Monday, March 30, 2009

More Work, A Little Racing, A Little Rugby

Things are looking up . . . the racing season is going in full-force now, the weather has remained relatively decent, and the one trail I have run on is free and clear of snow and ice. I hope to soon check-out the Finger Lakes National Forest trails and see what the winter damage has been.

Not much to report on this week. The early part of the week was recovery from HAT, the middle part of the week was wicked with trying to juggle working two jobs, and the end of the week was race time (although this is a relative term . . . for the most part I don’t race the other people in the race; it is usually a race against myself and the clock).

Saturday was the Wurtsboro Mountain 30K. The race site is about 3 hours from home and Joe was good to me . . . driving me to the race so I could rest in the car (catching-up on sleep lost to work hours the night before) and letting me close my eyes & put my feet up on the way home. This race is a road race, but I did it last year as a tune-up for the Boston Marathon and I really enjoyed the hills and the fact that I would never run 18.6 miles that fast on my own. So even though I am not running Boston this year, I still wanted to go to this race because it is a good training run and a lot of my friends would be there. And I wasn’t disappointed. I met some new really nice people and almost immediately ran into several of my ultra buddies, some of who will be at the Umstead 100 Mile run this coming weekend.

It turned out to be a sunny day, although there was a cool head-wind for almost the entire race. I actually enjoyed the breeze, as it helped to keep me from overheating on the hills. Gatorade was the drink of choice at the aid stations so I had to change from my usual diet of Hammer HEED. I carried a bottle and refilled it twice during the race and supplemented with Endurolytes. The first 3 miles of the race is a long, steady climb, which I actually enjoyed – I do much better climbing than I do going downhill – and I was able to pass quite a few people. I actually felt quite good throughout the run until the slight climb up to mile 12. This is where I lost it last year and the hammer came crashing down. Not so much so this year, but it did happen again. I felt the heaviness in my quads as I tried to pick-up the pace to get up the hill. I finished the run in 2:37:04 (+/- 1/10 seconds) and it was really sweet to come into the finish with Joe ringing the cowbell for me! We caught-up with our friends to hear about their races, grabbed some chow, and headed for home. I would definitely recommend this race. The volunteers were fantastic, the scenery very nice, and the post-race pizza and subs very excellent.

After catching-up on some zzzzzzzzz’s and getting to sleep-in on Sunday morning, it was off to Chenango Forks for the 36th Annual Forks XV (15K). I love this race; it’s a throwback to how racing used to be and really makes you see how much things have changed in the racing scene over the years. For a ridiculously low entry fee you get a t-shirt, finisher’s coffee mug, and good old pizza, oranges, bananas, and bagels to feast on. Age group awards were useful stuff – socks and water bottle! Joe and I met up with a friend of ours who told us that today was her 30th anniversary of racing! Forks was her first race 30 years ago! Margaret Betz is still a class act and a very excellent runner.

After warming-up with some passes and kicks of the rugby ball, Joe and I jogged to the starting line. The day was quite overcast with some wind . . . perfect running conditions, in my opinion. The start was a little rocky for me, as my legs and back were still a little stiff from the 30K, but eventually I found my groove. I ran and chatted with friends for a bit until eventually I was alone, but not for long. The race was full of friends and many people to exchange comments with as we passed each other. Just before mile 8 there is a decent hill climb. Once I started up the hill, the hills from the previous day came back into my legs. My legs were like lead! And to add insult to this, once you think you’ve covered the climb, it levels off before another climb (although shorter it still sucks!). I finally passed this woman who I had started out with and who had eventually run away from me. Good thing . . . I finished second in my age group, only to find out after that that this woman was also in my age group. Had I not found another gear, she would have walked away with the socks and bottle! I finished in 1:12:50 and Joe wasn’t too far behind in 1:19:xx. It was a good day.

So that was my week . . . time to relax a bit and get ready for Bull Run Run 50 Miler on April 18. And time for the Guinness Premiership to get rolling in the rugby world. My London Wasps team has been suffering a bit with many of its players away playing for England in the Six Nations tournament. But now with Six Nations over, hopefully my Wasps will climb back to their winning ways and take home the championship as they did last year. Despite a disappointing loss to the Saracens yesterday, Wasps fly half Danny Cipprianni is looking back in good form and healthy and ready to help his team.

