's there, he loves it. He might be the only kid who's been doing ninja class straight through since it started. In fact, I'm almost positive he is. It started in January 2014 (I think! Or was it 2013?), and he's been in every session (including every summer session) since.

Leaping over the wall at ninja class
I was a little sad since this was the last day I would see John for 6 days. He and his dad were leaving for the Cape the next morning for the Beckwith's annual Truro vacation. John was going to stay down there with his grandparents after his dad left on Friday since I needed a place for John to stay during the stage race. I could have brought him, but I assumed he would have been bored out of his mind. Turns out, he probably would have had fun and been busy the whole time, but it was still probably better for me that I didn't have to worry that he was ok and taken care of the whole time. A stage race is a selfish type of activity where you really only have the energy to take care of yourself. I was one of very few parents there. I can actually only think of one other racer besides me who had kids (although it's possible a few of the older ones have grown kids). Interesting, since I'm only just now realizing this. But, anyway, I was a little sad since I felt like he was just gone to Costa Rica. I have to let him spread his wings a bit, though. He's just going to keep growing up and getting more independent. Waahhhhhh! :)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017- Since Bryan and John were going to the Cape, I had to get up at 4am and take the dogs on a run. Like last year, it was a headlamp run at the Albany Town Forest. Something easy. My foot was killing me for the first mile. I'm talking pins and needles stabbing me pain. 5 slow miles in 47:19. Almost a full minute slower than the exact same run almost a year to the day when I took the dogs on a run while they were at the Cape. Haha. It was fine, though. I needed to keep the legs fresh for Friday.

Not a black and white photo. Just the darkness of the morning post-run
It was take-your-dogs-to-work day! I love doing this. It's so nice having my dogs there. I put them in their own air conditioned room and then take them out on the trail out back to get out. We spent a lot of time picking blueberries out there. Well, everyone but Chill. He just wanted to play stick, but Spot, Phoenix and I chowed down. There were SO MANY!! I hung out in the room with them for awhile. Dogs are the best. That night, I brought Phoenix in the bed with me in my room and had the best sleep I've had at work in a long time. No calls, and I never woke up once. Yay for sleep!

Thursday, August 10, 2017- Got out for a trail run with dogs as soon as I was off work. We ran right from the base and did a loop run on the mountain bike trails in the Green Hills. I only meant to run 5 miles, but I always forget that running from work adds on 2 extra miles. Oops. It was ok, though. I ran slowly and stopped a lot for the dogs. Came out to 7 miles exactly in 1:08:50. 679ft of elevation gain (a little more than I'd planned). I had to go to the store still but totally didn't think it through that I couldn't leave the dogs in the car since it was really warm out. So I had to take them home first. I went ahead and showered then went back out to do my last minute food prep.

I bought food just in case I didn't like the catered meal that I was miraculously signed up for. Hmm. I decided to add on to my fabulous idea of "trying new things" for the stage race. So in addition to the maple syrup, I bought a bag of Raisinets to try. I also bought sweet potatoes that I planned to roast and top with salt and carry. Yeah, I only ended up eating those once prior to the first day's start. I was really bummed not to have the waffles, though. I knew I wouldn't be able to do gels even though I brought some that were in my pack the entire time. They work great, but there's a point where they just sit in your stomach and make you sick.

I won't leave you in suspense with this. I spill it now on what worked best for me. Half the recommended amount of Tailwind in my water. The maple syrup and the Raisinets. And, and! Roxanne just happened to have extra waffles, so I had one on the 2nd and 3rd days. The maple syrup was by far the best thing I brought. It's easy to drink since it isn't thick like gels. I only needed very small amounts when I had some. That cheap Walmart bottle was easy to open and close. At aid stations, I ate a pickle, some watermelon and a handful of some type of candy. All in all, I fueled with very little. By August every year, I've trained my body to need very little water and fuel, unless it's just insanely hot and humid. I only drank maybe a liter of water each day. Beer for recovery immediately after. Yeah. Seriously. Haha. But anyway, that's what worked for me. And I have 10 years worth of a maple syrup supply so I doubt I'll be buying gels again anytime soon. Haha.

By the time I got home, I realized I was going to be rushing. Packing for this meant A LOT of stuff. Gone are the days when I lived out of a small backpack. Not that I can't do it. I just choose not to. Haha. This is pretty much how I showed up. I got laughed at the next morning for the multiple trips to my car. Haha.

Even with all of the stuff, I had to be seriously organized so it took a long time for me to pack. Inside my giant suitcase, I categorized everything into bags based on activity so that I ended up with about 7 different bags in my one big suitcase. It's not a girly suitcase by the way. It used to be Sean Doherty's Adidas roller board. It's a sweet piece of luggage. This organization would end up being key for keeping my shit together all weekend. If only I didn't keep putting things back where they DIDN'T go, like, say, my wallet. Haha.

