After Leona I needed to find a race for June because I didn’t get into Western States. I was actually happy to not have to fly across the country so soon and was really looking forward to some competition. I came across the Cayuga 50 trail race which was in its first year and promised to bring elite runners from around the country. I emailed the race director to find out some information on the course, mailed in my entry fee and started to train my butt off. I was really nervous and excited at the same time. The course was supposed to have 5500 feet of elevation gain and two weeks prior to the race an email came out to all the runners and the course now had over 10,000 feet of gain! I had no idea of what to expect but I was ready for a challenge.
As the race got closer the elite field started to shrink. Nikki, Krissy and Ragan could not attend for various reasons but there were still some incredibly fast runners to chase! I looked at the entrants list and was thrilled to be having the opportunity to chase Cassie, Deb, Amy, Jaqueline, Sandi and Rachel! This was going to be a very hard race for me but I was ready for the challenge. The week before the race I had my last long run with my friend Alton and we did a Franconia Ridge Traverse. It was awesome because we ran into so many friends up there! The weather was pretty hot and I brought plenty of water for Jack puppy to drink. Jack puppy loves to run and he especially loves to run on ridges! I took a nice fall within the first mile and ripped my shin apart. It was all good and it was a beautiful day with a good friend.
As we were coming off the ridge we both ran out of water and felt like we were getting a bit out of it. We were thrilled to see Ryan running up the trail to meet us with about 3 miles to go and we stole his water from him! It felt really good to drink! Jack puppy was excited to play in the streams to cool down. We had a nice lunch with Alton and made our way to the campsite. The next day I volunteered at the Bretton Woods Race while Ryan ran in the blistering heat! It was so hot and I manned an aid station on the course right before a huge climb and did my best to keep the runners cooled down and hydrated! One of the race highlights was a moose running across the trail above my aid station! It was so neat! It was fun to see so many friends out there racing and anyone who finished that race is a total badass! Ryan had a great race and after hanging out for the awards we drove home for showers and sleep.
We both had a very busy week ahead of us and I was getting anxious about Cayuga. The week went by quickly and I got those lovely taper pains that show up when the mileage drops before a key race. As usual I wondered how I would even get through the race and began thinking I was insane for even thinking I had a shot at placing against this stacked field. I took some deep breaths and remembered that I did my training and no matter what happens on race day I can’t make myself faster and all I can do is put a smile on my face and just enjoy the race. On Thursday pictures were posted from the pre race interviews with the elites and I wanted autographs! These girls are incredible runners and it was going to be an honor to chase them! I still see myself as a mid pack runner even though I know things have changed for me over the last 2 years. Coming from running to chase aid station cutoffs to a terrible debilitating injury to now chasing the fast girls has my head spinning. I don’t think I will ever feel like one of the fast girls and honestly hope I never do. It keeps me grounded, it keeps me humble and after my injury in 2011 I truly appreciate just being able to run again pain free.
Ryan and I worked together washing houses Friday morning in the pouring rain and came home in the afternoon, took showers and got in the car for the 6.5 hour drive to Ithaca. On the way I got an email from my coach which made me smile. We missed the pre race briefing but did make it in time to pick up my race packet just before 8pm. Gary had filled me in on the info: follow the pink ribbons and red arrows. Deep stream crossing and a lot of mud. I thought it was really cute that Ian put the name “Danger Girl” on my bib number. We then had a quick Thai dinner and drove to the campsite. We checked into the campground and pulled out the brand new tent that was still in the box. It was 9:30 pm and raining and I just wanted to get to bed! It took a while to figure out how to get the thing set up but we did it and were in bed by 11pm. I had to be up at 4am and was upset about going into another race tired. I did cry a bit. I got a little sleep and woke up bright and early. We made breakfast and a monster cup of very strong coffee. I did not want GI problems so I figured I would try to clean myself out with the coffee. It worked very well.
