Twisted Branch 100k – 2019

2015 – 17:36:56 (Trained)
2017 – 18:01:38 (Sorta trained)
2019 – 18:53:38 (No training)

Start Photo by Ron Heerkens Jr/ GF Media

I’ve tried all approaches to Twisted. Training/no training. They all end up the same. Maybe this is the course I strive to beat. But so far – it just eats you up. As the wise Vidmar told me after I told him this same thing — “It seems to find, expose, and make us confront any vulnerabilities we might have going in. But, perhaps that is also its gift.”
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It was a rough few weeks leading up to this. 55 hour work weeks. I felt trapped and frustrated. And after spending the weekend before in the ADKs, I just wanted to retreat back. I considered the DNS. But of course as the week ended – things settled down. And a long day in the woods is all I wanted anyway.
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I was curious if this was still the hardest ultra I’ve done.

It is.
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Going into this – I had no running miles. But tons of time on feet. Weekends in the mountains. Italy trip and CUT112 still on my mind. I knew finishing wouldn’t be an issue. How would running that much go – after not running much at all?

So to start. My CUT112 buddy Adam was running too. And after sticking together for 112 miles before – we started this race together. With Abby by my side as well. The 3 of us cruised along for a while, until Abby got out her poles and left us in her uphill dust.
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Running actually felt ok.

We cycled through running, and hiking. Feeling like we were moving well and making good time. Feeling like I was running more than past years – but then again… I didn’t really remember. We found ourselves at 50k near 7.5 hours.

We both bonked hard on our way into Patch Rd Aid Station. My feet were hurting – and they never hurt like this. I fiddled with my shoes – the tongue kept getting sucked and scrunched into my shoe, putting pressure on my foot. I adjusted it, but knew it wouldn’t last.

Adam bounced back quick. I still felt depleted. But we’d try to run as much as we could to get to Bud Valley.

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Going into this – I didn’t care about finishing. During this – Definitely didn’t care about finishing. I was content dropping at Bud Valley. But told myself if Mertsock was there…. I couldn’t drop. And of course he was.

I was excited he was there. Smiled and waved as we ran in. Pretending I wasn’t dying inside.

I fiddled with my shoes again at Bud. And complained about my socks. I even looked at my spare socks in my drop bag – but changing them seemed like such a large task. I would survive with what I had. My shoes on the other hand – were living there last miles. And my feet were feeling there death.
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Spirits were good when Mertsock jumped in. But soon after the clouds rolled in and we were drenched. The rain lasted a while. The mud was not cool.
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My spirits didn’t last long. I was trying. My brain chemicals were gone.

I kept feeling like I couldn’t come back. I was defeated.
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I’d hear my breath get weezy. Tears would roll in my eyes. Nothing was wrong. Why was I freaking out?

I was frustrated that maybe this wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. This wasn’t the stress relief I was looking for earlier in the week.

I was tired of eating Aid station stuff. I didn’t want anything. Tired of gels. and pickles. Even the real food didn’t look appealing. Although Lake David got me with Donut slices and coffee beans.

I was tired of feeling chased. I kept craving our “no mans land” – but every time we’d find our spot, we’d hear voices again. So many people. — Not that it wasn’t great to see how others were doing. I think we all just look for that time of solitude.

Photo by Mertsock at Lake David

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Panic attacks creeped on me basically the whole time from Bud Valley to Urbana. Without warning.

Luckily the 3 of us have done this before. We were re-living the CUT112. Adam and I racing. Mertsock pacing. Both of them knowing my deaths won’t last forever.
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My goal was to make it to Urbana. All I really wanted to do was run the stretch from Michelsville. My favorite 2.5 miles, no matter how I feel – I’ve always been able to run there.

I was not expecting to have a melt down. On the way down from Lake David – I couldn’t control the tears. I saw the Michelsville tent. Tried to stop crying. Nope. I couldn’t stop anything. I ran by the Aid saying “I’m just gonna go.” Ditching Adam and Mertsock. And for the first time – actually cried. As I ran away. It felt good. A little dramatic. But I felt free!

I heard Mertsock running behind me. And as the melt down ended and we navigated some fence and barbed wires, I was excited to get this done.

A little guilty for leaving Adam after he had stuck with me all day. But Mertsock assured me he’d catch up. And he did.
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We swapped Mertsock for Strat at Urbana. I was content with stopping here all day. But my current mood had me ready to finish at the beach.

I was slow again.

