Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mudfest 2013 - Pineland Farms

I'll admit it - I was hoping that Pineland Farms would be a really good day for me.  I don't often run a 'runnable' 50 mile course, so this was my most likely shot at getting a new 50 mile PR - and I wanted to go for it!  I was primed and ready to go - and then showed up at Pineland on Saturday morning to find the start/finish area over ankle deep with standing water.  Ok then, the race plan had to be shifted, because I'd be running 50 miles through this:
(Condition of much of the 50 mile course)
Here's a few more pictures that tell the tale:

(The photographers had so much fun capturing the adventure!)
So, the new race plan was to have fun and just enjoy the adventure that Mother Nature had planned for me.  It would be slow, and it would be challenging, but as the RD said before the race - this will be the story that's told about Pineland for years.  I was partly determined to race at Pineland because I've been doing the 50 miler there since its first year, so if I could finish this year, I would have completed 300 miles at Pineland - a feat that I don't know if anyone else can boast about.

(Fellow 413 Trail Runner, Wayne, enjoying the mud!)
As soon as the race started, I was fortunate to fall into step with Aliza Lapierre, who is an incredible athlete and a role model for me.  She was really enjoying the day, and giggling every time we got to a knee-deep puddle.  We easily passed the miles, chatting about life, running adventures, pets, friends, whatever. 

(Despite the mud, I had an enjoyable run)
After sliding around in the mud for hours, at around 25 miles, my hamstring started to give me a twinge again.  It was the same pain in the same location as my earlier spring-time hamstring injury, and I began to get really worried.  I babied the downhills, chopped my stride down, and evaluated.  Aliza noted that I was starting to visably limp, and told me to evaluate what was best for my entire season as I debated if it was wise to drop or to keep running.  Around mile 32, my hamstring was slowing me down enough that I told Aliza to go ahead as I figured out what I was doing. 

(Cruising through the trails at Pineland)
I got to mile 35, and my pacer Carolyn was there waiting to keep me company through the last 15 miles.  I apologized that my hamstring was in tough shape - so I would see what I could do.  But, having her enthusiasm inspired me to try to run through the pain a bit and finish the race.  Carolyn, who is a phenominal runner herself, is still in college but says that she 'wants to be an ultrarunner when she grows up' - so this was the perfect time to see how we often have to readjust our goals and run through some less-than-ideal conditions to finish these crazy races.  At least it was fun to have someone who hadn't seen the course yet with me - and I got quite a laugh out of her shock and struggle through the mudpit that the course had become.

(Running with my pacer, Carolyn - we had so much fun in the mud!)
Carolyn was amazing as a pacer - she has so many great tales to share, was always upbeat, and just had so much fun out there.  I was so glad to have her with me to enjoy the last few hours of racing.  Before I knew it, we were closing in on the finish.  It wasn't the prettiest race I've ever run, and I knew I would be rough shape for a while afterwards...but I had a great time, and the miles passed easily and quickly throughout the day. 

(Finishing my 6th Pineland Farms 50 miler)
Somehow, I finished in 7:54, pretty good considering the conditions out there.  If only it had been a dry day - I know I could have gotten a new PR there.  Brian seemed complete unaffected by the mud, as he cruised through the race in 6:30.  

(Brian, cruising as if on dry ground)

The typical Pineland Farms post-race party (which is legendary) was pretty subdued with the drizzle in the air and ankle-deep mud/water in the field.  However, I did have a beer and catch up with many of my fellow 413 Trail Running friends, and even saw my Western Mass Distance Project teammates finish their 50k races.  It was awesome to see so many western Massachusetts runners competing strong and having great days in these crazy conditions. 

- Had LunaBar (1 hour) and banana (1/2 hour) before race start
- Consumed 9 gus (before start, 0.75 hours, 1.5 hours, 2.25 hours, 3 hours, 3.5 hours, 4.5 hours, 6 hours, 6.75 hours) [vanilla bean, just plain, and espresso love gus] - 900 calories
- Consumed approximately 4 salt tabs (it was wet and cool)
- Consumed 4 water bottles of energy drink [raspberry gu brew and roctane grape] - 450 calories
- Consumed approximately 10 cups of energy drink/coke at aid stations - 250 calories
Net total - 1,600 calories and 150 oz fluid

A nod from Running Times:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Early morning bachelorette run

My alarm went off this morning at 4:45am.  I put on my spandex and running clothes, ready for a morning track workout.  I put together my lunch for the day.  I grabbed my 'bachelorette' sash(?).  I was out the door by 5:15am.

