Running with the Hayneses

TARC Fells Trail Ultra Recap

The race directors describe the TARC Fells Trail Ultra as “a nightmarish course of rocks and roots with a bit of elevation thrown in”. When I registered for the race, I was sure that this was an exaggeration–how hard could a trail in the middle of the Boston suburbs be? I soon found out, about .25 miles into the race to be exact, that it was every bit as nightmarish as they said. The trail was extremely technical, was downright treacherous in the wet weather, and since I rarely had the luxury of taking my eyes off my feet, it was also terribly difficult to follow the course. And even though there weren’t any significant climbs, the constant ups and downs on steep, rocky ledges took their toll.

I signed up for the 32-mile race, which would require 4 laps of the 8-mile Skyline Trail loop. We all had the choice of running the loop in either direction, but I chose to go clockwise on all 4 laps because that way I would have more steep uphills and gradual downhills, which play to my strengths.

Lap 1

The weather was fairly pleasant at the start with mild temps and misty air, but there was the looming threat of rain. I started the race at the back of the pack because I was finishing up my race preparations as we were called to line up. As a result, I spent the first couple of miles carefully watching for opportunities to pass slower runners on the narrow singletrack trail. Then, just like that, I was alone with no one in sight ahead or behind me, and my mental focus slipped. I spent the majority of my first lap worrying about falling on the slippery rocks, worrying about getting off course, worrying about how slow my pace was and just generally not enjoying myself. The trail was much more difficult than I was expecting, and it was totally psyching me out.

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 * All photos by Douglyss Giuliana

I came to the halfway aid station and was briefly cheered to see that I wasn’t the last human on earth after all, then I headed back out into the woods alone again. After that the trail got a bit easier, and eventually I came to a flat, wide trail and really got into a good running rhythm. I was going along nicely, thinking about how great it was to finally be able to really run, when I suddenly realized that it had been a long time since I’d looked for a trail marker. I started looking, and those white blazes that were supposed to mark the trees every 30 yards were nowhere to be seen. Somehow my nightmares had come true–I was lost.

I started back-tracking and soon ran into more people who had made the same mistake, which made me feel a little better about myself. When we finally found the point where we had missed the turn, I figured that I had just added over a mile to my race. This could have been devastating, but it was more of a realization that I was not the only one out there having a tough time. Other people were getting lost and slipping on the rocks, too. I told myself that this race was not about finishing fast, but about surviving long enough to finish. That change in focus shifted my mood, and I was able to relax and feel more comfortable.

Lap 2

Going into lap 2 I was feeling much more confident now that I was semi-familiar with the trail, and I also was happy to have the company of a runner going a similar pace. We leap-frogged a lot throughout the rest of the race, and it was good to have a buddy as well as a motivation to push my pace. I missed a turn early on this time around, but quickly realized that I was off course and didn’t lose any significant time.

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I enjoyed the fact that I sort of knew what to expect from the course now. I knew that the first 4 miles were pretty treacherous–lots of ups and downs on steep, slippery ledges–but that the second half of the loop had less ledge, some flat double-track and long, gradual downhills. I knew that the aid station was actually closer to two-thirds of the way around the loop, not halfway. I knew that there were too many big puddles and streams to bother trying to keep my shoes dry. I knew that I had to watch for that tricky turn near the reservoir, and I knew that from there to the end it was easy running.

Lap 3

I made a quick stop at the aid station to re-fill my hydration pack and decided to leave my gloves with my drop bag since I had carried them for two laps without needing them. Unfortunately, it started raining steadily soon after I started my third lap, and soon my jacket was drenched and clinging to my bare arms. I had been comfortable and happy with my clothing choices up until that point, but suddenly I was freezing and my arms and hands were going numb. I wished I had kept my gloves! I drank some hot broth at the halfway station, but that didn’t do anything to warm me up, and I knew I needed to keep running or I’d get even colder. Then I remembered that I had stashed my arm warmers in my pack after taking them off earlier in the race. It took me a few minutes with my numb hands and wet arms to get them on, but it was worth it because I immediately warmed back up and was comfortable again.

