Friday, December 13, 2013

Running, Not Running, and the End of a Year

So today I went out for a nice easy road run; you might be surprised to learn that since Oil Creek 100K I've hardly been running at all. Seriously - just a handful of times. Not because of injury or anything like that, or really for any reason at all! But it is the first time I've taken a break since I started running regularly, back when I started training for my first marathon in 2009 - and I must say, it has been quite nice.

Today I took my last final of the semester; no more classes until late January! These past few months have been pretty crazy between class work, work work, and David and I buying a house and moving out of our apartment. And so as I was running today, I firstly was reminded of how great running is for collecting your thoughts. I reflected back on running in general and really think this break was good for me (despite my inner conscience repeatedly reminding me how lazy I've been). Typically after the last race of the year, I plow on, running just to run - many times enjoying it because, obviously, I love running, but a lot of times (probably more than I'd like to admit to) I really am just forcing myself to run. And it was great this year because after Oil Creek, without consciously planning on it, I just stopped running. I mean, I did a nice run with Reis here and there, a trip to my favorite places via trail on occasion, but there was no method to it, no training purpose, I just did it because I wanted to and I think that's made all the difference…

So now, before you start thinking that I'm losing it, that I've quit running, or any other nonsense like that, I can assure you… I'm back! I'm ready to start training and set my sights on higher goals for the next year! 2013 was a great year of racing for me - I had some of my best races and accomplished a lot of the goals I set for myself. But honestly, I think 2014 is going to be better! Most of this year my training was inconsistent and definitely inadequate in my opinion. Races came up before I was ready for them and I just got lucky I suppose.

Now as I plan out my year (no Western States unfortunately), and as I start getting back into running again, I've thought of all the things I want to work on and change in my training. I am horrible at doing speed work; I typically prefer to do long runs and run hills. With the races I'm looking at this next year, this won't cut it!

I originally thought about doing a year in review for my blog, and funnily enough, I checked out facebook's account of my year and was amazed by the accuracy! Great races, amazing family and friends, trail running adventures in Colorado, getting engaged, and now buying a house with David! Maybe I'll post it later, but for now - just my thoughts on running.

So guys, enjoy your holidays and if you see me out there running - tell me to speed up! ;)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Oil Creek 100K

This year has absolutely flown by. Seems like yesterday David and I were counting down the days, getting ready for our first 50 milers of the year: Glacier Ridge and Bear Mt. Soon after we were anxiously awaiting and planning our trip to Colorado. Before we knew it, that's over and Oil Creek is right around the corner. Where did my training time go? Was I ready? I snuck in good back to back long runs three weeks before at Dam Full. I had great ambitions of a fast time, but as every taper week goes, I was ridden with doubt and uncertainly.

David, Jeff, Becky and I arrived in Titusville on Friday evening, set up our tents under the same tree we have for the past two years, picked up our race packets, and got some dinner. We met up with Pat and Ted later when they arrived from Pittsburgh and I got to bed early. Actually being out at Oil Creek, I felt more relaxed. The years previous I ran the 100, but only two loops this year! Only 62 miles - warped way of thinking, I know - but it works.

I woke up at 5 for the 6 am start, got ready and ate my traditional bagel. Jeff was going to be running the 50K (his first!) and started an hour later than the 100K, but still everyone got up to see me off. I headed out into the foggy darkness with just a flashlight, hoping daylight would be soon upon us. Nick Hanson broke off immediately ahead of the rest and I followed, running a comfortable pace the mile+ to the trailhead. By the time I got there, I was already alone; Nick nowhere in sight ahead, and no lights anywhere behind. The day was already shaping up to be much different then last year, it had rained on and off during the night and was already unnaturally humid so early in morning. Other then a good fall on a slick rock, the first part of the loop was pretty uneventful. Soon I was rolling into Petroleum Center, past the best crewing/cheering section in the world. These guys make so much noise and are so encouraging - you can't not feel good when you see them! 

