Last week at this time my sister, Beth, and I were running through some weather and this week I get to go back to that happy place and write about it. I am enjoying the reflecting on a week and then having a race report to go back to and remember.
Short Version: My sister, Beth, ran her first ultra. She kicked ass and I got to spend the day in the mountain with her. It was awesome!
There is some natural sibling rivalry between my sister and me. We are both athletic, competitive spirits and similar in many ways. So, when Beth started running last year, training for the Philly Half Marathon in 11/2013 and asked me to run it with her, I was worried, running was my thing! I helped her make a training plan and stick to it and when race day came I did what any big sister would do, I ran it with her. When Beth decided she wanted qualify for Boston 2015, again I helped her make a training plan and ran with her on race day in Pittsburgh this past May to a BQ- mission accomplished! I had realized that her successes were not diminishing mine. So, when Beth decided that she wanted to finish her first ultra before the end of 2014, I helped her choose a race, again we crafted a training plan and my 4wks out from Grindstone 100 legs ran it with her! The ability to share something I love with someone who means so much to me is what makes running so special.
Beth and her Philly training partners and November Project peeps, Anush and Elle, who were also running, drove down to DC on Friday morning so we could carpool down to Lynchburg. With 5 full sized adults, we decided that the trusty Honda Fit might not be enough leg room and rented a mini-van– ROAD TRIP!!!
I wanted to make it down to Lynchburg in time to go the Aid Station and try to try on some Altra Lone Peak 2.0 and cash in my gift certificate from winning Grindstone. The traffic was awful and my husband/driver extraordinaire is amazingly patient! With one pit stop for Jimmy Johns Beach Clubs, we made it to the Aid Station just in time, but alas no Lone Peaks. Oh well.
We headed over to packet pick up and pre-race dinner, I could tell that Beth was getting nervous. I was trying to think back to my first ultra, the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k in 2011, and remember what was going through my mind leading up to race day, but I had no idea! We ate our dinner and salads from home, enjoyed seeing some familiar faces, won a pair for HOKAs in the raffle and picked up our bibs, pretty much all you can ask for from a pre-race dinner.
After checking into the “luxurious” La Quinta for the evening we organized our gear, analyzed the weather (likely 1000x, haha!) and how many layers we should bring, reviewed our race nutrition and headed to bed. I slept well and woke up feeling rested and ready to run!
RACE START- There will be weather
We carpooled from the La Quinta with Jim Daniels and Alisa Springman to the starting line, who had lost their race day ride, with the van now full with 7 adults, the road trip was continuing! It was dark, chilly and starting to drizzle- perfect weather! I ate my standard pre-race breakfast: avocado, vespa, larabar and as much water as I can get in and the obligatory pre-race bathroom break. I headed to the start while Beth was waiting in line for the porta-potty, 3min to race start and I couldn’t find her! I started getting nervous we were going to miss the start and have to fight and push to avoid getting stuck behind the congo line once we hit the trail, but with 45seconds to race start she arrived, I kissed Adam goodbye and we headed into the pack of runners. Found a place next to Barry Lass, quickly reviewed goals for the day, he was trying to finish in 9hr and we were trying to finish in less than 10hr and then we were off!
THE REAL DEAL
As we headed out into the dark and light rain trying, taking easy breaths, finding our pace and focusing on not pushing too hard! I try to take Adam’s mantra for race starts- Going to be at this a while…
We hit the trail and immediately started passing people- road runners, hah. I knew our feet were going to get wet and as we ran in and out of creeks and stream crossings, I just focused on not falling in! Beth had gone with a headlamp and I decided to go with my handheld Fenix light, since it was brighter than my small headlamp, easier to pack away and we weren’t going to need lights for too long. I am happy with my choice, but man I think I spent too much time thinking about it and it didn’t really matter, hah!
We were jogging up the hills, keeping Barry in sight, chatting, watching my heart rate as I tried to listen to Beth’s breathing and see how she was feeling. I know that living in the city it is hard to find places to train for the hills, both up and down. I am lucky to have Rock Creek Park here in DC, the WUSsies and the VHTRC and to get out into Shenandoah, but I think it’s harder in Philadelphia. It was starting to get lighter we were running comfortably and catching up with Jamie Sawyers, Beth reminded me to look at the amazing sunrise, it was awesome and a good sign that she is looking around and enjoying the scenery- that’s the magic stuff, she was doing great!
