VT100k 2014 Part II

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As long as we run, the challenges are always changing. What never changes is the excitement of preparing for the next challenge, the anticipation of attempting things where success is not certain and the thrill of achieving the things we could not be sure were possible.
Gary Cantrell Ultrarunning Magazine

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Signing up for and running the VT100k was about trying something out of my comfort zone. 62 miles was a long way to go. The prep work was done. It was time for the acid test.
Hubby made his way into the woods around 3:30am. Five hours was too long to hang around on my feet. I shuffled to our tent, headlamps cutting across the dark field in all directions. Once the full 100 was off, I tried to relax. I opted to stay away from his start so I could maintain some composure. I’d gotten so nervous waiting for the 50k at the VT50 last year after hubby left I’d almost gotten in the car and driven away.
I did actually catch a few Zzs. A big part of me wanted to see him off. Some other race, though.
My ‘plan’, if you can call it one, was to finish the 100k distance. Just finish. Whatever that looked like. Run if I can, walk if I have to, crawl if I must, just keep moving. But my secret plan was to finish sub 16 hours. A 15 minute per mile pace seemed doable, with so much dirt road. Even though this was twice as far as I’d ever run, I mapped out my triumphant fast finish. I’ll run some 12s and 13s, walk all the hills and get in and out of the aid stations in under a minute. Everyone knows things always go according to planned in an ultra.

Pre race, the 100k’ers walk, as a group, up Silver Hill Road. The formal start was at the crest of the road. My nerves were calmed by moving. A simple Go signaled we were off.
Within minutes of the start I linked up with Helen. Helen and I chatted and ran and trotted and walked. Both of us wanted to keep our heart rates low in order to sustain for the distance. I was so grateful for the company. I thrive when I have company for the early miles. And thrive I did. I felt amazing for hours.
Blissfully, the first 4ish miles were downhill. I was clocking 10s and 10 1/2s. Wayyy too fast. But the pace felt easy. I’d never experienced trashed quads…would I, slapping the downhills, today?
Being so nervous, I was grateful for the dirt roads, vs trails (say what?). I tried to breathe and settle in. Dear God, I was really doing this.
Mile 6 is Lillian’s, our first aid station. Quick in and out. This were we join up with the full 100. Ah, and famed Agony Hill. This is a two mile climb. Some trail, but mostly dirt road. It is truly steep. And I live here. The roads in West Windsor area are steeper than the rest of VT. I power hiked it in its entirety. It hurt, but I knew once it was done, it would be one less hill to climb.
Running with horses and riders was such a blast. I loved as each beauty went by. It was super easy to make way for them to pass. They were a welcome distraction.
Mile 12 was our 1st time in and out of Camp Ten Bear. I hugged Dr Rick and some friends and made my way.
By the way, I broke a cardinal rule of racing. I was wearing sort-of new shoes. Two weeks before, I bought a pair of Hoka Bondi 3s. They fit just like my Mafate from last fall. No problem. This is my 6th pair of Hoka. I ran about 18 miles in them the week prior. Should be okay, right? Around Camp Ten Bear, my right pinky toe started to hurt, but no biggie.
Second time through Ten Bear. I weighed in. I gain two tenths of a pound. Picked up Paul, my pacer.
The 1st 32 miles went by in the blink of an eye. Actually, I was on target for a 16 hour finish. It was 5:06pm, about eight hours at the 50k mark. Everything from here on out was new territory, mileage wise. I felt great. My stomach was good. Let’s do this.
It was hot, but not awful. Volunteering last year it was 90° and humid. I’d been expecting the worst. This year, it was in the low 80s. It got VERY humid at dusk. Prior to that, it was breezy. Almost idyllic. Thank you, God, for giving this newbie some easy running conditions.
Around mile 40, I got to see my friend Susan at Spirt of 76. This is important. One, cause Susan is awesome and I’d forgotten I’d be seeing her. What a lift this gave me. And two, cause Zeke Zucker runs this aid station. And it was the best. Two awesome volunteers radio from the bottom of a big hill up to the actually station your bib number and have your drop bag waiting for you at the top. Such a small thing makes a HUGE difference to a tired runner. At the top, I hugged Susan, almost cried tears of joy, and was encouraged to eat and keep moving.
Dusk settled in. I was getting tired and cranky. I had pictured wanting to talk and laugh and crack jokes for the second half of the race. My pacer and I had a game plan to have a ball.
This is NOT how things went. I repeat. I was in no laughing mood.
I didn’t want to talk, let alone laugh. I think it was a disappointment to both of us. It took all of my energy to focus on the ever increasing trails.

