Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December rituals

I love December. The cold weather means great running weather for me, and the anticipation and preparation that comes with Christmas, and spending time with my family, make me feel at peace regardless of how tough a year it has been. My favorite day, other than Christmas, is the second Saturday in December, when I join my good friends for 66.6 miles in the Jefferson National Forest...otherwise known as Hellgate 100K. It is a race that has gotten under my skin, and one that I have written about for the past five years. This year, I chose to watch from the sidelines and crew and support my friend Stephanie as she went for her first Hellgate finish.

I love Stephanie's sharp wit, sense of humor, and the fact that she is a devoted mom to two boys, trying to balance the ultra life with everything else. She is also a very talented ultrarunner, and it was a privilege to watch her hammer the last three miles of the 66.6 mile course, attempting to break 17 hours, only to miss it by 41 seconds...all with her trademark smile on her face. Thanks, Steph, for letting me tag along on your Hellgate journey!

Here are two excellent and entertaining reports from the women's winner, Helen Lavin and fourth place female, and 8-time Hellgate finisher, Rebekah Trittipoe.

Another December ritual is the Winter Solstice Trail Run, now in its fifth year. It is held on the third Saturday of December, and when it was canceled last year due to blizzard conditions, I really missed it. The Solstice Run, as Bill and I call it, started with as just a few friends running the trails around UVA and has grown into a 45+ person trail run on the Rivanna Trail. Most of the runners are road aficionados, and the Solstice Run is the only time all year when they run on the trail; but for others, the Solstice Run is on their running bucket list, as they attempt (trail conditions and course closures depending) to run the entire 21-mile Rivanna Trail loop that encircles our city.

This year we had perfect Winter Solstice conditions: 2 inches of fluffy snow, cold temps, and 12 runners who finished the loop! It was a wonderful celebration of our local running community. Jen Nichols came all the way from Abingdon to join us, and she wrote a great review of the run here. Thanks, Jen! Q's photos of the run are here.

Finally, it wouldn't be December without my first run in the snow with Jack. Being a smart Aussie, he knows that Mom loves to run in the snow, so when he sees those first flakes start to fall, he gets very excited. We ran in the gorgeous snow of December 17 and loved every minute. The clear skies, cold air, bright snow...bliss.

Simple rituals tell our story...what are yours?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

There's nothing like nothing to lose!

Cruising along Sugar Hollow, trying to keep it together (this and all photos by Andrew Zapanta)

Last December, I volunteered at the Three Bridges Marathon, a new local marathon held in White Hall, Virginia at the base of the Shenandoah National Park (SNP). The course is USATF-certified and a Boston qualifier, perfect for those marathoners seeking a late fall race and a BQ on a *relatively* flat course. It is a 6-mile loop done 4 times with a 2 mile spur at the start, on a road that parallels the Moormans River and crosses three bridges as it winds through Sugar Hollow.

Low-key and a labor of love for the folks at Ragged Mountain Running Shop, 3B benefits Meals on Wheels and the Ragged Mountain Racing Team, a post-collegiate Olympic training and racing team coached by my friend Mark Lorenzoni. The ultra-like vibe, the beautiful course, and curiosity about how I would fare 9 years removed from my marathon PR (3:28, set in 2001 in Richmond), sold me once I decided to take a break from my usual December challenge, the Hellgate 100K. I waited until I felt recovered--somewhat--from Masochist, and filled out the last entry before it closed two weeks ago!

A wise man once said, "the hardest race distances are 100 miles and the marathon." No kidding. There is a reason I had not run a road marathon since 2002: pain and suffering. I finished my first marathon at Marine Corps in 1990 in 3:40 after a long day struggling with ITBS. After taking about ten years off of racing to have children, I ran my PR at Richmond in 2001 and attempted to top that in 2002 at Marathon in the Parks, but fell short with a 3:32. In 2002 I also ran my first trail ultra, and after experiencing the beauty of aerobic pacing on trails, racing another road marathon didn't make sense. It took me 8 years to find one that did.

My top-10 reasons to love the Three Bridges Marathon:

10. The setting. Beautiful Moormans River, the SNP looming above, the loop course for cheering others...and only 20 minutes from my house.

9. The vibe.
With 70+ half-marathoners sharing the course, it was awesome to see runners back and forth and give and take the good kharma.

7. The schwag. At the finish, I was handed a schwag bag with a homemade chocolate chip cookie, a coupon for deals at RMRS, a RMRS water bottle, and Three Bridges cotton gloves. The winners got a 100.00 gift certificate to dinner at the Clifton Inn (sweet!).

6. The entry fee. My 40.00 entry went to Meals on Wheels and supported the young bucks on the Ragged Mountain Racing Team. For an additional 15.00, I could have gotten a great looking adidas technical T.

5. The vibe...and the pacers! Did I mention the vibe? At 3B, one can have a pacer jump in at any time. I had pacers during loop 3 (Rick Kwiatkowsi) and loop 4 (Quatro and Erin Boyles) who blocked the horrendous head wind we encountered every 6 miles heading west. During the last 4 miles, Q and Eric Magrum, my PT who has kept me healthy for 8 years of ultrarunning, kept me in good spirits when my spirits bonked. Thanks, guys!

Quatro handing out water at the AS

4. The aid stations and support. Every 2 miles there was a rowdy group offering water, Gatorade, and assorted soup and yummies. Ultra celebs Bill Gentry, Quatro Hubbard, and Bill Potts manned the turn-around point on the east end and I was able to swap out bottles and gels. Where else can one have the best PT in Virginia cruise up and down the course on his mountain bike looking to help injured or cramping runners?

Eric Magrum, PT extraordinaire

3. The music. It wasn't the Rock N' Roll Marathon (thankfully...) but it was just as fun to hear songs we had requested that had been burned into a race-day CD, playing at each AS. I heard my song "Two Step" by Dave at least twice. Nice.

2. The distance. I have HUGE respect for my friends who are devoted to their marathon training. The marathon distance is a great challenge, and running 11:30 mile pace for 50+ miles for 9+ hours at Mountain Masochist was a lot easier than 7:45 mile pace for 3.5 hours!

1. Speaking of my marathon peeps...the absolute BEST thing about Three Bridges is, of course, the people behind the scenes who make it happen. From course measurement, parking logistics, aid stations, the fabulous finish line brunch (thank you Mike Gaffney!), the cheers and energy...this race has fabulous support. Thank you volunteers!

