February 2017 Newsletter

Welcome New Members – by Dave Sullivan
New Year, New Goals, New You – by Tim Smith

Winter Wisdom – by Laura Hagley
New Year Resolution For Injury Prevention – By Kim Sheffield
My 2 cents on injury prevention – By Eric Ellingson
Visibility-Do Not Be in the Dark – By Bill Young
The Wisdom of Being Injured – by Laurie Reed
Deception Pass 50K – by Susannah Colby
Mountain Mist 50K – by Michele Maxson
Inching My Way Back To Good Health – by Judy Phillips

Welcome to New Members

By Dave Sullivan

Chris Axten Sarah Bennett Taylor Black Cheryl Bush Marcy Chong Christine Cook
Isabella Currier Anthony DiPadova Anne Farrell Daniel Frost Jennifer Hansen Pam Hausler
EJ Kiefer Max Kinateder Michael Kokko  Allison Litten Molly McHugh Joffrey Peters
Katie Pratt Suzy Psomas Georgiana Romero Andrew Rose Erich Saffo Tyler St. Martin
Grace Shelton Sadie Shelton Calvin Smith Sheldon Stansfield Evan Vincent  

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New Year, New Goals, New You

By Tim Smith

Last month UVRC had an information meeting at the Howe Library where a number of events that are planned and discussed for 2017. The club solicited suggestions for things the club could do this coming year. Below are my notes for those of you who missed the meeting.

Things that are planned:
Our club conducts a wide range of activities so I organize them into roughly four categories: training, social, event support and racing.

Training:
Since the club was first founded our Saturday morning runs from Omer and Bob’s and well as our Tuesday Night Track (TNT) remain anchor events on our weekly schedule. However, after three successful “couch to 5k” sessions we think it’s becoming more clear that it is as much of an institution as the other two mainstays. We are planning a spring and Fall C-2-5k for 2017 and are looking forward to introducing, or re-introducing new C25K folks to a new wave of runners.

Social:  
Last year our social calendar was filled with the banquet, the Jingle Bell Run and the summer picnic with a 5k race and bonus swim! The picnic was a new and well attended, so we are sure we will do it again this year. We also have a monthly Pub Night the second Tuesday after TNT, although I am suspicious that the social committee may have additional pub nights where they plan the monthly pub night.

Event Support:
Event support is the thing we do to try and make the Upper Valley a better place, usually through something related to running. The UVRC Runner Recognition Award is new this year, although I don’t think the committee has coined a name of it yet. We will be presenting an award to two graduating high school seniors in recognition of their commitment to running. In fact, the money raised by the Foliage Five will be used specifically for this.

UVRC is supplying pacers for the CHaD and the Covered Bridges Half Marathon. We will also man aide stations for the Vermont 100, and supply volunteers at the Mt. Washington Road Race, while in the process earn some lottery passes.

The volunteer committee has pointed out to me that volunteering at a race really is a lot of fun and is not just for hard-core runners. If a good friend of your just wants to get out into the community this is a great way to inspire people.

In terms of event support, we also help organize the start of CBHM. Last year it was mostly Kim and Julie doing the organizing/planning, but we need a lot more investment from the club to help put our best face forward at this popular race. Since Kim’s not here all year round and Julie’s job can be quite demanding at times, we really need at least 2 additional people to help beforehand and at least a dozen to help day of.

Lastly, the Hanover Main Street Mile is coming in May; a wild dash from Occum Pond area to the Green. Our club will be working with Hanover Rec. and Dartmouth to make this happen. For those who don’t want to dash, we most certainly will need volunteers.

Racing:
I fear that sometimes people only see us as this competitive club which field an exceptional racing team, and that can be intimidating. I listed racing last because I think we do well because we have the three other things right first.

But we do race, and we race well. We took the New Hampshire Grand Prix title again in 2016, and there are dedicated members out there planning their lives vacations, weddings and childbirth around the NHGP schedule for 2017. I also saw recently that the Upper Valley Racing Series (UVRS) has announced their schedule. The UVRS is organized by UVRC and all the races chosen have a reputation for being well run, give you a tour of our valley and most importantly they’re fun.

——————-

But that was only the beginning of the meeting. Most of our time was spent talking about what we can do to make things better. As Paul Coats said, “it is all about building a community.”

I would like to say that these are all good ideas, but what they mostly lack is someone who will stand up and say they will take the lead. The UVRC board is ready to support volunteers however we can, with the resources of the club.

  1. Childcare at races: Jared is looking for couples with small children who want to race, but don’t have childcare during the race. His idea is a group of parents brings their kids to races, but occasionally each parent volunteers to sit out of a race in order to watch the kids, knowing that other parents will reciprocate in the future.
  2. Speaker Series: We all would like to be better informed about what we are passionate about. Could we have speakers on injury, training, nutrition, etc.?
  3. Satellite Group: What about groups that get together in Quechee or Canaan? Enfield had a group for a while, and I think there is a real desire from people outside of Lebanon and Hanover to meet closer to home to workout. We just need somebody to commit to it. “If you build it, they will come . . .” Just announce, Example: “Every Sunday at 2:00PM I will be on the corner of Main and Oak.” (Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these group leaders from the swift completion of their appointed rounds).
  4. Tuesday Night Run (TNR): This has already started. There is a group who meets at the same time and place as TNT each week. They run, they laugh, they enjoy each other’s company, (and don’t do intervals) and they would love to have you join them.
  5. Welcomers: Is there a way we could reach out to new members to help them find a place in our community? Maybe putting them in contact with one of our veterans who has similar aspirations?
  6. Half Marathon/Full Marathon/Mt. Washington prep group: I’ve heard rumors about a group getting together before certain races to do very long runs or hill climbs. Is there a way to make this a bit more regular and visible?
  7. And how do I get those shirts? One of the main ways people learn about our club is to see that logo race after race. So we need to robe our racer soon, the season gets under way in mid March! What else do you want to do to make the Upper Valley a better running community?

