BUS Pajama Romp 6-Hour, Astoria Park, 26 July 2014

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27.3 miles completed

First of all, I HAVE NO IDEA how to eat for a long run that begins in the evening. Until now, I have never run a race or endurance event that didn’t start first thing in the morning. In fact, that’s why I do all of my long training runs at the crack of dawn: to be ready for early morning starts! 

So yeah, the Broadway Ultra Society Pajama Romp 6-Hour began at 5:00 pm. It was a “nice change” and I appreciated being able to sleep in and leisurely get ready throughout the day. I did plan food: a cinnamon roll for breakfast and plain pasta for lunch with plenty of fluids. I meant to eat the pasta at noon, but it was closer to 1:00 pm before I was able to eat. I think this was the primary problem I had during the event. 

The Pajama Romp takes place each July in lovely Astoria Park in Queens, but this was my first time to run it. The course loop is about 1.28 miles of asphalt, with a couple of hills, nothing too difficult. The park itself is interesting and offers a lot to look at. There is a skate park, a large pool, a playground, bocce courts, and a running track. The Triborough and Hell Gate bridges run straight through the park, so each loop means running under each bridge twice. There are amazing views of the East River, Wards/Randall’s Island, and Harlem. And as the course grew dark, we were treated to fireflies over the northern grassy areas! 

The start/finish area, clock, and timing tent were tucked in between the southeast end of the track and the field house. (Real bathrooms yay!) We lined up on time, but started about five minutes late. There was a threat of storms right at 5:00, but the clouds blew over with just a sprinkle over the park. Weather for the event couldn’t have been better. It was humid, but cool and breezy for the entire six hours. 

I chose this event to experiment a little bit with fluids. I’m a diehard Tailwind fan and I stuck with that; however, I didn’t run with a pack this time. I usually run with a full pack (70 oz./2ish liters) and sip as I go, but my Nathan 020 is a couple of years old and lately it has stopped feeling good to run in. The straps are stretched out, making it hard to properly adjust, and the buckles poke out and rub in all the wrong places. I’m just not happy with it and I haven’t had a chance to buy anything new. Since the Pajama Romp loop is pretty small, I opted to take a cooler with water bottles. 

I bought six 12 oz. bottles of water and mixed up a stronger-than-usual ratio of Tailwind-to-water in each. The New Fluid Plan entailed picking up a new bottle once per hour and drinking the full 12 oz. over the course of one loop, then supplementing with plain water from the aid station in between. (I was running about four loops per hour.) 

This didn’t work at all. I still felt over-full from lunch at the start and as soon as I downed the first 12 ounces of my new Tailwind mixture half an hour later, my stomach rebelled. I tried to stick with the plan, but after downing the second bottle, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to. I stopped drinking at that point to let my stomach settle…which resulted in a bladder spasm at the end of hour two. This is a BAD THING. I don’t have bladder spasms very often, but when I do they are hugely painful and 99.9% of the time they are due to dehydration. At that point I was between a rock and a hard place.* 

I considered dropping, but decided to try to recover if I could. Throughout hour three I was forced to slow down due to bladder pain and I began sipping six ounces of flat cola each time I came through the aid station. (BUS events always have flat cola, which is perfect for upset tummies.) I ended up taking three (THREE?!!) bathroom breaks during that hour. During hour four I continued to go slow, but I switched to sipping six ounces of Tailwind each loop. That’s about the time my husband arrived. I walked one full loop with him and felt a lot better by the start of hour five. I knew my bladder would relax if I could take in enough fluids and I could get enough fluids if I could get my stomach settled. 

My methods worked. For the last two hours I was able to regain my normal pace and I actually finished stronger than I started. I estimate that I lost somewhere between 3 and 4 miles during my “down period.” I still finished with 27.3 miles, which is the same distance I completed at the 6-hour run back in March with zero training. I’m actually pretty proud of myself for being able to recover and finish. That’s the first time I’ve had something really yucky happen and been able to figure out how to fix it. 