I was down to the wire on getting out on time, but I made it out right on the dot. Said bye to my dogs which was tough and then hit the road. Even though I really have to stop paying for the fingernails, I just couldn't do it and stopped in Meredith. I had actually waited 5 weeks since I last got them done because I was done with them. I was planning to cut them off and then let the acrylic just grow out and cut it off. It really is money I can't justify spending... or so I thought. It's so far from a need, especially when I couldn't buy food for a week. But I wasn't ready to let go just yet. I looked at my funds and realized I wouldn't be spending much money at all the next 3 days and had just worked a shit ton of overtime in July. So I did it. I got them done. It sounds so stupid, but it's one thing that makes me feel pretty. I hate my hair. I've given up on it completely. Haven't had it done since the first week of February. There's no point. It never looks good no matter what. When I look in the mirror, I just see someone who is aging and isn't that pretty. But when I look at my nails, it makes me feel good. And they're fake! Haha. That's the funny part. Well, I'll take a step. They actually aren't fake. Those are my real nails under acrylic. The only time one of them is fake is when it breaks off and they have to add a tip on there to match the other nails. My nails alone are weak, so I love having the acrylics over them. I sound like an idiot, but sometimes there's the one thing you have to do for yourself that just makes no sense. My nails are that. So wow. I just blahed way too much about fingernails. Anyway, I walked out of the nail salon feeling 100 times better and ready to race. It's like I can't do a big race without getting my nails done. Haha.

Haha. GROSS.
Continued on to New London where we checked in for the race and had the pre-race meeting. I walked into a room of strangers! I didn't know anyone there. So weird! I knew Roxanne and Tom Hooper and Brandon Baker, but the rest? Nope. I was happy to see Amy Rusiecki walk in the door. Little did I know we would be comrades through this entire thing. That 3 days later I would make a decision to not "go for gold" and stick by my trail sister's side to the finish. At this point, Tom was trying to pin us against each other. Trying to stir up a pot of competition. Sorry, Tom, we very much disappointed you. Tom briefed us on the day 1 course. About halfway through, Amy and I decided that maybe we should break out the map to follow along. Haha.
Tom describing the course for day 1
I needed food so badly and headed right to the Flying Goose Brew Pub. I walked in the door and ran right into Ernie Brake. We had literally just been talking the night before about places to take his xc kids running for run camp in North Conway. Funny! He lives right down the road from the brew pub and was meeting his wife there. After they sat down, I had no luck finding a seat at the bar and had to ask for a table of 1. I mean, the loser's table. Fortunately, Shane and Kathi whom I had talked to at the race briefing were there and invited me to join them for dinner! Awesome! It was great getting to know them. They were from North Carolina and doing this stage race for the second time. Shane would end up proposing to Kathi two days later during the race on the summit of Mt Sunapee. So cool! Dinner and beer were great, and when the waitress brought the check, they insisted on paying for mine! People are so generous to me sometimes. It blows me away. I don't ask for free things, but I end up being given things all the time including that night's stay. On Tuesday, Tom Hooper informed me that the condo would be ready around noon on Thursday. My response, "What condo?" Oh yeah, Tom forgot to tell me. He included me in the rented condo at Ragged for Thursday night. Say what? That was SO cool of him because I was going to sleep in my car in the parking lot.

Flying Goose DIPA. Fresh nails. And one of many wounds on my hand from falling.
It was back to Ragged to the fancy condo. It was just Tom, Tony Bargado, Roxanne and me staying there. We hung out for awhile. Had more beer. Tom messaged Amy that I was 4 beers in...this was true, but over many hours. Amy knows better, though. Beer is fuel. His push to make us fierce competitors is probably what made us not. Haha. It was finally off to bed. Roxanne and I took the twin beds upstairs. Even though, I was crazy nervous, I slept surprisingly really well. I only woke up once briefly because I was too hot but went right back to bed. Maybe it was just all of the beer. :)

Friday. Ragged 75- Stage 1-  Everyone else was up super early, and even though I planned to sleep in a bit longer, I got up, too. I went to the bathroom and this was my introduction to Charlie Baughman. Haha. Just as I'm finishing up, in walks Charlie. I was almost fully clothed, but I didn't care as he apologized quickly and shut the door. Charlie would end up being my favorite character of the weekend. He's on the board of directors for the Sunapee Ragged Kearsarge Greenway Coalition. This is the Ragged 75. The race would cover the entire trail circuit over the next 3 days the SRKG would be our new home, marked with those markers in the photo at the top of this post. Charlie was there to volunteer and just make sure everything went well on the trail. He's just a crazy, fun guy that could make you laugh and capture your attention easily with a story. On top of that, his 10 year old son, Soeren, joined the group on the second day and is an amazing kid. Couldn't stop helping people and loving every minute of it. The two of them were just a bright light out there the whole time. But funny, now that I know Charlie, I'm not so certain that bathroom walk in wasn't on purpose. Haha. Some day I'll ask him.