Bill Potts, Aid Station Chief

Bill Gentry, Aid Station Party Guy

As for my race...I was not sure what to expect four weeks after running Masochist, but I figured I had nothing to lose. Two weeks ago I ran a solid track workout with AJW coaching me (in person!), and felt great. Andy told me that, given my track times, I could run a fast race, but my goals were varied: first and foremost, I wanted to finish without any injury or issues. I also wanted to run close to 3:28 and see what my 47-year-old body could do with eight years of ultra training effect.

I was on pace for 3:28 after a conservative first half (1:44), but the wheels started falling off on the fourth loop as I was climbing into the headwind and losing energy. Q and Erin did their best to block the wind, but when Eric cruised by on his mountain bike, we started chatting about ultras, families, and friends and I realized I was cruising along at 8:50 pace...and liking it. So much for racing...I managed to hold on for a 3:37 finish time and first place female. It was so much fun to break the tape! Yay!

However, I was NOT proud when I discovered at the end that my full Hammergel flask was only 50% consumed...which meant I had only taken in 470 calories (counting 270 from my bottle of PERP) for the entire 3.5 hours. DUH. No wonder I felt like crap those last six miles. Another lesson learned: Nutrition is everything!

Many thanks to all the wonderful folks at Ragged Mountain Running Shop for dreaming up this fabulous race. We are so blessed to be able to live in a town where the running community is so strong, vibrant, and supportive. I was totally humbled by the marathon distance and honored to be part of such a fine event...now I will go quietly back into the woods and mountains, where I belong!

"It's worth it all learning at last
The future begins with the past
Step out of the shadow it casts
And let the sun shine on your shoes
Kick 'em off in the rain if you choose
There's nothing like nothing to lose

We traveled so far
We traveled so far to be here"

MCC, from The Age of Miracles

Monday, November 8, 2010

"The mountains shall bring peace to the people" -- Psalm 72:3

This year's Mountain Masochist 50 was intensely emotional and spiritual for me, as well as for many of Mike Broderick's friends in the VHTRC and ultrarunning family. Early Friday morning, the day before the race, Mike passed away with his wife Jill and sister Sue at his side. We were not expecting this---many of Mike's friends had visited him in the hospital just days before, and he was doing well despite dealing with pain. This was too swift, too sudden. I had been planning to run MMTR in honor of Mike, not in memory of Mike.

At the finish (photo by Rusty Speidel)

Keith Knipling graciously agreed to stand before the crowd assembled at the pre-race meal on Friday night to share the sad news and talk a bit about Mike and what he meant to us. Mike had finished three MMTRs, as well as Western States this past June in 26:53, and was a beloved marathon coach with the Montgomery County Road Runners Experienced Marathon training group. The ultra and road running community had come together to raise over $35,000 in his name for lung cancer research, and Mike was particularly pleased about this. In closing his comments, Keith said, "As you climb up Buck Mountain tomorrow, perhaps you may feel Mike giving you a push from behind..."

It was comforting to be with so many good friends that night. We were able to hug, cry, and talk about Mike surrounded by those who knew him well, those who had run, paced, crewed, and cheered for him. I was really looking forward to spending the entire day out in the mountains to reflect and remember. When my friend Meredith asked me, "Are you nervous about the race?" I immediately responded, "No, not at all." Masochist was my goal race of the year, the one I had trained for since July, yet I was oddly serene and peaceful as I laid out my clothes and my number. I knew what my race plan was, both literally (break 9:34, my PR for this course), and spiritually (run strong, fast, and free), and they were one and the same.

 Howard Nippert coached me for this race and he did a great job of working on my speed and turnover, and getting me to the start line fresh and rested. As a result, I found myself running almost everything except the steepest climbs, and my heart rate was steady all day long. I have to admit that I was not sure how I would fare under Howard's "Less (mileage per week) is More" approach...but it obviously paid off as I felt awesome all day!

Howard prepared me very well, but Mike was my coach on race day. I thought about him every time I passed a place where I had crewed for him in 2004--the climb up to Parkway Gate, at Long Mountain Wayside, and in the Loop (where I ran against traffic to meet him halfway). Every time I got emotional, I would trip on a rock, and it became clear that this was Mike's sign for me to get a grip and race. When I tried to play my newly charged iPod, it wouldn't work, and this meant that I needed to run this race fully present and mindful of what I set out to do. Bill Gentry said to me the night before, "All will be revealed...". I just needed to pay attention.

(Buck Mountain, Mountain Masochist 50, 2003--photo by Mike Broderick)

It was at about mile 29, during the climb up Buck Mountain, when I started to hear the music. The trail weaves in and out of hollows, and at first the notes were faint and barely there...and then all of a sudden, after a turn, they were clear as day. The music was the theme from "Rocky" and has been played at MMTR every year for the past 20 years in this exact same spot. As we climbed up the mountain, we were greeted with this inspirational tune and a succession of signs with biblical scripture written on them. Mike took a picture of one (above) when he was running MMTR in 2003. Mike had his pick of signs to photograph (there are at least five or six), but he chose to photograph this one. And now, it makes perfect sense why.

As the day progressed I found myself quite content to run as I felt, and I was on PR time. At the last aid station, four miles from the finish, I knew I would need to work it to get sub-9:24. Donna Utakis and I had been leap-frogging for the last 20 miles and this was awesome! Donna always makes me run an honest race, and I took her presence on the trail as yet another sign that Mike was there. (When Mike paced me at my first 100, the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100, I was trying to catch Donna, but Mike just kept telling me, "Run your own race. Let it come to you").

Finishing Masochist, 2010 (photo by Henry Hobbs)

As we neared the finish line, Donna slowed to a walk and I took a look at my watch. It read 9:34:00. Donna encouraged me to go for it, so I ran hard for the last few yards. In heeding Mike's good advice, I had let the race come to me, and I felt fast, strong, and free...but mostly, I felt at peace. Mike and I had finished our 54-mile journey through the mountains together, and it was time to let his spirit move on.

Farewell, dear friend. I will miss you.

Mike Broderick on the Wild Oak Trail, 2004

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run,
and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint."

Isaiah 40:31

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mountain Masochist 50--a run for Mike

with Mike at mile 75, MMT100, 2005

** Please see the comments section for an update on this post**

Saturday will be my fourth Mountain Masochist 50 Mile Trail Race (MMTR), and without a doubt, it will be the most emotional. I am dedicating my race to my good friend and fellow Wahoo, Mike Broderick, who is fighting stage 4 lung cancer. Mike is a fellow VHTRC member and a popular marathon coach with the Montgomery County Experienced Marathon Training Program. Hundreds of his friends have contributed over $34,000 in Mikes' name to Team LeBrecque, a New York Marathon team raising funds and awareness for lung cancer.

