Tag: Race Report

Gomez Wins Maine Marathon

Guest blog by Rob Gomez

I’m beginning to think that overzealous focus on the little things is just a bad idea. What happens if I eat a piece of bread and break my carb depletion? What happens if I don’t get my Monday run in? What if I missed a Zicam on Wednesday, will I get a taper cold? And ol’ Mickey always said “Women weaken legs”, right? What if I don’t listen to his sage advice?

Well, I’ve got news, and it’s good:

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

I went into Sunday’s Maine Marathon with fewer nerves leading up to the race than I ever have. I canned the carb deplete less than 48 hours into it because I didn’t want to be cranky anymore. I drove to and from Baxter State Park for a wedding the two days prior to the race. I had a drink or three more days that not during the two weeks leading up to the race. I lifted regularly for 8 weeks and went into the race about 6 to 7 pounds heavier than I normally am leading up to a marathon. I just had fun, lived a more balanced life, and did my training as best I could in a more ‘sane’ manner. I hit the workouts I needed to hit and none that I didn’t. I didn’t bulk up on junk mileage (I averaged 70 mpw between B2B and taper). I just approached this race much differently than for previous marathons — I treated it as person training for a race, rather than a racer training for obsession. If I did poorly, I wouldn’t feel like I wasted the past few months for nothing. I had a goal in mind (the sub-2:25 time bonus) but I wasn’t planning on destroying PR’s or shattering CR’s.

The morning started with a blueberry bagel with butter and a Beet-It shot (yes, I’m still doing the beet juice thing… you should read up about it here). After picking up Breagh’s Nova Scotia comrades at the La Quinta, we all headed down to the start. We had about a half hour before the gun at that point, and after I gave Breagh my well-wishes and a good luck kiss I did my thing — stretch, piss, gu, tie the shoes again, dynamic stretches, piss, a couple of strides, piss again, and head to the starting line. The characters at the start are always great… Goodie, Bunker, Homich, Erik McCarthy,  Rand and Hoogs were all there, Jorma mingled even though he wasn’t racing, and a late-arriving Hugo was cracking jokes and slapping high fives as always.

The air horn at the start was sudden and more of a wheeze than a blast, but a person working the starting line yelled “GO! GO! GO!” to all of us and we all took off about 2 seconds late. I high-fived Moninda as he immediately started to pull away from everyone else and then tucked in behind Bunker, Hoogs and Erik. The first mile was a pedestrian-feeling 5:30 as I let the half guys push ahead a little (perfect) but in my excitement I caught the trio again by the mile 2 marker with a 5:23. The next few miles I hovered between 5:30 and 5:35, with even a 5:40+ in there as we worked our way into Falmouth. I ran to the half-marathon turnaround point with Hoogs, got a “Count it!” fist bump, and ventured onto the rest of the course in relative solitude.

The pacer bicyclist beside me was humorous and relatively unobtrustive and the clock truck was ever-present and always within a first down’s reach, but besides that the next few miles were quiet, and by my pace standards not very promising. At about the 10 mile marker, due to my pace at the time and the condition of my legs (I thought I felt fatigue), I had all but concluded that my sub-2:25 goal was toast and that I should simply hold the current effort. I hit the turnaround and then crossed the halfway mat in 1:13 flat — the official time had me at 1:12 low but that is incorrect because the mat was placed at around 13.0 and our first pass over the mat was recorded instead of the second. I was able to calculate based on our time away from the turnaround when we crossed each other that I was a little under 4 minutes ahead of Goode and needed only not to blow up to grab the win, so I just kept rolling. I waved to Jesse and Jeff Caron as they went by and told Jeff as he passed that sub-2:25 just wasn’t going to happen. This was all before the Tuttle Road Hill.

Then something funny happened.

You see, the Tuttle Road Hill is probably the most taxing hill on the entire course, even with the course modification this year including more hills than the original course. Last year the hill all but cooked me, and I struggled to a 5:5x for the 17th mile split. This year I prepared for the pace-destroying onslaught once again and just started chugging up the hill, not worrying how quickly I scaled it, just trying to keep a consistent effort. Byrne Decker (who has won the race 4 or 5 times or something along those lines) gave me a yell and a high-five near the top. I gathered myself at the top, locked back in, and at the 17 mile marker I checked my watch again.


I felt great, recharged even. I had a lot of downhill ahead of me the next 5 miles. Best of all, I had just scaled the hill 15 seconds faster than I had ‘budgeted’ in my race plan. My even, controlled effort the first 16 miles was starting to pay off. I even think the more aggressive fueling strategy (a Gu before the race and Gu’s at 6, 10, 14, 18 and 22 miles) was starting to kick in (quick sidebar: okay, so maybe attention to detail is good, but it’s more important on race day than it is on the training leading up to it.)

The drums at the Town Landing crossing pumped me up and a high five from my mom near the Rt. 1 intersection got my legs churning even harder. I hit 20 miles almost exactly on pace for 2:25 (perhaps a shade slower) but I felt I had a real chance to break the tape in under my goal time. My pace never dropped below 5:25 the rest of the way and I felt strong, the strongest I had felt all race. The much-ballyhooed hill by the cement plant felt like no more than a bump in the road and I ate those two miles alive. I was ready for the finish but not nearly out of gas as I crossed Washington and hit Back Cove. Back Cove always seems so loooong on the way back but I’m not sure if that’s just because of where it lands in the race or because you can see the finish from more than a mile away… probably a little bit of both. Regardless, I was pretty amped when I hit the finish in 2:24:22. This is what I looked like:

Of course I’m showing off here, but there’s a real possiblity that I’ll never be that amped at the end of a race ever again. Those are some pretty decent finish line shots.

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The best part, though? Breagh was waiting for me right at the end of the chute:

after-the-finish gomez Leister

(Photo courtesy of Chandra Leister)

So I was able to grab the win, score the bonus, and get the girl. It’s by far the smartest marathon I’ve ever raced. I’d have to say that despite having better running performances in my life, this race has to be my best.

Can I cut off 6 minutes and 23 seconds on a faster course with stronger competition and a better training cycle at some point next year? Possibly… and I may try for that (again). However, if I retired from my competitive running hobby today, I wouldn’t be upset about it.

Going out on top (well, on top in Maine anyways) might be the way to go.

Thanks everyone.

Follow Rob along on his training and racing adventures with his blog A Mile Down the Road. Finish line shots courtesy of David Colby Young/Maine Running Photos.

Bui PR’s in Chicago

Chicago Marathon


Guest blog by Jason Bui

My road to Chicago started way back in March when I was still getting ready for Boston.

I wanted to find something for the fall that would keep me going throughout the spring and summer.

Chicago became the marathon of choice when my training partner and good friend, Lindsay Willard, told me that she was signing up for Chicago too.

Chicago has always been on my to-do list as part of my “sub-3 hour 50 states” marathon quest, so this was perfect.

My fall marathons have been a crap shoot the past few years mainly due to injuries and poor preparation, so I badly wanted a solid race in order to springboard me towards a strong Boston ’14.

I was feeling really confident heading into Boston ’13 with a goal of sub-2:46. If I could hit my goal at Boston, then I would go for another PR in the fall.

I ended up running 2:45:59 at Boston, and picked up a lot of new training ideas that I wanted to implement leading into the summer, and eventually, Chicago.

I spent the spring and summer cross-training for triathlons, and going to the gym at least once a week to strengthen my core, hips, quads, IT band, and hamstrings. The things that have always broken down on me late into the season.

Every Monday was my easy day: light run or bike in the AM, and then 45 minutes of core and a swim in the evening. Looking back now, these Monday workouts were key in keeping me healthy for the entire year.

For the first time ever I also tried following a set marathon schedule. It was a pretty intense schedule that called for doubles nearly every day with weekly mileage output of 85+ for three months, and upwards of 110 miles for a couple of weeks at the peak.

I use to do this type of mileage all of the time when I wasn’t following a set schedule, so I didn’t think it would be that difficult, but there was something about following a set schedule that intimidated me.

By the end of the first month of the Chicago training cycle I was never close to hitting my weekly mileage, so I modified the schedule and did my own thing. I backed off the weekly mileage and increased the intensity.

I went back to the way I had trained for my first BQ: reduce the mileage and get use to the marathon target pace (6:10-6:20).

During the peak of my modified Chicago training I only had one week where I went over 85 miles, and averaged only about 65 miles per week. The key was that all of my runs were in the 6:30 or lower pace range. I wanted this pace to feel easy at Chicago.

One other thing that I did was that I ended most of my workouts with at least two miles under 6 minute pace. I even did a few workouts where I went out for 13+ miles at 6 or sub-6 miles for the entire run. These were painful workouts that left me in agony, but I knew that they would pay off come race day.

Again, the key to my health, during and after these intense sessions, always came back to my relatively easy Mondays.

By the time Monday rolled around I felt like a car that was badly in need of a wheel alignment. My stride and coordination was completely off, and I could feel weakness in my hips and IT band.

