My First Trail Race

 

This weekend I ran my first official trail race! It was the Emerson Trail Race in Concord which helps raise funds for the Emerson Pre-school. There were two race options available; a long course (9.9 miles) and a short course (5K). I opted for the short course since I’m still working on SLOWLY building my mileage back up this year to prevent more overuse injuries. I woke up Saturday to a beautiful sunny day, and was excited and anxious on my to the race. I met some of my friends from Runner’s Alley at the race and for most of us it was our first trail race so we were all pretty excited for a new racing experience.

Runner's Alley Crew

Runner’s Alley Crew

Coming into the race I had looked at last years results and saw that a lot of the really competitive runners from the area ran the long course last year. This made me hopeful that I might be able to place on the short course. I’ve also been running these same trails in Winant Park since it’s literally right behind the hospital that I work at. My friend Ty and I lined up near the front since we were hoping to get out front early. The race went off and a few guys speed right to the front. I knew they were in the long course so I didn’t try to catch them, but they were flying at a pace faster than my 5K pace. It was really impressive to see how fast these trail guys can motor up the hills we hit about half a mile in. There was a split where the long course and short course separated and when I looked back I couldn’t see anyone behind me. I was didn’t realize how fast I had gone out until this point. From that split on I just tried to keep a steady pace and not burn myself out before the downhill finish. Luckily I was able to stay up front and ended up winning the short course! I have never won a race before so this was kind of fun, and my friend Ty came in second right behind me. I know that most of the real competitive guys ran the long course so it’s not real impressive, but none the less it was fun leading the pack for a change.

Team Saucony Peregrine

Team Saucony Peregrine

Emerson 2All in all I had a great time racing the trails. I liked that it was a much smaller field than a lot of other races, it made things more laid back and you could tell a lot of the other runners knew each other pretty well. I knew running a trail race would take a lot more out of me as I’ve been running more trails this spring already. I had no idea just how sore I would be after racing though. Even just doing the short course really beat me up. My knee feels normal, but my quads, glutes, hips, and calves were pretty sore the next morning. I took Sunday off but ran yesterday (in the middle of the hottest day we’ve had yet…yes I’m a glutton for punishment) and my legs still felt pretty lead filled. Despite my soreness I can’t wait to do more trails this summer and I’m already planning out my next trail race.

 

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Maine Marathon Recap

On October 5th I ran my first 26.2, the Maine Marathon, in Portland. It’s taken me over a month to sit down and write this recap, and even now I find it difficult to put my feelings about the whole thing into words. I’m happy that I finished, however the race was one of the hardest fought battles I’ve ever had. Nothing, not even long training runs in 90 degree heat, was ever so difficult.

Portland itself is a beautiful city, and a great place for a race. We stayed downtown just a few blocks from the water, and all the restaurants, bars, and coffeeshops were easily accessible. Kate and I decided to make a whole weekend out of it, and even convinced two of our friends to spend the weekend up there as well. Friday night we grabbed a local brew at In’finiti Fermentation & Distillation, and then passed out pretty much immediately upon getting into the hotel room. Saturday we got up early to walk around and find coffee.  We stopped at Bard Coffee which was a great little spot with good coffee, and a free take a book/leave a book thing that was attached to the local library. We moved along from there to my favorite spot of the weekend….the HOLY DONUT. This place was amazing! They have awesome donuts made with Maine potatoes. Mine was actually sweet potato and was so deliciously sweet and starchy (good carbo loading right?)  We had a great day exploring Portland, and even ventured a few towns over to the LL Bean Flagship store fleece heaven in Freeport. Kate would have probably lived there had I let her. I would run another race in Portland just to go back to such a cute little city.

KB and I stuffing our faces

KB and I stuffing our faces

Then came race day. I was pretty nervous from the start for a few reasons: This was my first 26.2, I had been nursing some runner’s knee for a while now and wasn’t sure I would even be able to finish the race, and I had slacked off on my long runs because of my knee so I didn’t know if I’d have the stamina to finish.  All in all I was pretty freaked out. Surprisingly as soon as the gun went off most of those feelings faded away. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline or what but I felt good, really good. The KT Tape on my knee seemed to be doing it’s job, breathing was easy, and my splits were good. The first ten miles went great and I was only a little over my splits for the half I had done in the spring.  I went through the 13.1 split at 1:43, so I was right on pace to finish around 3:30 (which was my secret goal).

