Thursday, July 23, 2015

Vermont 100: The Start

The race started at 4 AM on a cold rainy summer morning in a hayfield in central Vermont. I had never been with so many 100 miler racers before, and all 300 of us made quite a buzz for so early in the morning. The race organization couldn’t be beat. For the start, they had coffee and bagels under the main football field - sized tent, but I was full from my banana, peanut butter, and granola bar hastily scarped up in the car. In the crowd, people wore headlamps, water bottles, backpacks, tights, t-shirts, running shoes, compression socks and sleeves, and more. The field included elite athletes that were attempting the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning — running four of the oldest 100 mile races, all in one summer. The first race of the summer, Western States Endurance Run, was only 3 weeks prior to today, and runners I passed said they still felt the fatigue from it. One older thin man near me wore a yellow shirt with signatures all over. I asked who signed his shirt. He said all the elementary school girls from the Girls on the Run program he coached, as well as family and friends. What a great idea, I thought, to wear a shirt signed by so many loved ones and young runners. I put that in my hat of tricks for when I became a running coach and educator some day soon. What I didn’t know then was, the man’s name was Rolly, short for Roland, and he would be my running partner for the first 30 miles.

There wasn’t a starting gun that was fired, on account of it being 4 AM on a Saturday in rural Vermont. We had heard from the race director, Amy Rusiecki, many times to be kind, respectful, and unobtrusive with the private landowners whose land we would run through on the course. Drive slow, park only where directed, and, most importantly she said, don’t poop on their lawns. The fact that this needed to be asked of us was proof that, yes, people had pooped on lawns, in gardens, driveways, you name it. I also later learned in the race from returning racers that they had shot off July 4th- intensity fireworks at 4:30 AM a few years back, and that really pissed off the landowners.
After we counted down from 10 to 0, we all sleepily started jogging down a gravel and dirt road. I felt like we were falling over from sleep rather than bounding towards the finish line. When I looked behind me, I saw a sea of dancing white lights and heard countless footsteps and gear rustling. A truly unique sight in all my 27 years. I was so giddy to finally be at the pinnacle of my training, a 100 mile race. I was so grateful and happy that I was healthy, depression-free, and had direction in life. I was living the dream! I wanted to qualify for the Western States 100 through completing this race, though, so I had to ensure I finished. Slow and steady, I repeated. Slow and steady.

To be continued…

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Vermont 100: Mental Strategies

Hi all,
So my experience at the Vermont 100 last Saturday was so deep, spiritual, emotional, and memorable, it's hard to decide where to begin and where to end. Here's my first attempt:

When people hear I ran 100 miles last weekend in one day, they ask how I could do something like that. To start with, I've been running for 13 years now and this was my 4th 100 mile run. I've also trained all year for this race. So I was well-prepared. Included in my mental preparation was visualization and mantras. For a few nights before the race, I visualized the course as vividly as I could, and imagined in great detail completing my run perfectly with all the challenges and strategies that might come up. The mantras helped me on race day to stay focused and spiritually and emotionally grounded the whole day.

My mantras for the race were many, but simple. I have a tendency to start a race too fast, so one mantra that kept me well-paced was: The race starts at mile 50. I know, it's a strange statement to light and non-runners. My next mantra helped me during the second half of the race: Open up your stride. After running a few marathons, my legs and back tightened up so much that I had to constantly remind myself to take longer strides as opposed to the stiff shuffle my body wanted to do. And the course was all hills, so I had plenty of down hills to take advantage of and run faster. Now, in my first 100 mile race, I mentioned I used the mantra "right here, right now" to stay present and not worry about the impending pain and miles. In this second 100 mile race, I used that mantra but I also broke down the race into tens. I just worried about the 60s, or the 70s, and so on. That helped a lot to break up the race into achievable intermediate goals. I had on my person a list of Marshall Ulrich's Ten Commandments of Endurance. He taught these lessons to the Navy Seals before their Hell Week training and he wrote them into his book, Running on Empty. The ones that stuck with me were, "Suffering is okay", "Expect a journey and a battle", and "Don't dwell on the negative." Lastly, when I bonked during the 70s miles, I used a lesson from mindfulness that, "This too shall pass," --and it did.

To be continued!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Vermont 100 Race Review Intro

Hi everyone, Exciting news!

I ran in the Vermont 100 mile endurance run last Saturday and I survived. Better than that actually, I thrived. I thought I would finish in 24 hours, but I surprised myself by finishing strong in 19:50! My parents were crewing for me and they were so thrown off by my predicted pace that they missed me at two early aid stations. I am going to write a proper story of my journey soon, but for now, I'll show you some pictures.

Margaritaville Aid Station, Mile 58.5

My dad crewing for me while I think, "Do I really want to stop for sunscreen on an overcast day?"

That's me at the finish line. I finished right before midnight. I'm being handed a 6 foot long sub. Just kidding, it's a towel.

Who could ask for better parents?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Summer, sickness, and Sun in the Fun!

Here's me with family at a nice hotel in Long Branch, NJ. Note: We agreed to take a photo at the beginning of the trip, while we still liked each other :)

Hey friends,
So yes, I've forgotten about this blog again. Nobody told me summer grad classes would be so darn intense! I just finished an Early Literacy and Language class, am about to finish an Adolescent Development class, and have yet to take a Science and Tech class. Holy Moly! In between my classwork, I've found some time for running. Beyond my usual Mills Park run in Montclair, I've ran at the Delaware Water Gap and the Jersey shore. The Gap was brand new to me and it was STEEP! Also included were many hairy caterpillars, the thrills of tripping while running downhill, and frigid gushing streams.

My Vermont 100 race is in 10 days! I'm very excited for this challenge, even with a respiratory virus I'm battling at the moment. Yes, I believe that's my cue to stop procrastinating, write my finals essays, and rest up before the big day.

Happy trails,