David handed me gels, filled my bottle and I was soon off. The second half of the loop was also uneventful and went by quick - traditionally it always seems like forever to get to the Miller Farm aid station about midway through the loop, but it seemed like no time before I was in and out of there. I'm usually never very detailed or dialed into my nutrition, I typically kind of just make it up as I go or as I need it. I don't mind gels, but I usually tend to put them off. From the beginning though, I decided to try to stay on a schedule and took them every 50 minutes. As it was pretty warm, I also took an S Cap every hour in the beginning - I usually don't have problems with muscle cramps, but had some really painful issues out at Bear Mt. (also a hot day) and was eager to not repeat the experience, so I played it safe. When I came into Miller Farm, I tried some boiled potatoes dipped in salt. For some reason, they really hit the spot all day!

Right at the end of trail section of the loop, I caught up on the leader, but he pulled ahead again on the road back to the school. Here Becky handed me my drop bag, I switched out bottles, smothered some potatoes in salt and moved out as quick as I could. Last loop already! Again - pretty uneventful and not much to write about here. The heat was really creeping in, as was some of the strain from the pace.

I was excited to reach Petroleum Center to pick up my pacer - David was going to be pacing his dad in the 50K, but I got lucky enough to secure Jeff Shanks as my pacer only a week notice from the race. He volunteered to drive out and run the last 15 miles with me. I probably didn't make it too interesting for him in the beginning, around 50ish miles I definitely moved slower then I should've and really struggled with overheating. We moved along though and after refueling on salted potatoes at Miller Farm again - I managed to get it together. I picked up the pace and ticked off the miles; before I knew it, I heard David yelling - he ran out the trail a bit to see us. And then I found the whole clan out at the bottom of the trail - these guys are so awesome, couldn't do it without them! Dave and Jeanne Hunter were even out on the road to cheer me in! As I began the Drake Well loop, I saw the leader Nick Hanson just finishing it - he ran a great race, shaved almost 20 minutes off his previous time and ran the second fastest 100K time ever.

I finished in 10:42, second overall and with the female course record. Guess I'm slated for the 50K next year!

 My awesome crew!
So, another success at Oil Creek; I really love this race. It has a superb set up, great volunteers and amazing support. Can't imagine a year not going back!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Colorado - Part 2

And so week one ended as David and I arrived in Telluride the night before the Telluride Mountain Run on Saturday, in which we would be volunteering by sweeping a middle section of the course. Telluride is a nice little town, nestled in the San Juan mountains.

Dual-falls view from Telluride

We woke up in time to watch the start then spent a leisurely morning around town. We ate breakfast at a cafe, then took the gondola up the mountain to watch some of the hill climb (a shorter distance) runners ascend the mountain. It was such a gorgeous day so far and we were excited about sweeping and seeing some of the trails the area had to offer. We headed down the mountain to change into running clothes and drive to the aid station we would start sweeping from - Bridal Veil.

The weather was still so gorgeous here! We chatted with the volunteers, inquiring about the number of people still out; we were only awaiting 3 runners. Soon after arriving at Bridal Veil, we noticed the black skies approaching in the distance. The storm came in ferociously; the winds ripping apart the aid station, damaging the tent and sending another into a nearby stream. It rained heavily for awhile, but as the last runner came into the aid station, the skies cleared and David and I headed out in nice weather. The last runner dropped at that aid station, leaving us to sweep at our own pace, enjoying the steady climb above Telluride.

David "sweeping".

So... Long story short we spent about 4 miles in good weather before it started raining, and as we continued to ascend, the rain turned to snow. The snow worsened and I started to get worried as we caught the two runners ahead of us and couldn't see any high point in the distance. Soaked to the skin in shorts and a quarter zip, moving at the pace of the runners ahead of us, we knew we were in a bad position... Hardly feeling our fingers enough to remove the markings, we threw rocks and larger objects that they were attached to into our trash bag since our frozen fingers couldn't remove them. Eventually, with no end in sight, the runners we were following, Steve and Wes, decided to turn back. This was a welcome decision to us, as we had no clue where we were and I was seriously considering the possibilities of frostbite. We led Steve and Wes out on the now unmarked "trail" down to a dirt road we knew would lead us down to Telluride.

