I was tempted to not do a write up as I felt that the disappointment that I had at my race result (and season so far) would be a big drag and all negative. But I think these write ups help me race and could be cathartic moving forward.
Single-Speed-A-Palooza 2016 was my first A race on my race calendar. So yes I have had some injuries and illness issues that have hampered my training this season so far but who hasn’t. I was finally feeling healthy and strong and put in a lot of work to get here. I decided that even though the course (one lap of 26.6 miles) was muddy due to all the rain we recently got I was going to run the hardest gear that I have ever pedaled- a 34x18 (2 gears harder than last year). So more gear inches should equal more speed on the fire roads and the ability to pedal more on the flats and downhills but is going to hurt bad on the punchy stuff- and if you are feeling a bit tired or your legs are heavy that day, you are going to be forced to use your second gear…walking…
I lined up 3rd row with 100+ of some of my closest Open/Pro friends and right away started to stress about being too far back. The mass start (with another 200 people coming 3 minutes later) is a real cluster f. as the road is pocked with big holes filled with water of who knows what depth. So while I’m trying to move up the field is trying to avoid holes and death. Right away a guy crashes on my right and I just make it by his front wheel. At this point we are at 25-28 mph and I’m picking up spots rubbing tires and elbows and riding dirty.
We hit the water/mud filled double track and I’m feeling good. We end up single file and cruising hard through slimy turns and railing it. And then the pace slows and my group is now stuck behind an MTBNJ rider who is just spinning like a hamster as people are yelling for him to get off the front and he just keeps at it. There are some aggressive moves to overtake us and that means going into the long grass (and who knows what) to make a strong pass. This is probably what I needed to do but the risk of me taking myself out in the first 5 miles was just too high. So I finally got by him and then ran my shoulder into a tree which bounced me off my bike. My remount in the mud sucked (I took some yelling at) and got passed by a strong local singlespeed racer on my left.
We hit the road and I just kept trying to move up, close gaps, and hold wheels- there was some passing back and forth but I picked up some spots but didn’t make the first group- I was relegated to the second group of 5-6. We all rode for a while together and traded spots- I had some tough times on a couple of the hills and had to catch back on but I held my own. As we got into the “climbs” the Finkraft guys in front of me just kept popping off late and running up the steeps and I just wasn’t able to get around them. I made one final last pass to retake the guy who passed me about 20 miles earlier. And I was gone- time trialed it 4 miles to the end.
I gave it my all and put up a whole bunch of PR’s ---and rode to a 21st place finish. The one bright side is that the top 20 were the who’s who of racing on the east coast scene. Lots of big names ahead of you is supposed to make you feel better...
I improved my overall placing by 3 spots, my overall time by 20 minutes and upped my average speed by 1.5mph to 13mph.
This race was never on the schedule but first Ken then Ben contacted me to see if I would run. I’d never heard of the race until I joined MPF RNR Team but was really interested in a fast 50 mile ‘trail’ race. I use the inverted commas as it is generally a very fast course on the carriage roads of the Mohonk Preserve; however whilst fast it also contains a significant amount of elevation change, albeit very gradually. It certainly appealed but fell at a busy time of year.
However with an upcoming move and increased Daddy day care duties fast approaching, I’m racing far more than I typically do in the early part of 2016. With Ocean Drive Marathon, Naked Bavarian, Springle Track, Breakneck and now Rock the Ridge 50 this is my busiest start to a year for a long time.
Ben kindly invited Gwen, Meredith and I to stay at Steph’s mums house the night before the race so the logistics were all pretty much taken care of. All I had to do was run a solid 50 miler, hopefully stay close to Ben. Having been soundly dropped by Ben and the lead pack at Breakneck only two weeks previously I was far from confident I’d even make half way with Ben and I also haven’t run a runnable 50 miler since Cayuga back in 2014. I was disappointed with my Breakneck run, whilst I didn't expect to compete with Ben there this year I wasn’t happy to be almost 30 minutes behind him, after being with him 10 miles in. Injury issues affected winter training but since the new year I’ve been happy with my training, luckily my inherent selfishness (which my wife will testify to..) has meant having a newborn hasn’t overly affected training so I feel fitness is starting to return as we enter the main season.
