Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vermont 50 - ???

In 2004 I ran my first ultra race, after running Vermont City Marathon I heard about the Vermont 50 and decided I would try to see how far I could make it.  Despite being very naive about the distance, pacing, and fueling I survived and was inspired and hooked. This race has always been a favorite and I consider it to be my home turf. 

I started racing in January this year and have raced more than I ever have before in one season.  I tried to be focused this year and not over race, therefore every race served a purpose.  After Transrockies I was mentally and physically tired but tried to maintain my fitness in hopes of making it to the start line of VT50.  Why do one more race?  This race would serve a purpose, my intent was to secure a slot into Western States incase I decided that this year I am ready.  Leading up to the race I wasn’t confident in my running, I was feeling unmotivated to train and had no desire to run fast.  If it came down to it on race day could I will myself to a top two finish?  Was I asking too much of my body and mind to compete in one more ultra?

I tried to remain calm and grounded and take it day by day until race day arrived.  I took two days off the week before the race which is typically unheard of for me but my body was telling me it was necessary.  I got everything lined up and ready knowing that if I was going to race I wanted all details attended to.  My mother graciously agreed to crew for me and I lined up a pacer for the last 10 miles since I typically lose a lot of time at the end and am in need of company.

Before I knew it I was at the start line and we were off.  The lead pack of men took off setting a blistering pace.  I found myself next to Nate Sanel of NH and we were heading up the second pack.  I had a few females close behind but tried to not worry and just run my race.  Within a few miles it was clear I was going out too fast.  I felt fine but didn’t need to be running sub 7’s this early on.  I remember apologizing to Nate for breathing so hard due to a chest cold.  My heart rate was fine, my legs felt good but I was congested.  Nate and I ran side by side trying to control our pace, but would get wrapped up in conversation and before we knew it would be back to an ambitious early pace.  Nate’s comment of “God does not like a coward” kept me thinking.  As we pulled into the second aid station Nate stopped for water and I continued on.  Within a minute I heard foot steps behind me and started chatting again.  A few minutes after talking and not getting a response I turned around and realized it wasn’t Nate behind me, ops.  I got passed by a few males and caught a glimpse of a female close behind.  I settled into my own pace and remained comfortable.  Within a few minutes the female was side by side with me and I realized she was part of a relay.  I stayed in front of her and focused on getting to the first handler aid station where my mother waited. 

"AID" (Aid Station Not Aliza In Distress)
I arrived at mile 12 and my mom was ready with a fresh bottle and a baggie of fuel.  I grabbed everything in stride and didn’t stop.  About a half of a mile down the road I realized that I didn’t eat much of the fuel that I started with, therefore I didn’t have enough room in my waist pack for the stuff my mom just handed off to me.  Luckily I was able to pawn two gu’s off to a mountain biker and a package of shot blocks to a spectator.  Now I could focus on running again and my new goal was to make it to the next handler station at mile 31.  I made use of chatting with mountain bikers and fellow runners to keep my mind occupied.  It is fun to play leap frog with the bikers as I would pass them on the climbs and then they would return on the descents.  For a while I was the pace car for a stream of bikers on a long uphill climb.  It felt odd to be setting the pace for them and despite encouraging them to pass they remained content letting me lead the way. 

As I pulled into the Cady Brook aid station at mile 23 I was told I was running in second and about 10 minutes back.  I was very taken back as I knew I was running in first.  I filled my bottle and remained calm figuring even if I was in second that was still good enough to accomplish my goal of securing a slot into WS.  I continued to run a comfortable pace while staying on top of my nutrition.  My stomach was really starting to rebel and I had to stop and go to the bathroom.  Not to be gross but it was well worth the minute of time as I felt about 5 lbs lighter and a heck of a lot better.  Now I just had a few more miles to get to my mother.  I plugged away on a single track uphill and tripped.  The conditions were so dry that I got covered in dry dirt and believe it or not I hate having dirty hands.  The nastiness on my hands only got worse as I pulled the trash out of my waist pack as I pulled into the aid station.  The crowd of spectators was huge and my mother was standing ready to go with my stuff.  I threw my trash and empty bottle down in front of her and grabbed my fuel from her again in stride.  The crowd was amazed and cheered.   Afterwards my mother told me that someone asked how I was doing and my mother’s response was I don’t know, we don’t make eye contact and no words, we just do the hand off. 