Aside from intestinal/bladder issues, everything else held up fine. I was going to run in my brand new Altra Intuition 2.0s, but after a couple of runs in them I decided they were just too squishy and my body isn’t used to them yet. I stuck with my 1.5s and they were awesome. I ended up with two tiny toe blisters and minimal chafing anywhere else, so that made me happy. 

As usual, the aid station, timing volunteers, and race direction were amazing. (Go Richie!) I was too beat up to stick around afterward for awards. Not sure if I got anything or not; I guess someone will contact me if I did. Final results aren’t up yet, so I don’t know how I placed either. At any rate, this is an event that I would recommend, particularly if you’ve never done a timed race before. Location and race direction can’t be beat. The only worry would be heat/weather, but those are things that can be compensated for. I expect to line up for the Pajama Romp next year.

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Pre-race preparations at the baggage area.

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Running south under Hell Gate Bridge.

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Running south along the water.

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The timing tent and our fabulous loop counters.

The famous pajama bottoms of the Pajama Romp!

* The playground at Astoria Park is called Charybdis Playground. I felt this was appropriate to my situation.

Brooklyn Half Marathon, 17 May 2014

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2:22:20 finish

I decided to run the Brooklyn Half on a whim, pinky swearing with two friends that we would all run it. I hadn’t run a half marathon in nearly three years, but there is so much excitement built up around the Brooklyn Half I figured it would be a good time. Mostly it was.

I actually put together a training plan for this race, then threw it out the window and did what I wanted. I should have stuck with the plan. Race day was perfect and I’ve been running really long distances for a couple of years, so I made quite a few mistakes with this race. 

First was the training plan that I didn’t follow through on. And second was underestimating the effort it would take to complete 13.1. I didn’t bring any Tailwind with me or any of the other nutrition I typically take on a longer run. I just had a little snack pre-race and lined up to run.

Pre-race waiting was typical of NYRR, except this time the porta-potties were in the corrals. I found this arrangement to be quite convenient, except that half of them ran out of toilet paper very quickly. There were still hundreds in line waiting and the ladies were having to share toilet paper back and forth between the lines. (I always bring extra toilet paper or kleenex with me to races, except for that day! I don’t know why I didn’t bring any.)

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I was in wave two and we started on time and headed up Washington Avenue at a steady pace. I tried to maintain a speed that I thought I could maintain and I did quite well through the first four miles. I struggled a little bit on the Prospect Park hill (always), so mile five was slower, but I made up for lost time during miles six through eight.

Then there was mile nine. Usually this is the point at which I am hitting my sweet spot. I LOVE MILE NINE. But during this race, mile nine did not treat me well. I kinda sorta started feeling a little weak during mile eight. I actually moved over at the aid station and grabbed a gel “just in case” I might need it later. As I moved past the mile nine point, I realized I was bonking. I ate half the gel, gagging, and threw away the rest. I don’t think it helped. 

I struggled the last few miles and finished in 2:22 and change. That time isn’t terribly far off my other half marathon times, but I was hoping for closer to 2:15. In fact, I was on pace for about 2:16:30 until MILE NINE. <shrug> Bonking doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t train properly, but it did reinforce the fact that I shouldn’t have changed my usual long run routine just because I thought 13.1 miles wasn’t that far. <eye roll> I know better than that.

I reached the finish and collected my medal, but when I went to get in line for a photo, I discovered I was too late. The photographer told me he had been instructed to pack up, which made me mad. I was well under the 3-hour cut off and I was prepared to pay for a photograph. (Not to mention that there were at least a couple thousand people behind me that probably also wanted photos.) I eagerly waited for the email from the photo company to see what pics they had of me on the course. The answer is none. There were no pictures of me running and only two from the finish line and I was mostly obscured by other runners in both. That was pretty disappointing.