I'm dying in this photograph

I’m dying in this photograph

BUT

The wheels came off about two miles later. I hate this expression but, I hit the wall, a big fucking wall. All of a sudden my legs wouldn’t turn over, everything burned, and my knee was feeling a little sore (but not too bad to stop). My hamstrings were the worst, they just wouldn’t chill out no matter how much I stretched, massaged, or walked. It wasn’t cramps, but just pure battery acid being poured down the back of my legs. I felt like I could barely run. The shuffle started and it never went away from there. I would walk a little, run a little, shuffle a little. The most annoying part was that walking made everything hurt the most, but I didn’t have the energy to all out run. I was stuck suffering on and off for 11 miles.  I have never wanted to quit so much in my life, but at mile 19 I wasn’t gonna stop now, I wanted that medal, and I’ve never had a DNF so I wasn’t gonna let this be my first. Seeing Kate and our friends at miles 16 and 19 did help. She had more food and Nuun for me. That helped a bit and I pushed through the next mile and a half pretty well. It was a hopeless battle though and I ended up finishing at 4:28 which was completely embarrassing.

A lot of people have told me since that I should be proud to have finished, which I am not. However I still don’t feel happy with my results. In the back of my head I knew I should have switched to the 13.1 on race day. I was running injured, unprepared, and wasn’t confident. The knee only got worse after race day though and I haven’t been able to run much since. The last three weeks I’ve done zero running which has been hard, but it’s what my body needed. On Saturday this week I rode the spin bike for 45 minutes and felt no pain or tightness in my knee. Foam rolling and stretching has made my whole leg feel better and I think I’m ready to start slowly getting back into running shape.  I told myself I’d wait until Wednesday since I have the morning off, and I plan on logging just a few trail miles!

Thinking "never again"...yeah right

Thinking “never again”…yeah right

I wish I could get a re-do for the whole thing, but since I can’t I’m setting my sites on the races I have planned next spring.  I want to run the Vermont City Marathon again, but I’m still deciding whether or not to do the whole thing or just half. No matter what races I pick I’m just gonna keep moving forward, you can’t dwell on the past but you can learn from it.

[I also wrote a review of race on BibRave if anyone wants to check that out there]

Vermont City Marathon (well half of it)

First Running Medal!

First Running Medal!

Last weekend I ran my first ever half marathon!  I have been feeling pretty bummed out that I wasn’t able to run the unplugged half marathon in Burlington due to a stress fracture; however this weekend I had my redemption. I was able to sign up last minute for the Vermont City Marathon as part of a two person relay team raising money for the Vermont Make a Wish foundation.  I was very nervous about the race because I’ve never run this far in my entire life, and I haven’t really been training for a half so I was worried I would re-injure my foot, AND I still had to find a partner to run the other half.

Luckily for me a friend of a friend of a friend saw my post on Facebook about needing a partner and was able to help me out. My acquaintance Adam, whom I’d only met once before, was already signed up for the full 26.2 so he was able to join my relay team as long as he fund raised for Make a Wish.  Now that all the details were set all I had to do was pack up, head to VT, and figure out how the hell I was gonna run 13.1 miles.

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Me and Greta on our way

Oh let’s also just get one thing straight, Vermont is my favorite state. I often tell strangers I’m from Vermont, or call myself an honorary Vermonter. I just feel that on the inside I’m more Vermont than anywhere else. That being said I rolled up to my girlfriends lake house with my trusty co-pilot Greta, and instantly felt at home.  The lake was slightly overcast, but as beautiful as ever.

View from the Lakehouse

View from the Lakehouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a feeling this was going to be a great weekend no matter what happened at the race on Sunday.

Leading up to the race I was able to spend time with some friends from college that I hadn’t seen in a while, and we did the typical Burlington things like stroll church street, check out the farmer’s market, and sample some local brews. We also went to a food truck meet up at the Arts Riot, which I highly recommend if anyone is in town. It takes place every Friday evening during the summer.

Farmer's Market

Farmer’s Market

Hey Church Street

Hey Church Street

My friend Meredith was also participating in the Marathon as part of a 5 person relay team for Make a Wish so the night before the race we spent the evening making pasta, watching the season 2 premiere of House of Cards, and stressing about tomorrows events.  As usual I woke up before my alarm since I was nervous I’d sleep in.  I had my typical pre-race meal of an English muffin with peanut butter, honey, and banana. I was well hydrated, well stretched, and had gone over my gear probably 50 times. Meredith and I headed downtown to park and made our way to our required exchange points. My exchange point was at Oak ledge Park, and let me say it was a clusterfuck. This was the only negative part of my race experience.  It was very unorganized/crowded and no one could hear the numbers being announced or see their partners coming in very easily. That meant that everyone was leaning into the only chute open to try and see their partners while the race officials were yelling at us to get back. It was actually the only time I’ve felt kind upset with any race organizers. I was stressed out enough and being yelled at because they couldn’t organize the race was a little upsetting.

