“I Conquered it!” are the words printed on my medal from this race. These words are very appropriate for this race because anyone who completes it has surely conquered it. It is a very challenging race for anyone, especially a beginner trail racer like me. I am new to that kind of elevation gain and the technical nature of the trail. I am absolutely thrilled I was able to do it! This was the hardest race I’ve ever done, to date, although it was only the week before that I had done another trail race that was very challenging to me and was the hardest one I had done up until that point in time. Last week’s race was very technical but only had about 1000 feet in elevation gain over 13.1 miles, but this race had a whopping 5260 feet of elevation gain in 16 miles and the course was about 80% wet surfaces or more, consisting of lots of mud, wet tall grass, wet hay, and wet rocks. I did not know that there would also be some rock climbing on some of the very steep single track covered in tall wet vegetation. I needed to lift my leg up near my shoulder height and grab a hold of whatever I could and hoist myself up on each rock as I climbed that stretch of single track. Every hill was a very steep uphill and downhill and being a mostly wet course, you really needed to be extra careful not to fall. At times, I felt that the hill was so steep that if I fell, I would just keep falling down the mountain. The race was on a mountain at a famous ski resort in Vermont and many of the trails were on the black diamond trails for skiing, which means it was on the hardest level of ski ability trails. It is one thing to go down a mountain, sliding, on skis, but it is whole other thing to go down it on wet surfaces, not snow covered, not on skis, but on your own two legs. My legs held up pretty well until I got to near the end of the race. I could feel my legs getting weaker early on in the race, but they still kept working for me thank God. But with only a couple of miles left to the race I found myself on the most steep hill of the race and it was soaking wet tall vegetation on top of a black diamond ski trail. As I stood there at the top of the trail and started to try to make my way down slowly, I immediately sensed that if I continued I may slip and fall and KEEP FALLING if I did not stop and get down on my butt. I believe God is always guiding me in all I do, every day and throughout the day. It is as if He is whispering to me, although I do not hear a voice, a thought does seem to just pop into my head suddenly with a sense that I did not think of this myself and that it is a feeling that I should listen for my own good. God is so very good to me, He is always guiding me in love.
Thank God, I got down on my butt and used my arms and legs, like a small child would hoist themselves forward on their butt with their arms and legs. I got down the mountain safely, thanks to God, and after I got out of that very tall, higher than my head while standing vegetation, the surface was drier and I could stand up at that point. The trail was still on a back diamond trail and was still a little wet, with areas more wet than others where it puddled and lots of mushy mud areas and little streams, but dry enough to walk upright. That short break I got on my butt gave my legs a much needed rest and I felt better, surprisingly, when I stood and began to walk down the trail. I was still feeling like my legs did not have much left to give and lost a lot of their strength and power, but I felt a renewed sense of power after my short break on my butt that I planned on running once I got off the black diamond trail. It felt so good to run after carefully and slowly navigating my way down the black diamond trail, even though I was running slow, I was still on a downhill and the cool breeze my body created from running felt amazing and freeing. I love the feeling of running free. I feel like a kid. I feel like it is absolutely amazing that I can do this and that I had no idea what I was missing only 6 short years ago when I was still morbidly obese. I have since overcame so many huge obstacles in my personal life including 5 surgeries in 6 days for emergency treatment of massive blood clots, thoracic outlet syndrome and rib removal to alleviate the blood clotting in 2011, and then I had brain surgery last summer in 2015. It has been a long tough road, but it has made me who I am and I am very thankful to be the person I am today and look forward to continued growth in my personal journey of health and fitness. It is very exciting to me. People who know me many times tell me that it is my enthusiasm that is something they love about me. I cannot help it, I am very enthusiastic in all I do, it is as if I see the world and everything around me through the eyes of someone seeing for the first time. In a way, I am seeing the world for the first time because although I am still the same positive, happy person I have been my entire life, I am now a new better version of myself. I love that I have grown so very much in my health and fitness journey and look forward to continued growth for a lifetime.