Contacts:

Dave Sullivan / evadnavillus@gmail.com / UVRS, CHad & CBHM pacers, CBHM training runs, VT Satellite Groups
Megan Miller /mwmiller719@gmail.com / Outreach same as Welcomers
Jim Burnett jburnett551@gmail.com / New Hampshire Grand Prix
Paul Coats / Paul.Coats@lebcity.com / Apparel & Shirts
Kevin Hartstein / kevinhartstein@gmail.com / Social, Training, and Racing
Rebecca  Stanfield McCown / rebecca.estelle@gmail.com / CHad & CBHM pacers
Julie Paye / jmdpaye@hotmail.com / Organizing the start of CBHM
Geoff Dunbar / geofftdunbar@gmail.com / Saturday morning runs
Mary Peters / marycpeters8@gmail.com / Fall Couch-to-5k
Tim Smith / timothy.p.smith@darmouth.edu / Main St. Mile

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Winter Wisdom

By Laura Hagley

As a year-round runner, I’ve had my share of injuries. With cold and flu running rampant in the transitions of season, it’s also a time when injuries tend to run rampant in the running community. These are my top five recommendations to fend off injuries in winter.

  1. Stay adapted to the surface – Bad weather can leave a runner off the road for days or weeks at a time. Maintaining adaptation to the surfaces we choose on a regular basis reduces the risk of injury. If you’re a road runner in the spring, but treadmill runner in the winter, make sure you adapt slowly to the new surface. The same is true for transitioning back to the road in the Spring. My tendency is to do at least 1-2 sessions on the road and 1-2 sessions on the treadmill each week to maintain adaptation to both.
  2. Indoor track – While the track can be more mentally pleasing than the treadmill, keep in mind the principle of adaptation. There are two issues here. First, if you’re not adapted to the track, your first few sessions on the track will be an unwelcome surprise to muscles/joints, possibly leading to injury and overuse. Second, if you always run counter-clockwise on the track, you’re likely to have muscle and tissue adaptation to reflect that. If you must run on a track, at the least switch directions and give yourself plenty of time to adapt.
  3. Days of the week – Research makes it quite clear that we are more likely to get injured when running less than 4 days/week or greater than 6 days/week. If you’re going to run, then commit to running at least 4 days/week. If your mileage needs to be low, then separate the total miles over those 4 days. For example, running 1 mile/day on four days each week will reduce your risk of injury compared to running 4 miles on one day/week.
  4. Hills are our friends – Running in the winter is often slower due to road conditions. While there are benefits from running on snow for development of stabilizers and proprioception, the roads can limit our ability to safely perform intensity. For those of us who won’t give in to the Track or Dreadmill in the winter, hill repeats are a great option for intensity without the hazard of slipping. A great place to do this is Tuck Drive where you can choose to do a workout such as 12-16 reps of 30sec all out (like a 200m track repeats), or 6-10 reps of a 2-3minute hard effort (like 800m track repeats).
  5. It’s not worth the injury – Some days are just not suited for running outside. I tend to need a little reinforcement to remember I’m a “mortal runner” … that is not an oxymoron. Last time nature reminded me of this was sliding face first down Ledyard Bridge at 6am on ice. An injury one morning could mean no running for 6 weeks. It’s not worth it. My tendency is to look at the week’s weather and plan my intensity days on the treadmill for the days with the worst weather. Or, take a cross training day knowing that elite Nordic skiers have higher Aerobic Capacities (VO2max) than any other group of endurance athletes! But the most important thing I’ve learned about running in the winter is advice from my Midwestern husband ….and that is, WEAR A Buff!!!!
Laura Hagley, DPT, CSCS, EP-C runs competitively for Millennium Running Club. She placed 25th at 2016 Olympic Trials, and competed in the Elite Women’s Wave of the 2016 Boston Marathon. Professionally, Laura is the Director of Rehabilitation and physical therapist at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH. For questions, please email laura.hagley@vrh.org.

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New Year Resolution For Injury Prevention

By Kim Sheffield

Happy New Year, Runners. This is the time to think of New Year’s resolutions…where you want your running to go. It’s a new year, new running opportunities, new ways to refresh your weekly regime. I’m sure you’re well on your way of executing your New Year running plan. I know you’re excited and I know you’re gung ho…. One word of caution….nothing ruins a good running plan more than an injury. I don’t want to see your plan derailed. So let’s talk about injury prevention.

Injuries are typically caused by being overzealous in your training. Too much. Too fast. Too much means increasing your weekly mileage too quickly. Too fast means training much faster than your race pace. With additional miles and speed work, avoid over taxing your body before it can handle it. Mileage and speed should be added in small increments.

We’ve talked about how quickly to increase mileage:

“…rule of thumb, increase your weekly mileage 10%; maintain for 1-2 weeks before you up your mileage. When you want to increase your training speed, or pace, you need to base your speed workouts on your current level of fitness, or a recent race pace.