The fact that Mike is so critically ill at all is unfathomable to me. Just four months ago, he finished Western States 100 in 26:53 in very hot conditions, looking and feeling great. Three months later, he was diagnosed with cancer. I am still in shock. I walk around all day going about my work, my training, and spending time with my family, but there is a cloud over my head that I can't shake. This is a guy who swears by a healthy lifestyle, helps others train for marathons and reach their goals so selflessly, and now he is fighting for his life. It just sucks.

Mike was the reason I finished my first 100, the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 (MMT) in 2005. He was my coach, helped crew, and he paced me for the last 30 miles. As I wrote in my last post, he witnessed the great Sleepy/Sophie meltdown and got me running (er, death marching) to the finish line. I will never forget his patience, good humor, and "can do" attitude.

The Meltdown, Mile 85

Mike and I met while on a training run on the Wild Oak Trail. He was training for Wasatch, and I was a newbie in the VHTRC. By the end of the 26 mile loop, we had discovered we were fellow University of Virginia alums and lovers of great acoustic music. (Mike is a Dead Head, and I am not, but we still like a lot of the same music, and he will always let me know when he and his wife Jill are coming to Charlottesville for a Hurricane Party with members of Johnny Sportcoat). He offered to help me prepare and pace me for MMT not too long after, and that was that. As it so often happens in ultrarunning, it took one long run and we were friends for life.

I wish Mike could be out there with me on those MMTR trails on Saturday. He has finished this race at least three times, and he hates The Loop as much as I do. When I am out there swearing at the rocks--and at this awful thing called cancer-- I will swear a little louder and harder for Mike. And I will say a prayer, too.

Team Wahoo (Jeff Wilbur, me, Quatro Hubbard, Laura DeWald and Mike at Bull Run Run 50, 2005)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ode to training partners...and dear friends

Yesterday at 5:00 am it was dark, cold, and pouring rain. There was thunder and lightning in the area and I had only three hours of sleep. I wanted desperately to sleep in and blow off my easy 8-mile recovery run, but I didn't dare.

The reason?

My longtime training partner, Bill Potts, would have given me the silent treatment for the next six months. So I dragged myself out of bed, into the car and out into the rain. One cold, wet, lightning-adrenaline-surged hour later, we were safely back at the car and thankful to be done. Thank goodness for loyal training partners!

What I enjoy most about being an ultrarunner---more than the trails, the race experiences, and the adventures-- are the people. Ultrarunners, it seems, are refugees from other parts of the endurance world, folks who have battle scars from Ironman and road marathons...and inner scars from real life. They are a fascinating, quirky bunch. All are drawn to the sport by the welcoming, "all-comers" vibe and the warm embrace that old timers give newbies. I look forward to every race because I know I will come home not only with a wonderful race memory, but also with a deepened connection to someone I will have encountered along the trail that day.

Lately I have been thinking about how important these connections, and these people, have become in my life. When I need company on the trail, one is usually able to join me. When I need someone to listen to me, they listen and support. When I need to escape the stress of the work day, they meet me at O'dark thirty on an AT trail head. When I need a friend with no questions asked, I have one...or many. When I melt down, they comfort me. And when I need a kick in the pants, they oblige. Here are a just a few training pals who have made a difference in my ultra life...

Bill Potts: West Virginia Mountain Trail Runner and UVA Hospital Social Worker, he kicks my butt each week on our famous "Bread and Butter" tempo run. Bill and I have been running together since 2004, and we have been training for Masochist during this training cycle. He loves hanging out at Greenberry's after a run almost as much as I do, and when he is not running or helping others deal with crises, he is usually in West Virginia at Dan Lehmann's house.

Bill recovers after Highland Sky 40, 2007

Bill Gentry: Another West Virginia Good Ole Boy, Gentry is a legend in the ultra world. We met at Masochist in 2003, which was my first 50 miler. I was struck by his friendly, low-key attitude and by race's end, we were tight. Gentry works at JMU and is a phenomenal writer.

Gentry celebrates his 100th ultra at Catherine's Fat Ass 50K, 2010

Eliza O'Connell: Because she is a mom of three young girls and a world-class duathlete, our schedules rarely mesh...but when they do, I know I will get my money's worth of a run. In fact, I have to taper before I run with Eliza. She runs UP everything (she almost beat the field at the Terrapin Half-M last March) and I can always count on needing a huge nap after we run together. She wrote the cute note (at the top of post) and left it on my car after she left me in the dust last weekend. One day she'll run an ultra and chick all the men. Count on it.

Eliza and me at Blackrock on the AT, 2010

Hallie Hegemeier: Hallie is also a mom of three and has a fierce passion for ultras. She finished her first "official" ultra at Terrapin Mountain 50K last March, and has been coming back from a foot injury all summer...but she is low-key, tough, and willing to try any trail. Once she is healthy we will be exploring some nifty trails and I am willing to bet that she will be at Highland Sky next June...

Hallie rocking down the Heartstone Ridge trail at MMB, 2009

Quatro Hubbard: What more can I say about Q-Dog? He is a loyal member of the VHTRC and has been a steady training partner to many, including me, for the past 8 years. Q will gladly offer to crew, pace, or run with you if you ask, to the detriment of his own training schedule. He loves being in the mountains and he loves helping other runners have fun adventures. Q convinced me to run MMT as my first 100, and while I rarely take him seriously, I am glad I did back then.

Q celebrating his second MMT 100 finish, 2009

Marlin Yoder: Marlin has been a steady training buddy this summer and fall, and since he is faster than me, I always get an excellent workout in. If I PR at Masochist this year, I will have Marlin to thank! I had a blast pacing him at MMT in 2009, and he returned the favor by being my most excellent crew chief at Grindstone 100 in 2009.

Marlin and me at the MMT 100 finish line, 2009

Mike Broderick: Mike and I met on the Wild Oak Trail in 2004 when he was training for Wasatch. We clicked immediately after realizing we shared a love for great music and The University of Virginia. Mike agreed to coach and pace me for my first 100 at MMT in 2005, where he endured one of the greatest Sophie meltdowns in history with grace and humor. Right now Mike is enduring his greatest challenge in his fight against cancer, one that he assured me "will not result in a DNF". I have no doubt that this strong, optimistic, and courageous man will come out on top.