After completing my 45 minute stretch and strengthening routine, I felt like a new car rolling off of the assembly line.

This became my routine for four straight months.

During this time I managed to set PR’s at every distance that I ran, from the mile to the 50K. More importantly, I was able stay injury free, so something was working.

I was now ready to take on my final goal race for the year.


Bui Nahant Kozlosky

Bui at the Nahant 30k, courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky.

My main goal in Chicago was to set a PR, preferably sub-2:45, in order to get the Boston “A” standard for registration purposes.

I also felt that a sub-2:42 wasn’t out of the question based on the way I felt, and the way I had been racing leading into Chicago.

I arrived in Chicago early on Friday and met up with Lindsay at the airport before heading to our respective hotels.

Our hotels were about a mile from the start and finish, so we spent some time checking out the surrounding area, the expo, and then just staying off of our feet.

By Friday afternoon, I was starting to feel really achy and almost feverish. All of my joints were on fire, and our 3 mile shakeout run felt harder than it should have been. This scared me.

I didn’t know what was wrong, and chalked it up to the early morning flight. I took an Aleve and started to feel better almost right away. I was still a little worried that the aches and pains would still be there once the medication wore off, so it was nice that I still had another day to rest and see how I felt.

Fortunately, I felt fine after a solid night of sleep and when I woke up at 5:30AM the next morning.

The weather for race day was turning out to be ideal: low 50′s at the start with overcast skies and a expected high of 65.

On a dark race morning I met up with Lindsay at 6:30AM near the entrance to our corrals. She went to check in with her sub-elite group. It was the last time I would see Lindsay for awhile.

I went over to bag check and changed into my racing gear.

For gear I opted to go with just a cap, singlet, shorts, gloves, and two gels. I planned to grab a few more gels out on the course around mile 17-18.

It was 7AM by the time I got into one of the many porta-john lines, but it didn’t look like I would be able to go before race start. Poor planning on my part and I had even been warned about this by a friend who ran Chicago last year.

It was 7:10AM and I wasn’t any closer to the front of the bathroom line.

I had to be in my corral by 7:20AM, for the 7:30AM start, so I decided skip the bathroom, take my chances, and head to my corral before being “locked” out. If you don’t get to your assigned corral before the 7:20AM cut-off, then you have to start in the back of the wave. Not something I would want to look forward to if I was hoping to PR.

Fortunately, I found shorter bathroom lines once I got inside the corral area (tip to others), so I did manage to relieve myself one last time before race time. As most runners know, this is always a huge relief, literally.

My pacing plan was to go through the first 5K in a controlled 19:30, the first half between 1:20-1:21, 30K in under 1:57, and then hang on for dear life as I try to negative split the second half with a strong final 10K.

My entire training regiment had been geared towards a negative split marathon, which I had never been able to accomplish before. The flat Chicago course would be the ideal place to do it on.

Even though I was late to my corral I was able to wiggle myself to the front and within 10 rows from the official start line. I was in the middle of pack, warm, and ready to race.

The announcers introduced the elite runners and the gun went off right at 7:30AM with little fanfare. You gotta love and appreciate well organized races.

It took me 15 seconds to reach the start mat and I was off.

I quickly settled into a 6:20 pace, and then trouble struck.

Not just me, but probably everybody with a GPS watch.

About a half mile into the race you go into a tunnel and you lose the GPS signal on your watch. By the time I came out on the other side, my Garmin had me running a 4:30 pace for my first mile!

I usually let my Garmin automatically mark my mile splits, but because of the initial miscalculation, I decided to manually get my mile splits at each official mile marker.

I had never done this before in a race, so it was interesting to see how this would help or hurt me.

The first few miles were clicking off effortlessly for me, so I knew I was in good shape so far. I went through the first 5K in 19:35. Only five seconds off of my target.

The energy over the majority of the Chicago course is amazing! You’re running through the downtown area for a good chunk of the race, so I felt like I was running down Boylston St for the first 13 miles at Chicago. It’s that good.

It’s very easy to go out too fast on a course like Chicago where you have crowds cheering, drums banging, and music blasting inches from you for miles and miles.

Part of the appeal of Chicago is the course layout is very spectator friendly. I managed to see a few friends at least 3 to 4 times throughout the race, and they probably didn’t have to walk more than 2 miles in that entire time!

By mile 7 I was beginning to catch up to some of the elite and sub-elite women that started out in front. I kept my eyes peeled for the familair BAA yellow and blue that Lindsay always wears on race day.

It wasn’t until right before mile 8 that I eventually caught a glimpse of her and her fluid stride. She was looking strong and fresh, but told me to just GO! as I went by her at 6:10 pace.

I went through the half in 1:21:20, which was slightly slower than I had planned for, but more importantly, I was still in control of my race and feeling great.

My next checkpoint was going to be the 30K mark, since I had just raced the Nahant 30K two weeks prior at my goal marathon pace. I was looking to come in around the same time of 1:56.

I noticed that the running packs were beginning to thin out at this point, and I was hanging around with runners looking for about the same finish times as myself. There wasn’t much talking. Just racing.

I went back and forth with a couple of runners, which made the race more interesting, and saw a few others that took off too fast and were now coming back to us in agony.

The 30K mark came and went for me in 1:55:39, which was about a minute faster than my time at Nahant. This was a good sign. This meant that I still had at least 50 minutes to run roughly 7.5 miles in order to get under 2:45.

I was currently averaging a 6:12 pace and not having any issues, so it would take a relatively big and sudden blowup for me not to PR. It was now just a matter of how much I would PR by.

My final checkpoint before laying it all on the line was at the 20 mile mark. All of my training during this cycle had been geared towards the final 10K of the marathon. I knew exactly what I was capable of, and right now I knew exactly how much time I had.

Bui chicagoI went through 20 miles in 2:03:55 leaving me with 40 minutes to run a 10K.

I remember telling myself to GUN IT after taking my last GU.

Oddly enough, the only section of the course that stood out for me was Chinatown at Mile 21. I was hit with the familiar smell of Chinatown: roasted duck.

Being Asian, I noticed that a few of the locals became more interested as I ran through, and even got a couple of nice cheers in Chinese for my effort. Yùnxíng!!

With four miles to go I just thought back to the endless miles I trained on the two mile stretch of Sandy Pond Road in Ayer. Two out. Two back. Finish strong.

I pictured myself at the turnaround at the end of Sandy Pond Rd at mile 24.

It was time to go home.

The 1 MILE TO GO sign on the course told me that I just had to give less than 7 minutes of my life to reach the finish.

I’ve got this.

Similar to the NYC Marathon, you have meter markers near the finish to tell you how much running room you have left.

800 Meters.

Two laps around the Chelmsford track. Just like I had trained. 3 minutes to go.

I came around the final turn and could see the finish banner off in the distance. It isn’t as bad as running Boston where that last quarter mile, after the left on Boylston, feels like an eternity.

It was over before I knew it.

I sprinted across the finish, raised my arms, and instinctively stopped my watch: 2:43:35


I gingerly made my way down the finish area still feeling pretty good. No leg cramps or feelings of being sick. Everything was still functioning.

I was happy with my 2+ minute PR, but more proud of the fact that I was able to run a pretty even race throughout.

I ended up running the first half in 1:21:20 and the second half in 1:22:15 for a +:55 second positive split. One of my better paced marathons.

The only thing left to do was collect my medal, get my bag, change into dry clothes, and begin my recovery routine.

I tried to find out how Lindsay was doing, but couldn’t get a hold of anyone right then and there.

I eventually made my way back to the hotel and immediately drew up an ice bath while downing a couple of protein shakes.

I’ve been a lot better with my post-race recovery routine, since I was trying to figure out if I could possibly run back-to-back sub-3 marathons.

Done with Chicago it was now time to rest, recover, and get ready for the Stonecat 50 Miler on Nov 2nd, Manchester on Nov 3rd, Baton Rouge on Dec 7th, Dallas on Dec 8th, and Rocket City on Dec 14th.

Follow along on Jason’s blog: Fear The Chicken. That is of course, unless you fear the chicken too much. Ba-Gok!

Dionne’s Take On Hartford

Hilary Dionne broke the course record by a couple of minutes en route to winning the Hartford Marathon last year. Hilary’s 2:40 was well under the old 2:43. Since she broke it by so much, you would think it’d be a safe money bet to wager on her winning again if she went under that mark. Both Hilary and Erica Jesseman went under the old mark, but Jesseman took it down just a little harder. When the dust settled, Jesseman was the new champ in a blazing 2:38:, and Hilary was just behind her in a near PR of 2:39:39.

We reached out to Hilary to get her thoughts on her race:

Hilary and Ross, from the 2012 Hartford Marathon.

Hilary and Ross, from the 2012 Hartford Marathon.