My plan for the race was pretty simple.. hold on to Ben. We set off and I expected it to be just us but we had a relay runner and then another runner joined us who we thought was in the 50 miler too. Steadily we pulled away and I sat in behind Ben on the long first climb and Ben seemed strong, whilst the pace was a tad hard for me, I felt I wasn’t dipping into the red so just followed along, soon we dropped the other runner and it was just the relay runner and us on the long 3-4 mile climb to the first fluids station. Ben was obviously stronger early on but seemed happy to keep me along for company. Looking at recent results Ben has ran most of his previous 150 miles on this route solo.
This race is just the perfect hybrid of road and trail, just miles and miles of slowly undulating crushed gravel wide trails, occasional sections of stony and slightly technical ground but it just winds around stunning vistas of the Mohonk Preserve. Having ran at Springle Track and the Ellenville Mountain Running Festival I’d seen small sections of the Mohonk Preserve but this was my first time really seeing all the carriage roads.
Ben was powering through the early miles and I just held on. The unspoken idea for me was we’d push to break his old record but with the recent fires in the area I’d expected a changed route and we then found out it was a slightly longer route. With not knowing the course I was happy to just sit in behind Ben. To be honest I was just wondering how far I could follow Ben for.. ‘Make the first aid station’.. then ‘Make 10’.. It wasn’t like a flat race where you can watch pace, so at the start I switched my watch data fields so I couldn’t see time, all I could see was average pace, lap pace and distance. Average pace would give me a rough idea but without knowing the course ahead I couldn’t predict anything. For the whole race I never once looked at my time nor asked Ben how we were going against his previous times.
We climbed over skycap and enjoyed the views but as we approached 20 miles Ben was struggling with his stomach and didn’t seem as keen to push the pace. Still my view was 45 miles. Keep together if we could, just having someone to pace off, even the occasional words would help time pass but from miles 25 onwards I felt I was actually feeling better. Ben warned me there was a long 6 miles of climbing between miles 24 and 30 up to Castle point, which I doubted. How can they fit 6 miles of climbing? As we climbed past Awosting Falls, steeply but never steep enough to walk, the climb just went on and on, past the lake and then around and over point after point until we finally reached Castle Point. I was definitely feeling my hip flexors by now but Ben said he just felt empty. I did consider making a break around then but I had no real desire to run the last 20-25 miles in unless Ben’s pace really dropped. From there it's actually almost all downhill so I was keen to get the pace down into the 7’s which we did and Ben just sat behind me as we started the long run to the finish. On the way back in we were passing the runners heading out so received support from many which helped keep us going. I don’t think either of us said much in return as we were both feeling pretty bashed as we approached the last 10 miles. The consistent running in this race really destroys your legs and I was thankful to have Ben alongside to help keep the pace solid.
I’ve seen Ben produce some impressive runs but this probably ranked as one of the most impressive runs I’ve seen from him, he just sat next to or behind me, from being empty at 25 miles he just kept on going. I was keen to keep the pace high but never red line and see where that took us as we approached 45 miles, with a good few miles of flat running where we managed to hold our pace in the mid 7’s. The sun was well up in the sky now but it was probably only mid 60’s so about ideal temperatures for a long run.
The climbs over the last section are all small, rarely that steep until the climb at 45 miles but we still kept on a run going and climbed well before we started the long final descent. I decided with probably no climbs to go I’d attack the last 3-4 miles back to the tower. The descents are smooth and gradual so holding mid- low 6 minute miles over the last section wasn’t too hard, a quick glance back revealed Ben was still hanging on which worried me I’d gone too soon, but I managed to keep the pace up and hoped I’d managed to open up a few minute gap. There was one worrying section on a long grassy traverse that was quite out of place with the previous well maintained crushed dirt roads which had me worried I’d missed a turn but thankfully I spotted the barn Ben had pointed out on the way and it was just a final retracing on my steps. There is one sting in the tail, a short climb on the road but then a lovely run in down the tree lined grove to the tower. I finished in 6:12, Ben just two minutes back in 6:14. The last 3.5 miles I’d averaged under 6:30 minute miles which was pretty pleasing. Still a good chunk outside of Ben’s record of 5:56 but with the course being slightly longer a respectable enough first effort.
