Thursday, October 29, 2015

Great Bay 5K

The weekend I had been dreading/looking forward to finally arrived. It was the weekend of the Great Bay 5K, the last race in New Hampshire's Seacoast Series and the race that would make or break my winning the Series for the women. I was so looking forward to running again, but I was also dreading it because I had NO idea how it would go.

Since my weekend starts on Friday, I'll start there. I was terrified of even trying to run on the road, but with the decent improvements in my injury, I knew that I could run uphill somewhat and decided to run/hike up South Moat Mt. I brought Spot along with me since she needed to get out for a good walk. I parked at the trailhead off of Passaconaway Rd, and I guess it's been about 2 years since I've taken the official trail up South Moat. I always come in from High St now and take the old trail up to where it connects with the "new" (12 years old) one. The trail started off flat and/or gradual for most of the first mile, so I was only able to run some of it. Flats, slight inclines and downhills just hurt too much, so I speed-walked those. Once the "new" trail hits the old trail, it becomes fairly steep, and I started running. Yay!! No pain at all, and I was surprised to be able to run so well. I'm sure it was slower than what I would have been doing a month ago, but the fact that I was able to run ALL of the steep stuff felt SOOOOOAMAZING. There are a few places where the trail was flatish or only a slight incline that I walked, but those are few and far between on this climb. I made it to the top only 4 minutes slower than my fastest time up (according to Strava), but that's not saying much since that was 2 years ago. 55:26 total time (with stops). It didn't matter, though. I was just happy to RUN. It was a beautiful sunny day, but a little windy and chilly at the top. I was up there for 15-20 minutes then walked slowly back down. I've decided this is going to be my Friday thing, if it works out. It's the only day time hours I have to myself all week, so I'm going to continue to take advantage of it just like I was when I was running... so, so, so long ago. Haha.
Spot has taken up stick play at the ripe old age of almost 12

My phone said 2.5 miles, but who's counting? Ok. I am.

On the way back down
Geez. I look old. Not running has aged me already. WTF.
 John came home shortly after I got home. We ran some errands around town and then once back home, I never sat down until maybe sometime after 10pm. I got on a weird cleaning kick and wore myself out to the point of actually being in a lot of pain. I had the Great Bay 5K the next morning, and the last thing I needed was to be in more pain. Sitting is what usually hurts the most, but after being on my feet pretty much all day, not only did my injury hurt, but also my lower back. I don't know what the hell I was thinking. I'm pretty sure I wasn't. I guess I just wanted to stay busy to keep my mind off of the next morning's race. I was SO nervous about it.

I'm going to start off by saying that I feel like the biggest douchebag sandbagger when it comes to this race, but I swear my "I'm hurt, so I'm not going to do well. I just want to finish," was legit! I really, really thought there was a chance I would even have to drop from the race. Yes, from a 5K. I hadn't run anything like this (speed on roads) since before VT50, and I made the mistake at not paying attention to the fact that this was a mostly downhill course before I decided to do it instead of Great Island. I had no idea how it was going to feel. I was so worried about the pain that I even contemplated getting drunk beforehand to get through it. Yes, that's 100% true. Someone talked me down from that, and thank goodness, since that would have been a really bad idea. I did end up taking 3 ibuprofen which is a big deal for me because I NEVER take any type of medications before running (or very often at all, for that matter). That stuff kind of scares me. I had hardly taken any ibuprofen in the two weeks prior, so I figured 3 would cut it.

John and I got to Stratham Hill Park near the starting line pretty early so that I could get a good parking spot. I tried to stay on the down low and hide, but Andy Schachat spotted me right away and asked me about my injury. I told him that I was just there to finish the Series and had no idea how it was going to go. I knew that I had to run at decent pace if I wanted to win the Series. Second place, Jessica Lafleur, was there and could easily give me a run for my money in my current condition. I had quite a lead on Jessica, but this was her 7th race of the Series, meaning that she could beat me and then drop one of her previous races from the points total. My lead didn't mean much in that instance. So my main goal was to finish in the top 3 of the women in contention for the Seacoast Series. That meant I could not just jog this one in. I was so torn on what to do. Destroy myself? Maybe? Was it worth it? Yeah, I guess so, otherwise I wouldn't have been there. This Series win was one of the main reasons I stopped at VT50 when I did. It was THAT important to me. So many thoughts, so many worries in the hour before the start.

I waited for the ibuprofen to set in and then went out for a short warm up. I was surprised to find it didn't hurt too much on the uphill, but I was running a very easy 9 minute pace. I didn't want to run very far or fast for this. Normally, I would run the full course or something similar for a warm up, but today I just went easy for 1.2 miles, and it definitely wasn't that bad. I had decided to wear my Hokas on a whim that morning when grabbing running shoes. I've never raced in them, and I rarely even run in them, but that thick sole seemed inviting for lessening the impact on my sacrum. I figured, "Why the hell not?" Maybe that's why the warm up wasn't so bad. Maybe it was the ibuprofen. Or maybe it was the most powerful thing of them all: DENIAL. Haha. Nope, don't feel a thing, la de dah!