Avoid training with someone a lot faster than you. Over training due to excessive pace will leave you very tired and sore, prone to injury.

A note about warming up and cooling down:

Warming up before a race or a workout is important because as you jog you are getting blood and oxygen to the muscles and you are lubricating joints. You don’t want to use part of the race as a ‘warm up’.

Cooling down after a race or workout is a great way to bring your body temperature down to its resting heart rate/ normal state and to allow the blood flow to remove the lactic acid from your muscles. Warming up and cooling down are also a good way to add more weekly mileage.

Finally, incorporate other key components for injury prevention in your New Year Running Plan:

  • Massage
  • Chiropractic work
  • Stretching
  • Hydration
  • Eating the right foods
  • Dietary supplements
  • Recovery days (OFF days) or Active recovery days (swim, bike, yoga, weights…)

With the new year, refresh your weekly regime but don’t be overzealous and risk injury. Think of your 12 month running plan as a marathon, not a sprint. Coach Kim

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My 2 Cents on Injury Prevention

By Eric Ellingson

Everyone always wants that one  stretch or strengthener… when it really takes a variety, and the best ones for each individual tend to vary.  That said, the Bretzl stretch is the best “get everything at once” stretch out there.  Here’s a great video breaking down the form for it:

For strength, nothing beats a good one-leg side plank for exposing most runner’s weak spot…

(should get to that one-leg “starfish” position at the end of the video).  (To be fair, there’s the shirtless male version of the video too, but he never does the hard version!)

Visibility-Do Not Be in the Dark

 By Bill Young

UVRC runners are role models for the running community. TNT around Occom Pond in the winter is an impressive visibility light show: reflective vests, headlamps, taillights, knuckle lights and all kinds of blinking gizmos.

Because you are so amazingly good and above average you have a responsibility to proselytize. Let there be light. 

“Hi. Remember to get a light. Thanks.” is a reasonable and friendly shout out to fellow runners who are out there in the dark.

Runner’s World reported on Nighttime Running Safety Tips-October 2, 2014

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 70 percent of pedestrian deaths occur between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. While your pace may be far from pedestrian, you run the same risks as any foot traveler on dark roads. James Gallagher of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center offers runners some tips for staying safe as the daylight hours diminish.

  1. Maximize reflective gear, which increases the distance from which drivers can see you to 500 feet. If you wear bright, neon or white clothing, drivers can spot you from only 180 feet. (For a car moving at 40 mph, it takes more than 180 feet to come to a stop.)
  2. Think low. Most headlights are angled slightly down, so lighting the lower leg is important. Try reflective socks or shoelaces, and add reflective tape to shoes.
  3. Accentuate the moving parts. Make sure you have reflective gear on feet, ankles and wrists, which move the most during your stride.
  4. Be bright and flashy: Handheld flashlights or headlamps serve dual purposes, lighting your way and alerting drivers to your presence. Studies show flashing lights are more eye-catching than solid light

http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/nighttime-safety-tips-for-runners

The UVRC supports the Hanover Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee’s outreach to Dartmouth students and the Upper Valley community. Students are notoriously bad pedestrians. “Stall Street Journal” safety messages, bulletins and letters to the editor are sent out a few times a year. Please be safe and encourage others to do the same.  

Christmas……Valley News 2015

Dear Santa Claus from a Little Dartmouth Student

Please bring me a headlamp, a reflective jacket, and a kitty cat. It is dark at night at Dartmouth College and I do not want to get run over. Stanford University gives each student a headlamp. Students get a lump of coal and a BIG fine if they do not use the light. A 4-year membership in Jay-Walker’s Anonymous would also be nice. I will put a headlamp on the list for my mom and dad. I will try not to be naughty and will stop, look and listen, before crossing the street.

Thank You Safety Santa

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The Wisdom of Being Injured

( and the lessons learned from my mistakes)

By Laurie Reed

First a disclosure: this title was influenced by a book I like very much “The Wisdom of a Broken Heart.”

As I was driving home one Saturday morning last summer after my 2nd ever run with UVRC I started thinking about everything that’s led up to where I am now. Someone I was running with earlier had asked me, “what was my story?”

From the beginning I was never athletic. In high school my best friend suggested I take up jogging as a way to deal with the despair I felt after being dumped by my first boyfriend. She was an amazing runner and offered to start a jogging program with me. I figured I had nothing to lose so I obliged and went out for a half mile run my first time. My legs and lungs were burning and the whole thing felt miserable, but the physical pain distracted me from the emotional pain so I persevered. With the encouragement of my friend I kept at it until I could comfortably jog three 10 minute miles.

I then went off to college at The University of Arizona and continued jogging my three miles a day. I noticed my shins were hurting and after consulting a doctor and being diagnosed with severe shin splints, he prescribed no running and told me to race walk instead to strengthen my shins. This began 18 months of race walking, including a marathon that my friend and fellow race walker and I completed in 4:46 winning the race walking division of the 1978 Fiesta Bowl marathon.

After the marathon I cautiously begin jogging again, gradually increasing my mileage up to about 5 miles several times a week. I decided to participate in intramural track and much to my surprise,I won all the distance events. Someone casually suggested  that I consider trying out for the cross country team. This sounded exciting, but completely unrealistic as we were in the Pac-10 with a team of many gifted runners, including an Olympian.  Nonetheless,I figured with nothing to lose, I began training more seriously, including 6 miles per day most days and an occasional 3 mile hard run. I also ran my first marathon finishing in 3:32.

