Friday, December 25, 2015

What a View From the Top: The Lookout Mountain 50 Mile Race Re-Cap

What a special day.  I had such a memorable experience at Lookout Mountain and hope to be back one day!

With my job as a Tech Rep, I was so very lucky to have the opportunity to run one last 50 miler before the year was out in Chattanooga, TN. To put this into perspective: I have always heard such great things about the city of Chattanooga, its people, the racing community, and the host of races and trails that make the area one of the best in the entire country. Running an ultra in Chattanooga has always been a dream of mine!

As I ended up getting my trip solidified, I was excited to sign-up for the Lookout Mountain 50 miler.

This was a part of the Rock/Creek race series but is now under the "Wild Trails" non-for-profit race management group.  The course from what I was able to read online was a fair course with good vertical gain and loss (6,600ft) , had amazing terrain with scenic overlooks, runnable trails, and good long and gradual uphills. I was a fish that had taken a bite on the hook. I knew that after the Virgil Crest Ultra 50 that I had run in late September, I was going to be a little rusty on race tactics but had trained consistently from September and knew this was a prime opportunity to race hard one last time before the year was up so I was going to take it. I knew that this race was going to be an adventure and that in the past years, the race has always brought in some great talent. I was excited to see how I would stack-up to the competition and who knows, maybe run one of the fastest times at the event.

Here is the photo of the course map and design.  I was planning on spending the Christmas holiday with my family in Nashville, TN so everything was lining up perfectly. I signed up for the race the week before as I was making my way to DC, Virginia and Tennessee for work and then began to prepare.

My time spent the week out from the event was great with a highlight of running around the heart of Washington DC, having the chance to see honest Abe, Einstein, and other famous tourism destinations in the heart of our Nation's Capitol. I also really enjoyed my time in Lynchburg and Charlottesville, Virginia checking out the running scenes at UVA and Liberty University. My time the day before in Chattanooga was excellent!

Here is my Race Recap:

I arrived in Chattanooga the day before the race where I had the chance to settle into my hotel, grab some food and visit the local store accounts in the area. It was such a cool city, with nice rolling hills off of the rivers that it reminded me of Binghamton, NY a ton. It was fun and to get myself ready I gorged myself at a Little Cesar's Pizza Joint (That's right, cheap pizza before an ultra). It was such a cool place with some awesome restaurants, and a packet pick-up at the Chattanooga Brewery which was the place to be on a Friday evening. I ended up getting all settled and then it was a nice night of sleep before the race tomorrow.

Photo Credits: Cole C. All my Race Gear

I carried with me a much different level of running gear than what I have used before. I was planning on racing with:

*Mcdavid Compression Sleeves
*A Nathan Vapor Air Hydration Vest
*A Handheld bottle in combination with a vest
*Multiple layers, jackets, hats and gloves
*Trusty Mammut Racing shoes with 800 miles of wear.

The weather was looking to be cool: in the 20's in the morning with a high near the mid 50's which for me is an ideal 50 mile temperature range. The body warms so much in the course of 50 miles that these temperatures would mean with proper layers and fueling, I would have to worry about over-heating as much as in traditional summer temperatures. I felt that by carrying a hydration pack, I could comfortably stash my layers without use of a crew or drop bags and could do so comfortably. Also, I was hoping to stash a full set of Boom Gels (10 total) into my Nathan Vapor Air pack without much issue with comfort and weight distribution issues. The Mcdavid sleeves were a chance to try out one of our partner company's products and see how they stack-up with other graduated compression products on the market. I can give you a sneak peak and note that they performed nicely.

The sun about to rise 15 minutes before race start. Photo Credits: Cole C.

The race start time was at 7:30am with a sunrise at 7:40am. With a traditional start, I wound my way up the hill to Covenant college, a small religious university at the top of Lookout Mountain. The course would cross the college three times which made for a terrific central location. It was a cold morning with a little frost on the grass and the Wild Trails race set-up is cool with a huge bon-fire and pulsating music. It truly had the vibe of a big-stage event with the lovely southern charm the area's people showcase.

It was such a blessing to have the opportunity to run this ultra. I soon crowded the starting line with the top group as we got ready to race. I knew some top local athletes would be there. Nathan was guy that had won the race the year before in 7:14 and from what I was told from staff at the local running store: Fastbreak Athletics, I knew that he would run a smart evenly paced race and had excellent course knowledge. I was also told that a guy named Daniel was hoping to run 6:30 on the course and was quite a speedster. He would be blasting off the front so I knew to key off of him later in the day.

As the horn sounded for one last 50 miler, I settled in with the top group of 4 including myself. I decided to hang with Nathan as he would be my guy to key the smart race with. As we know with myself, I have a habit of making wrong turns and I was not wanting to make that mistake at all in the event so I wanted to have the security of not making a foolish decision.

Daniel shot out and ran with another gentlemen who turned out to be third place finisher: John Kelly. I ran the nice road section as we left the college for the first few miles before entering the trail and beginning our descent off of Lookout Mountain.

Mind you, Lookout Mountain has some incredible views and vantage points right on the sinuating trails from the get-go. I was treated to 100 mile views as soon as we entered the trail section. We began the rolling descent along one of the ridgeline trails of Lookout Mountain and man was it perfect. I was in awe of the beauty of the course as the sun was rising through the trees. It was so great to spend the early miles hanging with Nathan, a solid local Chattanooga Ultra runner who had some great accolades himself such as a 7:14 on the course last year for the win. We talked and enjoyed the early morning miles and I even had a slip-up where I banged and scrapped up my knee pretty badly. With my fall, Nathan stopped to help me up to begin our pursuit of 1st and 2nd. We kept that group in sight for the most part but knew that after the ascent back up the mountain, then the real race would begin. Anything to kill yourself too early on could be a move that had the potential to bite you in the rear later in the race.