Start time came quickly, so I said bye to John and then headed that direction. I ran into Tim Horan and started in on my sandbagging talk there. "I'm so hurt. I have no idea if I can even run. I just want to finish. I don't care about finishing in the top; I just want to win the Series. Blah, blah, blah..." At the start, I ran into Jessica, Melissa Donais, Heather Mahoney and her sister, Emily, and my douchebag sandbagging continued. I honestly believed there was no way I could beat the 4 of them or even the other few fast-looking women that were lining up. I knew I definitely wouldn't beat Heather. That would have been a given even if I wasn't hurt. Other than Lone Gull, she had been schooling me since August in every race I ran against her. But I thought for sure I wouldn't beat Melissa or Jessica either. By the time the race started, I think I had given the impression that I was pretty much going to come in last place. So when I immediately flew off the starting line and passed all of the women except Heather, I'm sure they thought I was a huge asshole. It was uphill, though; it didn't hurt. But when it turned downhill, adrenaline got the better of me, and I couldn't stop myself. I just kept going. I hit the first mile split right at 6 minutes. I was fine with that. It would have been faster a month ago, but after not doing any running like this at all in over a month, I wasn't complaining. The race had a lot of downhill, as I'd been told, but there were some decent hills that were just enough to break it up. By 1.5 miles, though, I was really starting to feel pain and had to adjust to using more of my right side. I know I was limping slightly, but I tried to keep it as even as possible so as not to lose too much speed. Right at mile 2, my lack of running hit me hard. I had to slow down. I was so out of shape for this! I didn't slow for long, though. The course took a sharp left uphill at the beginning of the 3rd mile and when I peeked back I saw Melissa Donais really close. Since it was an uphill and hurt me less, I actually kicked in the speed to keep my lead. I'm still a good uphiller dammit! By the time we crested the top of the hill, it was maybe .3 or .4 to the finish line. I didn't care how much I hurt at this point. I wanted 2nd place and a sub-19. It was the least I could do on a course I should have run closer to 18 flat. That last .1 was super painful, but I could see the finish line and knew it would be over soon. I came through in 18:53 (chip time; 18:56 gun time) and 2nd woman. I guess the look on my face wasn't good because Heather Mahoney came over with the most concerned look on her face. I had to take some deep breaths before I could move again, and just as I stood up straight, a guy came flying through the finish line and kind of ran into me. He didn't mean to, but he couldn't move to the left fast enough, and it wouldn't have bothered me at all, except just that light pressure of him pushing me sent searing pain right into my injury, and I think I made some sort of painful noise. I immediately forgot about it, though, and when he came up to apologize, it actually took me a second to remember that it even happened. I wasn't mad about it all, but he felt really bad. Melissa came in less than 10 seconds behind me; it was really close, but I managed to just barely hold her off. I was still on that high for a few minutes and talked to some people, but I had to get back to the starting area to get John and the car. I didn't think I could run. I was really hurting, but I just did a slow limp jog for the mile back. That was the extent of my cool down.

We drove down to the finish for the post race food (John and I hit that table at least 5 times each) and the awards. With second place for the race and the Series win, I walked out with $200! Such a good way to finish that off. I needed that little boost. Congrats to Eric Couture on his overall Series win. We both had the Series on the line coming into Great Bay and pulled it off. My Six03 Endurance teammates, Matt Garfield, Tim Horan, Seth Ulinski, Maureen Gillespie, and I brought home the team win, beating Coastal Athletic Association by 18 seconds.

Great Bay 5K top 3 overall male and female

John climbed way up in a tree at the Discovery Center. We were the last racers to leave.

Jessica Lafleur, me and Derrick Hamel (in costume) as Seacoast Series Awards winners
The morning went well, but for the record, it definitely didn't do me any favors in the recovery department. I felt a little better after walking around, but I was still hurting more than I was before my idiotic performance. I'm ok with it, though. The damage done was minimal. I think the worst part was how sore my ENTIRE body was after running like that. My back was even sore to the touch. Just shows how quickly you can get out of that kind of shape. I can't wait to get back IN that kind of shape.

John and I spent that evening at Halloween Town in Madison with some friends. I ate more candy that night than I've probably eaten in months. It was a good way to end this SOOOOOAWESOME day.
John in his usual uniform/costume

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Elliptical, Aqua Jog, Repeat...

Bretton Woods was kind of a tease, since I woke up the next morning with an uncontrollable desire to go for a run. I quickly realized I was being dumb, but it didn't stop me. I continued to be dumb for 3 road miles in the 10ish pace per mile, followed by an ok run up Heavenly Hill with the dogs. I knew right then it was time to smarten up and stick to cross training for awhile.

I decided I was just going to swim laps in the pool at The Mill, but... that got old really fast, so I decided to venture into the fitness room to try the elliptical for the first time in my life.
The elliptical at The Mill

I was SO relieved when I realized I could do this workout with very little pain! No impact or weight-bearing. You wouldn't even know I was injured while I'm on it, but after that first workout, I stepped off it barely able to walk. Haha. I was so happy to have found something else I could do. Then the next day, Don Fredrikson offered to let me borrow his Aqua Jogger. I was totally game to try anything, so I took him up on it. The first time in the pool with it was pretty awkward, and it took me about 10 minutes to get the hang of it, but, now, I feel like a pro! And can I just say that I fucking love it. It gets me as close to that runner's high as I can get right now, and as I'm going back and forth, I'm zoning out and sorting through my thoughts, just like I would do on a run. I'm pretty shocked at how much I enjoy it. Don may never get his Aqua Jogger back.

