Wednesday, July 12, 2017

2017 Loon Mountain Race

Back to the grind with dogs in tow.
Thursday, June 29, 2017- I got up a little early at work to take the dogs out, then at 7am, I drove down to the Tamworth base to continue another 10 hours of my shift. I dropped the dogs off along the way. I had a new-to-me partner which can be awkward sometimes for the first few shifts, but he turned out to be pretty cool and easy to work with. He's been a EMT/paramedic for quite some time, so that always helps. Even though we ran some errands and had a few calls, the day DRAGGED on worse than any day I can remember. It was like punishment for going on vacation. But finally 5pm arrived! Woohoo!

I went by the house to grab the dogs, then met Terry Ballou and two other people at the KHS track for a workout. I was pretty excited about it since I haven't gotten on there much this year, and I was looking forward to training with Terry. She's the one I've competed with in the Millen Mile the last 3 years. Although I beat her last year by less than a second, I don't think I'll be beating her this year. My speed is GONE. I figured doing a workout with her would be really helpful since she has always been a track runner. She even qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2012 in the Masters 400m so I'd say she knows how to train on the track, unlike me who just makes stuff up half the time. Haha.

I warmed up a mile with the dogs on the Rec Path when we got there. I'd forgotten how much I really dislike evening running on a Thursday after a loooooong shift at work. I'm usually so tired and have stiff legs. This was the case tonight, but the warm up helped.

The two guys there decided to do their own workout. One of them tried to explain what he was doing to us, but it made zero sense, so we were like, "Have fun with that!" It ended up with him basically running slowly around the track the whole time. I still don't have a clue what he was doing even after looking at his Strava later. Haha.

It was nice having Terry come up with the workout. We're both lacking in the 1000m so it was a good choice to start with 3x1000. This is definitely my worst distance on the track. I don't know why, but I'm never consistent and have trouble getting a good feel. For the first one, Terry took the lead to set a good pace. We were shooting for 3:50, and I struggled badly on the first 1000. It felt really hard to me, but we hit 3:51, which we were happy with. 400m rest then I led the 2nd 1000m. This actually felt easy so I expected the time to be much slower. 3:52. Guess I just needed to warm up. We were happy with that one, too. The 3rd 1000 was a disaster. Neither of us knows what happened. We both were shocked to see 4:04. We were like Oops! No idea what happened. Haha. Not a big deal. That's why we're training, right?

Terry suggested 5x200s after that which was cool with me. I'd only done a few 200s as part of a ladder once, so it would be something fairly new. This is Terry's thing so she was right on in leading these. 41, 42, 41, 41, 38. 200m rest in between. We were both happy with these. I actually enjoyed the 200s, as well! I was happy overall with the entire workout and enjoyed getting to do it with Terry. She cooled down on the trail with Chill, Phoenix and me for another mile. Spot refused to go; she wanted to get in the car instead. haha. Ended up with roughly 6 miles total for the day. Short and sweet was all I needed. I wanted to go home, eat pizza and drink a beer! That's exactly what I did, too. It felt great to be home since I hadn't been home other than the few hours the day before in 5 days.

Friday, June 30, 2017- I finally got to sleep in an catch up on my sleep deficit that had been ongoing for 11 days by this point. Woke up at 8:30am. I so needed that. I had actually planned a long run in the Green Hills. 17 miles to be exact. But as soon as I got out there and realized just how insanely humid it was, I shortened it to 12. By the time I hit mile 3, I shortened it more. By mile 5, I was completely drained despite bringing water and an S-Cap. My energy was zapped. I felt like I was breathing in water. As I climbed up towards Rattlesnake, my run became a hike. A place I never walk, but I was done. Finally got to the top and had a long downhill to recoup. Got chased by a grouse for the SECOND time in a month up there in almost the same place. Maybe it's the same one, but I don't know. Ran on, then all of a sudden heard something crashing through the trees above me. I immediately thought a branch was coming down and started to move away when a falling turkey came into view. Haha. It finally caught flight and flew off, but that scared the crap out of me. Damn birds.