Charlie and Soeren
Tom and Tony dragged Charlie out to get ready for the race start leaving Roxanne and I to get ready for our first day of the stage race. Roxanne and I chatted, but not like usual. We were both nervous and our minds were churning as we made sure we had everything we needed in our packs. I was nervous. Ate some sweet potatoes and made the coffee I brought with my cone filter. I could have used the coffee pot, but something about making it this way helped me relax a bit. We were only about 200 yards from the start, but I still had to move my car to the main parking area where I would be leaving it behind until Sunday. The mountain was covered in a light morning fog. So far the forecast for the weekend looked like absolutely perfect weather for running. This first day would be the warmest, but only in the high 70s, but somewhat humid. If the forecast held, we were looking at an awesome 3 days of running.

Ragged Mt. Starting area.
I started making my many trips from the car to the U-Haul with my stuff. My giant Adidas rollerboard, my chair, my cooler, my food bag, my tent and my sleeping mat. Haha. I heard Lori Emery laughing at me with all of my stuff. Once it was all loaded, I locked my car and walked back up to get ready for the start.

Talking to Andrew Drummond pre-race. He would be out with Squall taking photos the first two days.

Not a clue what I was talking about in the above pic, but apparently, Amy was talking about it, too, in the pic below. Hahaha! Too funny when I realized this!

I was trying to be good and comply with requirements for what we needed to carry. That included 2L of water. And that would not happen again. My pack was SO heavy. TOO heavy. And my pack sucks to begin with. I hate it. It's the Ultimate Direction Wink. It does nothing but hurt my neck and chafe me. I looked and looked, but just couldn't afford a new pack. Even with my huge Salomon discount (an award from a race), their packs still weren't affordable. So my pack would have to do, unfortunately. I think I whined to everyone about it for awhile. At some point I stopped being nervous about the race and was ready to just get started. They called everyone up to the starting line where of course no one wanted to walk up to. I've kind of just started getting on the line in the smaller races. Kind of getting everyone to move up. This morning I decided to throw a little humor at the humorless crowd to get them to loosen up a bit. I'm not sure it worked. I think Lori was the only one who laughed. I lined up ready for the 75 mile sprint!!

The look on Brian's face says he's probably thinking I'm a nut job. Photo by Jillain Grenier.
Brian, Amy and I would end up taking the lead on the line and never looked back from there.
Photo by Jillian Grenier

This is funny because Squall would end up almost tripping Brian. You can see Brian anticipating this. And of course it happened to him. He doesn't like dogs. Haha.
It was finally time to start and off we went. Within less than a minute, we were joined by Sam Wood who would make us a pack of 3. I would spend so much time with these two people out there on the trails for three days.

About .05 miles into the race. Only 74.05 to go.
The race would head down the pavement and take a left onto a dirt road for miles before heading onto the single track. Within minutes, Brian was out of sight, and Amy, Sam and I were all alone. I'm not sure at what point we decided to stick together for the first day, but it was somewhere near the beginning. Amy is a pro at this type of race. It had been almost 3 years since I completed my last ultra. And Sunday would be Sam's first ultra. So we made Amy impromptu trail guide for the day. This was such a good decision. I remember thinking the pace was way too slow at first, but had I not hung back to save my energy for long miles ahead, I probably would have slowed way down halfway through the day, only to be passed by Sam and Amy and never be able to hang with them.

This concept of running in a group for so long was so foreign to me. In fact, it was so foreign that I realized I wasn't "in shape" for chatting as I ran! I found talking was really hard after awhile. I never do it. I run in silence 99% of the time. It's really something you have to actually train your body to do. There were times, I had to be silent for a few minutes just to catch my breath. Haha. Funny, though, after day 1, I was like a pro myself by day 3.

The first day of the race would take us over the summit of Ragged and Kearsarge. Although it was the shortest mileage day at just over 22 miles, I found it to be the most difficult day with the two climbs and really just getting used to this type of race. We walked all of the ups and ran the down and flats. We talked for 5 hours straight. Our favorite topic was "Trail Gossip"! Haha. Sorry, what's said on the trail, stays on the trail. The gossip was for our ears only.

It was great having Sam along with us. I first met Sam in person at the Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble in 2014 after "meeting" Sam through the long 18 Below thread on Facebook. I'm not going into details about it, but it was this post that ended up with nearly 10,000 comments that had me entertained for about 3 weeks straight. It was runners talking shit about running and all sorts of other things. Someone even posted a boob shot! Ok, that was me, but anyway, it was funny that THAT is how I met Sam. I met his wife Abbey soon after that and have always enjoyed their company. Just super nice people. So it was a pleasure to be running with Sam.

Prior to this, I hadn't really gotten a chance to know Amy too well. I did break a vase at her house once when I stayed there for 7 Sisters, and we got to chat a little the night before. But the race was too busy and time too short to hang out more. It was cool, though, because it was as if we had known each other well for years. Running with them just made the miles click off quickly. We talked about anything and everything all the while watching for that damn trail marker.