Good luck to all of you who will be running in the Skunk Cabbage 10K and Half Marathon next week. I have decided to take a racing break next week (mostly not by choice – I have to work) and will miss the race, but I look forward to hearing all about it!

Monday, March 23, 2009


Well, the first biggie race of the year is in the history books. It was an easy week of running in preparation for the HAT Run 50K that was held on Saturday, March 21. My plan was just to go easy and rest. Unfortunately, at work on Tuesday night, someone closed a sliding glass door that I had left open and when I went to walk back into the room – BAM! – I hit the glass hard. So hard, in fact, that the doors (emergency doors) broke away from the door frame. It shook my brain a bit, but I’ve done worse things before, so I didn’t think anything of it. On Wednesday I was out running with Joe and I had this terrible pain in my neck and into my left shoulder blade. And I finally realized that when I had hit the door, my neck really got torqued. So it was off to the chiropractor. After a very noisy adjustment I was back in alignment. I took Thursday and Friday completely off from running and tried to let the muscles relax and by Saturday morning I was feeling pretty good and ready to race!

Joe, Karen Fennie, and I headed down to Maryland on Friday, checked into our hotel, hit the grocery store for breakfast foods, had a good dinner and then went back to the hotel to relax. I had worked on Thursday night and had gotten only about 5 ½ hours of sleep before our drive, so it didn’t take long for me to fall asleep while watching the NCAA basketball. Unfortunately, one of the hazards of working evenings is that night-time sleep is a luxury that I usually don’t get. I woke-up at 2am and was wide awake, thinking it was time to get up. At somewhere around 3:40am I think I managed to fall back to sleep and then 5am came really early.

We got to Susquehanna State Park at about 7:15am to set-up our own private aid station tent and to socialize (and isn’t that what ultra running is really all about?!) with many of our old friends and we met some really great new friends.

The start of the race was in an open field and with 445 starters it really didn’t matter where you lined-up! I just blended-into the crowd and slowly worked my way around, as long as it didn’t require any extra effort, anyone whose pace was slower than mine. The day was sunny but cool with a cool wind and I knew that it would definitely get warmer once we hit the trails. And it did.

I pretty much ran alone and within myself until the first aid station. I refilled my bottle with HEED, grabbed a pretzel stick, and walked. As I was walking I head a familiar voice up ahead and eventually caught up to my friend, Frank. Frank was really great and I was enjoying his company as he told me some great stories which kept my mind off from some of the more tedious sections (read: road sections). When we came to the creek crossing I just plunged right in. I have learned my lesson about trying to keep my feet dry when it comes to creek crossings. Don’t even try. It usually ends in disaster. Unfortunately, there was some pretty deep sand in the creek which filled my sneakers. I got ahead of Frank here. When I got back to our tent I had to make a pit stop to change socks and clean out my shoes and Frank went running by me. I started to feel a bit whippy and realized that my face felt like a salt-lick. So I chucked-down some extra Endurolytes and drank more HEED and then I had a revelation . . . I really hadn’t been eating much. So when I reached the next aid station I was extremely grateful to find warm, salty French fries! I grabbed a handful and walked and ate until I could feel my brain beginning to work again. I ran off and on and when I reached that horrible road section I was really missing Frank’s company. That section had gone so much better with him distracting me. So I just whined to myself until I reached the next aid station . . . only to find HOT, salty French fries waiting for me! Oh, this was way too good to be true. I knocked-back a Coke and a ton of those fries and walked out of the station. And when I crossed the creek again, where I had left Frank on the first lap, I found him again! This really boosted my spirits to have him help pace me along. Eventually I got a second wind and had to leave Frank, but I figured he wouldn’t be far behind me. I finished the race in 5:51:44 – not a PR, but my second best 50K ever! And good for 6th out of 30 in my age-group and 113th out of 385 overall. Joe finished in 6:31:31 and Karen in 7:26:40. I recovered quite well with more of those awesome hot, salty fries and some Pork Slap Ale. A good time was had by all.

