So it’s been forever since there’s been an update here. But I’m not going to let myself feel shamed into sinking into the shadows. It’s pretty common – people start blogs and then after a month or two, they give up. That was my plan. Part of my lapse was due to the fact that there really wasn’t much to report on. After dropping out of last April’s (2014) Boston Marathon due to illness, I regrouped (emotionally) for a day and then joined my weekeed training partner, Meagan, for another 5 weeks of training, to get re-ready for the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, VT.
Running VCM was a blast. Not only did I come in second – though ending my 9 consecutive PR streak with a 2:45 (previous PR was 2:43.16) – I got to spend the weekend with Meagan and our new BFF, Joan Benoit-Samuelson (who made my life for cheering for me during the race!). Burlington is a gorgeous city and my family, as well as John’s family was there to support me! Also, the race organizers were pretty top notch and sent me home with some delicious Vermont treats. A great experience overall.
Since it’s been over 6 months, I’m going to glaze over things a bit to catch up to the present.
I recovered after VCM with a couple weeks off, then went on my epic honeymoon to…Kamchatka (Russia). John and I spent 2 weeks on planes, buses, in fast moving cars, but mostly walking. We spent an entire week in a gorgeous valley nestled between some of the largest volcanoes in the world and didn’t see another soul the entire time (save many ground squirrels, one bear, two ravens, and numerous mosquitos who were kept at bay, for the most part, by a perfect gentle breeze).
After returning from Kamchatka, I came home, worked for 2 weeks and then started a new dream librarian job at a small biotech in Cambridge.
It was a busy summer and running took a bit of a backseat. I still ran, but much lower quantity and with less intensity. I still raced, but was much less prepared. I did a trail 10k, I did an intensely hilly 10 miler, but I couldn’t find that motivation to jump into marathon training in preparation for a fall race. I was having a good time, but my approach to things was pretty haphazard. Which is fine. Early October race plans were canceled for the prospects of Philly, or CIM, or Houston? I just couldn’t bring myself to commit.
In October, John and I went home to Maine for a weekend and I decided to sign up for a very low key 50k race in Freeport. I was nervous. I’ve been wanting to try an ultra for awhile, but have been intimidated enough to find some good excuses every time I considered it (i.e. – I want to run a marathon, so I probably shouldn’t do an ultra because I’ll need to recover and then wont have enough time to train… – a legit excuse for sure!). Since I really didn’t have an excuse this time around, it seemed like the perfect time. I also secretly hoped it would jumpstart my motivation to get back into some sort of real/organized training. As far as the ultra itself went – my entire plan was to finish. I hadn’t really been running much – I just wanted to get over the intimidation barrier and finish the race. Which I did.
I won a whoopie pie and then we headed back to Boston.
What I got from that 50k was the confidence that a. I can run 50k and b. that i could probably try another. What I also got was a better understanding of ultras (like…stopping in a race at an aid station?!) and as hoped, my motivation was jump started and I got excited about starting to train again in a more organized way.
At first, I thought I wanted to run The North Face 50 Mile out in California. But a little voice inside my head said – ok, you just added 5 miles to your previous long run PR, now you’re going to add another 19 more, on trail, and you’re only going to give yourself a little over a month to train for it?! Also, I’d have to fly across the country for it. I’m all for trying new things, but this seemed like a big step. I remembered one man at the 50k telling me that it was his tune up for the JFK50 in November, so…
I remembered the JFK50 from when we lived in NOVA, so I looked into it. Even though I had a better understanding of the terrain of JFK (on the AT, along the Potomac, and on road) I was still pretty nervous (because 50 miles is far!). As my grandmother said when I told her about it, ‘That’s like driving to Bangor!’ – from Waterville. Maybe that doesn’t mean much to you, but that drive is the sort of drive that when you’re a kid, you ask at least 3 times, ‘are we there yet?!’. So…I wrote to Larisa Dannis, Mike Wardian, and Megan Hovis (Mike and Megan had run it previously). We don’t really know each other. Larisa didn’t know me at all, I had only met Mike at VCM in the spring, and Megan and I knew each other only from the hour we spent together before the start of the 2012 Boston Marathon. I asked what they thought. Everyone said go for it! Mike and Megan added some notes about the race itself/the organization/and their great experiences. So on October 26 I mailed in my registration (yes, mailed), bought my plane ticket, and emailed friends in DC about crashing at their house the night before.
Since this was just an experiment in learning how my body would handle 50 miles, how to eat and drink, how to run (what to wear?!) that far in one swoop, John stayed home for the weekend and I headed out there alone. I had a really decadent dinner with friends the night before and hopped into bed at 10pm. I woke up at 3:45 on race morning, snuck out of my friend’s house (and into her car) as quietly as possible for the 1.5 hour drive to Boonsboro, MD.
On the way there, the only time I was caught in traffic was about 2 miles from the start where the 5am runners were crossing the road to head onto the Appalachian Trail. The police officer directing traffic slowed us all down and told us to put on our hazards and ‘take it slow and easy down the hill’. The ‘hill’ was close to a mile long!! This is when I realized I really should have looked more closely at the course profile 🙂 OK, shake it off!
Once I got to the school, I texted my friend, Meagan and told her that I was scared. Why did I think running 50 miles was something I could and wanted to do?! Despite the fact that it was 5:45 am, she immediately wrote back and said, ‘You’ll do great!’. So, I went inside, picked up my number, and went to camp out at the far side of the gym. At this point, I was still unclear as to what shoes I’d be wearing. I looked around – what were other people wearing? I joked with a woman beside me that I was happy to see that she was wearing what looked to be thin road shoes. I really wanted to wear my (relatively new) Altra One2s, but was nervous as I hadn’t even run more than 10 miles at a time in them and had no idea how they (or I) would hold up over the course of 50 miles. Basically, what you can glean from this entire process is that I went against much of the advice that you should follow going into a race. About 30 minutes before the start, I was in the back hallway of the school with one Altra One2 on one foot and one Saucony Guide (my usual trusty trainer) on the other. I was basically a crazy person. In the end I chose the Altra (and was happy with my choice!).
I’ll save the real race report for a future (but timely, I promise) blog post, but it turns out that I had a great time (and race) at JFK. I ended up winning with a 6:37.04 (about an hour faster than I guessed I would run). But my biggest takeaway from the race, other than being just very excited about this new distance – was what I had heard so much about ultras – that everyone was SO SUPER NICE, SUPPORTIVE, AND FUN. I’m so glad to have done this race and will tell you more about it very soon!