It was a surprising weekend at Green Lakes State Park, which is located in Fayetteville, NY right outside of Syracuse NY.
After deciding to register for the Grindstone 100 Mile Endurance run in Virginia, I had to kick my training schedule into high gear, meaning that I had to increase my mileage and intensity, step up my stretching and strengthening game so I looked to the ultra running calendar online to see if there were any local races around that I could participate in so that I could have a supported long training run. I wanted and needed the confidence of knowing I could complete a 62.5 mile race going into a 100 miler especially after a weird start to the season with my concussion at Bear Mountain and a DNF at Miwok 100k.
I read the course description and was surprised and also kind of freaked out to read the course was in loops, which is pretty common in the ultra world but I never had completed a looped ultra. To me it didn’t make sense to run in loops and I had told myself years ago that I would never run an ultra in loops, but I needed the long supported run so I embraced the challenge.Generally when I have a pre-planned race I have a taper period but since this wasn’t pre-planned, I scheduled it as long training run. Going into the race I had 50 miles on my legs for the week and a weird pain in my hip that I thought may end my race before it began but of course, having my own fitness expert & coach on hand, I knew I was going to be ok. Joe had me foam roll certain areas, stretch others and activate important one’s in which would allow me to safely push my limits. Because of him I was able to put my best foot forward.
Morning of the green lakes 100k I felt great! Mentally I was totally positive and ready to embrace the 8 loops of 7.77 miles. A low key group of people gathered at the starting line, I recognized a women from another race so I struck up conversation. I always like to meet and talk with people during long races, it makes the time go by a little quicker and its always nice to hear stories of others adventures. Zsusanna and I ran together for an entire loop chatting and laughing, it was great since she lives in NJ; I may have a new training partner, how fun!
The course was beautiful, the trail skirted around 2 stunning turquoise lakes just before we started climbing through an old growth forest up to an area that I now know as the Serengeti. We were totally exposed to the blaring sun, the temperature rose to 85 plus and with the high humidity you really felt like you were in Africa. The beautiful wild flowers and the high grasses greeted us for what was a long stretch and seemed to be forever before we reached the second aid station. The second aid station marked the halfway point and a much needed mental boost.Every time I reached the second aid station I was eager to get out of the sun and back down to the shaded portion of the trail, where we were protected under the canopy of the trees.
I felt that I ran the first loop a little too quickly when I heard my time and thought to myself that I needed to slow down because bad things can happen if you go out to fast during an ultra. After the first loop, I thought to myself; I can do this, just one lap at a time. Joe was my crew and would be at the start line, which was the first aid station. Rarely do I use aid stations, I have found they usually don’t have what I like. During my time of training and racing I have figured out what works best for me and what does not. At times I may use drop bags or an occasional aid station if I have to but it’s a rarity because I’m lucky enough to have Joe there to aid me with my specific nutritional needs. I like my transitions through aid stations to be pretty quick. I rarely feel the need to sit down or hang out. Joe and I have a pretty good system, he hands off my water bottle, I take a salt cap, grab some sport gels and I’m off. Every time I would leave the aid station I would let Joe know what to have ready for me on the next loop; I feel simplicity and efficiency is best when heading in and out of a transition area. Spending too much time at an aid station can take you out of the race. I personally like to stay in my zone, a far off place where pain and weakness doesn’t exist. I just feel the need to keep moving forward, no matter what.
Running in loops in a state park was so much more interesting then I thought it was going to be, I actually never got bored. The beauty and contrast between running almost completely alone in the Serengeti to being surrounded by groups of people recreating was very motivating. When I was approaching the 1st lake I would kick it into high gear then came the 2nd lake and I knew the loop was almost complete and I knew another lap would be completed. It was quite funny; here we are racing for 8 plus hours pushing ourselves to our limits, while people were living there normal day to day lives, families with their pets, local runners blazing by, sunbathers at the beach, people barbecuing, drinking beers, enjoying life, little did they know 100 or so people were competing in not only a race but an ultra marathon. We were enjoying life in a different way by placing one foot in front of the other, eating sport gels instead of burgers and Gatorade instead of beer. An 8 to 14 hour period of life celebrated in completely different ways.
Going into the 4th loop I briefly started to wonder what place I was in, just out of curiosity I asked the wonderful guys at the second aid station, who graciously would unscrew my water bottle cap off and spray me down with cool water after each lap. The fella said that I was in 2nd and the 1st place women was just 10 minutes ahead or so.I thought Oh, hmmm… that’s cool I’m in second, nice! I was still feeling great but of course during an ultra anything can happen especially when you have 31 miles left to run. I headed down to the lakes feeling pretty good still smiling and I have to admit a little psyched to be in second. I was approaching the end of the lap and the first aid station and I swear I almost took a hotdog from someone’s barbeque, the smells were so enticing and the beers looked so cold and refreshing.
I don’t even eat hotdogs but to me they were starting to smell and look like the finest steak out there. When I got to the aid station I was drooling from hunger and looking forward to my peanut butter, banana & honey sandwich. I asked Joe what my lap time was and how far off I was from the leader. He told me my time and I still thought I was going a bit to fast but I felt great, then he said I was just 7 minutes behind the leader. The race seemed to be getting interesting so I asked Joe how did she look and he said exactly what I wanted to hear; not as strong as you. All of a sudden, I thought well I’m feeling good so why not embrace your competitive spirit, which I never really allow myself to so because generally I do these things just to finish, to learn new things about myself, to explore new trails and to push my limits of endurance.So I headed out on yet another loop, kind of not to eager to feel the heat of the Serengeti, which was the toughest part of the race for most.
Woof…. made it to the 2nd aid station again! Every time I got there I thought to myself; I can’t wait until I have to see you guys for the last time…ha-ha. As I approached the aid station I saw a women, I wasn’t sure if she was in participating in the 100k or the 50k. Sure enough she was the 1st place women, as I was running in she was on her way out. I smiled at her and she asked how I was feeling and I said fantastic so she said you can take the lead from here but at that moment I let her go. I took my time at the aid station, filled my bottle, re-fueled, thanked the guys and took off.
I could see the leader off in the distance, she kept getting closer, as I passed her we had another exchange, I invited her to come with me as motivation for her and myself. I said that I love to talk and get to know other people on the trail but she declined because she wanted to move slower in the heat. She also asked if I had completed this race distance before and I said yes I have, many times. All of a sudden I found myself in the lead position which is a little nerve racking with 20 miles left or so, but whatever, I didn’t really think of it again, I just enjoyed and ran my own race. Then not before long I was on my last lap headed into the finish line feeling great!!!I ended up winning and coming in 3rd overall. I had a great honor of meeting one the greats in our sport Vlamir Nunes from Santos, Brazil he is the current record holder of the Badwater 135 Endurance Run and blew this race course to pieces with the time of 8:22.31, his smile and modesty is what this sport is all about, he is a true inspiration.