The morning of the race was an ideal temperature relative to last year (low 50s vs. low 30s), though there was wind at some points along the course. There was good competition, too; Heidi Westover and Aregash Abate took out the first few miles pretty hard, with myself and Erica (Jesseman) not attempting to stay with them (Abate not even in sight). Still, my early miles were a bit quick before settling into my goal pace (6ish).

Erica and I were together for a few miles in 3rd and 4th place before making ground on Heidi; at around 8 miles Erica chased her down but I stayed a few steps behind, not wanting to be that aggressive too early (risky in hindsight) hoping that keeping Erica within eyesight would allow me to catch her later if I felt good. I then caught Abate by around mile 15-16. There were points in the race where making up time on Erica seemed possible, but she ran a gutsy race and never let up. I ended up being by myself most of the time, so found it hard to make a surge towards the end as fatigue set in. I also missed my second fluid station and another attempted water stop — just little things along the way that contributed to the pace slipping a bit in the last few miles.

Overall I’m happy with my time, being just a few seconds slower than my PR in Boston, though of course wanted to repeat my win from last year. Erica ran an excellent race though and was clearly ready for her big PR after a strong season of racing!

Mac The Knight, Ready For Hartford

Eric Macknight (Whirlaway) is one of New England’s Finest, and he’s ready for the Hartford Marathon tomorrow morning. To help get the region primed for this exciting, competitive race we decided to show you what Eric’s been up to lately. If you check out his blog, you can see for yourself: workouts, races and of course, plenty of pics of food and various items from around the home (along with some screaming goats).

Up first is his last race, the Brocktrot 10k:

September 29th (Sunday): 5:45am wakeup. Bathroom. Oat bran with milk and brown sugar. On the road by 6:15am. Arrived at the race venue by 8:10ish. Inside to register and back to the car to organize my shiznit. Warm up at 8:25am. 3 miles total (2.5 miles, then another 0.5+ mile to the starting line). Some strides and light stretching before a 9am start.

 In the words of Beyonce: To the left, To the left!

I saw my competition was cut out for me from the showing of Kenyans/Africans. Off the line well and felt out the early race strategy. Lead the 1st half mile or so. Chilled out and let them swarm me. Downhill 1st mile. In the group through in 4:54. The Africans communicated to each other in another language and threw in a couple surges. I covered the first one and held on for the 2nd one. Once we hit the first uphill section, it strung out and turned into a hammerfest. I moved into 3rd place, but once we hit the next downhill section. Gone. All three of them. Left me in 4th place by myself. ARE Racing Team member Jamie caught me around 3 miles. Woke me back up. Back into a groove and followed right behind him. Passed him with confidence just before 5 miles on an uphill and said we needed to work together. Charged through the last mile up the hill and could see 3rd place. Ran out of real estate and finished up in 32:00 flat for 4th place.  

Back to the car to change up and cool down by running the course all over again. 7 miles (48:59). I realized there was maybe 2 fast miles overall on the course. The first one and the 5th mile. Everything thing else had uphill or turns (or both). Happy with the effort and final race before Hartford. After the awards and texting Goup, the guy who won ran for AIC and ran 24:0x at Franklin Park. The guy who finished 2nd won the Hartford Marathon last year in 2:15:xx. I don’t feel so slow (haha).

Out to lunch with a few buddies before driving back to NY. Home by 2:15pm or so. Crashed hard in bed for about 3 hours. 3pm-6pm. Woke up in a haze to head downstairs to sit on the couch for the remainder of the night. Snacked and decided to not shakeout a few miles in the evening. 89 miles for the week for the start of the taper. A couple weeks left until the marathon.

A few days later was his Final Workout Before Hartford:

October 3rd (Thursday): 4 miles (28:35) on my own at 6:20am. Out and back through the neighborhoods. 15+ out, 13+ back. Foam roll, protein shake for breakfast, and made a chicken wrap for lunch. Home to have some graham cracker snacks to fuel up for the workout. Chilled on the couch for a bit before heading upstairs to use the bathroom and change up.

Over to the track with Goup at 5:45pm. Individual warmups. 3+ mile (20:17) on the normal loop. The workout was quick, but with sufficient rest. 3xmile (half rest, 800), 4×400 (half rest, 200). Football practice was in session on the field under the lights. Worked out well. Coach moved the golf cart off the track and the area was illuminated very well. Squeezed a Powerbar Gel on the walk over to the track from the parking lot. Changed into flats. Some strides and started up.

4:43, 4:46, 4:43, 65, 65, 64, 65. Boom. Cruised right through and felt strong. Total time for the 6 miles was 32:54. Rest was kept honest, but nothing crazy. Focused on the intervals. Goup had a good workout too. Cooldown 2.5 miles (18:10) through the neighborhoods. 16 miles on the day and ready to roll in 1+ week at Hartford.

Stopped at Hannaford’s for some quick dinner. Kashi frozen pizza and some yellow Spanish rice for burrito mix. Stopped at the mailbox place to drop off the rent checks. Home to heat up the pizza and cook up the rice for lunch the following day. Used my new silicon lily pad top that suction cups to pots/pans/bowls. Some yogurt with granola. Utilized my new mini spatula spoon. Bed at a decent hour.

Size comparison.


Looking forward to seeing what Eric does on Saturday. As always, it’ll be a stacked field. Matt Pelletier and Chris Zablocki may have some company up at the front with them. When asked how he felt about the race, Eric replied with: “Definitely feeling ready. I got something up my sleeve.” Macknight would elaborate on that at all, only saying that we’ll “have to wait and see.” Awesome.

Sweet Agony

Guest blog by Michael Wade

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 9.09.45 AMEvery runner knows that there’s a certain emotional ebb & flow associated with the  experience of running. Runners “Highs” and “Lows” are just part of the give & take nature of the beast. Whether it’s the supreme joy of suddenly (and effortlessly) running your daily 6 mile loop a minute faster than you’ve ever run it before, or the slow (but oh-so-sure) death of bonking hard halfway through your Sunday 12 miler, the peaks & valleys of a run are what we’ve grown to love (and also hate) about our sport. And never are these ups & downs more dramatic than when a “run” becomes a “race”.

Such was the case for me Before, During, AND After this year’s Bear Brook Trail Marathon. Immediately after I ran the inaugural 2012 race I thought to myself, “That was fun! I can’t wait to do it again!” Then, after giving it a bit more thought (and giving my throbbing legs a bit more ibuprofen) I figured, “Eh, it was a cool event, but I think once is enough. I’m not sure I want to put myself through that kind of suffering again”. Later, when nearly year had passed and the 2013 edition was quickly filling up, I said, “What the heck! Let’s go for it!” Later still, when I re-read my original race report in the days before the race I cried, “What the @#%* was I thinking?!” You see, I was already on the BBTM Emo Rollercoaster, and I hadn’t even laced up my racing shoes!I think the nerves I felt before this year’s race were directly attributable to knowing EXACTLY what I was in for. Last year, I started blissfully unaware of what racing in the woods (over fallen trees, around mud puddles, across rock slides & through thorn bushes) for 26.7 miles would really feel like.  I ran it easy, and enjoyed most every part of it until the end (or nearly the end) when all I wanted to do was die.  This year, after all the trail running I’d been doing, I hoped to do it exactly the same way – but faster. No problem! Right?

Making that lofty goal a little more difficult to attain was the fact that, this year, the course would be run in reverse. So, everything I had learned (or thought I’d learned) about the course from last year was right out the window! AND, the wet spring/summer we’ve been having caused the bushes to be bushier and the mud to be muddier! AND, due to the relocation of a couple of the Aid Stations, it was now going to be a ½ mile longer – 27.2! You don’t see that combination of digits on many oval bumper stickers!

I did, however, have a few things in my favor this year. Rather than driving from an hour away on the morning of the race, my family and I would be camping at the Bear Brook Campground – just down the road. AND, at about the 19 mile mark, the course ran right by our camp site, so I’d have the emotional boost of seeing my family help propel me through the last 8 miles! AND, I decided to go with a smaller, 16oz hydration pack rather than the 50oz monster I carried last year. So, not only was I fitter, I would also be lighter!

After my usual restless night sleep in our camper, the 6:30am start came not a moment too soon. The temperature was a little bit warmer than the previous edition, but still very reasonable for this time of year. Soon the Race Director sounded the siren, and we surged down the gravel road. I felt ready to run. At least until we hit the first of three early climbs! Last year, these climbs almost killed me. They came at a point in the race where I was at my weakest – the end. This year, we’d get them out of the way early and be able to cruise the last (flat) 8 miles to the finish. At least that’s what I hoped!

About a half mile into the race, the course took a sharp right turn and we headed straight up Catamount Hill. Not surprisingly, on fresh legs it seemed a LOT easier than I’d remembered it. Still, I decided to let the “conga line” of runners go on ahead and just run a steady and controlled pace. Included in that line were my friends (and fellow GCS teammates) Danny Ferreira and Rich Lavers. Danny had mentioned that they were planning to run easy today. But, as they quickly pulled away, I realized his “easy” pace must be right around my “suicide” pace.  So, I let them go.