(Dave Quivey, me, Mike, and Jill Quivey: 'Team Sophie" at MMT 100, 2005)

Thank you, dear friends, for your loyal support and unwavering cheerleading throughout the miles...and I pray our trails and paths cross many times in the years ahead.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

With a little help from my friends...and the weather

Last Saturday I ran the 18th annual VHTRC Women's Trail Half Marathon in Clifton, VA. Regular readers of my blog know that I went into the race wondering if I still had the leg speed to break 2:00 on a course where my PR (set in 2006) was 1:56:45. I also went into the race prepared to suffer, because that's what you do in the Women's Half.(the cool pic of me above is courtesy of Bobby Gill)

This event was not an ultra, but you would not know it by looking around. The course shared miles 26-39 of the famous Bull Run Run 50, also put on by the VHTRC. It was dry, rooty, and eroded after months of little rain and lots of horse traffic, and it had a few long climbs and descents that always require power-hiking at BRR. But at the WHM, you had to run them...it's only a half marathon, after all! The VHTRC volunteers at the aid stations were basically a "who's who" of the east coast ultrarunning community: Tom Corris, John Hayward, Keith Moore, Ed Demoney, Joe Clapper, Michele Harmon, Vicki Kendall, Jack Kurisky and James Moore, among others too numerous to mention. These folks have run many of the hardest 100 milers---from Hardrock to Massanutten to Badwater-- and their experience was on display every time I came through an aid station. My favorite moment was watching Jack Kurisky sprint toward me at the final aid station asking if he could fill up my bottle, treating me like a total rock star, knowing I was racing the clock...but I had to blow by him with a quick, "no, thanks!" as the clock was ticking! Thanks anyway, Jack!

But, I am getting ahead of myself. Back to the start. I went into the race hoping for cool weather and was not disappointed. It was so chilly at the start that I was wearing a fleece coat just before the gun went off (that's me with Anstr Davidson on the right). The men of the VHTRC actually start the race by singing "Happy Trails" to us, and then we are off! I started out running with former WHM winner Heather Schaffer, as well as Jen "Ironman" Ragone and Ragan Petrie. I knew Heather, who holds the Catoctin 50K CR, would most likely crush the course, and I was right. She cruised to a comfortable two minute win over the next woman, after starting slow with us and picking her way through the pack. Jen, despite her sandbagging and comments about how much she hates suffering on this course, ran for fifth and Ragan paced herself well for ninth. I was happy to tuck in behind Ragan as I know she would start out easy, and I tried to stay in contact with her during the race. When I saw Tom Corris as I was coming out of the Do Loop, he commented that I was looking good and moving well---which is hardly ever the case when one comes out of the Do Loop--and this was my first inkling that I had a potential PR day ahead of me.

However, you would never know by looking at the race photos that I was having a good day. Aaron Schwartzbard took these pics of (in order, l-r) Ragan, Heather and me...which runner looks like she is suffering the most?

Despite the look on my face, I was actually pleased that I was feeling good. But I kept thinking, "hmmm...this is not good. If I feel this good in this race, it must mean that I'm not working hard enough." Sheesh. So I kept at it and focused on high turnover, efficient form, low heart rate and eating and drinking. At the last aid station I knew I was within reach of breaking my PR, and I tried to run up the big hills as much as I could. The women coming towards me were unbelievably supportive, positive, and friendly, and I tried to use their positive vibe to pull me along. As I neared the finish I glanced at my watch and saw that it was not going to happen...but I came damn close. Eleven seconds off for a 1:56:56, 11th overall and first in 45-49!

Needless to say, I am very excited that I can still work it at 47 like I used to at 43, and after reading all the supportive comments from you guys and gals out there (you know who you are!), I am very excited to go for the sub-9:34 Masochist course PR. Yes, cool weather will most definitely play a role...along with the encouragement of my friends. Thanks, everyone. Here's to growing older and going faster!

Women's Half Marathon photos, results and report are here.

A side note...after many years of lusting after the Bull Run run 50 embroidered blankets that are awarded to the winning teams---and never running for a winning team--I finally got my blankey for winning the 45-49 age group at the WHM. Here I am with super Race Director Mel Saraniero at the finish, clutching my blankey. Gotta love the schwag at VHTRC races! Thanks, Mel, and all the awesome volunteers for another unforgettable event!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Time for the Anaerobic Sufferfest!

Eliza O'Connell at World Duathlon Championships

My friend Kirstin reminded me the other day that this was my favorite way to describe the VHTRC Women's Half Marathon trail race. I am going back to run the "anaerobic sufferfest" on Saturday after taking a few years away to train for Grindstone 100, and I am really excited. As I wrote in my 2007 post, the WHM was my very first VHTRC event back in 2002, so this is an anniversary of sorts. Eights years of hanging out with the VHTRC! I am one lucky ultrarunner. I am also excited to see what I can do for a shorter distance on the trails---have I become a slow slogger after two years of 100 miler training, or do I still have some speed in these old legs?

Howard has met set up nicely this week with a taper (of sorts) and then tacking on some more miles after the race to keep my weekly mileage intact. After 8 weeks of following Howard's plan for MMTR, I am feeling fit, light on my feet due to the quick turnover intervals, and prepared to suffer for 2 hours at my anaerobic threshold as a result of weekly tempo runs. My PR on the current WHM course is 1:56:45 set in 2006. I am not gunning for a PR given the weather forecast of hot and humid, but I would like to break 2:00. I will take it out easy and see what I have left in the tank after the first hour. Regardless of the outcome, it will be a great day in the woods celebrating my fitness and my eight year connection to my awesome running club. Wooo-hooo!

What's also fun about having the WHM in my training cycle is that it has forced me to start thinking realistically about my goals for the next few races coming up. As a 47-year-old, I know my course PR days are numbered (though it took me 5 years to get a course PR at Hellgate in 2009, so go figure). Is it realistic to think that I can still score course PRs? I would like to break my course PR of 9:34 at MMTR in November, but I know that the cosmos must be aligned just right for that to happen: weather, trail conditions, work stress, family stress, fitness, nutrition...all of these factors will play a huge role in determining the outcome. Part of the adventure is letting it all play out, and I am excited to see what happens!

