Burning River 100 – DNF

Packet Pickup

Packet Pickup

3am on Saturday August 6th, we left our hotel for Squires Castle.
The start line of Burning River 100.

3:30am at the Start. Photo by Chris O'Brien.

3:30am at the Start.
Photo by Chris O’Brien.

I was unsure if I had slept at all. Unsure of how running would feel.
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The first 12 miles were on road. The foot felt ok, but I was compensating a little. Running didn’t feel normal. I was wearing my Nike Hyperfeel trail shoes – which I thought would be good for the whole day, on and off the trail. But in the first 12, my feet were killing me. When my left foot was hurting more than my right foot (injured foot), I knew it was a shoe thing.

The first crew accessible aid station was at mile 11.5 – Polo fields. I meant to change my shoes. I forgot. I didn’t need food or water, so just kept going. I popped into some trails from there, then quickly realised I wouldn’t have crew at the next aid station. It would be 10 miles till I saw them again.

The shoes would go in and out of killing me and being ok. I hit a low point early. Somewhere after mile 15.Β  I was walking a lot. I know it’s 100 miles, but it was way too early for this kind of stuff. All I kept thinking is “Im not gonna make it.” and Mertsock was driving in from Rochester to pace me at mile 72…
It would be a waste of a drive.
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So here’s some stuff.

There are things I expect in every race. I expect at some points running will feel good. I expect those feelings of “running is awesome!” I expect to be able to run the downhills – cause those are what I LOVE. I expect ups and downs, and breakdowns. I expect the unexpected.

I went into this 100 with doubts of how far I would go. I injured my foot 10 days before. Nothing serious apparently because running 100k on it seemed to do it more good than harm. But that was my first “injury” from a freak foot twisting event on trails. Still – It kept me from running how I normally run. My form was off. I couldn’t run any uphills OR downhills. Having a lot of issues from the start of such a big race – had expectations at an all time low. I didn’t expect to finish.
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On to Shadow Lake – Mile 21.7

I saw Chris about a mile before the aid station – he was out getting in some miles. I told him I needed to change my shoes – which was good or I might’ve forgot again.

I sat down with the crew. I cried as we pulled my shoes off. They advised me to go with the Flyknit road shoes – which was a good call. I was sad. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to eat. Not that I didn’t feel good or anything – just was in a “what’s the point” mood.

I stood up and stared at the aid station for a bit. Stood some more. ok. Pickle. Cookie. M&M’s. Guess I’ll go.
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On to Egbert – Mile 26.5

I would be seeing crew again at Egbert. Only 5 miles away. My feet were feeling better, I still walked. A lot. I was in a dark place.

— I thought a lot about this dark spot. It was nothing about running. It brought up things in life. Things that convinced me that I’m the worst. That I’m a broken piece of human. —

I don’t remember much of this stretch. As I ran into the aid station Chris said I was looking better…. hmm ok.

Matt stuffed my phone into my Orange Mud vest – so they could track me via find my friends. Chris brought me food things I had forgotten about, which made me pretty happy. I wandered over to the aid station and took salt for the first time, and some pickles. I went back over and asked Jeff when I’d see them again….. 12 miles. Buh.
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On to Meadows – Mile 38.3

I walked for a bit out of Egbert. But I started running. Then I didn’t stop. I caught up to people who had passed me what felt like hours ago. I passed people I thought I’d never see again. Life wasn’t over. Thanks to crew. And carbs.

There was a long stretch on canal. Much longer than I expected. I was still cruising, it was sunny and hot. Things started hurting again, but I was still running. Part of me said this pace could hurt me later… part of me said – it probably won’t matter.

I rolled into Meadows around 12:30pm. Feeling like I could run till 72. I could make it to Mertsock. I could finish.

Chris handed me coconut water, and other things I hadn’t been thinking about. But he put them in front of me and I wanted them.

It would be 12 miles till I saw them again. 12 miles till Im half way done.
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On to Boston Mills – Mile 50

I lost momentum coming out of Meadows aid station. Feet were hurting. Right foot aching. Left foot had something going on under the Big toe nail. I got tired. Sleepy. I felt like I could lay out on the trail and be out. Something was missing. I walked a lot of the first 6 miles. I don’t remember the aid stations or what I ate in this stretch…. other than eventually eating 2 ginger chews cause I was bored. But it seemed within minutes of the ginger – a lot of pains went away, and I found myself running the next 6 miles.