I wore my La Sportiva skirt, team singlet, and Helios, my Choucas Hats Happy Fit Headband, Julbo Dust (which I took off because it rained) and my UltrAspire Surge packs. I put on my pink sparkly lip gloss and I got a nice smooch from my Ryan and puppy kisses from Jack puppy. I was ready to race, no, chase. I was very nervous and overwhelmed with the fact that I had to run with so many superstar runners and cried on the way to the race start. I felt a lot of anxiety but once I walked into the building to check in I was greeted by Carly, Gary and Deb. They smiled and made me feel comfortable. Soon I was chatting with Amy and it was getting better. Amy, Deb and myself stood at the start and decided we didn’t care who it was but at least one of us East Coast girls had to stand on the podium! This was our turf and east coast girls may not be fast on the nice run-able trails out west but we are rugged and tough! Deb and Amy are such nice girls and Amy and her husband Brian have been given the opportunity to represent the United States in Wales next month! Please help them get to the race by following this link: http://igg.me/p/usa-trail-running-team/x/3532120
So the horn blew and we were off! I ran with Amy and Sandi for the first few miles. We were yapping like girls do and enjoying how pretty the course was! At some point I pulled away and didn’t realize it until I was talking and no one was responding. I figured they would just catch me so I carried on. Ryan and I had discussed my crew instructions prior to the race and we had a plan. I was thrilled to have a crew! This would be a new experience and the best part was that I never had to stop!
The course was spectacular, nothing that I expected. After the course changes I thought the 10k feet of gain would be mostly hiking. It was all run-able! OMG, how was I going to run 50 miles! I prefer hiking courses because it is easier! This would be a tough one. I did want to break 8 hours so I knew I would have to move efficiently. This course had long hills that were grueling at times, stream crossings (one that was chest deep on the first pass through), shin deep mud, mud that was like glue, stone steps that were so wet and slippery and some of the most amazing waterfalls I have ever seen! Whenever I got tired I just looked around and the beauty of the course made me smile again! I was slowly closing in on the lead woman Cassie and was excited to try my best to chase her down.
When I arrived at mile 12 I knew Ryan would be there with my pack change. I saw Scott Livingston in the parking lot and asked him if that were the aid station. I called out to Ryan and yelled out that I needed my pack and an electrolyte drink. He was awesome! I never stopped running as I handed him my pack and took the new one. I then took the electrolyte drink and drank half of it and pushed up the steep steps along the waterfall. As I got to the top it was back to running again and the mud was getting much slicker and deeper! I laughed out loud at the funny sounds my shoes made as they got sucked into the mud! It sounded like suction cups! My shoes were full of mud and it was too funny! I was looking forward to the steep stream crossing so that I could clean up a bit! I quickly found myself at the 18 mile aid station where I was about 30 seconds behind Cassie. I was not ready to chase yet so I just held my pace. I saw Ryan and he told me to go get her, I told him I was not ready to be the mountain lion yet and at that moment was a deer being chased by a pack of wolves.
I caught up to Cassie on the hill and seriously was star struck! I wanted her autograph! It was such an honor to be in a race, running right behind this incredible woman!!! She must have thought I was insane. I just don’t see myself as one of the fast girls even though I seem to be turning into one of them. It’s funny how my mind works. We chatted for a bit and she told me she had slipped on some mud and her hamstring was sore. She didn’t want to be laid up for Western States. I told her I couldn’t believe how good I was feeling and I stuck with her for a bit but it was obvious she was not going to be able to fly today. I had a battle in my mind because I didn’t feel like I should be passing her. As soon as a guy that I passed earlier came by us I realized her race was over, she told me she was dropping. I had to move on. I told her I was sorry for her injury and wished her a quick recovery. I giggled down the fast downhill and then cried because I really wanted to have a chance to race her. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be up front. She was the faster runner.