The rest of the route isn't bad, but I still struggled. I was absolutely drenched in sweat as I ran. Got back to the car with 8.7 miles on my watch. 10:42/mi avg pace and 1,389ft of gain. VERY slow pace on these trails for me today, but it was all I could muster. Probably a good thing so that I didn't sabotage myself for Loon on Sunday. My legs were still pretty beat from the 3 days in the Adirondacks, though, so I figured the sabotage had already been done. And I didn't have a care in the world about Loon anyway.

I had to sit in my car for a bit to stop sweating. This is when it really sucks not having air conditioning anymore. :( I changed into dry clothes, and that felt so good! Today was weird. It was Friday, but I had learned that morning that John wouldn't be home now until Saturday. Their flight got changed to have them arriving in Boston at 1am, and they had to go back to Marshfield from the airport. I'm used to rushing, but I was able to take my time and treat Friday like my usual Thursday.

I finally got in my first upper body and abs workout in a week! My trip put a damper on that, but I planned to get in 3 days this week. Crazy how hard the workout felt after a week off. Not to mention my entire house was filled with humidity which didn't make it any easier. I don't have air conditioning in my house, and I normally like it that way, but it's these 100% humidity days when everything indoors is sweating and wet that I wouldn't mind having it. The weirdest part was that all of my mirrors and windows steamed up. In the entire house!! I have lived there almost 4 years and never seen that happen. Crazy. Thank goodness for my fans.

The only place to be was on the lake, and it looked like I had time to get out on my kayak before the thunderstorms hit. I was able to paddle out a little over half way across Silver Lake before the skies started to look iffy, so I turned around. When I got back to my car, I noticed someone had done a drive-by!!

Drive-by beer, that is! Rick and Amy Bernard had passed my car on the way down to Hobbs, then dropped a beer off on their way back. Drive-by beers. I love it! I would get another one the next week!! I like this trend. See my car; leave beer. That simple. Thx! :)

Uneventful night at home with my dogs, just like I like it, although I was really missing John by this point. I had only talked to him once and for only a few minutes for over a week! Ugh. I wanted to hear about his trip. I hated being so kept in the dark.
Found wild strawberries growing in my yard

Poor Chill was really depressed by the end of the week. I think he missed Bryan and John. He would barely even eat. Just looked so sad the whole time.
Saturday, July 1, 2017- I slept in again this morning. I needed the sleep so badly. I was also feeling pretty run down and sore from the week's running, so I decided to take all 3 dogs for a really slow and easy 4.1 mile run in the Albany Town Forest. It was still humid as hell, so I had to stop a lot for the dogs to cool off in the Swift River. I ran into someone I knew, as well, so I stopped for a long time to chat. Looking at Strava, you can see my moving time is 37:39 while my total time was 1:07:29. So 30 minutes of stops!! Oops. I didn't care, though. I was really just getting something in and exercising the dogs. I kept thinking I didn't care about Loon, but at the same time, I didn't want to do a really stupid run the day before.

The amount of people who would venture into the Valley for the holiday weekend was insane. And as a whole, the people who come up here for this particular week are probably the dumbest. So many bad decisions and accidents. So I refused to go into town all weekend. I wanted nothing to do with the masses. I had things to do at home anyway. Plus, it started raining and raining and raining.... Fortunately, cleaning wasn't anything more than sweeping since Brian Vitiello had left the place spotless. I decided to put together a cabinet thingy. Not sure of the proper term for this, but Rick and Amy were getting rid of it, so I decided to take it off their hands. Nothing fancy, but I like it.

It's just missing 3 bottles of wine. Haha.
I also had to pick out which ridiculous skirt I wanted to wear for Loon. Looking back at my pics, every year except 2011, I was wearing a ridiculous skirt. Looks like I wore the camo one twice! Since I had just worn that at Exeter, it was out for Loon. So I decided on the same skirt I wore at that Moms on the Run 5K in May. I'm post this pic as a reference on how my stomach looked Saturday morning. It was a bit bloated, but by Saturday night, it would be twice that size with no relief the next morning for Loon.

You can kind of tell it's sticking out slightly.
Damn womanly things. Haha. Checked an app I keep track of those things, and dammit, it was PMS. Hahaha. TMI, again. Sorry! But man, I have never had my stomach get like THAT before. I'm lucky in that water retention is the only "issue" I've ever had. No cramps, no nausea. Ok, wait, I lied. I do have that problem where my head might do a 360 if you upset me in just the slightest way. Haha. 

