Thursday, July 26, 2012

Vermont 100 Crew

Last weekend I spent the weekend crewing for a fellow Bimbler. We had met up the week before to go over the details so I felt prepared to help out for the race. I arrived on Friday afternoon in time for the pre-race briefing and dinner. Met up with all the other Bimblers there and sat around the rest of the evening chatting and catching up. It was such a great group of people and runners, it was great listening to stories from past years and other races. I look up to so many of the other runners it was great listening to their past experiences. We went to bed early and set our alarms early for the next morning.

Everyone was up and getting ready by 3am for a race start at 4am. It was still dark at this point, and we all headed down to the Start together. We huddled around our runners sending good vibes their way. There was a lot of nervous energy in the tent and you could tell the runners just wanted to be on their way. Then they all lined up... and they were off!! 

Vermont 100 also has a horse race that goes with the runners race. I've never been to a race like this before so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The 100 mile horse race starts about an hour after the runners. The horses slowly checked in and then they were off as well! It was fun to see the horses along the course and throughout the day. 

Once the runners were off, all the crew groups set off for the first aid station, and some breakfast :) From about 6am we went from aid station to aid station. The first half of the race we saw our runner about every 3 hours, but then the second half we met up with them almost every hour. Luckily my runner was very organized and knew exactly what he would want at each aid station. I pretty much just swapped his hydration vest at each place and added some gu's here and there. Pretty simple :)

It was great seeing the other Bimbler runners throughout the day, and also having their crews around to hang out with and chat. I also met a few other Connecticut and New England runners. It's great to see that even though the ultra running world is getting larger and larger, it is still such a small world and a close community. The environment at ultra events is unlike any other running events. It is low key, social, happy, and encouraging. Everyone cheers for everyone and each runner wants everyone to have a great race. 

I met up with Elaine at mile 50ish. She was meeting up with Alex at mile 70 to pace him for the rest of the race. She had never been to a 100 mile race and was a little nervous about pacing for the first time. We talked a lot about races and ultras and how crazy all the 100 mile runners were :) I think we were both getting the itch to run farther races though. Once we met up with Alex at 70 she was gone and I picked up Suresh as my new navigation partner- thank goodness too! I was so nervous about driving and getting lost in the dark in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. 

Finally we  met up with Alex and Elaine at mile 94 (ish) and they were looking strong!! We hurried to the finish and before we knew it, they came through the finish line!! He finished in 21:20!!! It was such a great race for him, he looked so strong and focused the entire race. I stayed at the finish line for a couple hours watching other runners finishing and it was so moving and motivating. All I wanted to do at that moment was sign up for a 100. I am really starting to get the 100 mile itch. I've been around ultras my entire life and now I think I am ready to step it up a notch and try for a 100... maybe :). I have Mountain Masochist 50m in November so I will have to wait and see how that race turns out before I sign up for anything. It was the best thing in the world seeing all the runners coming through the finish line accomplishing their goals that they have been working towards for months or even years. 

Lots of Bimblers supporting their fellow Bimblers!

Here comes Mr. Bimble himself!

Getting weighed in


Probably my favorite aid station-Bills I think, mile 88?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Finger Lakes 50K

After backpacking for 3 days and sleeping in a tent for the 4 nights leading up to the race I was a little nervous about how my energy level and legs would be.  My mom and I decided to run the whole race together because how many people can say they ran a 50k with their mom??!! It was a great time to catch up and chat. 

We had an early start at 6:30am, the course started on a dirt/gravel road for about a quarter of a mile downhill, which helped thin everyone out. We then ducked into a single track trail and slowed way down because there were so many people. Trail followed single track for a while in the woods, then we came out to an open meadow/cow field, then ducked back into the woods. There were aid stations spaced about every 3 miles so it was easy to stop and grab anything you needed pretty frequently. We didn’t stop at too many because I had a hydration pack and mom had 2 bottles in her pack- I think we ended up saving a lot of time running past quite a few of the aid stations while others stopped at most it seemed. Most of the trail was on single track in the woods, with a couple open areas out in the sun. It was supposed to get into the 90s so I felt prepared with lots of water, food, S caps, hat, etc. First time I have used S caps and they really seemed to help with the heat- didn’t have any problems. As we were about halfway through the first loop (of 2), I stubbed my big toe/first ray on a rock and thought for a split second it was broken. Had to hobble for a while, not long after, mom fell and re-injured a strain from Bighorn a couple weeks before. We stopped and walked a while off and on until we both felt a bit better. Soon we were moving at a good pace again. There were a few more open meadows that had great views of the Seneca Lake and wineries- it was beautiful. 