Aid station one in the race went by nicely!
Photo Credits: Wild Trails

After the first few aid stations, we began to make our move together running a strong and smart pace. As we hit the first few climbs, my lungs could feel a little of the early fatigue from not having insane vertical training before the race but I knew my body was primed and well-trained for the race. I had to be at ease with feeling a little extra fatigued from the hills.  As we made our way along the ridgeline back up to the summit, I must say it was so much fun running the race with Nathan and having that chance to get to know him. This guy is going to do great things in the ultra world. I cannot wait to see how he does at the Georgia Death Race! 
As we hit the last climb, Nathan let me go ahead hoping that we may see one another later in the race. I began to begin making a slight surge up to the top. As I hit the top, the morning sun was clear in the sky and man the view from the top was unbelievable. It was awesome! I kept a steady effort through the finish area and then felt ready to start rolling into a higher cadence in the next few miles. I was hoping to run miles 25-30 faster than my previous 25 and then work on picking up the pace miles 30-45 and then hold on for what I have left. I was able to do just that.

With perfect fueling with Boom Gels every 45 mins and I was drinking plenty from my Nathan Speedraw Plus Insulated 18oz handheld and that was a great call on my part. I felt strong, relaxed and ready to race hard. As I was entering the next section of trail I heard a yell coming from behind me. Then I saw a runner sprinting off trail towards me.

Was I going the wrong way? It was the second place runner at the time: John who came up and mentioned he had been lost for like 5 minutes. I assured him that we could get back on track. I then led the way as we looked around the dirt mounds at the top of the school. There we saw the Race Director: Randy and he apologized about the markings. We maybe lost a minute or two here. Nothing big in the scheme of things. I then continued to lead the charge after Daniel, the race leader. I felt strong and had the confidence that I could catch Daniel. We navigated the Tennessee switchbacks in the deep woods until also missing a turn at the top of a jeep road and luckily a volunteer hollered to get us back on track. Jason held his own with me really well as we worked together to close the gap. After each aid station, the gap was mentioned as either 2-4 minutes. We were extremely close. Jason kept going as I took the time to shed my layers and place them in the back of my Nathan Vapor Air Pack. This was a smart move. I took down some soda and loaded up on gels as I heard this section had a nice uphill push with a rope climb. I surged on the jeep road and was able to catch Jason going up the steep rope climb section. With a solid mix of power-hiking and running at the top of the ridge, I began to pull away. I threw down a surge here to create a little separation.

Photo Credits: Jim T. at Flickr

Let me tell you that the views from this race were unbelievable! Once at the top we were greeted to massive views of Chattanooga. I was in awe of what I was seeing. The next section began the tornado section that was devastated in a tornado and the low-lying windy trail made for a technical hop-scotch game. As I hit the next aid station coming from a 1 mile road section, I was about 3 minutes behind. I fueled well again and then proceeded to try and catch Daniel. This point in the race it was near mile 35 or so and I began to feel a little bit of muscle cramping. I immediately worked on taking gels and fluids. This 5 mile stretch was a tough one. The trail went around a lake and a creek and this winding narrow trail section was hurting my ankles and putting extra strain on my body. I worked hard not to walk here but most of the walking I did do was in fact in this section.  In spurts I would walk 10 seconds here, 20 seconds there, intermixing both walking and running while trying to get my body back to balance. I would feel good for a few minutes then would cramp a little again. This was my rough patch. I was still running strong but had to ease-off my pace slightly.

After this loop, I found that my time down on Daniel stayed the same. That drew confidence for me as the roughest section of the race so far had me lose no time on the lead which showed he was hurting some. After fueling here, I felt like a million bucks. My 5 mile so-so patch was gone and I was back to the hunt. Now I would head back on the course the way I came. It was great to see so many people on the trail giving words of encouragement. On some of the uphills, I had to grind them out but I began to surge and regain my early pace. I went through the Tornado section, the Vantage point section back on the crazy descent of the Rope climb and then back to the Lula Lake Aid. I was 2 minutes behind and began one final push. As each mile progressed, I felt stronger and stronger. Time to Race! I grit my teeth at my slightly tight muscles as I pushed with all I had. Some people I was passing on the trail said I only had 30 seconds to catch him. I was close. I got to about mile 45 and by this point my body was tired from the surges I had made. I briefly power-hiked some of the uphills and hammered the downs. The rest of the story is history. I kept pushing hard the last few miles, slowing in pace as I was truly tired now. I knew that if Daniel was to falter, the past 10 miles was my chance to catch him. He fought hard and earned his victory. I hit the sand dunes and knew I was almost home free.  I fought the last few climbs and then shot through the finish chute.

I finished 2nd in about 6:45:13 beating the old course record of 6:52 and only finishing about 4+-5 minutes behind Daniel. I ran a perfectly executed race for myself on the day and truly felt very strong almost the whole time. I was so pleased with how I fueled in the race and with adjusting to my new life on the road, I did amazing on a great course that is a solid challenge.

The Finish!!!!!!

Me and my Award, Photo Credits: Charles Crosby

Podium! Photo Credits: Charles Crosby

All the awesome gear at the race. Photo Credits: Cole C.

I want to give a big Thank you to my sponsors:
Mammut North America
Nathan Sports
Redfeather Snowshoes
Fits Socks
Red Newt Racing- MPF/RNR Team
Fits Socks
Boom Nutrition
SUNY Oneonta XC/TF
Karhu NA and Craft NA
Mcdavid USA

This race performance was thanks in part to your continued support!

I would like to thank my father for making the trip out to see me race. I would like to thank my amazing fiancé for believing in me each and every day.

I would like to thank RD Randy Whorton and his wife Kris for putting on such an incredible event. I would like to thank the amazing volunteers that helped me stay on course, helping ensure I was well-nourished and kept me motivated with some great stories and jokes. Thank you to Nathan Holland for keeping me company throughout the first 20 or so miles of the race. Best of luck in your future races.

The Trail Running Community here at Chattanooga is truly one of the best in the country. The trails are fantastic; the perfect blend of technical with runnable ability and the views and the style of the trails were so cool. The people of Chattanooga are what make this area tick. I met so many kind and interesting people here that with coming from Upstate NY, I felt like I was a part of the family. My advice for those Chattanoogans are keep doing what you are doing. I was treated to one incredible race experience so thank you. What a way to close out 2015! 