A few years ago, I used to train mostly on my own - I didn't know many local runners, and had the rare opportunity to share some miles with anyone.  After my first ever snowshoe race, Abby Woods (now Abby Mahoney) approached me and told me I should train with her - and from there, I met other local running ladies.  Fast-forward 3 years later, and we added a women's team to the highly competitive local running club - the Western Mass Distance Project, which at the time was men-only.  Now, through the community that Abby introduced me into, and through ladies that the team has connected me with, I have running buddies for almost all of my runs, and am surrounded by an amazing group of supportive friends!

This incredible and supportive group is illustrated by this morning's festivities.  One of our teammates, Laura Hutchinson, is getting married next Tuesday.  We threw her a super secret surprise 'bachelorette run' this morning.  She still got in her track workout, but she wore a veil and carried a bouquet.  It was quite the site.

(Laura, in all her glory)

 (The crew who met at 5:30am to surprise Laura)
By 6:45am, Laura had headed off to CrossFit, and the rest of us were cooled down and headed to work.  It was a truly special morning, and absolutely fitting for Laura - who is the biggest cheerleader of everyone it's great to celebrate her.
It reminded me of last year's Carver Cranberry 5 Mile Race, which was the debut race for the ladies WMDP team.  It was also the morning of my wedding.  So, I raced with an extra skip in my step (and a garder belt on my leg)...and we rushed our cool down to get my home in time to walk down the aisle.  The rest of the team that day was ladies headed to my wedding, so they understood.  Like I said, I am so fortunate to know this amazing group of ladies!
(My first time in the baby blue - Carver 5mi on my wedding morning)

What is your running community like?  What does running mean to you?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Living the Dream

When I was young, I remember driving in to Ashland and watching the Boston Marathon. I would cheer on every athlete out there, because they were amazing to be out there, running Boston. Running that far seemed so incredible, and it didn’t matter to me where they finished…they were inspirational to be doing it. It inspired me to be a runner, and started the dream of someday achieving something as incredible as the marathon.

I’ve run for most of my life, and while I’ve enjoyed races of all distances and all terrains, I found my true passion with trail running and ultrarunning. Perhaps I’m a masochist, because the longer the better…the tougher the better…I crave adventure. I’ve started by running the Seven Sisters Trail Race, then bumped up to 50k, 50 mile, and ultimately 100 mile races (with two more coming this summer), most recently I tried stage racing by competing in the 6-day 120 mile stage race over the Colorado Rockies.  I enjoy pushing my limits and continuing to learn about myself through distance running. I feel at home in the community that trail and ultrarunning provides.

Running has given me so much – it has given me an outlet for my energy and passion. It has given me a community of training buddies and Western Mass Distance Project teammates that inspire and motivate me. It has given me confidence in myself that I lacked for so long. Several years ago it found me my husband and gave us common ground to share. Most recently, running has given me the opportunity to represent my country and race on an international platform at the IAU World Trail Championships, fulfilling the dream of my youth to wear USA across my chest and run for my country. Even better, it is allowing me to share this opportunity with my husband, Brian Rusiecki, who has also been selected for the US Team.

The World Trail Championships, taking place in Wales, will be a 75k technical trail race in early July. The 10-person team includes three New England runners: myself, Brian, and Ben Nephew (Inov8). I think that the technical rocky terrain we play on in New England will serve us well when we race this challenging course in Wales, and played into the selection heavy on east coasters.

I think my feelings on this are summed up well by Sabrina Little, who recently competed on her first US team at the World 24 Hour Championships:
“There are some exclusive clubs that are difficult to gain access to, but once you get in, life is easier. You can relax. Take Ivy League institutions, for example. A U.S. National Team is not like that. Earning the American singlet is difficult, and once you do that, more is demanded of you because running is no longer a singular pursuit. You represent your country—your coaches, your family, and your freedoms. It was weighty, so I was feeling anxious.” - Sabrina Little, US 24 Hour Record Holder, on her first US Team selection.

Unfortunately, USATF does not support the US Trail Running Team at this time. To support our effort in Wales, click here.

Level Renner published an article here:

Springfield Republican also posted an article here:

DFLUltrarunning interviewed Brian and I for a podcast here:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

How Far Can You Run in 6 Hours?

I am not someone who enjoys laps...I enjoy getting lost in the woods for hours, and enjoying an adventurous journey.  In fact, I would say that I downright dispise laps - it's just really hard for me to keep my mental focus and enthusiasm up when faced with the same terrain and views time after time. 

Dispite my dislike of laps, I opted to attend the Mother's Day 6 Hour Race put on by G.A.C.  It's a rare timed race - the laps are 3 miles (which is on the longer side for this type event), and are trail laps (again, this is rare).  It was really the best I could hope for with a lap/timed course.