A few shout outs to two women over 40 who are making things happen: My friend Eliza O'Connell (above), who almost beat the entire field at the Terrapin Mountain Trail Half marathon, finished 10th and second American woman in her 40-44 age group at the World Duathlon Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland last weekend. Eliza ran a 40-flat 10k, followed by a 40K bike in 1:33, followed by a 20-flat 5K. Talk about an anaerobic sufferfest! What's even cooler is that she is a mother of three darling daughters under the age of 10, and that she just started racing duathlons a year ago! Way to go Eliza---your focus, hard work, and "laying it all out there" are an inspiration to so many of us!

I am also really inspired by Ronda's blog post from this morning. Ronda always writes interesting and energizing posts that get me fired up and thinking about motherhood, balance, and how I train and race. After reading about her goals for 2011, I may have to dust off my old Specialized mountain bike for the cool fall temperatures after MMTR is in the books. As for 2011...Bill and I are already scheming about a stage run in the SNP, and I am thinking about adding a mountain bike race to the mix. Thanks for the push, Ronda!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Change is good...and hard

Over the past year I have dealt with a lot of change and transition in my life. My eldest son graduated from high school and now attends college 7 hours from home; our school, where I am the counselor, is about to open a brand new lower, middle, and upper school; and I am working with a new coach and a new training program. If there is one thing ultrarunning has taught me, it is to be open to change at any moment, and to go with whatever the trail gives me. This is such a valuable lesson (and life skill) to have when so much around me is in transition!

The biggest training shake-up? Probably switching over from my clunky Montrails to the super light inov-8 Flyroc 284s. It took me a good six months to transition from the former to the latter to avoid any injury to my achilles or plantar fascia, which is often the case with folks trying the switch from a more supportive shoe to one with less. I absolutely love my Flyrocks! I have noticed a change in my foot strike (more mid-foot than heel) and I can negotiate technical downhills with greater ease because of the grippy sole and lightness. They are also super comfy on the road, which is good since Masochist has about 40 miles of dirt road!

I also tested out (and love) the 2XU calf sleeves. I had some major cramping in my legs at Terrapin 50K and Highland Sky 40, so this summer I have been wearing the sleeves in all my training. Yesterday I wore them on a 20 miler road run and last week on a 40-minute tempo run, and they are very comfy. After a multi-hour trail run last weekend, my legs felt great afterward and the next day. I haven't worn them exclusively for post-run recovery but will certainly try them after Masochist for the car ride home.

My training with Howard has been going really well. Last spring I was feeling a bit stale and recognized that, after 8 years of training and racing, I was in need of a change. New races, new training routes, and a new program were just what I needed to shake things up and get me excited to run again. I am really excited about Masochist (which is not a "new" race for me but I haven't run it in three years) and, for the first time since 2005, I will not be running Hellgate 100K. With all the change in other parts of my life, it is nice to keep the training and racing calendar simple and wide open for now. Howard has got me running solid fartlek runs on Tuesdays followed by solid tempos on Wednesdays. After a day off on Thursday and easy runs on Monday and Friday, I always feel rested and fresh for the long weekend run. It is nice to be so "mindless" with my training...I just look at the program and do it. I can tell that my turnover is quicker and that my legs are fresher with this new program. I am looking forward to the next 8 weeks of Masochist training!

One thing that hasn't changed? I was once again given the opportunity to speak to the ladies of the Charlottesville 4 Miler training program last week. This is my favorite morning of the year! I love feeling the positive vibes and energy of this remarkable group of women, most of whom are running their very first race in the 4 Miler and are raising funds and awareness for breast cancer research. This was my fourth year as a guest speaker, and I encouraged them to "pass with pride" and not be afraid to be competitive during the race. Since most have never run a race before and were planning to run with their training partners, I also encouraged them to make a deal with one another, so that if one of them felt good during the last mile and wanted to pick up the pace, they shouldn't feel guilty about leaving the group. It is, after all, a race...and change is good!

Here is a pic of me speaking to the ladies. I can't figure out how to post it without the Shutterfly connection, so this will have to do.

Click here to view these pictures larger

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Remembering Martha

Last weekend I joined the gang for the Martha Moats Baker Memorial 50K++(MMB). This run was created by Dennis Herr, an ultra legend whose trail nickname is "The Animal." If you go back and read past issues of Ultrarunning from the 1980s and 90s, you will see Dennis' name at the top of the race results for Hardrock, Wasatch, and Leadville, just to name a few.

What I love about Dennis, and the runs that he hosts, is that he is all about adventure and tough trails. No "candy ass" trails for the Animal---just long climbs, long descents, and gnarly trail. He also respects the history that is behind MMB--- 85 years ago, Martha was making her way from one side of Brushy Mountain to another in a snowstorm when she perished in the cold. We are privileged to now run those same roads and trails for fun and recreation, but we never forget Martha. Dennis always asks us to say a little prayer for her as we run by.

MMB starts and finishes in the Wild Oak Trail parking area, site of TWOT 100 and Grindstone 100 aid stations. The initial 13-mile climb up Little Bald to Reddish Knob takes 3 hours, and on a clear day, offers views clear to West Virginia and beyond. On Saturday we had rain and fog, so no views...but here are some pics from last year's run:

The gang running towards Reddish Knob

Sophie and Hallie atop Reddish Knob

Hallie is nursing an injury this year, so she had to miss the fun...but the usual suspects returned, along with new friends. I enjoyed running with Ragan and Amy and showing them the parts of the Grindstone course that MMB shares, Martha's gravestone, as well as hammering down Heartstone Ridge Trail in the cool rain. Finally, I felt like a runner again in those cooler temperatures! It was also awesome to see 100-ultra-stud Bill Gentry at the Dog Graveyard with popsicles and other treats. The aid rivaled many ultras out there, and the post-run party under the VHTRC tent was a blast as usual. We waited all afternoon eating yummy treats and drinking a variety of beverages for the runners who opted to run 27 or 35 miles...and in one case, almost 50 miles (that is a story for another time and blog post!).

Thank you, Dennis, for another awesome tour of the trails you love so dearly...and rest in peace, Martha Moats Baker.

Monday, July 26, 2010

100 Ultras

Bill Gentry (above) finished his 100th ultra on Saturday at Catherine's Fat Ass 50K, and we celebrated in a big way. Bill is a local ultra legend, having finished the Umstead 100 ten times, the Mountain Masochist 50 twelve times, and assorted other ultras that have long since ceased to exist. Every time I go for a run with Gentry, he tells me story about "the old days" of ultrarunning in Virginia, back when the Wild Oak 50, the Del Passatore 100K, and the Massanutten Massacre 50 were still around. He talks about running with people who were dominant ultra runners in their day like Dennis Herr, Ben Clark, and Courtney Campbell. He has seen it all, and then some. So it was really cool to be able to celebrate his 100th ultra finish by running a few miles with the legend.

