Beast of Burden 100 mile BoBlog

13 Sep The Buckle!

So, Lucy had this crazy idea that she would run 100 miles. I know, right? I can’t say much because I plan to run my own race soon (more on that later), but I was able to head out to the race with a few friends to crew, support, and pace her for the last 25 miles. It was an incredible experience, and I hope that everyone is able to crew an Ultra at some point in their life!

(Some background here for many readers/family that are not as familiar with Ultra Running) Typically, a 100 mile race has a cut-off time of 30 hours, with some intermediate time cut-offs along the way. (This race did not have any cut other than 30 hours.) Many runners have the goal of finishing in under 24-hours, however, for one’s first race, it is also very common to just focus on finishing within the allotted time. The traditional finisher’s medal for these races is a belt buckle… Originally 100 mile races were intended for horses. Way back when, this guy Gordon Ainsleigh was riding a horse that went lame during the race. The next year he decided he would complete the race without a horse, and did so under 24 hours. Thus the great cowboy tradition of ultra races!

Our buddy Mon Ferrer (seated next to Lucy below) has been such a huge part of our Ultra Running adventures over the last two years, and I would be remiss not to mention him at this time. Neither of us would be the runners that we are today without his encouragement and support… I count Mon as my Pinoy brother. With two runners to support, I am extremely grateful that I was able to assemble an all-star crew for this event. I was blessed to be joined by Lucy’s fellow Nike Pacers Tiffany Carson and Mike Toma, as well as Brooks iD and accomplished Ultra Runner Stephen England. Together we would be charged with keeping our runners happy, fed, hydrated, and moving! We were also hosted by our amazing friends Jen and Bryan Weinstein. Bryan would also become a guest crew-member/pacer. More on that later!

The Crew

Photo by: Mori Igarashi (I think).

 

The adventure started with an extremely long drive up to Buffalo from New York City. We got an extremely late start heading out… Things happen… Thankfully, we were hosted Jen’s parents about 20 minutes to the race start. Though we got in at almost 2am, we would be able to get SOME sleep thanks to the 10am race start. We planned to be at race site (for check-in, meeting, drop bags, etc) at 8:30am. Fortunately the runners were able to get quite a bit of sleep on the car ride up. The crew, on the other hand, helped me stay awake driving by strategizing our plan for the next day and organizing our responsibilities. Needless to say, the crew arrived quite tired, but still excited for what was to come!

Headed to the Start

 

Too Cool for School.

Too Cool for School.

The great thing about having a crew in a race is that, as a runner, you don’t have to worry about logistics. You don’t have to worry about a drop bag, or shoes, or socks, or whatever. It’s the crew’s job to do all that for you! Mon and Lucy were able to head to the start and collect their bibs and packets while we set up camp, complete with tent; blankets; fuel; chairs; and a cooler of cold everything! After they came back with numbers we relaxed for a bit and prepared their hydration packs with ice water and whatever food they wanted to take for the first 25 miles. Pacers are not allowed until after 25 miles (nor would they have needed us) so we wouldn’t see them for about 5 hours. Plenty of time to lay out some baby food packets, extra baggies of dates, and get breakfast. In fact, it was enough time for Stephen and Tiffany to take a trip to Niagara Falls, ride the Maiden of the Mist, buy Mike and I lunch and come back. To put this in perspective… The two of them went on a multi-hour tourist adventure, brought back lunch, and these crazy runners were still only a quarter of the way through their race.

Start Line

They're off! See you in 5 hours, runners!

They’re off! See you in 5 hours, runners!

Crew Life

Crew Life

Thanks Mike, for letting me borrow your lens!

Thanks Mike, for letting me borrow your lens!

Since they didn’t have any pacers, Lucy and Mon were able to run the first 25-mile loop together! This is great, because the course is quite a boring, flat, straight out and straight back loop on canal tow path. It’s extremely helpful just to have someone to keep you company. Once we saw Lucy and Mon across the canal, we knew we had about 30 minutes to get ready, as the runners run out about a mile away from the start line before looping back on the finish side of the path for a little over a mile to the start/finish line.

Finishing Loop 1 ~Mile 25

Finishing Loop 1 ~Mile 25

The two runners looked fantastic coming in after running their first marathon of the day, but we knew it was very hot out there. There is almost no shade at-all on the course, so we made sure to fill up their hydration bladders with a LOT of ice when they stopped back by. Another lifesaver was Tiffany’s ice bandana. We filled this bandana with ice and wrapped it around the runners necks. Such a great way to stay cool. Lucy also put ample amounts of ice into her hat… Perhaps someday I will convince Mon to run with a hat. Lord knows I have tried.

At the end of this loop, it was game time for the crew/pacers. We had all decided to pace as well as crew for the race, and Tiffany had first shift! We decided to cut a few miles off her adventure by taking her to Orangeport, which is about 6 miles in to the course and 1 mile before the Gasport AS—Approximately 31 miles into the race. From there she would take the runners through the Gasport AS and out to Middleport AS, where Mike, Stephen and I would be waiting for them.

 

Crossing the Bridge to Middleport

Crossing the Bridge to Middleport

The Middleport AS is kind-of difficult to find. It’s not marked very well on the course map, but it’s a very small town so a couple of minutes of driving led us to the right spot. It’s basically an empty Free Mason hall, where they set up drop bags, some tables, and a plentiful Aid Station. There is also a kitchen, which allowed for hot food later in the race. For those of you without much Ultra experience, this is what makes many of us choose these types of races over corporate Marathons. Think: Grilled Cheese, Banana, Hot Soup, Pretzels, Candy, Soda, Cookies, Energy Bars, Watermelon… It’s amazing. We helped fill their packs at Middleport and then headed back to the Start/Finish (Widewaters) to wait for them again.

Another shot Crossing Canal to Middleport

Another shot Crossing Canal to Middleport

Signage

Lucy looks amazing for just having run over 37 miles...

Lucy looks amazing for just having run over 37 miles…

 

Popsicles!

Photo by: Mike Toma

At some point soon after Middleport, Mon was really feeling the heat. We had been joined by Jen’s husband Bryan Weinstein, and they both decided to run a few miles with everyone. When Mon was slowing down a bit, Bryan smartly convinced Lucy and Tiffany to keep moving ahead. Lucy (being the amazing friend she is) did not want to leave our best running buddy behind. But, Tiffany convinced her this was the best decision and they kept moving. Mon has several 100-mile races under his belt (buckle) already, so we all knew he would be fine. It’s not a harsh thing to say… this is the reality of running a very long way. Sometimes you are feeling it, sometimes you are not. Preparation and mental fortitude are key, but you just never know what is going to come on race day. In any case, Mon was still well on pace for a 24-hour finish! Lucy didn’t need to worry about someone else in her first 100, and it was a fantastic decision regardless of the emotions of the moment.

 

Sacrifices

After the second loop was complete, it was Mike Toma’s turn to do the driving. He was quite excited about this, as it would soon be nightfall. Time to put on the headlamps and blinking safety lights. Although it was way too early to really think about it in someone’s first 100, (and it didn’t really matter) we suspected that Lucy was among the top 5 women in the race. We also had a suspicion that she was at least in the top 25% of runners in the race overall. We didn’t tell her any of this, because she didn’t need to worry about it! But we did have that in the back of our minds as a crew, and there was no reason to believe she wouldn’t keep moving the way she was. She was on target to finish near 21-hours, which is absolutely fantastic. We really wanted to keep her on this pace. However, because Lucy and Mon were now separated, we had to change our game plan a bit.

Wardrobe Malfunctions

Ready to Roll

Photo By: Jen Weinstein

Stephen had already put in a hard 12.5 miles earlier in the day… Something about preparing for some crazy race (UROC 100k)… We had to think a bit to figure out how to best help our buddy Mon. When he came in to our crew base at mile 50, he had been running with Bryan for quite a while. I knew that mentally, this was a rough patch. It was getting dark. It was getting colder. Mon needed a dry shirt, and he needed to get back moving as soon as possible. When you are struggling, there’s no sense in wasting time… Keep moving. So, I literally gave Mon the shirt off my back! It was the only extra, dry, technical shirt that we could get to easily… It would have to work. I could get by for a while with a singlet. I decided to run with Mon the 6-miles to Orangeport… We really wanted to get him moving so I did this without really changing into proper running gear… 9″ inseam shorts are not exactly what I would call amazing gear…  Anyway, I’d have more than an hour to talk to him on the run and assess his needs, and from Orangeport, we would regroup and decide the next steps.

Sleepy Tiffany

Sleepy Tiffany

As I talked to him, I basically laid out the options, and we decided that the best plan would be for Stephen to run with Mon from Orangeport to Middleport (~6.5 miles). There we would wait for him and help him get ready for the 12.5 mile run back to Widewaters. He’d be on his own for that stretch, but then he would be able to pick up Stephen again for the last 25 miles. Mon is an amazing runner. He is strong and determined, and never doubts the body’s ability to do amazing things. Once we arrived at Orangeport, Stephen and I did a quick hand-off, and Tiffany and I drove out to Middleport, where we hoped we would still be able to catch Lucy and Mike.

At Middleport Tiffany and I did a bit more investigating, and were fairly confident that Lucy was, in fact, 3rd place Female. We still didn’t want to bother her with this information (it can be stressful to start thinking about an Ultra as a RACE) but we were happy with that, and excited that we were in the hunt! You start doing crazy things to keep yourselves awake after 15 hours or so with no sleep and little food… Lucy came into Middleport even sooner than we had expected, and we happily went about refilling her pack and getting her some soup broth. This was around the time in the race where nothing really sounds that exciting or appetizing. She didn’t really want food, or much of anything, really. At this point, it seemed a huge mental boost for her to revel in the fact that each mile run would now be the farthest she had ever run! Lucy set off to finish the loop and Tiffany and I waited for Stephen and Mon to roll in.

Mon and Stephen came in a while later and were looking pretty good. We sent Mon off on his own for a few miles and headed back to the start finish to see if I could get a bit of sleep before the final 25 mile push!

Earlier in the Day, Guys looking sleepy. Photo by: Jen Weinstein

Earlier in the Day, Guys looking sleepy. Photo by: Jen Weinstein

As soon as we got back, I crawled into the tent, changed clothes and decided to get a power nap before pacing duties. Lucy came pretty quickly, and before I knew it we were off and running again! It’s so atypical for a runner to do this type of race with such even splits. We kept thinking, “surely she will be a bit slower this half,” or, “maybe she is going to take it easy this loop…” Not our Lucy. She was so amazingly steady that it was almost hard to imagine she had been running for over 16 hours. She was now well positioned to finish under 22 hours! My job over the next couple of hours was just to keep Lucy entertained.

 

We had been moving at pretty much the same pace for the entire loop, and it was going really well. Sometime after passing Gasport, we saw the sun start to come up… I think that’s when it really starts to set in. When you see the sun come up for the second time without going to bed, you know that something is wrong with you! Because of the type of course, the finish line comes into view with about 3 miles to go. Once you can see that finish… It’s only a matter of time. When Lucy saw the finish, she really began to understand what was happening and how incredible an accomplishment this was. In other words, she started running faster, and vowed not to stop until she got to the end!

That girl! Almost there!

Finally we were in the final half mile, and could see our tent and friends up ahead. Mike and Tiffany joined in and ran with us to an amazing finish!

[This is Lucy interrupting this recap for one short bit]:

To this day, It’s hard for me to believe that I actually crossed THAT finish line. Being surrounded by so much love and support on top of completing a distance by foot I wasn’t fully convinced I could do felt INCREDIBLE. People often ask why I run, “why run 100 miles”. My thoughts: “because I CAN”. Because the human body is amazing, and because every time I finish a crazy race I am reminded of just how incredible our bodies are and how incredible its creator.

Hugzzzz

Of course, no 100 miler would be complete without the coveted belt buckle!

Buckle w/RD

The Buckle!

Oh, and let’s not forget Mon! After Lucy finished, I couldn’t wait to crawl into that tent and sneak in a nap. Lucy headed back to Jen’s house to shower, and I proceeded to absolutely pass out. A couple of hours later, Mike woke me up when he saw Mon and Stephen running on the other side of the canal with Tiffany. Yes, Tiffany, super pacer, went out for another 7 miles or-so just because. I may, or may not have crawled back into the tent after cheering for them, as I knew I had probably another 40 minutes before seeing them approach the finish line.

Ants go Marching

A short while later, Mon was running in, and dropping his crew on the home stretch! Despite having a tough day, nothing was going to stop this beast from finishing strong!

Dropping Pacers

Photo by: Mike Toma

For his remarkable performance, Mon received a special order of bacon and a belt buckle.

Bacon Buckle

Photo by: Mike Toma

And to celebrate his own accomplishments, Stephen was treated to a bacon sandwich.

 Photo by: Mike Toma

Photo by: Mike Toma

Once again, huge thanks to everyone that helped make this happen… To Jen, Bryan, and the Weinstein family; Tiffany, Stephen, and Mike… What an awesome crew. I was in the company of absolute stars, and I can’t say enough how much fun this was!

Tifphen

Ice Cream!

Photo: Mike Toma

 

Final Results:

Lucy Ledezma — 21h:28m:26s; 3rd Female/20; 9/51 Overall.

Mon Ferrer — 24h:21m:03s; 15th Male/31; 22/51 Overall.

 

A message from the Snow.

16 Mar

There is nothing greater in the world than to run in snow that isn’t sticking. Surrounded by the beauty of big, wet, flakes and not having to worry about slipping!

As I ran, I saw the snow flakes hit the ground. As each flake hit the ground it began to melt. If you look closely at a snowflake melting like this, you’ll notice that they all melt the same way—from the edges to the middle. And just before it disappears completely, a perfect fragile individual, now gone forever, there is a momentary flash. One last hurrah. Perhaps it’s our eyes discerning a small pixel of white as something more than it is. Perhaps it’s my inner psyche looking to make something spectacular—a manifestation of the subconscious desire for there to be a unifying or greater energy in everything. But maybe, just maybe, there is a final celebration in those last moments of a snowflake’s life. One last kiss goodbye to all that once was, but will never be again.

Today, the snowflakes told me a story. They said to me, “Live every moment. Not as if it were your last, but simply exist. Smile. Enjoy your place in the universe. Be who and where you are. And when it is all done, look back, remember, and smile again. You will always be where you have always been: Here.”

Guilt

20 Jan

I have always found the feeling of guilt to be one of the most difficult to deal with. Though at times we run in a ‘bubble,’ safe from the criticism of those that don’t understand our psyche, the reality is that we live in a world of people that don’t always want to understand our intentions. Whether dictated by our own mind or by the words of others, guilt can be overpowering at times, and can cause the best of us to abandon our goals and lose ambition. Ultimately, when we give in to feelings of guilt, we are giving in to the negativity in our own mind. Others may trigger our feelings, but we have to accept our own responsibility. Our actions are always a choice that we alone make. When we give in to guild, we submit to consequences of our past, and fail to live in the present moment.

When feelings of guilt creep into our lives, we have to evaluate the situation. One of the most powerful lessons I have learned is to accept the thoughts and feelings I have at face value. It is impossible to ignore all feelings of guilt… In fact, that is counterproductive. What we need to do is acknowledge the guilt, and ask ourselves where it is coming from, and how we can forgive, accept, and release the trauma from this experience.

Often guilt is brought about by trauma from our past. This type of guilt is particularly difficult to confront, because we know how things can go wrong. In our minds, things have already gone wrong… What’s to make this time any different? We have a perception of what the consequences will be if we go ahead with our plan. Guilt is the past telling us to quit, and the future playing with our fear of regret.

We all have a past, especially with something as intertwined with our lives as running. Maybe there was someone who shamed you for taking so much time to run. Co-workers who tell you that you are crazy, or selfish for wanting to run or train instead of things that they see as more important. It doesn’t have to be related to running, of course, but that is an apt example and one that I can personally relate to. Whatever it may be, guilt is the past trying to come back to tell us that we should be ashamed of our behavior. Guilt tries to convince us that we should feel wrong for working toward our goals, or wanting to reach our full potential.

When we learn to conquer guilt (or at least start to control it), we can free our mind to imagine the possibilities beyond what we thought possible. Breaking free from guilt is another powerful way that we conquer our fear of both the past and the future. When we are able to conquer past and future, we enable our mind to exist in the present moment without distraction.

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Happy New Year!

1 Jan

A quick one here from both of us to wish you all a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year!

As we sit together, as I am sure many of you are doing, to set goals and intentions for 2013, let’s take a moment to remember why we are where we are today. On one hand, we are all incredible individuals. Maybe you set a PR at a distance. Maybe you ran farther than you ever thought you would. YOU did that. Let’s also take a moment to remember those that helped us get here. Our friends and family pushed us and told us, “si se puede,” and without them, we would have had to work a lot harder to get where we are right now.

We all have goals… And working toward those goals is one of the most fun and rewarding things in life. So, let’s prepare together to have a successful year, one moment at a time. Let’s live 2013 here and now. Moment by moment, always hopeful for the future, but never forgetting that what gets is there is this very moment.

Happy 2013, everyone!

Scott and Lucy

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New Year Starts NOW

28 Dec

With 2013 quickly approaching, Lucy and I have both set ambitious goals for the early part of the year, and are setting the bar even higher for the spring/summer. That means that training starts NOW.

How does that start? Well, first, it means yoga twice a week. And there’s not better way to do it than attacking it with a 6am hot yoga class.

Attack the day, attack the new year. 2013: Warriors only.

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A More Efficient Ultra

21 Dec

During our last race (read more about it here) I learned some very valuable things that I plan to integrate into future races. Most of these are logistical things, but there are also a few non-physical things as well, and hopefully there is a take-away message for both those of you looking to do your first ultra, or make your next ultra a more pleasant experience.

These tips are generally geared toward a multi-loop course where you have access to your gear at the end of each loop of, say, 20-30k (12-18mi).

What We did RIGHT

First, there are a few things that we did RIGHT, that I will continue to do in the future.

  • Arrive EARLY. Getting to the race with plenty of time allowed us time to use the bathroom, set up our stuff, and perform those last minute checks. This really helps reduce the anxiety level on race morning, especially if you don’t have a crew with you.
  • Start hydrating the DAY BEFORE. We started drinking electrolyte drinks the afternoon before the race, to make sure that we were as loaded up as possible before starting. There is conflicting research about whether or not this helps, but I am not aware of anything saying that this could hinder performance.
  • Eat solid food early in the race. We both started eating ‘real food’ early in our race. Lucy and I particularly like Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars!
  • Bring a blanket or Towel to lay out gear and supplies to make stops faster.
  • Use plastic baggies and Eagle Creek packing bags to keep things organized and easy to access when we need them.

