I Fought Mountain and the Mountain Won: The North Face Endurance Challenge Wachusett Race Recap

Monday, June 12, 2017

Yesterday was The North Face Endurance challenge half marathon and 10k (the 50 miler, 50k, marathon and marathon relay were the day before).

This was my first mountain race and my third half marathon attempt.  My friend Liza and I signed up for it together when we found out that it would be the inaugural North Face Endurance Challenge event in MA.   What fun to be a part of the first event!  Except, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.

Liza and I went to preview the course 2 weeks ago.  The preview served only to sober my thinking on the whole endeavor [and strike some fear deep in my bones].  I'm getting more comfortable with trail running but I don't have regular access to a mountain (nor the desire to run up a mountain) which made training for this race hard.  After previewing the course, I considered dropping out of the event entirely but pressed on to do the half solely for the experience and threw all race goals (except to not get hurt) out of the window.  I knew it would be a difficult day.  Liza had decided earlier on in the year to drop down in distance to the 10k because of her rehab.

Race Day
We left Boston at 5:30 am and after a brief stop at Dunkins, arrived at the mountain at 6:45 am.  Liza and I spent some time eating in the parking lot and getting our stuff together and taking pictures with some of our other friends who were running the races.   The half marathon started at 8 and the 10k started at 9.  I was the only one of the group attempting the half marathon that morning so at 5 to 8 I hugged everyone goodbye and trotted over to join the wave 3 group at the start line.

After all the anticipation built up from the course preview, the course on race day didn't seem that bad.  I think Liza and I may have only previewed the toughest trails!  It took me a while to get my legs to wake up but once I did, the rhythm was good.  The first two miles were on a lot of dirt roads.  We had some long inclines which I walked most of but it still I was managing to keep the pace okay.  Things started to fall apart for me early, however, when I twisted my ankle at a really technical part around 2.5 miles.

I felt and heard the twist and immediately had to sit down on the trail.  I sat for only about a minute assessing the injury and my options.  I was actually enjoying the race and I didn't think the twist was that bad so turning back was barely a thought.  It was only 2 miles to the first aid station so continue on obviously... you can do anthying for 2 miles!  When I got to the aid station at 4.6 miles on the course, however, the EMTs were just leaving to respond to another injury.  I sat there a bit while the aid station volunteers tried to find something to wrap my ankle with but then ultimately couldn't find anything.  I decided to carry on until the summit aid station (mile 7.1) which had a bit more support.  What's another 2.5 miles?  I still didn't want to stop at that point but little did I know the push to the summit would be way harder than anything Liza and I previewed a couple weeks ago.

This picture shows the first section of the big climb up to the summit.  That look, dear friends, is exhaustion, disbelief, and a little bit of runners high maybe.  I had covered about 6 miles at that point, my ankle was bothering me, and it was a full hands and feet experience to get up that thing.  The picture just doesn't do it justice.

Unfortunately, that push was going to be my last.  My ankle was starting slow me down [especially on the downhill] and I started to feel dizzy on the second big steep climb and stopped a couple of times to sit on/lean against the trail and catch myself.  It was hard and I was tempted to take the paved summit road up to the top but I stuck with the official course.

It took a long time, but I finally reached the summit and immediately sat down to get my ankle taped.  It was confirmed.  I had sprained it.  The aid station workers were terrific and took care of me well.  I had pretty much been running on adrenaline on a sprained ankle for almost 5 miles...up and down a mountain.  Once I sat down and had some time to think while being helped, I knew it wasn't going to be wise to continue the race.  I had reached that aid station at about 2 hours and 15 minutes and only had about 1 hour 45 minutes to complete the rest of the course, I knew that if I continued on I would have to do that climb up to the summit again which took a ton of time on the first go, and I didn't think I could handle the descents well enough to make up for the time I was losing on the climbs.  Descending is my strength and the sprained ankle made moving fast out of the question.  Also, once I stood up from having my ankle taped it was really hard to put pressure on the foot.  The adrenaline that got me to the top of that mountain was beginning to wear off.  

I reported to the aid station captain that I was dropping and opted to take the ski lift down outta there.

My first ski lift ride. Sad to drop but excited by the fun experience.
So salty!

Ski lift ride down. Thanks for the ride, Wachusett!
Everyone has at least one drop some time in their lives right?

I was a little disappointed to have to drop out of the race but I think it was the right choice.  My goal race is the TARC Spring Classic 50 miler in the fall so I don't want to do anything stupid that could potentially take me out for a long time and affect my training for that race.  Even with the DNF (did not finish) I had a better time at this mountain race than I thought I would.  Don't get me wrong, I am pretty sure I will never sign up for another one again ever in my life...it's just not my cup o' tea...BUT I didn't hate it.  :)  More power to you mountain runners out there.  It is tough.  You are tough.  I will stick to hiking and/or running the flat trails.  <3

Icing my ankle at the finish line aid station while waiting for Liza and friends to finish

Thanks to the North Face race organizers and volunteers for putting on a good event.  I felt safe and well taken care of out there!  

Also, I'm super proud of Liza.  She's been dealing with injury recovery all spring.  Though she hasn't been running much, she was able to complete the 10k course well under cutoff.  Great job, friend!