I don't think I've ever been so cold in my life! My breath seemed to catch in my chest as we urged the runners to move at the fastest pace possible to get off the mountain. Its hard now (especially in summer weather) to describe exactly what it was like up there, and hard even to imagine I'm sure, but the situation was surely the most dangerous I've ever been in while running. Once down to the rain again, one of the runners wasn't doing so well, so I ended up running ahead to the finish to get someone to pick up the two runners. The race director ended up driving his truck up to get them, and David and I ran back to our Suby. We decided then that after our debacle we would get a hotel for the night. Hot showers and a warm bed were very welcome...

The snow-capped mountains the following morning.

The next day we swept the remainder of our portion of the course backwards, then headed out of Telluride for Silverton.

The town of Silverton is crazy small... one paved road through it, and the rest dirt. Its hard to imagine that people spend the winter there! Its seems so out of reach of the rest of the world... Anyhow, we ended up driving up a dirt road to where we expected to be a trailhead we wanted to check out the next day, but after driving a few miles and reaching terrain that our Suby couldn't overcome, we realized the trailhead didn't exist and ended up turning back and parking alongside the road to sleep. We truly were in the middle of nowhere, we couldn't get that far away from civilization in PA if we tried! We knew no one would disturb us, and indeed, we saw no one at all and woke up during the night to the call of coyotes. Next day we ran up the road to explore and summited a random, trail-less 13'er, which was a fun search of mountain goats/bighorn sheep that we could tell had been in the area. We never saw any, but the views of the San Juan mountains was incredible.

Later we did some more running to check out the ghost town of Animas Forks, a late 1800s mining town. This brought us to know of the "Alpine Loop" something that I suppose Silverton and the surrounding area is known for recreationally. "Jeeping" is hugely popular, and the next day, Tuesday, David and I decided to check it out. We didn't *gasp* run at all that day, and just rented a jeep for the day and explored the 4x4 roads that the area has to offer. It was amazing! Just driving along at 11,000'-12,000' (peaking at 12,960'!) we saw much more in a small space of time then we would've running, and though I prefer exploring on my own two feet, it was a completely different experience and we had a lot of fun.

Leaving Silverton, we started to head in the direction of Colorado Springs; with a little gloom setting in... Departing the San Juans and heading east really made the end of the trip loom ahead of us all too soon! Since the drive was to Colorado Springs was fairly long, we decided to single out a 14'er to hit the following morning, settling on Mt. Harvard. We car-camped and drove to the trailhead Wednesday morning. It was a nice, scenic trail up, but the best part of it was near the summit! We finally saw the thing we had been wanting to see since the beginning of the trip and had basically given up hope on!

David and I were like little kids when we saw this guy! We continuously took pictures, not sure if he would scamper off if we got close, but he was pretty unconcerned about us, he led us to the summit and  let us get within a few feet of him while he fervently licked a rock. We saw a few others, but none as photogenic as this guy.

"Scout" enjoying his rock.

We still love our marmots!

Mountain goats aside, Mt. Harvard was another one of my favorites. It was rocky and remote, with incredible views. It is an amazing, incomparable feeling: being atop this, and other mountains like it - so far from the human touch and interference with nature...

Next up, the iconic Pikes Peak, the world's second most visited mountain behind Fuji in Japan. We headed to Colorado Springs after Mt. Harvard, with plans of visiting Garden of the Gods that evening, but we were stalled by heavy rains that closed the road into Manitou Springs which had severely flooded earlier in the week.

Thursday morning however, we started the climb up Pikes Peak via the famous Barr Trail. Nearly 12 miles to the top and basically all uphill. Its still somewhat strange to wrap my head around the possibility of that! We gained around 7,500' in those miles, but the trail was very smooth and runnable.

 Little baby weasel we saw on the way up!

We really weren't too impressed with this 14'er, I would even go so far as to say it was my least favorite spot of the trip! Perhaps it was because the top of Pikes Peak was very crowded; most people drive up or take the train to the summit. Plus, it was somewhat overcast, so the views were minimal. Either way, David and I didn't waste time heading back down. This part was a lot of fun! The only thing better then 12 miles uphill, is 12 miles right back down! I envy the training possibilities out here! 

Friday, sadly our last day out here, we woke up and headed to check out Garden of the Gods. Some of the rock formations were pretty cool, but again I wasn't too impressed. I'd much rather be out in the mountains then in the tourist hustle and bustle. 