So that pretty much sums up the last 2.5 weeks as far as working out. It definitely doesn't equal running, but at least I can maintain some sort of fitness level so that I'm not starting completely from scratch when I can truly run again. I only do an hour total, either 30 min on the elliptical, followed by 30 min of aqua jogging or an hour at just one of them. I have to admit that I'm enjoying both. They're keeping me sane and fit (kinda), and without them, I would not have been able to stay as positive as I have been. I have yet to shed a tear over my situation, although I did have my first whine (and I mean a true whine) over it yesterday. I was actually amused by it, so I didn't let it bring me down to where I was heading.

So I guess it's onto the injury. For the first two weeks, it was so up and down. Days with little pain to days of excruciating pain. Lifting and lowering stretchers at work has been very difficult and painful. Sometimes it would throb at night while sleeping. I couldn't really pinpoint the injury at first, but once a lot of the referred pain died down after these two weeks, I realized that this was specifically in the center of my left buttocks. No hip pain, no sciatic nerve pain. No muscle pain. When I touched right where the exact point of pain was, I felt bone. And the only pain I was having by this point was with impact and weight-bearing. Walking uphill didn't hurt at all. Sitting hurt. All of this has led me to the self-diagnosis of a stress fracture in my sacrum. It's the only thing that makes sense. My ambulance partner fractured his sacrum in a fall years ago and even said all of my symptoms were the same as he had. I found a case study on the stress fx of the sacrum of a runner, and his symptoms are identical to mine.
Sacral Stress Fracture in a Distance Runner
Unfortunately, I won't ever be 100% sure of this, since I have horrible health insurance, but it is the most likely injury. Sooooo, this definitely means a long recovery period. The fact that I'm going to lose so much of my training is what hurts the most, but I've accepted it and moved on. Just doing what I can. And I'm happy to have had some significant improvements in the last 5 days. I can now walk without any pain. Sitting hardly bothers it. And no more throbbing while sleeping. I've even had moments that I forgot I was injured.

I decided to test things out by "running" some Heavenly Hill repeats this past Saturday. Running steep uphills doesn't hurt, but anything at a slight incline, flat, or downhill had to be walked. Too much impact. I made it up and down 3 times, and I must admit that those moments of running felt so good! And after the run/walk, I had no pain, so I didn't do any damage during my "test". Things are on the up-and-up, even if it's slow. :)

So, what else have I been occupying my time with? Well, hikes and walks with John, even when I was still in a lot of pain. It felt better than sitting, though. We also went the Corn Maize at Sherman Farm twice. And then this last Sunday we drove down to Massachusetts to watch the Baystate Marathon. I had never actually watched a marathon before, and from where we were at the Rourke Bridge, we got to see the runners three times during the race. That ended up being a lot of fun. So I've definitely been trying to stay busy AND active while injured. It's the only way to keep the mind healthy when a huge part of your life has been temporarily taken away. So far, so good. I have a down moment here and there, but it's short-lived. Sunday will definitely sting since I'll be watching the White Mountain Milers Half Marathon this year instead of racing it. I know I could have pulled off a better time than last year with the shape I was in, so that part hurts. I'll be there, though. Volunteering. John in tow. We're working the 5k course which is perfect since we can get back to Schouler Park to watch the finish. I did register so I'll still get my shirt and free beer at the Sea Dog after party. I might have to buy a few more beers to drown my sorrows in. Haha.

Here are some random pics from the last 2.5 weeks.

Sherman Farm Corn Maize. I have a picture of John with this goat every year since the goat was a baby.

Pumpkin patch at Sherman Farm

Brook Path walk in Wonalancet. This walk was extremely painful for me.

Brook Path

Boulder Loop Trail hike

Boulder Loop Trail

Attitash Oktoberfest 

John collided with a woman's beer at Oktoberfest

Hanging out at Tamworth Fire while at work

King Pine walk after the gym

At the Sea Dog. My glass was empty.

Can you believe it?? This is the ONLY running picture in this blog post. I purposely wore a snowshoe racing shirt in hopes of being able to run again by then. :)

Back at the Corn Maize

In the maze. This was the first time we ended up at the bridge. After the fourth time, I finally figured it out.

On the Rourke Bridge at the Baystate Marathon waiting for runners to come through at almost half way.

On the Lowell side of the bridge at mile 22.6

Garcia Brogans in Lowell for lunch

Walk on the Merrimack River Trail

John hiding under the I-93 bridge

Mountain Pond hike

Mountain Pond Trail

Shelter on Mountain Pond

Mountain Pond hike with my guy

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bretton Woods Fell Race 2015

Going into the Bretton Woods Fell Race, I had a really good lead to take the win for the women in the 2015 USATF-NE Mountain Series. What should have been an EASY race for me was not going to be the case today. I was really nervous about it since the few steps I ran the day before brought searing pain, but I was also strangely confident that I would not only finish, but I would also win the Series. I just knew I would. It seemed like the course had been handed to me on a silver platter with its short distance and easy navigation. I kept thinking about the damage I was about to do to my injury. I felt like I was about to destroy myself, and I was oddly ok with it. The Mountain Series win was THAT important to me. I had been the women's open winner the past two years, but never the overall winner. I wanted to be BOTH this year. I'm 39. It was my last chance to race in the open before I turn OLD. :)

