Thursday, November 6, 2014

Celebrating 'Masochism' - Mountain Masochist Race Report

This past weekend, Brian and I made our (what has become) annual pilgrimage to Virginia to run the Mountain Masochist 50 Miler.  It's one of our favorite races each year - with the beauty of the foliage, the mountainous terrain that we enjoy, the high quality race that Clark and his crew put on, and the awesome Virginia trail running scene. 

After my emotional run at Vermont 50, and a challenging month of reconnecting with my trail running passion, I was looking forward to run Mountain Masochist.  However, I knew that my fitness and my focus suffered in the past month, so I was aiming to enjoy the run, and stay mentally engaged and happy throughout the race.  I could not enter this race with any time or place goals - that would be counter to my hard work to get my trail mojo back. 

It was sprinkling at the start as we said hello to friends and shared hugs.  There were two girls from Vermont running, Liz and Lindsay; I was glad to have New England represented!  I also got hugs from our friends Paul and Meredith Terranova, who were in from Texas to do the race.  I was hopeful I would get to share miles with Meredith and the Vermont girls.  I took in the pre-race energy and reconnecting with friends...I need to remember this feeling of enjoyment.

(The sea of headlamps just after the start)
The race starts with about a mile of road, and I was immediately way back.  Breath, relax, don't race.  Immediately, the negative self-talk're fat, slow, and out of shape...why oh why do you do this?

However, as soon as we hit the trails, I was in my happy place again.  I pranced down the trails by headlamp, splashed through the streams, and enjoyed the silent company of fellow trail runners.  It wasn't until about 45 minutes in that someone around me spoke, and it was to show his awesome injury.  I was impressed that anyone could be faster than me at drawing blood.  Soon after that, I heard a voice behind me, and it was Liz (from Vermont).  We ran the rest of the first climb together, chatting a bit.

(Fall foliage that made the forest glow)

On the first single track, she pulled away from me...and I let her.  Don't race, let her go, run your own race, enjoy the day.  I relaxed into my pace and enjoyed the single track as the sun started to light up the sky. 

Most of the race was captured moments, snapshots in my mind really, as I experienced the 50-mile trail race.  As the sun crested the hills, the sky turned completely pink for several moments and took my breath away (or was it that I was climbing at the time?).  The rivers were bursting after the rain, and I felt like a kid as I splashed through twice as many rivers this year.  In the late morning sun, the leaves in the trees seemed to make the entire forest glow orange and yellow as I looked down on a reservoir.  I shared ultra war stories with two runners as we powered up the unrelenting grade from mile 16 to 18.  I caught myself grinning like a fool as I ran in solitude, simply embracing the moment and appreciating the beauty that surrounded me on these trails.  People would think I'm crazy if they saw me right now.

The wind kicked up, and it blew hard enough that I was barely moving forward despite running a gentle downhill grade.  At one point, I felt precipitation on my cheeks and realized it was a snow flake.  At the top of the out-and-back, I took the extra moment to look out and take in the incredible view of the valley below - the foliage creating a sea of colors before me. 

(Looking out over the foliage)
The snow kept falling harder, and I giggled as I squinted to see through the near white-out conditions.  How is it that two out of my three races here have involved snow?!?  I am in Virginia, right?!?  I kept getting splits on the ladies ahead of me, and I blissfully ignored the information, running with my heart and not my head. My hands grew numb (as I opted to not carry gloves, not realizing it would be below freezing towards the end of the race), therefore I didn't have the dexterity to fuel and hydrate...luckily, my spirits remained high as I drew energy from the beauty of my surroundings and the joy of the moments. 

(At least conditions weren't like "the snow year")
I congratulated myself on not falling as I turned off the last trail section...and then promptly fell on my face like a novice trail runner.  I ran the last mile with a smile, knowing I had reconnected with my passion for running, and experienced a wonderful day on the trails.  In retrospect, I am extremely pleased that, mentally, I was engaged throughout the day...the only negative thoughts were during that initial road mile.

Surprisingly, I finished 4th place female and only 20 minutes back from my time last year - earning me another coveted Top 10 Patagonia jacket.  (Liz, from Vermont, won the her first 50 mile race!)  The finish line was full of hugs, smiles, stories of the day, and friends, old and new, recounting their adventure.

(The beauty of the day)
This race might not have been my most focused effort, and I didn't have any major obstacle to overcome.  The adventure isn't as grand as other events.  However, this was an event that touched my soul and reminded me why I love trail and ultra running, which was exactly what I needed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Trail Running in the Pioneer Valley

Recently, a local reporter approached me regarding trail running in the Valley.  He was trying to capture the culture of the local trail and ultra community - so I took the opportunity to show him first hand what it was about.  I took him for a trail run at the Notch and talked running.

The article is here: