Well, it's been a while. I suppose that I haven't felt a lot like writing since the sub-par performances that came with my early-mid 2017 racing season. That's not to say it didn't end with some fun adventures and even a little bit of success! After the latest in a string of racing disappointments in Tennessee I stuck to shorter races and had a couple of weeks between working and starting a new job so I got to play in the mountains too!
Hot Hilly Hairy 85k ultra - July 29th in Kenosha, WI
While on our annual trip to Wisconsin I noticed this race a few hour drive from our cabin up in Door County so I decided a couple days before to go ahead and jump in and drive down. The race is held on a rolling state cross country course compromised of hills, grass, dirt, gravel, and more hills. They had 5k races almost every hour, 10k's, and several other variations of events based on 5k plus a 12 hour ultra, but that was too far for me to have to drive home after so I stuck with the longest distance at 85k. I didn't know until later that the 50k would be the most competitive race, of which my 50k split in the 85 would have placed me 2nd easily.
The first 3-4 hours were fun getting used to the course and chatting with runners before some of the shorter races finished up and the course got a little less crowded. There were 1-2 guys challenging for the lead, but ultimately I ended up winning by an hour or so I think. It was a very well organized and fun race, but it did get VERY hot out.
1st place - 7:39:49
Sweltering Summer 8 hour ultra - August 17th in Pittsfield, MA
This is the 3rd year in a row I've done this race. It is always extremely well organized, lots of fun, and by now I love seeing all the familiar faces on the course! I hadn't really committed until about a week before again just still being unsure of what I wanted to do for the rest of the season, but I'm glad I did it! I talked Tyler into joining me for the 2nd year in a row and got the Woo to come along (she won the 5k midway through the race) as well.
Not my best performance here, but plenty of miles for the overall win. I had a lot of fun the last hour slowing my pace once I knew I wasn't going to hit 60 miles in the 8 hours, switching to my Zoom Multisport speedo and grabbing a beer for the last few laps around. This is always such a great day I'm glad I've been able to get to do this race the last few years and can't wait to do it again in 2018!
1st place - 57.926
Taconic Rim loop/traverse - September 21st in western MA
My first of two solo mountain adventures on my two week "funployment" between changing jobs. (side note: if you're changing jobs and you can do so, I highly recommend taking at least 2 weeks off to have some time to start fresh - best decision I could have made!) This is a run I had heard of a while back on the FKT boards after seeing Ben Nephew do it on Strava. It's about a 2.5 hour drive from my house to the trail start at the Catamount Ski Area in Western MA where the trail then loops south around through NY and CT before circling back north. The official FKT route stops at around 28 miles I think, but to make it a loop you add on a few more of road (necessary to get back to the car). This gnarly route is full of sharp 'ankle biter' rocks the whole way and technical single track covering over 8K feet of elevation without ever much over 1500 ft! There also aren't many spots to fill up water and I ran out a couple of times and resorted to drinking stream water without any purification toward the end. So hot.
Definitely could go faster, but need to plan better and make a water drop along the way to be more prepared. Overall there were amazing panoramic views of western MA and NY with little to no other people to be seen. Can't wait to have another go at this one!
By Garmin: 34.96 miles in 9:10:20 and 8,146 ft of elevation gain
Great Range Traverse - September 28st in the Adirondack Mountains outside of Lake Placid, NY
My second of the two solo mountain adventures during my "funployment"! This is another route I'd come across online a couple of years ago but couldn't find the time to get up and run it. This was logistically a little tougher because it's a point to point route across the Adirondack's. Luckily Coach Amy was able to hook me up with a friend in the area who started the first couple of hours with me and I was able to leave my car at the finish and she drove us over to the trailhead to start. I took the east to west route starting at Roostercomb and running to the ADK Loj at Heart Lake. The route has two little fun out and backs (or up and downs) where you veer off the main trail to head up Mount Haystack and back then over to Mount Marcy and back to the trail where it's a gradual several mile descent back to the finish.
Again, great views here atop Marcy and Haystack especially and some fun runable ridge lines (my favorite!). Catching the sunrise getting up to Roostercomb (after realizing I forgot my headlamp) was a lot of fun too! Big thanks to Sarah who helped shuttle me around and keep me on the trail in the dark too! These two runs really helped me get back a little "mojo" and find my love of long running again. I definitely needed that.