We had been warned that it was easy to get lost, but we found the trail marked very well. Only at one point did we almost turn around after not seeing a marker for a really long time, but just as we were about to turn back, we spotted one way off in the distance. We had been on the right track.

Up to the aid station, my plantar fasciitis was somewhat bothering me, but not too badly. As soon as we hit the road, though, it was an ouch. This would unfortunately be a long stretch of road before hitting the single track up to the top of Kearsarge.
Photo I took of Amy and Sam on the way up Kearsarge after I fell back a bit while trying to eat

Aid station

Leaving the aid station. My foot is turned funky because I was trying to compensate for the pain on the other foot... to no avail.
We had had no other racer in sight all day until we got to the top of Kearsarge and this guy came flying by us. Definitely took us by surprise. Our competitiveness came out from this since none of us liked it that we just got passed, but since it was day 1, we let it go and stayed at a comfortable pace.

Another photo I took. You can see the other racer who had just passed us
On the way down Kearsarge, I really started to feel a little beat. It had warmed up and I actually ended up drinking quite a bit of water in the last third of the day's miles. My foot also started to hurt. But it was weird. It hurt but not to the point where I felt I needed to quit. I knew I could keep going, but in the back of my mind, it worried me about the upcoming days. If it hurts this bad now, how will it feel tomorrow or Sunday?!

Andy Drummond captured some pics along the way

For some reason, the three of us had mixed up the mileage for the first two days and thought we had 25 miles. We were pretty shocked to find ourselves at the back of the Kearsarge Middle School at mile 22. Haha. I'll admit I was pretty tired and very ready to see today's finish line. The three of us crossed the line together. Brian was in first just over 40 minutes ahead of us. The guy who passed us like we were standing still must have bonked a little because he was only 4 minutes ahead of us. It would be nearly an hour before the next runner came through.

Day 1 Complete. 22.4 miles on my watch. 5:00:51. 4,905ft of elevation gain.

First thing first was sit down and get my damn shoes off. Second was hop in the cold make-shift shower. I hate cold water, but that cold shower never felt so good. It had really warmed up. After my shower, I proceeded to sit down and have the beer that Tom had placed in my hand. I would end up sitting there for hours. I talked to Andy a lot and then as people rolled in, we had a group under the tent. Pizza showed up so I stuffed my face with my first dinner. After about 4 hours, I realized my foot didn't hurt at all and that I was super antsy to move again, so I took a 3 mile round trip walk to the Vernondale Store to get ice cream. Talk about crushing ones hopes and dreams....

Curse you, Vernondale Store!!

I had to settle for one of those lame ice creams then walked back the lonely road to the school where I proceeded to drink more beer and eat two more dinners.

Walking the road to disappointment

My beer with Squall

Just chillin' at camp

Tent city at the school
I was surprised to hear that there were 4 runners still out just about to miss the 12 hour cut off. Randy Tuck was one of them, but he was hanging back with this woman runner who was struggling. As soon as they came in, she asked for a ride back to her car at Ragged. She was done and outta there. One of the other two out there had gotten really sick and was vomiting nearly the whole way. I felt so bad for him. He looked so drained and tired. He was only getting 12 hours of recovery time to replenish and get ready for the next day. I don't know how he did it.

As dark approached, we had another pre-race briefing then I went to my tent to get everything set up for the next morning. It was supposed to pour rain all night, so I wanted to make sure I had everything in order in case it was still raining when we woke up. Finally it was into the sleeping bag. I read a little of my book until my eyes clothes. Woke up a few hours later to the sound of the rain on the tent and just like in my old life on the trail, it lulled me right back into a deep, solid sleep.

(Okay. So after a two week break from writing that ^^, let's see if I can pick back up where I left off. Haha. Not always easy when you're on a roll and then have to stop. And I feel like I left something out of the first day.)

Saturday. Ragged 75-Stage 2- Woke up to light rain and cool temps. We really lucked out today and basically all weekend with mild weather. It made a huge difference. I had everything organized for the morning, so I immediately changed into race stuff and then put everything else back in the suitcase. I got out of the tent and went to the tent where coffee and breakfast awaited. I kind of regretted not making my own coffee since this tasted a bit like Folgers, but it wasn't worth pulling everything out when it was already there and ready. I packed up my tent, and the rain stopped completely shortly thereafter.

Today was a special day because Lori Emery was extremely awesome and let me use her Salomon pack! She had used the same pack I had prior to this and had true empathy. It was truly super cool of her. And oh my god, what a difference. And it should be. This is a $175 pack! The Salomon Adv Skin 12. Even with my pro deal (that I won at a race. 40% off), I still can't afford it at $105, so this was a huge tease for me, but it really made my day. SO comfortable and so much storage. No chafing. No neck pulling. this pack basically hugs you. It's funny how much I dislike Salomon shoes but LOVE their clothes and accessories. Haha. (Not that I wouldn't continue to give their shoes a chance if I win another pair). But, anyway, thank you to Lori for her generosity!!