Coming down off the second of the three climbs I suddenly felt nauseous. Within moments I was off to the side of the trail – retching loudly. I guess I must have had a bit too much Gatorade sloshing around in my stomach. Anyway, after starting again I immediately felt better and reeled in the handful of people who passed me while I was stopped. We soon came to the new out & back portion of the trail leading to the first Aid Station so I had an opportunity to see most of the people ahead of me – heading the opposite way. Danny and Rich offered me encouragement to catch them, but I held back. At least for the moment.

After a quick “splash and go” at AS #1, I was back on the trail. 39:06 was my time for that first section, a plodding 11:30 pace, but not nearly as slow as the 14’s I crawled through there with last year. The next section, although rather wet, was quite flat, and I started to move up through the field. I ran next to Dima Feinhaus for a while, which was surprising on two counts. Firstly, he’s usually pretty far ahead of me by this point. Secondly, he’d just run two back-to-back 100 mile races over the course of the last two weekends. Which, come to think of it, might explain the first surprising part!

Anyway, I rolled into AS #2 in 42:15 (9:00 pace) and a minute per mile faster than last year. It was still early, but I was starting to get in a groove! As I arrived, Danny and Rich were still there and after a quick refill of my water bottle, and a piece of power bar, and a couple of chips, I was on my way – just ahead of them. Eventually they caught up and we ran the next section as a group. But it quickly became evident to me, that Danny was holding himself back to run with us, because as we climbed the slight hill up to AS #3 Danny was chatting away, and all Rich & I could do was grunt, smile and nod. Plus, I was starting to feel dizzy. Excellent!

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 9.10.02 AMOnce again I went through the Aid Station with a maximum of efficiency. Water, Heed, Go! At 3.2 miles, Section 3, was the shortest of the race – and I ran it in 31:29. A bit slower than I wanted to, but still 10 seconds per mile faster than my time on it last year. Coming down onto the Mount Hall Marsh portion of the race, I felt a sudden, but all-too-familiar feeling in my lower abdomen. Within moments, I was crouched (deep off the trail) relieving myself.  I suppose I shouldn’t have had those 3 campfire hot dogs for dinner last night! About a mile later, after gaining back most of the ground I had lost, I was off the side of the trail again. Crap! This was quickly starting to become the BM marathon!Eventually I “righted the ship” and caught back up with Danny and Rich just before the climb up Hall Mountain. Rich looked like he was suffering a bit, so I bid them adieu and set off after the four folks just ahead of them. It took some time, and effort, but once we reached AS #4, I had put all four runners in my rear view.  My time of50:47 for that loop was a full minute slower than last year. But, still not too bad considering I’d made two unplanned, and messy, pit stops!Immediately after leaving Aid Station 4 I found myself running alone. And, it pretty much stayed that way for the next 5 miles. I could feel myself slowing down, but as I rounded Beaver Pond I used my family as a magnet pulling me towards the finish. I shed my hat, shirt and hydration pack at the campsite and raced towards them at the camp playground. After a kiss, a couple high fives and some much needed Gatorade, I was on my way. AS # 5 loomed just a couple “easy” miles ahead and I couldn’t wait to get there!

By this point, the heat of the day (and, with it, a slight case of dehydration) had really started to get to me. I began focusing on holding my form together as best I could and keep moving forward. Seemingly, out of nowhere, a runner came up on me and went quickly past – First Female. I tried to stay on her tail, but it was no use. And as I passed by a lush field of wild blueberry bushes, it was all I could do to keep from stopping and partaking of their plump and juicy goodness.

Thankfully, I soon arrived at AS #5 and guzzled all the water I could stomach. My split for the last segment was still a fairly reasonable 48:36 (9:55 pace) but well off the 9:30’s I’d run there last year. I was quickly losing time! Back out on the trail and it was less than a minute before I heard the next runner arrive just behind me. I had to get moving! Unfortunately, my legs had other ideas. Re-starting after stopping for any length of time is one of the most painful parts of long-distance running. And I was certainly feeling the pain!

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 9.10.14 AMAt some point, a mountain biker passed me, going the opposite direction, and told me I was in 20th place. I was both pleased and pissed with this information. Pleased, because I was a lot further up the leader board than I originally thought (Top 20!) and pissed, because now I felt obliged to work at staying there. So, I put the pedal to the metal. Eventually, after stopping yet again to “mark my territory” I gave up that spot. But not without a fight. Or, at least what felt like one, anyway!

Fortunately, over the course of the last two rolling trails, I was able to make up ground and get that spot back – and then some. I’d gone miles without seeing anyone, now it seemed like I was passing runners at nearly every turn! I guess I wasn’t the only one who was suffering out there. One guy was hobbling just ahead and then stopped abruptly to stretch. I implored him to keep moving, which he did. Right by me!

I caught him again at the next little hill and after he went by once more, I tried to pick up the pace and stick with him. Unfortunately, once I attempted to go that little bit faster, my right calf started to cramp up and I had to slow down to a glorified shuffle again. Much to my frustration, I just couldn’t take advantage of those last “easy” few miles like I’d hoped. I guess after violently expelling most of the liquids from my body over course of the previous 4+ hours, I should be grateful just to be standing – let alone running. Soon I could hear the shouts and applause coming from the finish area just around the next bend. I pushed up the final hill (calf in full-on seizure) and crossed the gravel line in 4:34:25. I’d run the last 6 miles in just over and hour – 1:02:09 (10:20 pace) and it felt like the longest hour of my life!. I crawled over to a shady spot to lie down and watched in dismay as my calf did the rumba right before my eyes.As was the case before the race, the emotional ups and downs during the event itself were really quite amazing to behold! From feeling so good at the start, to puking 20 minutes later. From passing a ton of runners, to nearly passing out. From slowly losing ground, to rapidly gaining it again. The full spectrum was certainly on display that day. And, as I sipped my coke (while sitting still for the first time in 4 ½ hours) I could only laugh at the sheer incongruity of it all. Running is such sweet agony!Sweetness and Agony. I guess, if you’re doing it right, racing should be a little bit of both!

Postscript: My overall pace of 10:05 per mile was quicker than the 10:22’s I ran last year, but due to course being half a mile longer my Finishing  Time ended up being about 2 ½ minutes slower. On the plus side, I did finish in 17th place overall, 4th in my age group, and got a sweet BBTM beer glass and tech shirt for my troubles. So, now that I’ve done the Bear Brook Trail Marathon twice (once in each direction) what do I have to say about it for next year?  “That was fun! I can’t wait to do it again!”



Follow the Rock n Runner on his most excellent blog for all the latest on his racing and training adventures.

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Running Rusieckis: IAU World Trail Championships

Guest blog by Amy Rusiecki

July 6th dawned with a bit of heat but plenty of enthusiasm.  It was finally the day of the World Trail Championships – a race that I had been dreaming of and focusing on for months.  As us athletes got ready for the race, it was amazing the similarities in pre-race rituals among nations – from passing body glide around the team to applying sunblock on each other’s backs.

Team USA pre-race rituals

I had a few goals for the race. Most important, I wanted to race strong – I’ve raced enough to know when I’ve given a good effort or not – and I was determined to finish the race without regrets or anything in the tank.  Part of that was that I didn’t want to get sucked into the quick initial pace that would inevitably burn me out.  The course was a 1km road climb to get to the trails, and then 5 laps of 15km around a rolling circuit (with climb for the first 4 kilometers, then rolling for the next 8 kilometers, and a screaming downhill for the last 3 kilometers), followed by 1km down the initial road section after all 5 laps are complete.  With the opening several miles being uphill, I needed to go out easy and relax for the first hour.  My secret goal was to not get lapped by any USA runner, and certainly to not get lapped by Brian [Editor’s note: Brian is Brian Rusiecki, the author’s husband.]! We were called to the staging area a few minutes before the race, and we marched in by country to the start area, as each contingent was announced.  Knowing that Tracy is similar paced to me, we lined up together.  As we worked our way behind the fast guys, we commented on how close to the back we were – this was definitely different for me.

Team USA heading to the start

After the entire first climb was completed (about 5km), I could still see Tracy, and I was able to stretch the legs out on the first downhill of the day.  I looked up, saw an amazingly sweeping view of the hills of Wales, and felt my pace quicken.  I passed Tracy, and encouraged her to run strong – I was convinced I would see her again.The race took off hard, the initial 1km road climbing didn’t seem to slow folks down much.  I tried to relax and not go into immediate oxygen debt, but I tried to stay in contact with Tracy.  Michelle had taken off at the gun, but we knew she had the potential to podium, so I figured I wouldn’t see her again.

