2014 race re-cap
I spent the month of October leading my seasonal Fall Cleanse and wrapping up my race season. Just in time too because last week brought a foot of snow and an eight-day power outage. Which means I’ve spent a lot of time shoveling, heating water and cleaning out the contents from my thawed freezer. But I digress . . .
In this week’s news I give you a self-indulgent re-cap of my 2014 training/racing season. But first I need to set the proper context. I think most people who know me greatly overestimate my natural athletic ability, they think they could never do what I do, that I am some kind of uber-human-amazon-woman who thrives on difficulty and discomfort. It’s a funny thing because when I am immersed in a world of fellow-athletes I continue to see myself as a harbor seal/house cat toddling along behind a sleek pack of sharks and gazelles. At the same time, I care less and less about what other people think (about me, my body, or my achievements). I enjoyed this season of training partly because I was much less anxious about my performance. The plantar fasciitis forced me to back way off and put aside any competitive delusions and I began to really enjoy the little bit of pain-free running that I could do. Also, for the first time I fell in love with open-ocean swimming. I explored the entire coastline of Blue Hill Bay and made several open-water crossings on my own (if you’re looking for a lost mooring let me know, I saw several outliers this summer). I love the feeling of total independence and self-sufficiency, it reminds me of the feeling I had hiking alone in very remote places pre-cell-phone and gps. I don’t like the thought of global warming bringing more sharks to the Gulf of Maine. So, moving on . . .
At the end of last season I was in rough shape. My left hip joint was screaming, and I was told by PT’s and MD’s that I’d be lucky to run at all before an inevitable hip replacement in 3-5 years. My calves and feet were trying to take up the slack from my hip and I ended up with variations on plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis on both sides lasting about six months in each case. Then, after a slow steady build up of glute strength and overall endurance, NO hip openers (yoga-type stretches that include external hip rotation), and very little running (10-25 miles per week) my pain started to subside. I frequently switched up my footwear (from barefoot to New Balance minimus to Hokas) to spread the stress across different parts of my body and I spent way more time fast-hiking up and down hills than running on roads.
My goal was to end this season un-injured and un-sick and I totally succeeded. I managed to keep my attitude relaxed but focussed and while I don’t feel at all like an uber-human-amazon-woman, I did get to have some amazing experiences.
2014 Season Recap
March 16, Maine Huts and Trails 40 Km XC Ski Classic, Carrabassett Valley, ME
I started out WAY too fast – sustaining a heart rate of over 160 bpm for the first hour and over 150 for the next two hours. Whoa. It was a fun, competitive race, and I finished in 3hrs 26mins.
May 24, Pineland Farms 5k Barefoot, New Gloucester, ME
The Trail Running Festival and Pineland Farms is family-friendly, scenic, well run and laid-back. This was the second year that Lucy (7) and Georgia (6) and I ran the barefoot5k together and we had a great time. I think it would be great if small trail races like this could add an award category for 5-10 year olds, and offer a more generous family discount. Kids are natural trail-runners and it would be fun to see more of them out there.
May 25, Pineland Farms, 25k Trail, New Gloucester, ME
I dropped down from the 50k to the 25k since foot pain had kept me from running more than 5 miles at a time all Spring. Jerome ran this one with me and it made for a great date! He hadn’t run (at all) since his MDI Half Marathon the year before, so I had to really push him up the last few hills and we finished in just under three hours, happy and humbled.
June 8, Pirate Tri Sprint, Casco, ME
I love this little early season Tri. The swim is generally freezing, the bike course is lovely and hilly, and the run is a totally mundane, fast flat out and back. I generally camp out in the back of my car so I can wake up at the start line. My cousin Sam and my friend Sloan joined me. Sam and I both came in second in our age group and Sloan proved she can rock a triathlon even after a winter of hibernation.