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And my darn feet. Just after Spirit of 76, some part of my little toe felt like it exploded. No joke. I knew it wasn’t broken. But it wasn’t good. Actually, it was bad. This is where running became challenging. It’d be another 10 miles before I looked at it.
God?
I’m still here.
I know I said no bargaining. But this is starting to suck. Can you take over?

Any running after dark was easy on dirt roads. Easy footing and glow sticks allowed me to focus on the basics. Drink, eat. Go to the bathroom. Step step step. Repeat. Running trails in the dark was challenging. Even with a headlamp and handheld flashlight, I worried about going a** over bam box.
At Bill’s, mile 53, we weighed in again and did a sobriety field check. It was late, I think 11pm. I’d been at Bill’s in 1991, when it’d been the old finish line. It looked nothing like I’d remembered. My memory of it had been covered in two decades of gauze and dewy fondness. In reality, it was powerful. But, I’d been expecting a tearful reunion of sorts arriving there. It was not. I had work to do. And all I could focus on was pushing through to my destination. Eyes on the prize.
Mile 49 to 62 were SLOW. My quads were trashed and my rotten toe was causing me to limp. After five miles of fast walking, I slowed to a crawl and some 22-25 minute miles. I knew the sub 16 was slipping away. Really, it was already DOA. Limping was all I could muster from here on out.
At Polly’s, I sat for the 1st time all day. Five lonely little miles were all that separated me from the finish line. I run that everyday. But an injury and tired at 1:30 in the morning five miles feels like an eternity. Sitting felt good. I checked to see if hubby was okay. He’d been running so fast all day. I wondered if he had somehow passed me in the dark. Turns out he’d dropped at his mile 60. My heart sank. I thought about stopping. I took off my shoes and saw the sad state of my feet. Yeah, now I understand why folks quit so close to the finish. I was a mere 5 miles, and I wanted to quit.
Run your race.
Okay, God.
Well, walk is more like it. Walk I did. I Thanked God for picking me up and sending me back out. Cause I sure didn’t do it.
I whimpered. I trudged.
For those who haven’t run this course, please note that the last few miles bring you within earshot of the finish, then send you mercilessly back out into the deep woods. Hearing the dwindling voices turn to nothing is such a killjoy at mile 97. I would have screamed if I had the energy.
The last 1/4 mile is lighted by glow sticks submerged in clear gallon milk jugs. Such relief. My watch had died a half hour ago. I had no sense of time at 2:30 in the morning. Seeing them, I knew I was there.
Glowing green was replaced by the red neon cast of ‘Finish Line’. Oh, Good God, Yes.
18:17:59. Someone put a finisher’s medal around my neck.
I grabbed on to my waiting gorgeous hottie of a husband.
Can I stop now?

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Things That Worked
100 Calories of Tailwind per hour. No stomach issues whatsoever.
100 calories of fruit per hour, like watermelon and banana.
My Ultimate Direction SJ pack. It’s super comfy. All day. I love it with Hydra Pak soft bottles.
Seeing friends, like Lorinda, Julie, John Jenkins and Dr Rick during the run.
Meeting New RD Amy Rusiecki. She is awesome. AND she remembered my name!
Meeting Jimmy Dean Freeman. Who, I’ll add, is such a gentleman, he stopped running to shake my hand.
Running with ultra runners. You are all inspiring.