What We Learned/Need

  • HEADLAMP — Always check the race time and conditions before heading to the start line. We should have known that we would probably need some type of lighting! Next race, I will be sure to have a decent headlamp and flashlight handy in my race-day bag.
  • GRAB-AND-GO BAG — One of the things that really slows me down is deciding what I want to take with me on every lap, and then finding what I’m looking for… I usually organize gels and food by type, and that way I can grab whatever I want. But, this gets harder as the race goes on, and the brain gets more and more tired. Next race, I am going to pack a baggie with enough fuel for one lap, plus some extras of each type/flavor. This way all I have to do is ditch what I don’t need, and take the whole thing with me. Hopefully this will save us a lot of time and fumbling in transition.
  • CHAIR — Man, sitting on the ground to change socks or shoes can be a real drag when your knees/quads are shot. Having a place to sit goes a long way! In the past, I have had supporters that had chairs but in this past race where we were on our own, there was no place to sit!

What We’re Eating

I will preface this by saying that Lucy and I aren’t affiliated with any specific brands, however, people often ask us what we eat, drink, use on the run, so I wanted to share what’s working for us! If you have any questions or suggestions, please let us know in the comments.

Energy Gel-ish Things:

  • Clif Shot Energy Gel has been working well for us. I particularly like the Double Espresso, Citrus, and Mocha flavors. Although, I find that the Double Espresso can really give you the jitters after a while, so I try to keep an eye on how many of those I’m taking! I also tend to have a few Vanilla ones on hand, as they are the most neutral tasting of the bunch.
  • Shot Bloks are also a good staple, and I really like the Margarita and Razz ones. I should say that Lucy is not a fan of these! She says they are too chewy.
  • Honey Stinger Chews are really tasty, and can be used in-between gels when you need a boost. I have had success having gels on 40-minute intervals, and eating these in-between when I really need extra fuel.

‘Real’ Food:

  • Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars -  I can’t say enough about these things. I eat them almost daily as a snack, but they are great fuel on the run. These keep me going when I don’t feel like eating anything else. They are really tasty, and don’t cause any stomach problems for either of us. It’s always good to be able to eat something that is actually healthy while running, instead of relying on junk food.
  • Happy Herbert’s Kamut Pretzels Love ‘em. Another one of those things that we eat all the time that also translates well into ultra fuel. Super crunchy, and not too bready like regular pretzels. Not hard to eat when your mouth is dry!

Hydratoin:

  • Nuun tabs. I had not tried it before this last race, but I experimented with throwing a couple of these guys into my hydration pack. I think it was a great decision. While it can be a little strange at first having a slightly flavored water, it adds extra electrolytes, which I really need. Of course, the nice thing about this, is since there are no calories, you can just use it as you would normal water and still take gels or whatever else you are using for fuel.
  • Endurolytes We have a couple of these about every 20 minutes, and they really help keep the salt levels up on a really hot day. I’ve never had any stomach issues, and I don’t know anyone that has. One thing I learned is that I need to just start with these at the beginning of the race, and keep intake on a regular schedule, as opposed until waiting until later. By the time you think you need them, it’s already too late!

What are you using for fuel/hydration? What has helped you get ready for races/long runs? Tell us below!

 

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Texas Trails Endurance Runs 50 mile

18 Dec Boardwalks

For our SECOND 50-mile adventure, Lucy and I joined our friend Ramon to travel to Texas for this great race. The Texas Trails Endurance Runs takes place in Huntsville, TX in the Huntsville State Park. Loops consist of the Chinquapin Trail, and the Triple C Trail. We roughly followed the Relentless Forward Progress 70-mile week plan, and training seems to have gone well for us. That is to say, we went into the weekend feeling like we had done the proper preparation, and the training load seems to have treated our bodies well.

Pre-Race Week

In the week leading up to this race, I actually had a strangely calm feeling. I felt at peace with the distance, and at peace with this race. I am usually very anxious, but I somehow convinced myself that although this race was important… it also didn’t really matter all that much. What matters is the journey, and the journey never ends. We have to respect the distance and the race, but we have to also respect what we have done to get to this point. So in that sense, we are never racing, or not racing… Life is constant, and it is what we make of it. In any case, my seeming nonchalance made a huge difference and traveling was easier and less stressful that it has ever been before. I took an extra day to pack, and make sure we had everything we needed. As always, I used Eagle Creek bags to separate things out, and keep our bags organized and ready for the race. I also follow the rule that all race essentials are CARRIED ON the plane… That is a big one. Nobody wants to have their shoes end up at the wrong airport.

Travel

Once we arrived at Houston from JFK, we drove about two hours up to Huntsville and stopped by the race encampment to get our packets and bags. It was pretty dark, so it was hard to get a real feel for the park… We would have to wait until the next morning to really see what we were in for. After that, it was off to the hotel to unpack and do a final check of all our gear. By this time it was already around 8:00pm. Luckily we had already eaten dinner on our way from the airport. The three of us decided to head down the street to Target and get some last minute essentials for the morning… We found some Gatorade, bagels, and peanut butter. Gatorade is VERY cheap in TX, by the way… 99¢ for 32oz?! We were able to steal acquire some honey packets from Starbucks to avoid having to buy a whole squeezy-bear thing and headed back to the hotel.

We spent the next couple of hours sipping Gatorade, and snacking while we snapped pictures of our RunNYC gear, posting on Facebook… You know, the usual stuff. After completing one last check of the gear, we packed our bags to take to the race, laid out our morning clothes and called it a night.

We are ready! Lots of gear and fuel.

We are ready! Lots of gear and fuel.

Race Morning

We woke up around 4:30am and immediately started smacking the coffee machine into submission. Mission successful. It was a bit early to be up, but we like to have extra time to get organized again, and try to wake up/use the bathroom before heading out. It definitely helps reduce the anxiety level, and something that we learned the hard way a few times is that you definitely don’t want to show up to a race at the last minute! With ultras, it is not such a big deal because they tend to be smaller, but with more commercial races (marathons/half marathons/triathlons) it can be a huge stressful headache trying to find parking and get to the start line! Anyway, had a few mini bagels w/peanut butter and headed out to the car. We were about half an hour away, so we left the hotel around 5:30 so we could be there by 6:00am for the 7:00 start.

We got to the race start around 6:15. A running event is never hard to spot… people anxiously shifting around in spandex. I usually look for the porta-potties, but we were parked next to a REAL BATHROOM! Celebration was in order. And celebrate I did. Or, I guess you could call it that. We met up with our buddy Scott Towle and chatted a bit about his upcoming 100 mile race. It was a short walk from there to the start, where we were able to set up a bit of a base for our fuel and extra clothes.

