Conquer the Cove 25K – Race Report

I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record, but this race was yet another one that got canceled due to COVID-19. I was going to defer to next year until my friends Lauren and Lauren reached out asking if I wanted to run the virtual option with them. I’m undertrained and haven’t been doing any climbing that would prepare me for running at the Cove. So of course I wanted to join my friends on a 25K jaunt with over 2,000 feet of gain!

I was talked into starting our run at 6:30 AM. There are very few people whom I will get up at 4 AM for, but my Trail Sisters are on that short list. Plus it’s when the race would normally start, and it’s often hot and humid, so an early start made total sense. The race usually starts and finishes at Loch Haven Lake. But since this is a private resort, our virtual run started and finished at the Timberview parking area which is where we met up. We were blessed with very forgiving weather – 60’s and overcast. The humidity was around 95%, but it didn’t feel oppressive with the lack of heat.

Without the extra mileage from Loch Haven, we started our day with a steep 1.1 mile, 600 foot climb. I guess you could call that easing into things since we were hiking? Along the way, we passed one of my favorite signs along the course. Of course, we took the expert route:

I felt okay going up the climb, although I always start to feel a little nervous and unsure when there’s a big climb at the beginning of a race. But I’ve been working on keeping that in check and I did alright keeping it at bay. It felt good to get to the top and enjoy some easier running on the fire road.

PC: Lauren H

We enjoyed some downhill and some rolling, mostly runnable trails on our way towards the Bennett Springs parking lot. We had a few creek crossings along here and the cold water felt refreshing on my feet. I was enjoying the cool, misty weather, although it made the trails kind of spooky.

Around mile 4.5ish we arrived at the Bennett Springs lot, where Lauren had left her car earlier in the morning to serve as an aid station. She had ice cold water and orange slices for us. After enjoying our treats and topping off on water for the rest of the run, we headed back onto the course and made our way to the Four Gorge Trail.

The Four Gorge Trail is one of my favorite trails to run at Carvins Cove. It is so pretty! It also has my favorite “park ranger” along the trail. Of course, we had to stop for photo ops with him!

From here we plugged along for another mile and a half or so before arriving at the fire road a little past mile 6.5. We regrouped here before tackling the 2.5ish mile climb up Brushy Mountain. I was feeling good, but I knew we had a long climb ahead of us.

PC: Lauren H

As we made our way up the fire road, I noticed a bright orange newt. I love seeing these little guys on the trail – they’re so cute! (Way cuter than that spider I saw during my Historic Half virtual run) After that first one, we started seeing a ton of them. I think they liked the weather conditions. Our entire climb up Brushy became a game of “don’t squish the newt!”

There are usually some pretty views on the way up Brushy, but it was too misty and foggy to see anything. The wet weather made the forest look super green, though!

The higher we got the foggier and spookier it got. After nearly 1,000 feet of climbing we arrived at the top. Again, we regrouped before tackling The Gauntlet.

The Gauntlet is a technical, two mile descent. After all of that climbing, you would think a long descent would be welcome. But this downhill is tough on the quads and on the knees. You also have to be careful not to trip on a rock or root and Superman down the mountain.

I counted down the distance as we made our way down Gauntlet. This was the one section of the race that I couldn’t wait to get through.

Halfway down The Gauntlet and still on our feet.

As we made our way down, a couple of women ran by who were also out doing their CtC virtual race. It was fun to see others out on the course! Finally, we made it down Gauntlet and had just 1.25 miles to go up Horsepen and back to our cars.

Horsepen usually feels like it takes forever. But honestly, it went by really quickly this time. The entire run – 13 miles with ~2200 ft of climbing – flew by with Lauren and Lauren. That, combined with the weather conditions, made for a really great day. We finished around 4 hours and 15 minutes.

To cap things off, we stopped for a photo in front of the Pegasus house on our way out.

Overall, I had a fantastic day. It was hard and, at times, it hurt. But the company couldn’t have been better. I’m also really glad we were able to run the actual course. I’m not big on virtual runs, but being able to run the actual course (or most of it, in this case) made things a lot better.

From here, I have some upcoming adventures planned during the summer and early fall. I’m not registered for any other races until October. It’s hard to know what life will look like then, but I’m hopeful that we will have returned to some normalcy by then and some of these events will be able to take place.