We snapped some pictures, saw as much as we cared, and soon headed towards Denver to visit with Kline and get the Suby, our home for the last 14 days, all cleaned out, packed and ready to go the next morning.

Colorado was, for lack of a fitting expression, awesome. I miss it still, almost a month past. We definitely hope to get out there for races in the near future, and now that I know that altitude really holds no horrible affect over me, I am excited about the possibilities.

On to the stats... We ran 13 days out there for a total of 165.25 miles, 46 hours and 20 minutes, and a whopping 50,426' elevation gain.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Colorado - Part 1

Where to begin? Colorado was, obviously, so insanely awesome and David and I had such a blast out there; by the time it had ended and we were heading back into Denver, I seriously felt like it had just begun... It would take years to explore all the mountains Colorado has to offer! I feel as if I ought to warn you, by no means will I convey everything that I would like to about our time out there, but I'm sure this post will still be uncomfortably long - even with me breaking it down into two posts.

Friday morning, the 2nd of August found David and I waking up at 2:30 to head to Harrisburg to catch our flight. We gave hurried goodbyes to Reisling, who would be staying with Becky and Jeff for the two weeks... oh how it breaks my heart to leave that girl, and how much we missed her while running! But she was in good hands and we were out for the adventure of a lifetime! So we drove the hour and a half to the airport to catch our 6 a.m. flight... we planned the early departure to ensure that we still had some of Friday to enjoy in Colorado, but I must admit, getting up at 2:30 really sucked!

The travel was uneventful. We arrived in Colorado, brimming with excitement, and got our new home for the next few days, a red Subaru Impreza. David's friend from high school, Kyle, lives in Denver where he goes to grad school, so we planned on spending the evening with him before heading north. We had a few hours till he was off work though, so after checking a map, we decided to hit up Green Mt. near the city, which rises to an elevation of 6858', pathetic in terms of what Colorado has to offer, but 1500' higher then David and I had ever been before! I must admit, I was somewhat nervous about altitude before this trip... having heard horror stories from some. I really wanted to be unaffected - so here was our first test! The only thing I noticed however, was that the air was much drier then I was used to. It was 96ish degrees according to our lovely abode, but it really didn't feel it. Just very dry. Anyhow... perhaps we had to get higher to reach altitude effects! We spent the night at Kyle's house; I'm sure we were very boring guests due to how tired we were! He lent us a tent for the trip and we headed out early the next morning for Boulder.

We headed to Chautauqua Park. David really likes Anton Krupicka and follows his blog, so we came here to check out a few of Tony's regular haunts - Green Mt. (another one! Its ridiculous how many Green Mts there are in CO!) and the Flatirons. We hit Green first, just over 8,000' this time. 

David on top of Green Mt.

Then after a lunch in the park, we set out to explore the first Flatiron. We chose our own line to scramble up, which was a lot of fun and seemed fairly easy, until we stopped a minute and looked around.

That's a long ways down!

The route was getting steadily more difficult, so we made the wise choice and turned back. Going down wasn't nearly as much fun as going up and forced me to realize that we were, perhaps, a bit stupid for even attempting this! Tony might do this without ropes... but we aren't quite as experienced of scramblers... We made it down alive though and made our way back to the Suby to head out towards Rocky Mountain National Park where we would spend the next two days; that night was our first in the car, parked in an inconspicuous spot with the back seats down and our sleeping bags laid out into the trunk - it wasn't the most comfortable thing at first, but saved us quite a lot of money. Eventually I think it was really cozy, kind of like our little refuge after the long days on the trails.

Our main focus of Rocky Mt. was Long's Peak, our first 14'er at 14,251'. But as we spent some time navigating and whatnot, we decided to save this for the next morning. Instead on Sunday, we took a trail out to Lawn Lake in the Mummy Mt range, which I had heard was an area that Bighorn Sheep were frequently seen. No go on the sheep but we did get up to 12,500' - our first real test of elevation. The only thing we noticed as we climbed to a saddle above the lake, was that our legs felt more tired then maybe they should've, the air didn't seem any thinner anyway. This run was really enjoyable, easily the first time that I ran 8+ miles that were all basically uphill, which means that we got to turn around and run the same all downhill! We also saw our first marmot, these guys were my favorite little critters out there, and we certainly never tired of taking pictures of them.