We are geared-up and ready for the race. Lucy's arm warmers lasted all of 5 minutes... It got hot!

We are geared-up and ready for the race. Lucy’s arm warmers lasted all of 5 minutes… It got hot!

Ramon is ready for the Start!

Ramon is ready for the Start!

All three of us ready to run 50 miles. Texas Trails Endurance Runs.

All three of us ready to run 50 miles.

After we got things set up, the race started in typical ultra-marathon nonchalance, and we were on our way! I love this about Ultras… no starter pistol, or any of that crap to get going. No Eye of the Tiger. Just some dude saying, “ok, go.” Perhaps a buzzer, or a cowbell. Good times.

Loop 1 (Mile 0-12.5)

The first loop was lively, and I got to chat with Scott and pick his brain about Lucy and Mon’s upcoming 100miler, and some of the training we had been putting together for that. It’s always good to get some new ideas, and since Scott is preparing for his own 100 miler in a couple of months, I figure, he knows a thing or two about ultras. At this point, we’re feeling great. Personally, the reality of the situation doesn’t really sink in for the first 20 miles or so, and so I was just cruising along at this point just happy to be running and hanging out.

We finished this loop just over 2:20, and that’s not bad for basically the first of four half-marathons of the day. We took a bit longer than we probably should have in this “transition” just figuring out what was working, what fuel we wanted more of, filling up packs, etc. It’s something that I want to work on for future races, and I have a plan for this, which I will put in a forthcoming blog post. I think it could be helpful information for everyone! EDIT: See THIS POST for some great tips on race fueling, and organization!

Enjoying one of the Boardwalk sections of the Chinquapin Trail

Enjoying one of the Boardwalk sections of the Chinquapin Trail

Loop 2 (Mile 12.5-25)

We headed out for the second lap, and it just felt a bit slower than the first loop. I was trying to push the pace a little bit, but it felt like Lucy was dragging behind a bit. This was strange to me, because Lucy LOVES to be out front, and is never one to drag the pace back unless we are going way too fast, which we weren’t. Let me say this: The three of us have done quite a bit of distance training together, and we have one simple rule above all others: NO NEGATIVITY. One person says, “I’m tired,” and the whole group gets a free pass to start the bitching. So, when you run with us, unless you are about to die, we don’t want to hear about it. Even if you think you are about to die, better just STFU and keep running. We’ll let you know if you look like you are about to die. And you look just fine to me, so keep moving!

This was one of those times where we noticed what Lucy didn’t want to vocalize, so we had to assess the situation. Lucy admitted that she was having a bit of an issue with her hip flexor on the right side, and it was making strides painful. This is one of those situations where group running helps us: Mon is a Physical Therapist, and Lucy has a Graduate degree in Physiology, in addition to being an R.D. So, when it comes to health issues… I feel like we are mostly covered. Lucy agreed that there wasn’t much that we could do about it, and it wasn’t really getting worse. Since we were now about halfway through the loop, we decided to keep moving as quickly as possible, and reevaluate when we got back to the start/finish line.

I’m here to tell you that when it was all said and done, I don’t think that Lucy’s hip issue ever really got better. But, I gotta give it to her… We didn’t hear anything else about if for the whole race. If I asked, she’d tell me, “not much worse, not any better.” What else could she say? She gutted it out the entire back half of the race, and I gotta say that I admire her grit. And this is where the agreement we have as a group comes into play—knowing that she was hurting, I had no excuse. There were moments where my body wanted to quit, and I wanted to bitch about this or that… But knowing that she was hurting and hanging tough with me reminded me that I didn’t need to vocalize my problems. Unless you are going to die, STFU and keep running…

On the out-and-back.

Headed back on the Triple C trail.

 

Loop 3 (Mile 25-37.5)

Since loop 2 was a bit slow, we wanted to see if we could try and make up some time this loop. We paused to give Lucy some stretching and a massage of the hip, and she managed to convince us that she was feeling better (even though she probably wasn’t). This time, instead of me going out front, I pushed Lucy to take the lead and get us moving as fast as she comfortably could. My thinking with this was to get her out front so she could feel like she was in control of the situation with her body and the race. I know that when I am hurting, being in the back can be frustrating because I constantly feel like I am trying to catch up, and never quite making it there.

We moved along pretty well. To put it in perspective, at this point we had already run a marathon, and were working on our third half-marathon of the day. A pretty daunting task, really, and this definitely felt like the ‘hump lap’. It really felt like we were running this loop faster than the previous two, but in reality it was a little slower than the previous one. No matter… Moving forward is what counts, and we were moving! We knew we had to complete this loop under 8 hours, and once it became obvious that wouldn’t be an issue, it was definitely a much more relaxed time for all of us. The pressure of cutoffs can be frustrating, and definitely something that we want to work on for subsequent races.

When we came in from the 3rd loop, I have to be honest and say that I really wasn’t feeling it. We had been out there pushing for over 7 hours, and I was starting to feel the effects of running 1.5 marathons. I was having a hard time figuring out what gels I needed and what food I would take, and I was frustrated that Lucy wanted to leave so quickly. But she had a point: At this rate, we would be finishing in the dark. We hadn’t put much thought into this fact, and we hadn’t prepared for that. I guess it just didn’t occur to us that the sun goes down early even in Texas! Lucy was able to borrow a light from a guy named Sean. Wherever you are, Sean, thanks for that! Mon and I would have to make do with our iPhones as flashlights. Definitely less than ideal. We already mentioned to the Race Director that next year they should put a little memo on the site that lighting should be on the race day list! I know that we should have done the research for that, and I accept responsibility, but a little note to remind people never hurts.

Loop 4 (Mile 37.5-50)

At this point we knew that we really had to hurry and cover as much ground as possible before we lost the light. Of course, that is no easy task when you have already run 37 miles, but surprisingly our bodies were mostly functioning well, and we were very grateful for that! By now, my toes felt like they were about to explode, but that didn’t matter. I knew Lucy was hurting too, and it wasn’t going to do any good for me to complain about it, and there was really nothing I could do about it.