I started to get excited. I had run parts of this trail with Jeff last year when we were waiting for Welden at mile 50. So things started to look familiar. I knew it’d be a few miles till I saw everyone again. I was getting close… then Welden was there! He was hanging out on the trail maybe a mile or less from the aid station, and ran in with me. Told me Mertsock was almost there.

Got in to 50 in 11 hours and 35 minutes. Was feeling great. Jeff said he was ready to hop in if I wanted a pacer. I didn’t know. He told me it’d be 16 miles before I would see crew again. I knew I would hit a low point. I knew it could be bad. I didn’t know if it would be better or worse with someone there. If there is someone who has seen me at my worst – it’s Jeff.

So yeah. Lets see what happens.

photo by Chris O'Brien

photo by Chris O’Brien

Grapes! at Mile 50. Photo by Chris O'Brien.

Grapes! at Mile 50. Photo by Chris O’Brien.

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On to Ledges – Mile 66.5

Jeff and I walked for a bit out of mile 50. Things felt like they had tightened up again, and momentum was gone. We had a long stretch on canal path that we walked a lot of with small run spirts. We got to a U-turn which put us back on some dirt, and started running more.

My big toe was getting hard to ignore. I was in a pretty good mood though. I was talking a lot. Happy to complain to Jeff about all things of the day and life. And he did an awesome job of listening.
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I expected my foot to be the reason I DNF. Then when my foot wasn’t getting any worse – I had no excuse. Could I DNF without an excuse. No. I would have to finish. I could walk all night – I was looking forward to the 24+ hour experience, whatever that entailed.
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Still to Ledges

We did some running. but I remember mostly walking. And at some point my mood had changed. My feet hurt. My toe was killing me. But it’s just a toe. It started to feel like the nail was getting looser – and something was definitely going on under it. I was also getting weird aches in my right upper calf.

We stopped at an unmanned aid station. I ate a gel and sat on a hill with my legs up. I could feel the circulation pulsing. It felt much-needed. It felt good.

Things didn’t change much from there though. Still had aches in my calf. Toe still hurt. I rolled my compression sock down – maybe it was a circulation thing. I was super low for a long time. Walking is so slow. Were not going to make it to Ledges before dark. We don’t have headlamps….

Then we heard voices. Our crew had ventured out on the trails from Pine Lane – where no crew was “allowed”.

We were very lucky to have them there. Got into the aid station. I wasn’t going to check out the toe – then Matt asked if we should look at it – cause… why not. I also wanted to get some different socks on.

It wasn’t too bad. Welden gave me a pin from his bib to poke at it. I poked under the nail – There was nothing. Poked at the side – some good stuff there. He cut open my flyknits to take the pressure off the toe.

At Pine Lane - Mile 59.7 Photo by Chris O'Brien

At Pine Lane – Mile 59.7
Photo by Chris O’Brien

Toe poking and Flyknit removal. Photo by Chris O'Brien.

Toe poking and Flyknit removal. Photo by Chris O’Brien.

Save the toe. RIP flyknits. (actually I'll probably still wear these)

Save the toe. RIP flyknits. (actually i’ll probably still wear these)

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STILL – on to Ledges.

The extra space was weird at first, but felt good. Problem solved. We had headlamps. I felt good. Water and nutrition was pretty on point all day. I never felt like I couldn’t eat, was never dehydrated. Never felt sick. I definitely don’t eat enough. I forget that 4 grapes and 8 M&Ms, and a couple of pickles isn’t a meal. I would eat between aid stations – which I forget to do in other races. But it would usually be 1 huma gel – or a ginger chew. But everyone is different. I’ve always felt better with less stuff in me.

I wanted to run now. The tightness in that right calf now felt like it was coming from under my knee. Soon it was just under my knee. It felt like a knot – I kept trying to rub it out. Jeff poked at it a little.

WHY. I wanted to run. I can ignore this – does it really hurt that much?