Amy, passing through the lap/aid zone

Still, the first lap felt a bit aggressive for me, so I worked to settle into a sustainable pace for the 2nd lap.  I was amazed by the caliber of athletes here, as well as the volume of incredible runners.  I’ve never done a race with that many females around me – or where I’ve been in contact with so many other athletes.  Everyone was here to race their hearts out.  At one point, I stopped at an aid station to grab a cup of water and was quickly passed by several females, then we would hit a short section of single track and I would surge past other racers, only to be quickly passed once we reached the runnable jeep trails by the ladies with better leg speed. Halfway through the first loop, I caught up with Beverly Anderson Abbs – a true ultrarunning legend.  I was pleased to keep stride with her – not only because if I could keep up with her I knew I could run strong, but also because she could speak English and was super encouraging.  I also knew that she is very experienced, and running near her gave me confidence that I was running a smart race and not getting sucked into too fast of an early pace.  She and I would trade places and at times work together through the first 3 laps.

Brian and Ben, representing the USA and New England

As I passed her, I was very aware that I was now the leading USA runner.  The weight of that was heavy as I worked hard to do my country justice – but it also added some spring to my stride as I swelled with pride that I was leading the USA team.  I visualized my training buddies and trail friends sitting at home in the US, sipping coffee, and cheering for me from afar and jumping for joy that I was racing well.  The enormity of it helped me to push hard and stay mentally focused through the 3rd lap.  Towards the end of my 3rd lap, I lapped US team member Stefanie, who was having a rough day and was going to drop out.  All I could feel was sorry for Michelle, who now was going to have to run/hike over 30 miles on a gimpy leg…but if anyone could handle that, then it was Michelle – she proved to be tough as nails. By the start of the 3rd lap, I was settled into my pace and slowly catching folks who had gone out too hard.  Surprisingly, on the top of the climb I caught and passed Michelle.  I power hiked with her for a minute to see what was going on – seems her ITB was flaring up and she was in some serious pain.  When I asked her what she was going to do, she responded that she would keep moving forward until she wasn’t scoring for the USA team anymore – what a true champ.

Amy, taking advantage of a downhill

As I started my last lap, folks were guessing I was around 20th place, so I worked hard to pick off as many folks as I could.  I felt strong, and I felt inspired by my USA teammates, my training buddies back home, and the numerous runners and family/friends who donated their hard earned money so Brian and I could be here.  I felt their support and used it to give me energy.  I ran with all my heart.  I surged with everything I had, and was picking off runners.On the 4th lap, I was running scared, passing folks and imaging that Tracy might be closing in on me.  Now that I was leading the US contingent I wanted to stay there!  I ran strong and focused on racing aggressively yet leaving enough in the tank to surge for the last lap.  The course was starting to deteriorate a bit, but luckily my Lite Trail Drymax socks in combination with the Inov8 TrailRoc 255s proved to be light yet aggressive and kept my feet happy through the worsening mud as well as the steep ups and downs.

Brian, running strong and steady

Brian ended up having a great day, finishing 2nd USA runner and 17th overall in about 6:25.  Considering he doesn’t think of himself as a ‘speedy runner’, he did respectably well.  I was also pleased that Ben Nephew finished 3rd USA runner and 19th overall, just a few minutes behind Brian – that meant that all 3 New England runners ran strong and were scoring members of the USA team.The last 1km down the paved road to the finish was emotional – I was finishing my first World Championship race, and I was finishing strong.  I left it all out there.  I ran with complete pride in the USA jersey.  I lead my team, finishing 15th female in 7:24:25.  This time is a new 50 mile PR for me, and considering it was a bit hot and humid on race day, and the course featured 9,000 feet of climbing, I know it’s an indication that I have faster in me.  Tracy ended up having a rough day, battling GI issues for most of the race, but still finished in around 8:30.  Michelle held true to her promise, and finished around 9 hours – earning her finisher award as well as the respect of the rest of us there.  I was completely honored to call these two ladies my teammates, and proud of our humble 10th place team finish.  I know how much passion and pain went into that result.

I do need to offer some thanks – because Brian and I would never have made it to Wales without the support of the New England trail running community.  While everyone’s contributions made a huge impact, a few that stand out are Dr. Weiss and Performance Health Center (always encouraging my dreams and keeping me healthy enough to chase them!), 413 Trail Runners (who keep me company for miles on the trails), Western Mass Distance Project (who get me out of bed to log some miles), Snenipsit Striders (the most active group in the area to get Brian and I support), and Steph Robinson (who house sat, cat sat, and transported us for this journey).  And of course, my sponsors who support my passion and give me the tools to do it successfully: Inov8 shoes, Drymax socks, and Gu Energy.

This was actually part three of a three part series about the Rusiecki’s experience at the world trail championships. To get the full story, check out their blog Running Rusieckis.

In The Moment: The TARC 100

A Renner’s Experience at the TARC 100

by Thor Kirleis

Friday, June 14, starting at 7 pm, I toed the starting line of an 100 mile trail race. It was my first race at this distance and a long, long dream of mine that, honestly, was never a goal because, well, I never thought I could or would ever want to challenge myself in this way. However, life, as it does, changes, and I found myself with goals and dreams.

Conditions on the trails were very, very, very bad. A rainy month preceding the race, not to mention the last two weeks in which we received more rain than we typically get in three months, made the course dangerous, slow, and very difficult to navigate. Water pooled over so much of the course that you had no choice but to wade through. A common occurrence was having water come up to my knee, sometimes my hip. No joke. You can’t run through the puddles like you can on streets, because you don’t know what’s in the puddle. Run through, hit a rock or root you can’t see, and your race is over.

The first of four loops (25 mile loop we did 4 times) was very slow, but I was still in good spirits if not far more tired than I should  have been. I was starting to get worried about how tired I was this early in the race until I completed the loop and saw the hordes of people dropping out. I was later told that 25% of the field dropped out after the first lap. It was that brutal. I was slightly buoyed by the fact that I was not alone in wondering why I felt like I had run 50 instead of just 25. Either way, I kept going. It took me about 6 hours to complete the lap.

Thor at the aide station 50 miles into the race.

Thor at the aide station 50 miles into the race.

The second lap was, like the first, in complete darkness. It was sloppy and slow and I started to fatigue. I even considered dropping out, but I went on. I thought I hit lows, and I did, I just had no idea how low a low can really get, at least not just yet. By the end of this lap, with me now 50 miles in, I was just over 13 hours into the race. It was 8:30 am. I thought I’d finish these two laps in under 12 hours, but since this was one of those epic type races, I didn’t pay attention to how fast or slow I went. My goal was to finish. Speed didn’t mater. My energy was renewed with the notion that my pacer would be joining me for the next lap.

The third lap was when things got very difficult. I was now joined by my friend Hank, who would be my pacer from mile 50 through 75. I had a turkey sub to get me off to a good start and was feeling good again. I call out the turkey sub because it (and other food items like it) is what is considered “real food” as opposed to Power Bars and Gels. Real food gives back more energy but is difficult to carry, so we often opt for gels and bars packed with energy. Not long into this third loop, things got very ugly for me. In my head, I dropped out a few times, but each time Hank kept me in the game. I told Hank before this event that his goal is to make sure I do not drop unless I have a physical, real medical issue where I just cannot move on. Blisters, not feeling well, and being tired are not reasons to drop. I knew I’d go through the emotions, so I told him up front to never let me drop out. And he, thankfully, drove that role better than I could have even hoped. He kept me in the game when I myself gave up.

This lap was spent running and walking. By then I wasn’t able to run for long periods, mainly because when the terrain would get technical or tilt up, I had nothing in me to run. This is normal. But I was still able to run on the flats and downs. Troublesome was the fact that my left and right knee, each at separate times, started to give. Although I was still able to run, I knew that feeling, and I knew it wasn’t good. It always means that eventually it will get bad enough where I will no longer be able to run. As we were finishing this lap, there’s a two mile section that contains roughly 1.5 slow miles of wading through mud and pooled water covering the trail. It reminded me of being in the Amazon. It was during this time when my energy levels dropped very low. Hank kept me going even though I was now moving slower. This lap took 7 hours. We completed it around 3:30 pm Saturday. I had now been running — or, really, moving forward with both running and walking — for 21 hours. If I could keep going, I was on track for a 26 to 28 hour finish. If I could keep going…

75 miles deep

75 miles deep

The fourth and final loop was brutal. It started with me being buoyed with another turkey sub and the fact that my other buddy, Andy, was joining me as my pacer while Hank was now leaving. Andy and I have run together for nearly 15 years. He, like Hank, is a great friend who knows me very, very well. I felt bad because he, being so fresh and spry, was getting me at a very, very low point. But that was also his job. I had told him the same deal I told Hank: don’t let me drop out unless it’s an emergency. After gobbling up the turkey sub over the first mile of this final lap, Andy and I got back to running. For 10 minutes, before the shit hit the fan again. I was trashed, beyond tired. My legs were cooked, my lungs were tight, my heartrate was high, and my energy and spirits were low. Poor Andy. We walked the rest of that segment, three miles worth.

