Daily Chatter

Monday, December 29, 2014

Boyer's Furnace 40 - A Club Run

Boyer's Furnace 40 - A Fat Ass Run
At 2:30 a.m. waking was easy thanks to my mind fighting sleep.  It was hard to stop thinking about the adventure to come.  Boyer's Furnace.  Boyer's is a club run or "fat ass" of about 42 miles which they describe as minimally supported but it is anything but "minimally" anything.  Having run this event before I should have been off in dream land envisioning that faster finishing time I had hoped to have this year but my mind kept replaying things; like the encouraging message between D and myself where I encouraged her to run even though she wasn't feeling great so we could share some time on the trail.  My mind couldn't help but also linger on the fact that my sister had dropped out.  I kept wondering why I felt so hesitate myself about my return to the Massanutten trails which I hadn't spent any real time on since May when I ran the MMT100 there.  So when I finally drifted off to sleep after 2:30 I wasn't completely surprised to hear my husband tell me it was past my wake up time and I needed to either get up or snuggle back in bed and keep dreaming of the Massanutten trails.  Obviously I got up.
Ready to take on Boyer's Furnace
After trying to get ready as fast as I could, I started the hour and a half drive toward one of the race director's homes.  The race would basically start and end at her front door.  That is one of the things I love about this course and many of the cub runs; that family feeling that taking part give you.  This year I did arrive at the start in time to hear the two minute warning and jump in for the group photo.  I threw my donations and drop bag down as I heard the seconds counted down and rushed to buckle my pack as I ran through the small pack of runners to settle in with some trail friends.  Since I am also a streak runner I wanted to take advantage of the early road section and get my consecutive minimum mile run so I stayed with a group of faster paced runners and fell in with a trail runner that I had run the majority of this event with last year, Katie.  I made mixed emotions about sticking with her again this year.  I knew that she would be great company and we would definitely be able to set a faster pace than last year but I couldn't help but remember that I had encouraged D to run today when she might otherwise have stayed home.  So I finished the first mile and a half and then said goodbye to Katie to take a few photos of the rising sun as I waited for D to catch up.
I waited a while before first her husband and then she rounded the turn.  She was power hiking the hill and said she wasn't feeling the best thanks to a nasty cold.  We chatted a bit to catch up since we hadn't been able to share the trail in a long time.  Her husband Harry and I would spend the majority of the first half of the run running together and then waiting for D to catch up.  I enjoyed the climb up to Woodstock and since Harry and I had such a lead on D, we ran out to climb the fire tower.  This was something I had never done on the trail.  I just had never taken the time to enjoy it but today I was so glad I had.  The view was amazing with the sun still low in the sky.
Woodstock Fire Toward
The rising sun through the gap
So happy to be back on the trail
After our quick detour we were back on the trail and through the first aid station.  Carter told us that D had just walked through with another runner.  Harry and I quickly made our way over the trail to D and Patricia, a relatively new trail runner. 
The pace was slow but the scenery was beautiful so I stayed back hoping the slower pace would help D find the joy in being out again. I knew there were several forest road sections that we could make up time on so I still wasn't too concerned about our pace. 
 As we went along this section Harry and I pulled ahead to settle into a more natural pace.  Harry was keeping his pace leisurely and we were pausing to clear as much fallen trees and branches as we could move without tools.   When we arrived at the Edinburg Gap aid station we were ahead of D and Patricia by a few minutes and knew that D did not have much push in her body or mind today. 
Hoping some positive energy could help her rebound we quickly fueled up on oranges, chips, coke and ginger ale as we talked with the volunteers and race director who had come out to support the runners.  Once D had refueled we were off again.  But the conversation quickly turned to dropping at Camp Roosevelt about 20ish miles into the run.  We tried to talk D into continuing at the relaxed pace she was going but it seemed as though she had made up her mind. 
Harry and I pulled ahead over this forest road section on Edinburg Gap.  We talked about how lucky we were to be out on such an amazingly mild, almost hot, December day.  I had already removed my base layer and was still wishing I had worn shorts. 
When we made it to the intersection with Moreland Gap, Harry decided to double back and check on D.  I was torn and falling into my bad habit of not running my own "race."  After a quick nature call I decided I had to continue on my own and knew D would be happy that I did. 
Alone on Moreland Gap Road I was reliving the joy of finally getting to that same spot after 100 miles in May.  Today, the beautiful scenes along the road that I ran past in May, I paused to photograph.
Still feeling no real pressure to watch my pace I simply enjoyed a few miles alone and took in the scenery.  I knew Camp Roosevelt was only a few miles away.
I ran into Camp Roosevelt aid station to a group of happy helpful faces.  After learning the last runners to past through left about 15 minutes ahead of me, I grabbed some noodle soup, pickles, coke and my headlamp.  I struggled with not knowing if Harry and D would drop but I was eventually encouraged to keep moving.  I made the climb up to the ridgeline and paused to snap a few photos.  There were a lot of cars at the overlook were the Massanutten trail hops out onto the road at the eastern ridgeline and a picnicker offered to snap my photo.
 Amazing view