I was surprised not be sore at all. A little fatigued, but not that bad. I was ready to get started. I was actually freezing standing there at the start line which I was happy about. Mid-August and I'm freezing. Yes, m'am, I'll take it.

I love Tom's photobomb. Haha. Photo by Jillian Grenier
 Amy and Brian showed up about 5 minutes before the start so Sam, Amy and I lined up together. Finally, we were off and headed away from the school and right onto the trail. It was surprisingly dark in the woods to the point that it was difficult to see. I wasn't expecting this, but it was early on and it would brighten quickly. The three of us weren't too happy to see 2-3 guys (behind Brian) shoot out ahead of us. I think not! Our competitive nature kicked in and we quickly got in front of them. None of these guys had finished within an hour of us on day 1 so what the hell? Even after we got in front of them, they still hung on. We were thankful for the upcoming mile of road section so we could pick up the pace a bit and lose them. And damn if it didn't take awhile, but it was the perfect place to do it, on the flat road. 8:09 pace wouldn't normally be fast, but at the beginning of a 25 mile day, it was a bit quick. It was only a mile, though, and we would never see another racer the rest of the day.

I have to say I really enjoyed this day more than the first. The cooler weather made it more comfortable, and I also just felt more at ease with what I was doing. PLUS, my plantar fasciitis hurt less than the day before! Weird. I also loved the mix of day 2's terrain. We had road, fun trail and Mt Sunapee. Pretty much everything you could imagine. After Sunapee, we hit two awesome forests, one a big mountain biking area. Just so pretty. It really made the day fly by. We continued day 2 with more trail gossip and probably a million other topics. The pace was comfortable. I felt really strong. We ran into Andy and Squall a few times, and of course one of those times was right when I decided to stop and pee. Looked up and they're right down the trail. Luckily, I was just out of view enough not to hurt Andy's eyes. Haha.

Photo by Andrew Drummond

My favorite photo from the weekend, also by Andrew Drummond.
The first 12 miles just flew by, and we were at the aid station by Lake Sunapee. Brandon Baker joined us for a short bit from the aid station to the start of the climb up Sunapee. This climb was much less strenous than Ragged and Kearsarge had been the day before. Much of it was runnable. The summit was covered in a cloud, but I wasn't complaining. The cool breeze felt good. Abbey Wood and Tucker the dog joined us for the descent. Unfortunately, this is where we started to lose Sam for the first time. He started having some ankle/foot pain that really slowed him down. When we got to the parking area where Abbey was parked, Sam stopped to rest his foot for awhile and we never saw him again. This was around mile 16 or 17. I was sad to leave him behind, but he was really hurting and would end up struggling the rest of the day.

Us with Abbey and Tucker in tow. Photo by Jillian Grenier

Another photo of the descent off Sunapee by Jillian
We came out to a long downhill road run for about 2 miles, and we cranked this out. The sun had come out and quickly warmed things up a bit. This was the first time I would start to see Amy falter a bit. The heat, even if mild, really affects her. We still hit these two road miles at 18 and 19 in 8:10 and 7:57, respectively, which was quick considering our general stage race pace. Haha. We veered off onto a gravel road briefly and then entered a fun rolling section of smooth trail through Harding Hill. I loved this and felt great! Amy was definitely slowing a bit and I found myself wanting to move at quicker pace through here, but I decided to stick with Amy. I had no reason to be all competitive and push ahead. My goal for this wasn't to win anything, but to finish it. And I realized I would rather finish it with company than alone. I ALWAYS run alone. This weekend was giving me a chance to do something different.

After we left Harding Hill, we entered another park that felt like the middle of nowhere. It was darker and swampy, just the opposite of Harding Hill, but I loved the change of pace. We passed Andy and Squall again in here, and Andy said we were almost out at the road in town.

More photos by Andy
We came out to the road in town and knew we were close to being done. As instructed, we followed the Six03 arrow that pointed us into a bank lot. I looked off to my left and saw what looked like one of our markers, but then we looked right and saw two obvious SKRG markers pointing right. So we went right. Just up ahead was another trail marker that looked like it was pointing us through a covered bridge, but when we passed the bridge, we saw no marker. We continued up this wicked steep hill seeing one more marker along the way. Then all of a sudden we found ourselves in a parking lot with no markers and we were right by the harbor. We were in the wrong place. Damn. We jumped on the road and asked the first person we came to where the school was. He told us it was back down the road, so we ended up following the road all the way back down to where we realized we had gone wrong. It was less than .1 miles from where we had turned off. Haha. We had done a fancy detour of about 3/4 of a mile extra. We laughed since it didn't matter and found our way down the road to the Sunapee Middle School where we finished the day with 25.3 miles (on my watch) in 5:17:39. We told Tom and Charlie about our detour. They couldn't figure out what we were talking about so they jumped in the truck and drove over there. Somehow, old trail markers from a previous section of the trail had never been taken down, and that's what we followed. They pulled the old markers down before anybody else came through.