Things That Didn’t Work
New Shoes…blisters Everywhere. My feet took two weeks to heal.
New Shoes.
New Shoes.
New Shorts. Ugh. Seriously.
Not wearing gaiters. I had huge friction burns from the dirt in my shoes. I could have saved my feet a bit by using ’em.
Not taking the time to change my socks.
Taking course pictures. I failed at multi tasking.
Not laminating my aid station sheet. It turned to paper pulp early on.
Frozen smoothies in drop bags. They didn’t stay frozen. Taking a sip of a turned Spirulina smoothie is never okay.

A big THANK YOU to everyone who helped me with this race.
HUBBY! You’re winning the 100 next year.
Paul, my pacer.
Julie, my crew.
Krista, hope you had a great date night. Can we go running now?
Deb and Terry Shearer. Thanks for having us. AND for coffee at mile 57! You, Deb, are the coolest.
Fish and Jeremy, Jonny’s crew and awesomeness.
Dr Rick. I’m so grateful you’re the new Medical director.
Julia O’Brien, who didn’t help me personally, but is a pretty cool lady.
Lorinda. I loved seeing you EVERYWHERE!!! What a treat.
Susan. Thanks for the inspiration.
Ben Pangie. Great to finally meet you. I hope everyone checks out his blog. He’s a super star.
VT100 volunteers. The best volunteers anywhere.
Everyone who prayed for us. Especially Cindy G. It worked. Truly.
Aggie Baggie.

Steve Bradish, this one was for you. I love you.

Thanks for running with this grateful girl,
Astrid

PS I lost my 1st toenail!

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Getting Ready

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Yikes. I’m almost larger-than-life here.
This is me heading to the finish line of the VT50 last year.
I hope to look this cheerful at the end of the VT100k Saturday. I’ve been hopping up and down for the last two weeks, I wonder if I’ll have any energy left to run.
Long training weeks of 50 miles are done. We made it through a very long winter and emerged into a full fledged summer swelter. I’ve done the middle of the day heat training. Training races have been run. Back to backs done. Aggie has dragged my sweaty carcass through bramble to a taper-crescendo.
At this point, my training is what it is.
It’s time to prep.
Every aspect of running an ultra appeals to me. Of course there’s the running. That’s a given. But organizing our gear has been utterly satisfying.

I went as far as ordering 15 insulated lunch bags to polish our running style with. We nixed the garbage bags in favor of uptown style. Red for girls, green for boys. I have seven drop bag sites. Hubby has nine for the full 100. We’re gonna utilize all of these. Neither of us has to think about what our bags look like at midnight when we’re a little trail weary. And we look good!

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Here’s what’s in each drop bag for our VT100 experience:
1 Stick pack of Tailwind
2 Bottles of frozen H2O
1 Bottle of frozen smoothie
1 GF PB&J (hubby is a celiac)
2 Gels
Tums
Gas-X
Aleve for her, Ibu for him
Socks
Wet Wipes
KT Tape strip
Pretty straight forward. I’ve heard simple is best, especially later in the game.

Vermont is hottest and most humid in July. Any perishables, like fresh fruit and ice, our crews are handling. So far, the weather forecast calls for 82° and 75% humidity. Although the VT100 has been hotter the previous two years, we are going to have our crews carry lots of ice. Last year volunteering at Stage Road Aid Station, we had very little ice to give the runners. I want to make sure we have lots to share, if needed.

What am I missing?
Batteries, headlamp and flashlight I’ll leave in my Ten Bear bag for later in the day.
Extra Buff, change of shoes will be in my Spirit of ’76 (mile 40) bag.

I know lots can go wrong. I tried to prepare for all the parts I can control, so when something does go wrong, and it will, I won’t feel like a house of cards. I wanted everything ready so I can sit back and enjoy the pre race festivities Friday.