The next 12 mile section was part of Boyer's that had gotten lost in my mind.  I forgot how completely false it is when they say it "runs like 14."  It's false because it runs like 20!  It teases you with a wide easy to navigate trail for a few miles but then narrows and hardens as it runs the ridgeline keeping you from finding any semblance of a steady pace. 
But the views are always worth the effort!  This section was a real reminder of just how much training it takes to run on the Massanutten trails.  It is easy to forget all the hours of training practicing how to navigate these rocks trails but the eastern ridge was a fast reminder of all the work ahead to be ready for a date with her in May.
At some point along the ridge, Harry caught back up with me.  I was so happy to see him thinking that he had talked D into continuing.  However Harry wasn't sure if she was coming or had dropped.  I continued with Harry for a few miles but a nature call would delay me enough to fall behind again.
I was perfectly happy to be alone on the trail.  Even the thought of running alone once the sun had set didn't bother me.  Just being able to be on the trail for such a long time is a gift.  Early on the eastern ridge I had called my husband to hear how his day was going.  It is only because he was home with the kids that I was able to take a day for myself and I am always so grateful for his support and encouragement.  When I finally got to the Milford Gap aid station I saw Harry again and they confirmed that D had dropped at Camp Roo.  Harry said he was going to continue on his way to get as far as he could before the sun set.  The aid station crew was awesome!  They filled my pack and got me soup and soda while I sat down with Gary K for a little break.  I wanted to get all the wonderful soup into my body but it just wouldn't cool down fast enough and daylight was going to be fading fast so I had to get moving.  8 miles to go.
The last 8 miles of Boyer's Furnace should have been much faster than it was.  I had a turn sheet which was basically a bunch of lefts before coming down off the trails but then switch from Orange to Blue/Orange to yellow challenged my brain and my feet.  As the trail descended it became more and more a flowing creek filled with rocks and mud.  I quickly remember the fun of the yellow trail which actually lays within the creek bed.  It was fun to have the woods all to myself and splash through the muck.  But I was happy to hit the gravel road and begin the twisting country roads that would lead me back to Carter's home. 
2014 Boyer's Furnace
There was the wonderful trail magic that was left by a home owner along the trail, a little basket of fruit, water and snacks.  Then there was complete quiet where there was nothing to hear but the breath of the earth.  A few turns and there were houses, Christmas lights and a car coming towards me.  It was Tony and Arthur coming to check on me and ask if I wanted a ride.  Of course that was a silly question.  Arthur offer to "run" in with me.  Such a nice gesture even though he wasn't dressed for it.  So we made our way around a few bends to Carter's front yard and I ran up the front walk to tell her, "I'm home!"

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

2014 FOTM Race Report - The Final FOTM

Fire on the Mountain 50k
As race day approached I didn't feel the usual combination of pre-race emotions.  This year there was a few new feelings taking up room in my head.  Kevin the RD had made the official announcement that 2014 would be the final FOTM.  Being lucky enough to have run every FOTM, it was sad news that the fifth running would be the last.  While the possibility of the race ending (hiatus, Kevin, remember it's just a hiatus) was a sad note, there was a bright spot in the happenings.  My sister would be running her first ever race.  First ever ultra trail race no less.  I was excited for her and nervous that I may have encouraged her to take a leap that was a bit extreme.  Little did I know that once again my tiny big sister would be setting the example that I would try to follow.
Packet pickup
We headed to Flintstone Maryland to the Green Ridge State Forest Headquarters to pick up our bibs and unfortunately get a refund for our race t-shirts.  The RD lives several states away and is the owner of a new business which left little time for some items on the race day check list.  But I have to say that was the only detail of the race that was disappointing.  I am so grateful that despite all the challenges being so far away and running a business Kevin and his family were still able to put on one of the best trail races I have the privilege to run.  Many thanks to Kevin and his family, all the volunteers, DCNR and the beautiful Green Ridge State Forest for allowing us safe and supported passage on a perfect day.