I will probably run this race again, if for no reason than to put the proper effort into doing it right. It is a nice course, even if the race is super big and expensive now. 

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Prospect Park Track Club Picnic on the Beach

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The best part of this race is ending at Coney Island!

Scotland Run 10k, Central Park, 4 April 2015

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1:06:26 finish

In all the years I’ve lived in NYC, this was my first Scotland Run 10k. It’s one of the few NYRR races I had never done and honestly, I probably wouldn’t have registered—particularly so soon after a 6-hour—except that my half marathon training plan called for a 10k on this particular week.

Race day was beautiful: cool, but without wind. It had been awhile since I’d run in Central Park, so I enjoyed that, and I loved that there were bagpipers on the course and kilts everywhere. If I run this race again, I will definitely wear a plaid skirt!

All told, this race was uneventful. I held back and finished about seven minutes off my PR time. I was disappointed in the shirt. It was cotton and I was really looking forward to a tech shirt.

BUS Alley Pond Park 6-Hour, 30 March 2014

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27.3 miles completed

I registered for this run knowing I wasn’t trained for it, but I wanted to do it and I kind of felt like I needed it. I had really been struggling to stay motivated following my October DNF and as every long distance runner knows: to get back in your head you need to run long.

Race morning was cool and drizzly—just enough to make everything damp without getting completely soaked. The start/finish was at the Alley Pond Park Tennis Center and luckily there’s a community building there that we could stash our bags in. They stayed dry the whole day and there were lots of bathrooms! Score on both counts!

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The start/finish/aid area was pretty windy, which means our awesome volunteers had to spend the day in the chilly wet breeze. (Thank you, volunteers!) But inside the park it was quite pleasant. The course was a 5k loop through Alley Pond Park, which is very hilly. In fact, there is a hill in mile one that I only saw a few people attempt to run. I ran sections of it and that was a successful way to get past it. 

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The course looped around a couple of different ball fields, a few playgrounds, and the Alley Pond Adventure Course. It was scenic enough to be interesting and it felt about the right distance for the terrain. The last half hour we ran a short loop and it took me a couple of passes to understand how the fractions were marked. Then there was some confusion as to when the race ended. I was running near about a dozen other runners and word came back that the race was over, so we all turned back to go to the nearest marker. Only after we stopped running did we hear the horn. All of use were shorted at least one fraction. <shrug> I honestly wasn’t sure we’d be able to hear the horn from where we were anyway.

Since I finished 27.3 miles, I got a trophy. I was the 16th place female. This was my second 6-hour race and I didn’t run as far as I did the first time, but I was happy to have finished the entire thing. I never stopped moving and that was a real confidence builder for me. I’m not sure I’ll do this race again, just because the location was waaaay out of the way compared to where I live, but I’ll think about it. 

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Cherry Tree 10M, Prospect Park, 16 February 2014

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1:51:07 finish

2014 was my fifth annual running of the Cherry Tree 10 Miler, organized by my running club, the Prospect Park Track Club. I would call the weather “average”…cold, but not bitterly so as in some years. I wised up this time around, though, and took a car to the start line instead of getting up super early to ride the bus. Much less waiting time before the race!

I was coming into the race undertrained, which is typical for February, but started out pretty strong. Of the ten miles, I managed to hammer out about five that were a decent pace, but fell off after that. I finished in 1:52—not my slowest time ever, but certainly no where close to my PR!  Ironically, I ran better in the beginning when Prospect Park’s roads were icy rather than later when they began to melt. 

I always enjoy this race and this year was no exception. It’s on the top of my list of favorite races in NYC. 

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Kids sledding near the finish line

DNF - Palo Duro Trail Run 50-Miler, Palo Duro Canyon, 19 October 2013

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37.5 miles finished in 9:02

This was my goal race for 2013 and I trained long and hard and traveled a long way to get to the starting line. Unfortunately, the finish line didn’t materialize for me.  After running three 50k races in the past 18 months, I was anxious to step up to another distance and I chose the Palo Duro Trail Run for a couple of reasons. One, it felt nostalgic and comforting to try something big and new “at home.” Two, I have hiked hundreds of miles in the canyon and I wanted to run somewhere familiar for a change.