Sunday was a day of recovery. I really did intend to go out for a run. However, the weather was cold, overcast, and windy. Joe was hurting from his fall (knocked his head on a rock and #$%*ed-up his right hand). So I did a light 30 minutes on the bike and tried to do some nutritional recovery. However, my heart got a real work-out in the evening when we watched the Six Nations Rugby championship game. Holy crap was it a good one! Ireland came in undefeated and a win would make it a Grand Slam – their first in 61 years! Wales was looking strong but to win the tournament they had to beat Ireland by 13 points. My Man, Ronan O’Gara missed his first penalty kick and then Ireland gave up two really stupid penalties to Wales, which they converted. A half-time talk with the coach must have made all the difference as Ireland came out fighting in the second half. With less than 3 minutes to go in the game Ireland was down by one, but My Man came through. O’Gara put down a drop goal so nice and smooth and put Ireland up by two. But one more stupid penalty gave Wales a chance for the win with no time left on the clock. It was pure luck that the Welsh kicker couldn’t get the distance, because his kick was dead-on. Ireland won!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Anyone whose interest I might have piqued . . . check-out all the goods at

And what do you think was truly the totally best part of the ENTIRE weekend? I got to see the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile up-close and in-person as we passed it on the highway on our drive home on Saturday night!

“When an excursion into the woods is proposed, all sorts of dangers are imagined
. . . Yet it is far safer to wander in God’s woods than to travel on black
highways or to stay at home . . . No American wilderness that I know of is so
dangerous as a city home “with all the modern improvements.” One should go
into the woods for safety, if for nothing else.”
John Muir

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Mojo is Back!

I had a really great week of running, despite battling with coughing up things that look like something from a sci-fi flick. The sun has been shining and the temps more to my liking. This week brought the first official “race” of the year – the St. Patrick’s Day 4-Miler in Binghamton. This is, hands-down, my favorite race. This may seem a little odd that an ultra runner would name a mere 4-miler as a favorite, but it is simply the best! The Triple Cities running group are a really fun bunch, the food is great (bagels, donuts, yogurt, bananas, oranges, subs, pizza . . . you name it!), and the beer is free-flowing (and not the piss-water kind of beer – this is good stuff!), and the prizes are also excellent. I have missed this race only once since it started and I have one the “Athena” division (the heavy-weight ladies) every year (although if you looked in the record books there would be one year that I was over-looked due to technical error). So I go into this event every year with the goal of winning this division. I really have no race plan, since I don’t do speed-work and it can be very difficult to tell who your rivals are (the weight minimum is 145 pounds, which can be hard to tell in runners of different heights). So my plan is to just go out and run as hard as I can and if I see someone who I think may be in my division ahead of me, I just try as hard as I can to overtake them.

This year Joe and I really out-did ourselves with our festive clothing. If there was a best-dressed division, I think we could have taken it (picture to be posted once I figure out how to do it!). We both had really great big Irish hats, which we discarded just before the start of the race and donned more “aerodynamic” berets. I had my new speedy racing shoes on and my great new green rugby knee socks. I flew through the first mile in 6:47. It is a downhill mile, so I figured it would be fast, but I was momentarily worried when I heard the time. But I was feeling good and not struggling to breathe. Mile 2 is a long upgrade, which really suits me. I feel strong going uphill and I was able to pass several people here. Going into mile 3 I saw a runner ahead of me with sort-of long hair and a bandana over the head. I contemplated the runner for what seemed like an eternity to try to decide if it was a female in my weight division. I felt like I was running at my max and really wanted to be sure before I tried to find any extra oomph and pass this runner. Finally I decided that it was a male runner ahead of me and I was safe to stay at the pace I was at. Other than mile 1 where the times were being yelled-out, I had no idea what my time was during the race and was extremely happy when I crossed the finish line in 27:45 (6:57 pace!). I walked around and waited for Joe, who I knew would be finishing soon, and then it was straight into the food and the beer! Our Ithaca-area runners really cleaned-up in the awards department and, once again, I defended my Athena title! Good for $25 and a beautiful sweatshirt. The competition was really deep this year, with at least 550 people in the race. I felt good during and after the race and very thankful that I don’t have to run that fast all of the time. It’s hard! But I do have to admit that it’s fun to run fast – on occasion.

So here is how the entire week panned-out:

Mon 3/9: 6.2 miles. 34 degrees, windy, and a light snow.

Tues 3/10: 8 miles. 29 degrees, windy, overcast. Had to re-route the run midway through because of icy terrain.