I guess it wasn’t a matter of pain. It was more that the muscle made running not possible. It wouldn’t allow it. It made walking stupid. I was up for walking 30 miles if I could walk a decent pace. But this was so dumb.
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In 100k – My injured foot is healed. My toe fixed. My Popliteal broken.
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The journey to Ledges continues.

We had 6 more miles till we would see crew again. I could make it there by cut off – which was 11:35PM.

We were lucky to have a lot of road and canal miles after the shoe dissection. I was worried about kicking roots, cause I was doing that all day.

We would try to run multiple times. It wouldn’t be a run. It would be walking pace. I would convince myself that I could force it. We would try again. Nope. So we walked.

I told Jeff I would walk it into Ledges then probably be done. The thought of it was heart breaking. My first DNF. I felt like I would never get over it. It was unacceptable. But this entire race was not how I wanted my first 100 to go, and I knew it wouldn’t be. It was not how I usually run – but I did the best with what I had. And my crew helped me inch forward and problem solve along the way.

It was dark. It felt like it’d been a long time. I asked Jeff what time it was – he said 9:something PM. I was surprised it was so late. We still had a couple of miles till we would get to Ledges – at this pace, I might not make the cut off anyway.

The course finally turns onto a trail. I walk a few feet onto it….

I can’t. I can’t pick my feet up enough to do handle a trail. I’m walking too slow. I’m done. I never made it to Ledges.
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The Escape.

We walked the path till it got to a “road”. We had been talking to Matt, and he was only minutes away. There was some adventuring involved in our escape – but it may be better to leave out those details.

Matt and Chris had both told me I should sit, and take some time before I stop for good. But I could tell this was something that wouldn’t go away. I’m good at knowing when im being lazy and when something has potential to change. But I couldn’t walk. and I wasn’t about to walk at a crawling pace for a few more hours just to miss a cutoff, and make whatever muscle that’s being dumb that much worse.

Now that it’s Monday – and my knee is still just as tight and un-walkable. I feel pretty good about my choice to stop where I did.
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Chris had asked me about my goals for this race before.

I told him just to see how far I could get – based on the pre-race foot injury.

I also told him I wanted to be able to run again this month.

I achieved one – 64ish miles in 17 something hours. and I’m sure I’ll achieve the running again this month thing. Seeing as im signed up to pace Jeff for Twisted Branch, and also racing Lucifer’s Crossing the day after. πŸ™‚
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It’s hard for me to drag people into these things and not finish or do what is planned. I want this stuff to be a great experience for everyone. But even in the unexpected and unplanned, and sleep deprivation – you learn things about yourself and your friends. Things that you need to work on, and things that just bring everyone closer together.
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Luckily we had Dan-o.

We met Chris and the rest of the gang at Pine Hollow – which would be mile 76 for Dan-o.
— I hadn’t seen Dan since the starting line – and was excited to follow him around the rest the night and morning.

I watched Dan-o come in – and take Welden. Then it would be hours before we’d see them again. Like 8 hours. I couldn’t imagine. It was getting cold.

I remembered picking up Daven here last year in the daylight – and 90 degrees – and running the next 20 miles… I couldn’t imagine this part at night.
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With hours to spare – we went to our hotel and got some sleep till about 3am. We would go catch Dan-o and his gang at mile 90. Then 95. Then off to the finish.

Dan-o at mile 90. Photo by Chris O'Brien.

Dan-o at mile 90. Photo by Chris O’Brien.

Walking to meet Dan for his last mile - to the finish. Photo by Chris O'Brien.

Walking to meet Dan for his last mile – to the finish. Photo by Chris O’Brien.

The gang. Walking the last mile and getting dropped by Dan-o.

The gang. Walking the last mile and getting dropped by Dan-o.

I knew I’d get dropped cause my stupid walking pace – but I was happy to be there the last mile. Happy to be at the finish. This race is awesome. Could use a few less roads and canals. but the trails are super fun.

Gang at the finish line. Photo by Chris O'Brien.

Gang at the finish line.
Photo by Chris O’Brien.

I knew some day I would experience a DNF. I knew 100 miles would increase the odds. I think I’m capable of a decent attempt. So until next time – this was fun.

The end.

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Things I used.