Mount Washington is never the worst of the course. Every year it’s always felt pretty good. Maybe you stop caring at that point? Or maybe the switch backs make it forgiving. The worst is the trail just after.

It takes forever to get down to Winding Stair road. I used to think it was the Triad trail. But Triad is quick. And fun switch backs.

But this pre-Triad trail…. had me angry. I was angry at the mud. Angry at this little hill that Strat and Adam bounced up. But I was stuck walking in place. So mad. I cried. Cause I don’t know what else to do with emotions.
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It was relieving to reach Winding Stair rd. And we ran our way to the Triad turn. And kept running our way through the switch backs. I looked and saw 10:46 pm – 14 minutes to beat 19 hours. (which we actually had 10 more minutes cause of late start) But I asked Strat –

“Think we can finish in 10 minutes?”
— Strat “Yes”.

“Really?”

I believed it. We cranked a few extra gears. Rolled in at 10:58pm.

Another by Mertsock at Lake David.

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Part of me never wants to do this again. Part of me thinks this course is just not meant for me. Then the stubborn part of me wants to see if I can do it….

Guess we’ll see in 2 years. Staying true to every odd year.

Next year I’ll bring back the lights.
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Twisted. A super runnable course. Sneaking over 10,000 feet of gain in 65 miles. All via the best trails in the Finger Lakes.

Something makes this course so challenging. Harder than 100 milers. Harder than staying awake for 51 hours.

Some seem to figure it out. I just don’t know. Sure is awesome though.
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Thank you Scott. Your creation is one of a kind – and the best and hardest on the east coast. Thank you Twisted Crew – for all the hours of hard work and support along the course. Thank you volunteers for helping me survive, and all the high fives and cheers.

Thank you Adam for sticking with me – no matter how many times I told you to leave. Best company and great friend to spend the miles with.

Mertsock for pacing us for 20 miles. Keeping me moving even while my brain had lost all hope. Attempting shoe fixes mid trail – resulting in broken laces – but using Macgyver skills to pin things together and make it work. Always the luckiest to share miles with you.

Strat- For transporting everything and everyone. And pacing us the last bits from Urbana. Telling us we’re crushing it- even when it felt like we were crawling. And pushing us when we felt we could run.

Chris-O – For spending your birthday with your run fam. Lucky to have you all over the course. And especially at the end. Thanks for laughing at me and supporting me like always!
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What’s next?

Pretty sure Im adventuring every weekend.

But then a road marathon in November. yes. A marathon. Cause it’s been a while. And we’re getting G-Street back together.

The end.

Twisted Branch 100k – 2017

I woke up on August 20th. Wide awake after 4 hours of sleep. Headache. I moved a few inches. Everything hurt. My skin felt sore. Take the covers off – I’m covered in scratches and bruises. I crawl to the bathroom. My knees wont unbend. My foot doesn’t work.

I’d like to think my nutrition was pretty good throughout the day. Zero falls – I was really careful not to totally destroy my foot.

So why does everything feel so terrible?
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I crossed the Twisted Branch finish line for the 2nd time. I had high hopes of a daylight finish – since we started 2 hours earlier. But found myself out there for 18 hours – cause that’s just what happens.
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I could go hour by hour and section by section and say what happened. But it’s nothing you haven’t heard before. Even when you go into this race knowing what to expect. Knowing how hard it is – and telling yourself it’ll be twice as hard as you think or remember. It’s relentless.

It teases you with a pretty do-able 40 miles. You can get to bud valley thinking “that could’ve been worse”. You run off to start the last 25 – maybe with a pacer now. I chose to go solo.

Then you hit climbs. Not the longest, or steepest. But they come after you’ve been running for a while, and you realize you have no legs. I think Brandon Stafford said it best. “That course is just so hard to get a rhythm and keep running. It felt like every 100ft there was an obstical that broke your stride enough to say. Meh… i’ll walk a bit.”
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I predicted 10 hours to get to Bud Valley (Mile 40)- I got there in 9:22. I knew the last 25 would be at least 6 hours.  I wasn’t feeling a pacer. I knew getting to Urbana (mile 60) would be rough.
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I questioned finishing.  I had no reason not too…. other than wanting to sleep. I also thought about Scott – I wanted it to be a great year for him, and I wanted to help his finisher #’s.

I also remembered I was out there because I needed this day. A day of nothing else to do but get to Keuka by foot. Quality alone time. Quality community time. And just be outside – on a pretty amazing trail.