Ugh. I'm not going to go on and on, but after paying attention more closely the last two years, the trend shows that most of my bad races were during PMS. Great, just great. Haha. Now I knew Loon was going to go poorly and really didn't care now. My mindset was that I was going to suck. Part of the problem with this symptom of PMS is that the water weight can often be 5-6 extra lbs. No lie! So I'm all of a sudden lugging that much extra weight and attempting to run at the same pace as I would when I'm normal (Haha). It's not easy, so I do end up off a bit in most races. So anyway, in the upcoming photos of me from Loon, you'll see what I mean. It had to be one of the worst. My stomach from the side was literally twice its size. Craziness. Men don't have to deal with any of that crap. WTF. Haha.

Finally, John came home!!! Yay!!! He looked so different to me. So much older! It was weird. I was so happy to have him back, like I was complete again. How am I going to handle him leaving home at 18?! 

Playing on the sidewalk in front of our house in Pacific Grove, CA in 2008. Sniff, sniff. :)
The excitement of having him home was short-lived when he told me he had jumped into the pool with his phone one of his first few days there. Omg. A Samsung. A phone I still owe $288 on. Ugh. He showed me the phone and I was surprised to find out no adult thought to tell him to open it up and attempt to dry it out. Nope. I was the first to open it and find water inside. Insurance wouldn't cover that. All of the water test strips were showing red. So it was back to John's old LG with a cracked screen and chunks missing. Haha. Hopefully going back to that crappy small phone will teach him to be more careful next time. I'm not sure he realized that his phone couldn't be replaced either because the look on his face when I told him that was shock. Good lesson, but it's unfortunately costing me $300. It really does suck, though, because he read all sorts of manga books on his phone all the time. So weird, though, he had been SO careful prior to this with that phone. Like really diligent. I think being out of his place and normal routine played a role in him forgetting. I was mad, but what's done is done. I had to let it go. He just got home. I didn't want to be upset with him. 

After spending over a week away from his electronics, that was all John wanted to do. Haha. I decided not to make him go anywhere else. It was pouring rain off and on all day long anyway. I knew how I felt after being gone for 4.5 days and just wanting to be home, so for him, it was even longer. Other than dragging him to Loon, I let him chill at home the rest of the weekend. 

Eventually, Rachel Flaksman and Michael Narcisi arrived to stay for the night. I had offered them both a place to stay for Loon since I'm only 45 minutes away, and it had an early 8am start time. We sat around for awhile while it continued to pour outside. A tornado warning came through, and my pager started going off like crazy for Center Conway Fire as the highest winds passed through and just a little ways into Maine sparked tornadoes. My former coworker, Glenn, is the fire chief for Center Conway now, so I listened to him over the pager going from place to place. I talked to him a few days later, and he said there was a lot of damage and hail! We were lucky this passed south of Albany. 

Rachel and Michael wanted to go eat, but town was packed and everywhere would have a long wait, so I suggested Almost There since it was so close, and I knew it wouldn't be crowded. Plus, the food is cheap. The beer selection is weak, but they had Switchback Ale, and that was good enough. 

Michael, Rachel and me at Almost There (John opted out.)
The good thing about not great beer is that we only had one! Better beers were back at my house. We sat around watching TV for awhile before going to bed. It was an early morning, but at least I don't live too far away!

Sunday, July 2, 2017- Loon Mountain Race-

I was up at 5am so that I could get the dogs out and load up my car. Rachel and Michael were up around the same time, but they only had themselves to worry about this morning. The one thing I didn't miss was dragging John out of bed to go to races. Haha. He fights me every time, even though he does eventually get up and walk to the car, but I have to always add a 10 minute buffer to my get-ready-to-go time to allow for "John extrication". :) It was a little tough having other people there while I was trying to think about what I needed for John and me, but it was fine. 

