Thursday, May 10, 2012

The North Face Bear Mountain

Organized Chaos 
Three words to describe myself: organized, calculated, planner. After Bull Run Run without thought I proposed to my coach Bryon Powell that I run another 50 miler before Western States.  Several emails went back and forth sorting out rational and then I was given the thumbs up.  At the time I was in the middle of a big running week and the plan was to see that week through.  By the end of the week I had an extremely sore knee and felt tired.  On Tuesday, just four days before the race I was still in pain, but was lucky enough to have my physical therapist at Green Mountain Rehab sneak me into his busy schedule.  Andy worked some of what I would call "voodoo magic" on me, also known as dry needling.  It was now Wednesday and I still hadn't made a final decision on Bear Mountain as I wasn't confident my knee could withstand the technical course and distance.  On Thursday afternoon I made a last ditch effort as once again Andy snuck me into his schedule and used me as a pin cushion.  It felt like a gamble, but I was going to register.

Timber Ready to Join Me
I went online to register and learned that online registration was closed.  I sent out some emails and had a hard time getting a straight answer if I could register on the day of the race.  Time was ticking and panic started to set in.  I had just thrown on the brakes and gone into a major taper, had no real plan or concrete answers, and butterflies were starting to flutter.  Remember that I am calculated, not spontaneous.  Late Thursday I received a  confirmation email from the RD that I could register on the morning of the race.  From here I solidified travel plans with Chad Denning, wrote a frantic email to my nutritionist Meredith Terranova with all the needed aid station distances/course description and nailed down some entertainment, I mean a pacer for the last ten miles.

On Friday morning as I scurried around the house throwing things into bags and cooking food to bring I sent my husband a text saying "I'm freaking out about this weekend and if I made the right decision."  His response was perfect and simple, "Racing is a good way to challenge yourself." With the car packed, I made a quick stop for gas and Starbucks and I headed down to meet Chad.  To simplify things once we arrived in New York we camped in the shuttle parking lot since we would have to be on the bus around 3:45 AM.  We were in good company with Amy Lane, Brian Rusieki, Heather Furman, Serena Wilcox and Nick Yardley.

Race Day
Photo By: Ultra Race Photos
After a short night sleep, a bus ride and registration it was almost go-time.  I had decided to wear my Salomon Crossmax shoes, Drymax cycle socks and my Slab pack because of the rarity of drop bags/lack of a crew.  As the masses started to line up at the start I had no real idea of what the day would hold.  My plan was to not run 100 percent, but to use the race as an opportunity to practice certain things.  That alone would be a challenge, since I am usually an all or nothing type person.  With headlamps on we started promptly at 5AM with the temperatures in the mid to upper 50s.  I started a bit further back in the pack then I normally do, not wanting to get swept up in the excitement and go out to full on race.  After a short road section we settled into a gradual double track uphill climb.  I passed a few females and assumed North Face athlete Tracy Garneau was tucked in with the front male pack.  This assumption meant I was right where I wanted to be.  

After the first aid station I handed off my headlamp to Amy Lane and she told me I was the first female.  I was shocked and then began to expect Tracy to go blowing past me at any moment.  I just needed to continue to stick to my plan and not worry about other people. As I made my way across a short pavement section it was back into the woods were I was joined by several males. We made our way up and down technical sections, meandered past swamps, jumped rock to rock to avoid streams and actually ran some nice single track. With just over 12 miles ticked off we scrambled to find our next orange flags and as I looked at my watch I knew it was going to be a very slow course.  The group I was with was a mixture of first time 50 mile runners, some runners who had set an ambitious pace for themselves and even one who was brave enough to be running the race without water or fuel in hand.  There seemed to be a lack of a method to our madness, no steady pace or consistency and it was making me feel drained.  

Photo By: Mountain Peak Fitness
Around mile 21 at the Skannatati aid station I was able to allude the group and start to fall into my own groove.  Some beautiful single track and eventually a stretch of pavement that allowed me to open my stride up.  The humidity was high, but I was grateful that the air temperature wasn't that hot.  I was able to pick off a few male runners and then finally settled in behind Jordan Whitlock who was running a very similar pace to mine.  We exchanged conversation and took turns pushing and pulling.  Finally I felt like everything was falling into place. Speaking of falling, around mile 25/26 I went to leap from rock to rock to make way across a stream, although my right foot slipped on the mossy rock and I was airborne. I nailed my right knee, hip and head on rocks and then ended up fully submerged in the stream.  Granted it did feel nice to have the salt washed off, but I needed to get up as fast as possible before my body decided it was done.  Also ipods don't like swimming, goodbye music.  

Photo By: Ultra Race Photos
For about the next mile I questioned whether my knee was going to lock up or decide to cooperate.  As Jordan and I arrived at the Camp Lanowa aid station I asked for my drop bag, grabbed some extra drink mix out of it, stocked up on GU and then hit the pavement.  Looking at my watch I knew that the course was already over 2 miles long and that was a bit difficult for me to swallow.  If my memory serves me correctly this section had us running some great single track and then we turned left up a pavement road.  The pavement climb wasn't that steep, but it was too much hard surface for my liking.  About 3/4 the way I remember saying to Jordan that I was going to walk.  I did just that and then within 10 seconds I had asked myself why I was walking.  I knew I was being lazy and before I knew it I was back to running.  Finally a sigh of relief as we made our way off the pavement and back into the woods.  After a short single track climb we were headed downwards!  What a long and fun downhill, but it was important to keep speed in check with down tress, rocks and mud.  Jordan did a great way picking lines through mud pits and navigating us around others.  

Eventually I could hear the busy highway and stayed focus on making it to the Anthony Wayne aid station at mile 40 where fellow Salomon teammate Glen Redpath would be waiting to join me.  When I saw him from afar I skipped and jumped like a school girl.  A quick stop at the aid station and then Glen and I were off together.  I was excited to catch up with him and appreciated his course knowledge.  At times it was like I was running with a celebrity, everyone we passed on the trail or at an aid station yelled out "Gleeeennnnn".  The distraction was nice as I kept telling myself just ten miles, just ten miles, I knew I still had a lot in the tank, although at the same time I knew I needed to keep my mind focused.  On the final downhill we ran side by side for a photo opportunity, because I have always wanted my picture taken in action with the Godfather of running.  Then it was back to reality as Glen wanted me to hunt down the guy in front of me and I was running out of distance to do it.  I turned the legs on and went cruising past him and then kicked it into the finish for a time of 9:19.  

The North Face did a great job putting on a race over technical trails that reminded me of running in the Green Mountains.  A huge source of disappointment though was the amount of trash I saw on the trail from runners.  I saw GU packet after GU packet and it honestly made me sad. When I came across the first few packets I bent over a picked them up, although after five or six I knew I couldn't get them all.   Lets take pride in ourselves and our playground as I guarantee the weight of that empty packet isn't going to make or break your performance.