Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Boulder Field 100K

When RD Stephan Weiss announced his new race Boulder Field, right away Emir and I were interested.  Stephan puts on GREAT races.  We've done many of them now: Blues Cruise, Dirty German, Sloppy Cuckoo to name a few.  This one peaked our interest because it was in Hickory Run State Park, a place we've never run or even been to.  Since Emir has Oil Creek 100 miler only a few weeks after Boulder Field, coach Caleb advised that even the 50K would not be a good idea for him.  We need his legs to be well rested and ready so he can finally get his buckle.  On the other hand, he felt the 100K would be great timing and training for me since I am running the NJ one day in November with the goal of going over 100 miles.  Once all that was decided, we thought it would be a great idea to spend the weekend camping as a family and they would be my support crew for the day of the race.

Friday after school and work, we hit the road.  It only took maybe an hour and 20 minutes to get there.  Stephan had secured the free group camping area for runners and families to use for the weekend.  It was awesome.  A lot of runners, friends and family camped out especially friday night which made it a fun atmosphere.

The start/finish area wasn't too far from camp but I had our big Ultra bin full of my stuff so Emir snuck out and dropped me off while the kids were still sleeping.  They had a nice area setup for our drop stuff.  The way the course was laid out was a 12 mile loop and 19 mile loop so for us 100K people we came into the main area 3 times to have access to our stuff. And for me that meant also seeing my family/crew.

Stephan was blasting his usual German music.  I feel like I know the words to the songs now.  I utilized the potty one more time and next thing I knew we were off.  I didn't really have any specific goals for this race.  It's the inaugural running so no one other than Stephan knew really what the course was like.  We also were on our feet for 30 hours at the end of July which really wasn't so long ago.  So I wasn't sure what my legs would feel like say 30-40 miles in.  And I was also using this more as training towards my next big goal which is the NJ One Day in November.  It's a 24 hour race and I want to lower my 100 mile time so hopefully I will run more than 100 miles.  So that said, I didn't taper as much as I would have for an A goal race.  Take home message, really I just wanted to have a fun day and finish the race.
My "why do ultras always start so early" face

Since we started at 5am, we were in the dark for about an hour and half.  Stephan had marked the first 10 miles with reflective stuff so no problems there.  The entire course was a nice mix of very technical rocky, rooty stuff and super runnable sections.  I can handle technical (not fast) but I get frustrated if it goes on too long.  I love a good mix of technical, challenging sections with stuff that I can just let loose and run for a while.  For me, this course was perfect.  It was also so beautiful.  In the middle of the 12 mile loop, you climb up to a ridge and have spectacular views of the valley.  The first time around, the valley was super foggy and there was a full moon, I couldn't help but stop for a few seconds to take it in.

It was shortly after this that I completely wiped out, running down a steep technical hill.  My hand stung but I got up and kept going.  Once it got light out, I realized my whole hand was bloody, oops.  I washed it off with some water and all was good.  The second to last mile of this lap is on the Shades of Death trail.  Sounds intimidating and it is.  It was VERY technical and challenging.  But at the same time, it was so scenic so while I hate boulders and rocks like this, I actually enjoyed navigating through this part.  That is also probably because it wasn't that long either ;-)

I finished that first lap in 2nd place (female).  I was moving well and feeling good but I was hoping I wasn't going too fast.  I didn't look at my watch at all because I had compression sleeves on.  Caleb and I discussed going conservative the first half, checking things out and pushing myself the second half if I still felt good.  I feel like so often I feel good early and I just go for it and disregard all race plans that we made, I swear I don't do it on purpose!  So anyway I really wanted to listen and stick to the plan.  I filled up my supplies, hit the potty and headed back out.

At this point I had taken off my sleeves so I was going to try to pay more attention to my pace to make sure I knew what I was doing.  I also checked my phone.  CRAP.  I had work texts.  I'm the weekend coordinator at work so if people call out, they call me.  It doesn't happen often but usually at bad times.  I was trying to call my department (yes while running) but my phone case had gotten a little wet in my pack so I couldn't type numbers and stuff.  After a few minutes of struggle, I finally just called my manager as she's on speed dial and I was able to do that.  As it turns out, she had gotten the text too and knew I was running so had taken care of everything (she's the best!) and was laughing her ass off at me as I blabbed on to her while running the race.  What can I say I'm a multi-tasker. Right after that I was passing by our campsite and saw Emir and Una coming out of the bathroom.  It was so exciting to see them.  I told them things were going well so far and that I was at mile 13.  Shortly after seeing them I started getting passed by people.  Probably by 5-6 people.  Normally I let that get me down.  "ugh I must be going so slow now, all these people are passing me."  But this time was different.  It was a runable section and I was doing 10 minute pace.  People were flying by me like I was standing still.  There was no way in hell I was going to go faster than that.  I knew I still had a lot of miles ahead of me and I didn't want to feel like crap for most of them.  I also kept repeating what Caleb had told me "stay conservative."
Boulder Field!