Because the temperatures soared into the 100s on Saturday, RD Jeff Reed wisely created a "shorter, 30 mile ultra" option as well as a 21 mile option. I ran with a group that included Bill, Amy (Flame) Brown, Scott Crabb, Gary Knipling, Bethany Patterson, Marc Griffin, Greg Zaruba, and John Cassilly. Bill was true to form as he yacked and yammered on without taking a breath, talking about his greatest hits of ultrarunning, and we all followed along like he was Forrest Gump. At the turn around-- four hours into the run with only 15 miles run--they all decided to run the ultra option while I opted for the "Sophie's Fat Ass 25.9" option. Since I knew the course from previous Catherine's 50Ks, I knew that taking the gravel road back to Catherine's Furnace would spare me a gradual uphill in the heat of the day and allow me to run 2+ miles in the shade, all downhill.

Gentry leading Flame Brown and Scott Crabb down the infamous Purple Train in the southern Massanuttens

100 ultra finishes is a huge deal. What I admire about Bill's 100 finishes is that he didn't count races that he started but DNF'd, or training runs, like others I have read about. I also admire his longevity in the sport. Along with other bloggers and runners I know, I have been dealing with a bit of burnout and staleness this summer. As I was congratulating myself on my wise decision to take the road back to the furnace on Saturday, I realized that in order for me to sustain my love for the sport, avoid burnout, and stay healthy, I needed to make more decisions like that one: to run my own course when I needed to, on my own terms, even when the "group" goes another direction. I have watched Bill transition into 24- and 48- hour track runs after a career of trail ultrarunning, and I can tell he is rejuvenated by these new challenges. I have also observed men and women who were elite runners in their 30s and 40s transition towards adventure running, stage racing, and fast packing on long trails with much success and enjoyment. I think this is where I am headed as well.

Cooling off in Cub Run, near Catherine's Furnace. I sat there for ten minutes and didn't want to leave.

In the short term, I am looking forward to running few races this fall that I haven't done in a few years. I will be testing my speed at the VHTRC Women's Trail Half Marathon as well as running in my fourth Mountain Masochist 50 in November. Both require that I mix up my training and get some good speed work in. On the recommendation of a few trusted friends, I have asked Howard Nippert to help me train for Masochist. As I was dealing with the training doldrums a few months ago, I realized that I needed a new program and focus, something different from what I had been doing. Howard, in addition to being a world class ultrarunner, has run Masochist and knows the course well, and so far I have been having a lot of fun following his base building plan. After we come back from the beach in a week, things start to ramp up, and I am getting excited to get back into hardcore training...and that is always a good sign!

Presenting Gentry with his "award" for finishing his 100th ultra: the prized VHTRC white shirt

Another good sign that the summer blahs are lifting? The famous Catherine's FA post-run blow out once again lived up to its reputation. Here are the pics from Bobby Gill, who also took the photos on this page. As you can see, the event "looked" like a race from the first 100 photos, but then it deteriorated quickly when Jim Beam and Little Red Riding Hood showed up. Absolutely hilarious, and exactly why I run these things in the first place: for the friends and for the laughs.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dog Days...

Our Aussie Jack, who hasn't had much trail time because of the heat...and mom being a slacker.

I don't know if it's the heat we've been having, or just the fact that I am out of my routine of going to work, coaching, and kid schlepping...but I have been feeling flat and not very motivated to train lately. After my heat-induced implosion at Highland Sky, I took a few easy weeks in the hopes of getting my mojo back. Reading other blog posts about over training and burnout, especially Gary Robbins and his subsequent redemption run at WS100, have been really inspiring and given me some food for thought about training, rest, and recovery.

It has been 8 years since my first ultra, and after looking up my ultra results on RealEndurance.com, I saw that I have finished 40+ ultras since 2002, averaging 4-5 ultras per year (and that doesn't count the fat ass 50Ks I do each year). The fall of 2009 was one of my better training cycles as I had course PRs for 5k, 50K and 100K in the span of 2 months, all after running Grindstone 100! I really didn't take an extended break from running over the winter (despite my best intentions---but I just LOVE running in snow)---so, it makes sense that my fitness has been on a plateau for the last six months. After talking with inov-8 teammate Sean Andrish last week, we both concluded that despite having strong racing seasons in 2009, we find ourselves in a bit of a fitness lull in the midst of 2010. I think this is the body's way of re-setting after a stressful training and racing cycle and the best thing to do is rest, recover, and rejuvenate.

Four months from now I will toe the line at my fourth Mountain Masochist 50...but today and for the rest of the month I am starting a new training plan that will incorporate easy miles, lots of rest and recovery, healthy eating, and plenty of family time. We are going to the beach at the end of the month and after that I plan to dive into my MMTR training with a full heart and much eagerness to find another level of my fitness. Since this "re-setting" of my training is new to me---I am used to being able to run, recover, repeat with no issues--I plan to report more often on the blog just in case my experience can be helpful to someone else. And, I would love to hear from folks who have gone through their own training "lulls", "plateaus", "funks" or whatever you want to call it...please comment away!

Finally, a big shout out to my Hardrock 100 friends, running in the San Juans for the next 48 hours...Bur, Dobies, Kurisky, Deb, just to name a few...and to Alisa "Make Mine Extra HOT" Springman who is starting her third Badwater 135 on Monday. Wooo-hooo peeps! Have great adventures out there!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

If you can't stand the heat...

...just shut up and RUN!!!

That was my mantra during the second half of Highlands Sky 40 on Saturday. After a lovely, cool, breezy morning of running high above tree line on the Roaring Plains in the Dolly Sods Wilderness of West Virginia, the real challenge of the day revealed itself in the 7+ mile exposed road section of the race during miles 20-27. It was on this section that I needed to dig up the positive mental talk and just run from "shade to shade." Once we hit the Dolly Sods we got a nice cool breeze from time to time, but the damage was done, as they say...I was toast.

What makes some runners better in the heat than others? I have a friend whom I'll call Alisa Springman. She LOVES running in the heat, so much so that she LOVES running Badwater. This year will be her third in a row in Death Valley. She is a swimmer in her former life, so perhaps she has a natural "thing" with being in the sun. Not me.