Packet pick up took place on the night before the run at WTAMU, my alma mater. We were treated to a pasta dinner and a course overview. There was also a man there known as “The Ancient Brit” who is 86 years old and a friend of the race founder. He came to give a speech of encouragement to the runners and to present a proclamation to the park service from his home city of Westminster, England. It was pretty cool to hear about his experiences and the dinner gave me time to hang out with local runner friends and meet some new people.

Race day started cold and dark. With a start time of 7:00 and sunrise at 7:40ish, we spent the first few miles running in the dark with headlamps and flashlights to guide us. The moonset/sunrise over the canyon walls was glorious! I’m sure that is every runner’s favorite part of the race.

The PDTR course consists of a 12.5-mile loop; the 50-mile runners are to complete four full laps. There is an aid station at the midway mark (you pass it every six miles), plus two others. For the 50-mile run, there is a hard cutoff of 4:00pm to continue to the fourth loop; there is a hard cutoff of 12 hours to finish. I was hoping to run each loop in about 2 1/2 hours, but I was slower than that. After the first two loops/25 miles, I had a deficit of 12-15 minutes. That was cutting it closer than I wanted, but I felt confident going into loop three that I could finish another 12.5 in about the same amount of time and easily make the 4:00pm cutoff time.

In fact, loop three began quite well. I felt stronger during the first few miles of that loop than I expected to and was enjoying myself and the run. But around mile 30 I felt something in the back of my left shoe. Thinking it was probably a piece of grass, I simply reached down and ran my finger around the inside of my sock to dislodge whatever it was. That worked for a hundred yards or so, then I felt it again. I reached down and ran my finger through my sock again. I repeated this several times and then it felt okay, so I ran on. However, about another mile further, I felt a sharp pain in the same spot. I was forced to stop and take off my shoe and sock. I found what appeared to be a small twig, about half an inch long, very smooth and very thin. It was kind of woven through the sock threads, so it took a minute to get it untangled and pull it out. I put my sock and shoe back on and continued on, only to feel the same pain again a short while later. I was forced to stop and take off the shoe and sock again, where I found a another very tiny piece of the twig embedded in the fabric.*

It took far too long to solve the sock problem—I knew I had used up most of my deficit—and I started to panic. I tried to make up the lost time over the next couple of miles, but only succeeded in wearing myself out to the point that I was having trouble running at all. My heart rate was skyrocketing (not helped by the 40-degree temperature change from 31 to 74) and my feet were beginning to hurt. I had to take a bathroom break at the last aid station and by that time I was reduced to shuffling along, running in only short spurts. A running friend who had agreed to pace me on the last loop found me on the trail at about mile 36. He pushed me and I pushed myself, but I arrived at the chute at 4:02…two minutes too late to be allowed to continue.

I didn’t cry. I wanted to, but I held it together. I called my husband and texted my mom and a couple of friends. The RD gave me something to drink and I rested for a little while before going to pick up my drop bag and heading for the car.

Time to regroup and try again.

What Went Wrong

Gaiters

I should have had some. I almost bought a pair before the race, but I thought of them at a time it would have been cutting it close to get them shipped. I did go to REI a couple of days before I left for Texas, but they only had the tall ones and not the short ones for running. I read a number of blogs about the PDTR and looked at every picture I could find from previous years and didn’t see gaiters very often. That led me to believe they probably weren’t needed. I also didn’t see many gaiters on runners at the race and having hiked in the canyon often, I’ve never had anything get into my shoes besides dirt. I brought extra socks thinking I could remedy the dirt problem by switching between loops. I should have worn gaiters and I will not make that mistake again.