Today's stop had luxury! Indoor plumbing with showers! I was the first in the shower, and it took nearly 5 minutes to get the hot water going. Haha. Felt oh so good, though. Although, we could hang out in the gym, I chose to hang out outside under the tents. The sun came out and really warmed it up outside. It was pretty much the same as the day before except this time I got a ride to the convenient store where I could finally get a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Brandon Baker gave me a ride over. Tom and Camie were there buying ice cream for the group, but I told them I didn't want to share. Haha. I would still end up eating one of their Chaco Tacos that night.

One of my three beers for the evening while lounging in my chair
This day seemed to go by way too fast. I ended up hanging out with John Sheedy and Matt Howard once he arrived. He was super excited to be doing the 50K the next day. And he shared a Dirty Girl beer with me again. Yay! Haha. I set my tent up in the ball field like everyone else and finally got to meet Rebecca and Allyson Miller's one year old baby!! She's adorable. I hadn't caught up with them for awhile so that was nice. They're part of the Trail Monsters and Ally has done this Stage Race at least twice.

Time seemed to be fading fast. It was all of a sudden dinner time... where I had the misfortune of meeting the most annoying person in the world. It turned out that pretty much everyone thought the same thing. Cornered into a horrible conversation about herself. It happened to everyone of us and I died laughing when I saw everyone roll their eyes and quickly move away when this girl moved on to the next person. I've seriously never met an more annoying person. And I've been around annoying people. We all have. And I seriously have to say this woman took the cake. I have no idea who she was, but she talked all about how awesome she was right off the bat. I didn't ask for the company at the table. I was intruded upon and then talked at. She was also an ambassador for a few reputable brands that I'm sure would let her go in a heartbeat if they actually met her in person. She was NOT a good representative for these companies at all. I almost want to boycott their products for allowing her to represent them. Seriously, I'm not kidding. Far too many of these companies are allowing people they shouldn't as their ambassadors. It's like they don't care. Basically, does this person have a blog and use social media? Yes. "Welcome to the team!" There are actual products out there that I do refuse to buy because of whom they've chosen to sponsor. Anyway, I hate to bash this poor girl who's obviously extremely socially inept, but having to deal with that after two days of the Stage Race when I was trying to eat dinner in peace. And not to mention that she was helping herself to the food that she didn't pay for. She was only there for the next day's 50K race. Can you predict how that went? DNF. Yep. Annoyed everybody with awesome she was and then DNFd. I avoided her like the plague the rest of the time. Haha.

I sat with Matt and Amy in the gym for the night's pre-race brief. We drank beers and ate Chaco Tacos. Haha. It was time to hit the tent afterwards. And just as I got inside, the rain started and poured all night long. I taped up my foot for the night and put on my Strassburg sock and was happy to go to bed feeling very little foot pain. I was super nervous about day 3. 33 miles. I didn't know how I was going to feel. Sore? Tired? In pain? This was still all new to me. My goal remained just to finish the stage race and not race the 50K.

Sunday. Ragged 75- Stage 3- Woke up to another beautiful day. Sunny, but cool temps and low humidity. I once again had everything organized for the morning so I changed into what I planned to be my race outfit. Once I stepped out of the tent, I realized I had brought my too-small old CMS singlet and that the booty shorts that were loose on me my last year were now too tight. After walking around for about 10 minutes, I grabbed an Six03 singlet and my overly large flowered Target shorts and did a quick change. I have to admit that was a really good decision. Way more comfortable. I was super sad to be back to my old pack, but I made sure it wasn't full of water this time. Only half a liter. I had learned I didn't need all of that water in there. My nutrition had been spot on so I didn't change anything with that. I wasn't sore at all, but I could definitely feel fatigue in my legs.

Although we hadn't agreed to stick together on the third day, Amy, Sam and I still lined up together for the start. The first part of today's stage would be ALL road for a very long time. We went out of the gate very conservatively. My legs were definitely heavy and it probably took us a good 5 miles to really warm up. There were quite a few people who went out ahead of us or hung with us for the first 13 or so miles, but after that to mile 26, we were feeling good and moving ahead of most of them and catching others.

The only photo during the race. There I am way back in the center of the photograph.
We were basically on the road for the first 10 miles. It was mostly dirt road so it had quite a bit of climbing, but it was still quicker in general and the 10 miles flew by. At this point we were playing leap frog with two other women and about 3 other men. It was kind of annoying after having our peaceful running with just the three of us. It spread out eventually and we got back to the usual trail gossip and conversation. Sorry I can't share the gossip. What's said on the trail, stays on the trail. Hahaha.