I’m injury free (for today). Packed, trained & rested. So let’s do this.

I’m covered in grace, that I can run. Everything else is just icing. I’ve been running again for a mere 2 1/2 years. That I’ve come this far to run further than ever is incredible. I’m beyond wow’d that I’m going to run in this year’s VT100 so soon. Whether I make it to the finish line or not, it’s gonna be an amazing day. I hope you’ll include me in your prayers Saturday that it’s a smooth, fun day for this grateful girl.

Thanks for running with me,
Astrid

PS I had the privilege of being interviewed for Far North Endurance. Please check out the link here
It’s a great piece! Thank you, FNE.

TARC Spring Classic 2014

I’m sitting in the car, shivering and staring out at the still falling rain. I’m spent. J finished hours ago and has the car warm. I’m so grateful to be sitting. And dry. I’m tired. And smiling.
I finished.
I crossed the finish line.
I didn’t want to. I wanted to quit after four of five laps.

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The TARC Spring Classic wasn’t a tough race. It’s a fairly straight forward course, with little elevation change. I think the entire course has 1200′ of elevation change. The 50k option is five 10k loops. There’s the single aid station at the start finish area. The trails aren’t technical. They’re mostly double track with some wider sections. There was lots of mud, mostly from a day of runners and rain. Otherwise, a smooth runnable trail. It was so cushy. I felt spoiled.

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Last fall I read Steve Latour’s A Clydesdale’s Tale and Twelve Ultras in Twelve Months and have been excited about a TARC race since. TARC is Trail Animals Running Club out of the Boston, Mass area. Pineland is at the end of May…making the end of April date for the Spring Classic perfect. The Classic is a fat ass style race, meaning no swag, no finishers medal, no pampering. You bring a dish to share. Perfect. 22 dollars perfect.

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J and I travelled to Weston, MA the day before and meet up with some TARCers. Co RD Josh Katzman (nicest RD you’ll ever meet) was there to wrangle us volunteers. This guy just had surgery, has a knee the size of a grapefruit and he’s out marking the course. I get a cold and I’m a puddle in bed for days. Wow. Tough as nails.
I loved seeing the course prior to the race.

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The first two loops I felt amazing. I was running steadily. I chatted with a few folks. But I mostly ran alone. I was at mile 12 by 2:24.
The third loop started to be a little repetitive. Getting passed over and over and over again is frustrating. There are multiple races simultaneously. There’s a 10k, a half and full marathons. I knew I was cranky when the 100th person said ‘good job’ as they passed me and I wanted to tell them to get bent. So glad runners aren’t telepathic.
I changed my muddy Hoka Kailua to my Stinson for lap four, along with a dry jacket. The dry gear helped improve my mood. I ran most of the lap, but planned my DNF towards the end of it. I was getting close to six hours on course. My brain said good enough.
I’m learning to run through hip pain, especially after mile 25 when my legs crap out. I don’t think I’ve had enough time under my belt (a mere year) running long. It’s around that time that my hips flexors tighten up. I can walk. So that’s what I’ve done late in the day two of the three I’ve run.
When my psoas whined the tiniest bit, I felt relieved to have a legitimate excuse for dropping. The pain disappeared. Now what? A little help here God…and God gave me Jenn.
Jenn and I crossed paths at the end of the fourth. She’d fallen earlier in the race and had acute knee pain. We decided to start on the last lap and walk it together. Walk, I can do. So, we walked. We talked, and it kept my mind off my stinkin achin hips. And the constant rain and 40° degrees, now settling into my finger tips. We hopped over mud bogs. We counted down the miles.
And we finished.
7:49:00.
Hubby was 6:13:ish.
Most of everyone was gone at this point. I was NOT DFL. Pretty close. But not last. It would have been okay to finish last. Both race directors, Bob Crowley and Josh (on friggin crutches) were there til the last person crossed the finish line. Who does that? I guess that’s what makes a TARC race so fantastic. Thank you, both for being there. It meant a lot. Truly. Thank you to the volunteers who shivered in the rain and kept us fed.