As the sun rises
There was no sun as I went through the pre-race drill and quietly slipped out of the house and headed to pick up my sis.  Being an early riser she was wide awake and waiting for me to hit the road.  Mostly we drove in silence.  I was lost in my mind, still trying to wake up.  As for my sis I can only imagine the thoughts that were swirling in her mind.  I wanted to do everything I could to help make this first race a successful one for my sis but it was hard to shake the sadness that it would be the last FOTM.  It is silly to get so sentimental about a race but as I made the long winding drive I couldn't help but think of all the past years. 

View from the start line
In no time I had to get back to reality as we pulled into the open field that would welcome us as a finish line after 32 miles through the Green Ridge State Forest.  Sis and I hopped out of the truck to check in, make a quick nature call and then readied our gear in the warmth of the truck.  The minutes ticked down and it was time for us to get on the bus that would take us to the start line.  On the bus we chatted and listened to other runners talking.  Sis and I shared a seat with Janelle who was running her first 50k.
Sis and I about to hit the Red Trail
The ride has always been longer than I'd want with nervous anticipation growing by the minute but soon enough we were at the start line.  One last nature call, a few snapshots, chatted with a few friends and we were ready to get on the move.  The RD gave his usual final instructions; Red Trail, Green Trail, Fire Road, Purple Trail and we were....not off.  Just as the RD was about to send us on our merry way, several runners yell "Car!"  There were two cars making their way to the start line.  Thanks to the winds the night before there had been an alleged tree down that delayed a few runners.  Graciously the RD waited for them to grab their gear as their driver declared she had photos of the down tree.  After a few minutes delay and a few laughs, we were finally set on our way down the fire road for a quick mile before entering the Red Trail. 

The perfect day
The Red Trail was just as wonderful as ever.  The day was beautiful, the leaves were abundant and our spirits were high as we moved quickly along the trail.  I love how much I remember the route of this race.  After about 3 miles we turn left to continue on the Red Trail but a few runners had turned right.  With all our trail training miles, we were moving well over the terrain and making great time as we hit a hard left uphill we saw another group of runners who had missed the turn and incorrectly continued straight.  We ran into the first aid station and paused long enough for me to tighten my one shoe then continued down the course.  As usual, the trees in the Green Ridge State Forest beckon me to visit them but happily this year I would only need a few nature calls through my journey.  I enjoyed some technical trail running throughout the remainder of the Red Trail only falling once luckily without paying any blood dues.  We hit the second aid station in high spirits.  I encouraged my sis to eat and drink more than she was doing.  I had some banana, pringles and a little to drink.  Sis sent out a quick text to update the family on our progress.  We were happy with our pace and still feeling strong as we hit the Green Trail.

A pause at the Oasis
My history with the Green Trail has been a wet one but this year the course was as dry as I can remember it.  Sis took the lead through this section as we had decided to run together or at least within eye sight.  My main role would be to keep her on course and keep her from going to fast early in the race.  It was a challenge to contain her enthusiasm and even though I was certain she could probably run much faster than we were going, we hadn't tested how long she could hold those paces and I didn't want her to burn out at mile 27.  So we wove our way through the low laying section of Green Trail hopping across the creek only to hop back across the creek. 
Sis ready for the climb up to the Oasis 
The Green Trail went by quickly as we came out to the water only aid station shortly after passing the open front shed that I recalled being so happy to see in a section with little cover.  Since we knew that volunteers were limited, we had planned to be able to run heavily self-sufficient.  We paused only briefly before heading back down the trail.   

My favorite part; the climbing.
Through the Green Trail we passed several runners.  My sis was running strong but quiet.  Every time I'd check in with her, she was "fine" or "good."  It was a different experience to run with someone who is running their first ever race.  I can only imagine what all was going through her mind as she was going farther and farther, getting closer to going farther than she had ever gone before. 

The Oasis view
As we hit the Fire Road, the RD's daughter was there taking pictures of everyone.  Another of many great perks of FOTM, awesome free race photos!  In five short years she has gone from a little girl to a beautiful kind young woman.  I'd call getting to see her and her sibling grow another of those FOTM perks.  Another perk is the Oasis aid station.

Sis loved the oranges
We climbed the hill to the Oasis aid station dubbed "half way" on the course due to the "easier" second half.  I added water to my hydration pack, drank some coke, ate bananas and chips.  Sis enjoyed the oranges.  Stephanie snapped a few photos of us and we were off again. 

