Race Report: Hamsterwheel 6-Hour, Year 2

Riddle: How can a 24 hour race start at 9am on one day, and legitimately end at 8am the next day?
Answer: When it's a 24-hour race on "fall back" weekend--like the 2nd annual Hamsterwheel 24 hour race. 
For my part, I only ran the shortest option of the Hamsterwheel, which is the 6-hour race.


Just like last year, I was up before dawn on a Saturday morning and driving across New Hampshire towards a rosy-fingered sunrise.


Also just like last year, I took a Vermont Buff selfie in the parking lot, to REPRESENT the Green Mountain State that is my home.



And just like last year, I ran a total of 8 laps (32 miles) for my 6-hour race. But with one fortunate hitch... the race rules changed to my advantage this year. Instead of having to complete all eligible laps before the 6-hour mark, the race counted all laps STARTED before the 6-hour mark. So I actually started my 8th lap much later than last year, and finished my 32 miles in about 6:15. Then I was super-ready for some Coke and pizza and just to stop moving.

A few notes:

The race had about twice as many entrants as last year (about 60 people). It was once again a great mix of runners of all ages and paces. I enjoyed seeing people many, many times along the 4-mile looped course, and getting to know each other a tiny bit that way.

One thing I've learned to keep me happy on a looped course is to change something with every lap. So for my first lap I had a handheld water bottle and jacket as it was still a cool morning. The next lap I picked up some additional Roctane (energy drink), but kept things similar. On the 3rd lap I picked up yet more Roctane (I had a drop bag at the start/finish where I would pick up and drop off stuff), and took off my gloves. On lap 4 I removed my jacket and picked up a GU gel. I was wearing my Vegan Power 25K technical T underneath and I felt it brought me a surge of energy and luck! I was even running in "flow" for a little while (where ability and exertion mesh into a magical superhero feeling). I also watered down my Roctane on the theory that the GU gel would make up for it. (Bad idea it turns out.)

I had decided that lap 5 was going to be my "hard lap"--something to get through and then I'd be over the mountain (of work--the course itself is pretty much flat) and well on my way to the finish. I traded my handheld bottle for my hydration vest (full of proper, undiluted Roctane), and grabbed some pbj on white bread from the well-stocked aid table at the start/finish.

Things started to get funky on lap 5. If this were a three-hour race I would have finished in great shape, but in the next few hours I started to fall apart. That's what it's all about though. I was there to be stubborn, proud, and see what I could do long after passing the point of comfort and possibly reason. During lap 5 my hands started to swell up, exactly as they had during the Vegan Power 25k after I had also started drinking watered down Roctane. And my tummy started to feel slightly off. I decided that if my hands felt better by the end of the lap (since I had gone back to full-strength Roctane which seems to have the combo of salts and fluids and whatever that I actually need), I would keep going.

When I got back to the start/finish, a 25-time Boston marathoner looked at me and said, "Need some salt?" What was he seeing that made him ask that? Or did he ask everyone that question? My hands were definitely feeling better, but I knew salt would help. I perused a selection of chips, but the perfect thing, handed to me by the amazing Darby (read my 2015 blog!), was a piping hot grilled cheese sandwich. I took some with me on lap 6, and this seemed to be the ticket to getting my salt levels right again and also correcting my stomach issues. Yum! Also, I got to have my iPod and music. And I put my running shades on and kind of withdrew into a little world of music. I was also dealing with my legs starting to clench up and HURT.

Lap 7. People who weren't walking have started walking. My calves hurt, my knees hurt, my hips hurt, and my right foot hurts in exactly the spot where it hurt last year. I forget my sunglasses on the food table, but I do grab some more grilled cheese. I try walking, but it doesn't actually help with any of the pain. And it makes everything take longer, so I go back to running. Reallllllly slowwwwwwly. I know I should probably stop, but it's clear I'll be able to start my 8th lap before the 6-hour cutoff. And if I can start the damn thing, I'M GOING TO FINISH IT.

Lap 8. I ran out of Roctane so I mixed up some Tailwind at the start/finish. It was awful and it felt like it would have some unfortunate digestive effects so I stopped drinking it. Having started this final lap but having no cutoff time, I knew I could take as long as I wanted/needed to gut things out. Walking still hurt more than running so I kept jogging along. It was ridiculous! Also my iPod stopped working, but I was finding it hard to care about much besides moving towards the finish. I think if laps 6-7 were about me hitting the wall, Lap 8 was beyond the wall. And eventually... lap 8 ended.

I came in second woman in the 6-hour race. (Side note: I have been second woman in all of the (three) 6-hour races I've ever entered.)



Data: Fitbit step count from the day.