So I got in my last ultra of the year. Now what for 2016?  For starters, I am going to get back to training and preparing my body for winter. I

Christmas in Tennessee and the Year Ahead:

I had a great time spending the opportunity to run some of the rolling hills of Tennessee right in West Nashville. I had a beautiful 70 degree day running at Percy Warner and Edwin Warner Park which is one of my favorite places to train in period.

I am so excited for 2016 and the year ahead. My plan will be to run many USA Championship events from 50k-100k on both road and trail. Thank you again everyone for an incredible 2015 and onward to 2016.
Photo Credits: Cole Crosby

Photo Credits: Cole Crosby

Photo Credits: Cole Crosby

Photo Credits: Cole Crosby

Photo Credits: Cole Crosby

Sunday, November 29, 2015

My Life At the Moment: East Coast Tech Rep: The Journey.

So, a lot has happened since the Virgil Crest 50 miler in September.

I have accepted a position with Nathan Sports as their East Coast Tech Rep which has me traveling all over the Eastern Seaboard visiting running stores, participating in staff clinics, working expos etc. It is a fun but also busy and tough transition.

I am taking the time from the VCU 50 miler to acclimate to life on the road, the new job and spending the time to figure out my race schedule for the remainder of the year as well as for 2016.

I feel fitter than ever, even with not training insane volume. I would like to race one last ultra before the year is out as I am coming off an incredible base phase from Virgil Crest where I am primed to run a sound race.

As for right now, I am eyeing the Lookout Mountain 50 miler in Chattanooga, TN around December 20th or an indoor track marathon around the same time in Arlington, Virginia. It all depends on my schedule but I am eager to test my skills. Looking at 2016: I plan on running on the Big Stage. I have spent my time running solid events performing at a top level and am ready to race more often in ultras of different styles of disciplines.

For next year the events I am looking at:
Beast of Burden Winter
USA 50k Road Champs
USA 50 mile Road Champs
UROC: Ultra Race of Champions
JFK 50 miler
North Face 50 mile Endurance Challenge

I am excited about mixing it up again as the year unfolds and I hope to really test myself against some of the best competition around.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Virgil Crest Ultras: 50 Miles: 50 Ways to Run, 50 Ways to Fight, 50 Ways to Feel Like A Champion!

All I have to say from this past weekend is "WOW". I have never left this much on the line in an ultra before and have been able to hold it together for the full 50 miles. Yes, it was not a perfect race, but I am still in shock with how GOOD that I felt for so long in the race.  I would say I felt perfect for 37 straight miles the heat got to me in a 7.6 mile stretch without any aid.  The photo below sums up how much energy and spirit  I put into this race.

Total Exhaustion after 50 grueling miles. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze

MPF/RNR Team Pic before the Start. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze

Instead of writing a lengthy re-cap of the race as there is too much to express, I plan on giving you the Spark Notes version: 50 Pathways to Success at the Virgil Crest Ultras that I have found in my race.

#1.  Be at ease with the present moment, be calm, still, and silent like the night.

#2. Eat lots of good food that does not weight you down.

#3. Wear a headbuff. It helps eliminate a headache from wearing the headlamp too tightly.

#4. Take it easy, it's a long way to go.

#5. Drink plenty of fluids.

#6. Compression is your best friend.

#7. Gels can be just as good as a preventative measure than just some grub for your tummy.

#8. Be courteous to others, pay it back.

#9. Camaraderie out on the trails is priceless.

#10. Feel the energy of your environment and roll with it.

#11. Ski Slopes are hard. Take your time, walk most of it, and remain in constant motion.

#12. Do not over-do-it! Fuel, drink, walk, run, enjoy the view.

#13. Get the blood flowing, those hills can take it out of you. I think it is time to run a little bit more.

# 14. Am I lost, I am following markers. When the trail is slightly overgrown, keep following the pig tail markers, it should get you to where you need to be.

#15. GPS watches are over-rated. Go Wal-Mart watch!  I should be by the TrailsRoc Aid Station soon.

#16. I see people, I see signs, that is a great sign. I still feel great. Time to re-fuel and keep running smooth. I am back on course so my doubts of going the wrong way can dissolve. I am back in this thing. 

#17. The Orange Trail at Greek Peak is Awesome. It is wide, gravely, and fun. I love this section and have trained on this a bunch. Off to the pile of Rocks I go!

#18. Boom Gels every 45 minutes have been working wonders for my energy levels. I still need to ride the wave and run more controlled until 50k.  I can open it up a little but still need to remained controlled. 

#19. Alright, I love this section. I am going  to drop my pace. Lets see if I can hit sub 4 hours at half-way. That pace would place me under the 8 hour course record. 

#21. Trail Runner Magazines= Rock Pile Aid Station. That was a pretty cool lead-up to the Aid Station. 

#22. Man, these Mammut MTR 201 Tech Low shoes really feel great on my feet! I feel like a million bucks. In the aid station at Rock Pile in 3:52!  I am running super solid. I feel even better than mile 1.

#23. Alright, I have about a mile lead. Time to build upon that lead. What a beautiful day. I feel so good. When the going is good, roll with it. 

#24. Dry creek crossings mean I need to dump water on my head at every aid station.

#25. I am not a fan of these sand dunes on the trail. I try to stomp on them and I sink in. I just have to keep moving along. Still a long way to go. 

#26.  50k in at 4:32! Um, I ran that last section like a Greek Spartan! I feel so good at 50k. This is scary. By far the best I have ever felt in an ultra. Everyone at the aid station seems kind of chill.

#27. Pumping up the crowd at 50k is now going to be my new thing in all of my races. It was fun getting everyone to cheer and get them pumped up. #raisetheroof  #bringdownthehouse

#28. Time for more ski slopes. I think I should have a decent lead at this time. I still need to put the pressure on.  

#29. When running up ski slopes the second time, be smart, do not hammer the downhills, and know this is by far the most-difficult section of the entire race. If you can come out of this section in one piece, that can be the deciding factor.

#30. Power-hiking can be life and death for you here. If you can manage a 13 minute/mile split hiking, that will give you the edge. Conserve energy, fuel intelligently, and stay as cool as possible in the exposed sun. 