What worked:
I’m almost exclusively using Tailwind Nutrition as my running fuel. If you have not had the pleasure of using it, please order some. These are the nicest people making an amazing product. It’s dextrose mixed with electrolytes for use in liquids. Just like their slogan says, it’s all you need all day. I drank a bottle’s worth each lap. I had found I’d been over eating on long runs, causing nausea and GI distress. With Tailwind, I’m getting 100 calories per serving, leaving me only 100 more calories to get from other sources. The only solid food I had was a couple of bananas and a few slices of watermelon.
I love my fancy schmancy Salomon hydration pack. I ran the entire winter in it, soft bottles up front, and loving it. I have to figure out how to put the Tailwind powder in it quickly without dumping it everywhere.

Wet iPods don’t play or take pictures very well. Sorry for the lack of course pics. I know now I can run without music.

Taking a hostage works. Thank you, Jenn, for sticking it out with me.

It’s been 10 days since the race. Me and Aggie have been exploring new trails and logging some serious miles. I had my 1st 50 mile week! Now, my body says rest cause my psoas is talking to me again. I haven’t run for two days, and will more than likely take two more days to RICE. Aggie tried to chew on a porcupine sandwich Sunday. She’s been relegated to leashed walks til the prickly lunch meats go deeper into the woods.
She says ‘harrumph’.

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A little less than three weeks til Pineland….and nine til the VT 100…

Thanks for running with me,
Astrid

Spring? Is That You?

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And just like that, winter is done.
Psych! Maybe 3-5 tonight? Ugh. I hope not. Ah, it is still April in Vermont. Any weather is quite possible until July.
Well, the flowers cry Spring. So, I’m going with it.

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Weather, smeather. Let’s talk running. And racing.
I added another ultra to the schedule. And my first race of the season is a mere ten days away!! Ready or not, the TARC Spring Classic 50k is fast approaching. I’ll toe (TLC I can hear you chuckling) the line the 26th of this month for their annual race.Wooooohoooooo!
I’d like to clarify that this may be a race. And I may be pushing myself. But, I fully expect to be DEAD FUCKING LAST for this one (earmuffs). I am slow. I don’t feel 100% ready for this race. I just got back to my long runs 6 weeks ago. Did I mention I’m slow?
But, darn it, I want to do it. I want to meet runners. I want to talk running. I want to eat salted potatoes. And most importantly, I want to run.
So, here goes.
Training has been pretty sweet. Just as my chiropractor predicted, I have been pain free for two weeks. So running has been pretty joyful. My head can wander while I’m on the trails without the constant whine of back and groin pain.
Friday was a 17 miler. At elevation, there is still tons of snow. But, at 650 feet we’re just a happy soggy mess. We hit a high of 78° F Monday. I think the temp Friday was a perfect 54°. It doesn’t get any better than that for running. I crack myself up avoiding puddling in the beginning, only to go stomping through them by the half way mark. Some of the trails were more swamp and river than dirt. >

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I’ll be grateful when the last of the frozen layers are gone. I punched through the trail multiple times, flailing around, looking like I was having a seizure. One leg would be submerged in a foot of water, the other sliding into a split. Meanwhile, my arms were looking for a dog tail to grab hold of. I’m sure Aggie was rolling her eyes at me.
I surprisingly wasn’t sore on Saturday. This is my 1st long run without soreness the next day. My hip flexors are usually pretty tight afterwards. I’m hoping as my overall fitness increases, this won’t be a problem. Any thoughts about how I can spot strengthen my hips flexors?
Hubby and I spent a leisurely last day at Okemo doing pipe runs on hero snow. Note to self: you will look like a big nerd your 1st time using a T bar. And have the bruises to prove it. *how did I avoid using a T bar for 20 years of riding??
Me and Aggie have been running 10 to 15 hours per week. I’m hoping to increase to twice that by mid June in preparation for the VT100K. We’ll see if me and the girl can achieve that goal.
Speaking of my sweet girl, Aggie won’t be coming to Massachusetts with us next week. BUT, I have a week off of work afterward, so maybe she and I can do some recce’ing then. It’s going to be epic! So much exploring to be done.
>

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Please say a prayer for me that I can swallow my pride on race day and be okay with DFL.

