Running with the Hayneses

Six Hours in Paradise Course Preview

A friend of ours, Ben Pangie, is putting together a new ultra race for this August called Six Hours in Paradise. The race will be held in Paradise Park, located in Windsor, VT, and it will be a 6-hour race on a short loop (or series of loops) course. Ben’s still working on the exact course layout, so he invited a bunch of local runners to come do a course preview this past weekend and give feedback on the trails. There’s nothing I love more than exploring new trails, so I was all over this chance to get in a long run in a new place with other runners.

There ended up only being five of us, including Ben, but I had a great time meeting a couple of new people, and the trails were spectacular!  Ben started us off by leading us through three different loops, totalling four miles. The park is fairly small and has about 5 miles of trails, so this was just enough of a tour to give us a sense of how everything is laid out. Ben had to leave at that point, and the other runners stayed for varying amounts of mileage, until finally I was the last runner standing. My goal was to get in 20 miles for the day, so I continued looping through the park and exploring all the new trails I came across. I entertained myself by taking pictures and experimenting with different trail combinations until I found my favorite sequence. :) I found that there’s enough variety and so much to see that I never got bored!

Here are some pictures of the beautiful trails, scenery and wildlife you’ll see if you come to Six Hours in Paradise:

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 View of the water tower from the Water Tower Loop

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Wild flowers in the picnic area

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Spring greenery everywhere as I head towards the Lake Trail

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The Lake Trail: possibly my favorite part of the whole park!

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Check out the turtles on the log!

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Crossing the Main Dike to run the Meadow Loop

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There were LOTS of turtles sunning themselves all around the sides of the lake!

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I couldn’t get enough of these guys! :)

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The meadow loop with a beautiful view of Ascutney in the background!

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My favorite part of the meadow was that it was lined with bird houses, most of which were actively in use!

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More pristine single-track on the Hubbard Brook Trail!

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The brook is beautiful and refreshing (I stopped to wash my face and arms once it got hot)!

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The most challenging trail in the park is the Ridge Loop with it’s STEEP hills.

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It’s also probably the most fun trail though, once you’re on top of the ridge. :)

Just in case the pictures didn’t already say this loud and clear, I’ll spell it out: you should definitely run this race. :)

Unfortunately, for Peter and I, the timing is bad–it’s less than a week after our 6-day stage race in Colorado. I’m not expecting to be terribly mobile that soon after the TransRockies Run, so I don’t think I’ll be competing in the race. I do hope to come volunteer and cheer on the runners though, and I’d love to see you there!

Mount Ascutney Double Bypass

Every now and then I dream up some sort of adventure on a whim, and then, no matter how crazy my idea is, I can’t get it out of my head until I make a plan to act on it. This is exactly what happened in early April when Peter and I were discussing plans to hike nearby Mount Ascutney in Windsor, VT with a friend. As we were talking about the various trails, the thought popped into my head that it would be really awesome to hike ALL FOUR of Ascutney’s base to summit trails. In ONE DAY. (Why do I do this to myself?)

Of course, I was instantly obsessed with the idea, and therefore it had to be done as soon as possible. :) Peter and I had one free weekend between our two April 50K races, and we needed to get in a long training run, so to me that seemed to be the perfect opportunity to tackle our Ascutney adventure. The whim quickly solidified itself into a plan, and thereafter became known as the Mount Ascutney Quadruple Bypass.

We decided that we would start at the Weathersfield Trail, work our way up and down the other three trails (Futures, Windsor and Brownsville), then come back down Weathersfield to finish. The trails are all about 3-4 miles long, and going up and down each one would give us a total of 27-28 miles for the day. Being mid-April, we also had to plan for various snow conditions, so we carried our microspikes with us and had snowshoes in our car just in case.

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 Starting at the base of the Weathersfield Trail

There was a dusting of snow on the ground when we started, and we encountered a fair amount of ice pretty early on, but our microspikes allowed us to easily navigate even the nastiest sections.