Fall came and I went to cross country practices with 50+ other hopefuls vying  for 1 of the 14 travel spots. My chances looked slim, but I persisted and did everything the coach said, including running extra. By some miracle I got the 14th spot and was now a member of the University of Arizona cross country team! I still look back on that as one of my biggest life accomplishments.

I continued to improve and ran track  PR’s of 18:25 for 5k and 38:47 for 10K in the PAC 10 championship where I placed 6th.

After graduating from college in 1983,I spent the summer before medical school training to qualify for the first ever Women’s Olympic Marathon trials. My goal was to achieve the qualifying standard of 2:51 at the San Francisco marathon.

Straight from track to marathon training without a break was my first mistake. I trained harder than I ever had without a coach or any guidance and basically ran myself into the ground with three solid months without a day off, poor nutrition and no plan whatsoever. Most weekends I raced on Saturday and ran 20 miles on Sunday thinking, “more and harder is better.” I cannot recall doing a single core exercise or stretching. It was all about putting in the miles and continuing to push through the pain, as I had done during cross country and track. That was what I thought one needed to do to improve.

In July of 1983, I went to the registration tent for the San Francisco marathon and discovered that I had been identified as an elite runner. I was given a special number and the privilege of starting with the other competitive runners. I felt so honored.

On the morning of the marathon, I felt nervous but ready and excited. I was confident in my ability to run a solid race. The starting gun sounded and to my shock, my legs felt heavy and my body was exhausted. I continued running but my pace got slower and slower. With each passing mile, I felt my goal getting further out of reach. I knew that I would have to have a perfect day to run 2:51 but at the very least I felt I was ready to break 3 hours but even that was becoming an impossibility.

At mile thirteen, my body collapsed. Though my mind was desperate to continue, I was physically unable to. I stopped running, crumpled on the side of the road, and sobbed into a police officer’s shoulder. This was my first and only DNF. The hardest part was that I knew I was capable of running a better race. I had poured my heart into the grueling summer of training and felt that I had nothing to show for it. I felt humiliated and that I had somehow failed myself and everyone who had supported me.

Crushed, I had a decision to make. Do I start medical school in the fall or delay it and train with hopes of getting a qualifying time? After much internal debate I made a decision to start medical school rather than defer and train when I could. With the rigors of the 1st year of medical school, I quickly realized the qualifying time was a pipe dream and instead decided to  train for the Arizona marathon,which I ran in January 1984. Although I ran a PR 3:04:17, placing 3rd, my dream was over.

I continued running and had my most successful road racing season in 1985, winning both the Tucson marathon and the Inaugural Old Pueblo 50 miler. I also set a course record for the Mt. Wrightson trail run and ran the 3rd fastest time for the Bear Canyon 18 mile loop (records that I’m sure have been broken). I continued to run and enjoy racing. My move to the Upper Valley in 1987 for residency was quite a shock weather-wise having trained in Arizona conditions (think 40 in the am up to 70 during the day about 6 months/ year!) My last marathon was Boston in 1988 and although not my best marathon (3:20) it was a memorable experience.

Everything changed after I broke my pelvis delivering my daughter Molly in 1993. Her head, which was in the 97th percentile, was not a good match when combined with my small pelvis. Although I now had a beautiful healthy baby, this was the beginning of over 20 years of injuries due to the fracture and subsequent instability. Thankfully after the birth, my love for her along with the post delivery hormones coursing through me made the pain manageable. Within a couple of months I began to look for help.Over the years I have seen and done just about every type of therapy/rehab imaginable.

Orthopedic surgeons, osteopaths, naturopaths, chiropractors, physical therapists, rehab specialists, podiatrists, sports trainers, sports medicine specialists, acupuncturists, pilates teachers etc. Many told me I would never run again. I even flew to Chicago five times for painful and expensive prolotherapy injections into my pelvis and lower back. I’ve had periods where I could run again and times when running 100 yards was excruciatingly painful.

It’s been hard both physically and emotionally. There were so many things I missed; the ease of throwing on a pair of running shoes and heading out the door, something I could do anywhere, feeling the pavement beneath me and the joy of feeling my body gliding along, early morning runs watching the sunrise, the satisfaction from a hard workout, the validation of a PR or placing well at a race, feeling part of a community and the way running had become part of my identity. If someone had asked me to describe myself, runner would have been one of the first things I would have said, but now all of that was in the rear view mirror.

Losing my ability to run was like losing a loved one. I avoided anything that reminded me of the loss. I could no longer read running magazines or look up results. Watching others run filled me with ” why me?” At some point I realized I needed to stop fighting it and accept that I had done all that I could and it was time to accept my new reality and move on. I began to understand the difference between giving up and acceptance.

I started spinning and then joined master’s swim, but more importantly, started strength training. In the beginning running was still in the back of my mind and there were pangs but it got easier. I was making new friends and getting stronger in ways that running didn’t facilitate. About two and a half years ago I tried to run and much to surprise and pleasure I was able to. I stuck with no more than three times/month and no more than five miles at a time. I even started racing again and although my times are far slower, being out there has been a gift.

I have been asked of all the things I’ve tried what has been helpful. I don’t really know but I’ve taken bits and pieces from the various people I’ve seen and incorporated many of the exercises into my daily routines. Maybe time has helped as well. It is likely that the core strength and core stability have been key to stabilizing my pelvis. I also recognize and accept my limitations, and know that I cannot run too often or too much.

There have been many lessons learned:

  1. Focus on what you can do, not what you cannot.
  2. Diversifying is good :your body gets stronger, you have multiple options and you can make new friends.
  3. Appreciate what you have because you never know what might happen. I never take a run for granted anymore.
  4. The only pain worse than a painful workout or race is the pain of not being able to do it.
  5. Don’t compare yourself to old PR’s when circumstances change and the truth is no one really notices or cares anyway. 95% of it is being able to participate.
  6. Listen to your body and rest when needed.There’s an optimal work/rest ratio which is critical to improvement.
  7. Strength work, core, flexibility and good nutrition are essential.
  8. Find a nice group of people like UVRC!

Though painful, my 20 years of injury have made me a more balanced and healthy person. As crazy as it sounds, I’m happy now that my injury led to so many great things. I’m even considering trying an Aquathon this summer. I’m extremely grateful that I have been able to rekindle my relationship with running and be part of such a warm and welcoming  community that, like myself, appreciates the joy of running.

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Deception Pass 50K

By Susannah Colby

It all started after my marathon. I had finished the Wineglass marathon in Corning New York with my friend Crystal. It was painful and I loved every minute of it. Crystal was there at the finish line to meet me. She had placed third in her age group and was qualified for Boston. I felt honored to have her there with me. My next goal was to see if I could run a 50K. I made that my New Year’s goal (I don’t like resolution because it implies you have to take something away). I announced my plan to the world and set my heart on the Deception Pass 50K.

I work a lot so my time is stretched thin and I’m usually confined to my car for an hours drive in any direction with little time to stretch before races and training. In 2015 I was going to a lot of races, 25 to be exact, and not taking the time needed to roll and stretch. You can see where I’m going with this…A week after my marathon I ran the Harpoon 5K and a couple weeks later I ran the White Mountain Half Marathon. I landed a new half marathon PR and life was good, or so I thought.

White Mountain Half Marathon 2015

At work I mentioned to one of the other teachers that my foot hurt quite a bit when I walked uphill. She gave me that mom look, so I immediately made an appointment and went to the doctor the following day. My worst fears had come to life. They put me in a walking boot with concern of a stress fracture. What was I going to do? I’m always on my feet. At work I clocked 5 miles on my Garmin just walking around my classroom one day. Now I was stuck in this thing for several months. Over the course of those months I actually wore the boot out and had to duct tape it several times to keep it intact. I couldn’t run and I couldn’t hike. Even worse was my knee swelled up to the size of a grapefruit from the stress the boot put on my knee joint. Now I couldn’t swim or bike and I was miserable.

The boot 2015

I went to several different doctors and physical therapist looking for at least one that believed in me. Some said I would never run again, one suggested surgery, while another said I needed to work on strength and flexibility. I ran on the Alter-G and had one physical therapist put ice on my knee and foot without any barrier for so long I thought I was going to get frostbite. I dumped the people who said I was doomed and embraced the ones who preached hope. I had an amazing physical therapist who knew exactly what to do to get me back on my feet. Thanks Greg! My recovery seemed to take forever, but I was back on my feet by March.

The Deception Pass 50K was more than just a 50K to me. It was set on Whidbey Island, right across from where my big brother, George lives. I used to live out in Washington State when I was a kid and part of me misses the West Coast everyday. This race was an opportunity to do something I never thought I could do and most doctors said I wouldn’t and see my family again. While I was recovering I spent a great deal of my down time in my studio painting the view of Whidbey Island from Camano as an anniversary gift for him and his wife. I brought it with me as a surprise when I showed up in December for their 25th wedding anniversary.

Painting of Whidbey Island from Camano Island Side

I arrived in Seattle with my fiance and his son, Ryan. It was cold and rainy, just the way I had remembered haha. I thought it would be nice to explore Seattle for a while and then use the rest of the evening to rest up before the big day. We climbed up the Space Needle, wandered around Pike’s Place Market, got coffee at the first Starbucks and stuck gum on the gum wall. We finished our afternoon with dinner at the Spaghetti Factory and then headed back to my brother’s house to get everything ready for race day.

Carb Loading at the Historic Spaghetti Factory (Now closed forever)

I slept great! Usually I’m a wreck and up most of the night, but I had a sense of peace knowing my brother knew exactly where to go and my ride was solid. My family was great and they had bought all the food and supplies I needed for the day. Mainly crunchy organic peanut butter, jelly, bread, watermelon, cherry coke (I know, I know it’s bad for me), and a few other things. I had gone over the plan with them so they knew exactly where and when to meet me at the aid stations. Food and clothes were prepped and I couldn’t wait. I grabbed my gear and we headed out to the car. The rain and wind had stopped and the weather seemed perfect. It was going to be a good day.

We got to the beach and there were volunteers and runners all over. I headed down to the tent with my family. I’m not going to lie, I became really anxious and when I started to think about the distance I had to cover. I felt a little sense of panic. “Could I run 31 miles? What was I thinking? Did I train enough? How do I know I can even run that far when I’ve never ran that far before? Maybe I can retreat now. Should I tell them?” I tried to keep a calm face so my family didn’t know I was worried. This would pass and I was here and there was no turning back. I went inside the tent, got my race bib and started to prepare myself mentally for what I was about to do.

View of Deception Pass bridge from the start point

The race director told everyone to line up and then we were off! I told myself this was going to be an amazing adventure. I only had to think about it in chunks. I would only have about 8 miles until the first aid station. No sweat!

As I ran along the coast every moment was picturesque. There were these reddish/orange trees that were glistening in the sunlight (when it popped through the clouds every once in awhile) that I thought were absolutely gorgeous. I wanted so badly to stop and take pictures at every pass, but I knew it wasn’t practical during a race so continued along with the group. I felt good but also worried I may be going out to fast. I overheard one of the guys behind me talking about several races he had completed. He mentioned he had qualified for Western States a few times. When I heard that I started to worry that I had actually gone out too fast. I’d heard of Western States and that was a really hard race to get into and you had to be fast. I was just about to slow down my pace and then he said hello. We chatted for awhile about the trail runs he had completed and he asked what the trails were like in VT. It was a good distraction for a while until he took off with a faster group uphill and then I was left once again to my own thoughts.

We all started to head up a really steep hill that would bring us up and over the bridge. One guy started to pass us and another person took note that he was only wearing sandals. They said, “Dude, are you really wearing sandals?” And he smugly said, “Yeah man, I thought this was a beach race.” How this man survived the race in flip flops is beyond anything I can comprehend.

View from the other side of the bridge

I met my family 8 miles in. They were very excited to see me and I was very excited to see them. They made signs and were hooting and hollering. I was so proud and so embarrassed at the same time. This spot had a short 2 mile loop that ran up behind the aid station and then back out so I decided I’d run it first and come back to where they were before I grabbed any supplies. When I came back out they were still there and just as excited. One of the volunteers asked me if I was Susie because he heard them yelling my name. I said yes and he said, “You have to get a picture of this.” He snapped a shot for me while I filled my water bottles and then he went over to my family with the other volunteers and they made an arch with their arms that I ran through as I left the aid station.

My energetic brother George, my niece Makenzie, my nephew Isaac and Ryan (Jason’s son) is in front of him, My fiance Jason and my sister-in-law Josie

I wouldn’t see my family again until the half marathon point. My mind wandered as I thought about what it was I was doing. I thought about how lucky I was to even be at this race and how wonderful it was that I could still run, despite the naysayers. Soon after I hit a sort of wall. About 2 miles before I saw my family I started to get cramps in my stomach and my legs started to feel heavy. I stopped for a moment to let my stomach relax and then headed on to the next station. When I met my family I grabbed a couple tylenol, more water and food. I don’t usually drink soda, but ginger ale tasted like heaven at the moment. There were so many things at the aid station like peanut M&M’s, potato chips, sandwiches etc. I was really good about sticking to my plan and not eating anything I hadn’t trained with, well except for that ginger ale. This next section was a 6.5ish loop that had a significant climb. I finished the entire thing and ended up back at the aid station with my family there once again to cheer me on.

The man who checked my bib number explained to me that we had to go back and loop the loop again. The first time wasn’t so bad because I didn’t know what I was in for, but a second time I knew exactly what I had to run…again…up those hills…after 22 miles or running already. So back I went. The runners had thinned out significantly because several people had DNF’d (A total of 100 people at the end) and several other people were just much faster than I was. I wasn’t here to win this race, I was here to finish my first 50K and see my family. That’s what mattered to me.

I was alone heading out into the woods for my second 6.5 mile loop. I was running along and enjoying the sound of the tall trees creaking in the wind, the earth crunching beneath my feet, the birds that occasionally made sounds singing through the trees.  The earth was a rich burnt sienna and the foliage was rich around me. The moss seemed to grow on everything making a wonderful contrast of colors that any artist would adore. It was peaceful. I was about a marathon into the race with only a couple more miles to go in this loop.

I was deep into the woods and heard another runner coming up behind me. I got over to the side of the trail to let them by, but they didn’t go by. I ran for a while with them right behind me, but they never said a word, not a hello or a sound. I slowed down a bit so they could pass, but then they slowed down too. I personally don’t like the feeling of someone running right up behind me so I decided to speed up to get away from them, and they sped up too. I decided I would walk now. Certainly they would go past me if I was walking, but then they walked. At this point I felt as though my mind was playing tricks on me and I was afraid to look behind me to see who, or what was there. I sped up and continued on like this for about 2 miles until I finally caught up to a group of men. One of them turned around and saw us coming and said, “Hey Michelle!” The woman who was behind me said hello back and then she said to me, “I hope you don’t mind that I was pacing along with you. You just seemed to be going the right speed for me.” I said no problem, but seriously… it was a bit creepy.

I made it out of the woods and I was ready for some food. I couldn’t wait to see my family. But they weren’t there. Nothing was left in the aid station either. It was heartbreaking. To make things worse I had a small rock in the back of my sock that was sawing my ankle in two. I clomped along through the parking lot and up the road (uphill on pavement after 29 miles is brutal) and saw the opening on the right side of the road back into the trails. As I headed around the corner I saw the van full of my family pulling up. They had miscalculated my time. I had ran the loop faster than expected because I had though bigfoot was behind me.

Sticker I found at Seatac Airport

I ran the last couple of miles like they were my first. I had a new wave of energy knowing I was so close to the finish. I could hear the group of people at the finish and could smell the wood fired pizza cooking. We ran alongside cliff edges with the sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks. It was beautiful, but you also had to watch your step because there were cliff edges decorated with caution tape that dropped off suddenly. I was able to pass one gentleman with a stick and felt good about my finish. I had never even checked my watch. I just knew I would make it before the cutoff time. I thought to myself, “I could run another 20 miles!” Well, that was until I sat down. Then I felt like I couldn’t even get myself to the car without assistance haha. We had pizza and listened to the band and then we headed home for recovery time. I did it, thanks to my very supportive friends, training partners and family I was able to enjoy every minute of that day.

Me and my big brother George at the finish

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Mountain Mist 50K

By Michele Maxson

February is the month of love.  So this is about the race I love the most.  The Mountain Mist 50K is fairly well known in the Deep South as being one of the harder ultras (it used to be the hardest, but they keep coming up with crazier and crazier things) in the South East. It’s also a good reprieve from our brisk New Hampshire winters to head to Alabama and listen to them complain about the cold in January as the thermostat dips into the 40s.

What is it about this race? It’s the people, it’s the course and it’s the weather! Weather in winter in New England is cold, yeah, we know it, but weather in the South East is unpredictable. I’ve run this race one year in shorts and a t-shirt, other years the mountain has been shut down from ice and snow, there’s the perpetual threat of tornados and all three can, and usually do, happen in the same week. So booking my tickets to fly back to my old stomping ground is always a hit-or-miss. This year was a hit, the temps started out at a nice, dry 32 and peaked out at a beautiful sunny 50. This was the first time in a decade that the weather wasn’t some stupid extreme that made you hate your life.

The second thing I love about this race is the people. Ya’ll know by now that I call New Hampshire home, but I will always keep Huntsville as my second home. It’s also where I learned to run.  When I lived down there I had a bit of a life crisis that made me pick it up and through that crisis I met a motley crew of engineers, financial advisors, IT specialists, stay-at-home moms, teachers, preachers, and people I’d never interact with in my ‘everyday-life’ that turned into my best friends. Some of them have been running since before I was even a thought in my parent’s minds and some are just being welcomed into the running world for the first time this year. And they’re all crazy, spend too much time in the woods, and all chafe in places that would make their coworkers think less of them. They are my sole family. So there’s that.

The final reason I love this race the most is the course. Oh man, that course! It’s 31 miles of smiles on Monte Sano, the mountain that Alabama calls their own. I’ll claim that it’s the southernmost mountain in the Appalachian range, but I’m sure that if you Google it I’m wrong. So I’ll claim it as an alternative fact. Either way, it’s Huntsville’s playground. The course starts out and is a flat, fast course that winds gradually up and around the mountain. These first 16-17 miles are not technical, there’s not a lot of elevation change, its beautiful single track, you pop out into a glorious field cut up the mountain for the powerline and these first 16-17 miles just float by.

This is what we normally look like when there’s not a professional photographer around

So in this first half it’s easy to forget what I said earlier, that this is (or used to be) one of the hardest ultras in the southeast. By this point, you’ve already come and gone through two aid stations, over half the mileage is done and the mountain is warming up with the sun. Like a good southern belle, this race masks its true intentions with a “Now bless her heart, but” and then bam…you get hit with what she’s about to say to you and Mountain Mist proceeds to hand you a big spoon of “put on your big girl panties.” Once you hit the second aid station you cross a road and head onto Sinks Trail. On this side of the mountain, the nice rolling trails give way to flat, slippery, limestone and quickly drops down so that you’re running first beside and then through small limestone caverns.

Coming through the Sinks Trail By-pass

This is what I live for, not that flat fast B.S. Once we come through these amazing caverns we head down Bluff-Line, where the water has run-off between the limestone causing deep gullies to form between the rocks. The gullies are too narrow to run in, but too big hop across. So down, down, down we all slip and slide on these wet a$$ slippery, flat rocks hopping back and forth between rock and gully and rock and never quite sure which direction your ankles are going be landing. To make matters worse, the rocks are just that size where they’re too big for one foot per rock, but not big enough for two feet per rock so it’s a strange hoping/shuffling mixture. This is where my sister from another mister claimed her name “Short-Cut.” At the bottom of Bluff-Line, there’s a sharp right, but you’re so busy staring at your feet hoping to stay upright, and if you’re short (like we are) you run right under the flagging tape and don’t even notice. She trained so hard, for so long for this race and her first year, she slipped under the tape, arrived at the next aid station to a cheering crowd telling her she was the 3rd overall woman and she KNEW something went terribly wrong. She now lives on the course in infamy.

Don’t take a short-cut!

Next up several miles on the lovely Old Railroad Bed Trail. As the name indicates, it used to be a railroad that went up the mountain so at least it’s flat. It’s full of rocks that are the size of your head, just waiting to roll over and slam into your ankle. Oh, yes, lovely Railroad Bed Trail, we shall hop and pick and stumble, and pray to get down you without breaking an ankle for the better part of two miles. Yes, even this hell-of-a-trail, I love it. So far every trail that we have been on is still runnable. So at this point, since you have been running and not hiking, you’re pretty well toasted, plus the past five miles have been those heart-wrenching miles where your legs are shaking from trying hard to not break a limb, a much different type of tired than tired from just trying hard. Up comes Waterline Trail!! WOOT-WOOT! This trail was cut up, I mean DIRECTLY UP the mountain beside a drainage ditch/river and was meant to deliver water to the top of the mountain. It feels nice to walk for a little bit, but waterline, oh beloved waterline, is actually a hand-over-hand climb. I have seen more than a few newcomers to this race actually stop and be afraid to go up because it’s super safe and very legit to have to climb up a limestone cliff that’s a waterfall in January. Bless her heart, but welcome to the Mountain Mist. As non-Huntsville natives picked their way up Waterline, good old ShortCut and I were singing (shouting), at the top of our lungs, about our deep love for waterline, we had a round going, I love that girl and I love that trail. We made a few enemies on our way up. At the top of Waterline there’s another ½ mile, and aid station, and then a few miles down Natural Well Trail. Natural Well leads to, you guessed it, the Natural Well. It’s a 190 ft, open air pit that’s just amazing. Oh, did I mention, that Alabama is part of TAG (Tennessee-Alabama-Georgia) which is well known for their caving, particularly their pits? Well, it is, and this pit is on the trail, and yes, you can just peak over the edge and fall in, so be careful ya’ll. This trail holds a special place for me because this was the first place I ever, in my entire life, was able to run three consecutive miles, non-stop.

Natural Well

So on past Natural Well, back down the mountain, along deep clay gullies that were washed out year after year as each passing tornado removes more and more trees. The clay gullies are like crevasses where there is a clay bridge that has formed that passes over the gully, but there’s really nothing to it, and it sounds hollow when you’re on it. We just get through it as fast as we can. We’re getting on toward the end, right? A nice easy traverse along the bottom of the mountain through mud mile (which has never, not a day in the mountain’s life, ever not been ankle deep, clay soaked, shoe sucking mud) then to the final climb up to rest shelter. A mile long climb, in wet shoes, caked with clay. It’s so bad that the top of rest shelter is mile 29.4 and they have to put an aid station up there. Thank goodness for hugs from aid station workers, hot salty potatoes, and Mountain Dew to get you the remainder 1.6 miles. Every year I tell myself “this year I shall run the last mile” and every year is the same…I have nothing left to even shuffle out that last, flat mile.

Every year, I’ll be back though. Everyone need a reprieve from winter, everyone need 190ft open air pits, everyone need clay, everyone needs to shout across aid stations about how much snot is in the potato chip bowl, and everyone needs to run my favorite race, the good old Mountain Mist 50K.

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Inching My Way Back To Good Health

By Judy Phillips

We visited NYC – a Christmas/Valentine’s gift from my husband – and I always look for a race when we travel. This is the third year we did the race, a fundraiser for Community Options, which supports folks with disabilities. I took first place in my age group – I may have been the only woman in that category

After a very long layoff due to surgery, followed by a wicked bug that lasted 8+ weeks, a Christmas gift to myself was to begin exercising again. I’ve always exercised, and the nearly 3-month hiatus just made me feel awful. Boxing Day was the first day I felt better, so I began slowly with a mile run on the treadmill before we set off to visit my family for a holiday get-together in the Garden State. The inn we stay at has a tiny but well-equipped gym, recently updated, so we used it for our brief stay. The short workouts were certainly not enough to offset the long hours sitting in the car and good food, but it was a little step in the right direction.

I’ve committed to New Year’s Resolutions since I was a child, and still do. It’s been my tradition to start them the week between Christmas and New Year’s. This year they’re simple: getting back to being healthy, and resuming my diet/fitness regimen. Over a year ago, I started using MyFitnessPal at my trainer’s suggestion. She saw my frustration – no progress despite healthy eating and consistent exercise, which included weight training, Pilates and, of course, running. The weight came off slowly, and I lost 34 lbs. but then plateaued November ’15. I was ok with holding stable because we had weddings and travel in ’16, but was determined to get to goal. Then I hurt my back in the summer, followed by the long layoff, so I missed many races….no Turkey Trots, no Jingle Bell Runs or Santa Shuffles this holiday season. Some weight came back on, so I am now working my way back to the 34 pound-off mark, before I can think about getting to my ultimate goal.

My solution? I signed up for three running challenges. One is a Yes.Fit virtual race I actually started before the surgery, then the others are one sponsored by Runner’s Alley (“Winter Warrior Challenge”), and the ilovetorun.org Gold Challenge 1000 miles in 2017. 

When I say “inching back,” I mean it. On 12/26, I began with the one mile, and have done it daily since. It seems absurd because I’ve been distance running for 38 years (began as a New Year’s Resolution in 1979), and it’s like I’m starting out as a novice. The Winter Warrior Challenge involves committing to run 1/3/or 5 miles daily during the month of January; I decided to keep to a modest commitment of the one mile. Of course, I will increase my distance, but wanted to keep to a regular exercise regimen and make sure it was manageable. 

We started this year with our tradition, the Millennium Mile on New Year’s Day. It’s great fun; I didn’t push myself at all but did fairly well. I’ve also signed us up for a 5k this month, a four miler in February, a half in March, and a ten miler and 10k in April. So our training begins. (My husband, who works long hours and does not enjoy exercise like I do, but is a natural athlete, took a “sympathetic” long hiatus himself. I instituted my “no dinner without 30 minutes exercise” policy again. It means we eat late, but the tradeoff is worth it. He feels much better, and has more energy).

As I’ve said before, I have no athletic ability or coordination, but am very grateful I discovered the joy of running years ago. It’s been my time for meditation and best exercise for getting/staying fit.

Happy running in ’17!

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