Thanks for running with me,
Astrid-o
>

Tentatively Trotting

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Here I am, eight weeks after the worst of the pain has subsided. My chiro cleared me three weeks ago to try some running. I was so afraid to re injure my psoas, it took me five days to believe her and try a run. And it was the most glorious two miles. EVER.
It was slow, it was awkward. I loved it. AND it didn’t hurt. I think my last pain free run was in September. I love you, Doctor. You work miracles.
We’ve had a few more snow storms, in the meantime. I passed on snowboarding when storm Vulcan gave us gobs of snow. (My Tahoe friends are bristling). Our local trails are so deep with layers of ice and snow. It’s hard to believe Spring is a mere week away.
We have a few more nights scheduled of sub zero temps. Is this really March?
Oh well.
Aggie is so excited to be running again. Her dad stepped in a bit when I was layed up. But not as much as I would. She’s my running partner. I try never to leave laced up without her.

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We completed an incredible 10 miler yesterday. It was tough going. I could feel my lack of base. But, I was running. And I could barely take it for granted. I’m happily sore in my Glutes today.
The snowy trails are awesome for building lateral strength. Anytime I’m off trail, it feels like cheating, it’s so effortless. This winter, we invested in Micro Spikes. They’re on the heavy side, but, again, great for training. My feet feel light as air without them.
So, with this new confidence, I’m learning to love dirt roads. Really. This time of year, they feel like a gift. I’d been dreading that 75% of the VT100 is run on dirt roads. Now, not so much.
Speaking of the 100(k), I’m on track to follow the 16 week plan for training, courtesy of Google. It’s the New Zealand Ladies Ultrarunning Club training plan. I’ll put a link to it in the next post.

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I have a couple of 50k’s in the next 6 weeks. One is a late edition. More soon.
Think Spring!
Oh, one last thing, I think chiropractors are amazing. If you can, try one. Mine has done amazing work on me. I had no idea I could feel this good. She helped heal my psoas pain, aligned my hips and relieved my chronic neck pain. She has been really affordable and so worth every penny. I feel like she’s given me a new body to run with.
Thanks for running(!!!!!!) with me,
Astrid

It’s Official

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Well, I’ve committed. It’s official. I signed up for this year’s VT100K. The race is July 19th. I have six months to get my butt in gear. *gulp*
Yup. It seemed like a good idea…while my finger hovered over the register button.
Aggie thinks its a great idea, of course.
I am excited, but apprehensive. 62 miles is twice as far as I’ve run, yet. I can try, right?
Here’s to dreaming big!

Thanks for sharing my big news,
Astrid

Powder Day!

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Two feet of fresh, fluffy snow fell on Southern Vermont last night. My excitement was so high, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning.
After some sweet powder turns at the hill, we took Agatha for a little romp. She had lots of deep snow to navigate. I love watching her race around in drifts higher than her shoulders. She is pure joy when she plays. I can’t help but smile as she flys by.
Fifteen minutes was enough to earn her a contented place in front of the wood stove.
Hubs and I are also vying for a hearthside spot to warm our tired muscles. I’d assumed I was in decent shape. My weekly running mileage is okay. But, deep powder is a quad burner. And the later, more chopped-up trails had my legs on fire hopping around van-sized moguls. Hooray for cross training. Finally.
Okay, NOW I’m ready for winter.

What a splendid end to a cold and crappy week.

Thanks for riding and running with me,
Astrid