After this we drove a very scenic loop around the park where we saw our first elk and bighorn sheep of the trip! In the afternoon we did an easy run out to Alberta Falls in the park before setting up our tent at Longs Peak Campground.

Longs Peak

We took the traditional Keyhole Route up the peak... I find it difficult to even find words to describe this outing; it was definitely my favorite peak of the whole trip. The trail up was awesome and hardly like a trail as we neared the summit. We had more scrambling and climbing up rock. The views were just incredible. Words can't do it justice, nor can pictures when it comes down to it, but I suppose it is the next best thing.

 Across the boulder field to the Keyhole in the distance.
 More marmots!

 We saw Joe Grant up there!

Feeling pretty small.

After this we did another afternoon run, this time to Bear, Nymph, and Dream Lakes for some pictures... then we headed out of the park in the evening towards Leadville.

Tuesday brought us into Leadville where we first decided to tag Colorado's highest peak Mt. Elbert. We took the southern route, which proved to be a lot smoother then Longs was yesterday. Definitely one of the easiest routes for a 14'er that we did all trip. The summit was rocky and not quite as open as Longs was, but from a secluded area, David completely surprised me by going down on one knee and proposing! I had absolutely no idea, but couldn't have been happier! I, of course, said yes immediately! We spent awhile happily at the summit despite the cold, before descending.

The rest of the late afternoon was spent telling our loved ones the happy news! We slept at the Mt. Massive trailhead, which was very far out a dirt mountain road (we saw antelope on the way out!). We awoke to rain and 47 degree temperatures, but we just pulled on long sleeves and headed out. After about 4 miles, we were drenched in the steadily falling rain, when David drew my attention to the summit in the distance, completely obscured in snow! We passed some hikers who had turned back before the summit, with at least an inch of snow layered on their packs! We were completely unprepared for this... we had packed some cold weather gear, but not our rain gear! We decided as we were already soaked and cold, to just go past snowline for some memorable pictures. It was freezing! We were at 12,800' and it had to be in the 20s or lower. While I shivered for a photograph, I noticed a puddle in a rock near my foot that was already slushy and icing over.

We headed back, got warmed up and showered, before heading to a saloon in town for some rum and cokes, courtesy of Jeff Lister!

Thanks Jeff!

Later that evening we headed out across Independence Pass towards Aspen and camped at Silver Bell Campground near the Maroon Bells. The next day, Thursday, we ran to Crater Lake, at the base of the Maroon Bells. We had heard about the Bells and knew that they were a popular area, but we weren't overly impressed. The two 14'ers set an impressive backdrop against Crater Lake, etc., but we figured they are so popular because of the easy trail that accesses such a view. Enjoyable, but we didn't waste time heading out. It did enable us to get up close and personal with a cute little Pika though...

Our next main destination was Telluride, as we planned on volunteering at the Telluride Mountain Run on Saturday and needed to be at a volunteer meeting Friday evening. I wanted to stop in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park on the way there, but as our route took us north before south, we decided to go with a recommendation from Kyle and visit Hanging Lake outside of Glenwood Springs. It was a short trail to the lake, but well worth the trip up another popular trail to the view of the lake, and more exciting to me, Sprouting Rock, above the lake.

The water came straight out of the rock cliff!

Next was the drive down to the Canyon; it was a complete change of terrain out of the mountains mostly to some desertish landscape. As we drove along the rim road a little, it really made the views even more phenomenal! We had driven on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere to the national park for some time, before the earth just completely dropped out down to the Gunnison River.

We enjoyed the amazing views and a few photos before camping at the North Rim Campground for a rainy night. The next morning we took a backcountry route down into the canyon. It was a short route, but time consuming. Definite change of pace for the trip to head down before going up!

A good chunk of the rest of the day was spent traveling down to Telluride, getting cleaned up and attending the volunteer meeting. David and I volunteered to sweep a 14ish mile section of the 40 mile course.