I left a little after 6am and got to Loon around 6:50am. Plenty of time. They had us park in a different lot behind the lodge which was so much better! I let John sleep some more while I went in to pick up my bib and buy John's gondola ticket. He was riding up with the Jennifer Brightman and her girls again. Just something about him walking across the lot and riding the gondola by himself that still freaks me out. What if he got stuck on the gondola with a creeper?! Eek. Once at the top, he's fine to take care of himself, but it's great to have that help with him getting up there. 

Kevin Tilton and I ran a warm up down the paved road until the gate and turned around. I had no interest in running up the mountain a bit prior to the race. I only ran 1.6 miles, and they felt really hard. Oh boy. Once back at the car, I got John up and out, then we walked to the start. It was SO crowded with people. It took my awhile to find Jennifer. I was not liking this mass start. The last 2 years, I had learned not to go out too fast for the first mile, but now I was worried that even with a mile of dirt road, it would still be too crowded by the nordic section. I wasn't sure whether I should go out quickly after all just to get ahead. I decided to make my decision after we started. Just get a feel for the crowd and work around it. Chris made some pre-race announcements, and I'll admit it. I was barely paying attention. I have trouble listening to this stuff just before a race. My head just doesn't absorb much new info at this point. All I heard was something about 2 wash outs and that we could go around it on the grassy slope if we wanted to. I had no idea where the first one was, but I did at least hear him say the second one was on Sunset, the last downhill of the course. 

Chris was quick to get the race started after his announcements, so it was up the hill we went. And it was CROWDED. I didn't know most of the people around me to judge my pace off of. I knew Christin Doneski and Kasie Enman would be gone far ahead from the start. As soon as we turned the sharp turn left, the crowd was still tight. Jeff Litchfield cut me off, and I almost fell right into him. It wasn't a big deal, but it scared me for a second. Through the crowd just ahead I spotted Jennifer Downing who had placed 2nd woman behind me at Sleepy Hollow. This was perfect because I now had someone who would be running a similar pace that I could work off of.

The crowd was still thick as we started to hit a steep climb, and I all of a sudden saw Dave Dunham veer right off the road. And that's when I saw what Chris Dunn had been talking about. Wow. The road was completely washed out! It was nothing but boulders, so I immediately followed his lead and found quite a few people up farther ahead and around me on the grassy slope. It was soft, squishy and muddy, but when I looked over and saw the people next to us still on the road tripping all over the place, I knew I had taken the better path. It seemed like it brought me right back into the same crowd of people I was in once the two merged, but it still seemed worth it just for the footing alone.

The crowd did start to thin a bit after this and up the next climb to the nordic section turn. I was a bit farther back from Jennifer than I liked, but I remembered how she had gone off too fast at Sleepy Hollow. I did take a very quick look back as it turned onto the nordic section. I wasn't sure, but it was either Sarah Canney or Kara Haas not too far back. It was only a split second really so I didn't get a great look. All I knew was that it was time to pick it up. This is my third year doing the nordic section, and I've felt pretty good picking up the pace through here. It's usually a bit muddy with a few wet sections, but after the deluge from the day before, it was mostly a mud pit the whole way. Some of the climbs were drier, and you could see that a lot of the water had drained overnight. But still it was very wet and muddy. I was able to pass about 5 or 6 guys on the first downhill. They all passed me back on the next climb. I passed a few of them again on the downhill and then got passed back. Finally, same thing on the final downhill, only to be passed again once we were out of this section and back on the service road. I had lost sight of Jennifer through the entire nordic section so I assumed she had a good lead. I was surprised to turn the corner and find her the same distance ahead that she was when we entered the woods. Phew. We climbed up to the water stop turn off. Some dude in a tri unitard and US flag bandana whom I had passed on a downhill passed me back. Oh hell no. First off, the outfit made zero sense. It looked extremely uncomfortable and way too warm to be wearing in this humidity. When I see people wear shit like that, I feel like it's for show because it's completely not practical. I'm sure someone would say, "Well, look at the skirt you're wearing." Yeah, well, I'm a girl, and like skirts. Plus, they are very practical! For someone with thighs that rub together, trust me. I know. I only have that ONE pair of shorts that I wear in a lot of races that does not ride up. That's why I usually only race in that one pair (occasionally the denim pair will get worn). Skirts are so comfortable, airy and they never ride up! (Ok, I'll admit that they sometimes fall down when soaking wet, i.e. 2016 VCM). Here are some pics that Richie Blake took as I came up to the water stop. You can kind of see how my stomach is bigger.