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Other than that minor hiccup, this lap went really well–I wasn’t getting tired, I wasn’t in pain, I wasn’t sick of running, and I think it’s because my nutrition intake was spot on. I was using my own mixture of Heed and Perpetuem as my primary calorie source and just supplementing with a tasty treat at each aid station. I was also experimenting with some of Hammer’s supplements to help keep me going strong and steady. I had never used them before in a race, but I think they worked like a charm! In case you’re interested, these are my secret weapons: Anti-Fatigue Caps, Endurance Aminos and Tissue Rejuvenator.

Lap 4

As I set out on my last lap I had a pretty good notion that I was either in the lead or close to it for the women’s race. As always, this fueled my competitive spirit and made me push hard for that last 8 miles. I celebrated every time I went through a particularly nasty section by telling myself, “That’s the last time I’ll have to do that!”

I crossed paths with Peter near the end of my lap because he had chosen to do the last lap of his 40-miler counter-clockwise. It was nice to see him, but he wanted to stop and chat, and I was in conquer-and-destroy mode. I yelled out something about trying to win the race and told him I’d see him at the finish! :)

I ran the last couple of miles pretty hard, knowing that I was almost done and the terrain was easy. I finished in 7 hours and 20 minutes, and was happy to discover that I was 10th overall finisher and the 1st woman!

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This is the first time that I’ve actually won a race–I’ve tied for first, and I’ve come in second or third many times, but I’ve never had that top spot all to myself, so that feels pretty satisfying. :) I had a great race, and after getting out of the funk I was in during the first lap, I really enjoyed myself. It was a challenging race for sure, but that just makes crossing the finish line that much sweeter!

 

 

Thanksgiving with the Fam and Race Prep

Yikes, I neglected to post last week! But that’s because I was hanging out with this adorable little man all week! :)

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My sisters and their husbands were all here for Thanksgiving week, and I got to meet my nephew, Landon, for the first time! He had a great time with all his aunties and uncles, and I think it’s safe to say we spoiled him rotten! :)

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 Landon with his mommy and aunties!

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Landon with his daddy and uncles!

When we weren’t snuggling Landon, we did our usual Haynes thing and partook in all manner of physical activity. :) Since we got 10 inches of snow the day before Thanksgiving, that involved A LOT of skiing and snowshoeing, as well as running and some T25!

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Our backyard during the snowstorm.

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Skiing through the woods the next day.

Most of our snow has melted now (sad), and the sibs have all gone back to their homes (very sad!), but Peter and I have a big race that we’re looking forward to this weekend! I’ve been preparing in small ways all week by planning out what I’m going to wear, packing my drop bag and breaking in my new shoes.

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There’s nothing like a new pair of Hokas! :)

The build-up to this race has been a little stressful for me because I injured my Achilles 3 weeks ago and for a little while there I wasn’t sure if it was going to be worth even attempting to run 32 miles this weekend! Thankfully, the injury healed quickly–in just 12 days I went from not being able to run at all to running 15 miles with no pain. Unfortunately, since this happened so close to race day, I didn’t dare try to squeeze in another long run, so I’m not quite sure what 32 miles is going to do to me, but I feel pretty confident that I am ready for it.

We’re also not at all sure what this race course has in store for us either, but if the trail conditions there are anything like what we’ve got here, then we’re in for a nasty mix of snow, ice, mud, puddles and running water. Oh, and as an added bonus, it’s supposed to rain all day. Good thing we have plenty of experience training in these exact conditions. New Hampshire winters are not for wimpy runners! :)

32 miles of running through the worst that nature can possibly throw at us? We’re ready! :) See you on the other side!

Win, Win, Win, FAIL

 

Fueling with Perpetuem and Heed

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, I’ve discovered through trial and error that my body absolutely refuses to digest protein during high-intensity long runs. Perpetuem, a carb-protein drink, has always been my fuel of choice for endurance events, but recently I’ve found that the protein in it can cause my digestive system to completely shut down. Since you need to consume some protein (it should make up 5-15% of your caloric intake) during long runs to prevent your body from cannibalizing lean muscle protein, I have been working on finding a happy medium that my stomach can handle. This past weekend, I finally got a chance to try fueling with a mix of Perpetuem and Heed, a carb-electrolyte drink, on a fast-paced long run. I mixed the Perpetuem at half-strength and added the Heed to make up the difference. The lower concentration of protein, which accounted for about 5% of my calories, seemed to work just fine, and I had no digestive issues. WIN!