And so ends week one of our trip... Stay tuned for Part 2!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Manitou's Revenge

I've been told I should make a blog many times, and have always thought about it during/post race, but it doesn't happen… I already regret not making one after Oil Creek last fall. That race was an awesome experience that I won't forget, but I know little details have already leaked out of my memory. I can't see many people reading my blog, but hey, maybe I'll want to relive my adventures when I'm old and slow.

So, here goes, I'm officially a blogger. And where better to start then with the inaugural Manitou's Revenge 56 mile this past weekend? I heard about this race via Facebook several months ago, before any permits were approved and nothing was set in stone. But I was immediately interested. A 50 miler through the Catskills? And not just a 50 miler, one covering multiple summits with 14,000'+ gain. Sign me up! David and I had been up there twice now, both in winter (so much snow this past March!) and we absolutely loved it. The trails and mountains there are so much different then anything we have here in PA, and four hours is a short drive for a long weekend!

Early Friday afternoon David and I packed up the car for the weekend, got Reis' stuff ready, and picked up Jeff (who took vacation from work just to go with!) and we headed to Phoenicia, NY. We arrived to get my packet just about the same time Jesse, Monica, and her cousin Steve did, so we enjoyed some hanging out and discussing just what we were getting ourselves into come morning. David, Jeff, and I soon headed back to the inn we were staying at a few miles from the finish after picking up a few pizzas. David and I went over the nicely detailed map that came in the packet, and discussed the plan for the next day before laying down for some sleep. Mine was fused with dreams of arriving late to the start and trying to catch everyone, which usually happens before races. All too soon, we were heading to the start in Windham at 3:45.

I love low-key races! They are so relaxed; we saw some familiar faces, chatted a bit, then I got good-luck hugs from David and Jeff and lined up on the road with everyone else. Charlie Gadol, the race director, gave us a few instructions, before blowing a party-type whistle signaling the start. We headed down the road for about 3 miles before hitting the trail. I ran a steady pace on the road while chatting with Chris Coulston, a runner from Erie, who runs most of our Central-Pa races. Once on the trail, several people passed me as I kept at a comfortable pace. I talked with a few people, but mostly just took in the incredible early morning views as we climbed Blackhead mountain. We got above the clouds, and only could see a blanket of white apart from peaks in the distance. 

(Photo courtesy of Mountain Peak Fitness)

The first few aid stations flew by as I moved through quickly thanks to David and Jeff's awesome crewing abilities. At miles 10 and 17 I just swapped a bottle and grabbed a gel or two. I was feeling pretty good, but for some reason my legs were feeling sluggish on the climbs. Residues from the 40 I paced David at his 100 last weekend? It was disconcerting this early in such a long race, but it eventually faded. The temperature was also starting to rise. I ditched my shirt early and made sure I drank plenty. Only 4 to the next aid, and then the long stretches would start. I could see Jesse just ahead of me, and we ran a bit here and there together, but mostly I could just see him in the distance. The section flew by, especially with a long runnable downhill coming into the Palenville aid station (mile 21). I spent a little more time here, drinking extra and replenishing my spi-belt with gels. Then I picked up an extra bottle and headed out for the first ten mile stretch with Jesse and another guy just ahead.

I was excited about this section because it was in an area I had wanted to check out the last time David and I were here, but we ran out of time. I definitely want to come back! The trail took us by the trail to Poet's Ledge without a glimpse, and over a trail that seemed to be above at least two waterfalls! I could hear them, but couldn't quite see them without stopping and looking. The creeks were welcoming for a quick splash on the face and a refresh to the feet. The section was super muddy after this, and I had pulled ahead of Jesse and the other guy, making it a pretty lonely section. Hunger started making a pit in my stomach, so as soon as I came into the aid station I grabbed a sandwich and sat down to change my shoes. I learned I was in fourth now, with third not very far ahead.