We made it into the halfway point at the Start/Finish at 2:20. I was aiming at a finishing time of 6:30 so I felt like I was doing OK- I later found out the race was actually 33 mi instead of 31 mi so I felt much better about my time. My legs felt good and I felt like I still had quite a bit of energy. The course wasn’t that tough technically or hilly, but the second loop definitely seemed harder! Realized that I was walking a lot more of the hills than I did before. I felt like the first loop I was running pretty slow, but I think I walked a lot more the second loop. I was hoping for negative splits but it didn’t seem like it would happen.  Mom seemed to have a new burst of energy the second loop and was definitely pushing me through. I was struggling by the last few miles and was very ready to be done! Finally we hit the last aid station with 3 miles to go and I really tried to kick it in- although I have a feeling my pace stayed the same Mom and I crossed the finish line in 6:50 and I ended up being pretty happy with my time- I think I PR’d for my 50k time since this race was actually 33 miles. As we were walking away from the finish line someone ran up to me and said I won my age division! I couldn’t believe it!!! I received a finisher’s award of a little wooden cow. Thomas won his age division a couple years ago so I couldn’t wait to surprise him. 

My dad ran the 50 mile race and had Thomas pace him for the last 16 miles. He ended up winning his age division as well, so it was a good day for the Johnson family! Overall Finger Lakes Fifties was a great race, well organized, great people and a great area. We celebrated the race by hitting up a “healthy” Mexican restaurant in Ithaca, NY later!

New York Vaca

We started out our vacation backpacking on the Escarpment Trail in the Catskills. We didn’t really have any set plans, we just needed to be back at the car on Friday morning to meet my parents. We started off on Tuesday night and stopped at a lean to about a mile into the trail. We first arrived at the trail head, registered and saw a bear warning!!!! Thomas had to run back to the car to get twine so we could tie up the food in a tree for the week. That definitely got my nerves going! We set up the tent and went to bed- we tried a fire but all the wood was wet from a recent rain.
Woke up early and set off after making some oatmeal and tea. We hiked about 2 ½ hours up the mountain and made it to the top of Windham High Peak at about 3500 feet. We stopped and had some snacks and enjoyed the views.

We continued on for a few hours, trail was technical and hilly and so it took us a while with the packs on. Lucy did great, even with her pack We had to go off the main trail for a bit to find water and we were lucky we found a stream about a quarter mile off the main trail. We refilled water supplies since that was our only water for the trip. We continued on and had a tough section ahead. We had a one mile CLIMB! It was STEEP! And ROCKY! Took us quite a while to get to the top of Blackhead. Once we made it to the top we decided to take a nap and eat lunch. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon! 

We were about 10 miles in at that point, we wanted to go on farther but decided to make that the turnaround point. We were hot and tired and we had found a great spot to camp earlier on the trail. We camped on a beautiful area surrounded by pine trees and really close to a great open rocky outlook. We made a fire, cooked dinner and sat out on the rock and watched the sunset and the stars emerge. 

The next morning we ended up hiking back to the car a few hours. Once back at the car, we drove a bit, got some lunch and then found a river we could camp at that night. We drove about 2 hours to the campground and settled in for the evening. We sat around, read, waded in the river and made a fire. I decided to buy s’more stuff for a desert  
We met up with my parents Friday morning in Ithaca, NY. We walked around the downtown for a bit then decided to head up to Finger Lakes area about an hr away. We got lunch and picnicked by Seneca Lake. We spent the afternoon at Watkins Glen State Park- beautiful waterfalls/gorges. 
Drove to the Finger Lakes Fifties race Start/campground to pick up our packets for the race and set up the tent. Spent the rest of the evening getting ready for race day. 
See race report…
Sunday after the race Thomas and I spent the day at a few wineries by Seneca Lake. What a beautiful place! Great wine, great views and great conversation!! Lucy was even allowed in!
Monday we joined back up with my parents and went Ziplining on Hunter Mountain!! SO FUN! 

We had my parents over at our campsite for a campfire, hotdogs and s’mores. Fun way to (sort of) end the vacation. Tuesday we all hiked up Hunter Mtn… straight UP! 2 miles up and gained 2000 feet of elevation. Views at the top were worth it!