Give me 15 degrees in mid-December and I will flow like water. For some, running in this kind of cold is not appealing---they would rather be warm and toasty by the fire than running up Headforemost Mountain in a 9 degree wind chill. My body runs really well in cool and colder weather, and most of my ultra course PRs have been set in cool and/or rainy temps: Bull Run in the 2006 cold rain, 9:00; Mountain Masochist 50 in 40 degrees in 2007, 9:34; Hellgate 100K's 15 degrees in 2009, 14:58; and Highland Sky 40, where, in 2004 in the cool rainy 50s, I ran a 8:06 AND was the female winner. Co-inky-dink? I think not.

In 2006, I ran Western States 100 in the third hottest conditions in race history. It was 70 degrees at the start in Squaw Valley (at 4,000 feet) and 110 in the canyons during the race, and 95 degrees at 8:00am at the finish line. I was prepared for these conditions--I had sat in the sauna following the plans provided by the Badwater race site, adjusted my race time goals by at least two hours, started very slowly, and got wet at every AS and stream crossing. Mentally I knew the heat would be my challenge of the race, not the 100 miles run, and this preparation was a huge factor in why I was able to finish when so many didn't that year.

So that's why I spent the week before this year's Highlands Sky checking out the weather and adjusting (and readjusting) my fluid and calorie needs. The forecast (which was correct) called for clear skies with 50 degree temps at 6:00am with 90% humidity, eventually reaching 85-88 degrees with 50% humidity. I knew the humidity wasn't going to be a concern but the exposed sections and the lack of cloud cover were going to be the challenge. For this reason I tucked in an extra 20 ounce handheld for the second half to use just for dousing water over my head, in addition to the 70 ounces of water in my Nathan pack and the 20 ounce handheld that I used for Perpetuem and Nuun, alternatively. I also took an S cap every hour, sometimes every 30 minutes whenever I felt cramping coming on, and this strategy worked well. Finally, I consumed 2300 calories (mostly Hammergel, Clif Bloks and Perp) over the 9 hours I was out there, a perfect amount as it averaged about 250 and hour.

In addition, I wore what are probably the best trail shoe for the Highland Sky course: the inov-8 Flyrock 284s. These shoes were perfect for the variety of conditions we encountered (in order of appearance): pavement, muddy singletrack, rocky, technical trail, slick rooty steep downhill trail, rolling dirt road, old jeep road, narrow sandy singletrack, wide horse trail, boulder hopping, steep scree on the ski slope, and pavement. I loved how fast and quick I felt in these shoes, even if I wasn't really running fast and quick!

And despite the heat and my whining about it, I didn't bonk, cramp, or Death March it in---in fact, I ran the last road section with relative ease. The bottom line was that heat slowed me significantly on sections where in the past I tend to run fast (miles 20-40), thus registering my slowest and most painful Highland Sky finish to date. BUT being a "glass is half full" kind of gal, I had a blast hanging out with my VHTRC and WVMTR friends, and am pleased with how my nutrition and hydration went. With all the walking I was doing, I was also able to enjoy the gorgeous views of one of my favorite courses. The pics below are just a few of the many that I took during the race...hmmm, perhaps that accounts for some of the slow down? Never mind.

My favorite section of the Dolly Sods...click on it for a larger view. Note all the runners far ahead down the trail. That's Billy-Bob Combs in the yellow shorts.

I would have loved to have sat down beneath the shade of this tree...

My good friend Gary Knipling...here I am leaving him at mile 7 on the Roaring Plains, only to have him pass me back at mile 38. An amazing performance by a legendary ultrarunner!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Highlands Sky 40 = Summer!

Out in Northern California, ultrarunners know it's officially summer when Western States weekend rolls around. In Colorado, it's officially summertime when the "Camp Hardrock" people start to show up in Silverton to mark the course and get acclimatized to the altitude two weeks from race day. For others, its when they touch down in Death Valley in mid-July for Badwater, and the first sign of summer for many in the VHTRC is when they take off for Bighorn 100, 50, and 50K.

For me, it's officially summer when Highlands Sky 40 is here! Held the third Saturday in June, HS has been a staple on my racing calendar for the past 6 years. I have written about it in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and, most likely, will write about it again this year...and I am planning to take my camera along this time so that I can capture all the glory of this very tough course.It is a 40 miler that runs like a 50 every time.

After a crazy spring of very little training and racing because of work and family obligations, I was looking forward to getting serious about my preparation for Highland Sky by mid-May. By then, lacrosse seasons were over (this year was very bittersweet as it was Chape's last high school season), school was wrapping up, and I was finally getting heat-trained. We had many hot and humid weekends in May which added up to many excellent long runs in the mountains in the heat, and I was particularly happy with a double that included 23 miles on the Grindstone course (with a ball-busting 45 minute run to the top of Dowells Draft) followed up by 20 miles in the 90s on RipRap. Good stuff!

I also pulled out the old training logs and recycled my best track workouts for the last four weeks leading up to Highland Sky, including Bill's and my favorite:

4 x 1200 at 5k pace (4:50 for me, 4:40 for Bill) followed by a run off the track, down a steep hill and back up for about 800 meters with 3:00 recovery in between each 1200.

This one kicked our butts, but only after we ran this one the week before:

200, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1000, 800, 600, 400, 200 at 5K pace with 2:00 rest in between each interval.

Yowza! This is a confidence builder, to be sure. Bill needed it for WS and I needed it for HS. It was a great feeling to push through the doubt and anxiety ("this is going to hurt") that came through my mind after the 1200.

After running the Priest and Three Ridges two weeks ago, it was time for the taper. Last year I wrote a post about the taper after attending an informative session on marathon tapering at Ragged Mountain Running Shop. While I won't rehash that post here, I will just say that I love the taper. It's a time for examination and reflection, as well as getting down to brass tacks and to start packing, planning, sorting. The homework is done and it's time to get ready for the exam! This week I am off from work, and have spent a lot of time catching up on sleep and reading...my fave book to read before a race is Running Within by Jerry Lynch. It has excellent chapters on mental preparation for racing and training, something that I have been working on.

I am looking forward to seeing the usual suspects as well as meeting new friends this weekend, and will be sure to post my pics here. Both the men's and women's fields are looking really tough, which is a great motivator for me.

Summertime...sweet summertime.

**NEW** Just came across this VERY cool video from Running Times of the trail work done on the Highlands Sky course this spring in preparation for the race on Saturday...a wonderful piece on the history of the Dolly Sods and a lot of glimpses of the trail!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Western States Boot Camp weekend!