You can really see the large stomach here. Haha.
There's another fast downhill shortly after the water stop so I was able to hang with a lot of the same guys I had been playing leap frog with. Jennifer was still ahead. I'd made no gains. We finally hit the first of the two long, steep climbs before the top of the gondola. I changed from running to a mix of running and power hiking. I was surprised at how good I felt. I think a lot of the power hiking I did in the Adirondacks really helped me out here. I found I was able to move really quickly and not fatigue. I started passing a few of the men, and I also started getting closer to Jennifer. We had the short downhill break before going uphill for the second, longer steep climb. As soon as I started power hiking, I started passing people like crazy (including Unitard Guy! Yay!). It wasn't long before I caught up to Jennifer and passed her, as well.

I was seriously shocked at how good and strong my legs felt. I came up on 3 guys, and as I was passing them, I felt a deer fly bite me on my back. I kind of made an, "Ahh," noise before reaching around and killing the damn thing. The guy whom I was passing on my left thought I was grunting from the race and said, "Yeah. Tough day, huh?" I must have sounded like an asshole because I said, "No. I just got bitten by a deer fly, but I killed it!" Then I said something stupid about us going too slow to stay ahead of them. Haha. Oops. I hope they didn't take that as an insult. I passed the three of them and continued on. Gianina Lindsay was around the next corner. In this photo, you can really see the stomach! Seriously, admit it! I'm seriously not kidding at how bloated I was! I'm hoping she has a better shot in her Flickr gallery that hides it. Haha.

I was so excited to hit the top of the gondola. I took a cup of water then got ready for the long downhill. I can't remember how many people I passed, but it had to be 4 or 5. I always pass people here, and then they pass me back on Upper Walking Boss. A lot of people are fearful on these downhills so they waste a lot of their energy braking with their quads the whole time. As I passed Frank Nordaby, I told him that you have to let your body just go with gravity and you'll actually use less energy. It's true. By the time I got to the bottom of UWB, I had caught up to this younger guy with whom I would power hike up UWB the entire way. He was ahead of me for over half way. Then I passed him for the final stretch to the top. This was a whole different race for me compared to last year. I completely lost it on UWB last year, but this year, I felt super strong and for the first time in 7 years of racing Loon, I got passed by NO ONE on UWB. Scott Mason got a few shots near the top. And in one of these, since I'm bending way over, you can see my gross, bloated stomach spilling over my waist band. I look so gross I almost don't want to even post it. Ugh. But it is what it is. And I'm sure I'll look back at these photos in 10 years and admire how I looked. Haha. But in 2017, I'm a bit horrified even if there was nothing I could do about it. I was NOT wearing a singlet. Better not to roast to death in polyester and show off my big belly! Haha

I actually really like this one. Just wish the kid hadn't been so close.
We finally crested the top of the climb. I learned later I ran UWB in 12:12. Not bad. (I know I was much faster in 2015, but I was much faster in everything then. I am not in that place right now.) Finally, it was time for the run down Sunset. The REAL Loon Mountain Race finish. I usually bomb down this thing, but, unfortunately, it was washed out, just as Chris had said before the race. That meant running on a mowed section of very wet and slippery grass next to it. Steep slippery grass just isn't conducive for bombing down. I still ran it pretty fast, but I had to put more of the brakes on than I liked. I wanted SO badly to catch up to the guy in front of me. I was only steps behind him at the top of UWB, but he got away from me on the short section from UWB across to the other side where Sunset started. I made some gain on the downhill, but I never could catch him. And why did I want to beat him so badly? Because he was wearing HOT PINK SHORTS! Wtf, guys. Haha. I hit the final, short but steep as hell climb to the finish. About half way up, the kid who I had been on UWB with ran right into my arm as he passed me. At first I was like WTF, but I saw it was him, and he let out a genuine apology so I ceased being mad. Haha. I finished in 1:17:38. 3rd woman! Yes! My first time ever breaking into the top 3!! I was so happy about that! Full Results.