Enough energy to celebrate
We hadn't made it too far in fact I knew where we would answer another nature call because I stop at this spot nearly every year.  Thanks to the nature call my tummy settled from the influx of sugar and we were off down the nearly 8 miles of fire road.  There isn't much to say about the fire road we ran a lot, we talked some - although now I can't remember what we talked about.  There were descents and climbs, rocks and more rocks and finally an aid station across the bridge.  We didn't bother really stopping.  I just whined that I'd love some sugar and caffeine. 

The finisher's trophy - worth it!

My achilles/heel of my left foot was really bothering me.  I was complaining about little things just to hear myself talk.  Thankfully sis gave me some pain medication and a couple of runners who settled in beside us briefly offered me more...it must have been obvious that I was uncomfortable.  But sis just kept motoring on.  It was awesome to see her dig deep and not complain when I know she was working hard.  We came to the next aid station but no soda to sugar up on so I risked drinking whatever sports drink they had and thanked them for being there before we headed up the next hill.

5th FOTM - 7:16
Quickly we were approaching the entrance to the purple trail and after directing some fellow trail brethren to the correct direction, we took the lead and enjoyed the softer footing.  In previous years, I had complained about the purple trail.  After my time on the Massanutten trails, I now enjoy the purple trail and felt like we were making some good miles as we worked our way further along the course.

32 miles.  No worse for the wear.
As we made our way along the purple trail I remember quite a few places in this final section.  As we passed under power lines sis mentioned how much it reminded her of our hometown pipeline route on the Mid-State Trail.  We passed a particular large tree that has a fondness for me since we shared such intimate moments during one of the early years of this race.  We passed a random spot along the trail where Champ had greeted me during the first FOTM. 

Salty as ever
As I relived all those happy memories my sis had grown really quiet.  This was the first time during the race that I thought she might be tiring.  But still she continued ahead.  If I said run, she ran.  If I said hike this hill like you mean it, she hiked.  But there was an unmistakable air of "I just want to be done" about her.  Of course I was eager for that finish line too but as always the longer I go the more comfortable I feel about continuing to put one foot in front of the other. 

How I celebrate my 5th FOTM 50k
We came on the last aid station put didn't take any aid since we had our hydration packs.  Only about 4.5 miles to go!  The remaining trail was a nice mix of descents, climbs, easy footing and technical running.  It was a beautiful day.  The conditions could not have been closer to perfect for my sister's first race and honestly, if FOTM has to see an end (Remember Kevin, hiatus.  right?!) what better way for that to happen than this perfect day. 

5th or 1st, it's a sweet success
It was a celebration of the ending of one thing but the beginning of others.  Life is like that.  Sometimes things have to end but there is always something new to begin.  As we started what I knew was the final climb I prayed that my sister's daughters had found their way to the finish line.  I knew that nothing was going to stop her from seeing her first ever finish line.  I shouted that we were almost there.  I was happy I was in the lead because I could hardly hold in the tears.  Now tears of happiness that we could share such an amazing journey together.

Our cheering crew
And there they were, two beautiful young ladies waiting for their mom.  Cheering and snapping photos as they ran to the clearing that would start our final victory lap to the finish line.  That open field that had held one of my favorite finish lines for the past five years.  I have loved it and hated it but each time I longed to see it knowing it held another piece of this wonderful journey that I am on.  A journey that really has no finish line.  A journey made up of moments like this one.  Moments that matter.  Moments that make me closer to the person I want to be.  There I am running with my sister, my big sister.  The one I spent my life trying to be just like and in this moment I couldn't have been more proud to see her being a little bit more like me.  Minus the complaining.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

2014 The Hat Run Race Report

This time of year winter fights so hard to stay as spring struggles to get some traction. It reminds me to dig deeper when things get tough. No matter how long it takes, eventually just as winter will turn to spring, I will see each of my challenges through.  I kept this thought in mind as I walked to pick up my race bib the morning of the 2014 HAT Run 50k.  It was a thought more of my challenges to come than the HAT 50k I was about to run.  It seems as though I have been preparing for a race that never comes for such a long time.  And it has been a long time, nearing two years now since I first started to train for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100.  Every race has been in preparation for that one event and day in the woods has been to train myself for the conditions I would face over that day and a half.  The downside to all that focused training was a bit of a loss of my joy for simply running.  But today as I parked my truck and walked to pick up my bib greeted by some many friendly faces I was determined to simply run for the fun of it. 
I focused on gathering with trail friends and being surrounded by so trail legends who frequent the HAT Run each year.  Quickly I found D and we dropped our bags at the pavilion aid station.  The pavilion station would be our start, finish and aid station twice as we passed through it four times  This year I head my own advice and leave my hydration pack in the aid station for the first small loop.
In classic HAT fashion roughly 450 runners gather in an open field and are given our last instructions before starting our first out and back and then hitting the tree line for a small loop.  I line up with P and D but lose P in front of me and D behind.  With tight single track and a large field of runners, pace is quickly set by those in front.  I relax into an easy pace and work on passing runners when possible and necessary but I'm focused on simply enjoying this first short loop.  The day is quickly warming and trail conditions are great.
I pass through the pavilion aid station and pause only to grab my hydration pack and head out for the first of two 14 mile loops.  It doesn't take long to hit the first creek crossing.  The course is a nice roller coaster of hills, descents and flats.  Runners around me are mostly quiet so I focus on just finding a steady pace and enjoying the scenery. 