#31. Hey look it is Ian with his video camera. I am in shock with how good I feel. I have no muscle soreness, fatigue or tightness. Today must be my day. I let Ian know that in his video.

#32. I am getting a little warm but still feel great. Getting ready for that big descent.

#33. Here it is. Well, this is very steep and slick. I am going to take it easy until I am almost all of the way down.

#34. WEEEEEEEEEE!!! That last downhill part was fun. 

#35. Time to work it up this hill.  I am almost out of this section. Or that is what I thought.

#36. Man, I am getting a little tired. My legs feel still fantastic. I surely wish I was wearing a hat and had some water to dump on my head. 

#37. Man, this section was much longer than anticipated. Maybe I am slowing down? Remain focused. This section is the hardest stretch of the race. Run this well and tackle Carson Rd's long climb and then the race is almost over.

#38. Do not get lost Cole! Be smart and pay attention to those course markings. Alright, the descent into the next aid station should be solid. Yeah, your legs are starting to cramp and you are out of water. Time to just tough it out. 

#39. Tenkate's Crossing the second time is the most crucial aid station of the entire race. If I do not take the time to splash in the creek, fuel with delicious fruit, drink tons of soda, I will suffer the last 13 miles and lose my attempt to break 8 hours. Looking at my watch, I am well under course record still. I just need to maintain my pace.

#40. My legs are not feeling so good right now. This is hot. I hope  I do not get sun-burn. Man, Carson Rd if a death sentence. I have to run as much as possible though I want to walk it all. I need to keep the pressure on to make sure I can hold my lead to Silas and Jim. I know they are strong second-halve runners so I have to push here. 30 seconds hike, run for 2 minutes. C'mon Cole. This is how we get it done.

#41. Carson Rd is done. I lost time here for sure but my legs are tight but I can pick up my pace. These next 10 miles mean everything. 

#42. Ian tells me I am about 20 minutes up on second place. I feel okay. I tell him that I should be able to maintain this pace. I believe I am running 9 minute pace. 

#43. Once I hit the first hills near the snowshoe trails, I am flat. I feel over-heated, nauseous, and I am cramping. I cannot run these uphills. I just have to hope and pray I do not get caught. I am a sitting duck right now. Just have to keep forward progress and hope that it is enough.

#44. Man, this ultra thing hurts a lot. I forgot how much I dislike a 50 miler's last 10 miles. Mind over matter.

#45. I am cramping bad. There goes the race. I am out of fuel. I still have a few miles until the next aid station. I would say I am running on a prayer here. Let us see what I can get out of myself.

#46. The long descent into the last aid station is one of my favorite parts. The downside is that I have 5.5 more miles. I need to fuel-up here. I am not feeling so good.

Last aid station. 5.5 more miles to go. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze

#47.  This last part of the race is torture. People say this section is mostly downhill but every little log or undulation is killing me. Just hold on Cole. If I average 10 minutes a mile, I run 10 minutes under the record for a 7:50.

Setting off for the last 5.5 miles of the race. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze

#48. Well, the record is going to be out of reach. I am in the Nordic trails a few miles from the finish and my watch reads 7:55. I do not think I am going to make it. Hey this rain feels great but I have to watch my footing.

#49. Run this last lap around the lake. The race is over…almost.

#50. 8:04:55 watch time for the VCU 50 miler. On a course that was labeled as "much harder" than the course I raced in 2013 and set the 8 hour course record. Amazing Race, Amazing People. Amazing Experience.

Coming into the finish gritting my teeth. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze

Ski Slopes in the background highlight the tenacity of the course. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze.

Ashlee coming to save me. I am spent. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze.

This is what putting it all on the line is like. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze

Conclusion:  There you have it. I raced one of my best ultras to date. I felt Unbreakable for 37 out of 40 miles on a course that should induce fatigue by mile 14 by the latest. The heat and the longer stretch in aid stations towards the end of the race got to me and weakened my strong state. That is okay. I learned a lot from the event. I learned that my training has been paying off. Though things may not always go your way, how you handle those moments of adversity are what I feel are the make of a champion. This year's race was an incredible experience and I look forward to the next Virgil Crest. 

Thank you to RD, Ian Golden for putting on an amazing race and event. Thank you to all of the volunteers for your continued support and help. This race to me is like Family! I love the people that make-up this event as it is because of you that makes me come back to this each and every year. Thank you to my friends, family, My true love, Ashlee and to so many others.

Thank you to my sponsors: Mammut North America for being my prime company support in all of my running and life endeavors. You took a chance on me and I am so blessed to have your support behind me every step of the way. Thank you to Boom Nutrition for giving me the best fueling capabilities in your gel products. I love the natural fruit flavors and extra carbs. Thank you to the Azze family with Mountain Peak Fitness and Red Newt Racing for your continued support, the awesome photos, and your inspiration. Thank you to Fits socks for the best in merino athletic socks. Blisters have never existed once thanks to your products. Thank you to Karhu North America for the best in training shoes for the roads. Not only does your fulcrum help my efficiency, but your shoes are just plain cool. Thank you to Craft Sportswear North America for all of the best gear and clothing for training. Thank you Redfeather snowshoes for the ….BEST SNOWSHOES EVER. Having a snowshoe named after me: the "ColeVapor" is probably the coolest thing ever. Thank you for that. And thank you to SUNY Oneonta for an incredible coaching opportunity where I have loved every second helping to motivate our school's student athletes. 

Time to rest, begin hill training for the Tussey Mountainback and enjoy pumpkins since it is now officially the Fall!!!!

What a race! #teamlove. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze
*It was amazing to race with Silas and Jim for a good chunk of the race. These two kept me honest and constantly look back. Congrats gentlemen on a hard fought effort. Both of your performances were awesome!

Check Out Ian's Race Video of Virgil Crest here below:

It was so great to see all of the inspiration out there on the course. It has given me more fire than ever before to train smarter and hopefully run with heart and spirit in my next events. I love the community of ultra running and ever Virgil participant should be very proud of their accomplishments.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Green Lakes 50k: I Always Have to Take the Scenic Way Around!