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Lower section of Cascade Falls

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Our first lookout, just above Cascade Falls

Once we got above Cascade Falls (maybe about halfway up), we started seeing more snow. The trail had been fairly well packed by hikers throughout the winter, so we didn’t have any trouble with breaking trail or post-holing. Though near the top the snow got MUCH deeper, and the trail wasn’t as nicely packed, so we slowed to pick our way more carefully.

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Nearing the summit for the first time

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Once we hit the summit, we immediately started heading towards the Futures Trail to make our first descent. Unfortunately, there are a lot of connector trails at the top that are not super well-marked, so we did quite a bit of wandering through waist deep snow trying to find the right trail.

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With no packed trail, we were post-holing with nearly every step!

We finally found the Futures Trail after wasting about half an hour, and to our dismay, the trail hadn’t been used at all and was nearly impossible to traverse without sinking to our waists with every step. We were already frustrated with the time it took just getting to the trail, so we decided that it wasn’t worth fighting with the snow any longer. We retraced our steps and headed down the Windsor Trail instead.

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Junction sign at the top of the Futures Trail–still about 4 feet of snow up there!

The Windsor Trail was a DREAM compared to the other trails! It had obviously been snowshoed frequently, and the wide, packed trail felt like a highway!

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The Windsor Trail Highway :)

We made really good time coming down this trail, and didn’t encounter any obstacles until we hit sheets of ice near the bottom. Again, our microspikes saved the day, and we were able to run easily and safely on the ice.

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The snow ends…

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…and the ice begins!

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At the bottom we posed for a quick picture at the trailhead before heading right back up. On our second time up the mountain we were definitely feeling our climbing muscles–my butt and lower back were on fire! I was suddenly glad that we had been forced to cut our hike down to a Triple Bypass. :)

This time when we got to the summit, we took the short side trail out to the Brownsville Rock overlook. The view was spectacular!

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From there we headed down the Brownsville Trail, and again, the trail conditions left A LOT to be desired. Especially after being spoiled by the Windsor Trail! 11121307_10100147295716414_6187686832113987238_o

The trail was absolutely destroyed by deep post-holes, and at this point in the day, we just didn’t have the energy to deal with this mess. We toughed it our for a short ways before deciding it was only going to be a Double Bypass after all. :/

So we headed back up to the summit, and this time climbed the observation tower to enjoy the 360-degree view before making our final descent.

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The Weathersfield Trail seemed more technical on the way down than it had on the way up, and the rocks and roots made the descent almost as difficult as the ascent! We stopped for a bit of a rest about halfway down to admire a gigantic ice flow just below Cascade Falls.

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Back at our car, we contemplated driving to the base of the Futures Trail to make the hike with our snowshoes. We decided to drive over and check it out, but then once we got there we were distracted by a new mountain biking trail across the road. Flat, smooth single-track looked pretty inviting after the way we’d spent our morning, so we opted to explore this 4-mile loop instead.

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By the time we finished that, we’d amassed 16 miles for the day, most of them grueling, back-breaking miles, so we called it a day and headed for home.

We do plan to attempt our Quadruple Bypass again on May 30th. This happens to be the date of the 49th annual Ascutney Day Picnic, and there will be free food and drinks for hikers at the Stone Shelter. I figure if someone’s going to set up an aid station, we are certainly going to take advantage of it! :) We’d like to get together a group of runners this time to tackle the challenge with us, so if you’d like to join us for an epic adventure, let me know!

TARC Spring Classic 50K DNF

The Spring Classic was the culmination of my races for the first half of this year, as I am planning to spend the summer focusing solely on training for the TransRockies Run in August. For most of the people at the Spring Classic, this was their first race of the year, but for me it was my fourth, and I had big plans for it to be my fastest. Then, as so often happens, circumstances escaped my control, and a tiny little bone in my foot caused those big plans to be laid aside.

As I was out running on the Saturday before the race, I rolled my ankle and popped my cuboid out of joint. My thoughts: Ouch. Bad timing.