My real motivation to be there was to motivate my friend, Meghan, to do the race.  She was gearing up for her first ultra ever, the Pineland Farms 50k, and I thought that doing the 6 hour race would help her get in a long run, in a really laid-back and beginner-friendly environment, and give her confidence that she'll rock her first 50k.  My plan for the day was to get in 35 miles, to cap off a 100-mile training week.

(My training buddy Meghan, my motivation to do the 6 Hour)
As the race started, I was lucky to fall into step with a few folks I knew - Anthony Parillo and Larisa Dannis.  Both are complete running studs, and awesome people, so we easily ticked off the miles while swapping stories of our recent adventures.  Larisa unfortunately stopped to hit the woods after an hour, and while Anthony and I slowed a bit (and took our time while lapping through), we didn't see her again.  I figured she's catch right up, and in hindsight felt bad about dropping her.

Anthony and I continued to run together, taking our time through the lap area - not really focusing on pace as much as enjoying the day.  After about 20 or so miles, he said he was struggling a bit and would likely just opt for 30 miles on the day and then go home.  I was happy to have the company for any portion, and stuck with him regardless of our pace.

(Me, at the 6 Hour race in 2009)

After Anthony left me, I was 30 miles in - and I could focus on just 2 more laps to get in my 35 miles (well, I would be at 36 miles, but that was ok).  I was getting mentally tired of the same lap over and over again, but I tried to channel my former TransRockies partner Sabrina (Moran) Little, who was running in the World Championship 24 Hour race at the same time.  Considering what she was doing, what was 2 more laps? [I will note that Sabrina totally rocked the World Championship - finishing 2nd Overall, leading the US team to the gold medal, and setting a new American Record of 151 miles!]
(Me and Sabrina at the end of 2011 TransRockies - she is my inspiration when mentally I have a tough time with laps)
As I was about 1 mile from calling it a day, I ran past 3 guys who were standing around an unmanned aid station halfway around the lap.  I heard one of them say 'well, there goes first place', and realize that I must have just passed the 1st place guy and his two pacers.  I yelled back to them that I was happy to have a pacer if someone wanted to keep me company, and next thing I knew, Greg Esbitt was at my side, pacing me through the rest of my miles.  Once I was in the lead, I figured I had to finish out the 6 that was a few more miles than I had planned. 

The leader's other former pacer caught up to me in my next lap, saying that his runner dropped after that lap, so he was joining me for some more miles.  We finished that lap (39 miles total), and I did 1 more bonus mile, just to ensure the win (40 miles total).  I was so pleased to see that Larisa, dispite a bit of stomach issues, finished 2nd overall on the day (39 miles) - so the ladies swept the day! [I will note that 3rd place overall was also another female, so the ladies swept the podium, and took 4 of the top 5 spots!]

(Larisa and I after the race - #1 and #2 on the day!)
Meghan had an amazing day, logging 29 miles and feeling strong the whole way.  I've never seen her as happy as she was at the finish line - she is truly an ultrarunner at heart.  She's ready to rock at Pineland Farms 50k in a few weeks. 

All in all, it was an unexpectedly good day.  I approached the day as a relaxed training run, and was pleased to get in the mileage I did.  It appears that I am overcoming my spring hamstring injury and time off training.  It was nice to return to the GAC race and get my second overall win in two runs there. far can you run in 6 hours?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Conquering the Bear

As I drove to the North Face Endurance Challenge – Northeast Regionals at Bear Mountain, I was anxious.  I’ve raced here 3 times before and have never had a great day on these trails.  I spent most of the spring on and off injured, and wasn’t sure that my fitness was there.  I hadn’t really raced an ultra in months, and so even the 50k seemed overwhelming to consider. 
But, once I put on my trusty TrailRocs and the race started, I finally relaxed.  I remembered that I do ultras because I am passionate about running and the trails.  I enjoyed the camaraderie of numerous runners out there, catching up with old friends or meeting new one, and seamlessly passing the miles.  I kept my head up and took in the views of the Catskills, smiled as I cruised over single track, and enjoyed racing through the trees.  I remembered that this is why I run, and took in the miles and experiences.  As I slapped Dean high five at 20 miles in, I realized that my legs felt ok – my injury wasn’t bothering me, my fitness was holding up, and I only had 10 miles to go.  My anxiety about the race had been unfounded.

With 3 miles to go, and nothing but downhill to the finish, it was the first time I really let go and opened up the stride.  I was the first female, and was finally going to have a great day at Bear Mountain!  I had a smile plastered on my face, and embraced the fatigue in the legs.  I worked with the racers who were near me, as we all charged towards the finish.  I cross the finish line and literally jumped for joy.  I had conquered the Bear, I had overcome my injury, I had enjoyed 50k of joy, passion, and beauty, and I had loved every minute of it.  This is why I run…