Thursday, September 25, 2014

Like Breathing Fire - Flagline 50k Race Report

"Running at elevation is like breathing fire" - Sabrina (Moran) Little, after our TransRockies Run adventure

Life has been a whirlwind since Brian and I returned from Europe - catching up on work, catching up with friends, and filling folks in on the adventures we had.  It seems like before I could blink, I was back on a plane and headed to Bend, Oregon for the Flagline 50k, which would serve as the USATF 50k Trail National Championships. 

Heading into the race, I didn't know what to expect.  I would be arriving the day before, so there was no opportunity to acclimate, however I didn't know if the elevation would bother me.  I have only once raced on the west coast (at Cascade Crest 100), so I didn't know what type of terrain to expect.  I haven't run a 50k in a long time, focusing on the longer races over the summer, so it would be interesting to see if my legs had any speed.  Regardless, I was excited to try a new race, put myself up against some of the best in the country, and to experience some of the hype that Bend has.

(Typical view from along the course)
The starting line was narrow, and the field was deep.  I lined up a bit back, knowing I am always a more conservative starter.  As we started, the trail narrowed to nearly single track, and I fell into a comfortable rhythm.  It was downhill for the first 1km or so...and then a small hill came.

Immediately, as soon as we were headed up, I was gasping for air.  Folks flew by me on both sides as I struggled to get up this small climb.  I was so embarrassed.  Apparently, even at 6,500 feet, my body needs some time to acclimate.  My legs were filled with lactic acid after only a few short miles.

(Beautiful, non-technical single track through the trees)
The race itself was a complete blur.  Perhaps I didn't have enough oxygen to process.  Perhaps after so many 50 mile and 100 mile races, a 50k race is just too short to think.  My thoughts from the race are flashes...

The trails were beautiful, a change from the typical New England landscape that I often see.  They were non-technical, so I could keep my eyes up and on the scenery rather than focusing on the trails to stay upright.  Frankly, at times the trails were downright soft, almost like sand, and I had to channel my snowshoe running technique to efficiently progress forward.

On the last uphill toward mile 20, there was a long grind of a climb.  I was embarrassed, I walked a grade that would be completely runnable for me at sea-level.  I was amazed at how much a bit of elevation could kick my butt if I wasn't used to it.  I felt like I was held to 50 mile or 100 mile race pace to keep my breathing under control and avoid oxygen debt.

(Top women at the US Championship)
In the end, I finished 6th place in the US Championship.  I had hoped for better, but given the elevation challenges I felt, I was pleased to have held on for a respectable finish.  The best part of the trip was meeting some awesome people, Denise Bourrassa and Ken Sinclair, who welcomed me into their home and showed me the trails (and brewery scene) in Bend - now I get what all the hype about this town is about.  All in all, an awesome trip. 

I was honored to have been mentioned in the pre-race article about the race:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throw-Back Thursday?

Do folks have Throw-Back Thursday on blogs?  I don't know.  Anyway, Level Renner reposted an interview they did with me just a few years ago:

With lots of talk about my bloody knees post-race, here's a few great images that capture my signature look...while I've had many more bloody knees than have been captured, you get the point!



Friday, September 12, 2014

A sad day for New England trail runners

It has been an emotional week for many of us in the New England trail/ultra running community.  Earlier this week, we were shocked with the news that Chad Denning, a well-known and well-respected New Hampshire ultrarunner, unexpectedly died last Sunday.  He collapsed while hiking/running on the AT in New Hampshire.

 (Chad, offering Amy a high five during VT100)

Chad was a talented runner, finishing on the podium more often than not.  However, it was his personality and selflessness that will be missed.  Chad was one of the most enthusiastic and optimistic guys we have had the pleasure to know - he would give us a big hug, calm our nerves about an upcoming race, and always be able to make us laugh.  He and Brian shared many miles, as Chad often volunteered to pace Brian through the VT50 and VT100.  He lent us equipment for races - always wanting to help us do our best, and having an optimistic outlook on what we were capable of achieving.

(Chad offering congratulations to Brian after pacing him to the finish line at VT100)

It is hard to know what to write about Chad, so I'll just point to the numerous articles that capture much of what made Chad an awesome member of this community, and a good friend.  His presence and spirit will be missed.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and trail running buddies as they continue to cope with the shock and the loss of Chad.

(Chad and Brian sharing mile as Chad paces Brian at VT100)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It Ain't Over Till It's Over - Brian's UTMB Race Report

Race morning, I woke up at our campsite outside Chamonix around 7:00AM; a long time from the 5:30PM start.  Amy and I went to registration the day before and the free Chamonix Parking Lot was full by 9:00AM.  It was absolute chaos the day before, after 20 min of driving around I finally found a spot...well, sort of.  I had to wedge my car next to an R.V. and another car.  With the parking so close, I had to climb over to the passenger seat just to get out.  The lot was full of R.V’s and vehicles jammed in every available spot.  The scene in the lot was all about Mont Blanc; pudgy tourists getting ready to ride the lift up to Mount Blanc, mountain climbers getting ready to climb Mount Blanc, and ultra-runners getting ready to run around Mount Blanc all crowded the lot. 

After the anxiety of the day before, we actually got a parking spot in the lot with no problem.  I set up my thermarest in the back of the packed rental car and tried to rest as much as I could before the race, which equated to watching 2 Lord of the Rings movies; a good way to kill 8 hours. 

We walked over to the start around 4:00PM and it was absolute insane.  I never saw so many people crowding around the start of a trail race and the loud French announcer’s voice boomed over the crowd.  We found a place as out of the way as possible and sat down and I tried not to think about all of the energy around me.  Finally around 5:00PM they performed the race briefing, this was probably one of the shortest I ever heard before.  Essentially they said there are course markers out there, follow them.  It gets cold at night so be careful.

(Brian and Neal among the mass of starters)