As we were walking, I came up with a plan: I was going to drop out. After mulling this over in my head for an hour, I finally told Andy. “I think I’m done,” I said to Andy. He wasn’t sure how to respond. He was new to this type of racing, so he didn’t really know that he had to get me out of this funk by trying to help me figure out why I was feeling so low. He didn’t yet know that there is always a reason — always an answer to get you back going. After a half hour, I finally stood with defeat in my eyes. “Andy, I’ve put this off for a half hour.” Andy knew what was coming. He did his best to remind me that I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. “If it were easy,” Andy told me, “I would be doing it.” I laughed. But I was done, defeated long ago. “I’m handing in my timing chip.”

Before Andy could catch me, I walked away. I hobbled over to the timing station, my legs so stiff that my knees wouldn’t bend, and went up to the race director. “Josh,” I said, “I’m dropping out.” Josh, the race director, asked if I really wanted to drop. He said to sit down for a while. He reminded me that I had plenty of time before cutoff. I said I already did sit. I want to drop. Are you sure? I don’t know. I’m defeated. That’s when his friend jumped in. He said, “The next aid station is in 2.5 miles. Just go there. You can do that. Get some food in you, grab some salt, and go to the next station. If you want to drop out, then drop out there. We’ll send a buggy to come get you.” No, I’m defeated. But in the back of my head, I didn’t want to drop. I wanted to keep going. But I had nothing. That’s when Josh said, “You’ve come so far already. 80 miles. You can’t just quit. You look good. You’re healthy. You have to go on. Here’s what I want you to do. You’ve been sitting for a while, so I want you to walk with really long strides down this grassy section. Long strides. Stretch the legs. Then when you get to the pavement (parking lot), try to run. Even if it hurts. Break up the junk in the legs. Take high steps.” I stood there as I processed what he was saying. He was right. I was in a funk. I needed to somehow break out. And maybe this would work. One long stride after another, I walked the grassy path, and then when I hit the parking lot, I started running — like really running — and then did high knees, bouncing on my feet, renewed. I ran back to Josh and his friend and Andy and said, “Andy, I’m in. Let’s do this!”

Andy and I set out toward the next aid station. I was feeling far better, and I was running again. And I was dreaming again about finishing this race. I marvel at the ups and downs — extreme downs. In decent time, Andy and I got to the next station, at mile 82.5, and kept going. For a half mile. My right knee, holding on by a thread, finally gave. I tried to numb it out by forcing a run, but it would take it. I had no choice. I would have to walk the rest of the way. Assuming the dark times stayed at bay. Unfortunately, they did not.

Again, I came up with a plan to drop, but each time I went to tell Andy, I somehow fought off the urge, and I kept power hiking. Each time, Andy sensed my negativity, figured out I was slipping into a dark place, and got me back out. Wading through water and mud didn’t help the knee or my energy. By mile 85 I couldn’t even power hike. I was reduced to a slow walk, dragging my leg behind me. My knee was done. I was done. But Andy, now having learned that those dark periods come and go and that it’s his job to make sure I keep going when it gets dark, kept me going. And going. My knee got so bad that at times I had to stop and sit for 5 to 10 minutes to get it back to the point I could walk again. I knew these periods beside the trail weren’t good. Time was running out. In between those periods, I was back to that dark place — no energy, no power, barely walking. But Andy kept me going.

One of the things I learned was that after 75 miles, Power Bars and Gels no longer gave me energy. They did nothing for me. So it was at the aid stations, where I could get real food, when I would get real energy. Because of this, Andy, back at the mile 80 aid station, where I almost dropped out, grabbed a Ziplock bag and stuffed it with pizza (three slices) and turkey sandwiches. So every twenty minutes, when my watch would beep signaling it was time to eat, Andy would rip a slice of pizza in half for me to eat or he’d give me a turkey sandwich. He joked that I was the real Dean Karnazes. This worked well for a long time. But it didn’t always work. I still found that dark place. Not able to talk, for it took too much energy that would take away from moving forward. I was surviving. Barely. It sounds gruesome. And it was. Dark and ugly. But Andy kept me moving forward. I learned long ago that in endurance sports, when dark times come, the only way to keep going is to block out all thoughts, especially when they turn negative, and stay in the moment. You focus on the here and now, not the finish, not anything else. Breath, feel it, step, repeat. I barely heard the frogs croaking and the coyotes howling in the darkness. On I forged.

After what felt an eternity, we finally, and I mean finally, came to the aid station at mile 90. There was now under 10 miles left. It was 10:30 pm Saturday night. I had been running for 28 hours. I had 2 hours and thirty minutes to hike 10 miles. Could I do it? I knew the answer. I would not make it. I couldn’t. I could barely walk. Running was out of the question. I tried running time and again, hoping the pain would numb out, but each time after two paces, I was reduced to walking. At one point, desperate to keep moving forward, I ran a pace, walked five, ran one, walked five, with each run pace on my left leg, the one with the good knee. I was no faster. And then reality hit. Another dark period came. My knee was wonked, and I had no energy. By this point I had to sit on a rock beside the trail every half mile. Wading through the mud took too much out of me. Each time I sat, I saw time slip away. I had to finish by 1 am, which was no less than two hours away.

By the time we got to mile 89, I knew I would not make the 30 hour cut off in the race. So tired and beat, I no longer cared. There was nothing more I could give; that much I knew. I also knew that as long as I followed Andy’s step, listened to his words of encouragement, and stayed focused in the moment, I would go through many more dark, dark periods where I’d want to drop, but I would get through them, keep moving, and finish this thing.

And that’s when things started to change. For the bad. And these bad things were completely out of my control. Not in my head, and not in my body. As Andy and I made our way in complete darkness, the path lit only by our headlamps, with me now moving forward for 29 hours over the course of three days — three days! — and 95.5 miles, two runners came the other way, these two, a runner and his pacer, on their way toward the finish only two miles ahead of me. As their headlamps came near, the pacer said, “Are you Thor?” Yeah, I said while wondering how and why they would know my name. I knew a lot of people on the course, but I didn’t know these guys, and yet they knew my name. Was someone looking for me, and why? The pacer went on, “Two guys behind us are looking for you.” Looking for me? Were they just concerned about my safety? Or was there more to it? I would soon find out.

As I made my way toward the next set of headlamps in the darkness, a familiar voice called out ahead: “Is that Thor?” Yeah, it’s me. “We’ve been looking for you.” As they came near, I realized it was Paul, a runner friend who had volunteered his time on the course at the aid station. But it didn’t yet occur to me that there was a reason he was looking for me. As Paul and his volunteer friend joined Andy and I, they turned and walked with us. Paul said, “You sound good. But your knee doesn’t look good.” I was dragging my leg behind me. Paul didn’t have the heart to say what he was really there for, why he was really looking for me. Instead he went on. “I got a beer for you at the aid station.” I laughed. Paul knew me well enough to know that I like my craft beer. “Ha, I’d love a beer but I have 5 miles left. A beer would knock me out right now. But thanks for the offer.” Just then Paul realized that I didn’t get what he was trying but never quite got around to saying. “I’m really sorry, Thor,” Paul finally said with straight honesty, “you didn’t make cut off into the aid station (at mile 95.5). You missed it by 15 minutes. I can’t let you go on.” And there it was. My race was over. I made it 95.5 miles in 29 hours and 20 minutes.

Many people are saying sorry, offering that it must be bitter sweet, suggesting that it wasn’t fair. There’s nothing bitter sweet here. I gave it my all. I kept going when even I gave up on myself. I quit 20 or more times. But each time I got knocked down, I somehow, some way got back up and kept going. And going. And going. Why? I don’t know. I really don’t. I thought a lot about this. Maybe it’s ‘Just because.’ It’s the best I got. And in this race, I gave it the best I had. I am in awe, as it if were someone else, at the stubborn fight, the never quit approach, in me. I mean, I was left for dead time and again. But I kept getting back up. I took the fight to the battle. They had to yank me from the course. I would not let it defeat me. And I didn’t. I didn’t.

VCM Elites: Pelletier & Ferenc

We snuck in a quick Vermont City Marathon preview the Saturday night before the race featuring Matt Pelletier and Josh Ferenc. The two threw down some solid races out there, to say the least. We checked in with both of them again.

Matty P

378035_581283798558716_436690848_nHere are my splits from the race:

1. 5:38
2. 5:13
3. 5:19
4. 5:16
5. 5:24 (headwind)
6. 5:21 (headwind)
7. 5:11
8. 5:06
9. ——
10. 10:07
11. 5:05
12. 5:11
13. 5:07
14. 5:18 (windy along the water)
15. 5:17 (windy along the water)
16. 5:36 (big hill on battery St.)
17. 5:18 (windy)
18. 5:06
19. —-
20. 10:41 (windy)
21. 5:25
22. 5:22
23. 5:22
24. 5:16
25. 5:19
26. 5:35
Fin. 1:18 (2:19:04)

My plan leading up to the race was to come through the 1/2 in under 1:09, and then get faster in the 2nd 1/2. On race day, I threw the time goal out the window and just wanted to be competitive and get the win. I knew I couldn’t let it come down to a kick with Chris because he’s out kicked me in a shorter race before.