With just under 20 miles to go my focus shifts to making it to mile 40 where I will pick up my pacer Luke.  Luke and I have never met, but spoken on the phone once as he is a friend of a friend.  Realistically I know I don’t “need” a pacer but have noticed in previous races that I struggle towards the end because I have run alone for so long.  I didn’t really need someone to push my to the end but rather someone to keep my company and help keep me honest with my pace. My thoughts also wondered to my husband George and how his race was going on his single speed.  I looked at my watch and realized he could be finishing at any moment, a bit of jealousy.  Again on the up hills I found that I was the pace car for mountain bikers.  I had a biker hot on my heels and encouraged him to let me know when he was ready to pass.  He responded that he was “enjoying the view” and “content to stay behind me.”   Not really sure how to respond to that, I kept my pace consistent for a while and then dropped him.

As I popped out of the woods and onto the dirt road I knew I was within a ½ of mile of my pacer.  I had no idea what he looked like, but he found me and filled my bottle and we were off. Conversation came easily between us and it was great to have company.  He was very upbeat and full of energy which was a bit contagious.  Now I had less than 10 miles to go and about 7 miles until I would see my mom for the last time.  I tried to stay on top of fueling so not to bonk towards the end.  Luke and I were running windy single track as I ate two shot blocks.  The second one didn’t go down correctly, hummm, I felt pressure in my nose. I blew a snot rocket and shot block flew out.  I now felt better and was astonished at what just happened.   I had to share with Luke as it was the first time I had every blown a shot block snot rocket. 


The closer we got to the finish the more acquaintances I saw out on course.  It was uplifting to see them and say hello.  Before I knew it we arrived at the final aid station.  I grabbed my last baggie and bottle from my mom.  Immediately I worked on eating a gu even though that meant slowing my pace, even though we were still 3 miles out from the finish we could hear it.  Within about five minutes the gu kicked in and I felt as fresh as I did at the start.  My pace increased and before I knew it I was putting distance on my pacer.  I continued doing my thing and hoped he would understand.  I crossed the line and felt a huge sense of relief as I felt like my season could now be over.  My time of 7:22 was just shy of a personal best for the course, but I had accomplished my goal. 

I am ready; actually I am more than ready for cross training and strengthening.  I was fortunate that I didn’t have to will my way through the race.  I ran comfortable and did not have the need to push my body beyond what it was giving me.  Before starting the race I read a passage about higher power thinking verses lower power thinking.  I tried to remind myself of the words that I had read as they would help me through the race and the days to come.  

 "Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities. Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your  own powers you cannot be successful or happy. But with self-confidence you can succeed. A sense of inferiority and inadequacy interferes with the attainment of your hopes, but self-confidence leads to self-realization and successful achievement." -Norman Vincent Peale

Friday, September 17, 2010


I was recently reading an article and came across the quote,

"What’s worth doing is worth overdoing."

Immediately I thought about myself and my tendencies. If I had to type myself I would classify myself as a Type A personality. I am very motivated, rigid, feel urgency/impatience, competitive, critical and controling (mostly with myself). I seem to be very black and white with my thinking and the way I do things. I am aware of my characteristics, but they are a part of me. All of these attributes hold true in my daily life whether at work, hanging out or running.

This past year I have really been working on accepting me for me despite what I see as my downfalls. To you it maybe logical, and go without question, that if you are tired or sick that you don't run. You may or may not feel anxious or angry if you don't get your workout in. I am learning that life goes on if my workout gets cut short. I am learning that when I am tired or hurt I should listen to my body. I am learning that if I am compulsive with my running I should therefore be compulsive with my rest.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Slow is the New Fast"

Since seeing “Slow is the New Fast” printed on the back of wicker shirts at Pineland Farms in May I haven’t let it go. I remember having to comment on the shirt as I fell in love with it the instant I read it. In the moment I actually envied the females wearing the shirts and found myself wishes that I was moving at their pace. In my mind there is nothing wrong with being “slow” and perhaps that speed is actually more beneficial.

For some reason life seems to be speeding by and speeding up. Why must people drive over the speed limit simply to arrive 5 minutes faster? Why does it seem that sometimes quick answers are more valued than a well thought out response? Is the person who crosses the finish line first necessarily better than those who follow? We see ads for it in the media constantly, fast cars, high speed internet, fast service, etc.

Where I am going with all of this I am not sure, but what I do know is I have slowed my life down enough to think about it. I almost feel embarrassed to say that I have to force myself to slow down to stop, think and reflect. When is the last time you really spent time with your thoughts? When is the last time you really slowed your mind down enough on a run to listen to your breathing and the way your foot strikes the ground? Maybe you often do it, but I know I don’t.