I woke up pretty early so that I could have coffee and take my time getting ready. When it was time to go, I got John in the car and made the drive up through Crawford Notch to Bretton Woods. It was a BEAUTIFUL day. A frost covered the Presidentials. I thought it was going to be cold for the race, so I dressed accordingly. Once we arrived, I grabbed our stuff and took John in the lodge. I found him a table to sit at and made sure he had his breakfast and was comfortable. I picked up my bib and Mountain Goat shirt from Paul Kirsch. I felt so good being there among the mountain racing people. I love this group, so it was nice to see them all again for our last race of the year. I caught up with Jeff Hixon to talk the course since he had helped mark the safe course the day before. I wanted to confirm my planned route to see what he thought. Sarah Bard joined us. Sarah had just come in 4th at the 100K World Championship Race which is just amazing. I knew for sure that Sarah would finally get her mountain race win. The only way I would beat her was if she got lost or chose a longer route. I was fine with that and actually expected it. After eyeing the crowd, I expected myself to come in no less than 2nd. That was fine with me! After discussing the course, I headed out for a warmup. I didn't go far, but I ran uphill. No problem as far as the pain goes, but I felt slow. I could really feel that. I also felt heavy, like I had just put on 20 lbs. I hadn't, but just taking 5 days off, plus a very weak left side, made me feel like I was. I wasn't in too much pain, though, until I turned around to go back down. Ow, ow, ow. I hobbled. It was seriously a hobble, a huge limp, and it fucking hurt. I knew this race was going to be rough.

I made it back down with about 15 minutes until the start. I was pouring in sweat already and realized that my long-sleeved shirt was definitely not necessary, so I changed into my CMS singlet. John was good, so I hit the bathroom and then headed out to the start. Chris Dunn had us all move up into a large area with no real starting line, one of the cool things about this type of race. Sarah and I lined up together. I was hoping to hang close to her for the first climb so that she wouldn't have too much of a lead by the time we hit the first long downhill. Chris gave his race instructions and then we were off. Sarah and I ran together for the first part of the climb chatting a little bit. That was probably smart so that we didn't go off too fast. Once we got up to the less the steep part, I moved ahead for awhile, but then Sarah passed me back. I was struggling. I could definitely feel the injury was slowing me down. I felt so heavy. I ended up running next to Paul Bazanchuk for a little bit for the climb and chatted with him. About halfway up the climb, I noticed everyone immediately ahead of me was following the flagged safe course. I was about to follow right along until I realized it was unmowed and rough and quickly changed my mind, taking a very sharp, last second turn to the left to go up Starr King instead. Once I got up the slope a bit, I could see Todd Callahan in the lead up ahead and knew for sure I had made the right decision. Todd had scoped out the course the day before, so he knew exactly the proper route to go. I was still a little nervous, though, since I no longer had sight of Sarah. That was a bit disconcerting. The climb was steep, but mostly runnable. After awhile, though, I started to get nervous that we had missed checkpoint A and gone too far. Todd Brown was behind me and yelled, "I think we've gone too far!" I yelled back that there was a cut-through just up ahead and that I was taking it. I had no idea how far up we had come; I was just hoping it wasn't too far from checkpoint A. Just as I turned, I was relieved to see checkpoint A RIGHT THERE. And Sarah was just going through it. I think she was surprised to see me there, but since I had to run over and go through the checkpoint cones, she still had a slight lead on me. I was surprised to see we were almost at the top already. I felt like we had hardly climbed. This meant I hadn't lost much fitness-wise on the mountain climbing. The trail quickly evened out so that it was a sharp turn left to cut across the upper slopes on our way to checkpoint B. Sarah stayed ahead of me for this entire stretch, but not so far ahead that I was worried. The run across was mostly easy and uphill, so I was still feeling ok. It was painful, but not that bad, but as soon as I saw the checkpoint B, I had a feeling of dread. I knew this meant it was time for the first LONG downhill. The pain. Ugh.

Approaching checkpoint B. Behind the smile was the dread of the pain I was about to endure. Photo by Gianina Lindsey
Just after I crossed the checkpoint, I noticed Sarah on her way down to the right, following the safe course. I knew that she must not have realized where she was since we had talked about going straight down the mountain from there. I continued on my planned route until someone at the checkpoint confused me. I thought he was telling me to go right, but I had planned to stay left. I checked my map and realized we were both talking about the same thing. Huge sigh of relief and continued on my way... slowly. It was freakin' PAINFUL. I pretty much had to rely on my right leg to get me down. I was hobbling. Paul Bazanchuk and two other guys immediately passed me, eventually getting a huge lead through checkpoint C. As I approached C, I noticed an eery quiet on the course. Where was everybody? I had a feeling way too many people had followed the safe course. I knew that the safe course after B was apparently a lot longer than the route I took, but I didn't know how much longer. I had no idea where Sarah was at this point. She could either be way ahead or way behind. I had no clue. All I knew was that I was thankful to be going back uphill to relieve the pain... slightly.

I quickly caught back up with Paul B and the other guys that had passed me on the downhill. All of a sudden, we started to see people coming the opposite direction and heading to checkpoint C. That's when I realized that this was the safe route. So many people had followed it! I had climbed up a decent distance when I saw Sarah coming down. Oh my god! I was surprised to see her there. She wasn't really that far behind me, but this did give me a pretty decent lead for the climb. We both laughed as we passed by each other, and I told her she was almost to C. Knowing the lead I had, though, made me push it just a little bit harder. If I could hold off a decent lead through the climb, then I could possibly hold her off just enough to win! This seemed absurd. Ha ha. I should not be winning this race.

I got to checkpoint D with Paul B and another guy. Paul had the same plan I did to bushwhack from D over to Mountain Rd. The other guy came with us. It was super short, but it saved us from having to backtrack downhill and then climb back up to this point. This was still a decent climb from there, and I was starting really feel my injury. It had been bearable on the ups, but it was definitely starting to hurt. I stayed just behind Paul B, though. He knows this mountain better than I do, so I asked him if he had planned Avalon or Aggassiz. That was something I still hadn't decided on when I planned my route. Paul said he was going Avalon and then cutting through the glades. I told him I was going to follow him. That was a very good choice. Avalon was mowed and a much less steep trail down. Although it was extremely painful, I was able to run more than hobble. I continued to follow Paul down the slope and through the glades. As soon as checkpoint E was visible, I saw the two guys who had been up ahead of us hitting E at the same time as Paul B, so I knew we had gone the quicker route. Thank you, Paul! I continued to follow him and the other guys through another cut through the woods until we ended up back on Crawford Ridge towards the finish. A look back saw no Sarah in sight. I could not believe it. I was going to win this race. How ridiculous!! ha ha ha. I was in so much pain at this point and just hobbled the rest of the way down, mostly using my right leg. It hurt. I felt so slow!! My effort was so low, but it was all I could muster through the pain. I got passed easily by a guy just before the finish (he would apologize for that right after haha), and then hobbled in through the finish laughing that I was winning this race while giving it a good 45% effort. I should have run that at least 10 minutes faster than I did, but I would have to take what I could get at this point. Even though I was laughing, I had to stop and take a moment to breathe. I bent over and took some deep breaths to help cope with the pain in my glute. I was good after a few seconds and back to my smiling, laughing self. I saw Todd Callahan and Matt Veiga standing not too far away so I limped over to them to find out how they did. I was psyched to hear they had taken 1st and 2nd. I was talking to those guys when I saw Sarah coming towards the finish via a very different route than I had taken. She was only about 2 minutes back. I talked to her after she finished and found out she had run almost a mile more than me. If this had been a race that just involved speed, she would have won easily, but I had the advantage since this was my 3rd fell race, and I knew the mountain really well. We both laughed about it. I still couldn't believe I won, though. It was like a fluke, but I was so happy to have done it. I finished it through all of that pain AND won. Only in a fell race.

After chatting for awhile, I grabbed some food and headed inside to find John still at the table content. I was moving slowly, but I finally got back out to do a "cool down". It was just a walk through the lower parking lot. It was weird. The more I walked, the less pain I was in. By the time I got back up to the lodge, I was hardly in any pain! What the hell? I thought I would be a total wreck, but I was feeling ok. This was so strange! I wasn't complaining, though. I changed clothes quickly and walked up the stairs to find I was just in time for the awards ceremony. Afterwards, Michael Narcisi snapped a picture of Sarah and me.

Sarah Bard and me. Top two women.
I asked Sarah if she planned to do the Mountain Series again next year and was surprised to find out that she's moving to Seattle soon! I was sad to hear she wouldn't be around the area much longer, but I was also happy for her to be headed to the West Coast. Hopefully, she'll make it back to few New England races.

I went back in to find John and pack up our things. I found him with a bunch of cookies that someone at Bretton Woods had given him. That was cool. I took our stuff to the car and then we got on the chairlift up to Latitude 44 on the mountain.

It was such a gorgeous day, and I was kind of on that winning high. I definitely needed that boost, especially after dealing with this injury. John and I grabbed some drinks and caught up with Michael Narcisi who had been behind us on the lift. Michael snapped a picture for us.

Post-race beers at Latitude 44
After our drinks, we took the lift back down and left. What a great morning that had been. What a way to end the Series! I won the first and last races for the women! And, just as I assumed I would, I won the Mountain Series overall for the women! I was so psyched to have been able to pull it off. This race was one of the reasons I stopped when I did at the VT50. I had to do it. Even through all of that pain, it was worth it. I can't say I felt so pain-free in the days following the race, but I didn't regret racing Bretton Woods. I knew I would have time to recover after it.
Bretton Woods Results
2015 Mountain Series Final Results

Level Renner write-up on Bretton Woods

So now that I've completed my 3rd Series of the year, I have to set my sights on the 4th. The Seacoast Series. This one will not be so easy since I have to race on a road... FAST. The Great Bay 5k on October 24th. That is going to be tough, but if I can pull off a somewhat decent race, then I'll pull off the Seacoast Series women's win. I am REALLY nervous about that one. If I can get it done, I will finish off 2015 with 3 Series wins: the Granite State Snowshoe Series, the USATF-NE Mountain Series and the Seacoast Series. Plus, a second place finish for the women in the USATF-NE All-Terrain Series. I also finished the USATF-NE Grand Prix with 8 points in the open division which put me in a tie for 12th place for finish points, and a top 20 finish overall. Not a bad year, if I do say so myself! :)

Thursday, October 15, 2015


One day post VT50, I worked my usual shift and then the overnight at Bartlett-Jackson Ambulance. I was in pain ALL day. I attempted to take a walk around Thorn Pond while up in Bartlett, and it took me almost 30 mins to walk around it (less than half a mile) once. I could barely walk. I was almost having to drag my left leg. I was still just happy to get outside for some fresh air and to think about my biggest concern, "How the hell am I going to race Bretton Woods in 5 days?! When one can't walk, how does one run?!" My stubborn self just told me I was going to do it, no ifs, ands or buts. No arguing with her, so I just crossed my fingers in hopes of a rapid recovery.