Soon I was at the 25 mile mark and Ryan was there for me with a new pack and a much needed smile. I wanted the win at that moment. I looked at Ryan and told him I loved him. Scott Livingston cheered me on and I could hear the kids cheering for me! It was so inspiring! At that moment I began to wonder what was happening. How could I be up front, how could I be feeling so good! I saw Amy and Sandi about 15 minutes behind me and did not want them catching me. I suddenly found the drive to push a bit harder. Up and over, I was exhausted, wondering when I would blow up and get caught. I cried out loud “I don’t want to be a deer anymore running for my life”. Somehow I kept moving forward. My knees hurt, my quads were on fire and slowly my lower body was going numb. My hips were so tight and with every slip on the muddy terrain I thought I was going to tear something. Then the rain came. It felt so good on my body. The stream crossings felt so nice on my tired legs and I just wanted to lay down in the streams and take a nap. A little voice inside me told me to keep going, to keep pushing.
At the turnaround I saw Ryan and gave him a kiss as I took my new pack from him. I was so appreciative of his support that day. He sacrificed his training runs to help keep me moving fast. I told him I was coming undone and needed him to be at each aid station. I just wanted to see his smile and to have a moment to touch him. Scott saw me and told me that I needed to run smart and stay calm and I could win this race. I thanked him and kept his words with me for the next 12 miles. As I faded both emotionally and physically knowing that I would see him every few miles gave me a reason to keep moving forward and to not give up. I had a lot of time to think and a lot of time to cry over the next few miles. I was having a blast and the tears were of joy and pride. It was an extremely emotional week for me and I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. Sometimes a good crying session can feel so good.
The more my body hurt the more I thought about what I was running for. I ran for myself, to see what I was made of. I ran for my coach who trains me so hard, I ran for my sponsors who have allowed me to represent their companies. I ran to make Ryan proud, I ran for my parents who after years of disliking my sports finally ask me about my races and get excited for me. I ran for the girls I coach who try so hard on every run we do and refuse to let the hills get the best of them, who raise families and work full time and still find the time to get in their miles and show up for our weekly runs. I ran with my heart and with a passion I carry so deep within me. I ran for the people who believe in me and the people who inspire me. I prayed for the strength to keep going and I thanked God for giving me a gift I never knew I had.
Yes, I did a lot of thinking. I got to the next aid station and had six miles left. Ryan was there for me with Jack puppy and it made me smile and I knew that if I could keep going that I may be able to keep the lead. I threw up once but never had the severe Diarrhea I usually get at these races. The next 3.5 miles were tough. I started to have trouble breathing and my diaphragm began to cramp. My chest felt heavy and it hurt too much to take in a deep breath. I took shallow half breaths and just kept moving through the beautiful terrain. After what seemed like eternity I was at the last aid station and knew the next few miles were mostly downhill. Ryan gave me a new pack and a kiss. I couldn’t wait to see him at the finish. I ran barely able to breath, knees on fire and a heart full of pride and shock. With about a mile to go I cried out loud that I was done being a deer, I knew I was going to win the race. I trained my ass off to prove to myself that I can race the fast girls and that I can be strong. As I turned the corner there was a momma deer and a tiny fawn in the middle of the trail looking at me. I know it was a sign and I broke out into a teary mess again. I am a very emotional person and was so thankful for being able to even have the opportunities that I have been given.
I saw Ryan and gave him a big hug as I ran through the field to the finish line where I was faced with cameras and a pile of people cheering me on! I finished in about 8:26:40. Sandi and Amy came in for 2nd and 3rd place and Jessica came in 4th and this was her first 50 mile race!!!!! I was hoping for sub 8 hours but was thrilled with my time especially after I saw that people were getting over 12,500 feet of gain and another 12,500 of loss! Nobody knew who I was and it was very strange to be interviewed by Meaghan Hicks at IrunFar. I was in such a state of shock and could not believe what had just happened! I laughed and told her that I could retire now from running because when you get an interview on IrunFar you know you made it as a runner.