Lungs

Was it the dirt or the altitude or both? Yes! I had a great deal of trouble breathing throughout the race. I train at sea level and the race is about at 3000 feet. I thought three days of acclimation would be enough, but maybe not. Also, when I first switched on my headlamp, all I saw was dirt floating through the air. I was worried right away, but knew there was nothing to be done about it. I had to cough repeatedly during the run to clear my lungs and get a full breath. Altitude I can be mindful of in future races; dirt, maybe not so much.

Panic Due to Garmin Stoppage

I might have made the cutoff if I’d had a better idea of what overall pace I was running. Temperatures warmed considerably during loop one and I removed my arm sleeves before starting loop two. I wasn’t careful and didn’t check my Garmin, so it was awhile before I realized that my left sleeve had hit the stop button and I was no longer timing myself. I had an idea of how I was doing based on time of day, but I was fatigued and had difficulty doing the mental math to get a correct read on overall pace. Not knowing the average made it very hard to determine how fast/slow I needed to go to finish the third loop before the cutoff. After the shoe debacle, I could only tell that I had used up a lot of time, so panic set in and I sabotaged myself by pushing too hard.

Hills

I think with a better uphill strategy I might have actually completed each loop in 2 1/2 hours or less and not had to worry about time at all. I know it is accepted ultrarunning practice to walk up hills and then run the downs and flats; however, I think I am probably not walking uphill as fast or as effectively as I could be. I had this same thought a couple of months back on a particularly hilly course, but I didn’t improve much (I don’t think) between then and now. I think this will be an ongoing challenge and I plan to look for expertise from other runners.

What Went Right

Nutrition

The Tailwind really worked for me. I was a little dehydrated at the end of the third loop, but that was my fault for not drinking enough and not taking advantage of plain water at aid stations. I was getting plenty of calories, though. I never once felt hungry. My stomach was never sloshy or upset. I never felt like I was going to bonk at all. I had some Justin’s Nut Butter early in the run, as usual, but after a few hours I didn’t want anymore of that and I stuck to Tailwind only.


Pre-Race Dinner

Pre-Race Dinner

The Ancient Brit

"The Ancient Brit" addresses the runners.

Ready to Run

Ready to run. 

Headlamps at the Start

Headlamps at the start.

Moonset over the Canyon Rim

Moonset over the canyon.

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There was a little bit of climbing.

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I was having so much fun.

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The rock “belonging” to Red Spicer, the founder of the race. 

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* I think the object in my shoe was a cactus needle of some sort that burrowed into my leg. When I finally got home and took my sock off for the last time, I found a large painful blister running alongside my achilles tendon. It was filled with white liquid and burst when I tried to wash it. The wound continued to get worse over two days and then began to heal.

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Staten Island 6-Hour Run, Silver Lakes Park, 21 September 2013

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29.2 Miles Finished

The Staten Island 6-Hour was my first ever timed race. Sponsored by the Richmond Rockets and the Broadway Ultra Society (of which I am now a member), the run took place at Silver Lakes Park. In my head, I divided the 1.67-mile loop into four parts: the downhill, the dirt path, the concrete, and the final stretch.

From the starting line/timing table, there was a big downhill then slight uphill that was about a third of a mile. At the end of that section, the course ran alongside the outside of the park. Next to the asphalt path, there was dirt, so I ran on the dirt through that whole section, which was about three quarters of a mile. Then there was a stretch of concrete sidewalk along Victory Boulevard. It measured .2 miles and was uphill. Then after that the course turned back into the park for the final half mile of the loop.

(During the final half hour, we ran a smaller loop that was .8 miles. That loop crossed the lake and had nice views, although it had no shade and a killer hill at the end.)

