The last month has been full of emotion, both happy and sad. I have had so many incredible adventures in the mountains with friends running and riding mountain bikes again! I’ve been working on my mountain running skills while still trying to chase that goal of a sub three hour marathon in October. I sure hope I tag that one because road running is just not for me and I don’t want to have to pound the pavement again to train for another one!
I have been training for Virgil Crest 50 as well as the marathon and really loved getting in the mountains for some crazy hard days! Ryan and I pulled off an overall FKT of the swan song loop a few weeks ago which was one of the hardest adventures I have ever had in the White Mountains! I still wonder how 31 miles can take 13 hours and 25 minutes to complete! Ryan asked me if I wanted to do something hard in the mountains so I said yes and off we went!
As usual we got a late start and made our way up Kings Ravine laughing at the rocks and taking in the views. Once up on the ridge we went over to Adams and then down to the buttress trail where we entered the Great Gulf and then climbed the very steep Great Gulf Trail where we surprised a guy taking a crap on the side of the trail. Maybe he should think about where he poops next time!
After we got over the headwall we stood on top of Mount Washington and stuffed our faces with Whoopie Pies, Coke, Hotdogs, Pizza and refilled our hydration packs. We went down the Tuckermans ravine trail and were treated to beautiful views! Once down lower we went up the Boot Spur Link Trail and to the Boot Spur trail and then down to Pinkham notch where we once again refilled our water.
We headed up the trail into Huntington Ravine trail which always scares the crap out of me! We got into the Alpine Garden where we saw a porcupine and then made our way to the Wamsutta trail which was beautiful and so steep! After that we were back in the Great Gulf and it was just starting to get dark. Half way up the Madison Gulf Trail we had to pull out our headlamps and once we got on the ridge there were so many stars and the moon was huge! We stopped in the Madison Hut to buy some Lemonade and refill our packs before making our way up to the top of Madison and down the Watson Path to Brookside Trail and back to Appalacia! It was a ridiculous amount of climbing and descending and we laughed the whole day! We ran into multiple friends throughout the day which made the adventure even more fun! If you are ever feeling adventurous this loop is for you!
This last weekend after a week of very little sleep and a lot of worrying about my dad my mom told me to go race and enjoy my weekend. There was nothing I could do for my dad, he needs to sleep and rest and having me down there would keep him up. It kills me to not be there but I also know he needs this time to rest. My boss is incredible and told me I could leave at any time to see my dad which really took a lot of stress off of me.
By Thursday I was completely exhausted and ready for the week to be over. I had a four day weekend and was looking forward to spending it trying to make my legs hurt more than my heart. Well, the adventure kicked off a bit earlier than expected! A call from our friend who is an amazing photographer brought a new adventure to the weekend! We would carry huge packs with 50+ pounds of camera gear, dresses and sleeping bags to the top of South Moat for a series of photos. Sunset, Milky Way and Sunrise. Basically very little sleep but some opportunities for killer shots!
We had fun, the wind was making it quite challenging and trying to balance on rocks in heels and dresses in the wind was not easy but we also got some good ones with bare feet. It was so fun and Jack puppy even slept in my sleeping bag with me! After the sun came up and we were done shooting we all hiked back down and Ryan and I headed home with the Jack puppy to make the long drive to NY to race Virgil Crest.
I would be racing the 50 mile which I decided would determine whether I run that distance again or just keep it under 50k. My two goals were to not have to crap a bunch and to make my legs hurt more than my heart. I was a bit nervous but with so much on my mind it helped make me feel more calm about running. Our friend Tony was attempting his first 100 and Ryan would help crew Tony with his wife Lise and friend Heather until our friend Scottie got to mile 50 and then Ryan would pace Scottie and I would take a nap for a bit and the crew and pace Tony until the last 11 miles where Heather would pace him to the finish. We were surrounded by friends, I had gotten to talk to my dad and I was feeling happy.