We were able to move pretty quickly through the first half of the loop, and tried to really push as much as possible through the flat out-and-back section. I could tell at this point that Mon was hurting, but I also have to give it to him for just redoubling his efforts and giving it everything he had. We all knew that there would be a point where we were reduced to walking when it got too dark, and so we all tried to give it everything we had and ‘leave it all on the course’ as long as we had the light.

It started to get dark around the time we were approaching the final aid station, which is a little over 2 miles from the finish. By this time, we were able to catch up with a few guys that had also been pushing to get there before dark, and it felt really good to know that we were able to push and catch up with a few other runners. We often hear other ultra runners describe the camaraderie of ultra events, and this was a great moment that we were able to experience that first-hand. Knowing that it wasn’t really safe to run in the dark without proper headlamps or flashlights, we all sort of just kept each other company as we followed the glow-sticks to the finish line.

Thought we knew we had only a couple of miles to go, it seemed to take forever, and we were getting nervous about making the official cutoff of 12 hours. We had worked hard all day, and I think it meant a lot to us to be able to call ourselves official finishers. So, when we saw the finish line, I looked down at my watch to see that we had about 15 minutes to spare under that 12 hour mark. As you can imagine, Lucy and I were elated, and we started running it in to finish strong. We finished in our typical hand-in-hand finish, and got our medals and finishers hoodies.

I was also happy that we were able to meet up with Scott at the finish before he had to head home to Austin. We snapped a couple of pictures with Race Director Donny, and the fantastic volunteers that stuck around into the night to help take care of us.

With Race Director Donny (In Red) and Scott sporting the City Coach gear.

With Race Director Donny (In Red) and Scott sporting the City Coach gear. Picture stolen from Ramon.

Recap/Review

Overall, it was a great race! We had a fantastic time, and found the race to be generally well organized, and the aid stations were amazing. I have a deep love for what the Brits would call ‘proper crisps’ and I found that the race had plenty of them! I am not much for HEED, but if you are into that there was plenty to be had (as there now seems to be at all Ultras). The volunteers were amazing, and I can’t say enough about the people who were entrusted with keeping us all safe, happy, and healthy on the course.

The course itself was also a nice treat. It was varied enough that it was fun, and allowed us to wear trail shoes… But there was nothing too technical and the terrain was more rolling than what some might call hilly. There are a few boardwalked sections that could be slippery in wet conditions. Overall, this is an extremely “runnable” course, and if you are looking to get a quick time, this is a very good course to get that on.

In the next post, I’ll talk about some of the things I learned nutritionally, and logistically and what I plan to do to deal with those issues!

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Anxiety and the art of Tapering

28 Nov

With 3 days to go until my next big race, I am really chomping at the bit. The usual jitters are there… Anxiety, nerves, will I be good enough(?)… But I can’t help but shake the feeling that it’s all coming together. We have put in more miles for this training plan than for any other race before, and I am really excited to see just how well it has worked.

I have been resting, and resisting the urge to just get out and run… We’ll just have to wait a few more days and see what all this training was for.

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NY Marathon 2011

21 Dec

Best. Race. Ever.

The ING New York City Marathon, is at once my fastest (4:20:16), hardest, most painful, most anxiety-inducing, amazing, glorious, beautiful, energizing, draining, overwhelming, emotional marathon to date.

First, training for this race was like no other experience I have ever had. When I trained for my first marathon (San Diego in 2008) Lucy and I ran with a group in Chino, CA. That was an awesome experience, and it solidified for me that I could be a runner, and I could accomplish the distance with confidence. This season, however, brought so many new friends, and taught me how strong I could be, and that I will always have support in the running community.

Shout out here to RUNNYC and all the homies that have pushed and supported Lucy and I this Spring/Fall. We couldn’t have done it without you, and I am truly grateful for everything you have done for us!

On, then, to the marathon. Step-by-step, mile-by-mile. Hold on, folks. Marathons (and blogs about them) are long…

Getting to the Start:

Currently: 49ºF.

The day started early. Around 5am… Out of bed and making PB&J’s for the morning. One right away, and one (each) to take with us to the start line. I thought it best to treat this race like any other race, and since most of our races are out of town, we have everything laid out, and in bags the night before. We had already packed a bag to take to the start line the night before, so all we had to do was throw the sandwiches in and hit the road.

We layered up in thrift-store sweats and giveaway hats from the NYRR Scotland Run. These clothes would be ditched before the start of the race. (The marathon donates clothes discarded at the start to charity). We also had a plentiful supply of garbage bags to be used as weather insulation, seating, and anything else that could come up.

In the start-line race bag: Waist packs for both of us, disposable bottle of water, sandwiches, trash bags, 1/8 roll toilet paper.

So, then out of the apartment and to the #1 train down to South Ferry. We would be meeting our friend Lesley on the train, and Andrew and Elizabeth at the Ferry.

We met at the Ferry a little before 7:00am, and moved toward the door for the 7:15 Ferry. Having done the Staten Island half-marathon, this was a pretty familiar scene, and anyone who has done that race can accurately describe how it would feel. Quite crowded, and it is really incredible how many people that boat will hold. (I think it is somewhere around 3,500).

On the Island (Start Village):

Once on the Island (Staten, that is), we depart the Ferry for buses that will take us to the start line. I don’t know who mentioned that it “wasn’t very far” from the the terminal to the start line, but either our bus took the long way, or they are full of shit. Or both. Either way, I don’t know how long it took to travel the distance, but it was quite a long ride standing in a stuffy and crowded NJ Transit bus.

We arrived at the start area and went through several moderate levels of security making sure everyone had the proper bags and was wearing a bib. It is a short walk from the buses to the start village, which is organized by color. The race is broken up into three start waves, and within each start wave, there are three colors, which start on three different sides of the bridge. That’s how huge this race is.

We quickly found a spot and set up base camp before exploring our options for bathrooms and tried to locate bag-check for those that were checking bags (Lucy and I weren’t) and which way to head to the start. Once we sat down, we got word that some friends were hanging out in a tent that had breakfast, food, separate clean toilets. Warm, space, and chairs. What else could we possibly need? So we packed up our stuff and headed a short distance to meet our anonymous friend at the unnamed organization’s tent.

It was now around 9:00am. Runners in Wave #1 were heading to their start. We had a bit of time before we had to head out, so there was a few moments to relax before the race. So, naturally, I did not relax at all. Anxiety set in. I was antsy. And I wanted to start running. And it was warm in the tent, but a little chilly outside still. Or was it? I had better check. Yes, definitely warming up outside. I can go inside and relax. But I have to pee. So I should go out and use the toilet. Now I can relax. Wait, was it still chilly outside, or am I going to want arm warmers? Or gloves? I can’t decide. So this is how I passed about 30 minutes of time.