Once we hit the trails, it was awesome. SO much of it was runnable today. I felt great, too. My foot barely hurt and I was feeling super strong. Not an ounce of fatigue (after the first 5 miles haha). After aid station around mile 13, we really pulled away from most of the people. Two women had gotten ahead of us at some point, but we passed them by easily somewhere around half way. At this point, Amy and I were tied for second place in the 50K. Seemed kind of crazy to us since we were on day 3. Hilary McCloy was up ahead somewhere. She had passed us within in the first mile or two so I had a feeling she was long gone. I felt really good and it seemed like Amy and Sam felt the same. We were gliding along the trail easily. I couldn't believe how good I felt. We were just ticking the miles off. I wasn't even feeling it. We topped out on Bog Hill in mile 24 and passed a bunch of guys on the way down. That's when we ran into Abbey who told us Hilary was only 2 minutes ahead and bonking hard. No way! I immediately wanted to pick up the pace and catch her right then, but Amy and Sam continued to hold back. So I did, too. I didn't realize at this point, that they were both starting to fade. I questioned myself and thought that mile 24 was probably too soon to surge ahead, but had I known at that point they were hurting, I would have moved on ahead.

By the time we hit the mile 26 aid station, I just wanted to move in and out of there fast and catch Hilary. We were told she had just left a few minutes ago and was vomiting. I quickly ate a pickle and some watermelon. Decided to forego adding water to my pack to save on the weight and just chugged a whole bunch quickly. I was ready to go, go, go. I felt great, like I was just getting started. I found myself wanting to surge ahead of them, but I didn't want to leave them. Still second guessing how smart it would be to surge with 7 miles to go. 7 miles that including another climb up Ragged Mt. I thought they were being smart and conservative, but deep inside I just wanted to move faster. It was kind of a battle in my head. We never caught up with Hilary like we expected to. I had a feeling she had gotten a second wind, but I still felt like if I was able to pick up the pace I would have caught her. Looking back, had I moved on at mile 24, I would have. Now, to say I would have kept a lead or beaten her is not definite. She did end up getting a second wind, but as good as I felt I think we would have been close.

Anyway, after a trail portion we came out to a road run that would take us out to US 4 to cross onto New Canada road for the last 5 miles to the finish. As soon as we hit the road, we lost Sam, and then all of a sudden I noticed Amy was walking where it was all runnable for me. I tried to keep her moving along, but by this point, I realized she was struggling. Just a little bit in just as we hit mile 29, Amy finally told me that she was really struggling in the heat and her stomach was having issues. She said she was holding me back and basically gave me permission to go on ahead. This was a moment for me that I had to make a decision. With only 4 miles to go, would I catch Hilary? I doubted it. I felt like it was too late. So moving on ahead so I could say I beat Amy? It didn't sit right. We had run every step of the way together for three days. I couldn't do it. Not at this point. Not with only 4 miles to go. I'll be honest, though, this was a really tough decision and one I thought about for days after. But I didn't go on ahead. Amy needed to have someone to help her along. Why leave her when she's feeling miserable? I had to stay with her. I had to. We had to tie the Stage Race and the 50K. Had Amy not basically paced us the first day, would I even be feeling this great on the third day? Hard to say, but I thought of it like that. She guided us through that first day. Now it was time for me to guide her through the finish. Although, technically, She led us up Ragged. I'll admit it was a bit excruciating to be moving so slowly when I had so much energy and just wanted to run, run, run. But we had supported each other through this, and we were finishing it together.

It was a wonderful feeling when we crested the top of Ragged and began the descent to the finish. We couldn't believe no one had caught up to us since we were moving so slow! But we were happy to know we were finishing 1st women for the Stage Race and tying for 2nd women for the 50K. Down, down, down we went on the slope. The music and the DJ got louder and the finish line came into view. We held hands and ran through the finish together. 7:12:42. Definitely a lot slower than we thought we'd finish, but it didn't matter. We were 2nd overall behind Brian Rusiecki for the Stage Race in 17:31:34.

Amy and I finishing the Stage Race together

Full Results for the Stage Race and 50K

When I finished I felt like I could run another 20 miles. So crazy. I honestly felt that good. But there weren't 20 more miles. Instead there was a shower to be had...only to find out there weren't showers. So I grabbed my sandals from my suitcase and marched myself down to the pond to "bathe". It was the best I could do, and I needed to rinse off stat.

Cleaned off from the pond.
It was quite warm out at this point so I went to my car and changed into my dress. Unfortunately, I had a bloated belly which I tend to get right after long runs, and the dress was extremely unflattering. Oh well. haha. I didn't care. I came back up to the lodge where Amy and I split up the money for 2nd and 3rd place for the 50K and 1st place for the Stage Race. Then we split up the prizes. We really scored. $230. Two bags of fancy coffee. Two beers. And a stand-up paddle board rental for me! I was psyched.

I used this that following Thursday.

Amy and I splitting up the awards. It looks like I'm giving her the finger. Haha.