I consistently walked the uphill concrete section and ran everything else, so I got regular walk breaks and didn’t get bored with the course. In fact, I think the course was just about perfect. The day was mostly overcast, but there was enough shade that I didn’t have to put on a hat until late in the race. I was really hoping to squeeze in 30 miles, but I ended up with 29.2 and was pleased with it. They gave trophies to the people who went more than 26.2, so I ended up with 15th place among the women and received a trophy. (It’s my first running trophy!) There was a mix up at the end where they didn’t call my name to get an award and I thought they didn’t have the right distance for me, but it turns out my name was just overlooked on the list of winners.

Overall, I had a fantastic time at this race and would definitely recommend it. I plan to run it next year and/or try another timed race between now and then. It was also the perfect complement to my 50-mile training. I got to push myself a little bit while having a supported training run and good company. I met several people who were super nice and I’ll look forward to seeing them in the future, too.


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Pre-Race

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Starting Line Instructions

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Outside Loop (dirt path)

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Inside Silver Lakes Park (final stretch)

Wildcat Ridge Romp 50k, Wildcat Ridge WMA - New Jersey, 10 August 2013

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10:40:00 Finish

I registered for Wildcat Ridge thinking I could use it as a training run for the 50-miler I’m working toward in October. I planned to “take it easy” and estimated I’d finish in about eight hours. Wrong! I worked my butt off and finished in 10:40. I felt like I did my homework on this one: I carefully read the race director’s description of the course, I looked online for photos and videos of the course (found a few, nothing threw up a red flag), I studied the course map, etc. None of that prepared me for what I actually encountered during the event. I’m learning this will probably be the case for every trail run I ever do. :P

Wildcat Ridge has some serious technical trails. I would guess I was only running about 3-4 miles of every 10.5 mile loop. (I think I might have been able to run a little more if I had been wearing a more cushioned shoe. I did see some Hokas on the course and I was jealous.) I spent most of the time picking my way over rocks and there was a lot of climbing. At least two sections were steep enough that I worried my running shoes were not going to give me enough traction to get up and over. I had to use my arms a lot to pull myself over and around trees and to use trees and rocks for balance. (Also, I had to touch moss, which grossed me out.) I did quite a lot of hiking and climbing at one time, but that was a very long time ago!

There were a few water crossings, a little bit of mud, a couple of short sections of paved road, but what I will remember about Wildcat Ridge is the rocks. There were just so many rocks. My ankles are sore and my feet are bruised (and yes, my shoes have rock plates). The course had some gorgeous views of a reservoir and a pond, plus there was a lookout point right before mile four. I also had good company for most of the run and met some really interesting people. 

After I realized how long it was taking me to negotiate each loop, I really wanted to quit after two. I had been out for 6+ hours and I was exhausted and my feet really hurt at that point. My husband (aka Team Norma) was there for a pep talk, so I headed back out. That third loop was HARD. I didn’t think I was ever going to finish. I kept losing the trail markings. I wanted to cry at mile 29. But I also kept thinking that I would be out even longer for a 50-miler and I needed the mental training for that, even beyond the physical training. I’ve never been so glad to see a finish line!

As far as races go, I’m glad to have this one under my belt, but I probably won’t do it again unless I move somewhere that gives me frequent access to mountain trails. Unless you have a lot of trail experience that includes a lot of climbing, I wouldn’t recommend this for a first ultra. But if you are looking for a challenge and you have tough feet, this is a race you will definitely enjoy!

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Start line

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Splitrock Reservoir

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Trees and rocks and water to climb over, trying to reach those blue ribbon trail markers.

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Hibernia Pond

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There is an aid station at the top of this rock.

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Me trying to get to the aid station at the top of the rock. I was likely cursing the rock.

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New friends Barco and Katherine.

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Gorgeous view!

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So many rocks…

Run Buff 5k, West Texas A&M University, 13 April 2013

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32:12 Finish

On vacation, I had the opportunity to run a 5k with my sister-in-law and her friend.  Both had run 5ks before, but not without stopping or walking, so they both had a goal to run the whole thing. I had a goal to have fun and get a good run in. The race was called the Run Buff 5k and was sponsored by the West Texas A&M University women’s cross country program to raise money for scholarships. 