I remember hearing so many nightmare stories of the hours waiting for the start of the race… Cold, wet, crowded. To be honest, we experienced none of this. Perhaps we were lucky with timing, weather, etc. But I can honestly say that it was perfect. It was A LONG TIME, but we felt comfortable, and relaxed (even if we didn’t sit much, or rest). There was plenty of time to get our things in order, but I didn’t feel like we were there for TOO LONG. Next year, I would do everything exactly the same way.

On Our Way (Cattle Herding):

In short time, (let’s say around 9:20) we were on our way to the corrals. It was indeed warming up, and I ditched the layers and went for just a trash bag over the short-sleeve. We walked around and found the right direction to the Orange corrals, and moved into position. A bit of shoving and pushing, and we were in. This put us in the holding area for our wave/corral, which is quite a distance from where the actual start chute is. Not much room here to do much of anything, but some of us were able to find toilets and we got to hear the cannon go off for Wave #1. Once that happened, we started moving forward, as our wave was next up into the chute.

Finally, the line came to a stop, and we heard the announcer getting ready to announce the start. Let’s say the time was 10:00. We were in the sun, and it was now quite warm. For a moment I thought that I may be in trouble with the heat, and wished I had worn a singlet instead of a short sleeve. But I knew I would be fine, and the weather couldn’t get much hotter than it was. Lucy, on the other hand was wearing tights. TIGHTS! She had thought it was going to be rather chilly. In hindsight, she probably would have worn capris or something, but I decided not to really mention any of this. When you are in that situation, it’s best not to make a big deal of things, and just go with it. What else can you do?!

America the Beautiful was sung… and then BOOM! The starting cannon went off. HERE. WE. GO. Oh, Shit. This is actually happening! And out comes, “Theme from New York, New York.” Oh, Sinatra. You bring us to the brink of tears before the race even starts. Let’s Do It!

Miles 1 +2: SKYLINE

The first two miles of the race are almost entirely on the Varrazano-Narrows Bridge. For the Orange Wave, Mile 1 ticks off right around the middle of the bridge, and Mile 2 comes just as you are turning down what would be the On-Ramp for Staten Island-bound traffic.

The view is INCREDIBLE. I didn’t make a big deal about wanting to be on top of the bridge, but I have to say that I would do whatever it takes to make this happen in the future. It is totally worth it. Helicopters hovering overhead, and the Manhattan skyline to the left. It really was a perfect day for running. Clear skies, sunny, but not TOO hot. WOW. Just, wow. And we were barely getting started. I was quite thirsty, though, by the time we hit Mile 2. The first aid station, however, doesn’t come until Mile 3, so we had to soldier on for another few minutes. There is such a rush for the first couple of miles that it didn’t feel like we had run two miles at all. It was SO FAST. We did keep things under control. Right on target for a great warm-up at 9:30/mile pace. Now if we can just do this for 24 more miles…

Miles 3—7 (4th Ave.): ¡VIVA MEXICO!

The long 4th Ave. stretch of Brooklyn is the longest single stretch of the race. The people of this neighborhood, however, leave nothing to be desired in spirit. My favorites were the masses of people with huge Mexico flags, and tons of kids giving out High-Fives. I tried to stick to the center of the road, because there is a slant here, and slants always make my ankles hurt. Andrew, however, was not going to let an offer for a free High-Five go to waste. Lesley was the clear winner here in the getting-your-name-called-out contest. Shirt color? Can’t say for sure, but next year I am wearing yellow!

Guys were yelling, “WELCOME TO BROOKLYN!!!” and I thought, “This is New York!” It was a good stretch, and it was still hard to believe just how many people were running. Even crazier when you think that this is one of three waves. Wow.

Mile 8 (Lafayette Ave.): “NEW YORK!!!!!!!”

Mile 8 felt like the most raucous mile of the race. The street narrows in here, and all three colors of the Wave are merging together. The crowd was at least 3-deep in most places. Stoops became grandstands. It was LOUD. I let myself go a little bit. A little bit too much. High-fiving. Screaming, “NEW YORK!!” at large crowds. I knew better, but I didn’t care. I told myself, “you are going to regret that later, but will totally have been worth it,” and I still feel that way. Thanks, Clinton Hill.

Mile 9—12 (Bedford Ave.): The Many Faces of Brooklyn

Mile 9 begins the long stretch on the many iterations of Bedford Ave. Bedford starts quiet, with few spectators in the Hasidic neighborhoods. There were, however, a few enthusiastic fans here waiting for their friends presumably running in long skirts or pants.

As the race winds further north up the Ave., the crowd fills in with curious hipsters spilling out of El Beit and the various brunch spots. Hey, I could go for a mimosa right now… We soldier on toward the Pulaski, with crowds pretty thin until bridge hits, as we approach mile 13.

Mile 13—15 (L.I.C. Queens): The Elephant in the Room

LIC has a decent turnout, but is calm compared to the crowds in Clinton Hill and upper parts of Bedford Ave., but to be honest it’s a welcome break from scanning the crowds and acknowledging the cheers and shouts directed at you. There are quite a few people lined up on 44th Dr. going into Crescent, and they were loud, for sure. Could it be all the actors and dancers that have invaded East LIC and Astoria? Probably. I was looking for my friend Melissa somewhere here, but she didn’t say where she would be, so I wasn’t really looking all that hard. Where there are a hundred people on a block, one can only stand to look so hard for so long…

The short run in Queens is really just a buildup. A tease, really. Because we all know what is waiting for us at mile 15. You can see it from the Pulaski bridge… the dreaded Queensboro. And it was getting closer.

Mile 15—16: The Silent Killer

And so up we went. We had prepared for this. Long training runs often involved bridge repeats, so we knew what to expect. It was, nonetheless, a daunting task. My legs were not working as I would have liked them t0, and I was feeling the effects of having run another marathon just a month earlier. I never had any doubts that I would finish, but this was around the time I had thrown out the idea of running a negative split. We wouldn’t be picking up the pace in the last half. I would just be trying to hang on at this pace, if that was even possible.