In preparation for this race, I had made pace cards based on previous results and splits for a finish under 10hr and cutoffs. As daylight came and our lights got put away, we were cruising right on our 10hr pace. We saw Adam for the first time at mile 11- looking good, feeling good.
We ran and chatted with the Dave’s from PA and Jersey and as we started running downhill, talking about craft beer and coffee I got carried away, looked down at my watch 7:23min for that mile and Beth was falling back, I needed to avoid getting too excited, it’s still a long way to the finish! As we got the Irish Creek aid station (mile 19.7) to some hot broth and a refill of my chocolate almond milk, Adam told me that Amy Rusiecki was 4min ahead of us, I had hoped that we would be near each other and could catch up, but I could tell that Beth was starting to feel her legs, it was more climbing and more downhill that she had done in training, we needed to back off or this was going to be an even longer day, I would have to catch up with Amy later. We spent more time hiking the uphills and running the downhill without pushing, which means more time at the top for me to take pictures and enjoy the view!
As we came down through some seriously heavy winds into mile 26 in 9th and 10th place, still in the jackets, but Beth was asking for the stick, feeling her quads kick in. Now, I knew that this race was a lot of dirt roads but damn, the whole things is runable. We grabbed some oreos and were off, hiking a bit slower, I was happy that we were passed as we started climbing Long Mountain, I wanted to take the pressure of finishing in the top 10 off of Beth and help her enjoy the experience.
We fell in with Austin Burling, who had also run Grindstone and was feeling the effects of the short recovery between these races. It was great to meet so many new friends on this run! I could tell that Beth was working hard, doing the classic Blendell and apologizing for slowing down. Leaving Buck Mountain aid station, while trying to remind Beth to eat, stop appologizing and beating up on herself, get as many calories in as she could and BAM! I tripped and with my freezing cold hands wrapped into my sleeves there was nothing to break my fall but my chin—ouch! Too bad there was no “best bruise” winner
I was looking forward to the loop, I knew that the trail would be more interesting and I was excited about getting off of the gravel road for a bit. More importantly, I knew that when we got off the loop, we had less than a half marathon to go and I could use that to help Beth push. Little did I know that this snowy, more technical section was going to be the turning point for Beth. I am not sure if was the “no apologies” rule or seeing how close we were to other women on the out and back to punch our bibs. Beth was climbing much better on the technical section up to the summit as we caught back up to Jamie. We punched out bibs and I took a few quick pictures as we headed back down.
Now, I LOVE to run downhill, the more technical, the more like a mental and physical puzzle each footfall is, as Beth’s guide for this race I had figured that we weren’t going to be pushing a technical downhill section on damp leaf covered trail, but that girl can run downhill! Maybe there is some genetic component to downhill running and it is only part practice? Beth had picked up the pace as we crushed the downhill, so much for sore quads! We passed Beth Frye and another woman as finish lust, a sub 10hr finish and a desire for a jacket helped push Beth to run it in.
As we hit the 1.1mi (random?!) to go spray painted on the ground, Dave Stango ran past, Ann Stanley and close behind and trying to close, let’s go Beth! We hit the road and I tried to pull her along, remind her to relax and let her legs go. We could see the finish and I turned to her, reminding her to take this moment in, finishing your first ultra, accomplishing your time goals, you will be chasing this success dragon for years! She was gritting her teeth, I saw her crying, I know she was pushing hard but it took me a moment to realize that they were tears of joy and pure satisfaction! We crossed the finish line together, big smiles and a HUGE hug.
I am so proud of Beth for how hard she trained for this race, how deep she had to dig and that she was able to turn her mental game around and come out with a success and smile!!! Now, I have never successfully run a 50miler before, something about going out too hard thinking that it is a “short” race, so I had questioned her picking me as a guide, but I think I lived up to her expectations and helped push her to the finish- my first 50miler success!
I am good pacer
My sister is focused and strong, an awesome trail companion
My husband is the most amazing man I know, prepping broth, standing around in the cold sleet all day and driving our tired asses home. Thanks, Adam
A 50miler is still a “short” race
Strava Race Analysis (for people who are into data)