Overall a great final long training run for Cayuga Trails 50 and a bit of a confidence booster after not having a great run at Breakneck. Still work to do for the year ahead but the main thing was my body held up OK and I’m pretty running fit at the moment, but worry I will struggle on the steeper terrain at Cayuga. After two days off I was back running which is always a good sign that I’m finally getting some robustness back.
Gear wise I used the new Ultimate Direction Access 20 waist pack with its very accessible 20 oz water bottle and small pouch which meant I could carry the GU gels that I almost exclusively used, and on my feet I opted for the Hoka Clifton’s due to the hard packed nature of the course. These were perfect, I could feel the occasional stony section, but the cushioning seemed to protect the legs on the long descents.
The course is very picturesque, very fast, undulating but still fast and it would be great to see it get a stronger field from runners. There are not many more scenic fast 50 milers. Thanks to Ben, Ken and Todd for the encouragement to enter and providing a great race and company. Thank you to our team sponsors, Mountain Peak Fitness, Red Newt Racing, Merrell, Run on Hudson Valley, Ultimate Direction & GU Energy. Next up is Cayuga Trails 50 miler, the USA Track and Field 50 mile trail championships.
This year I was fortunate to be able to participate in the Rock the Ridge 50 mile Endurance challenge at the Mohonk Preserve. In 2014 this was my first 50 miler. I registered in 2015 but had to defer because of Plantar Fasciitis. It was a long journey for my recovery so the word GRATITUDE can’t even describe my feelings being able to train and participate this year.
One week before the event there was a brush fire at Sam’s Point. The fire escalated and burned almost 3000 acres before it was contained and stopped. Up to the day before the race we were not sure if we would be permitted to run the part of the course that used Minnewaska State Park. The night before the race we received word that all was well and the race would go on as planned. Minnewaska re-opened to the public on April 30 after being closed all week as a precaution.
I had the honor of being an ambassador for the race as I often do my training runs at Mohonk and have recruited several people to participate. I also had the pleasure of singing America the Beautiful at the start of the event. Singing and running- these are a few of my favorite things.
The weather on race day was made to order. Cool, dry, partly cloudy, with a slight breeze. The race starts at 6 AM which means getting up at 3:30am for me. The check in is impeccably organized. This makes for a low stress start. Drop bags marked and dropped off, ankle bracelets for timing, a few announcements, a little singing and off we go.
There were plenty of aid stations. Some with just water and a few snacks and a main one at Lyons Road (that you hit twice) with hot food and some fanfare. This event is created specifically for runners and hikers of all levels. There is a generous cut off of 24 hours.
I had an amazing day. I had many months of excellent quality training runs progressing from several 20 milers to a 32, 36 and a 40. My training consisted of hard/ easy weeks with lots of cross training. I was well rested. I was mentally and physically ready. I am a fat burner so I ate very little during the event. A few pieces of summer sausage, a few pieces of cheese, some hot soup, lots of water. My boyfriend, Jim Porter crewed for me and brought me a hamburger, a few pieces of bacon, and hot coffee for later in the day. I know-I’m a lucky girl!
I started out slow averaging 14 minute miles for the first half. The second half went well and I was able to average 12- 13 minute miles. Jim joined me and ran with me for the last part. I finished in 11 hours and 13 minutes. My goal was to finish without injury, have fun, and enjoy the day on the trails. Mission accomplished.
I love living in the Hudson Valley and I treasure our local trails. I am delighted that I can support the Mohonk Preserve by participating in this event right in my own back yard.
After a year of running with the MPF RNR team, I was excited to return to the place where it all began, the one and only Breakneck Point Marathon. A local runner from NH, Lars Blackmore, posted a couple rowing pictures recently, and it got me to think about the similarities between running and crew teams. About 22 years ago I was recruited to help out the crew team at Hobart College as a coxswain, and it led to some of the best memories of college, and my wife. I was going to write something specific about running and being a coxswain, but I’m really busy right now, so I’ll just combine it with my race report.