Wed 3/11: 7.5 miles. 51 degrees. Ran in shorts – finally!

Thurs 3/12: 0 miles. Rest day. 23 degrees and heavy lake-effect snow!

Fri 3/13: 6.4 miles. 25 degrees and sunny. Still a little ice on the forest roads, but the snow-cover helped the footing.

Sat 3/14: 5 miles. One mile warm-up and then 4 mile race. Forget the cool-down after the race – the food and beer go fast and if you do a cool-down, you are likely to miss the goodies!

Sun 3/15: 18.2 miles. Ran with Lorrie – sections of “Joe’s Torture Trail”. Ran in tight-shorts and found that this really helped to eliminate the chub-rub as well as support my quads and hamstrings on the hills. Drank HEED only and found that this fuelled me quite well.

TOTAL WEEKLY MILEAGE: 51.3 miles. Now it’s time to go easy for the week and preserve my energy for the HAT Run 50K on Saturday.

The big story of the week: Ireland beat Scotland in a real nail-biter in the Six Nations Rugby. Despite giving up way too many penalties early on, the Irish prevailed. My man, Ronan O’Gara, was back in fine kicking form, as he overtook the Six Nations point-scoring record previously held by rugby icon Jonny Wilkinson. Next week is the final game, Ireland vs. Wales. If (when) Ireland prevails, they will have grand-slammed the Six Nations tournament!

“Man . . . is making many far-reaching changes. This most influential half animal, half angel is rapidly multiplying and spreading, covering the seas and lakes with ships, the land with huts, hotels, cathedrals, and clustered city shops and homes, so that soon, we may have to go even farther . . . to find a good solitude.” John Muir

Monday, March 9, 2009


“Going to the woods is going home . . . " John Muir

I know that there is still more to come, but this weather this week was absolutely awesome for running. I am certain that there is still at least one more snow storm out there before it finally clears, but this past week’s weather was just enough of a boost that I now think I can make it through.

FINALLY . . . Joe and I were able to get back out on the trails to run. We ran a section of the Finger Lakes Trail two days this week. The ground was still hard in most areas and therefore unforgiving to the twisting and turning of my ankles, but still, I was running in the woods! And it was great to get my trail legs back on before hitting the trails in less than two weeks for the HAT Run 50K. I feel ready and, although I would have liked to get more miles in this week, I decided that I need to also get ready for next week’s St. Pat’s 4-miler and my attempt to defend my Clydesdale crown. I bought a new pair of sneakers especially for this – Asics Gel DS Trainers. For most runners these sneakers are considered daily training run shoes. But for someone of my size they are considered racing flats. Joe and I ran one of our 10K routes and I wore them (it was a dry & sunny day . . . couldn’t chance getting them dirty!) and I just felt really fast in them. So hopefully this will bode well for the race.

I also gained another year this week which, unfortunately, does not yet put me into the next age group. It probably doesn’t matter much anyway, since the 35-45 year-old women are generally pretty tough and that means I have a long way to go!

So despite my lower mileage this week, I think I was able to gain mentally. My mind is in racing-mode for next week and I can’t wait to see all of our ultra friends at HAT and spend some really quality time on the trails.

Monday 3/2: 0 miles. A rest day was in order after the weekend.

Tuesday 3/3: 7.78 miles. Some paved roads, some snowy dirt roads. 10 degrees outside and WINDY but sunny.

Wednesday 3/4: 7 miles on the Finger Lakes Trail.

Thursday 3/5: 6.2 miles in new Asics Gel DS Trainers. What a speed-rush!

Friday 3/6: 7 miles on the Finger Lakes Trail. Ran in shorts and light-weight long sleeve shirt. Temp beautiful in the 50s.

Saturday 3/7: 6.4 miles. Ran on dirt roads through Arnot Forest. Still some pretty icy sections which made for slow-going in parts.

Sunday 3/8: 0 miles. Worked last night and that added to losing an hour really messed me up! So it was a great rest day from running. Lifted weights.

Ireland still remains undefeated in the Six Nations Rugby tournament – the only team that has a chance for a grand slam! And for my birthday I got what every rugby girl should have – her own rugby ball. Now I can practice my kicks and my throws as cross training!