What is it with me and making wrong turns?
It happens and for some reason, it happened to me again which I feel like I need to get better with looking at course markings and memorizing the course layout! And on one day around some Green Lakes, I made history for myself.
This is my story...

There I am on the left before I bonked at CT 50. Photo Credits: Lauren Ashley

The Green Lakes 50k was my first big race of the Fall season. I had been putting in some solid training since the Skymarathon in June as I dedicated all of July to some strong training. I ran plenty of shorter road races to keep myself sharp for my ultras. I felt decent coming into the week and was hopeful I could give the course record of 3:28:27 a run for the money.  I know I have split a faster 50k in a couple of 50 milers (Can-Lake and Tussey Mountainback) so I knew I had what it could take to dip under the time.  

My words of wisdom is that running is plain tough work. In order to do well, it takes time, sacrifice, consistency, and perseverance. I feel these are all important qualities that are beneficial for anything we set forth to succeed in with our daily lives. This year has been tough on me trying to figure out what to do with my life post-graduation and just being able to be happy with where I am, who I am, and what I have to offer to the world. I know this sounds all tongue and cheek but it can be very hard to put in the training I do week in and week out and there are many times where I felt like just throwing in the towel. It is because of the reader's out there that support me, my sponsor team, my fiends, family, loved ones, and people I have yet to meet that write me nice comments that proves to me that I am in fact doing something great. I have worked hard for my fitness and why not go out and express myself the best way I know how to, by running. Thank you for keeping me going! Back to the race...

So, the weather for race day was perfect with 50's and 60's forecasted, nice abundant sunshine, and low humidity. We awoke at 4am for the 6am start in Syracuse. It was early but luckily I was able to snooze off a little in the car ride. 

It was pretty dark for an early morning start in August. I realized a headlamp might have been a smart move but of course did not think to even bring one. I made my race strategy simple: follow the lead guy  for about the first loop or so until the sun came up and until I felt comfortable with the course not to get lost.  I planned on running near 7 minute mile pace the first loop then jump into 6:35 minute pace for the following loops. 

The race was broken down into four loops of 7 or so miles each.
I knew that if I kept a strong consistent pace, I would be in the clear.

Pre-race gear: Mammut NA shoes and outfit, Redfeather hat, Boom Gels, Oneonta XC/TF shirt, Fits Socks, Craft Sports longsleeve. Photo Credits: Cole C.

The Race Start:

The Setting of Green Lakes State Park:

Photo Credits: Ashlee Prewitt

Photo Credits: Ashlee Prewitt

Photo Credits: Ashlee Prewitt

With the start of the race, I kept pace with second place athlete, Justin Weiler as we chatted and he was gracious enough to help direct me through the course. Let me tell you, that kind hospitality is what I love about the ultra running community. Here he could have been trying to make me get lost or trip or doing something to compromise my race but truly he went out of his way to help me navigate the course.

We had a group with us in the opening miles but knew that would change as the laps went on. It was fun running with Justin as we let the early morning miles tick by.  Once up past the long climb in the race, the fun began.
Going up into the Serengehti. Photo Credit: Steve Gorgos

Running in a field of wildflowers. Photo Credits Steve Gorgos

I began to get rolling into the 4 mile aid station and started to feel really good. I continued to generate some sub 7 minute miles coming into the end of the first loop.


As I bombed down the nice hill we ran up the first time and then apexed the turn like a race car knowing I was about a mile from the first loop. I was on pace to run about a 48 minute first lap which would set up nicely for the rest of the race. I felt fresh and able to keep the pace going. As I headed towards the loop marker, I hit an intersection with a volunteer who mentioned to me that I came from the wrong direction. I stopped and talked with him and he motioned to where I actually was supposed to be coming from. Man was it frustrating for me to realize I had made a huge error already in the race. I headed out on the trail and took his advice to turn left at the lake. I turned left and then lost the trail markings, I followed another trail and it took me to the juncture I needed to come from but was still the wrong direction. So I back-tracked and found out I needed to turn left instead of right at the juncture I went the wrong way on. I now was back on course sprinting sub 6 minute mile pace knowing I had lost at least a mile already on my pace. I finally came back the way I needed to to the volunteer and go back on track. I nearly lost more than 2 miles and had tired myself with sprinting to catch up. 

Who knew what place I was in at this point. I came across the other lake and could see the loop section. My watch read close to 55 minutes and I knew I was way off of pace by about 20 minutes as 56 would ensure a 3:45 finish time. I was not happy and disappointed I made such a huge error and felt the record which was a solid time for the course-completly out of reach. 20 minutes to make up in a 50k is a gigantic effort. That is  the difference between a 2:10 USA Top 3 at Olympics to winning a local marathon not qualifying for the Marathon Trails in 2:30. 
I was in third at the moment and made a huge move to place myself back into the race. I used way too much of my precious energy stores to get myself back into first position. I should have been more chill and relaxed but foolishly, I pushed to regain that lead as soon as I could. 

Here of the photos of my disappointment to Ashlee and my Father at the conclusion of the first loop:

What is going on??  Photo Credits: Ashlee Prewitt

Looking at Ashlee telling her what happened. Photo Credits: Ashlee Prewitt

"Snarky Face". I am not a happy camper! Photo Credits: Ashlee Prewitt

Throwing my arms up. Photo Credits: Ashlee Prewitt.

I came into everything worried and confused about where I had made the mistake. It was only after I came around to that same spot where I saw the markings on the path indicating a "left turn" instead of the right that I took on the previous loop. I split some fast miles to try to make up time. All I could think of was see if I could get back on track to course record pace. 
On my second loop I split: 50:59 about 5 minutes faster than my first loop about a mile almost faster. I was averaging about 6:25 or so on this loop and was back on track to running near the course record pace. 

I felt tired from the first two loops in loop three but hung tough to keep the pace going strong. I stayed on top of my nutrition and kept myself fueling intelligently with Boom gels every 40 minutes and tons of Tailwind, Mountain Dew and Water. I pushed very hard but was faltering around mile 19 of the loop. Into the last few miles of the loop, I regained my energy stores with some smart re-fueling.
One more lap to go! Back on track! Photo Credits: Rick Streeter.

