Thursday, December 14, 2017

Complete Opposites - Hellgate 2017

I have been to the Hellgate 100k(+) race a few times now.  First, in 2015 I ran the race during the warmest year imaginable - it was 60 degrees at the midnight start, and 80 degrees by the time I finished, nearly 15 hours later.  For a December race that often boasts cold temperatures and that supplies heat guns at the aid stations to thaw out water bottles, I felt like I perhaps didn't get to run the true Hellgate experience.  Then, in 2016 Brian decided to run and asked me to be his crew support.  Brian got a more typical Hellgate experience, running through an overnight low of about 7 degrees and only warming to about 20 degrees by the finish.

This year, I decided to return, and even convinced my running buddy Kelsey Allen to join me.  While neither of us were feeling particularly prepared, we were excited to have an adventure! 

After a long drive down to the race site, we checked-in, organized gear (and drop bags), and caught a few hours sleep before our 10:30pm alarm clock.  Some quick pre-race preparations, a ride to the starting line, and Kelsey and I were lining up for the 12:01am start.  The temperature was hovering around 20 degrees, comfortable with

After a few moments, Kelsey and I found ourselves running together.  I suspect she was using me to pace her in the early miles.  Either way, it felt like a training run which was a great feeling.  About 30 minutes into the race, we started to see snowflakes in the air - this could be an interesting run!

Kelsey and I continued to run together, and the snow continued to increase in pace to steady snow by 1am.  We shared moments and miles with others, but somehow it was always us together.  We didn't plan to run together, yet found comfort in sharing miles and stories along the way.  The ridge from mile 8 to 20 was breezy and chilly - we kept warm by swapping stories and sharing news, as other than the two of us we are alone.  Somehow, running by headlamp adds such an isolated and lonely feeling to the trails so I was grateful to have Kelsey by my side.

Leaving the mile 27 aid station, I recalled that I fell apart in the next section of trail in 2015.  Kelsey helped keep me focused and keep my spirits up so I ran much stronger through the next 8 miles.  It's amazing what good company (and chatter) can do!  At some point, I realized that I was still running by headlamp miles farther than last time - what a great feeling!

As the sun rose, we realized how much snow had fallen.  There were a few inches of accumulation, enough to make the leaves that much more slippery and to make the feet pretty darn wet.  We basically walked a few downhills, as the leaves were mid-shin deep hiding ankle-biting rocks and the snow was only adding to the treachery.  Luckily, we both stayed upright.  We also thanked our lucky stars that the temperatures stayed in the 20s, because had it risen above freezing we would have had rain (or large, wet snowflakes that soak through your clothing).  Never thought I'd be grateful for below freezing temperatures!

I felt particularly strong as we powered through mile 48, but then quickly started to fade by mile 52.  I started shoving Sour Patch Kids by the handful into my mouth as my pace slowed over the rolling trails leading towards the mile 56 aid station.  Kelsey did her best to motivate me and maintain forward progress.  I could feel my legs shaking as my bonk increased.  I stumbled over rocks, I tore up my knee, I struggled to stay upright and move forward.  Even though the snow had stopped at this point, I was still running sloppy.

Through the last aid station, and all we had was a 3-mile climb and a 3-mile descent to the finish.  Kelsey did her best to lead me out and keep me moving well - but we had a few females right on our tales.  We pushed, and eventually Kelsey ran off ahead to maintain our 5th place finish.  Almost immediately, Meghan Hicks caught up to me.  We climbed the last mile to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway, and cruised towards the finish together.  While I would have loved to finish this race with Kelsey (having shared 58 "Horton miles" with her), it was wonderful to run with Meghan and get to know her a bit.  We gabbed, enjoyed the downhill cruise to the finish, and crossed the line together just under 14 hours.

Looking back, I can hardly believe that the last time I ran Hellgate, it was 80 degrees and this time it was 20s and snowing.  I remember stopping in rivers to cool myself off and this time I cursed my luck as I slipped on a rock and submerged a foot (and a glove!).  I was running in shorts and a tank top in 2015, this year I had on two layers of shirts and a windbreaker to stay warm.  Overall, my 2015 memories were of overheating and of loneliness along the way.  In 2017 I will remember the beauty of the snow throughout the day, and sharing nearly 14 hours with a great friend.  Surprisingly, even with the challenging slippery conditions, I managed to improve by an hour over my previous finish - mainly due to the amazing company I had with Kelsey by my side. 

What a great reminder what I love about this sport - sharing miles with friends, enjoying the beauty of the wilderness, and pushing your body along the way.  Who knows what another Hellgate experience might bring!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hot Chocolate Run - Supporting a great cause

You all know how passionate I am about running - it is my freedom, it is my sanity, it is my community.  It may be hard to imagine, but not that long ago I felt lost, lonely, and depressed.  Running, and the community that I found through running, helped turn things around for me - it helped me find an incredibly supportive community of friends, it helped me gain confidence, and has offered opportunities to explore the country (and even a few portions of the world!).  I am so grateful for all that running has given me.

Again this year, I am trying to bring a larger impact with my running - through running the Hot Chocolate Run and fundraising for Safe Passage.  Safe Passage is a local organization that supports victims of domestic violence.  This is not a fundraising race where the funds disappear into some national account; they stay local and provide neighbors with the support and counseling they need in times of crisis.  This is an opportunity for me to use my passion to create positive change in my community. 

