Monday, October 24, 2016

Bretton Woods Fell Race 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Devil dog fits right in

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

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

Long course winners
Me with Freddi Pare post-race

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

Todd Brown took this of me

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

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

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

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

John on Elephant's Head

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

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

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

His goggles got knocked off in the waves.

Evening beer

Lounging with my tiny dog

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

"Free Animal" by Foreign Air

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