I've learned that with the Loon Mountain Race, it's really all about how you feel at the end as opposed to the time. I ran this year's race over FIVE minutes slower than 2015 (when it was last the exact same course as 2017), but like I said before, I was in much better shape then. Plus, the course conditions this year definitely made things slower. However, I felt SO GOOD today that it didn't matter to me at all. I felt so strong! I came into it expecting to suck and finish a lousy 6th or 7th. I think not letting nerves get to me probably helped. Plus, I just know the mountain so well now! I know where to hold back. I know when to push ahead. Of course, you can know all of this and still have a bad race, but the cards all fell in the right place for me this year. I've been hitting the mountain running hard once I had to jump off the roads with my "injury". It's really paid off (well, not in the road racing aspect haha). The crazy thing is, I could feel my "injury" the entire time, but the power hiking really used more of the power from lower down in my hamstrings so that I didn't have to use as much of my glutes where the pain is. This strength I've built up has allowed me to compensate for the high hamstring thing. I've definitely lost speed and much to my surprise, I was 18 seconds slower on UWB this year over last. And I felt HORRIBLE up it last year. I guess I was truly in better shape on climbs last year, but probably because of the road training I was doing. But like I said, I'm much better when I feel good at Loon. It doesn't bother me that I ran it faster last year when I was so much happier with my race this year.

I ended up chatting with a lot of people at the finish. I found my drop bag in the pile just where I had asked John to place it! Yay! I also found Jennifer and Steve Brightman with their girls at the playground. They said John hung out in the cafe the whole time so I found him in there. I made a quick shoe change, rinsed them in the faucet before the mud dried, then John and I rode down the gondola. I have to say that I much prefer riding the gondola over running down. The view is so worth it, and it's fun. John played some music on his phone on the way down. Haha.

Back at the car, I bagged a cool down. I had no desire to put my wet shoes back on, so I just changed clothes and went back up to the lodge for the awards. I had originally planned to go to the river with John, but it was raging. I would find out too late that a bunch of people found some good wading spots. Oh well. Next year! A whole bunch of us got kicked out of the lodge for having beer. I had one I was planning to take to the river, but when everybody else was drinking theirs in the lodge, I followed suit...and was the first one busted. Haha. We all ended up congregating out front with our beers.

Steve and me. How did Steve not have a beer in his hand?!

Getting Loon Mountain's statue drunk in retaliation for being kicked out. Haha.
Awards. On the podium with Kasie and Christin.

My awards! The money was SO needed.
After the awards, I went down to the parking lot for another beer with some people. I ended up talking to Christin for probably 20 minutes before she left. She is just one of the nicest human beings. She and Regina, both! I don't feel worthy to be in their presence since I can be so NOT nice. I really enjoyed talking to Christin. I only stayed another 15 minutes or so talking to Scott Mason, Rachel Flaksman, Richie Blake and Micheal Narcisi. I really wanted to get John home so we left.

After the social overload of the day, I was looking forward to some peace and quiet with just John and me before it was back to work the next day. Michael Narcisi had asked if he could stop by later. I assumed he was camping with his dad over my way or something, but I learned after he stopped in that he was staying another night. I had no idea. It wasn't a huge deal, but I was really looking forward to the quiet. I wanted to take the dogs up Heavenly Hill and get my upper body workout in, but I don't like to work out in front of other people. Haha. Michael was very nice, though, and insisted on taking John and I out to dinner. We ended up at the Black Cap Grill. Dinner was good, and I decided to have a cider instead of beer. Omg. It was so good. I snapped a pic of the can with John in it. He didn't like that and kept trying to delete it. Haha. Even two days later, he wanted me to delete it. And you know why? Because I said he looked "cute" in the photo. Haha. But that's what moms do!

I was beat when we got home so I took the dogs out, packed my things for work, including a bag of race clothes for a race on Tuesday morning. A lot to think about when you pack for a 24 hour shift. Haha. Then I bid Michael and John goodnight then went to my room to crash in my bed with my dog.

I love it when I hear a new song for the first time, and it's just captivating immediately. That's how this one was for me this week. It's called The Gold by Manchester Orchestra which inspired the latest nail color. Gold. (Even though the song has nothing to do with gold nail polish. Haha)

The nails

The song

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