I ended up coming into the last lap needing a 48 minute last lap to just beat the record. I needed to average 6:19 a mile. I decided to go for broke and hit the last loop hard. Up the big hill I sprinted up it then got to the field section and mixed-up power-hiking and running. My body was running out of fuel and my hamstrings grew tight and non-responsive.  I pushed as hard as I could into the 4 mile aid station. I hit that mark with 3 or so miles to go and saw I was just on course record pace. I decided to take a minute to re-fuel and I decided that the record was totally out of reach. I thanked the volunteers one last time and off I went. The downhills felt great as I could open it up but the up potions made me run at a pace slower than a walk. My quads had no more ability to push anymore.  My last 3 miles I had to be averaging 8- 9 minute miles.  I saw my watch with 2 miles to go read 3:28 and knew the record was out of reach officially. Now I was planning my finish time. If I kept running under 8 minutes I could finish around sub 3:35 maybe around 3:33-3:34 but my body failing from exhaustion from the hot early pace made me decide to just finish the race out no matter the pace.  I headed towards the finish happy to know I was about to be done. 

Crossing the finish. Photo Credits: Rick Streeter

I am all done!!! 32.6 miles down. Photo Credits: Ashlee Prewitt.

Official Finishing Photo. Photo Credits: Syracuse Half Marathon and Doug Hardy.

I hit the line in 3:38:47 more than 10 minutes off of the course record. I averaged right around 7 minutes a mile for the overall race. It was well off what I was hoping as I know I am capable of running this pace over 50 miles but was very happy with how I bounced back and ran tough.  When I pulled my GPS data, I saw  I averaged 6:41 a mile for the 32.7 miles I ended up running which would have placed me just under the time of 3:28. The course is much harder than I expected with some good climbs that eat at you in the first few miles. The footing was amazing with a few roots but mostly smooth gravel and super-mowed grass like a grass track. I learned that more sleep was needed into the taper week before the race. I was averaging maybe 6.5 hours of sleep a night which is not enough for me as I like 8 hours a night and this brought me into the race already tired and weak. I need to improve upon that for next race. 

I had a great time at Green Lakes and will love to be back in the upcoming years. The course suited my running style well and I think that I could make a push for those records in the 50k and 100k in the near future if I put together some solid training and preparation. 

I would like to thank Tim Hardy the Race Director for putting on a classic Upstate New York Ultra Race, the amazing volunteers, my fiancé Ashlee, my Father, my Sponsors: Mammut North America, Fits Socks, Boom Nutrition, Red Newt Racing/Mountain Peak Fitness, Redfeather Snowshoes, Karhu and Craft Sports and everyone that has helped to support me on this journey.

The lessons learned from this race are to never get discouraged even when something does not go your way. Mistakes happen and how you come out of those moments of doubt are some of the most important. I felt  I rebounded well from being so ticked off at myself for not paying attention. And thank you to the volunteer who helped to get me back on track. I know at the time was not happy and felt like I was being mis-lead but it goes to show that the error was all my own.

Gear Used and Food Consumed:
Craft Longsleeve
Calf Sleeves
60 oz of Tailwind
Water, Ginger Ale, Coke, and Mountain Dew.

Here is the link from Leone Timing my splits and overall time:

More Race Results:

Virgil Crest 50 miler is next!  Sept 19th!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Summer of Running- A Re-Cap: Time In is Time Earned!

Well, I have had one whirlwind of summer of running, tons of adventures, and of learning about what my path is in this world. I have logged tons of miles, vertical, and have found some great training grounds here in Binghamton, NY. I never would have imagined how awesome the roads, trails, and opportunities are here for endurance training. I have upped my vertical training from when I lived in Cortland from 2,000-5,000 ft of vertical change to 4,000-7,000ft. This huge increase in longer more frequent hill training has upped my overall training stimulus which is awesome. I hope my summer of training will allow for myself to gain the benefits of the hard training this fall as I tackle the Green Lakes 50k August 29th, the Virgil Crest 50 mile in September, the Tussey Mountainback 50 miler in October and the 50 mile NJ One day Event in November.

My Trusty Shoes: Mammut MTR 201 Tech Low. Photo Credit: Cole Crosby

I have run 2 Top races this summer: Cayuga Trails 50 (DNF) and the Whiteface Skymarathon (20th overall) each with less then sub-par performances.  I have run more road races this summer with a win at the Ithaca Gorges Half Marathon, followed by a 2nd at Vestal 20k, 3rd at the Kelly Labare 5k, the 2nd place at the Catherine Valley Half Marathon.

I have had some great long runs, some bad training runs, strong days where I felt like I could fly and other days where it was a struggle to just take one step out the door. I graduated with Ashlee from SUNY Cortland and have moved into Endicott and are having a great time.  We are so excited to begin our next chapter together.

Vestal 20k Road Race. Photo Credits: Triple Cities Runners Club

Finger Lakes 50. Photo Credits: Cole Crosby

The Course Conditions of the Finger Lakes 50's….MUD!
Photo Credits: Cole Crosby

The Catherine Valley Half Marathon was a great tune-up for my next big race this season: the Green Lakes 50k.

During the Catherine Valley Half Marathon, I was not feeling ready to run at my max pace for a Half Marathon. I have been putting in so much time and hill training to build myself up for the Green Lakes 50k that  I have not approached a half marathon with as much focus in quite some time. I knew that some fast people would be at the race so my hope was to hold a solid effort for as long as I could and hopefully finish up near the tops.

I must say that Watkins Glen is a terrific town to check out in the Finger Lakes Region. It has so much to offer from a state park, great shops, and a great trail.  The race takes place on a nice gradual cinder rail trail. It spans the distance down to Horseheads, NY from Watkins Glen.  Having the majority of the course in the shade is also great for a Mid-August race.