My training buddy Bill is running his second 100 and first Western States in less than four weeks. He has been training all spring for the "big dance" as some people call it...Boston Marathon, followed by Promise Land 50K five days later. Then it was off the the Grand Canyon with the boys from West Virginia for a two day crossing, followed up 4 days later with a 20/23/20 training weekend, which included 23 miles on the Grindstone course and 20 miles on RipRap in 90 degree heat. During the week he's been kicking my butt on the track. We think he's ready to go!

I just sent him this link to a recent blog post that shows all the SNOW out on the WS course...including 6 feet at Robinson Flat!

All this WS training has been good for me as well. I am starting to taper a bit for Highlands Sky 40 but first we have have one more tough run: The Priest and Three Ridges on Saturday!

Memorial Day Boot Camp is a fun time of year---great adventures with new and old friends, different trails to explore, heat to acclimate to, gorgeous flora and frisky fauna (we had a bear check us out 20 yards off the AT last week), and good climbing and descending miles, and the satisfaction at the end of it all of putting money in the bank!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Capon Valley

photo by Matt Riley

Before I was an ultrarunner, I was a lacrosse player. I picked up a stick (also known as a "crosse") during my freshman year in high school and instantly fell in love with the sport. I loved the speed, the ball movement, and the grace of the women's game, and spent hours throwing the ball against a wall perfecting my moves. Ultimately I ended up playing for four years at the University of Virginia and then for three years for the United States Women's Lacrosse Team. I represented the US in international tournaments after college and loved every minute of it.

As time went on, I branched out to other sports (triathlon, marathon, ultras) but lacrosse has always been my first love, and it defined my career choices. My first job out of college was coaching at an all-girl's private school in Baltimore. I was a graduate assistant coach at UVA while pursuing my masters degree in counseling, and I have been the JV girls coach at my school here in Charlottesville since 1995. I also coach a club team and my daughter's middle school team. My son is going to play in college next year for one of my dear friends who played on the men's team when I was on the women's team at UVA.

Lacrosse is a family. We are coaches, teachers, players, parents, umpires, and spectators. We love and respect the game, and one another. And, just like ultrarunning, we are a small, tight-knit community that is often misrepresented by the media.

So you can imagine the range of emotions that were flowing through my heart and mind last Monday, May 3, when we heard the news of Yeardley Love's death. As the school counselor, I had to hold myself together as I helped my students --who were coached by Yeardley at camp--come to terms with her murder. I also spent the week discussing the issues of domestic violence and substance abuse with my freshmen students. I read the damning media reports, cried with my colleagues and former UVA teammates, and attempted to coach my team and wrap up our season.

I was looking forward to coming to Capon Valley 50K on Saturday as a respite from the stress of the week, but instead found that I had no energy to run. I was happy to be there and see my friends, and grateful to be healthy and spending the day in the woods, but the emotional upheaval of the past week kept me from being able to run any faster than an easy trot. This was new to me---I never had come into a race unable to "race" when I was ready. At first I was frustrated, but then I realized that it just wasn't my day to race, so I spent the rest of the miles enjoying the great weather, listening to my sister's new album on my iPod, and thinking about Yeardley.

At the post run lunch, while everyone was talking about their great races, Tom Corris turned to me and said, "I am sorry about what happened in your neck of the woods last week." Such a simple comment, but so meaningful. I promptly burst into tears and bawled for a bit, and everyone at the table was understanding and supportive. Thanks, friends.

There's been much written about what happened to Yeardley. I won't use this post to go into all the details, but I do want to reinforce a plea that UVA President John Casteen made to those attending the candlelight vigil on Wednesday night: "Seek the support that belongs to you, because you belong to us." Yes, let's make sure we take care of one another.

Sometimes the tragedies of life intersect with our life on the trails. The cliche is true---we can try to run, but we cannot hide from these feelings. We can only accept them, embrace them, and then let them go. That's my plan for today.

1, 2, 3, 4: Together, Hoos.

Yeardley Love Women's Lacrosse Scholarship information

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Batesville 10K: Old School

Rusty in front of the Batesville Store, home of Saturday night family-style buffets and great music

When I saw that the Batesville 10K was moved from its usual mid-May date to May 1, I decided it would be the perfect final tune-up tempo run for Capon Valley 50K next Saturday. The last time I ran the Batesville 10K was in 2001 when I was 39 and training for sprint triathlons. I remember that I suffered mightily for the first three uphill miles before hammering it home on the rolling hills in my slowest 10K time ever of 45-something. I also remember the low-key, small-town feel of this race, considered the toughest 10K in these parts.

Nine years later, the hills are still there and the wonderful low-key feel thankfully remains. The race kicks off Batesville Day, when the town, which is located 25 minutes south of Charlottesville, celebrates its heritage and hosts the race, a parade, a community fair, and a raucous gathering of food and friends at the Batesville Store later that evening.

The race attracts a small number of "old school" road runners from the Charlottesville Track Club, as well as first-timers, families, and moms with baby joggers. And "old school" it is: the starter welcomed us by saying, "Thanks for coming to our race. We don't have timing chips or mile splits, and the road will be open to cars, so be alert. Have fun. Go!" And with that, we were off. I settled into tempo/half marathon pace (7:30s) and let the front pack go. Bill Gentry was in that pack, hoping to run faster than last year's 43-something (he did---in 42-something). I was hoping to hold steady with 7:30s on the hills and in the heat, and then let it loose the last 3 miles a bit (I did---in 47-something, good for first Masters female). A perfect way to mix up the training and get in a quality run before Capon.

At mile 6, feeling pretty strong in the heat and after all the hills

Afterward, Bill and I did a few cool down miles exploring the town, and then met up with Rusty at the Batesville Store for Greenberry's coffee and granola. Rusty and his buddy Tom Goodrich play at the store on Saturday nights and we have heard the Honey Dew Drops there as well---a very funky, cool place to hear live music.

Bill Gentry and me, enjoying the post-run. Bill is gearing up for a 48-hour run in two weeks, after running his 10th Umstead 100 a month ago.

I have found that running a shorter race right before an ultra is a great way to get some leg speed going as well as break up the monotony of track and hill repeats. Batesville is a tough 10K that requires mental toughness, strong hill running, and smart pacing, all good skills to hone before a key race. I am looking forward to defending my 2009 win at Capon Valley and hanging out with the ultra gang once again!