Marine corps historic half – race report

The Marine Corps Historic Half was supposed to be held on May 17. Like other races, it was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Even though it was a road race, which is not my favorite, I was still bummed about this cancellation. Barry and I had a fun weekend planned with my dad, and I was looking forward to experiencing another Marine Corps race event. I’ve had good experiences in the past at the 17.75K and the Marathon. Instead, I ran this race virtually to maintain my eligibility for the Semper Fi challenge (running the Historic Half in May and the Marathon in October).

I chose to complete my virtual run on trails at Claytor Lake State Park, with two 6.5-ish mile loops. It definitely slowed me down significantly from what I would have run on roads, but you know I love my trails.

I was a bit worried on the drive over to the park when I realized I had forgotten to eat anything other than a yogurt for breakfast. Oops. Obviously my race morning routine is extremely lax when it’s a virtual race that I’m running by myself. Right before I started my run, I went on and ate a gel and hoped that would help. At the start of my run, it was overcast and in the upper 50’s.

As I mentioned, my race was made up of two 6.5-ish mile loops. I took it easy on the first loop and was feeling pretty good. I focused on hydrating regularly, as I had started my run mid-morning and knew it was going to warm up quickly.

At the start of my second loop, it had become sunny and I was really starting to feel the heat. Around mile 7 or 8 I also started to feel fatigued. I ate some honey stinger chews and drank some more. I mostly had the trails to myself, and I was really enjoying the solitude.

I was feeling rougher as I continued on the second loop, so I started breaking up the loop into chunks in my head. It definitely helped that I know this park like the back of my hand. I tried to shift my focus from how I was feeling to looking at what was around me. Throughout the run I saw two super cute chipmunks, four deer, a gazillion squirrels and one huge freaking spider. He showed up around mile 10, and that got me moving a little faster for sure!

During the final 5K, I started drinking more and more water. At this point it had warmed up to the upper 70’s and I was suffering. I started sipping from my hydration pack at least every half mile. Although it was motivational, it made my stomach feel all sloshy and gross. I was definitely hitting that point in the run where you start wishing for it to be over.

I forged ahead and felt a little boost of energy when I hit the final mile. I pushed harder towards the end, and could feel the threat of calf cramps coming on. Luckily, they held off and I finished my virtual race in 3:10:20 – at least 40 minutes slower than I would typically be in a road half.

This run was tough for me, but it was also good. It had a little over 1300 feet of elevation gain total and it had been a little while since I ran a longer run with that much gain. I also did a good job regularly fueling and hydrating throughout. Time spent in the woods is always a good time.

Yeti 24 Hour Ultra Challenge

My friends Lauren and Charlotte brought this virtual event to my attention. Jason Green, the founder and leader of Yeti Trail Runners, put this event out in response to requests for a challenge for us runners during the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t really think virtual races are my thing – I certainly won’t seek them out in the future. But sometimes, when life is throwing a lot at you, it can be nice to find a challenge to focus on.

Last fall I did a training weekend to prepare for the Crooked Road 24 Hour Ultra, where I ran 4 miles every 4 hours for 24 hours – the “4x4x24.” It went pretty well. The hardest thing about it was the sleep deprivation – especially for my last two runs at 11 PM and 3 AM. I intentionally did not nap at all during the 24 hours to practice for Crooked Road.

This time, the Yeti Challenge would have me doing 5 miles every 4 hours for 24 hours – a total of 6 runs and 30 miles (except we made it 5.2 miles per run for 31.2 miles total to hit the 50K mark). Since I’m not preparing for anything, I fully intended to nap this time. I also didn’t think it would be a big difference to add on one more mile. I was wrong on both accounts.

I made a virtual bib for the virtual event.

I roped Kim into the Yeti Challenge, and honestly it didn’t take any convincing at all. I’m pretty sure she said “yes” before even knowing the full details of the event. Our friend Ashley also joined in last minute. Kim and I would run the first five runs together, but all of us started at the same time so we were all running together virtually. I enjoyed knowing we were all out there getting it done at the same time, making us feel more together while we have to stay apart during COVID-19.