Orange Mud vest – Hydra Quiver
with a Ultimate Direction Bottle – Hand Held
— I used the hand held bottle in the orange mud vest so I can use the little pocket on the bottle for easy to access things. For this race – it was chapstick.

Road shoes would be fine for this race – if it’s always as dry as it was this year.
I used Nike FlyKnits.

Compression socks as well as my trail shoes –Β  have been fine for other ultras i’ve done. In NY. But something about Ohio – maybe the Location, different elevation/humidity. Legs and feet handled them differently/seemed to be more swollen.

Huma Gels. Awesome as always. I used 4 or 5 during this race.
Picky Bar. I ate two. 1 about 2 hours in. Another… somewhere between 30 and 50. ALways great.

Pickles. I had a pickle at almost every aid station.

Salt tabs. Starting taking salt somewhere around 25 miles. With A LOT of water.

Salt tab and pickle combo. Combo for success.

Grapes. are awesome. Ate these at almost every aid station after 25 miles.

Peanut M&M’s. Grabbed these as I would walk back out to the trail.

Dark Chocolate – I found dark chocolate with ginger. It was awesome. Had this at Mile 50.

Coconut water. Had regular coconut water around mile 25.

Chocolate coconut water. Had this around mile 50.

Home made energy bars. With dark chocolate, molasses, honey, raisins, gluten free oats and rice crispies, coffee beans and coco nibs. Had this at 25 and 50.

Ginger chews. I ate 4 during the day. Out of boredom.

I think that’s it.

oh yeah – 1 freezee pop.

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Cayuga Trails 50

I volunteered at Ontario Summit Trail Marathon (and half marathon) on Saturday. Watched my crew and other great people run, crush, and suffer through a brutal course and ridiculously humid and hot day. Hung out in the woods for 8 hours. Tried to keep hydrated while hydrating others. It was awesome.

My stomach was not awesome. As Saturday went on, my stomach felt more like poop. It became the only thing I worried about for Cayuga. If my stomach could feel normal again, I’d be good to go. I eventually left Ontario Summit Races to drive to Ithaca and picked up my race packet. Matt B followed me. We then drove to the motel (Grahaven) which was super awesome, and the rest of the crew eventually arrived. Next step was food. I was scared to eat because of the state of my stomach. But burritos happened anyway.

I convinced Matt to drive us to wegmans. I bought some Kambucha and pepto. Kambucha does amazing things. Sleep happened sometime around 12am, or later… don’t remember.

2:30am came fast. Got ready. Coffee and oatmeal. Left for Robert Treman State Park by 5am.
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Race start: No time goals. The week coming up to this day consisted of me figuring out what my goal should be. I needed a simple a goal. I wanted to think about it as little as possible. So I decided I wanted to feel good for more than half of this race. That was the goal.

Matt B taking pics of me at the start.

Matt B taking pics of me at the start.

I started easy. Felt comfortable through the first 2 aid stations. Just after getting through the underpass aid station, you run through some water. I proceeded without caution. Unknowing that it would be 3 feet deep. I fell. Both calf’s cramped up. I couldn’t move. I sat in the water holding my legs, while I was surrounded by photographers, and runners asking if I was ok. Apparently my face of pain, looked like I was laughing. Two guys behind me grabbed me by the arms and helped me up, told me I had to keep moving. People are awesome. That was mile 7/8ish. I was convinced my race was over, I was in for a day of suffering.

About a mile or less later, you come to the first huge climb. My calf’s were still tight. I used the 550 ft climb to stretch them out, which actually worked really well.

First 8 miles. (GPS was off by 3 ish miles by the end of the race)

First 8 miles. (GPS was off by 3 ish miles by the end of the race)

It’s hard to remember little details after that. Around mile 12 you go down the 500 ft of stairs. My only thought was that I would eventually have to go up this twice. Great.

Eventually I stopped being conservative, and would run hard when I felt good. Walk hills when I had to. Walk stairs.
9_31
I found myself being able to run for long stretches. There were long periods of downhill running, which was super fun. Most of the course was completely runnable. All of it was beautiful. I took in every second of it – loved almost every minute.
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My goal of feeling good for 50k was succesful. But barely made it. I fell apart between underpass aid station and Buttermilk the second time. I wasn’t looking at my watch at all until now. I looked and expected to see 36 or so miles. My watch said 32. It had to be wrong.