100 Calorie/Hour Liquid Diet

Hammer Nutrition, my source for all things fuel and recovery-related, recommends fueling exclusively with liquids during endurance events up to 12 hours long. The reasoning behind this is that liquids are easier to consume and easier to digest than solid foods, thus saving you time and energy. Also, Hammer suggests that the average-sized athlete should take in no more than 120-150 calories per hour (or less for lighter weight athletes) because this is all that your body is capable of processing. (You can check out their advice for yourself HERE.) I’ve never tried this approach, but it makes sense, so I decided to give it a shot. I figured that my 30-mile run would take me about 5 hours, so I mixed my Perpetuem and Heed accordingly. I brought along a flask of gel and a bar just in case, but never ended up needing them. I never felt hungry or like my energy was fading. WIN!

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A cold, but beautiful day for a run!

Running with a Neuroma

Two weeks ago I randomly damaged a nerve in my foot while walking around my house! I was simply walking from room to room tidying things up, and all of a sudden, I felt this explosion of pain as I pushed off my right foot. I know, THE MOST ridiculous injury ever! At this point I’ve just accepted the fact that if there’s a foot injury out there, I’m going to get it at some point for one inexplicable reason or another. Anyways, for a couple days, the neuroma was super tender, and I had to be really careful how I walked. My athletic-trainer-sister, Hannah, advised me to cut a hole in my insole under the tender spot to take the pressure off of it, and that worked wonders. With my modified insole I was able to run normally without any pain. I did a 17-miler last weekend with no problem, but I wasn’t sure how it would hold up to a LONG run, and since I have an ultra race coming up in a few weeks, it was time to find out. You probably think this is the part of the run where everything fell to pieces, but no, the neuroma was just fine (WIN!), though I only got to test it as far as 24 miles because I had an…

Achilles Tendon Tear

Yep. About 12 miles into our run, my Achilles started feeling really tight all of a sudden. I’ve had a long history of Achilles problems, so I knew this was not something to mess around with. I decided to abort the mission to run 30 miles and turn back immediately. I stopped to stretch often, but my Achilles kept getting worse and worse. I ended up walking the entire last mile because my Achilles was so trashed that I could no longer push off hard enough to maintain a running stride. So in the end I destroyed my Achilles over a run that was neither long enough or fast enough to be a worthwhile training run for my race. That is what I call a complete and utter FAIL.

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The good news is that I have successfully rehabbed both my Achilles tendons in the past, and I know I can do it again. The bad news is that it takes time, and I now have 2.5 weeks until my 50K on Dec. 5th. I don’t know if that’s enough time to recover and rebuild enough to run that far without risking a relapse. I guess we’ll find out!

 

The Best and The Worst of New Haven, CT

 

This Saturday’s long run is brought to you by IKEA of New Haven, CT. What started out as a simple desire on my part to buy a new desk and bookshelf for our home office, unexpectedly morphed into a marathon day of driving, shopping and running. Let me explain:

I found the perfect office furniture on the IKEA website. However, our closest IKEA is almost 3 hours away, so basically I’d have to go to the moon and back to get that office furniture. I figured it was not likely I would survive such a trip on my own, so I asked Jaime if she wanted to join me. She jumped at the chance, but warned me that she would have a LARGE shopping list. Since I only had a couple of things to get, and I didn’t want to spend my whole day wandering around IKEA and making impulse buys, I decided to use the extra time to get in a run. Jaime assured me that she would have no problem shopping for as long as I wanted to run, so I planned a 15-mile route around the Port of New Haven.

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The run started out really well–I ran along Long Wharf (above), which connected to a short trail through a nature preserve (below).

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After that my plan was to run on the streets that parallel the ocean, but I got detoured because of construction and soon found myself in a neighborhood in which it was painfully obvious that I was a minority. It seemed to be a respectable neighborhood, but I felt distinctly out of my comfort zone, so I decided to turn around before I unwittingly wandered into a non-respectable neighborhood!