The next morning, I went back to The Mill Fitness Center at Purity Spring to use the pool. I hadn't used The Mill since winter, but I had a feeling this would be my new home for the next few months. I swam laps in the pool for 30 minutes. It was actually painful, so I couldn't even kick my left leg, but I got it done, and it felt great. I'm actually a pretty good swimmer since I spent about 6 or 7 summers on the swim team as a kid. I'm thankful for this because swimming was all I could do this first week. When I got out of the pool, another swimmer tried to give me pointers on my form. I shut him down quickly when I told him I couldn't use my left leg. I was surprised how easily the swim was for me. Last fall when I had to use the pool, it kicked my ass since I was years out of swimming shape. This time, I felt like I had been swimming all along. I guess that shows the huge improvement in my level of fitness in the last year. Which, sadly, will be diminishing every day, but whatever. I was just happy to be doing SOMETHING.

I went to see a massage therapist Tuesday afternoon. It felt great great, and I walked out of there actually able to walk a little bit better and with slightly less pain. The interesting thing I learned from the massage was that I had no muscle tightness in the left glute. If this was a muscle injury, you'd think there would be some sort of muscle tightness. Huh.

I felt bad since John was with me, and I couldn't do anything with him other than take him to his ninja class. It was hard enough just taking the dogs out to use the bathroom. Luckily, it was a cloudy, gray day so I didn't feel like I was missing out on a really nice day outside somewhere. John wasn't complaining since it meant he had more time to play video games. Haha. Thank goodness for ninja class that night.

Wednesday, I woke up to find myself in hardly any pain at all. I could walk. Only lifting the stretcher at work aggravated it, but it was a fairly quiet shift that meant very little lifting. We even slept all night!
I did take time for some fun at Maine Med while we waited on a jump for our dead truck.

Thursday was right into my 10 hour shift. Fortunately, I still had the same partner, so I continued to have fun with the ambulance by playing "Ridin'" full blast over the ambulance PA as we drove by John outside of Frontside Grind. He got a kick out of that. Not sure about the 100 other people walking through North Conway Village, though. Haha.

We had no calls again that day, which made it slow, but the less people I had to lift the better. I was feeling good and optimistic that I could possibly finish Bretton Woods on Saturday, not too far off of Sarah Bard for the Series win.

That night, I went back to The Mill for 45 minutes of lap swimming with no pain. I could kick with both legs, and I just felt great all around.

Another night of sleep ensued. It felt great to be caught up on it. I woke up Friday morning feeling soooooamazing! Very little pain. I took Spot for a walk at the Albany Town Forest and decided to run a little bit to see how I felt. It was soooooawful! Ouch!! Just a light jog, too. The impact was very painful. Hope for even finishing Bretton Woods became dim. I didn't know if I could run 12 mountain miles in that much pain. I really didn't know. But I was going out and trying it, so I'd just have to do it to find out. The rest of the walk was pain-free, and the day was beautiful. I took Spot home and then went back to the pool for more laps. I felt great. Laps are boring as hell, but I need exercise, so it was keeping me happy.

Friday night, I finally pulled up the map for Bretton Woods so I could plan a tentative course, and that's when I noticed it. The course distance said ~6.7 miles. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a second. When did this happen?! It had said 12! Oh my god. That changed everything!!!! I could pull off that distance. AND the course had us only going downhill twice! The downhill, my best skill, was now my greatest weakness. There were two long uphills which I felt I could still run up ok. Plus, I knew the navigation would be easy for me, as well. My outlook on the race changed drastically. I knew I'd be finishing it and that I would probably be able to even pull off 2nd woman. The Mountain Series win was going to be mine. I knew it right then. My biggest concern was what kind of damage I was going to do to my injury. I didn't care, though. I had to do it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Finally getting to my VT50 post, and it's not because I'm all depressed and didn't want to write it. It was simply due to laziness AND the fact that sitting in front of my computer actually is painful due to my injury. Haha. :) I will have to write this in spurts because I can only sit here for a short time.

I had wanted to do the VT50 last year, but decided against it, and I was glad I did. They ended up with temps close to 90 degrees, so I didn't regret missing it. Plus, I was doing the 100 Acre Challenge obstacle course race... which I proceeded to DNF, due to going off course. Two DNFs in the same weekend, a year apart. I'm starting to notice a trend. Haha. This year, John wanted to do the kids' race again at the 100 Acre Challenge, so Saturday morning we drove over for that. It was kind of cool that I was there to spectate John's race for once. It was a beautiful morning, and John had a blast doing the race.

Reaching out for the hand slap
Neither of us had eaten anything, so I took John to breakfast at the Sunrise Shack (best breakfast in the MWV).

After breakfast, I took John to his grandparents' house, so that he could spend the night with them. This was one race that I couldn't bring John to, so I had to set this up months in advance, just like VCM. When we got there, I found out it was just going to be John with his grandfather for the night. I was happy to see this because I don't think they've ever really been able to spend time together as just the two of them. I felt a huge relief, and the mom guilt subsided; I knew he was in good hands and would have fun. They would end up having a great weekend, going to the movies and Uberblast, where John schooled Grampy at laser tag.