What about you?
Have you ever attempted a race that was out of your comfort zone?
Have you ever dropped from a race?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear from you!

Race Goals: TARC Spring Classic Marathon 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

Tomorrow I will toe the line at the TARC Spring Classic marathon.  This will be my 4th attempt at the marathon distance, my first on trails, and only my second attempt after a completing a full training schedule.  I am excited.

My goals for this race?

Go a little quicker than last month's 6hr race! :)  At last month's To Hale and Back 6hr race, I completed 21 miles in about 6 hours 13 minutes which comes up to about an average of 17:51 mins per mile.  Anything quicker than that would be a win.

It's really hard to tell though.  This will be my first trail marathon and I have never seen the course.  Word on the street is that the course is FAST and FLAT -- somehow I doubt that I will agree.  So, I guess the ultimate goal is just to finish.  Because, anything I do will be a PR anyway.  Right? :)  I will say that I am feeling much more rested than I did for last month's race and I'm feeling in way better shape than I was for my last two marathons.  It's going to be a good day.

Stay tuned for the recap after the race!

Finally Spring?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

This view never gets old.

I went up to the Fells today for a quick 3 miles on the trails.  The trails were bustling with people; even at 4pm.  I had forgotten that the Reservation get like that.  I have largely had the place all to myself this winter.  But, I guess springtime does that.  It infuses life and vitality where before there was only cold and lethargy.  It was a gorgeous day today and actually good to see so many people out.  I'll just have to get out earlier or remember to brace for more obstacles on my runs from now on :)

This weekend... I ran 21 miles yesterday around town with a few friends and 3 miles today on the trails.  If you can remember, I ran 21 at the 6 hr trail race a couple weeks ago (which took almost 1 hour and 45 mins longer than yesterday's run) AND I was seriously sore for a few days after.

Happy company on Sat's 21 miler
Today, I wasn't so sore (well not sore enough not to do another run) and the 3 miles served to stretch out my legs a little.  I guess these two runs coming so close together helped to clearly illustrate what I already knew in my head.  Trail running is soooo much harder than road running.  I have to really remember that as I prepare for this upcoming marathon (2 weeks away!).  After last week's race, I was really tempted to think, "what kind of shape am I in if I can't run 21 miles in under 6hrs?"  But that's not a great way to look at things.  Trail running is different.  I still need some practice, sure, but I'm having fun figuring it out and even though it might be harder than running on the road, it has its own rewards.

In other news, the Boston Marathon is only 8 days away! I will be volunteering and spectating again this year.  Can't wait!

What about you?
Do you have any upcoming springtime races?
Have you ever struggled with racing on different terrains?

I'd love to hear from you!  Leave a comment in the section below.  Happy spring and happy running!

To Hale and Back 2017 Race Recap

Monday, March 27, 2017

Group pic with the folks in our carpool
On Saturday, I completed the TARC To Hale and Back 6hr trail race.  While I have volunteered with TARC in the past, this is my first time actually running in a race.  It was a blast!

A snow storm a couple weeks ago made it so that no one really know what the course conditions would be like.As I wrote in my race goals post, my main goal for the day was to have fun and maintain a positive attitude.

Race Goals: To Hale and Back 6hr

Friday, March 24, 2017

Tomorrow is the start of 2017 TARC To Hale and Back 6 hour race and my first trail race ever!

It's strange to think it's my first trail race...I talk about it enough.  But, truly I've never done one before.  I'm excited.  I signed up for this event as a tune up race for the TARC Spring Classic marathon next month and as a base-building exercise for this year's ultimate 50 miler goal.  It is an ambitious goal for the year and breaking it down to bite size pieces is the core of my attack plan. 

My year is laid out like this:  6 hour tomorrow...  Marathon in a month...  A mountain half marathon in June... and then a long summer of solid Ultra-specific training (more to come on what that might look like later).

Gear all laid out and ready to go. All the layers!

So tomorrow's race is the first in the regiment and looking mighty precarious.  The idea behind a 6 hour race is that participants are trying to see who can cover the most miles in 6 hours.  The course is a 3.2 mile loop and you have to complete a whole loop in order for it to count.  I have been working out race day goals in my head for the past month or so and I had to rework my thinking a lot last week after a Nor'easter dropped 8 more inches on the trails.

My race goals can now be characterized two ways:

the "before Tuesday's storm" goals and 
the "after Tuesday's storm" goals.

The before Tuesday's storm goals:

  • A goal - run at least 6 laps for 19+ miles
  • B goal- run at least 5 hours on the course.  
Since this is still technically part of marathon training, I don't feel the need to go over 20 miles and risk putting to much stress on my body as I'm still building up.  Also, if I'm having a rough time out there and not able to get close to 20, 5 hours seems like a decent long run and good cutoff point.

The after Tuesday's storm goal:

  • Have a good time

The revised goal has me going out and maintaining a good attitude for as long as I can endure the sloppy trails.  After all, mental toughness is a skill that needs to be practice.  It's going to be a mess on the trails and possibly raining tomorrow.  I'm not looking forward to that part of it so staying positive is something I'm going to work at.

Stay tuned for the race report!