|Shenipsit Strider group post-Traprock 2013. Photo Courtesy of Scott Livingston|
A little over a week ago, on April 13, I took on my first event of the season; The Traprock 50k at Penwood State Park in Bloomfield CT. If you recall,I made a very ill-advised attempt at this course last year, with my bum knee. What a difference a year has made! Since I’m in one functioning piece this year the race was already destined to be a success. I also met a bunch of the runners from the Shenipsit Striders, the running club I joined this year. Very fun to share the race and the woods with a bunch of fun, like-minded people. I’m excited for the rest of the year!
I had a few bumps in my training road over the past couple of months, so I knew I wasn’t going into this as well-trained as I had hoped to be. But I was definitely MUCH better off than I have been for most events in years past. I had no idea what to expect, other than to show up ready to hit the trails! I knew from my loop last year that it was a pretty technical and hilly course… My goal was to do my best, and stay upright. (1 out of 2 ain’t bad 😉 )
It was great running weather… chilly at the start, but I was comfortable in shorts, short sleeve shirt, gloves, and my favorite Moeben arm sleeves. The sun stayed in the clouds and kept the temps in the 50’s. Comfortable, even a little chilly at times up on the ridgeline.
Here’s a little rundown of the course loop (10 miles, 2300′ of elevation gain per loop): The first 1-2 miles also doubles as the last 1-2 miles of the course. It is a mix of some rocky, rooty singletrack and some doubletrack with loose rocks. Tricky footing. The technical running continues for the next few miles, over more loose, rocky doubletrack and up a looooong rock staircase (the “Stairway to Heaven”) and up more climbing to the ridge. From there it is a jumble of rolling technical, rocky singletrack with a steep switchback downhill into aid station #1 and the start of the “lollipop” loop. After negotiating the continued rocky terrain around the lollipop, we hit aid station #2, and began a long gradual climb into much more runnable territory. The next few miles include some rolling singletrack that is still somewhat technical and tricky on tired legs, but very runnable. We come around a corner out of the woods and into aid station #3, and also begin a stretch of broken up pavement on an old park road. This stretch is definitely runnable and makes for a nice break from the technical stuff (for those of us who may or may not have just tripped and fell. again. and could use some sure footing for a little while). After winding along this paved section we take a right and head uphill, entering the section of trail that is shared by the start. We wind through the starting section, down the technical starting hill and into the start/finish area (and aid station #4). Click here for a map and detailed description of the course as well.
The cool thing about this layout is that we “mid pack-ers” get to see the leaders multiple times due to the out and back sections. It was great to see them motoring along! I got to see Debbie (Livingston) crusing along on her way to a win, looking amazing as she flew over the terrain. Inspiring! It was so cool to be able to see and cheer on the lead runners as we were running too.
|Getting ready to start!|
The race starts straight uphill, up a technical, rocky and rooty hill that you also come back down (and then go back up) to start/finish each lap. I made the huge mistake of starting off with barely any warmup. Bad move. I ran as much as I could up the hill, but quickly tired out and hiked with everyone else. And then slipped on a wet rock and fell on my face. Going uphill. Seriously, within the first 50 yards of the race. Awesome. Check off fall #1. But no harm done… popped up and kept right on trudging.
The lack of warmup meant that my legs felt like absolute lead for the first 2-3 miles . Slowly but surely I warmed up and began to feel like I could actually pick up my feet and run. Lesson learned… won’t do that to myself again! From there I was off and running!
