Monday, November 23, 2009

Stone Cat Trail Race - A Mental Challenge

Ever since I broke my femur five years ago at the Stone Cat trail race it has been a mentally challenging race for me. Each lap I can spot the exact root that I tripped on. With time I have learned many good lessons and to this day continue to learn from the incident. This year like always the butterflies started early for me, but the four lap course was the perfect place for me to try my completely new fueling strategy.

Teammate Kevin Sullivan and his family were kind enough to put my husband and I up the night before the race. With a full belly and everything laid out for the next day I tried to sleep. Saturday morning race check in went smoothly and before I knew it we were lined up for the start. The marathoners and the fifty milers would start together, but before running the full 12.5 mile loop the marathoners would run an extra mile loop. After the field split I spotted Amy Lane in front of me who was tucked behind the lead male group. I tucked behind her and said hello. At this point I was surprised that the men’s group wasn’t going out harder. I was tempted to pass them to see if they would respond, but figured that instead of the intended response of a smile and a faster pace I may get bad karma for toying with them.

Eventually the pack of lead male runners picked up their pace and disappear ahead of Amy and I. From here Amy and I took turns setting the pace and at times were joined by a male runner or two. The first lap went smoothly and we pulled into the start/finish around 1:41. I took a look at my first bottle and realized that I hadn’t really hydrated enough the first lap. I quickly dropped my jacket, grabbed a fresh bottle and headed back out on course with Amy.

The second lap was more comfortable as the temperature started to rise and the frost started to disappear. I continued to remind myself to drink and cracked open a gu about 17 miles into the race. Immediately after I opened the package I stubbed my toe and did a superman. Landing on the package it squirted covering me with gu and pine needles. If there is one thing that I cannot stand it is being sticky. I tried to eat what I could of the gu, dust off and continue to keep pace. The rest of the lap played out like the first with Amy and I chatting and taking turns leading the way, we pulled into the lap area around 3:37.

Again at the start/finish I checked my bottle to make sure I was taking enough in and went to grab a new bottle. As I was in the process I saw Kevin walking towards me and I thought he yelled to me “go get her”. Panic set in and I took off thinking Amy was in front of me. I ran a pretty aggressive pace for about two miles before being told by several runners that there were no females in front of me. I settled back into my original pace and tried to focus on the footing. I ran alone but had the chance to chat with other runners as I passed them along the way. I knew there were two male fifty mile runners a few minutes in front of me and I hope to narrow the margin so to have some company. In the attempt catch the runners I missed a turn. My immediate reaction was panic, but then I calmed down, corrected my error and got back on course. Again wanting to make up for lost time I started turning my legs over at a high rate. This paid off as I caught one of the fifty mile male runners in front of me. He was excited to see me because he was starting to slow and needed someone to help him continue to hold the pace. As we got close to the start/finish area at the end of our third lap I spotted my pacer who was waiting patiently, but eagerly.

After grabbing a fresh bottle, a gu and my Outdoor Research visor I joined Theresa and we were off. We were joined by the male who I ran the tail end of the third lap with and Theresa entertained us with her conversation. About fifteen minutes into the loop on a slight climb I felt my first real significant drop in energy. I quickly grabbed for a gu and chased it with about a quarter of my bottle. Within five minutes I felt back to normal and was ready to get the race done. Throughout the lap Theresa was diligent about watching my speed and form and was energized to push me when the right opportunity presented itself. Time and mileage passed quickly as her stories and us catching up kept my mind occupied. After completing the last technical single track section we picked up the pace and were motoring. Theresa is amazing to watch, especially when she can open up her stride, I enjoyed watching her run. As we made the final turn onto the path that lead to the finishing field I turned to Theresa and said “the finish looks so far away”. Looking back I have no idea why I said that because we then proceeded to sprint it in. I finished with a time of 7:19.

Theresa & I Still Smiling

Once I had finished I received my prize of beer (which made my husband extremely happy) I had the chance to talk to several people who were interested in the shoes I was wearing. I had raced in my trusty 320’s which provided ample cushion and plenty of traction for the course.

All said and done I couldn’t have prayed for a better day, it was a beautiful New England fall day, a great race and great support.


  1. I just finished reading your race report for the WS100... Congrats on a great run!!!

    I have been desperately trying to remember where I had heard your name in the past and it finally hit me. I attempted my first 50 at Stonecat after only having completed a 5k previously. I was absolutely blown away when you blew by me on a what I considered a "hilly" section. I had no idea anyone could run that pace for 50 miles.

    A few miles later I saw a runner on the ground and as I got closer realized it was that speedy girl that had just lapped me! I stopped and asked if I could help but the person who was with you said help was coming.

    I made sure after the race (I only completed 3 laps) I looked up your name because I knew I'd see it again in the ultra running community... and here you are, a sponsored athlete and 3rd place at one of the most prestigous 100 milers in the world!!!

    Congrats again and thank you for being an inspiration so early on in my running.

    Johnny Salazar

  2. Thanks for your comment Johnny and your concern on the trail. I really didn't realize how hurt I was as I sat on the side of the trail that day years ago at Stone Cat. Going from running everyday to being told you will probably never run again taught me about life, myself and those closest to me. I try to never taken anything for granted because everything in life is a gift. I hope that you are doing well and that our paths cross again in the future.