Mile 40 – Photo by Mom

My favorite part will always be Mitchellsville to Urbana. Its only 3ish miles. But this trail is so fun. So runnable. Even after feeling like I had no running in me – It’s like everything went numb. I ran this section – and ran it “hard”. Compared to the 20 minute miles I had been doing – 10 minute miles felt like a sprint.

Felt so good to run downhills – hadn’t had any that felt good all day. I passed folks. Got to Urbana in 33 minutes.

Live tracking splits.

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I was lucky to find Strat and Jeff in Urbana. I knew it’d be at least 2 hours to do the last 4(or actually 6) miles.

Strat jumped in with me. It was nice having someone there for the dark hours.

We walked. Ridiculously slow. I just wanted to stop moving. But every bit of this race – I would flash back to the first year. These images were so clear, and kind of haunting. I missed it. And felt lucky to see it all again. Lucky to have been joined by MPF/RNR teammates. All having great and challenging day. The finish is always worth the struggle.

Definitely a twisted creation. Dare you to run this next year.
Thanks again Scott.
The end.
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What to do next?
Fast 50k September 30th on the Deleware Watergap – Watergap 50k
Hard Mountain Marathon October 14th in the Catskills – Cats Tail
PR your 5k in this downhill 5 miler October 28thAll Down Hill from Here

2015 Team Welden.

2015 Pultney road. I was lucky to run this section with one of my top favorite trail runners this year – Tommy! – Photo by John Green.

2015 training run – we found Phillip – AKA Copper – in the cornfield. And he ran 3 miles with us. I remembered him as I ran through those trails.

Twisted tree. Lucky to have seen it 3 times. Photo by John Green.

Looking at Hellgate 100k

In 13 days I’ll be running Hellgate 100k.
It starts at Midnight – In the mountains of Virginia.

Unlike most races – you couldn’t register until just about a month ago. And it involved sending in a paper application to be reviewed by Dr. David Horton and comittee. 145 runners were selected – 28 females and 117 men.

hellgate_map
There’s about 12,000 ft of gain? I think – over 65ish miles.
hallgate_elevation

This will be much different from most other races I’ve run. No getting there a day or two early. No hotels or sleeping before the start. No need to worry about waking up early or breakfast. None of the usual crew.

I’ll be rolling in around 8/9pm for check in – then catching the ride to the start.

I’ll have one drop bag that I’ll get to see twice. I’ll have friend Hobbs and RNR/MPF team mates racing as well – my guess is I wont see any of them after the start. Hope to catch up with them at the finish If I don’t take the full 18 hours.

It will be cold. The trend for VA seems to be low’s in the 30’s – highs of 40’s/50’s. It’s currently looking cold and rainy for the 10th.

Usually I’d be more worried about being cold. But this years been about doing things outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes that means failure.

I’m looking forward to the long day in the woods. Looking forward to the sunrise after long hours in the dark. I’m pretty confident in my ability to perform on no sleep – but it’ll be interesting to really put that to the test. Looking forward to friends and teammates and my mom(!) at the finish. Hopefully I wont torture her by looking deathly or pretending to be hypothermic.

I’ll have 18 hours to finish. 6 hours and 40 minutes to get to mile 22.5. And 12 hours and 30 minutes to get to mile 42.5. My main goal for this race is going in un-injured. And being able to breath for the majority would be nice.

Maybe I’m looking for some clarity. Maybe I’m looking for some answers. Maybe I just figured out a way to get some real time to myself. It’s hard for me to not include others in my race plans – as I know friends and crew love this sort of thing. As always – it will be interesting to see what happens.

The end.

The Road to Twisted Branch

Sometime in November/December 2014 I signed up for Twisted Branch 100k. The race is point to point – beginning at Ontario County Park (Naples, NY) and finishes on the shores of Keuka Lake (Hammondsport, NY). The race is scheduled for August 29th. Currently only 28 days away.
elevation

My training has been pretty consistent. Even though I feel like I’m a slacker – The month of July was only a few miles short of my mileage for May – 247.8 (highest mileage month ever). In May I RACED 127.9 miles. July I only raced 13 (total mileage = 242.7).

Bar Graphs! ... are cool.

Training bar graphs! … are cool.

May 9th – I ran 58.7 miles in a 12 hour race (Mind the Ducks) – Pretty much a 12 hour training run.
May 31st – I ran Cayuga Trails 50 Mile. That was goal race #1.