Run 1 – 6 AM / local park / 40’s windy and raining

Kim and I met up at a nearby park where 1 lap is 0.7 miles. It was still dark, and with the rain and chilly temperature I wasn’t feeling super jazzed. The run felt like a harder effort, so I was surprised to see we ran a pace that was slower than normal. I was soaking wet and freezing, but the first run was done.

The event logo was very fitting for this first run.

Post-run food: Peanut butter and honey oatmeal and coffee.

Run 2 – 10 AM / New River Trail / upper 30’s, cloudy, and very windy

The time between runs throughout this event felt pretty short, and before I knew it it was time to run again. The first half of this run was on a gradual uphill and I still felt just “blah.”

So green!

The second half of this run was a gradual downhill and I felt like I cruised more.

Post-run food: Greek yogurt and a turkey sandwich

Run 3 – 2 PM / New River Trail / 40’s, sunny, and breezy

Kim and I started from a different access point on the trail to mix things up. I hit the restroom before we got going and found my first ever painted rock! Finally! Of course, it would be in a bathroom.

This run had the nicest weather yet and that definitely gave me some pep in my step.

We continued our trend of running each run progressively faster, and this run was the fastest yet – a trend we did not expect to continue!

Post-run food: Half of a Luna bar, a dill pickle, some plain potato chips, and a ginger chew.

Run 4 – 6 PM / New River Trail / upper 40’s and sunny

We ran this one in the same spot as run number two. I think I was getting a little loopy, as I kept mistaking things like tree branches for deer or a rabbit and orange flagging in a tree for a cardinal.

My legs were definitely starting to feel fatigued and I was starting to feel sleepy. Despite that, this run was even faster than run 3. The extra 0.2 miles we were tacking on to each run started to feel silly at this point.

When I got home, I was excited to find an envelope from Yeti Trail Runners in my mailbox with some new stickers! What perfect timing.

Post-run food: Tailwind recovery shake and a ginger chew. My stomach was starting to feel really rocky at this point.

Run 5 – 10 PM / local park / upper 30’s and cold

Barry came with me for this run and we met up with Kim at the park where we did our first run of the day. This one was really tough for me. My stomach was cramping and I just felt like crap. It was colder than expected and I was shivering pretty hard for the first part of this run. I definitely did not have enough layers on!

Normally, Kim and I talk our entire run. But we barely spoke at all during this one. What little conversation we had revolved around slapjack, sharks, and counting down the laps from what I can remember. I was so glad to get this one done!

Post-run food: Dill pickle, a few crackers, and half of a Luna bar.

Run 6 – 2 AM / treadmill

I thought I would nap between runs 5 and 6, but didn’t end up doing so. I was tired enough to, but I felt too crummy to sleep. This run was really tough and my legs felt stiff and tired. Even though I was tired and sore, I was really happy when this one was done because I had completed the Yeti Challenge!

Post-run food: Chicken noodle soup, and it was SO good!

Here are the stats from all six of our runs:

Overall, this was harder than I expected and it challenged me both mentally and physically. When I find myself in the middle of something hard asking “why do I do these things?” I know I’m taking on something worth while, and this was one of those things.

Zero Week

I randomly decided to take a “zero week” the week of Monday, April 6, meaning I didn’t run the whole week. I’ve had weeks where I haven’t run, due to injury or because I was recovering from a big race. But I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally taken a zero week. I figured why not give it a try while things are fairly static due to COVID-19 pandemic? Here’s how the week looked… (this is going to look like a Jillian Michaels advertisement)

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred, level 3 workout.

Wednesday – Jillian Michaels Killer Buns and Thighs workout.

Thursday – Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred level 2 workout, followed by a 20 minute indoor bike session. We also picked up baby chicks to add to our flock!

Friday – Jillian Michaels Six Week 6 Pack workout.

Saturday – 25 minute ab circuit and 3 minute mountain legs routine in the morning. Then a 6.2 mile hike at Claytor Lake State Park in the afternoon. Luckily, the trails have not been very crowded at our local state park and so far they remain open (lots of trail systems are closing due to overcrowding, which prevents adequate social distancing).

Sunday – Jillian Michaels Yoga Meltdown.

Overall, I think this was a pretty good experience and experiment. I came out of the week sore, but in a good way because it was from doing lots of different cross training. I always feel like I don’t do enough cross training, so it felt good to focus on that. But I was also itching to run all week. Running is definitely my favorite! In the future, I think it might be worth doing a “cross training week” two to three times a year.