|Heading up the starting hill.. I’m in the pink 😉|
It has been a long, snowy winter here in CT… so I haven’t gotten much practice on the trails in quite some time. Unfortunately, this meant I was tripping over things left and right, and sloooowwww on the technical downhills. I was definitely losing time there for sure! The course loop was tough, but manageable. I had a great first lap, felt amazing! The second lap… well…. not so much. It was ok. Not terrible, but definitely slowed WAY down from the first. And had my second fall, tripped and went flying superman-style. Luckily, landed in the dirt and not on one of the piles of razor-sharp rocks that litter the course. Couple of scrapes on my knees, could have been a lot worse. The third lap my energy actually felt good, but my legs were wearing out and I was definitely ready for the finish line. I ran along with some other striders, and Gary, Dave, Adam, and I took turns passing each other along this last lap. Before I knew it (ok… I was definitely waiting for the end to come and peeking at the Garmin the whole way), the race was over! I’ll admit – I was a little nervous about the multiple-lap aspect… but I never had one of those “I’m not going back out there one more time” moments. For anyone who is interested… click here for preliminary results.
|negotiating the hill down to the start/finish|
Overall, the race was a success. I got a decent gauge of where my running is, and what needs work (all of it). Time to hit the hills and the trails hard, and continue to build up my strength. I am already amazed at how well (and quickly!) I have recovered from this… all of that running and strength training is paying off! I also got to try out some new fueling strategies as I work to hone in my nutrition for the races to come. Lots of changes in the way I eat, both day-to-day as well as during the races. More on that “experiment” to come.
|cruising into the start/finish transition|
The race was very well run, and everything went off extremely smoothly. The course was extremely well marked, no wandering lost out there! The volunteers were great – energetic and fun, cheering us on along the way at all of the aid stations. Thank you to Sarah for coming out to volunteer and making me feel like I had my own personal aid-station cheering squad :-). I got some “high-fives” from some boys out walking the trails, who cheered us all on. So cool! I can’t say enough good things about this race. The race directors did a fabulous job, and I will most definitely be back. There is also a 17k (one lap, 10 mile) option if anyone wants to give this a shot, but isn’t interested in the full 50k. And, of course, volunteers are always welcome. Come on out next year and support a great event!
Thanks as always, to my husband Anthony for spending the day taking pictures and cheering us on. Also, big thanks to all of the volunteers for making this day possible, and to all of the Striders I met for being fun, great people – can’t wait to get back out on the trails with all of you! And thank you, thank you, thank you to Coach Al Lyman of Pursuit Athletic Performance for guiding, motivating, and pushing me to continue to be stronger and better.
And, for anyone who is interested… The gear I hit the trail with:
- Ultraspire surge pack (70 oz bladder… didn’t need such a big pack for this, but I didn’t have to stop at aid stations to fill my water, so that was a time-saving plus) This pack has lots of great pockets for storing things both on the front and the back and a secure fit that limits bouncing. I was able to use this for water, and fit 10 oz flasks with other nutrition mixes in the pockets. I’m a big fan so far!
- Buff headband, UV half buff. These are great! Can cover your ears, whole head, or fold down for more of just a headband. Great at keeping my hair away from my face, and keeping me warm when it’s chilly, and keeping the sweat out of my face when it’s hot.
- Moeben bamboo arm sleeves. I love the soft, lightweight fabric of these, and the cool designs (I have the “freedom” sleeves). These are my go-to race day sleeves… I need to order some more of these!
- Pearl Izumi women’s infinity shorts. These have emerged as my go-to shorts for long distance runs. Lightweight, non-constricting, with a little pocket in the back if you need it. Love these!
- Dirty girl gaiters. After some horrific blisters at the hands of a giant wad of sand that made its way into my shoe at my first Vermont 50 mile, I vowed to never again do a long run in the woods without gaiters. I love my pink skull and crossbones gaiters, and they always stir up lots of comments in the woods 🙂
- K Swiss Blade-Max Trail shoes. I’m a big fan of these so far… they have performed well in a variety of conditions, and can take me from technical wet trails to the road with no problems. Just the right mix of stability and grip for varying terrain.
- Garmin Forerunner 910 XT. This is a fancy new piece of gear for me… and admittedly, I’m not using it to its full potential yet. The battery life is great, which is what led me to choose this version. It did its job of letting me know my time, mileage, and mile paces… now I just have to read the manual and learn how to use it better!