The 19 mile loop was where we encountered the infamous Boulder Field.  While the actual crossing of the boulder field was not super long, a couple miles leading up to it and a few miles after were pretty rocky and technical.  I know I was pretty slow here but I honestly didn't care.  I just went about my business and didn't worry about what anyone else was doing.  After that section was a couple miles of runable terrain followed by the last couple miles full of climbs.  The last part of that loop kind of took it out of me but I felt so energized when I saw Emir and the kids come running towards me as I hit the main aid station.  They were all so happy to see me.  I also, even taking things conservative, made the first 50K in 6:30.  Other than during C & O canal when I ran my fastest 50K time, 6:30 is my next fastest time so I really had to feel good about that.

Niko was feeling a bit bummed that he didn't see me earlier in the day when Emir and Una had so I said to him, "Hey buddy, could you help me run this first part here?  You can run with me until we get to the part where I cross the street"  He was so excited and couldn't wait for me to be ready to go.  Emir left ahead of us to snap some photos of us together.  It was so great to share some time on the trail with Niko.  We were both eating grilled cheese, chatting, trotting along.  It really doesn't get much better than that.
running with my Niko!

When it was time to part ways, I was feeling just so good and it would only be about 11 miles until I would see them again.  The second time around the 12 mile loop went well.  I wasn't moving fast or anything but I think I was probably just being consistent from the first half to second half.  I couldn't believe when at the next aid station was one of the women that had passed me way back at mile 13.  I just assumed that everyone that passed me was way ahead since they all seemed to zoom by so easily and fast.  I stayed behind her for a bit but then passed her on the climbs up the ridge.  After coming down off the ridge I also passed a few other people.  I chatted with them for a bit and they all said they couldn't believe they were seeing me because they had all passed me so long ago.  I thanked them and wished them luck and really thought they would probably pass me later at the boulder sections where I knew I would be slow again.

I was just cruising along even through the shades of death trail and in my own world when I thought I heard my name.  Of course I thought I was hallucinating but then I heard it again.  AHH it was Emir!  I was still at least a mile from the aid station so I couldn't believe it.  Niko wanted to walk some of the course to find me and they ended up at a playground just off the trail.  I told Emir that I was now back to 3rd female so he told Niko and I to go ahead and he and Una would meet us at the aid station.  Niko and I headed off and enjoyed some more trail time together.  He kept saying he wanted to do the whole rest of the race with me.  He said "I can definitely do 19 miles mom!  you take walk breaks."  I truly know in a couple years this boy totally will be pacing me for more than a couple miles and I can't wait but for now, he is only 7 so I had to let him down gently that it wasn't a good idea.
My crew!

When we reached the start/finish area, I had the shock of my life.  I was told that I couldn't stay at the aid station, that I only had two minutes to get back on course because of the cutoff.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  There was still over 6 hours left in the race and I was already done 43 miles, there's no way I could be about to get cut off.  I said to her "Oh no, I'm already done 43 miles, I only have the very last lap left."  She proceeded to tell me that the RD said no one could leave after 2:50pm and it was 2:48.  I was baffled but didn't want to get cut off.   My kids always amaze me at how intuitive they are and really rise to the occasion when it's really important.  Niko said "Mom, here fill the water, I'll get you a sandwich and just go, I'll tell daddy you had to go."  So literally two seconds later I was off.
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I was wearing my Aftershokz headphones all day because they are so comfortable I don't even notice them.  That way I could listen to things on and off and not have to fiddle with anything.  Turns out this was the best decision ever.  Emir was texting me and not only because I literally couldn't type on my phone due to the sweat but also because I didn't want to waste time, I just called him and talked to him via the headphones.  He was saying he couldn't believe about the cutoff and I agreed and he was disappointed he couldn't see me off.   About 10 minutes later he was calling me again.  This time it was to tell me that they had made a mistake and the cutoff was supposed to be at 3:50 not 2:50, which makes much more sense.  He asked how long I thought this loop would take.  I said I didn't know, maybe 5 hours.  I told him I wasn't going to push super hard.  I was in 3rd and that was good.  I wanted to finish happy.  Turns out I ended up doing the last loop in 4 hours which I'm pretty sure was actually a little faster than my first time through and in a minute you will see why...