Selfie's while waiting for Adam

Selfie’s while waiting for Adam

Anyways Adam reached me at about 1:53 into the race, which was a little later than I expected him.  Turns out Adam sustained a foot injury at mile 9 (probably stress fracture from my diagnosis) and slowed way down.  I was shocked that he even made it to the halfway point. I was left to soldier on alone.  I took the first few miles WAY faster than I meant to, I basically ran 5k pace and only slowed slightly upon reaching battery hill. I also didn’t really know my pace because in the confusion of the exchange I forgot to start my watch. I don’t know if it was adrenalin or what, but I felt great for most of the race and my mile splits were usually in the low 7’s. I really enjoyed my leg of the course. I first ran along the lake, then up through battery park, and then into some of the surrounding neighborhoods. The neighborhoods were my favorite part because the people cheering on the front lawns were unbelievably supportive. They were handing out water, gatorade, fruit, GU’s, and even one house handed me a budweiser (I’ll admit I only drank half of it). The final stretch of the race went along the Burlington bike path. It was partly shaded, and had a slight downhill slope to it. At mile 25 I was really starting to get jelly legs, but then some November Project members wearing grassroots gear, and holding signs reading “fuck yeah!” cheered me on giving me the extra boost I needed.  I ended up with a time of 1:34:46, which was about 10 minutes faster than I had hoped for!

Morning of the race #grassrootsgear

Morning of the race #grassrootsgear

 

In the end an impulsive decision to sign up for the race turned out to be one of the best running weekends I’ve had yet. I was able to spend time in my favorite place, with some of my favorite people, participating in the sport I love. I definitely feel the itch to run the whole 26.2, but I still think the half marathon distance may be my favorite. I liked that I felt like I was running fast and pushing myself, however I still needed the endurance required to finish the whole 13.1. In the past I’ve mostly run 5K’s, but I’ll definitely be on the look out for some longer races for the rest of the season.

 

“Here’s to hoping I don’t break my foot…again”

About eight weeks ago I came back from a long run and felt a soreness in my foot.  I figured it was just fatigue or muscle soreness from a rapid increase in road mileage.  Over the winter I had signed up to run the Half Marathon Unplugged in Burlington VT, however I didn’t follow any real training schedule since I’ve always kind of just run the mileage and pace that felt comfortable in the moment.  I was honestly a little over confident and figured I could just put in long miles the last few weeks before the race and be fine. Boy was I wrong. Turns out it wasn’t muscle soreness but a slight stress fracture. After a few trips to the Dr’s office I was in a boot and off the road.

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Fast forward six-ish weeks and the Stonyfield Yogurt Earth Day 5K is here.  I also paid for this race months ago, and unlike the half marathon that I missed I figured I was well enough to easily jog the race and not worry about my time.  Well once the gun (which was a cow’s moo) went off I couldn’t hold myself back.  I realized at about .75mi that I was within the top 15 or so runners.  This was pretty unusual for me since in the seven race 5K series I had been running I was never that far upfront.  I decided that as long as my foot felt well enough I would keep pushing the pace. The course had a long slow downhill section that was nice on the way out, but coming back I could just feel myself losing time as my legs turned to molasses. In the end I ran 20:33, which was slower than the last 5K I ran, but it was good enough for 2nd in my age group and 14th overall!  This was the first time I’d ever placed in a public race or gotten any prizes.  I got a free blender bottle, tech-wick hat, and some protein powder samples.

 

After the race there was an earth day fair set up in the factory parking lot with more than 70 vendors giving out samples of organic natural food products, and showcasing “green” products. It was a fun post race event, especially for being a smaller local race. They had live music, discounts on products from Stonyfield and the vendors, as well as a small beer garden. I grabbed some snacks, cashed in my two beer tickets and found a nice place to sit and enjoy my spoils.  I would say it would be a good race for spectators who weren’t running to even go to.

 

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In the end it just felt good to run a decent race pain free.  Hopefully I can continue to rehab from my stress fracture without over doing it too soon.  I’m eager to run as I’ve felt cooped up the last few weeks, but I know I’ve got to take it easy for a little while.