I ran back to Long Wharf, and from there I decided to cross the bridge over the port and run alongside the opposite shore. I had much better luck on that side and ended  up running through three beautiful city parks along the way:

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East Shore Park

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Fort Hale Park

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Forbes Bluff

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Pardee Seawall

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Lighthouse Point

I turned around at Lighthouse Point and retraced my steps. I had gone 11 miles total and figured I had about 5 to go. The miles ticked by quickly as I went back through one scenic park after another, and before I knew it, I was back to the bridge.

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I caught the sunset on my way across and was glad that I only had about a mile to go in the fading light. Unfortunately, I missed a turn shortly after the bridge and found myself wandering into questionable territory again. Then, I ran under an overpass where a homeless man was camping out, which lit a fire under my feet! :) Thankfully I wasn’t very far off-track, and I did quickly find my way safely back to where I needed to be. I ended my impromptu, 17-mile tour of the best and worst of New Haven feeling grateful and relieved.

An Experiment

 

This past weekend I conducted an experiment with the goal of finding a way to avoid the stomach issues I’ve been having lately. Up until now I’ve always used Hammer Nutrition’s Perpetuem and Gel on my long runs, and it usually works just fine at a slow pace, but when I crank up the intensity, my stomach shuts down. So I spent some time over the past week on the Hammer website researching their various fuel options and came up with a plan.

I think that the root of my problem is the protein in Perpetuem. Hammer advises that athletes exercising for longer than 3 hours should be aiming for 5-15% of their caloric intake to come from protein to prevent lean muscle tissue cannibalization. (Full-strength Perpetuem, which is what I’ve been using, has about 10% protein calories.) The tricky thing is that protein is difficult/impossible to digest when your body is working hard, so some of us need to experiment with lower-protein options.

First, I wanted to verify my theory that it is the protein that is causing my stomach to rebel, so I decided to do a long, fast run using another Hammer product, Heed, that does NOT contain protein. We ran on a local rail trail so that we could maintain a consistently uncomfortable fast pace to really test my stomach.

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I’m happy to say that the experiment was a success! We ran 18 miles at a much-faster-than-normal pace, and I never felt hungry or nauseous! Next my plan is to see if my stomach can handle Perpetuem mixed at half-strength and combined with Heed, which would give me enough protein to account for 5% of my calories. I’ll let you know how that test goes, but for now, here are some more pictures from our trail run:

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The most notable feature of this trails is it’s bridges. We had the privilege of running through two of the seven remaining covered railroad bridges in the country.

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 There are several metal truss bridges along the trail as well.

 

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The rail trail parallels the Sugar River, which makes for beautiful scenery the entire way.

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And even though the trees are bare and the skies are gray, there are still bits of foliage here and there to provide welcome pops of color.

 

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I haven’t run on this trail in a long time, and I tend to think of it as “boring” since it’s flat, wide and straight. It also has the unfortunate happenstance of being the trail where I did almost all of my long runs while I was training for my first marathon, so I have lots of awful associations of pain and suffering when I think about running on this trail. This weekend I forgot about all those associations and appreciated the trail for what it is: a unique beauty.

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How lucky are we that this is the most boring and undesirable trail we have to run on?!

Happy Birthday to Me!

 

To celebrate my birthday this year the only thing I wanted to do was to run my age. Oh, and eat cake. :) When I posted on Facebook this past weekend that I planned to run 31 miles to celebrate turning 31 years old, my mom commented that after my run I should eat 31 pieces of cake! I promptly revised my birthday goals to include this suggestion. :)

Unfortunately, I did NOT meet my cake quota (though so far I’ve had 4 pieces in 3 days, so that’s not too shabby!), but I DID run my age for the first time ever!

Peter and I drove to Bear Brook State Park on Saturday morning where we set out on the most epic birthday celebration I’ve ever experienced.

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I had planned out a huge 28-ish mile loop, mostly following the course for the Bear Brook Trail Marathon that takes place in July, and we figured that at the end we’d repeat the first part of the loop to add on whatever mileage we still needed. The trails were mostly really well-marked, but we did get off course a few times, so I was glad that we had that mileage buffer.

We enjoyed a BEAUTIFUL morning with the sun streaming through the trees, lighting up the remaining foliage.