For the sake of chronological order, we will start with my experience as a coxswain. I’m a competitive guy, so the initial thought of sitting idly while 8 men in front of me gave their all was not appealing; I thought I would hate it. In addition, I was still running road races in the spring (we had no track team), and a crew schedule is not conducive to doing anything else, including living. I didn’t like it at all, I loved it. While at times I wanted badly to grab an oar and try and rip my arms off, the opportunity to have a front row seat to the effort involved in intense crew practices and races was amazing. In addition to being able to witness such intense effort, I quickly felt that I could make a difference in terms of both motivation and technical coaching. It took me a while to really learn the technical aspects of the sport, but most coxswains are not athletes, and my teams seemed to appreciate my perspective as a fellow athlete. Finally, what I may miss most is the sensation of being in a skilled boat of 8 dedicated athletes that work as one. I cannot think of better definition of flow; the perfectly synchronized expression of power, and I have not come close to recreating it. Being that close to the surface of the water, the sensation of pure speed is intensified. At full speed, the hull ripping through the water sounds just like cooking bacon. At times I was privileged to be in boats that had such good balance that they could take 10 strokes and hold the oars up out of the water for over two minutes until the boat came to a complete stop, which seems impossible in a 60 foot long boat that is 16 inches wide. When that level of skill is combined with the fitness of years of 12 workout weeks, the type of bond that many families strive for, and an unhealthy degree of competitive intensity, well, it was extraordinary.
Once you get out of college, running tends to be an individual sport. Moving to the Boston region, I was fortunate to be part of the Greater Boston Track Club and the Central Mass Striders for many years. As I grew away from the roads and shorter races, though, I missed the team aspects of running. With joining MPF RNR, I definitely have that back. Despite the geographical challenges, everyone makes efforts to get together for the RNR races or crazy training runs or weekends. In the past year, the vast majority of my races have involved a considerable amount of quality time running with teammates (sometimes too much time!). In some races, it has been like being in a boat, as one of us will take up the position of stroke and lead the way through a difficult section of trail while another will steer from behind and let the man in front know he blew a turn. Sometimes words of encouragement are shared, and at other times nothing needs to be said as we know we are in the same boat of pain.
Breakneck this year was the 1 year celebration of the birth of our trail family, which continues to grow in terms of both the team and Breakneck race fields. After too much socializing and a lack of race prep, Ian got us started up the first long climb to the ridge. I was a little too cold and excited for the first half mile, but settled down to run with Iain and Ryan. I was jealous of all the half runners who could afford to be more aggressive with their pace. We made good time up the climb and were soon making our way to Sugarloaf Mountain, as Matt Lipsey roared by after missing a turn early on. Adam Russell went by on the descent to the base of Breakneck Ridge, and a whole pile of us were together on the climb. This is one of the most amazing trails anywhere, and never disappoints. There were 2-3 instances where I almost lost my grip (with my hands) and fell back onto Adam or Ryan. While Ryan wanted a faster pace up the scramble, I think we may have covered the climb faster than the half guys.
On the next descent, I guess I was feeling creative as I picked some very unorthodox lines down the broken shoulder of the ridge. We managed to mostly stay on trail, and Adam once again pulled away on the lower section. The old carriage road was covered at sub 6 minute pace, and the lead group was down to the three of us and Jed Sheckler. Adam was climbing strong, and it took a while for Ryan, Jed, and I to catch up to him, with Iain a few steps back. The pace was solid, so I felt no need to try and pace and force the issue, we climbed Bull Hill, descended, and climbed back up to Breakneck Ridge. Adam once again plunged downhill off the ridge at an impressive speed on some rugged terrain. I almost took a massive spill when my left foot got tangled up in a vine where I had to kick it free in mid-air before sacrificing myself on a pile of jagged rocks.