The race started in the dark and I just smiled, I was excited to be there surrounded by so many people ready to take on an adventure. We all had different paths to get to where we were and I really enjoyed making new friends during the run! We got to the first aid station pretty quickly and Ryan took my headlamp and off I went yapping and laughing away with other runners! I did have moments where I cried as I felt selfish for being at the race instead of with my dad. My parents wanted me there instead of in CT.
I thought of Zoe and Hannah a lot during the race and wished they were there with me. We don’t see the kids enough and it’s so hard now that they are further away and on the weekends they are in so many activities that we may end up only seeing them during school vacations. I got sad thinking about how much I missed them and also happy that they are in my life and that we have such an incredible relationship! I am so lucky to have two little kids in my life that I love so much and they seem to love me too!
I thought of my life and how my journey had taken me to that moment and I focused on the trail and where I was and I just took in the sound of my breathing, the beauty of the trail and enjoyed hearing stories from other runners I shared some miles with. One of them was a combat veteran who served overseas and decided one day to turn his drug and alcohol addiction into an addiction for living a healthy lifestyle. I thanked him for defending our freedom and we chatted about life and kids and running. We both decided wars should be fought through a good trail run or a game of golf.
I was alone again on the trail and had many moments of crying because I was so happy to be there and so sad that my dad was sick. I smiled when I saw the running magazines scattered around on the trail and when I got into the turnaround I was greeted with smiling volunteers who were so eager to make sure I had what I needed before heading back down the trail.
I had pooped twice before the turnaround but it was solid and didn’t make me feel sick. I hoped that the last 25 miles would treat me well. I accidentally blew by a turn and ran down a huge hill only to realize I went the wrong way and I looked at my watch and saw the mileage and ran back to where I messed up. Bonus miles!!!! I ran 3/4 miles extra and panicked a bit. I pushed a bit harder than I should have and ended up with my legs being a bit sore.
By the time I got to the alpine loop it was very hot and humid and the descents were killing my knees! I was coming undone and had hit a really dark place. I wanted to quit and I questioned my sanity. I got hungry and reached into my pack and found some power pellets and smiled and cried at the same time. They made me think of Chad who died suddenly last year on a trail run. I chewed them and cried. I talked to Chad, he was with me and he was going to get me through the rest of my run. I dried my tears and ran that alpine loop with another runner that I had caught up with. We chatted a bunch and soon found ourselves catching another guy who was starting to struggle with the heat as well.
That aid station could not come fast enough. I drank apple cider, gingerale and Tailwind. I ate fruit and potato chips and refilled my hydration pack again. I didn’t want to leave but knew I had to finish. I ran the best I could focusing on the next aid station. I was dehydrated and starting to struggle with labored breathing and a spike in my heart rate. My legs were getting sore and I was certainly feeling the pack carry from the day before. The lack of sleep all week was finally catching up to me and I could feel my body starting to fail. I peed once and it looked like Coke. I knew that was bad. I was drinking and taking electrolytes and trying to run based on effort. I thought of my dad and how much pain he has been in and decided that whatever I was going through would be nothing compared to what he was feeling. I ran the rest of the race for my dad because he couldn’t be outside enjoying his favorite time of year. He loves hiking in the fall and now he was at home in bed with severe pain that he didn’t have an answer to. I hoped I would see Ryan at the last aid station to give him a heads up that I might be a medical emergency at the finish but when I got to the aid station and didn’t see him I was glad he wasn’t there because I would have probably dropped.