On race day, it was hot, windy, and stormy.  The race was delayed for about 30 minutes while we waited for a thunderstorm to blow over.  The wind, however, did not diminish.  We spent a full half of the race running headlong into 40+mph wind.   The course ran alongside the western perimeter of WT’s campus, then headed east for about a mile before winding back to the north and west—full sun, no shade.  Most of the run was on asphalt; the rest on concrete.

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The organizers called the race a fun run, but it was timed and there were prizes for the top finishers.  What they didn’t have:  WATER.  I was shocked that there was no water on the course.  I’ve never run a race longer than two miles that didn’t have at least once water stop and on a hot day in full sun I would especially expect to see one.  But my shock at the lack of a mid-race water stop couldn’t compare to my shock at the lack of water at the finish. NO WATER AT THE FINISH. I can’t imagine what thinking went into that decision.  There wasn’t even a water fountain or water hose nearby.  I went inside the student center, stole a paper cup from the coffee shop, and had to walk into another part of the building to find a water fountain.  (Sorry about the theft! The coffee shop was closed or I would have bought one and they were just stacked up there, so…)  Also, I did notice some of the schwag bags had empty water bottles, but mine did not.  I suppose it’s possible the RD expected finishers to use the empty bottle to get water from a fountain, but if that was the case I’d be sure every single bag had a bottle.

Anyway, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a good time.  I did. It is not stressful or difficult for me to run 5k, even under-trained, so I wasn’t ever in danger of keeling over from dehydration.  I enjoyed running with a family member for a change.  My SIL and her friend both ran the whole distance, so they met their goals and that made me happy for them.  I would run this race again, but only if I had a drop bag at the end!

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Cherry Tree 10M, Prospect Park, 17 February 2013

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1:49:31 finish

I was completely unprepared for this race. That combined with high winds and windchills in the single digits did not make for a great race. I finished ten minutes slower than my 10-mile PR (which was set at this same race back in 2011).

If not for the wind, conditions would have been great.  The most comfortable part of the race was standing in the start corral, which was in a sunny spot protected from the gusts.  I saw a friend at the start and ran with her for about a mile—too fast, honestly. 

Once again, the Prospect Park hill proved to be daunting and I was defeated by it.  I don’t know any way to run it better except to run it more, and that’s really not a priority at the moment.  I’d rather be running off-road!  

Prospect Park Track Club (and the race direction of Michael Ring) organized an excellent race and this remains a favorite of mine, even if today’s effort felt like a #fail.  :)  Ask any Brooklyn runner, and they will name the Cherry Tree as the race with the best giveaways.  No shirts!  This year we got gloves from Trailheads, which were very welcome for such a cold run.  I wore the gloves under my mittens and my hands stayed toasty.   

Two thumbs up—again—for the Cherry Tree 10 Miler!

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Lining up to start

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Awesome gloves

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Finish line

Staten Island Trail Festival 50k, Willowbrook Park, 8 December 2012

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7:23 Finish 

It was a perfect day for a long trail run:  in the 40s, overcast, and slightly drizzly.  I got to Willowbrook Park about half an hour before start time.  Bib pick up was fast and it got pretty cold waiting around after that, but I chatted with a really nice woman for a bit before getting last minute directions from the race director.  About a hundred runners lined up at the start line; only about a fourth were signed up for the 50k.

Packet pick up:

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Course map:

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Most of the first mile was pavement, then we were in the woods.  We had been warned to expect mud and there was mud almost right away—sticky, swampy mud.  It wasn’t terrible.  Messy, but not terrible.  The course ran through some of the parks that make up the Staten Island Greenbelt:  Latourette Park, High Rock Park, and Manor Park.  I’ve run in the Greenbelt before in summer, when it was lush and green, but running in the fall is unbelievable.  It was a feast for the eyes; I couldn’t stop looking at the sparse beauty of it.  I want to go back and run again—more than once—before the winter is over.