I am a Pearl Izumi sponsored athlete and have been for the past 2 years. It is such a huge honor to me to be sponsored by one of the best brands out there and in my opinion the very best running shoes I have ever worn. I also love their running clothes. Everything I wear from Pearl Izumi makes a huge difference in my running. For instance, in this race my feet were wet most of the race and covered in mud, yet I did not fall, although I slipped a lot, and at the end of the race I had no blisters and my feet were not even sore, although my legs were definitely sore with all that elevation gain. I strongly believe that it is because of my Pearl Izumi gear that I feel as good as I do and am able to do what I do. I would never represent a company that I did not believe in and I believe in Pearl Izumi . I absolutely love my Pearls. Part of the honor of representing Pearl Izumi is being able to enjoy races that are sponsored by Pearl Izumi. I never had the opportunity before now to do this because last year when they invited me to race, I could not because I had just had brain surgery. This year I was thrilled to be able to race, not only because it was a Pearl Izumi sponsored race, but also because as a sponsored athlete for Pearl Izumi my race entry and lodging was very thankfully greatly reduced, making it even more appealing for me to do this race, a race that I knew ahead of time would be for sure the hardest race I had ever attempted in my life. Earlier this year, I was supposed to race in Utah. I had very thankfully won a race entry to Ultra Adventures and if I had been able to race that day back in March, that race would have been very challenging and likely would have been harder or just as hard as this race here in Vermont. The two races are likely very similar in difficulty, but I never got the chance to run that race because the morning of the race in Utah that day back in March was pouring rain which made it super slippery and actually washed out part of the mountain. Part of the mountain just slid off the mountain in spots and the race could no longer be held on the original mountain. The race director postponed the race 2 hours that morning and held it on a completely different mountain. It was still pouring rain and when it rains in Utah it is very different than when it rains here in New York because the clay there becomes like a skating rink and extremely slippery unlike anything we would ever have here. I reluctantly made the very difficult decision that day not to race under those dangerous conditions, especially since I was still on blood thinners at the time in conjunction with complications from my brain surgery. It would not have been safe for me to be falling all over the mountain, as many racers later reported that it was constant slipping and falling the entire race because that would cause internal bleeding for me while on blood thinners. Although it was very disappointing at the time and still is, I know it was the right decision.
I raced the 25k at Jay Peak Trail Race in Vermont last week put on by Sub 5 Racing. The race director was fantastic, he held a meeting the night before the race and gave very detailed descriptions of the course to the point that I felt that I had hugely under estimated the difficulty of the course and perhaps should not do it. The race director thankfully gave ‘play by play’ description of every step it seemed of the race. I was very impressed, he not only gave a detailed description but in a fun way that we could all enjoy and be hanging on every word so as to not miss any important details. I have been to meetings the night before a race and while I believe it is always a good idea to make sure you attend these meetings, the information given is not always presented in such a great way and extent. I am very thankful he presented the information the way he did because I would have definitely gone about the course differently if he had not. At the start of a race, many times we as runners are so excited that we go out too fast and this race was no different. Although I was going pretty slow intentionally, by the end of mile 1 I found myself wishing I had gone slower in the first mile because I found myself walking. But the remainder of the course, I made sure I went cautiously and slowly as he had described in detail what was to come, including the fact that it would slippery on much of it and that the entire course would be steep hills either uphill or downhill and that the steepest hill and most dangerous hill would be near the end of the race on mile 14, where a guy broke his femur last year. Then the guy sitting next to me in the meeting the night before the race, told me that he was there last year when the guy broke his femor, that he was right behind him and that he injured his tendon last year and that it was a trecherous part of the course. As all this information came into my head I thought to myself all this unexpected huge level of difficulty throughout the course and the to have the worst part of it at the end of the race when your legs are shot, maybe I bit off more than I could chew I wondered as I looked around the room that seemed to be filled with all seasoned athletes, not newbie’s like me. I am a fairly new runner and a very new runner to trail racing, especially under very technical terrain. Back home we have trails that are nothing like this in difficulty or elevation gain, so all of this was completely new to me. That night, I did not sleep much as I lay there battling my thoughts if I should race or not. Although my mind thought the worst it new to think of at the time with my limited knowledge of trail racing, I am glad I had no idea what I was in store for because I never would have done it if I did. I am thrilled I did this race. It is such a very powerful feeling to do something so very challenging and do it successfully. As I crossed the finish line, the race director and other people cheered me on loudly with great big smiles across there face, calling my name out, shouting congratulations, something that many times does not happen in smaller races such as trail races, I was very pleasantly surprised and it made my already overflowing emotions flood my eyes in complete, total and utter elatement, with huge pools of beyond happy tears. I felt so very proud, accomplished, powerful, and very emotional beyond words. It was the very best feeling that I will never forget. Life is meant to be lived, Make sure you fill your life with experiences and adventures and to live beyond your comfort zone because those are the memories that help make you feel fit forever.
I raced the 25k trail race, therefore it was supposed to be 15 miles, but I actually raced 16 miles that day. At the end of the race when I mentioned that to the race director he apologized and wanted to know which volunteer had given me the wrong directions near the end of the race so he could fix it before it happened to other runners. I am so very pleased with the race and the race director and everything, I can’t say enough good about my experience and can’t wait to hopefully be able to do it again someday. The course I did was only 25k, but there were many racers doing that course twice that day to complete the 50k distance and there were still racers left on the course who were behind me in the 25k distance. I love that he was op top of everything in making sure everything went smoothly for all the racers, including the aid stations were fully stocked with real food and full size beverages such as Maple Water in convenient individual boxes. I stashed 4 boxes in my hydration pack pockets and thankfully so as I drank 3 of them on the course and needed the last one immediately after I finished the race. I love Maple water by the way, it is absolutely fantastic. I never had it before and I know you should never try something new on race day, but I figured it is all natural and regularly have pure maple syrup at home as a flavoring in my plain yogurt and all maple water is is water from the maple tree. It was a good call that I trusted my instinct and drank so much of it during the race, it is a fantastic way to hydrate and restore some of the things that you body loses esp. during intense exercise. I also had 100 ounces of gatorade I put in the bladder of my hydration pack that day and at the end of the race I had 35 ounces remaining. I always like to pack more than I think I will need for various reasons. I may need more if the race is more challenging my body requires more or if I should get lost or take longer to complete the race, my body would need more too. Either way, it is always a good plan to pack more hydration than you think you may need because you never know what may happen.
At the finish, I was absolutely on top of the world, and still am today. I don’t think this feeling will ever leave me, the feeling that I conquered this huge challenging race. I did it. I feel amazing. And I almost didn’t do the race last minute that morning after hearing what the race director said at the course overview meeting the night before.The race director was there for me when I needed him early Sunday morning before 6am I contacted him online to share my concerns and ask his opinion. He responded right away and was so very thoughtful and helpful, although he never told me I should or should not race, I felt so much better afterwards and decided to try my best and if I had to DNF (do not finish) it would not be the end of the world, but I should at least give it my best shot even though by then I had worked it up so much in my head that I was pretty scared. I am very thankful I made the decision to race, it was one of the very best decisions of my life. I made the decision to race that morning, despite being scared of the difficulty, because I remembered that life is made to be lived. I remembered that you don’t always get another chance to do things, you must not pass up opportunities, because you may never get the chance again. Even though I had thoughts going through my mind that I may accidentally break my head open by falling down a steep mountain and it scared me so much because I know, first hand what that feels like, because only 1 short year ago my head was split open on purpose when they opened it up for my brain surgery. Believe me, splitting my skull open hurt worst than anything I have ever experienced and my first born son was a 3 day very painful natural birth, plus all the other very painful things I have had to go through including my 5 surgeries in 6 days in 2011. I know pain and I did not want my head slpit open again, yet I took a leap of faith, absolutely trusting God would protect me and guide me in this new adventure and s always He did. Thank you Jesus, You are the most high, you are my God, my Savior, my personal relationship with You is beyond what words can describe except to say that I cannot imagine my life without you. I have a constant, throughout the day, kind of connection with You and it is fabulous. Thank you so very much for making this huge accomplishment possible for me, as I know without a doubt that all I do is through You Lord. Thank you for Your strength and Your love always. I believe experiences are the richest goods you can possess. Gather as many, and as often as possible, to live the richest most fulfilling life that God wants us all to live.
Thank you for following along in my journey. I love sharing my story and if I can help anyone or encourage or inspire anyone, it is the most wonderful feeling that I can serve God in that way. That is my purpose, to serve God and help others, if even indirectly.
The race was very challenging for me, even though I went slower than I later found out afterwards I could have gone, I am glad I went the slower pace that I did. I felt pretty good after the race, thank God, but it doesn’t mean I was without some soreness, because my thighs were a bit sore, at first, but about 36 hours after the race, DOMS set in, making stairs difficult for a short while, but nothing too crazy, thank God, as I have stairs in my home, and it did not last that long. The difficulty with the stairs lasted a couple of hours and my thigh soreness lasted a few days. Still, I am very glad I went the pace I went, slow, enjoying it as much as possible, taking pictures and stopping to talk to people at times. My Garmin said I had about 35 minutes of time that I was not moving during the race, so if I kept moving the entire time, I would have finished the race more than a half an hour earlier, even at that slow pace, which I am pleased with, especially for my first time. One of the biggest reasons I went as slow as I did was because I never knew for sure what was up ahead on this very difficult course. I definitely know I did the right thing to go slow. It was a hard race, very hard. To the point that at the end of the race, when my legs were saying that had already had enough, and I could feel them not responding the way I would like, I felt unsure if my legs would hold me up on the very steep downhill near the end. It was a black diamond ski trail at a major ski resort in Vermont, it was very steep on the last major steep downhill of the course where the guy broke his femur the year before. As I stood at the top of the trail and started making my way down, slowly, I could feel my legs not having the power they had in the beginning of the race and had this feeling that I had better not take any chances, and I actually got down and sat on the ground, and then used my arms and legs together, like small children do, to propel myself down the mountain on my butt until I felt I was okay to stand up and not fall down just because of the extreme steepness. It felt so steep like I could fall just standing, let alone trying to run or walk forward at the top of the black diamond trail and mostly because at that point it was wet tall vegetation as tall as me and likely why it was still so wet even though by that time the sun was out in full beauty. The day had started to my surprise colder than I expected and was only in the low 40’s on Sept. 4th, less than a month away from me turning 50 years old soon. I cannot wait to turn 50! I feel as though I have already celebrated by completing so many challenges this past year as I recover from my brain surgery last year, I give myself new challenges which helps retrain my brain and make it even better than ever thank God, but it has been a long road and wasn’t that long ago when I had a constant feeling I would lose my balance and fall down just walking, let alone running on a flat surface, let alone a technical trail. I certainly have come a long way and it feels great.
The course was steep up and downs the entire course, over and over again, you were either going up or going down a steep, long hill., some longer than others. It was about 80% wet terrain in my opinion, lots of mud and other wet surfaces, such as wet long grass, wet hay, wet rocks, all very slippery. I had no idea I would be rock climbing on single track covered in dense vegetation, I had to pull myself up by hoisting my leg up near my shoulder height and then pulling with my arms on anything I could hold onto. I cant even describe the huge pride and satisfaction overcoming a huge challenging race like this for me is. I feel very blessed. Thank you Jesus.