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Most of the trails are in the woods, but we ran a loop around this very scenic beaver pond about halfway through.

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We kept a really good pace for the first couple of hours, averaging 5.5 miles per hour. The trails were very runable with no significant climbs or technical terrain, so we hoped to complete our run in less than 6 hours if all went well.

Unfortunately, all did NOT go well at all. Partway into our 3rd hour, my stomach started rebelling. BIG TIME. As in total digestive shutdown. I felt like I was starving, but also like I would throw up if I jostled my poor bulging stomach even the tiniest bit. Wait, am I re-writing my Joe English Twilight Challenge Recap? It feels like it… :/

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When I first started feeling awful–notice how far ahead of me Peter is. :/

We spent the next couple of hours crawling ever so slowly up and then down Hall Mountain. I actually stopped twice to lay down for several minutes hoping that my stomach would calm down.

No such luck. After a few pity-party tears (I was so miserable but so desperately wanted to complete this run), I finally decided we needed to bail out and make a beeline for our car.

Even with making a “beeline” we were still several miles away, but as the miles slowly ticked by I started to feel ever so slightly better. I even perked up enough to take a picture of this pretty little pond:

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 Hayes Marsh

Soon after that I started revising our revised plan as it appeared that 31 miles was within the realm of possibility after all! We decided to continue to the car, where I could get some bread and water (I didn’t dare eat or drink anything else), and then head back out for an additional 6 miles to complete our goal of 31 for the day.

For our last stretch we chose a route that went up and down Catamount Mtn. This was a pretty short climb, but it was fairly rocky and steep, particularly near the top of the mountain. There were two lookouts at the top where we rewarded with a nice view!

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We did a bit of meandering on our way back to the car to make sure we got in the appropriate mileage, and finally ended up at the parking lot by Catamount Pond about 6.5 hours after we started at Catamount Pond.

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 We were tired but grateful for the journey we had completed together.

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Happy Birthday to Me! :)

Siblings Weekend in Minneapolis

 

Sarah and Jared are expecting their first baby any day now, so I went out to Minneapolis this past weekend to visit them, hoping to be there for the birth of my nephew! Alas, it was not meant to be, but since Hannah and Lucky were there as well, we made the most of the rare chance to all be together!

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And of course whenever we get together, you know there is going to be a fair amount of running involved! :) Sarah and Jared live right up the street from a chain of lakes which are part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway system. The four lakes are all bordered by paved paths, and they are THE place to run in Minneapolis. :)

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On Friday, my first full day there, Hannah and I got up early and headed out for a “quick” run. Our plan was to run around Lake Calhoun and then Lake of the Isles, which would be about 6 miles. We figured we could do that and be back in time to eat breakfast with everyone before Lucky and Jared went to work. Welllllllll, we sort of lost our bearings (everything looked the same!), and accidentally did TWO laps around Lake of the Isles before finally figuring out how to get back home! We missed breakfast, but had a 10 miles worth of an exciting adventure to tell everyone about. :)

For our Saturday long run, Jared took Lucky, Hannah and I on a 13.1-mile tour of downtown Minneapolis while Sarah ran walked some errands. :) Our loop took us through a little of everything, from upscale urban neighborhoods to beautiful parks to the ghetto and then finally right through the downtown skyscrapers.

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Running selfie at the start of our run!

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Theodore Wirth Park

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The foliage was gorgeous!

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The city skyline from the ghetto :)

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Stone Arch Bridge in the Downtown Riverfront District

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Running through the city!

I never would have thought it could be so fun and so scenic to run in a big city, but Minneapolis is a beautiful place!

On Sunday, we decided to get up early again and go for a run before church. This time Jared took Hannah and I on a 7-mile route around Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet. We left before the sun came up and were treated to a beautiful sunrise!

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Lake Harriet

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Lake Calhoun

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Calhoun with the city in the background

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Hannah and Jared’s shirts coincided very well with the foliage! :)

I flew home Sunday night having totalled 30 miles over the course of 3 days! I firmly believe that the best way to experience a new place is through running, and it was an unexpected treat to be able to run so much and see so many beautiful sights while we were in Minneapolis! And the company was pretty great, too. :)