The downhill section of the Queensboro is steep, and then gets even steeper as we hit what would be the on-ramp for Queens-bound traffic to the lower-level from 59th St. The stories are true. You can literally hear the 1st Ave. crowd from the bridge, even before you round the corner and hit the wall of sound from the crowd. It’s coming, but we can’t quite see it yet.

Mile 16—19.5 (First Ave.): This is Awesome… But long.

And then it hits you. Apparently you aren’t a true East-sider if you don’t cheer for the Marathon. From the bar-hoppers crawling out of Sutton Place, to the Yorkville crowd, it is packed. Mixed in to the Yorkville fray was the Nike Cheer zone. We almost completely missed them, which would have been a shame since they are great friends. Fortunately I spotted a sign, and a familiar face at just the right time. It was a huge boost to see Barbara, and Jen, and Val. We also got some pictures from Troy, who we didn’t see at the time, but I appreciate every single person that was there to support the runners.

From that point on, First Ave. droned. This is like New York’s Vuvuzuela. Incessant, draining more than inspiring, but amazing if only in scale. It is an ocean of people. The runners, the crowd. And this is what the NY Marathon is about. The city comes together. They enjoy the freak show. They admire, support, and endorse the freak show.

And then they are gone. It’s as if they sense that we are going to need some time alone for the next few miles. Maybe they think they’d better let us work some stuff out and do some soul searching before we come back to Manhattan.

Mile 19.5—21: Da Bronx, Son.

The Willis Ave. bridge is best described as insult to injury. And this is the time when my quads were starting to twitch. It was the first threats of cramping. I had been battling some abdominal cramps since the beginning of the race. Judicious nutrition had kept my muscles at bay, but there was a delicate balancing act going on for much of the race. I was hanging by a thread, really.

I felt that I might be in trouble, and I knew that I needed to get some fuel as soon as possible. With no water stop in sight and only gels at my disposal, I decided to take a risk. I started taking little squeezes of gel while hoping that a water stop would come up soon. I figured the risk of getting an upset stomach from the undiluted gel was probably less than my quads seizing up from lack of sugar. My gamble paid off, and there was a water stop close by.

It’s not long before the Bronx becomes a distant memory and we are homeward bound at last back into Manhattan. For the first time in the day. This came as a small relief. For the first time all day we were actually headed mostly toward the finish.


Mile 21—23.75 (5th Ave.): Are We There Yet?

There was a distant idea, long discarded, that this would be the marathon for me to go sub 4. That obviously wasn’t going to happen. But despite all the aches, and the twitching quads in the Bronx, things were working well. Or about as well as I would expect them to work after running for going-on twenty-one miles. If I’m honest, at this point I just really wanted to stop running. Not like, I want to quit stop… Just, I want to be done with this thing stop. I knew we were over the hill. We had reached the point at which I say to myself, “Well, you’ve come this far… you might as well just finish.” It’s not so much determination as it is fortunate quitting. I’ll set a goal to stop running immediately, and then I give up on that goal and just keep going. This way I can have my cake and eat it too. I get to quit at something, and I’ll keep running and finish the race.

We all longed for the comfort of Central Park. Meanwhile I thought I had developed a blister on my small toe. I NEVER get blisters, so this was extremely frustrating. I thought, “this doesn’t happen to me! This isn’t my issue!” I dare not take my shoe off, because I feared the worst… Around that time, we were rescued by a running friend who offered us some glucose tablets. Lucy grabbed a few and implored that I take one. By this time, I didn’t want anything. I just wanted to be done, and I was quite cranky. “I don’t want that shit,” I snapped. Lucy barked back at me, “GET IT TOGETHER, SCOTT!” Well, that was exactly what I needed. I did need to get it together. I needed to embrace the pain for a few more minutes. I started sucking on the tablet, and put my head down. One last push to the finish.

Soon, we came up on Paul, who was shouting out to me from the sideline. Turbo boost! His cheers propelled us into the park, I knew we had made it. This was it. I had better enjoy this last bit of the best race of my life.

Mile 23.75—26 (Central Park): PR or Bust.

I have to admit, that while the park was a relief, and I was happy to be surrounded by spectators and trees the only thing that kept me going at this point was one simple fact: If I kept running, I would PR quite comfortably. I couldn’t just let an opportunity like that pass my by. Were it not for that, I think I would have walked it in. This was really the hardest race I had ever done. It felt harder than the 60k I did a year ago.

The crowds were deep in the park, and it was incredible how loud and encouraging they were. It was seriously overwhelming. I am used to running in the park in the early evening, or on Saturday morning, so this was quite the contrast. We kept saying to each other, “this is crazy!!!” And it was. I didn’t really expect Central Park to be this packed. This insane and energetic crowd propelled us down to 59th St. A final energy boost was provided by our friend Taegin as we rounded Grand Army Plaza and into the thick of the chute heading across town toward Columbus Circle. And that was it.

Lucy attempted one final surge, and I begged her to stop. All I could manage was, “Please…… Please….. Please Don’t.” I just needed her to hold off for another 1/4 of  a mile, and then I could hold on. But not quite yet!

Mile 26—26.2: I LOVE THIS CITY.

That was all I could think as we turned into Central Park for the second time and headed up West Drive. I LOVE THIS CITY. The flags of all the countries, the crowds, and the biggest finish line I have ever seen. It was incredible. We finished the race holding hands, arms up.

Lucy and I hugged, and I said, “This was amazing. I love it here. This is New York.” We hobbled forward to receive our medals.

The line to get out of the park was lengthy, and it takes a while to weave out from the finish line to the streets. This was definitely hard, and all I wanted to do was sit down! When we were finally out of the park, I sat by a UPS truck. “FINALLY!” I exclaimed. I only sat for a minute, but it was all I needed. Rest taken, we dragged to our apartment and ordered food… We had to refuel. After all, we have a 60k in two weeks!

 

 

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Happy New Year!!!

1 Jan

Everyone,

What a year it has been!  2010 has been filled with so many blessings.  We want to say thank you, because we count each one of you as one of these blessings, and 2010 would not have been the same without you!

This year, we celebrated a year of marriage.  We also had the honor of baptizing our niece and goddaughter Paloma Mariella Suchsland.

As we take a moment to reflect on all the wonderful events of 2010, we wish you and yours all the best for 2011!  Here’s to the next twelve months, and making the most of every moment.

Love,
Scott + Lucy

Mohonk, NY

San Francisco Marathon

San Francisco Marathon

Knickerbocker 60K, NYC.

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