By Garmin: 22.25 miles in 7:38:00 and 10,108 ft of elevation gain
Can Lake 50 mile - October 7th in Canandaigua , NY
This was supposed to be my "A" race of the fall season, and it was, but I just wasn't heading in with the mental confidence and miles that I normally would have. Either way, I was looking forward to trying to put down a fast 50 mile road time. This race is held in the Finger Lakes region of NY in the fall and the beauty of the race is what drew me here. It is a single loop course all the way around Canandaigua Lake, which is really unique. The race was a little more laid back than I expected and not quite as well supported as I had hoped, but it ended up working out in the end. There were "aid stations" every 4-5 miles, but they weren't really "staffed" by overly helpful volunteers as most ultras are. When passing the first couple and asking for water or Gatorade the volunteers hadn't even been able to get out of the chairs before I ran past. Either way, I'd probably do this again but know what to expect more.
The other part of this course is that there are 4 major climbs: one cat 3, one cat 4, and two cat 5 climbs the biggest of which coming at mile 38 of 50. Ouch. These really wiped me out more than I expected them to and I bonked pretty good from mile 43 or so to the finish. It is pretty awesome though to do a race that offered me everything between a 6:02 mile (downhill) and a 10:30 mile (uphill). The morning started with some rain and cooler temps but it quickly warmed up and I was sucking through water quicker than Woo could drive by and fill it up since the volunteers weren't really willing/able to help in the speed I needed. I essentially ran the first 20 miles alone in the lead from the very start until I got to where the 50k started (followed same course to the finish) a few minutes before they were to begin. After a few miles the lead 1-2 guys from the 50k ran along with me and then passed eventually. I really wanted to get around 6:15-6:30 for this but with the hills and not the consistent training I should have put in I didn't quite get there. Though, my time was still good enough for 6th fastest on the course all time list.
1st place - 6:43:45
Yukan Oceanview Half + 5k - November 5th in Ipswich, MA
Woo was going to do this half marathon with one of her friends and I hadn't planned on going until a few days prior when I heard they had a "double race challenge" where they added up your time from the 5k at 8am and the 13.1 at 9am for a cumulative time and overall winner. I do really enjoy these kind of races and tend to do well so I figured I'd jump in and do both. Though, I wasn't sure how to pace myself for these short races not having done either distance in well over a year.
The 5k started out easy enough and I pushed just hard enough to bring home the win and save some energy for the 13.1 starting 40 minutes later. When the half started out I found myself in around 5th place about a mile in. The pack spread out pretty evenly early on and really didn't change for the duration of the race. I knew that none of the 4 guys ahead had done the 5k so I liked my chances. I just held onto about 6:30 pace for as long as I could and slowed down a little toward the end, but was still able to finish in 5th and won the double challenge which was the end goal. Definitely a fun low key race on a beautiful course with some rolling hills and water views.
5k: 1st place - 19:55
13.1: 5th place - 1:28:11
Total: 1st place - 1:48:04
Manhattan outer loop - December 30th in New York City, NY
I've been eyeing this loop for a couple of years since reading somewhere online about it so I figured it would be a good way to end the year off with one more adventure. I was able to convince good friend and training partner Billy to join me for the weekend in NYC for New Year's Even with a run-venture in the mix. We even picked up a very old friend Carl who is more of a musician than runner, but wanted to join in the fun! Carl had done his first marathon a year ago and had never run over the 26.2 but has been toying with the idea of ultra running ever since crewing for my first ever 24 hour race back in 2016 at 3 Days at the Fair.
It was cold, I mean COLD when we headed out for this run. Like snowing, sub-20*, water bottles freezing cold; and of course the loop is along the outer edge of Manhattan so there is little to no protection of any kind from the wind and water. Ultimately the 3 of us had a great time looping the city and checking out areas I've never seen and likely would not know existed otherwise. Only one little hiccup with a security guard, trespassing, and construction along the way, but we (literally) ran away from that one. After a solid run and great adventure we headed back to the friend's apartment we were crashing at to clean up before heading out for a couple of celebratory margaritas.
By Garmin: 31.3 miles in 5:05:35
Even with its major disappointments I'd have to say 2017 was a major learning year and am happy I still managed some good adventures in with a few successful races. At the end, I did manage to squeeze out just a few more miles than I did in 2016, which I'm happy for. Aiming for a better base build early in 2018 with another run at making the 2019 US 24 hour team as the end goal. Time to get back to work.