After the third aid station at the base of Sugarloaf, we had to jump across a brook and I felt my inner hamstring start to cramp. At 13.4 miles, it was way too early for that, not good. While some of it was due to over striding on the jump, I was still concerned. I hit the salt and tried to stay relaxed as Ryan and I chased Adam up the hill. Adam was running strong, and Ryan was not able to bridge the gap by the time we went up and over Sugarloaf. I hung on as Adam flew downhill and was surprised to hear a cheer from Steph off to the side as my eyes were glued to the trail. She seemed to be doing well, which was great to see considering she was still recovering from an ankle sprain.
I was sad that we had pulled away from Ryan and Iain, and at the same time wondered if I was going to pay for this pace later. It was sad to see our MPF RNR pair with coxswain break up, and I hoped that Ryan and Iain would be able to rejoin us. Adam finally backed off a bit, and we started to talk about our families and his farm, where he produces 2700 gallons of maple syrup. I think that requires about a billion gallons of sap. He mentioned that he does most of his running on dirt roads, and I thought that he does pretty well on technical downhills for a road runner! While we had just met, we soon turned into a team of two, where it was us versus the Breakneck course. Just as my confidence was building, we hit the 16 mile aid station, and there was no Coke. I tried not to panic, but I think Amy Hanlon could sense the fear in my voice, so she filled me up with Tailwind. I’ve never had Tailwind before, but it was getting hot and I likely needed the water and the calories. The Tailwind and Coke combo was not bad! The cramps in my hamstrings had started to return, so I grabbed another S cap, bit it, and rubbed salt all over my gums like an addict.
We both struggled up the steep mile up to Beacon and dove down into the undulating Fishkill Ridge. I really enjoy this section, and started to gradually pull away from Adam, mostly on the climbs. They are small climbs, but the trail is incessantly technical and the combination is tiring at this stage in the race. The downhill coming off of Fishkill is pretty vicious; steep, broken, tight singletrack covered in jagged rock. I blew a couple of tight turns, but managed not to maim myself despite a couple close calls. I was able to stride out on the way down to the last aid station where the trail travelled along a stream. Refilling with Coke was like seeing an old friend, and I set off on the 1400’ climb back up Beacon convinced I was going to crush. Things went well on the up and down initial section, which was encouraging. As I reached the main part of the climb, where I had been telling myself I could run, both quads started to cramp, so I hiked.
This course is a beast. I was a worried about Adam reeling me in, but everyone would probably be hurting in a similar fashion, so I trudged on. The worst part was the sad pace I ran on the flat section close to the summit. My legs were shot, and I became concerned about the ledges I would have to descend on the way to the finish. Thankfully, descending uses very different muscles, and my legs felt much better once the trail headed down. It was still a rough descent, but Tammany had certainly hardened up my quads in preparation for this race. Considering Adam’s cannon-like downhill speed, I was still worried about being caught through the 2.5 miles to the finish, which did not feel as downhill as I had hoped at times. Despite not having Iain there to chase me down, I was not able to crank the pace down to 3:21, but I did manage 4:13 into the finish at 5:04. Adam came storming in at 5:14, with Jed at 5:28 for third and Iain and Ryan in 4th and 5th in the low 5:30’s. The women’s race was won by Natalie Thompson in an impressive 5:54, and it was great to see my friend Sheryl Wheeler finish strongly for 2nd place.
Another great Red Newt Racing event, thanks to the many volunteers that made it possible, including many of my MPF RNR teammates, our running crew! It was exciting to see the event double in size compared to last year, and a special treat was having many of my favorite RD’s on the course, Ian, Charlie Gadol, and Dick Vincent. Congratulations to everyone who survived such a wicked course!
These videos are from The North Face 50 Mile Endurance run in Bear Mountain, New York. This race takes place every May. The course is very technical and runs through Bear Mountain & Harriman State Park. This area is a great place to train & adventure. It is also just a 40 minute drive from the George Washington Bridge. Let us know if any questions about the area.
Help us kick off the Springtime Jamboree by joining us on May 14th, on the Suffern to Bear Mountain Trail!
When we started planning a spring break trip to California to visit some family and friends, I did what I usually do, stopped by Ultrasignup, looking for races in the area.
The course is a 5K "loop" with a short out-and back section just before the start/finish, repeated ten times.