When the gun went off, I was content to let other people set the pace for the first couple miles. Chris was fine with being out front in the first mile so I let him stay there. As we hit the downhill in the 2nd and 3rd mile, everyone slowed down and I moved to the front to take advantage of dropping the pace down without much effort and seeing who would decide to keep up. We still had a big pack, so once we came back by the park I moved to the back of the pack as we were turning into the wind. I was ok with staying there and letting the pace slow and conserving energy on the downhill on the beltway. I moved to the front as we approached the fluids table only to find that my bottle was not in the front where it was supposed to be. It was set up in the middle of the table, and I had to come to a complete stop to find it, normally I would have just kept running past the table, but with it being so cold I wanted to make sure I got the energy gel that I had taped to the bottle. I don’t think anyone else got their bottle at that table. There was no order to how they were set up.

I caught back up to the pack pretty quickly, and offered my bottle to everyone but they all seemed to be fine. When we turned around and started to climb back up the beltway, it was much warmer without the headwind. I decided to ditch the winter hat, and switch to a baseball cap to keep the rain out of my face, and ditch my long sleeve shirt which was under my singlet. It was quite a task to get the wet singlet off, then the shirt, then put the singlet back on, all while running a 5:06 mile just before going through the 2nd relay exchange. The next few miles don’t stand out to me, other than I remember thinking we were running quite faster than I expected to with the weather. In the 1st neighborhood section I got a little gap on Chris (who was the only one still with me) and I thought to myself “is it really going to be that easy?” As we weaved through the windy bike path I kept the pace fast to see if he would give up on me. The wind was pretty bad along the water here, and the waves were slamming into the wall and splashing onto the bike path. It was blowing me all over the place. My lead on Chris was short lived as he was back up with me by 14 miles, and back in the lead and pushing going up Battery St. Gapping him really messed with my head. Why did he let me get space on him, only to come back up to me and start pushing the pace on the toughest mile of the course? I let him get a couple strides on me on the hill. I wasn’t sure if he was planning on dropping out or something at the top and wanted to put a last ditch effort in to shake it up. He led all the way through the park, and I moved back to the front on the other side going down the hill. This was the windiest section of the race. I wanted to try and push here and see if he would let me go again.

Once we got into the 2nd neighborhood, He let me get another big gap on him and this time I wanted to make sure he didn’t come back on me. I really pushed through here to see if I could break him. I held this lead all the way to mile 23. I turned here and saw that he was right behind me. I dropped the pace back down and tried to move back away before he caught me, but he was too strong. At 24 miles we were running right next to each other. We were both breathing very heavy, and I knew we were both pretty close to empty. I decided to just let him make the moves and cover everything he did and hope for the best at the finish. I didn’t want to get ahead of him and not know where he was. I wanted to be able to see him when we got to 26 miles. He very slowly creeping away from me, and at 25 miles, he was 3 seconds ahead of me. Once we went through the mile mark, he made a strong move to pull away and I covered it for about a 1/2 mile but he just kept pushing. At about 25 1/2 he was pulling away and there was nothing I could do about it. Everything tightened up and it was all I could do to stay vertical. The flooding on the bike path and muddy grass finish didn’t help me move any faster. He just kept lengthening his lead. I don’t think he even knew that he had dropped me. He just kept pushing all the way to the line, never looking back. I wish I had the ability to find whatever it is he found and use it to pull away so confidently.

Matty nailed that race report. I felt like I was right there with him the whole way, and I swear my quads started twitching when I got to the part about the last half mile. To wrap it up, we turn to the Last Hero & Only Hope..

Josh Ferenc

I’m very pleased with the outcome. It was very exciting to be able to be stress free and catching people. Hunting is always more fun then being hunted. As far as my fitness… It’s hard to tell. After Sleepy Hollow I found out that I’m more fit than I feel/thought I was and then to be able to run relaxed and stress free an entire marathon is a great feeling. I feel like my training is getting better but it’s hard to gauge because I’m running so slow. No matter what the circumstance I always expect big epic results. I’m not tip top health wise but I’m getting there.

The toughest part of the day was the acceptance of what will be will be (before the race started). I wanted to be able to contend and fight up in the front but the reality is I wasn’t ready. There wasn’t really a toughest part of race day physically. I ran a smart race and put myself into a position to be successful. The true toughest part was seeing the guys ahead of me coming back and me not being able to do anything about it (calf cramp).

The last 4 miles were the remains of what I had, calf made it so I couldn’t go any faster. Had I kept rolling I may have caught them, but that’s too easy to say, and I didn’t. They finished well, as did I and it was a great feeling and I felt great doing it: 2:32:18. It was very enjoyable (that’s what she said, every time too). I am a charismatic megafauna, finished 6th overall and 1st VT!

VCM Splits: 2013

Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 1.24.21 AM1-2: 11:32
3-5: 17:12 (28:44)
5:48 (34:33)
5:46 (40:19)
5:41 (46:01)
9-10: 11:31 (57:32)
5:46 (1:03:18)
5:43 (1:09:02)
5:43 (1:14:46)
5:44 (1:20:31)
5:38 (1:26:09)
5:47 (1:31:56)
5:40 (1:37:37)
5:35 (1:43:12)
5:36 (1:48:48)
20 miles 5:44 (1:54:32
5:49 (2:00:22)
6:02 (2:06:24)
5:56 (2:12:20)
6:03 (2:18:24)
6:05 (2:24:29)
6:20 (2:30:50)
1:29 (2:32:18)

I’m stoked about the race and it’s another successful step to my global dominance.

Loyal. Level. Legionnaire.

For more from Josh’s perspective, check out his always entertaining blog (the Vermontsters entry). We may have borrowed a line or two from that to mix in with his contribution here. Couldn’t resist. All pics here courtesy of Scott Mason.

Chia Laguna Half-Marathon Race Recap

Guest blog by Meagan Nedlo

“That’s the hardest race I’ve ever run of any distance,” said American Meagan Nedlo who finished third in the women’s race in 1:21:02 after walking four times.

View from my morning shakeout.

Yup. This quote, taken from the article linked above, pretty much sums up my experience at the Chia Laguna Half-Marathon. Intellectually, I knew the race would be difficult. I’d ridden a course tour and spoken with quite a few people who warned me of the challenge ahead. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that a small, stubborn part of me thought: “I’ll show them.” That ‘merican bravado went out the window (or, more accurately, was blown forcefully into the ocean) before the 5k mark. In fact, I remember thinking around 8k that my legs felt more trashed than they’d ever felt at the 8k point of any other race-including an 8k. I honestly questioned my ability to even make it to 10k. Suffice it to say my first international race finish was in jeopardy well before the halfway point.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Race morning, despite not having to toe the starting line (which was located approximately 400 meters from my bed) until 9:30am (“So early!” bemoaned Marcello and the other Italians), I forced myself to put both feet on the floor by 7:00. Thus far, I’d struggled to align my internal clock with the forced time change, so today I wanted to make sure my body was fully awake and ready to go. Within five minutes I was out the door for an easy shakeout jog, solely intended to crack the cobwebs.Already I could tell the conditions were what I’d expected: windy, relatively cool and quite humid. And did I mention windy? After the jog I went to breakfast to grab some water and then headed back to my room just before 8:00. In the courtyard I bumped into Wilson, the Ugandan elite runner. Our exchange went something like this:

Wilson: “Excuse me, do you know what time the race starts?”
Me: “9:30.” Then, jokingly, “So you can probably go back to sleep.”
Wilson, with no irony: “Actually, yes.”

The flags are flying at the finish line! Hoping to find a big, burly Italian man to block the wind for me.

Upon returning to my room I took a hot shower-again, not my standard race morning protocol, but I knew I needed to force my muscles into pliancy-and then busied myself with my normal preparations. Before long it was time to make my way to the starting line on the main road in front of the resort. I was pleasantly surprised to spot Tyler, who had been battling a fever and confined to his bed for the past few days. Originally slated to race the half, I figured he’d either scratch or opt for the 10k. Instead he said he was game to run with me for as long as he could and offered to block the wind on some of the hairiest sections. It was a suggestion I gladly accepted.