June 20th – We previewed the 2nd half of the Twisted Branch course (50k training run). It took us 8 hours. Looked something like this….
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How’d I feel after that? Terrible. Super intimidated. Do I really want to race this and die? not really.

June 27th – We completed the ADK Great Range Traverse. Which put me in a “completing stuff with friends is fun mode”. I know coach thinks I can do well… or “win”. If I try to do that I’ll likely be in tears, and not in a good place mentally. So im not gonna try to do anything.

July 4th – I watched Jeff run his first 50 miler – Finger Lakes 50. While Mike and I ran the “course” backwards incorrectly… somehow ended up with 20 miles out and back – when it should have been a 15 mile loop.

July 11th – we went back out and ran the first 50k of the Twisted Branch course.
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I felt better about the 1st half. Much more runnable than the 2nd. Just as much elevation though. Just as dead at the end. And took almost as long.

July 18th – I raced 0SPF – Trail Half Marathon. Took 23 minutes off last years time. 13th overall – 6th female – and 3rd in AG. Trailsroc never fails at putting on an awesome race – or being the best cheer squad – or aid station.
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July 25th – I watched my coach run 100 miles (Burning River 100). I thought Cayuga was the best race experience. Turns out crewing and pacing are way better. There’s really nothing like watching someone run for 23 hours. And in the meantime watching other people run – and coming up with names for them. Like “confused guy”. Or “rough guy”. “white shirt guy”. “Yellow shirt guy”. Don’t judge us on our naming skills – Were an obvious bunch.

We were also cheering for Daven. Eventually we got a text from his dad saying he could use a pacer. Matt and Jeff shuttled me to the 70 mile mark, and I jumped in. My first time pacing. Daven’s first ultra with a pacer. Cool. unfortunately this meant I would miss 40 miles of Mike running. But pacing Daven was probably the coolest thing I’ve done yet. Good company, and an enjoyable 20 mile run. And maybe I helped by being there? Maybe not – 4 hours of silence can be annoying.

Oh yeah – and Daven won. Cause he’s super cool. and Coach was inching his way up the entire day – finished in 17th overall, and sub 24 hours. __________________________________________________________________________________

August 1st – (Today) – Ran with a fun group of people on the Crescent Trail. Managed 18/19 miles. Seeing most of them again tomorrow at crazy hours (4amish) to run the start of Twisted Branch in the dark.

Everything that’s happened gets me more excited about running. Running longer. Adventuring further. Sleeping less. It’s the one thing im 100% about. It also makes it seem like everything else is falling apart.

Life’s confusing. I don’t know what im doing. Somehow I manage to make it to work everyday. I fear Kyle might disown me eventually. I’m the closest to “bankrupt” I’ve ever been. But I have this thing where I don’t care about money, cause it’s lame. You should be able to do whatever you want. Much like my thoughts on sleep (a waste of time). Both are equally bad advice. I used to care about things. Now I just care about people. Im contemplating 100 milers – something I had no interest in earlier this year. I used to be so organized, and punctual. Now it’s just chaos. Lovely chaos.
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So back to Twisted Branch. Do I have a plan? No.

Thinking of combining the first half and 2nd half is pretty terrifying. I could compare it to Cayuga – I mean, it’s only 10 miles more right? yeah. Cayuga was super runnable though. Cayuga hills were steep – but they were over quick. Twisted Branch is a soul sucker. The kind of hills that just beat me down. They never end… then turn a corner, and continue to never end.

I guess I could be semi-optimistic and say there are more runnable sections than hills. I’m just a wimp. I like rolling stuff. I like downhills. Or if im on a mountain – going up is cool. When I want to run – not cool.

So how’s this gonna work? The thing that’s worked best so far, is having simple goals. Forget cut off time. Forget any time goal. Forget the competition – it will be good. I’ll try to stumble my way in, but the course is rugged and hilly – it’ll be a long day. I will break down. I’ve accepted this is just part of the journey. Hitting bottom, finding what’s important, then bouncing back.

I’m beginning to think I don’t want to spend that day alone. Normally I love the point in a race when everyone is spread out, and I’m in no-mans land for hours. Maybe I’d be all about some “me time”. But im beginning to think of it as an adventure. And who’d I want to adventure with… hmmm.

I’ll have a “crew” – but I don’t think I’ll need them for anything other than seeing their faces.

So It’s August. This thing happens soon.

The end.