As the race went out, I settled myself with another runner, Tyler Eustance, Jack Hillenbrand and another runner. We hit the first mile in 5:27 and the pace felt decent right along what I was hoping for so I kept pace.  We gradually began to pick up the velocity of our pace into 5:20 and a third mile just under. It was myself and Tyler for the win. I knew with him fresh out of college running with Cornell, he would have some better leg speed than myself. We kept pace stride for stride and the humidity of the morning made us drenched by mile 3. Tyler through down a surge at mile 4 and I knew this section as being a little uphill so I decided to allow him to build distance on me. I was feeling a little labored from the warmer conditions and from a 100 mile training week the week before. I tried to keep him in sight as the lead he had grew from a few seconds to maybe half a minute. At the turn-around, I knew we would get a nice gradual down-hill on the cinder so I began to pick up my pace. As an out and back format, it was great to see so many familiar faces as I made my way back home to the finish. I knew that I was still sub 5:30 per mile pace and kept pressing the tempo to maybe have a shot at catching Tyler. I went through the half way around low 35 minutes. The second half, I surged hard in the next 3 miles with the hopes of catching Tyler. I closed the gap to under 10 seconds with some 5:10-5:15 minute miles but it seemed Tyler was putting in the same pace to keep the distance. I eased off the pedal with my gut starting to cramp some. I was not feeling so solid. I kept plugging away.  It was at the point with the last two miles my body decided to give up. I have never had that moment where I ran completely out of energy at a half ever before. The heat in the open sections sapped the life out of you as what I heard from many others too. I decided second would be my position and hopefully I could hold on for dear life to keep my place. Every step was a struggle as my body began to tighten and cramp. My stride became weak and labored. I had not pop left in my legs. This was going from bad to worse quick.

Photo Credits: Chris Cowden
Lead Pack at mile 2

I hit the final stretch around the ball field and onto the track. The time read 71 high as I sprinted to the finish as best as I could. I crossed right at 72:30 for second place. Tyler broke the old course record running 70:52 or so. Man was I happy to be done.  It was great to hold my position the way I did.

Red Newt Racing Team: Dual Second Places. Photo Credit: Ellie Pell

Now I look forward to the Green Lakes 50k.  I hope to best the 3:28 course record run by Michael Daigeaun in 2013.  I have put in a solid training block and feel very confident in my abilities and the course design to have a great day!

Thank you to my awesome sponsors: Mammut North America, Team MPF/Red Newt Racing, Fits Socks, Boom Nutrition, Craft Sports NA, Karhu NA, Redfeather Snowshoes for all of your support.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

2015 Whiteface SkyMarathon: Rugged with a Capital "R"!

When Ian, the RD mentioned that he was planning on putting on a Skyrace in the planning stages last year,  I thought... "Why not run it! How bad could it be?" Little did I know a year from the time I ushered those thoughts, I was in for one insane run and no matter how I trained, I was not going to be ready for this.  I have run  ski slopes before but I never thought that it would be so bad.

This race experience I label as "Rugged"! Let me explain...

So like any awesome event, I had the chance to travel to the race the day before and scope out the area of Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain only 10 miles away. It was amazing driving into the area seeing hundreds of bikers preparing for the famous Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon Competition.

It was fun to link up with the Red Newt/MPF crew, the Binghamton Crew, as we had the chance to hang out at the top of the Whiteface Ski Resort Lodge. The weather was ideal for the Vertical K, an all uphill almost 5k into the clouds up to 4,600 feet. Pretty incredible event. Everyone was chilling just enjoying the nice Adirondack summer day. After hanging out with everyone, it was time to check into the hotel room and relax in Lake Placid. For those who have never been to Whiteface or Lake Placid, you NEED TO DO IT!  Not only are there quaint little shops full of Adirondack nick nacks but the village because of the Winter Olympic Training Center has this international European vibe which is unlike any place I have ever been to.

 The facility at Whiteface was everything that represented SKY Running! They had a great base lodge, various huts along the course, and the slopes looked like they were in great condition. Also with a top-field, I was hoping on an ideal day and my lack of sky-running prowess to place top 10. I know that I do not have the long arms needed for balance on steep descending and powerful compact quads and calves needed for the explosive demands of such a race. So, I felt ultimately that top 10 would mean I had an incredible day.

The mode of discussion for this race was the weather for the 19.3 mile Sky Marathon. It was supposed to be pounding rain and summit conditions 4,600+ feet above sea level that would have temps near freezing and wind gusts near 70mph. I came prepared with changes upon changes of clothes, waterproof gear, and hats and gloves.  With 9,500 so feet of ascent and equal descent in constant rainy conditions, it was going to be a tough run.  So I ate some delicious pizza and then rested up for the next day.

Race day came and boy was that rain coming down. It was not a gentle drizzle, but more like a solid heavy ran. This was something you would be soaked to the bone in 30 minutes outside regardless of what you were wearing.

All I thought was "Oh Boy!" I soon changed my perspectives of how this race would play out. I did not pack trekking poles nor heavily lugged cleats or shoes would me so I knew that I would be slipping and sliding. Little did I know, no real shoe besides metal cleats would help you gain traction on this type of terrain/condition combination. All bets were off. You always have to consider that everyone has to endure the conditions so that evens the playing field. But man, it was going to be unlike anything I have ever raced in before.

Pre-Race Photos:
The mountain the day before.

My father at Schroon Lake!

A sweet t-shirt highlighting the extreme uphill and downhill route that runners would encounter.