July 12, Norway Tri Sprint, Norway, ME
This is my favorite local triathlon. The swim course is long (2/3 mile) and the water is always warm and lovely, the bike is 6 miles up a hill and 6 miles back down – fast, and the run is a steep 3+ mile course on local xc trails. When the Western Foothills Land Trust started this race 6 years ago it was a small event filled with first timers, retirees and mom-athletes but it is growing and each year there are a few more New England speedsters leading the rest of us around the course in their zippy suits and million dollar bikes. This year both my cousin Sam and her 17 year old daughter Kira joined us (for her first ever triathlon)!
This year Jerome, the girls and I camped out nearby and had dinner at the torturously slow Cafe Nomad, where unbeknownst to us they served Georgia a gluten-filled tortilla. She proceeded to spend the night puking on me in the tent while Jerome and Lucy snored nearby. Every time I opened the tent door to let Georgia puke outside a whole flock of blood-thirsty mosquitos would clamp down on my face, neck and exposed arm flesh. It was a night to forget and I spent the hour before the race in the morning cleaning myself and my gear up, didn’t get to eat breakfast and forgot to pump up my tires. This is all makes a great excuse for why I didn’t compete well this year, but I was also in the middle of a very hard Ironwoman training cycle and probably needed way more recovery time than I was giving myself. By the end of the weekend (which included a 50 mile ride through the White Mountains and teaching at the Maine Yoga Fest) my left foot was hurting so badly I couldn’t walk straight. Live and learn.
August, 8, Long Island Challenge, Blue Hill Bay, ME (2.4 mile swim)
This year’s swim was a bit on the choppy side and we didn’t hit the incoming tide quite right so it took us all a bit longer, but every one who got in the water made it to the Becton’s dock where hot tea and scones were enjoyed by all.
August 10, Granite Woman, Downeast, ME (2.4mi swim, 120mi bike, 10mi hike over Katahdin)
This year to keep the support logistics simple, I swam a 2.4 mile route alone in Toddy Pond and then biked up to Millinocket on my own. I got a late start and was once again racing the sun down the final hill into town where Jerome met me at the Hikers Hostel with a lovely roast beef sandwich. The next morning we got to the Baxter State Park Togue Pond gate as soon as it opened at 6am to try to beat the forecasted afternoon thunderstorms. We hiked up the Helon Taylor trail to Pamola Peak, arriving before 10am, but still the clouds were moving in really fast! As we crossed the Knife’s Edge we watched huge thunderheads rapidly forming overhead. If you know me you know how much I hate electric storms so I was on edge the whole way
up to Baxter Peak. When we got there everyone was acting very casual and all I could think was “how fast can we get down”. Half way down the Tablelands we hit the Cathedral Trail intersection and decided it would be wise to head down from there instead of completing our planned route up over Hamlin Peak. Of course as soon as we made that decision it became clear that there wasn’t enough heat to sustain the cloud build up and I was reminded once again, this is Maine, not Colorado. Even so, the Cathedral trail makes a very fun down-scramble and nobody uses that trail in the afternoon (people only hike up it) so unlike the more popular descent route down the Saddle trail, there is no threat of people dropping shit or kicking rocks on your head.
September 6, Lobsterman Tri Olympic, Freeport. ME
This year’s Lobsterman came right at the end of my peak Ironwoman training and my for some reason I can’t remember now, my left foot was killing me. I shouldn’t have raced at all but I am stubborn. I did end up cranking the bike ride at an average pace of 19.6 mph. But when it came time to run I was practically in tears. Somehow for the first time all summer the temperature soared into the high 80’s with nearly 100% humidity. My foot pain was acute, and I had to wear shoes because the pavement was too hot to go barefoot. I ran-walked myself across the finish line and hoped I hadn’t done any lasting damage. After all, I had an Ironwoman to complete the following weekend!