Having been fortunate enough to run this race before I was nice to be familiar with the course but that didn't take away my urge to pause to snap photos of some of the interesting spots along the way.
The quick photos I snap do not do justice to the beautiful of the trails and trees I am running through.  I wonder if I am lucky enough to still be running as the decades pass if I will always find these things so amazingly beautiful.   

It is beginning to get warm and I have had little time to adjust to the warmer temperatures.  It is early in the day and I am already covered with salt.  I make a quick stop at the aid station to grab some salty fries which the HAT Run is famous for.  Not my typical race day fueling option but a fun staple while running the HAT.  I continue on knowing the gravel road section is coming quickly.  The trail section goes by quickly.  I am still running with other runners, moving through groups as I pass and get passed.  While on the road I chat with a few runners but mostly run alone since my pace is faster than it should be.  But thanks to a quick pace I am entering the aid station in no time and limbo under the hitching post just for the fun of it.  I grab some fluids and salty calories and even sample a fresh perogie.  Yum! 
It really does go beyond aid stations, it's really a need to thank all the volunteers who helped make my day of playing in the woods possible.  The race directors who deal with all the permits and politics necessary to put on an event at this level really do much more than work on race day and I know they are not alone.  Dozens and dozens of volunteers give their time long before race day to make this all happen for 500 lucky runners.  So thank you all, to the race directors, Phil, Tim, Mike and Jeff, the countless volunteers, Maryland DNR, the State Park, the rangers and the families who gave of their time to be out cheering not only for their runners but for every runner who passed.

Every year I forget the next 5 miles.  I only remember the giddiness of the trail and tuck those less then favorable memories deep in a corner of my mind.  But as I leave the aid station that sense of déjà vu sweeps over me and I know that the most challenging miles of the race are in front of me. 

I focus on enjoying the views and keeping my effort consistent.  The chatter is mostly mine and I remember not to linger too long with any one runner and get stick running their pace.  It's great to see faces I remember as I move along the trail.  Including Phil Anderson (the A in HAT) who is sitting at the bottom of our last climb as we enter Phil's Forest.  He greets everyone with a smile and a handshake.  The final section goes quickly as I enter the final open hay field that leads to the pavilion aid station and the final loop.

As I top the hay field I see Tim Gavin and ask if I can use my poles on the second loop since the runners will be more spread out.  He gives me an "are you crazy look" but says yeah, just don't stab anyone.  I grab some fluids, some calories and my poles and head out again.  I run over an open field lengthening my poles.  Although the HAT course is not really one where you would need poles, I need the practice of holding them, adjusting them, and using them so that my mind and arms are ready to use them during MMT.  Today will be practice for running with them when I don't really want them in my hands.

This loop goes much like the first with the exception that there are fewer runners to alter my pace.  Somewhere along the loop Natalie and I start running together.  We have mutual friends.  This is her first ultra distance event and she is making it look easy.  I most likely talk more than she does and she is kind enough to listen to my chatter.  This loop I do not pause for photos.  I am simply enjoying the moments like when the trail falls silent and all I hear is the sound of my feet and the birds in the air.  I notice the rising sound of water each time the trail draws near a creek and the smell that says the water is getting closer.  I eavesdrop on fellow runners as the trail winds higher.  I can hear their distant voice raising.  I see the wind stir the leaves along the trail and watch the sun cut it's way through the branches that lay bare.  I breath it all in.  I think back to the thoughts I had this morning, that I had lost some the joy in my running and realize that I couldn't have been farther from the truth.   

As I saw that small opening in an old field row that leads to an open hay field, I remembered how lucky I am.  Lucky not only to be able to be doing this but to do this for all the reasons that matter.  I simply love to run through the trails, across the creeks and around the next turn to see just how far my body will take me. 
My fourth HAT Run 50k done.