This will be my 12th time running the Hot Chocolate Run, and I hope to fundraise $500 for Safe Passage.  I would really love to see my running help support positive change in my community.

So, if you're reading this and are so inspired, I appreciate anything that folks can give ($5, $10, whatever!).  Either way, especially coming into the holidays, I would challenge everyone to try to find a way for your running to support change in your community!

Here is the link to my personal fundraising page:

(If I raise over $500, y'all can get me to run in another awesome outfit like this!)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A 1-year Friend-aversary - Guiding at Ghost Train

I have met some amazing folks through my years of trail running.  And while no one should stick out more than anyone else in theory, the reality is that Kyle Robidoux is certainly one of the more special trail runners that I have gotten to share miles with.  Our friendship started with a typical 'Amy with her foot in her mouth' comment.  This year at Ghost Train, Kyle and I ran together exactly a year after we first shared miles on that exact trail.  It's amazing to think of the miles we've shared, the conversations we've had, the raw emotional moments that have come, the secrets that we've shared when no one else was listening, how much Kyle has taught me, and the times that he's made me laugh along the way.

I first got to know Kyle when he was emailing me with a question about a qualifier race for Vermont 100 - he wanted to know if running 45 miles at Ghost Train would qualify him.  I get so many of these emails, so my response was fairly standard 'you've gotta at least run 50 miles, especially on a course that easy!'.  His response got my attention 'no problem, I understand.  I've just got to find a guide for those last 15 miles'.  I looked at the signature line and saw that tag 'Blind Beer Runner', and everything clicked.  Congrats Amy, do you want some salt with that foot in your mouth?  Kyle's a runner who is visually impaired, so his ability to participate in races is dependent on his ability to recruit guides to quite literally be his eyes out there.  I immediately felt horrible about this, and offered to guide him myself if he needed.  I told him I had no idea what I was doing, but I was willing to learn.  Ultimately, he took me up on my offer to guide.

(Kyle and I ready to run at the Vermont 100 start line)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Grindstone and Product Testing for Inov8 - Part 2

I'm not going to lie - I've had so many amazing opportunities over the years through running that I am so grateful for.  I've gotten to travel the country, and the world, to run in amazing places.  I've gotten to meet incredible people, athletes who are as passionate about running as I am and who each have their own unique story.  I've gotten to test my limits, break myself down to the core, experienced incredible highs and devastating lows.  I am so humbled and grateful for all the experiences that have come my way, and always hungry for the next one!

One of the coolest opportunities that I've had was being asked to travel to the Lakes District in the UK for a week of photo shoots and product testing.  Chalk that up to another awesome experience that's been afforded me through running!  I didn't know much about the trip or our schedule beforehand - so I went in with enthusiasm and an open mind.  I mean, Inov8 was sending me across the pond to play in one of the most unique places to run!

(The beauty of the Lakes District, UK)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Grindstone and Product Testing for Inov8 - Part 1

Early October was a complete whirlwind for me - too much adventure and not enough sleep.  But, when do we ever complain about that combination?  For most weeks of the year, I live the life of your typical 40-hour a week employee.  I sit at a desk, cranking out memos, answering emails, sitting in meetings to discuss necessary upgrades to our wastewater treatment plant or to strategize about the best method for plowing the 120 miles of roadway in our Town.  My time away from work is when I feel alive, when I truly get to follow my passion - so I take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way!

Grindstone 100

Brian decided to run Grindstone 100 to close out his season - and asked that I travel with him to support him during the race.  I was excited, since I really enjoy the Grindstone 100 event, so I was glad for an opportunity to return to the race...and even more excited that I would get to support Brian along the way.  The plan was to crew Brian for the first 80 miles, then pace him in for the last 20 miles.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Most Beautiful Marathon in the World - Jungfrau Marathon

I honestly hope that everyone has at least one friend in their life who inspires them, consistently encourages them and supports them, and at times suggests fun adventures that make you feel alive!  While I have surrounded myself by many of these type people, Karin George is one of these friends for me.  She makes every year's birthday a celebration for herself, where she aspires to have an adventure and truly live!  She flew around the world last summer to support me at UTMB (and even allowed me to puke on her shoes at mile 20!).  And she constantly responds to my emails with heartfelt responses, sage advice, and a bit of humor.  Everyone should have a Karin in their lives!

(Karin and I arriving in Zurich for Jungfrau Marathon)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A surprising conclusion to UA Mountain Series 50k at Killington

I've been doing ultra and trail running for many years now, so it isn't often that I have a race result that surprises me.  However, I was pleasantly surprised at the conclusion of the UA Mountain Series 50k at Killington - and gosh darnit, it's nice to surprise myself from time to time!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Ragged 3-Day Adventure

I have been eyeing the Ragged Mountain Stage Race for many years.  This race is the last legacy of the many ways that Chad Denning touched the New England trail/ultra scene, he started the race and it's first edition was only a few weeks before his untimely passing.  I've also been vacationing in the Sunapee region since as long as I can remember - I spent my childhood birthdays up at Lake Sunapee with my family.  Lastly, stage races are just so much close to 'running camp for big kids' as you can get!  However, my August schedule always tended to fill up with large goal races, so the Ragged Mountain Stage Race would just keep getting pushed back one more year.  Finally, my schedule aligned and Brian and I decided this was the year.