I went home to take the dogs up Heavenly Hill quickly before I left. I had everything packed, so I loaded it in the car and made the long drive over to Windsor, VT. I wasn't really nervous, but I have never run 50 miles, and I had pretty much destroyed myself during the week with the lack of sleep. I wasn't worried about the slight pain in the left glute. I knew I would probably feel it during the race, but I figured it would be nothing more than slightly annoying. I thought I would only DNF if I just got too tired or didn't fuel properly. I didn't have any clue that the left glute pain would end up being the kicker. I was blindsided by it.

Once I got to the race site, I checked-in, grabbed my bib and shirt and then set my tent up in the camping area in a field by the parking lot.
My tent from my 1998 AT thru-hike. Love this thing.
As soon as I set up the tent, I hopped right back in my car and headed to the Harpoon Brewery for dinner. I swear it was liking walking into fucking Cheers. Wow. I met 8 people there and was never without conversation at the bar. By the time I left, the bartender knew my name, and my new insta-friend on the stool next to me and I were hugging goodbye. Damn, what a friendly place. Haha. Dinner was good, too. I just got a burger with poutine and two beers. When I got back to the campsite, I put the things I would need in the morning in my tent and then went to bed. I think I fell asleep around 9:30ish. The alarm was set for 4:30am.

When the alarm went off, I woke right up, got dressed and then walked up to my car. It was pretty chilly at 37 degrees, but I was loving it since it meant perfect race temps for the day. I made coffee on my stove by my car and packed up my running pack with the things I would need for the run. I threw in a few Accel gels, Nuun in my water, some S Caps and my phone. My watch only holds a charge for 4.5 hours now, so I was going to start off using my Strava app on the phone until it died, and then switch to my watch after that. It's the only way for me to record a really long run. I would start off in a light jacket and gloves due to the chilly temp. Before I knew it, it was time for the pre-race meeting and 50-miler check-in. The meeting was pointless and seemed more directed at all of the bikers who would start in waves before us. I was freezing standing around and finally jogged back to my car to warm up a little bit since I had some time. I felt really good and was ready to get started. I ran back down to the start and lined up. I talked to a few people I knew, and then the race was off.

I started off at a very comfortable pace. Four women went off ahead of me, Kelsey Allen, Kehr Davis and two women I didn't know. The race started with a downhill on the paved road. I immediately felt discomfort in my left glute; this surprised me, but it was minimal, so I wasn't worried. By mile 3, I was in pain. Mile 3!!!!!! I knew right away something was wrong. This was bad. But I still felt really good otherwise. The course was SO BEAUTIFUL, and it was so runnable!!! I didn't need to walk except 3 times for very short distances, probably less than a 100 yards total, until I dropped. I loved, loved, loved this course. The perfect weather and the perfect course were factors in why I kept going through the pain. And the pain just kept getting worse and worse. By the mile 12 aid station, I had been in excruciating pain for probably 7 miles; from mile 3 to about mile 5, the pain went from bad to almost unbearable. I should have dropped there, but I was in complete denial and kept going. I was in 3rd for the women here. How could I drop? But I had that sinking feeling early on that I wouldn't finish the race. The pain would eventually get to the point where I could barely run downhill, but my stubbornness kept me going. I found that I had much less pain on the uphills and could still run them strong, but the downhills were so, so painful. Sharp stabbing pain. Wincing in pain and catching my breath. Some steps almost brought tears to my eyes, but I still just kept going. I wanted to be alone at this point and finally dropped the guy who was running RIGHT behind me from the start, passing me for a few minutes on the downs and then slowing on the ups so that I would pass him again. There was just no reason for someone to be running my exact same pace in a 50 that he had to be right on my heels all the way to mile 14. I was so relieved to drop him finally. I got passed back by the woman in 4th shortly before the mile 18 aid station; she would end up being the women's winner. She was running with someone else and they were talking the entire time, so I was relieved to have them move on ahead. I was in too much pain to listen to chatter. At the mile 18 aid station, I caught up with Kehr Davis, who was in 3rd. She had slowed quite a bit. I should have dropped at this point, too, but the fact that I had caught up with her made me want to go on. So stupid. I was in so much pain. From the mile 18 aid station, the course climbed up to a beautiful viewpoint in a field. I actually snapped a few photos as I ran.

It was too beautiful to quit!

The downhill after this was super painful and Kehr pulled ahead, but on the next uphill, I caught right back up with her again. Unfortunately, a really, really long downhill was next, and I lost her as I hobbled down the hill. This is where a group of super annoying bikers kept passing me at insane speeds and whooping obnoxiously. They would stop to walk; I'd pass them. Then once again, passing me on the downs while yelling. I had no tolerance. I was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other and dealing with the pain that the constant noise and fear for my life got old REALLY fast. When I got to the mile 22 aid station, I saw those guys had stopped so I grabbed a salted potato and quickly got the hell out of there. This was a long climb out of there which brought a huge relief pain-wise and knowing those bikers wouldn't catch back up to me. I actually enjoyed chatting briefly with the next group of bikers I caught up with. They were cool.

The long uphill eventually ended and another painful downhill ensued. I told myself to just make it to the mile 26 aid station. I convinced myself that I could keep going. I don't know why. I didn't want to quit; I just didn't. I felt SO GOOD otherwise. I had been fueling well. But the pain was just getting worse and worse. Any downhill was almost a crawling pace at this point. But, still, I pushed on past the mile 26 aid station. It was uphill, so no problem. One of the people I met at Harpoon caught up to me, and we talked for a bit, but he was moving right along and finally pushed on ahead.

I continued on, finally almost completely alone for the next 4 miles. A relay runner passed me, but that was it. I have to admit that it was really nice to be by myself for my last 4 miles. It really helped me to talk sense into myself, since I was able to be inside my head without other distractions. I really needed to drop at the next aid station. I had to. The pain was excruciating. I had to remind myself that I had two really important races in the next two weeks that I "had" to do for two separate Series wins. Bretton Woods for the Mountain Series and Great Island 5K for the Seacoast Series. I realized that these two races were actually much more important to me than finishing the VT50. I knew that if I attempted to finish, I would be severely injured. Winning the Mountain Series was SO important to me this year.

As I approached mile 30, I started to hear the sounds from the aid station. I had so many mixed feelings. I passed a race photographer and attempted to smile, but you can see that it was with extreme effort. It was difficult to smile through the pain and knowing that I was about to drop from the race. I don't usually "steal" race pics, but I screenshot two of them just for this blog post.

Attempting to smile while also wincing in pain

Smile looks real, but it was so fake. My form is horrible because I could barely run.
Right after the photographer, the trail looped back left and down to the 30 mile aid station that was filled with people. I saw Phil Erwin there with his daughter right away as I approached. I was pretty upset and told him what was going on. He was pretty helpful because I was starting to convince myself to go on! One of the volunteers at the aid station could tell something was wrong, and he initially thought that I wasn't fueling properly. I told him that I had been and felt great with that, but it was the awful pain I was in that was affecting me. He said, "If it's the kind of pain that will be gone tomorrow, go on. If it's the type of pain you know won't go away for awhile, stop." Still being as stubborn as I am, I told Phil I was going to keep going on. He wished me luck, but I could tell by the look on his face that he thought I might be making the wrong decision. But I had just learned I was only 3 minutes back from Kehr and only 10 minutes off the first two women. What if? (Yeah, what if I were stupid? haha). I grabbed a fig newton and left the aid station.
Photo that Phil took as I left the mile 30 aid station.
I ran across the field, but when I got to the woods line, I just stopped and stared into the woods. I told myself that going on would be one of the dumbest things I could do. I couldn't even imagine going another 20 miles in the pain I was in. That was the reality. Had it been 5 miles more, then yes. I would have done it, but 20? No way. I said to myself, "Leslie, you have to stop." I took one last look at the woods, then turned around and walked back to the aid station while eating the fig newton. I walked right up to the guy in charge and told him I was dropping. It was SO hard to do, but as soon as I did it, I felt SO MUCH relief, and I was actually smiling for real. To end the pain I was in just brought me to a strange happy place. I knew I had made the right decision, and I felt zero regret. I found Phil again and sat down on the grass. It felt so good. Phil was so kind, offering me a chair and to stretch me out, but I told him I just needed to sit there in the grass. He told me he would drive me back to the start after our friend, Scott, came through. It was so weird to go from how I felt just before dropping into this weird giddiness.
I asked Phil to take a DNF photo for me. This smile is REAL.
After sitting for awhile, I got up so we could wish Scott well when he came through. I could barely walk. It hurt so badly. I couldn't believe I contemplated going on. But I had felt so DAMN good otherwise. I had no doubt in my mind that I had another 20 miles in me. But it wasn't happening this time around. I will just have to go back next year for redemption. I ended up with 30.5 miles in 5:24:12 and 5,603ft of elevation gain. It was obviously much slower than I had anticipated, and you can see my splits get significantly slower and slower from mile 23 on as the pain got worse and worse. I wasn't even tired when I stopped and felt like I hadn't even run (effort-wise), so I know I would have done a lot better than I did had I not been injured.

After Scott left the aid station, Phil drove me back to my car. I thanked him for everything and he left to hit the 47 mile aid station. I hobbled in extreme pain to my tent, took it down and packed up the car. I changed clothes, then drove my car closer to the finish line so that I wouldn't have to walk as far. I grabbed lunch and then left for home. I expected the drive to be tough since I drive a standard and of course my injury was to my left side where the clutch is, but I was surprised to not be in any pain during the drive.

During the drive, I kept thinking about what I was in store for. All the naysayers with the "I told you so's" and the ones behind my back, "I knew she would get injured." And, yeah, it happened, but the thing is, even I thought it would end up coming to this, but not this particular injury. This injury caught me by surprise big time. I don't even know what's wrong exactly, but it's bad. That being said, my only regret is not dropping sooner from the VT50. My ONLY regret. I don't regret one other fucking thing that I've done in the last year. Not one. I would go back and do it all over again. I wanted to push myself to my limits, and I've had a great year! Knowing that is what has kept me positive the last two weeks since this happened. I just switched gears, getting in the pool to swim and just doing what I can. How can I complain? I just can't. Yeah, it's the worst time of year to be injured since the Fall is the best time to run. I'm having to skip races I had planned, but none of them are high priority to me. I still have to do a 5K for the Seacoast Series, but I've pushed it back to Great Bay instead of Great Island. The two half marathons? Nah. I'll just volunteer. I still want to be out there, even if I can't run. I would like to run the two races I had planned for November, Roaring Falls Trail Race and Lil Rhody Runaround, but I'll have to just wait and see. I know I'm losing my fitness, but I will get it back quickly when it's time. I have Boston to train for and snowshoe racing season. I want to be able to do both of those healthy, even if I'm not back to 100% on the speed. Things to look forward to.

That night, John and I sat on the deck and watched the lunar eclipse. It was awesome. Made a great end to my day.