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Underfoot there were a lot of different trail surfaces.  There were a few short sections of pavement and one of packed grass (my least favorite).  There was a stretch of cinder trail that was part of a multi-use path.  There was a great deal of leaf-covered trail (with rocks and sticks underneath).  And then there was the mud.  The swampier parts had nifty wooden walkways:

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The course is mostly single-track and there was a good deal of climb and descent.  In fact, I was surprised at the elevation change.  I expected to climb, but I didn’t expect to climb as much as I did.  There were both short, steep (slippery) climbs and long not-quite-as-steep climbs.  I was impressed with the trail markings, although I still did manage to run off the trail twice in nearly the same spot.  That happened around mile 26 (I think) on the second loop and I was starting to get really tired then and just missed a turn.  And then right near the end I panicked because the volunteers that had been pointing us in the right direction were gone and I thought I was repeating a section of trail and I backtracked and then decided I was probably going the right way. I was very disoriented for a little while.

There were aid stations at the start (loop) and three other points, just about four miles apart.  There was a good variety of food available (although I would have killed for apples and oranges instead of bananas).  They also had Coke, water, PowerAde, and Red Bull.  (I discovered something delightful called a Bagelful at the last station. mmm  I tend to get very hungry after mile 20, so the Bagelful might not be as delightful under normal circumstances.)  

Smiling:

Photo by Staten Island Athletic Club

Heading back into the woods:

Photo by Staten Island Athletic Club

My only complaint was traffic, which is the fault of whoever laid out the park, not the race coordinators.  There are roads that cross through the park periodically and 50k runners were faced with crossing those roads 14 times.  Most of them were okay, but there were at least four that had a lot of traffic.  I am estimating 15-20 minutes were added to my time from waiting on cars.

Overall, I had a really great time.  It has been a long time since I’ve run a race and really been anxious to sign up again.  I will definitely keep running this one each year and recommend it to others.  Big THUMBS UP to the New York Adventure Racing Association!

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Brooklyn Marathon, Prospect Park, 18 November 2012

Finish Time 4:59:53

This race was HARD.  lol  I did not train on enough hills to do well on this course, but I survived and had a good time.  The weather was perfect for a marathon—40s and partly cloudy.  The race had about 500 runners, so it felt just right and definitely not over-crowded.  

The course consisted of two lower loops of Prospect Park (about four miles total), then six loops of the entire park.  If you have never run in Prospect Park before, the big loop is roughly half uphill and half downhill; there is very little flat.  

The most loops I’ve ever done of the park is three (during the Cherry Tree 10-Miler each winter), but I managed to hold on pretty well through the fourth loop.  My heart rate was pretty high after the fourth time up the hill, so I chilled out a little bit on the downhill, but it wasn’t enough.  I hit the hill for the fifth time and just didn’t have it in me to run up it again.  I walked the hill on the fifth and sixth loops.   My overall pace dropped quite a bit from that and I squeaked in just seven seconds under the five-hour mark.

Overall I enjoyed the race quite a bit.  It was like doing a long training run in the park, but with people cheering.  There were some really great spectators the entire time I was running.  Sometimes if you’re slow people drift away before you get done, but there were people cheering the entire time I was running.  

Since I was walking already, I stopped to take a picture of these people with their pots and pans:

They also had this great sign, which was still true, even if I was walking up the hill:

This marathon was my first long race to wear my fabulous Altra Intuition 1.5s.  I ran in the original Intuitions from March until October, then switched to the newer model just in time for my last long training run.  I highly recommend them.  

On the course:

Here is Mike’s DIY Team Norma hat:

NYCRuns puts on a good race and I’m glad I ran this one.  In addition to the usual post-race Gatorade and bagels, each of us got a tiny cheesecake and the fancy medal.

NYCRuns website

Brooklyn Marathon website

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