This was something that has happened before though, and I knew that a visit to the chiropractor should set me right, but I wasn’t able to get an appointment until Thursday. Two days before the race. Really bad timing.

I avoided all impact activities that week and spent as little time on my feet as possible, but my foot pain got worse every day. Finally, the much-needed appointment came, and afterwards I felt immediate relief. I was still very unsure about whether or not it would be wise to attempt a 50K so soon after that kind of foot trauma, but I figured I’d play it by ear and hope for the best.

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 photo by Edith O Dixon

Thankfully, the Spring Classic course set-up is perfect for a play-it-by-ear strategy because it’s a 10K loop that we repeat 5 times. I knew I could drop out if and when I needed to. As we started the first lap, I tried to focus on being cautious instead of competitive, but the relatively easy trail (mostly smooth, little elevation change) made it difficult for me to pace myself.

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photo by Edith O Dixon

I did the first 10K in an hour, felt great and had no foot pain. Lap #2 went smoothly as well, though I felt like I was exerting myself a little bit more to maintain the same pace. I started in on my third lap thinking that maybe I’d be able to pull off a top 3 finish and/or a PR after all, and I pushed myself a bit harder with that possibility in mind.

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 photo by Edith O Dixon

About halfway through the third lap I rolled my injured foot again. I had started thinking competitively and stopped being careful, and I paid the price. I didn’t immediately feel any pain, but it was a mental blow, and suddenly my head just wasn’t in the game anymore. I was super worried about hurting myself, my legs felt tired, and I had no motivation to push myself, so I slowed considerably. I spent the rest of that lap debating about whether or not I should drop out when I got back to the start.

That third lap took me 10 minutes longer to complete, and still I hadn’t made a decision, so I stood around for awhile at the aid station trying to figure out what to do. My foot wasn’t bothering me yet, but I was favoring it and didn’t know if it was worth trying to get in another lap when I knew now that I wouldn’t finish the race. On the other hand, Peter wouldn’t be done for at least another hour, and I didn’t relish sitting on the sidelines for that long getting chilled. I decided to do one more lap, as slowly as necessary, just to pass the time.

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 photo by Edith O Dixon

It ended up being a VERY slow lap, and I walked considerable portions of it as I got more tired, less motivated and started feeling increasing discomfort in my foot. By the time I was nearing the start again there was no longer any question about whether or not to drop out. That lap took me a full 30 minutes longer to complete than my first two laps, and I was glad that I now had a legitimate reason to bail out of my sinking ship. :)

I may not have an official finisher’s time or place for this race, but I enjoyed a beautiful, sunny morning on pristine trails with a bunch of fellow trail animals, and I’m grateful for that.

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 We also got some awesome shirts!

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And tons of good food!! photo by Jim Roche

TARC knows how to do a race right, and I’m looking forward to running the Fall Classic, always assuming I still have legs after the TransRockies Run!

Rockin’ Ham 5K

It’s been about 4 years since I ran my last 5K, and I can’t say I had any intentions of returning to the type of race where you run so hard you feel you’re going to puke. When it came to the Rockin’ Ham 5K though, there were extenuating circumstances. Chief of which were the fact that my husband was one of the race directors, and the fact that it was a fundraiser for the PTO at his school. He was really excited about the race and really proud of all the work he’d put into it, so he desperately wanted me to come and run it. I stubbornly held out on registering until the week of the race when his increasing excitement finally rubbed off on me, and I decided it would be fun to do a short race for a change.

My goal going into the race was, as usual, to win. :) It was a fairly small race (200-ish people), and most of the entrants were students and their families, so I figured I had a good shot. Race day was chilly and very windy. I showed up about half an hour early and ran one loop of the course (2.5K) to warm up and get an idea of what I was in for.

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At the start: Peter is on the far right in yellow, and I am to his right in green.  Photo by Gail Hynes.

When the race started, only one other girl went out faster than me, so I decided to tuck in behind her and wait for a chance to make a move. Most of the first half of the loop was downhill, so I enjoyed the easy speed. After that we started heading back uphill towards the start, and that’s where the lead girl started to fade. I decided the hills would be a good chance to put some distance between myself and her, so I powered through the rest of the loop imagining that she was right on my tail.