(Photo Courtesy of Mountain Peak Fitness)

Jeff left the aid station with me and we set out on what I knew was to be the toughest, yet most awesome section of the course. It was only 9 miles, but I knew it would take a while.  After a stretch of road baking in the sun, we started on the trail up Indian Head Mt. It was nice having Jeff with me and getting to talk for a while as the miles passed. I saw third place ahead of me and soon passed him on the climb. And what a climb it was! This stretch of the Devil's Path is one of the reasons why I love NY trails so much, at least in the Catskills and Adirondacks. Most of the climbs require use of the hands. On some parts I threw my bottles up ahead of me just so I could pull myself up the rock! 

Jeff's legs weren't feeling so hot so I eventually moved ahead on my own. Moving across the top of Indian Head, I was already overheated and thirsty. A steep descent down Indian Head was immediately followed by another steep climb up Twin Mt. The attempt to preserve my water was unsuccessful, it disappeared quickly in the heat before I even descended Twin. I felt clumsy and stumbled many times. I welcomed Sugarloaf Mt, the last climb until the aid station in Mink Hollow on the other side. Sugarloaf had been our favorite mountain when David and I visited in March (mainly for the snowy breakneck descent on the other side). This time around I didn't really appreciate much, it felt like the climb never ended and all I could think about was the cold (in comparison) rock that my hands touched as I climbed. I just wanted to lay down and try to soak it all up. After what seemed like hours I was starting the descent. It was a lot slower then when David and I did it in a foot of snow in March, and a lot less fun, but finally (finally!) I was coming into the aid station where David and Reis were waiting. This was the most time I spent at any aid station. I sat down, drank as much as I possibly could, and ate some shot blocks while David refilled my bottles and Reis tried to lick the dried salt off me.

David told me he was going to run with me, and at this point I couldn't argue! I'd love the company, but that was me being selfish. Only a week post-100 with a sore knee, David probably shouldn't have gone… But like I said, I couldn't argue. We left poor Reis-baabe in the good hands of Monica's cousin, Steve, who was waiting for Jesse to come in with Monica pacing. Jeff would take Reis back to the car and to the finish, but I felt horrible as we started climbing up Plateau Mt. listening to her cry! 

According to my Garmin, the climb up Plateau had the most elevation gain per mile all day, but it hardly felt like it with David at my side! The water also might have helped... We spent a long time catching each other up on the day; I was very intrigued to hear about all the aid station talk. Apparently the volunteers thought I was moving through aid stations much too quick, while carrying so little, and concluded that it would catch up to me, as would Sheryl Wheeler (the second place female). Sheryl Wheeler is a great ultra runner, and has always impressed me with her steadiness, but I hadn't seen her since the start and didn't plan on it. David told me how people thought that this was Sheryl's type of race, the difficulty and now that we were 40 miles in… But it is also my type of race! This talk gave me a little extra fuel and we put away the miles to the next aid (another 10 miles). Once there, it would only be four to the next, then the 1.5 road to the finish… It seemed like forever till the aid station, but it was a welcome sight. We moved through quickly, each drinking coke, topping off water, and I grabbed a handful of little potatoes. I think David was fasting through this run, he didn't eat anything!

The four mile section was a breeze in comparison to the other stretches, I hardly remember it. Soon enough we were passing Mt. Tremper fire tower and starting our descent. We ran into Jeff and Reis so I knew we must be getting close to the road and ultimately the finish! The descent however took much longer then expected and I realized how far Jeff and Reis must've ran up to see us. Poor girlie was so tired from the long day, she could hardly keep up with David and I (something extremely rare). I knew David's knee was bothering him pretty good also, so I didn't rush this section. I knew no one was on my heels and it would be over soon enough! Finally, we were hitting the road and I set off towards the finish line on my own.

I finished 3rd overall in 13:32. Denis Mikhaylov had finished first in 11:51, and Ryan Welts second in 12:11. Pretty crazy for 50(ish) mile times! This race was definitely the hardest course I've ever run, but I loved it! I will definitely go back next year and try to squeak under 13 hours at the least. I think weather depending and perhaps being a little more prepared for those long stretches would help. 

We hung around for a while after the race, eating some of the awesome food, talking, and watching more runners come in. It's so awesome to have the support that I do at these races, David and Jeff moved constantly throughout the day, making sure I had everything that I needed (even if it was a 2 mile run/hike to an aid station!), pacing me over some tough miles, and watching my pup! Definitely wouldn't be the same without them.