September 28, Vermont 50, 50k Trail, Brownsville, VT
I was originally registered for the 50mile race, but wisely dropped down to the 50k. I wasn’t even sure the week before if I would be volunteering or running (the most running I had done all season was the marathon at the end of the Ironwoman). I had talked two girlfriends into running their first ever 50k, and I was determined to join them. It turned out to be a lovely day in the Vermont hills, I felt strong if not fast, and finished singing and swearing loudly!
October 5, Cadillac Century Challenge, Bar Harbor, ME
This is not so much a race as a group ride. All my girlfriends backed out the morning of. Probably because it was pouring rain and blowing hard enough to knock down the registration tent. I tagged along with a friendly group of guys for the first 40 miles until I got a flat tire and realized my CO2 cartridge was spent. Miraculously I was a mere 500 ft away from Bicycle Bob’s house. He must have heard me swearing because he eventually he wandered out with a hot cup of coffee and a bike pump. I continued the ride with Maine’s friendliest doctor (who stuck with me throughout my flat incident and realized he also accidentally had no pump or cartridges). After 90 hilly miles around Mount Desert Island we finally pulled ourselves up Cadillac Mountain around 2pm. The sun was shining and I was mostly dried out. The ride down was much less scary than I had anticipated as the wind had really died down. All in all, the bikers I met that day are some of the best men in Maine. Thanks guys!
October 19, MDI Marathon, Bar Harbor, ME
I was still pain free and I hoped to stay that way so I donned my pair of Hoka One One marshmallows and jogged to the Bar Harbor start line to join a few hundred other Thunderstruck runners. Jerome and the girls dropped me off and headed over to Southwest Harbor for the girls “Big Run”. They spent all summer running a total of 25 single miles and today they were going to run their final 1.6 miles to complete their marathon and get their own golden lobster claw medals.
I underestimated how much fatigue I had accumulated over the last month. By mile six I felt like I had already run 26. I had a sudden, brand new sharp pain in my inner right thigh that kept threatening to throw me to the ground with a debilitating leg cramp. And then my left knee decided to rebel, well not the knee exactly but the TFL/IT band along the outside of my leg but it kept my knee from wanting to bend. The result was a very tough mental run. Which you know, I kind of like. I mean, when the physicality of an event is not really happening, when running faster is not really an option and just running forward at all is a step by step miracle, it really takes the pressure off. I downed my Tailwind and Gu, met Jerome and the girls at the top of the hill around mile 24 and finished only a minute behind my time last year (4:42). The best part? My feet didn’t hurt. No plantar fasciitis or tendonitis. Just good old fashioned fatigue. I can live with that.
October 26 and November 9, Down East Double Trouble Trail Race Challenge, the Wildlands and Sullivan, ME
Two little trail races packed with adventure. On the way to the first one I got in a fender bender so my girlfriends and I were late to the start, which meant we had to park and run 1.5 miles to the start line, before actually getting to start the race. But the race director was very kind and let us have our own timed start (once we got there). It’s a hilly course (~1,000ft gain) and with only a week between me and my last marathon those downhill outer leg muscles were pissed. I think I averaged 14 min miles downhill and 10 minute miles uphill.
The real highlight of my season was getting to run the second race of this series with Lucy. She had been looking forward to running with me for several weeks and when the day came she had her running clothes all laid out and her bottle of tailwind pre-mixed. We got there early enough to relax but she was just like any other racer, nervous and ready to go! I can’t describe the motherly delight and pride I had following her down the trail that day. She is light on her feet and kept her own pace. She ran most of the time and walked some hills, but never once complained. She seemed to actually be digging in the exact same way I do, I couldn’t believe it but I swear she was having fun! She crossed the finish line exhausted and smiling. While she refueled with post-race chili the race committee kindly gave her a “Youngest Runner” award which only added to her joy. She was beaming all day and kept saying “that was so much fun mama!”.
It was truly a great way to end a great season.
Up next? The goal is to fit in as much strength work as I can before xc ski season hits. And I’ve got a gorgeous little 50k planned for my 40th birthday in February out in Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ.
Photo of the month:
Georgia showing us how it’s done.