About a half mile from the boulder field, I heard someone behind me.  It was one of the ladies that had passed me early on and then I passed later.  Damn!  I wasn't totally slacking.  I ran a couple of the miles at 10 something pace and was moving steadily through the technical stuff.  She must have been moving.  We started talking about the cutoff and next thing I knew, another lady was with us, AHHH!  I said "holy crap, you were moving fast!"  Then she said she had to because she had been told she was cut off but she called Stephan to argue and he said she could go but she better make all the other cutoffs.  So then I explained to them that they had been wrong by an hour about the cutoffs.  While chatting, I could not stop thinking about how badly I wanted 3rd.   It's not really important to me what place I get but now with about 10 miles left having a chance to podium and get that beer growler Stephan was posting all over FB, I just felt like I needed to get it.  I also know how Niko always really wants us to do well at our races and he's seen them give out awards and it would mean so much to him to see me get 3rd.  Last year at Labor Pains I missed out on an award because of going off course and Niko still talks about how he wished he got to see me get an award that day but that I didn't because I got lost.  This was in the back of my mind now as I hung in back of the two ladies for a bit knowing that we were going to hit the boulder field at any moment.  I had seen both of these ladies struggling across the boulders the first time.  I'm not super skilled but I have learned a few things about crossing boulders in my Croatia and Bosnia adventures the past couple summers and I knew I could get across faster than them.  As soon as we reached the field, I went for it.  I made it across as fast as I could.  I made it a little ahead of them.  I had decided on my way across to get my bladder filled at this aid station so that I would not need to stop at the last one.  Even with getting filled up, I was still ahead of them.  From there I just took off.  I put everything I had in those last two sections.  Part of it was pretty technical followed by super runable.  I ran as fast as I could, as I could not be sure how close they were behind me.  I flew into the last aid station and the guys were looking at me like "wtf?!"  I told them as quickly as I could how those two girls caught me by the boulder field and I really want 3rd as I chugged two cups of coke.  And they said "well get out of here then!"  And that I did!  I ran everything that last section aside from those climbs in the last couple miles but I still hiked as fast as I could.  Emir called me several times during those last couple sections to see how I was doing.  I told him I was racing for 3rd which is why I'm sure he kept calling to make sure I was hanging in there (seriously those headphones were so handy!) and also because Niko was getting super anxious.

It was the best feeling rounding that last turn to where I could see them and they could see me.  The kids came flying towards me and we ran that last .1 of a mile or so together through the finish.  Niko was leaping with joy and shouting.  When they gave me my prize, he was beaming and said how proud he was.  THAT right there was exactly what kept me going and made me push myself.  I don't often talk to myself like that but on this day I kept repeating out loud "Niko will be so happy and so proud if you do this.  You will be so happy.  You will be so disappointed if you don't give it all you have"   And THAT is what being a marathonmom is all about.

felt SO GOOD to sit!
If you haven't run a Stephan Weiss, uberendurance sports race then you are seriously missing out.  Every single one of their races is great and this was no exception.  The course was wonderful.  It was beautiful, it was challenging and it also allowed for some real running.  Stephan spent a lot of time meticulously marking it which was obvious.  All the aid stations were amazing.  They were well stocked with tons of great options plus the volunteers as usual were the best.  At every single aid station, they right away asked what I needed, were grabbing my pack and filling it for me, just doing whatever they could to get runners what they need and get it quickly.  I even had some nice conversations with a few volunteers throughout the day as they were walking around away from the aid station and would accompany me into the station.

Kids having a blast at the lake!

The Hickory Run State Park was a great setting for an ultra.  As I said the trails were perfect.  It also has several options for camping.  It was the perfect place to have the whole family with me.  We camped together and they had tons to do while I was running the race.   They played on playgrounds, played soccer, went swimming in the lake and hung out at the start/finish watching and cheering runners.  Niko loved telling me about the runners he saw that day.  I really can't think of anything that would have made my race experience any better.  I have to thank Coach Caleb for making a solid race plan.  Turns out he knows what he's talking about ;-)  But seriously, if I hadn't listened to him, I would not have felt so good that second half and been able to run so much.  I also have to make sure that I thank Emir for handling the kids for the 13 hours I was running.  I know from experience, they get super antsy waiting for mom or dad to come in at races and it's not easy.  But he happily did it because he knew it was important to them and me.  He knows what it feels like to have all of us there in support at a race.  There's nothing else I can say other than MY FAMILY IS THE BEST!!!!! :-)

I found this on Niko's phone after the race <3

Next up: pacing Emir at Oil Creek October 8th!!!!  We are gonna git him his buckle!!!

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