As it happens, I never saw her again, and my second loop of the course was slightly more relaxed since I didn’t have to fight for the lead (and my stomach was threatening to rebel, so that may have had something to do with the slower pace as well :) ). I finished triumphantly, high-fiving my husband as I entered the finish chute with a clock time of 21:07! Peter had run the race as well and finished in 5th with a time of 18:17.

This was a 5K PR for me, and it was also the first time that I’ve won a prize of monetary value!

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Easter dinner: check!

One thing I’d forgotten about 5K races: it’s insane how quickly the race was run and done! I’m used to my races taking up an entire day, and this one only took about an hour, including driving time and getting there early! I didn’t quite know what to do with myself when it was over, so I went out and ran another 5 miles just for good measure. :)

Twin State 50K Race Recap

Probably the best thing about the Twin State 50 is that it is held, almost literally, in our backyard. :) This might not seem like a big deal to most people, but for those of us who generally have to travel 2 hours or more to get to races, it was a rare treat to have one only 20 minutes away! Peter and I thoroughly enjoyed sleeping in and eating a leisurely breakfast before hopping in the car to make the quick, no-stress trip up to Windsor, VT for the 8:30 start.

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“The Locals” Peter and I with Jaime and Joel

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Starting Line-Up (photo by Ben Pangie)

Saturday morning turned out to be chilly and windy, with on-and-off snow flurries–in other words, basically your typical spring-in-New-England weather. :) I didn’t mind since I find it much easier to deal with cold than heat, and I was just glad that we FINALLY broke out of our rainy race streak!

I went into this race with a pretty ambitious goal. I wanted to break my PR (personal record) by 10-20 minutes. I’ve never run a 50K on the road before, and I knew that I should be able to hold a significantly faster pace than I do on the trails, so I decided I was going to go all out and see what I could do. The course for this race is extremely hilly, to say the least, so my strategy was to run slowly on the uphills and let it rip on the downhills to make up for lost time. I figured I could average 6 miles an hour doing this and finish in 5:10 (my previous PR was 5:24).

The race started off with about 2.5 miles of climbing–the Twin State 50 doesn’t beat around the bush, it gets right down to business! And it’s ALL business from then on out! The hills in Windsor are of the 3 or 4-mile-long variety, and if you’re not going up then you’re going down.

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I took this picture to try to capture how long and steep the hills were, but of course, this doesn’t come close to doing it justice. The upside of running such a difficult course was that the views were spectacular!

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Mount Ascutney

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My favorite picture of the day, taken just before the turn onto Cowshed.

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Mile 24, last view before we headed back down to town.

I ended up having a GREAT race and was able to stick to my plan pretty well. By the time I hit the first aid station at mile 13, I was starting to feel fatigued on the uphills, but I had built up a 5-minute buffer during the early miles, so I knew that I could slow down a little bit and still make my goal time. I started walking short sections of the uphills from this point on to give my muscles a break.

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Coming into the aid station at mile 13 (photo by Dane LeBlanc)

Shortly after the aid station, there was a section of maybe 3 miles or so that was all gradual downhill, and I really got into a groove there and made good time. Then there were more long miles of uphill, and I felt the first signs of what could potentially de-rail my perfect race–my calves were tensing up, on the verge of cramping. I walked more on the ups and drank lots of Heed (my hydration/fuel mix of choice) and managed to hold the cramps at bay. Later, when I was making the final, long descent back into town, my quads started acting up, too, and I knew that I had pushed my body to it’s limits. Which is exactly how I wanted to feel at the end of the race.

After a 27-mile loop on the hilly dirt roads, we finished up with 3 miles on flat, paved streets through the neighborhoods in town. The running was easier, but it was tough to follow the course through all the side streets, and many people, including myself, got off course at this point. I ended up doing my own thing for a little bit before stumbling back onto the course just before the finish. This was slightly demoralizing as I’d just had the best race of my life, and I felt like it was discounted because I got lost right at the very end. As it turned out, I ended up running the same mileage as everyone else (the course was a bit on the short side, and we finished with 30 miles), so I felt better knowing that I didn’t short-change myself.