There was a distinguished moment where I felt tired. Sleepy. I knew it was a food thing. It started pouring. I got cold. I got sad. Where was Coach. Where was buttermilk? Why is this taking so long… I thought about my crew. I thought about #trailsroc. All I wanted to do was stop, and curl up in a ball and cry.

I was a mess. I really didn’t want people to see me like this. I knew any minute I would get there, so I’d pull myself together, but fall apart again. Things started looking familiar, I heard things. I was close. I turned a corner and Mike was waiting for me. He asked me something, I managed some noises and tried to smile. Saw Matt B next, then Chris and Jeff. There was one thing I kept thinking about coming up to this. I think this is a Dean quote.

“The ultramarathon doesn’t build character, it reveals it…. no communication is ever more real, no expression ever more honest.”

I thought of this when I felt good, when I felt sad. And every time it made it hard to breath. Everytime I thought about Mike Welden. Matt Bertrand. Chris O’Brien. Jeff Green. 4 people who were following me through the woods all day. Made it to every aid station – Twice. Never missed me. Overwhelming amount of love I feel for these people.
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The cheers from #trailsroc made me totally forget I wanted to sit down. I told Ron I was freaking out. Told Matt I think I needed my gloves. Mike ran and got them for me. I stood there holding them with useless swollen, and wet hands. Matt failed at putting them on for me. Danielle Snyder succeeded. I don’t remember much of what was said there – but I remember it being pretty hilarious. I stole a salt tab, pickle, m&m’s and a couple of oreos – and was on my way again. It was gonna be a long 13 mile walk back to the finish… so I thought.
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The trail back from Buttermilk aid station was pretty much all down hill. At some point I started running, and didn’t stop until I got to back to underpass. I was feeling good. Mike gave me the last salt tab. I think I had a few terra chips. Probably some more Oreos. Crew told me I could break 10 hours. I wanted to. It’d be close, but I knew the stairs were coming up soon. I told the crew I was about to go crawl up them – I was serious.

I ran most of the way to the epic stair climb. I hugged the side of the stairs, using my hands to take the weight off my legs. Walked up sideways. Told innocent bystanders to not mind my ridiculousness. Where were photographers now? Why didn’t I crawl up the first time? This was so much easier, and the stairs flew by.
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I couldn’t remember if there was another aid station after the stairs, or if I was in for the home stretch. But soon enough I was at Old Mill aid station. I flew by the crew. Heard Mike say some words like “take it” or something. Ok. I didn’t stop. Ran by the aid station. These last few miles were all downhill… supposedly. I wanted sub 10. There were hills. I ran up them. Then there were more stairs… I looked at my watch. Not gonna happen. But I tried to get as close as possible.
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I had passed this guy from Toronto after the last aid station – and he eventually caught back up to me. He asked me what I ate at the last aid station to make me fly by him. I said nothing. But I said I had a pickle earlier. We ran together for the last 2 miles, and I pulled ahead of him for the finish. Finishing didn’t seem real. This day didn’t seem real. Finish time said 10:08.

Photo by Matt B

Photo by Matt B

Things I fueled with (I can’t remember what order):
Picky bar was first (after 45 minutes).
Water. A chocolate cliff gel. Half of another picky bar.
Oreos. M&M’s. Salt tabs and more water. Lots of water.
1 pickle. Terra chips.

Things I learned:
– Being able to laugh at yourself, and find humor in the hardest obstacles is a powerful tool. The minute you feel sorry for yourself, you lose.
– I recognised that my emotional state was a lack of calories.
Knowing this helped me keep moving, and once I replaced the sugar and salt,
I was good to go.
– Make simple goals.

Things I should have done different:
– Eat more pickles.
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After I finished I went to return my tracking chip. USL.TV had live tracking and broadcasting of the event. They asked if I would do a quick interview. I struggled with the idea of talking… but sure. Why not. I did plenty of embarrassing, and ridiculous things already… whats one more.

Photo thanks to creeper Chris :p

Photo thanks to creeper Chris :p


I’m overwhelmed with the amount of support I had at the event and from home. I learned that Kyle and his parents were all watching the live tracking, and videos. His parents had seen me on the screen a few times.