It was time for some beers and food after. I have to say Ragged was less than impressive with the food. The beer was good, though! I had to sit in the shade alone to eat because I was dying in the sun, but once I was done, I came back out and ended up hanging out with Matt Howard again for awhile. When he left, I sat next to Charlie and we chatted for awhile. Next thing I knew, it was dark and one person was still out on the course. The bugs were getting bad, so Roxanne and I sat in the UHaul with our beers while we watched the headlamps go up the mountain in search of the lost runner. He was found and then everybody headed out. I was left all alone and stuck with my plan to tent down in the lower lot by my car.

It was crazy. I hardly slept a wink all night. My mind was racing with the what-ifs like it even mattered. Had I made the right decision? Could I have won had I gone ahead? I don't know why this bugged me all night. I think maybe part of it was that I never really processed it fully in the moment. I felt like I made the right decision to stay with Amy, but now I was doubting that. In reality, at mile 29 when Amy finally told me she was struggling, had I gone ahead, I wouldn't have caught Hilary. It was too late. But I kept thinking before that. At mile 25ish when I was ready to make a move. That's what bothered me I think. Because I was looking back and realized at that point, they were hurting. I just didn't realize it yet. And like I said, had I known at that point, they were starting to struggle, then yes, I think I would have gone on. But it was a shoulda, coulda, woulda. When it came time to actually make that decision, I feel like I made the right one. It was all a great experience. The company of Amy and Sam for 3 days made it all worth it in the end to stick it out with Amy. My goal was to finish the Stage Race. I did that, and I was lucky enough to do it with Amy Rusiecki and Sam Wood (mostly) by my side. They made each day brighter and more fun. A pact to the end!

Ragged 75 finisher's jacket
Funny little side note that Tom Hooper told me later. I guess on day 1, he was up on the summit of one of the mountains the first day at some point and came across 3 guys who were up there spectating the Stage Race. He didn't know them, and they didn't seem to know him, but he all of a sudden heard one of them say, "Ya, Leslie is fast, but she can't do long races." Buwhahahahahaha!! I guess Tom immediately spoke up and said, "I'm pretty sure she's fast at every distance. When was the last time you did a sub-3 marathon?" They didn't reply apparently. Hahaha. This made me realize I do need to get back into the ultra game. Winning an ultra overall in 2014 is starting to seem like a long time ago now. Oh, and I have to admit how cool it is to be trash talked by GUYS. I've reached a new level. Hahaha. Cracks me up.

Monday, August 14, 2017- I got up early since I couldn't sleep anyway, packed up my tent and hit the road. I was glad I had taken the day off of work and could enjoy a recovery day. I decided to follow the course on New Canada Rd out to Rt 4.

We ran this road in its entirety.
I followed Route 4 and quickly found myself crossing the course again where I stopped for a breakfast sandwich at the best convenient store I've ever been in for food. I felt sad to be driving on away from the SKRG. It was a quick 3 days, but it was such a great experience. It hurt a little to leave behind, but I had a kid I hadn't seen in 6 days waiting for me in Marshfield, MA! I was excited to see him! I surprisingly ran into very little traffic on the way down to John's grandparents' house. I walked in to find Bryan's aunt and uncle there!!! What an awesome surprise. Marianne and Paul live in California and had been at the Cape for the annual vacation. They are the nicest people, and I hadn't seen them in forever. I would end up staying for a few hours to catch up with them. That's the sad part of divorce. Losing the extended family that came along with the marriage. While we were there, my poor mother-in-law accidentally hit my car with hers. I felt bad since they're insisting on paying cash to fix it, and it's quite pricey. I can't leave it banged up, though, if I ever want to sell it.

I finally gathered up a sleeping John and hit the road. We made a stop at Marathon Sports in Norwell first. I had a $25 gift certificate from the Mattapoisett race. This store just happens to be right next to Webb's Pro Fitness, my gym when I lived in Hingham while Bryan was stationed in Korea. The year and a half I stopped running much and became a gym rat. I was in that gym 5-6 days a week. I had such a kinship the other women there, and now I wonder where they all are now. This was 13 years ago. Definitely made me nostalgic to think of what was once my life.

I decided to make a another stop in the North End to hit Mike's Pastry. It had dawned on me that John had never been there! Not many people make the decision to make a quick stop in the North End since parking is such a huge pain in the ass, but I only had to drive around once before finding 3 wide open spaces one block from Mike's. We were in and out of there in 5 minutes and right back on the highway. Haha.

John's first cannoli
We finally made it home. I was so stiff from all of the driving that I had to get the dogs out for a walk up Heavenly Hill. I quickly loosened up and my legs felt great.

I called it a night with one of my beers I won at the race. John was really happy to be back home. I was, too. It had been a great weekend, but I was ready to be home with John and the dogs. The upcoming weeks were a planned time to recover and do nothing serious. Kind of pick up the road running a little more and get ready for Fall racing.

As I said, I would have music by the War on Drugs on my blog posts since I'm headed to the concert on September 23rd. I expected to have more blog posts. Haha. Now it's only 1.5 weeks away. So for this one is "Red Eyes". The next post will be a major catch up post and hopefully one more War on Drugs song!