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Crossing the “finish line”! :) (photo by Ben Pangie)

I finished in 5:02, which was right on my goal pace, and because of this, I’m very happy with my very unofficial results. Peter also had a great race and finished in 4:12, a PR for him as well! He ended up in 4th place overall, and I was 5th overall female.

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(photo by Ben Pangie)

And after a very satisfying morning, we hopped in our car and were home before we knew it! I could get used to that!

TARC Spring Thaw 6 Hr. Race Recap

Ironically, and unfortunately, this years’ TARC Spring Thaw was held well before any thawing actually took place. On any other year this wouldn’t have mattered nearly as much, but since this also happened to be the year that Boston broke the record for the snowiest winter ever, we found ourselves facing a course that would have been better suited for a snowshoe race.

As race day approached, with a good portion of that record-breaking snowfall was still on the ground, there was a lot of speculation about whether or not it’d even be possible to run in such deep snow. That’s when Emily Trespas, also known as The World’s Best Race Director, determined to do everything in her power to make the trails runable. She organized two separate snow-shoeing outings to pack down the snow, and the results were beautiful:

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 Photo by Emily Trespas

Then, just as we were all starting to feel like things were going to be ok, Mother Nature dealt us another blow. During the week leading up to the race we had warm weather and rain–lots of rain. This combination completely eroded the hard-packed trail and left it looking like this:

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 Photo by Emily Trespas

We were left with two feet of crystallized snow that wouldn’t support a person’s weight–in the words of the RD, the course was reduced to a “post-hole hell”! There were now just a couple of days until the race, so Emily tried one last time to pack it down, this time with a small group of volunteers stomping it in their boots. It would have worked given enough time and people, but as it was, in spite of their hard work, the effect was hardly noticeable. :( That is not to say that their efforts went unnoticed, and they were certainly not unappreciated. This race report is essentially the story of how a race director, along with MANY volunteers, pulled off an amazing race against all odds.

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 Photo by Emily Trespas

The morning of the race was chilly, overcast and threatening to rain. We all lined up for the start and then enjoyed a nice half-mile warm-up on the pavement before plunging into the woods to tackle the snowy 3.5-mile loop that would be our home for the next 6 hours. I was near the front of the pack as we headed in, and I’m sure there was an immediate bottleneck effect when we hit the snow. For awhile we tried to run, very lightly, slowly and careful, but post-holing in knee-deep snow quickly reduced us to a walk. It took me an hour to walk that first loop, and I post-holed countless times. It was hard-going, but I had known what to expect, and I was fairly confident that by the time all 86 of us tromped through that we’d have at least some sort of a packed trail for our second loop.

For an idea of what we endured during that first loop, check out this GoPro video by Tyler Harris. You can see me at the 1:30 mark as I head out for my second loop.

The second loop did turn out to be MUCH better, and we were treated t0 a narrow ribbon of packed trail. It was so narrow that you had to step out into the deep snow to let another runner pass. It was also very irregularly packed and slippery, but it was runable. I finished my second loop in 50 minutes, so the speed obviously didn’t increase a whole lot, but it was much easier on the legs, not to mention more enjoyable. :)

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This little guy pointed the way at one of the trail junctions. :)  Photo by Harsh Walia via Facebook

We got lucky with the weather, and we were warm and dry until the last half hour or so when a big storm blew in and let loose with cold wind and freezing rain. The snow conditions also stayed pretty consistent throughout the race, although there were a couple of spots that degenerated into muddy slush pits. The worst of it was the wetness of the snow–it was so loose and granular that it wouldn’t stay packed well, which resulted in a lot of slipping and sliding as we struggled along our narrow groove. In hindsight, I wish that I had actually used the microspikes that I’d packed in my drop bag–I would have gotten much better traction, but at the time I thought I was doing just fine without them. Apparently, stumbling around like a drunk and falling multiple times is “just fine”? I don’t know what I was thinking. :)

I kept my pace pretty steady throughout the race and kept ticking off those 50-ish-minute laps. I was feeling good and enjoying myself. I knew I wasn’t in position to place in the top 3, but I also knew that simple perseverance often pays off in races with tough conditions, so I pushed on and hoped for the best.