Start of the race. Photo credit: Giancarlo Colombo, Chia Laguna Half-Marathon

9:30 came and went, to no surprise. I’ve come to learn that “Italian time”runs on its own matrix. Then, finally, with a flurry of announcements (of which I understood not a word) and the playing of their national anthem, we were off! For the first, mostly flat kilometer, with the wind at our backs and the sun tucked firmly behind a screen of clouds, I felt okay. Tyler matched me stride for stride, but I could tell his breathing was labored. Having barely eaten (or, for that matter, moved) in the past 36 hours, his body was clearly struggling to understand what the hell was going on. By 3k, I could feel him gradually slipping off the pace. Fortunately, however, I’d picked up a new companion, Deborah Toniolo. I’d met Deborah and her husband, fellow half-marathoner Giovanni Ruggiero, earlier in the week and had actually sat next to them at dinner the night before. Giovanni is a former sub-2:10 marathoner and Deborah posted a 2:28 in 2006. Since then, life intervened, and they’d arrived at Chia Laguna with a baby in tow. As Deborah’s first race back, she would just be running the 10k. I knew she would likely pull away as her finish line neared, but I vowed to stay in contact for as long as possible. For the next few kilometers we traded positions, as I powered ahead up the hills and then she charged back into contention on the corresponding downhills. At 5k there was a hairpin turn as the route reversed course, and immediately we were smacked in the face with gale force winds. The next 5k would be some of the most challenging running of my entire life, as I struggled to comprehend the fact that I hadn’t yet completed even 1/4 of the race distance. By 8k Deborah pulled away decisively, and I found myself completely alone and being buffeted around like a dollar store kite.

Cast of characters, the invited runners at yesterday’s press conference: Deborah (#9), Giovanni (#4), Silvia (#14), Wilson (#7), Valeria (#8), Daniele (#1). Not sure who let #12 in.

“I’m going to run 1:25,” I remember thinking incredulously to myself. “No, 1:30.”

And then, it happened. Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot tell a lie: I walked. In the spirit of full disclosure, I walked twice during this uphill stretch. Okay, three times. I am not proud of it, but I feel like I need to put it out there just in case any incriminating photos surface. There were several sections where the grade was so steep, the wind so strong, that I found myself struggling not to hyperventilate. I needed a few seconds to stop, catch my breath, regain my composure and redouble my resolve. I knew if I could just reach the 10k mark at the resort (which was agonizingly close to my own room),everything would be okay. In hindsight, my reasoning process was actually quite humorous. I never once considered dropping out, which is my usual MO when things are going this horribly wrong, but at the same time I didn’t feel particularly guilty about walking, which is a course of action that has never before crossed my mind in the early stages of a race.

Regardless, I pressed on. Passing 10k gave me a much-needed boost, as the crowds were thick and raucous and I heard the announcer saying my name. Also, somehow, improbably, I split roughly 38:10 at the 10k mark. This was the first time I’d looked at my watch since the race started, and I was fearing the worst. Given the fact that I was practically walking (and in several instances, literally walking) up the steepest, windiest sections, I was sure my 10k split would be well over 40 minutes. I had resigned myself to that reality. And yet, somehow, things weren’t quite as horrific as I’d expected. I also spotted Jane Monti near 11k just as I was about to ascend the last brutal hill, who cheered me on and snapped a photo that I will likely burn if I ever see it. Mentally and aerobically I felt better at this point (possibly because I stopped and walked yet again, this time through a water stop), but my legs were trashed, my quads literally quivering as I pounded down the hill just past 11k. Nonetheless, I allowed myself to tentatively consider the possibility of negative splitting the race and finishing under my goal of 1:20. Given that mere minutes earlier I was hoping to simply just finish, this was a marked improvement in the state of affairs.

Okay, I didn’t burn the photo. It’s actually not that bad. Credit: Jane Monti

That being said, I wish I could share some inspiring account of the second half of the race, how I turned on my Maserati turbo engines and rallied to a triumphant finish, but you’ve already seen the result and should know better. To this point I haven’t mentioned the other female half-marathon competitors because, quite simply, we were never in the same race. Valeria, the 2:23 marathoner and Italian national record holder, was clipping along at a pace that put most of the men to shame. Silvia, the Kenyan, was almost five minutes behind her but still several in front of me. And despite my Gallowalking tendencies I didn’t seem to be in danger of being overtaken by whomever was in fourth place. Instead, I fought to maintain contact with the men in my vicinity, particularly from 13k-17k as we ran (yet again) into the wind and (yet again) uphill. We were rewarded with a gradually downhill, wind-aided final 4k, but by that point I simply wasn’t able to capitalize on it. The only thing bolstering my spirits and helping me maintain some semblance of positivity was the support from the other participants. With the course turning back on itself around 16k, this meant that I was passing against a stream of runners coming from the opposite direction. Cheers of “Allez! Allez!” and “Bella!” and “Americana!” and even, from my new buddy Maurizio, “Goooooo, Meagan!” with a vigorous high-five. For a race where I knew virtually no one and didn’t speak a lick of the native language, the support and encouragement I felt was overwhelming. With 2k to go, then 1k, I was practically giddy at the prospect of being done. As I rounded the final bend into the resort and to the slight uphill finish (come on, seriously?) I tried to straighten up and muster a smile as the announcer shouted my name and the crowd cheered. I really didn’t want all the spectators to go home and say, “Boy, did you see that pitiful American girl stumbling toward the finish? She was really dragging ass, huh?”

“Sweet lord, where is the finish line?!” Photo credit: Giancarlo Colombo, Chia Laguna Half-Marathon

I crossed the finish line just as the clock ticked past 1:21, missing my goal time (due in no small part to my ubiquitous walk breaks) but exceedingly, unironically proud of my finish. In fact, though I haven’t raced a half-marathon this slowly in years, I’m actually more pleased with this result than with most of the races I’ve done all spring. Going into the race, everyone warned me that I should expect to add five minutes to whatever I thought my current fitness level to be. Based on the other competitors’ results, I’d say this assessment is pretty accurate. And if that’s the case, then I’m actually in decent shape! Regardless, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to compete today, and of ultimately not embarrassing my country with a 90 minute finish time. Despite its difficulty, the Chia Laguna Half-Marathon is one of the most beautiful races I’ve ever run and is an experience I’m incredibly fortunate to have been part of. I’m already planning to come back and run-no walking!-again next year, ideally with a marginally better grasp of the Italian language. This trip has truly been a once in a lifetime experience, but I wouldn’t mind turning it into a tradition!

Top 10 women at the awards ceremony. Photo credit: Marco Pilia

Fortunately I remembered to pack the most important post-race recovery items not easily found in Italy: Nuun, peanut butter and Bonk Breaker! Cappuccino optional.

Celebrating at dinner with my new friend and biggest Italian fan, Maurizio!

My post-race treat: a yummy dessert (note the white chocolate spoon) and a glass of wine or six

w/u #1: 10 mins. easy
w/u #2: 15 mins. easy + strides
Target: 21.097k @1:20:xx; top three finish
Actual: 1:21:02, third place female
Total: 16-16.5 miles

For more on Meagan’s trip, be sure to check out her blog Green Lightning Running.


Guest blog by Josh Ferenc

Editor’s Note: I was talking to Brandon Newbould ahead of the Sleepy Hollow race this past weekend and he alerted me to an amazing performance by Josh Ferenc, and said his blog post was a ‘must read’. It was, and here it is. We’ll have coverage of the Sleepy Hollow race coming this week, but here’s a post from Josh about his Muddy Moose 14 Miler to get you primed for it.

Newbould, MacKnight, Ferenc, at the top of the mountain. Courtesy of Scott Mason.

Newbould, MacKnight, Ferenc, at the top of the mountain. Courtesy of Scott Mason.

Woke up alert and ready to be awake, so that was nice compared to the everyday sluggish feeling I have during the week. The plan: wake up, eat, pick Najem up, drive to Wolfboro, complete a tough 14 mile trail race, come home.

Seemed simple enough.

This would be Najem’s first trail race. Haha. We were going to meet up with fellow BAA teammate Jim Johnson and I was hoping on hearing what his race strategy would be. Najem and I discussed it on the ride up and we both had good plans. Najem’s was to sit and check things out, while mine was very similar, but hang as long as I could and try to be competitive. Jim wanted to work together and take it to Justin Freeman. This idea was fine by me, it was just figuring out what that would literally be. Finalizing a plan is tough for me, but I settled on hanging with the front as long as I could and if I felt oddly good, try and make a move.

This plan was instantly aborted the first step of the race. Doing what I do best (flying by the seat of my pants) I went with an old playbook option: get out of site early (and hammer!); they can’t see you, they can’t catch you. This really was a better option anyways. Current fitness and lack of racing led me to just kill myself and make it a quality effort day. And that’s what I did.

I took the lead and never gave it up and just pushed every step I could. I went out to pound that course like an elaborate gang handshake. The course fought back and was very tough. The mud was deep and was very unforgiving. I was zigging and zagging all over the trail trying to find the best line and best footing, all while telling myself, “they are going to catch you, don’t fall asleep, keep redlining, keep pushing…”

There were two righteous climbs with long gradual downhills to follow, which I tried to sprint when I could. This tactic led to me being very tired the last two insanely muddy, unrunnable miles and having to thrash and fight through the trail.

I was fortunate to hang on and secure the win.

Josh incredibly won by over seven minutes. Can’t wait to read about the showdown between Ferenc, Newbould, Johnson, MacKnight, et al.

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