Unfortunately I could not stay for the awards as Ryan and I had to make the 5.5 hour drive to Vermont for his race at Ascutney. We said our good byes and made the long drive to VT. We splurged on a hotel and the hot shower felt so lovely! After a nice night of sleep we woke up and went to Ascutney for Ryans race. Ryan is now on the Pearl Izumi Ultra running team and it was his first run in the new kit! He looked so nice in the blue singlet and watching him line up for the first time as a sponsored runner made me so proud of him! He took 11th place in a stacked field! He looked so strong coming up the hill! My team mate Josh won the race in a very fast time!
After a long weekend of driving and running we had one last stop for Ryans dads 80th birthday dinner before finally sleeping in our own bed. I have so many emotions right now and so many thoughts. I had a very tough week emotionally and finished it with an incredible race. If Cassie didn’t hurt her leg, if Sandi didn’t have a biopsy would things have been different? Could I have run harder if I needed to? I don’t know. I chose this race to be challenged, to find competition. I was challenged and I did have to run beyond what I thought I could. One day I hope to test my legs against these girls again and see if I can hang with them when they are feeling good. For me, the stars aligned. I went into the race feeling tired and overwhelmed and came out of it feeling awesome! To win a race like that is an incredible experience and even if I never get to do it again once was more than I ever thought possible for me.
I have so many people to thank! First of all my fiance Ryan sacrificed his runs for 3 days to help me get to the race and make sure I could run through the aid stations comfortably. Ryan lets me chase him everywhere and it really helps me out. I wish that him running with me gave him the same benefit I get. I appreciate everything he does for me. I need to thank my Jack puppy for always reminding me that running is fun and something special that not everyone gets to do. Thank you to my incredible coach for beating me up with the biggest baseball bat he can find. I have come to love your torture and you were only supposed to stop me from injuring myself and instead you gave me speedy legs! Thank you to my mom for teaching me to always be kind and humble. She taught me to appreciate what I have. Thank you to my dad for teaching me to take pride in everything I do and giving me my relentless drive and determination. Thank you to Meredith for helping me to not poop during a race and for helping me to stay at a healthy weight. I feel really good! Thank you to Amber for fixing me up in 2012, I am forever grateful for what you did for me. Thank you to my awesome sponsors La Sportiva, Choucas Hats, UltrAspire and Julbo USA for helping me run comfortably. Your equipment is top notch and I am proud to represent you all! Thank you to Jay, Vickie and Lisa for teaching me that it is okay to sparkle when I play in the mud! Yes, I paint my nails and throw on shiny pink lip gloss before I race. Your photo session last November changed my outlook on life. Thank you to Ann for changing my outlook on life in an hour. You are a very special woman. Thank you to my friends for training with me, dealing with me running all the time and being there to make me laugh. You are awesome! Thank you to my running club Acidotic racing for letting me be a part of your group and for helping me to put on races here in NH! Thank you to my “girls” who I am coaching to run Vulcans Fury in November. You work so hard and each week make me so proud. I ran a large portion of this race for you! Thank you to Sheryl for teaching me about being patient during a race, your advice will stay with me forever. Thank you to Team Tuez for sharing your goals and together working towards a healthier and more active lifestyle! You work so hard and have covered so many miles since you started! You make me look forward to the daily post! Thank you to everyone who inspires me each day! You are all such a big part of my life.
Get on the waiting list for our one of a kind trail running camp which will provide amazing runs and spa services next May! www.athleticandbeautiful.com . I am also hosting the Harmony Hill Summer Cross Country Series this summer as a fundraiser for Northwood Meadows and an opportunities for families to do something fun together. I am also going to be offering another Learn to Trail run program this fall so get your name on the waiting list! We are having a blast on our 6 month couch to Vulcans Fury 12 mile trail race program and I am sure our fall program will be just as fun!
Go put on some pink shiny lip gloss and chase your dreams! Stay calm and sparkle on! 🙂