I ended up doing 6 full laps in about 5 hours and 20 minutes, and since I didn’t have quite enough time to do another full lap, I opted to do the optional 2-mile out and back section to bring my mileage total to 23.5. This put me in 10th place overall and 5th for women. (Those other girls persevered along with me! Oh well.)

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Photo by Mike Saporito via Facebook

This was my second timed race, where you run as many miles as you can in a set amount of time, and I find them to be surprisingly fun. For me they feel more laid back than a typical race because you don’t have the pressure of running a certain distance (though I probably should feel pressure to run faster!), and a short loop is nice in a lot of ways because you know what to expect from the course, you get to interact with the other runners a lot more, and you have frequent access to food, water and whatever supplies you want to pack in your drop bag. I think the best thing about this particular race was the unique and beautiful swag!

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Emily hand-carved stamps to make these custom prints for every runner!

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She also made prizes for the top 3 male and female finishers. My hubb came in 2nd place with 28.5 miles and won this pottery ornament!

In spite of the less than ideal trail conditions, both Peter and I had a great time, and this is definitely a race that we look forward to running again in the future!

Winter Training Update

I get asked all the time if I still run in the winter. The short answer is yes.

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The long answer, as any of my fellow winter runners know, is that even though running outside in the winter is a complicated dance that involves making calculated adjustments based on the temperature, wind chill, precipitation, snow depth, and road/trail conditions, being prepared with the right clothing and footwear makes it possible to run in just about any weather.

We had a period of time in December when everything, whether on the road or trail, was icy, so I got some good use out of my yaktraks! My preferred route for icy conditions is the flat trail that runs alongside the river near our house. I avoid hills at all costs when it’s icy because I don’t like having a perpetually bruised butt. :)

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As you can see, absolutely everything was covered in glare ice!

We started getting good snow in January this year, and once we got enough to cover the ice, I was able to run almost anywhere I wanted again (for a time). As the snow got deeper, I planned my routes so that I would run uphill on the road and back downhill on the trail.

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 Nothing like having the woods all to myself!

It’s been very cold so far this year, so the snow has stayed light and fluffy, and I was able to run on trails even with snow up to my knees!

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Since the beginning of February, we’ve had one snow storm after another, and now the snow in the woods is up to my waist. I am mostly running on the road now–even the snowmobile trails are rarely runnable because they don’t get packed well enough before we get more snow! I still prefer road miles over treadmill miles any day though, and I’m thankful that we live in a small town with lots of back roads and very little traffic.

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Long run on the road with Jaime and Peter

In addition to running, my husband and I are both avid cross-country skiers, and the combination of the super cold weather and the endless supply of fresh snow has made this the best year for skiing that we’ve ever had! Skiing is a great cross-training activity, so I will often ski on my recovery days or on a day when I just don’t feel like running (it happens to the best of us! :) ). On weeks that I have low running mileage it’s typically because I have high skiing mileage instead. :)

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Above all, winter for me is about taking it easy, scaling back my mileage and enjoying a slower pace. On weekdays I usually run no more than 5 miles a day–this allows me to get my run in before it gets dark and to spend less time in the frequently harsh winter conditions.

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 It’s been unseasonably cold this February, and below zero wind chills have been the norm. 

I value winter as a time to relax before the full-tilt days of spring arrive, and I try to take the cold and snow and ice in stride and make the most of this season in spite of it’s discomforts. After all, a quick run in sub-zero temps makes curling up by the fire with a good book that much more satisfying. :) So if you think of me on a particularly nasty day and wonder if I’m out running in that weather, the short answer is, likely, yes.