I had to finish, I had 6.3 miles to go so I ate, drank and ran. I did a lot more thinking and a lot more crying. I thought about my life and all the wonderful things I have done. I thought about my family and how much I love them. I thought of my 86 year old grandmother that had surgery last week and pulled though like a champ and I thought about my dad and prayed that he live a long healthy life. When I thought I was going to collapse on the trail from the heat the rain came and cooled me off. It was exactly what I needed at that moment! I felt renewed and refreshed as I ran down the last hill to the paved path that would eventually end my run with a womens win (4th overall) and a 9:21 for a time! That was a huge PR on the course because last time I ran an 11:53!! I crossed that finish line so happy! Both goals were accomplished, I did not poop the whole time and my legs hurt way more than my heart. Ryan gave me a hug and Jack puppy gave me puppy kisses. Then Ryan gave me a huge bottle of electrolytes to drink as I sat and waited for Scottie to show up and Ryan to take off with him into the last 50 miles of his adventure.
I showered and tried to take a nap but it was not going to happen. When I had turned on my phone I saw a text from my mom that dad was back in the emergency room. My heart sank and I just wanted to drive to CT. She told me they were doing tests on him. I took a shower and headed back to meet Lise and Heather earlier than planned because I needed to be around friends to keep my mind busy. I would not be able to sleep worrying about my dad.
I hung out with Lise and Heather and got to see Tony come through the mile 50 point and head back out with a smile! By the time we saw him at mile 56 he was not in a good way and was struggling with GI issues. We tried to talk him into continuing but he knows his body and what he can tolerate. He called it a day and either way we were proud of him for giving it a try! Just as we got to the cars the skies opened up and it poured with lightning and a huge temperature drop. I thought of everyone still out there.
We went back to the room and I was texting with my mom until almost 3am when she said they were released from the hospital with a referral to a neurosurgeon and some meds. Finally they found something wrong and something they could try to fix. I fell asleep for a couple hours and then woke up to go see Scottie finish. Sadly I missed his finish but he finished strong and Ryan had fun pacing him!
I really enjoyed hanging out with so many friends over the weekend! I think one of the highlights of the weekend was actually being able to stick around to watch the last finishers. They were the toughest people out there. To be out on the course for almost 36 hours and endure such extreme temperature changes and weather and still persevere earns a lot of respect. They had that 100 mile shuffle going, that dazed look and a fire in their eyes that burned so bright! The tired smile that told a story that only they will know really brings a new meaning to the word badass. These guys and girls are tough.
Ryan and I had a great dinner with friends after a fun time at the waterpark! It was an incredible weekend and I am going to keep praying for my dad to be okay.
I want to thank my sponsors La Sportiva, JULBO USA, UltrAspire and Choucas Hats for their support and incredible gear! You make running comfy! Thank you to my coach Jack for dealing with my never ending change of plans! Thank you to my Ryan, Jack puppy, Zoe, Hannah and friends for sharing so many trail miles together on foot and on bike! Thank you to Jay Philbrick for always making me feel like a mountain princess! It’s fun to play dress up sometimes! Thank you to Ian Golden for being so awesome and making courses that are truly unique and fun! Thank you to the volunteers for being out there and taking care of us runners! Thank you the Mountain Peak Fitness/ Red Newt Racing crew for being so welcoming to me and allowing me to be an unofficial member! And thank you to everyone that is a part of my life. I am so lucky to be surrounded with such incredible people!
I never walk away from an ultra the same. I had so much time to think about things and of course figure out life a little bit more. Humans are creatures of habit and addiction and we need to take the time to listen to each other and help each other find healthy habits and addictions not through lecturing but instead through love and listening. We have a lot of very unhappy people these days and I fully believe that our electronic and instant gratification lifestyles have removed the very essence of human life. Patience, love, spending time with people in person and allowing ourselves to play even as an adult. These things need to change. The small little world of running long distances in the world breaks you down to the simplest existence and for most of us it makes us kinder to one another and shows us that life isn’t always about being on top but instead working together to give each other wings to fly. Do something nice for yourself today and something nice for someone else. I can guarantee when both are done you will smile inside and out!
Check out this podcast if you get a chance! One of the highlights of my summer! http://iancorless.org/2015/07/03/scott-jurek-and-the-at-appalachian-trail-fkt/