If Facebook could explode – it did on Sunday. I wanted to sit there are “like” every single comment. Thank every single person. But a “like” and thank you didn’t seem like enough. Instead… no words. No words can describe the weekend, other than … Not real. Rochester is awesome. #trailsroc and Medved, Roads are poisen, Trailmethods – Thank you – I’d be a lonely runner without you.

Listen to your running Coach.

It’s not very often i’ll re-post something, or share something on Facebook. But when Picky Bars shared this article from Runner World, I actually read it. I like Lauren Fleshman. I like that she made mistakes. I like the advice that’s in this. So you should probably read the whole thing – but im gonna pick out the cool stuff.

Why you should listen to your running coach? – By Lauren Fleshman

  • Consistency wins. The key to becoming great, he [University of Colorado coach Mark Wetmore] said, isn’t found on the edges of training, diet, science, or technology. The key is consistent, uninterrupted training.
  • I went on to lose eight pounds… I lived like a Kenyan (that is, my fantasy of a Kenyan’s life). I severed relationships. I stopped listening to my body. I tried to will myself to the next level.
    The very week after running into Wetmore at Stanford, I broke my foot, and his words haunted me for three years until things finally clicked.
  • Back when I was a little softer, stayed up late with friends occasionally, slowed my paces down or skipped a run when I was extremely tired, I was a force.
  • Being consistently “pretty awesome” beats “amazingly awesome” because amazingly awesome rarely makes it to the starting line.
  • There’s no magic training program. “Stop looking at what everyone else is doing all the time: It’s annoying, not to mention it makes you incapable of optimizing what you’ve got.”
  • Eat more bacon. It took me years to realize that you don’t have to have a “bad list” of foods so long as you eat appropriate portion sizes.

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I’m still trying to figure out the food thing. I say im going to cut out sugar, or junk food all the time. When in reality “junk food” is usually trail mix. Trail mix isn’t the worst thing in the world. (I have an addiction). When your running for a few hours day – or 12 hours a week… food isn’t something you should put a limit on. Variety and portions tho – that’s important.

I would normally skip a run if I felt extremely tired. I listened to my training plan instead of my body this winter, and slugged out a 15 miler after a week of feeling exhausted, tired, and probably dehydrated from tons of Bikram yoga. The week after I was sick. When you start running and immediately want to stop… it’s probably more beneficial to go take a nap.

The winter helped me slow down a bit. You don’t always have to run fast. Slow easy runs doesn’t mean you’re a slow runner – probably just means your smart.
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If you haven’t tried Picky Bars – you should. I joined the Picky Club… last year? I dunno – a while ago. They’ve been a part of every long run, or every race so far this year. I have yet to feel anything but normal after eating one before or during a run. I had one during our 50k training run this past weekend (5k+ elevation), yes there was also a lot of hiking…. but I never once felt like I was hitting a wall. Which was a first. I’m excited to truly put them to the test in a week or so – during Mind the Ducks 12 hour. Then Cayuga 50.

Matched my hair to my Picky Bar.

Matched my hair to my Picky Bar.

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So yeah. Listen to your running coach. If you don’t have one – get one. (J/K). If you don’t have one, usually there’s smart people around to listen to. Just because one week feels terrible, doesn’t mean you’ve lost fitness, or taken steps back in training. It’s all part of the process apparently. Like Lauren said “I am finding myself increasingly reflective of my early runner years, able to see which seemingly insignificant moments turned out to be critically important turning points.”

It’ll be interesting to see how this year goes. Thanks to having a coach – I’ve already ran over half of last years total mileage. I ran my first 65+ mileage week – pretty much all on trails. I’m about to run 2 ultras in 1 month. Here’s some cool stuff from Strava to look at:

Last weeks Mileage

Last weeks Mileage

Last 4 weeks

Last 4 weeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m currently enjoying cutback week (the beginning of every month). I’ll be racing Medved Madness this weekend. I felt like I needed one more trail race to feel better about going into Cayuga. Rather than going into it after a bunch of road stuff. We’ll see.

That’s all. I’m late for work.
Not really.

The end.