Hungry Mother 25K – Virtual Race

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, races are being canceled. Some of them are looking to postpone to the fall, while others are simply canceling and offering runners deferrals to next year. There are a few who are offering a virtual race option. With this option, runners usually have a date range to complete their virtual race and they submit their results to the race directors by sharing their GPS data. My running buddy, Kim, and I were registered to run the Hungry Mother 25K on April 4.

As expected, the actual race was canceled but the organizers did offer a virtual option and Kim and I decided to participate. I’m pretty sure this was my first true virtual race.

About a week and a half before the race, Kim and I planned to go down to Hungry Mother State Park and run the actual course for our virtual run. Then it became clear that traveling two counties away to a different community wasn’t the best course of action in the midst of the pandemic. So Plan B was to run locally at Pandapas, where we could run a course comparable to the Hungry Mother course. However, most of the trails in the Jefferson and George Washington National Forests got closed the week of the race, including Pandapas. After that, Kim’s friend ‘A,’ who lives nearby, provided us with a Plan C: Run a loop from Kim’s house up the mountain, along the ridgeline trail, down the mountain, and loop around on the roads back to Kim’ house. Barry has run up there a lot and he said we would love it. Sounded like a fun adventure to me!

We decided to run our virtual race the same day as the originally scheduled race, and headed out from Kim’s house at 8 AM that morning. It was a gorgeous day, sunny with temperatures in the upper 40’s.

Kim’s friend ‘A’ met us on our way up the mountain so that she could make sure we didn’t miss the trail at the top and show us the way along the ridge line. I was grateful for her help!

You can’t tell, but this road is STEEP.

We had a steep climb up the mountain. It was tough, but not awful as I was fearing. With the good company, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves done with the climb and on top of the mountain.

We got on the trail at the top of the mountain, and this was definitely my favorite section! It was really pretty running up there and ‘A’ showed us two really great overlooks along the way.

The two overlooks were so cool. We spent a little time at each overlook just taking in the view. I’m so glad we had such a clear day! We marveled at how small and close together things looked from up on the mountain – things that normally feel very spread out when you’re down there driving from one spot to another. We could see the whole loop we would run and the roads we live off of from up there.

‘A’ accompanied us until we hit the gravel road that would bring us back down the mountain, about 5 miles into our run. This was the steep downhill part that you can see on the elevation profile above. My left knee has been giving me some intermittent trouble, and I was worried it would hurt a lot coming down this hill. Luckily, it felt fine the entire run.

Once we got down the mountain, we began the road section of our loop. The roads were curvy, two-lane roads that don’t have shoulders and this part was definitely not our favorite. There seemed to be a lot of people out and about, since it was such a gorgeous day. We had to deal with a lot of cars and several dogs.

I really started suffering the last third of our run, and I walked more than I should have. The ball of my left foot had become pretty painful. I have a callus there that really starts to bother me when it gets too thick. But mostly, I was just feeling really tired and not enjoying the road section. I was relieved when we finally turned back onto Kim’s road, as the traffic decreased significantly.

From there, we had a little over 2 miles to go. We weren’t sure exactly how long this loop would be. But it was here that I started to realize our mileage was going to work out perfectly! Trail races are never exactly the distance they advertise – they’re usually just close to that distance. I had figured since this was a virtual run for a trail race, as long as we were in the ballpark it would be fine. But it looked like we were actually going to hit the nail on the head.

I sprinkled in a few more walk breaks before we finally turned onto Kim’s driveway, with about 0.8 miles to go to our finish line. We had one more mean little hill to conquer, before finally finishing our run with 15.66 miles by my watch (a 25K is 15.5 miles). How about that!

Kim’s husband forgot to throw us a virtual race finish line cookout – probably because he was busy chasing their two small kids around 😉 . So instead I just took up residence in their driveway for a little while until I recovered.

All in all, it was a fun adventure. Kim and I agreed we would definitely love to do the first part of this loop again in the future. Instead of running the actual loop, with the road sections, we would just do it as an out and back from her house, up the mountain, along the ridge, and back. We may not have had reason to explore up there had it not been for our current circumstances, so I guess that’s one little positive to this whole COVID-19 situation!

"I've opted for fun in this lifetime" -Jerry Garcia