Lesson for the week: Ice cream cake and beer taste really good together.

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out until sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” John Muir

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

This week had its moments when I thought things were looking up for the weather and just when I thought it was safe to go back outside again . . . it changed. However, I will say that despite a couple of down days, for the most part my training moved forward. I have always been a member of the low-mileage training group, so any weekly mileage (when I am training for an ultra) that is above 40 miles is a big week for me. I did put a conscious effort into following what I eat (and drink) and have been making some better choices, which I think helped my energy level. I also received a couple of new pairs of sneakers in the mail that I had ordered and that always gets my energy going. Plus Joe and I were able to hit another of our favorite running routes that we have to put off during the snow season. We also ran the course for a new race that we will be having here on August 16 (Mountain Madness Runs 14K & 30K). We ran the 14K course, which still had a big section under snow & ice, but the sun was out and we had a great run. The 30K course still has a large area under snow, but hopefully here in a couple of weeks we will be able to get out on it.

I’m still waiting for the Vermont 100 to post their entrant’s list online so I can see who will be there. The IT100 entrant list is up with eight runners so far in the 100 mile and seven runners in the 50 mile. It’s fun to see who will be there suffering with you. I have found that is the thing I enjoy most about running ultras; they are like big family reunions and parties. The camaraderie is like nothing I have ever experienced.

So here is what I accomplished this week. Some plans had to be changed due to the weather and my lack of desire to get out into it. And despite some insomnia I was able to get in some decent back-to-back longish runs.

MON 2/23: 0 miles. It was extremely windy outside with a bitter 19 degrees. So instead of running I biked hard for 60 minutes (realizing that even biking on a trainer at a higher level requires continuous fuelling!), lifted weights, & threw in some abdominal crunches.

TUES 2/24: 7 miles. I ran one of Joe’s & my favorite hilly courses. Despite being colder outside at 17 degrees, the sun was out & there was less wind. Off to work after.

WED 2/25: 7 miles. Same run as yesterday but I had Joe with me for company today, which made the miles much more enjoyable. Off to work after.

THURS 2/26: 8.75 miles. Joe & I ran one of our new race courses for this year. Temps were high 40s & the sun was out. I was really kicking myself for wearing tights & not carrying a water bottle by the time we hit the last 1.5 miles that climbs FOREVER! Off to work after.

FRI 2/27: 0 miles. Temps still in the high 30s/low 40s, but it was POURING rain! Took a rest-day and caught-up on errands & house cleaning & then snuck-in 20-30 minutes of weight lifting & crunches in the evening.

SAT 2/28: 17.65 miles. Ran with Lorrie (& Joe for 3.1 miles). Extremely windy day, 17 degrees, some sun. It was pretty brutal, but we survived – thanks largely to Joe meeting us about half-way through with drinks and dry shirts for me to change into. The final 3 miles were into a strong, cold headwind with the last 1.5 miles a steep climb into the bitter cold headwind. Hot coffee when we got done never tasted so good.

SUN 3/1: 11.25 miles. My plan was to run from home to Cornell (17 miles) where Joe would be at the track meet. However, when I woke up it was 4.9 degree, dark, & a sub-zero wind chill! I just couldn’t take it. So I volunteered at the track meet registration & then headed-out for a run. It was still pretty cold & windy, but Ithaca weather is nothing like Irish Hill weather! Not even close.

TOTAL WEEKLY MILES: 51.65!! I was very happy with this but am really itching to get out on the trails.

So it was good all around. Six Nations Rugby was great this week with an awesomely good game between Wales & France on Friday night (BIG disappointment, though. Wales lost to France. And I really don’t like the French team!). Then on Saturday it was the match of the week . . . Ireland vs. England. My man, Ronan O’Gara, had a pretty disastrous game but Brian O’Driscoll made-up for it was an amazing drop-goal and scored a try, despite two decent slams to the head. Despite a very last-minute converted try by England, Ireland took the victory by a slim 1 point!

The work schedule for next week is looking a little hairy but on those weeks where I have to work the weekend time management becomes a real challenge. We’ll see what happens. Until then, STAY WARM!!!!!!!!!!! Less than 2 weeks until the St. Pat's 4-miler & less than 3 weeks until HAT Run 50K! WOO HOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!