Race Time:

All my gear: Mammut MTR zip shirt, MTR 201 Tech Low Shoes, Craft Longsleeve, Finger Lakes Armwarmers, Fits socks, Mammut MTR Visor, Boom Nutrtion Gels, and Mammut MTR 3/4 tights (Capris)

The Race:  

1st Loop

The rain was coming down at the start and I knew that all of my rain gear would come in handy. My mistake that was clearly noticeable from the get-go was that I had too many layers on and was slightly overheating. I decided to vent my jacket to cool myself off. Also, my Ultimate Direction AK hydration vest was put on a little too tight underneath my jacket and with all the heavy breathing associated with steep uphill running/hiking, I tried to adjust the straps of the vest to allow for my ribcage to open up.  I settled into a solid controlled pace with a mixture of power-hiking and slight tip-toe running. Teammates Silas Carey, Ben Nephew soon surpassed my on the second slope ascent as we continued to trudge through the mud up into the clouds. I was climbing well not harming my quads too much. The pace I was going was smart to save my legs for the second ascent of this mountain. I was probably in about 8-11th place, right around where I wanted to be.  I continued to make the strong climb up. The further we went up, the more I slipped as the trail which was more like a small river made any foot strike lose total traction and control. This is where a specialized lugged soft ground shoe with metal cleats would have been better at digging into the ground. My new Mammut MTR 201 Tech Low shoes are incredible and just about every surface except these extreme conditions which all trail shoes would struggle in. The mud and wetness was the worst I have ever seen it in a race.  
As we came close  to the summit, the rocky trail was killing my calves as I struggled with the steep 40% grades. I saw some of the front runners come by mentioning that we went the wrong way.  I would not find this out until the bottom of the mountain but we ended up taking the Vertical Kilometer course which was a more technical and steeper climb. I felt it!  As we made the descent, I had to tip-toe down the trail for fear of slipping onto sharp jagged rocks. It was at this point as I descended off the ridge line that I realized this was not going to be a race where I competed. I just do not have enough experience on a course like this to negotiate such risky conditions. 
I began to flow down the slopes that we once went up. Oh, and with every step, I fell hard….again, again and again. I was covered in mud, wetness and grossness. I was passed by a good amount of people on the descent and even had the chance to keep pace for the most part with Stevie Kremer and Kasie Enman who are some of the most accomplished Female US Skyrunners in the world. I joked with them that I should probably stick with flat 50 milers as that seems to be more my thing. With the jarring and slipping of the downhills, my quads were taking a beating and there was nothing I could really do. Every elongated step was always followed with me falling flat onto my bottom sliding down the trail into rocks. 
I finally made my way down to the base lodge. 

Flume Loop--Flat-ish 6 miles

As you can see, I ditched my long sleeve shirt underneath my jacket and new that after that loop, this was a fun run for me. It was not that I am not well-trained to handle tough conditions, but besides wearing the right gear, I did not have exactly what I needed in footwear and trekking poles for the tenacity this course on the day embodied. 

After some snacks, like Nascar, I was off for the more runnable section. I was hoping to make up some ground I lost on the descent. I was flying through once on the trail at sub 7 minute miles as I passed both Stevie and Kasie and continued to push hard.

Photo Credits Mountain Peak Fitness

This photo here shows how wet everything was. I laughed as I ran through the trail as it was nothing but a river. I felt like I was in some movie such as "The Day After Tomorrow" when the tidal wave floods New York City except we were in the woods and the world was slowly flooding completely. It was an erie run so far at this point. I sloshed along and kept putting down the hammer on my jello legs as I wound through the winding trails. I passed one gentleman in the woods and continued with my forward progress. I kept my pace even.  I came out of the woods feeling low on calories as I took only one gel in 2 plus hours of running. That was probably a bad idea. I came out of the woods struggling on the slight uphills. I was caught again heading into the aid station at the Ski Lodge.   

I was ready to drop. But I figured I should just suck it up and shoot for top 20. I knew I was still near 10th place or so but I did not have the legs nor the energy to power up that mountain once more. I dreaded the pain I was going to put my destroyed body through.  

Third Loop--Alpine Loop

Well this loop is pretty simple to the story. I slipped both up and down and slowly hiked the whole loop. I was passed by a good string of people but I did not care at this point. My body was failing and I just wanted to be done. The summit conditions were intense with 70 mph gusts and freezing mist at the top. I thought I was going to fly off the mountain.  The rest of the run was me falling every other step. I took it slow and easy. I was not really taking in calories which was foolish. As I hit the final ascent to Little Whiteface, I bonked and consumed 7 Boom Gels I had in my vest. It took me a few minutes to regain my energy but it helped power myself up to the finish.  I played it cautious the whole way up and down and finished just under 5 hours which was off of what I hoped to perform in but hey what can you do. I was 20th place Overall and 17th for Men. 

Here are the photos from this incredible adventure.

Mud on my face, in my water bottle, in my pockets-all over my body.

Race Recap:

To sum up things, I am not sure if I am a sky runner. I think I am best at runs with hills but on courses that require locking into a fast pace. Can-Lake 50 was perfect evidence of what I can do on a runnable 50 mile course. I think that is the type of runs I am going to stick with.  This race was incredible even if I struggled with competing to my potential. Anytime you get to run up such an iconic mountain, you have to take the chance. And truly, this race is something the East Coast needed. Never before has a Sky Marathon been hosted on the East and I feel that Whiteface takes the crown for being the perfect European-style mountain. On race-day we had pounding rain, silt, mud, rocks, steep and long ascents, quad-punishing descents, and a bit of mountain-culture all right here in Lake Placid. It was awesome to see so many people brave the tough conditions of Sunday and come out of it triumphant. On a nice sunny day, the sky marathon would provide absolutely gorgeous views and the course would have been much faster and a much different dynamic. Maybe next year I convince myself again to give this race a go or at the least, go for the Vertical K.  It you want an incredible experience unlike any other, this race is for you. Having the chance to spend a weekend in the Lake Placid area is awesome and the Adirondack mountain culture is something you need to experience. 

I am now ready to train well, rest well, and prepare for my next adventure: an FKT on the Cranberry Lake 50 trail.  I am excited about running a fully self-supported attempt at running a new speed record for the 50 mile trail. Dates are still tentative but I am hoping for a go the last two weeks of July. More to come on that front. 

Thank you to everyone for an incredible journey and weekend at Whiteface. Thank you to the amazing volunteers who braved the same conditions we ran though. Thank you to Mountain Peak Fitness for making an appearance.  Thank you to my sponsors:  Mammut North America, Fits Socks, MPF/Red Newt Racing, Boom Nutrition, Karhu/Craft Sports North America, Redfeather Snowshoes for all your support. Thank you to my family, friends, and followers. All of your support helps to keep me motivated and really keeps me going.

The Vertical K Video from Mountain Peak Fitness