More data: Here are my Garmin results--the loop is 4 miles so you can see that at multiples of 4 the time increases because I stopped at the start/finish. You can also see that after split 16 (start of lap 5), my time gets slower and slower with each successive lap. Still, a 14-minute mile after six hours of running on brutally hard crushed stone isn't so bad. I'm still proud of my effort and my result.

For the record, here's what I would change for next time:
  • I would do more weight training. I felt that part of what helped me during this race was two strength classes I'd taken in the weeks before. If I had more time to build up core and leg and overall strength, I think that would be super helpful.
  • I'd try to lose weight. This would SOLELY be for having less to carry around, not that I care about my weight. (I DO NOT. I'm proud of my body whatever it's doing.)
  • MORE ROCTANE. I go on about this stuff I know, but it works so well for me during races. I learned I should NEVER water it down. And I should ALWAYS drink it during a race. Lesson learned and point taken. Roctane, if you need a middle-of-the-pack spokesperson, let me know! (I have no affiliation with GU, I just love it.)
After the race: My hips and knees continued to hurt for about 24 hours. I took a lot of Zyflamend, rubbed on arnica gel, and iced my left Achilles tendon which turned up sore the next day. I felt amazed at what I'd accomplished, and also thankful that my family let me lie around in bed for awhile. And after about 36 hours my hips and knees felt pretty much OK. The human body is amazing. I'm so grateful to get to do things like this.

Pickity Place Visit: October 2016

Another trip to Pickity Place! Here's a photo essay of our annual three-generations trip to the charming New Hampshire lunch spot and garden shop.

Cutie peppers in the kitchen garden




Sweet herb gardens


This is Sage, one of the two resident cats


Herb drying shed








The secret garden is a sweet labyrinthine area with a nice bench within for repose





View from our lunch table in the "greenhouse"—the smaller, windowed area that we prefer





A nice cheesy squash soup











YUM, delicious carrot cake




The gift shop has Red Riding hood trinkets, since the house used to be the home of a famous illustrator of the story.



Sage inside the gift shop



Here is Rosemary, the other kitty, chilling out in the sun.

Compare with our previous visits! Pickity Place 2014, Pickity Place 2015

Ipsy Glam Bag Review: October 2016

This post is not about the recent US election. It's about a glam bag from Ipsy, which is my monthly beauty subscription.




For the "Black Magic" October theme, the bag was a Halloween theme by Valfré. So cute!



Each bag has 5 products. October's haul was a sample lipstick, blush/shadow, lip scrub, leave-in hair conditioner, and concealer pencil.




Quick review:

I like the Hot Mama blush/shadow and actually already had a sample of it from somebody else's Birch Box subscription. I use it as an eye shadow; it has a nice gold shimmer.

The concealer pencil by Nudestix is OK, but I'm not convinced it stays on my skin very long. It's very creamy. I try to use a primer underneath and finishing powder on top so it will stay on. Still experimenting with this one.

I have no idea what to do with the Indi Beauty Antioxidant Lip Scrub.

The Pure Brazilian Leave In conditioner is a great idea, but I don't love the smell. It seems hit or miss whether someone is going to appreciate a particular fragrance.

Similar issue with the Noyah lipstick in Smoke—it's just not a color that I wear, though I appreciate their eco-friendly messaging and ingredient list. Smoke is a grayish-lavender color.

Here's my referral link if you're interested in signing up! https://www.ipsy.com/new?cid=ppage_ref&sid=link&refer=z8mno

Race Report: Pisgah Mountain Trail Race 23k

Got my map. Got my race swag coffee mug. READY!

The Pisgah Mountain Trail Race 23k this past September 18 was a joy to run. There is also a 50k option, so this is the closest ultramarathon to my home. 
23k equals about 14 miles, which makes it a little over a half marathon distance. This was also a rugged trail race, so I was expecting to finish in around 3 hours--maybe more.
This was my third trail race for 2016 after the West River Trail Run and the Vegan Power 25k. I really adore trail racing by now! Every course is so different; every experience is so unique. And this was definitely my best trail race of the year. I felt good the whole time. When I dug deep there was always more energy and strength there to tap into. I never "hit the wall" or reached that point where I had to cajole and bully myself into continuing. I had a great race the whole way! And I finished in under 3 hours at 2:55, which made me really happy.
A few other notes:
Pisgah is a gorgeous state park about 15 minutes from my house and I had NEVER BEEN THERE BEFORE. I can hardly believe this fact. At 13,300 acres, it seems to be pretty large (for New England) and has plenty of fabulous trails. The race was a great introduction to the park.
The race was a nice loop with some great ascent & descent work. The 50k was an even wider swath of trails. A New Hampshire park in September is a sight to behold—the day was a little rainy but the foresty trails and ponds were quite gorgeous.
For the first time, I used only GU Roctane energy drink. I've been using this stuff for over a year now, but this was my first time to not try mixing in water or other nutrition like gels or bars or ramen. And this was the first race where I never crashed or felt tired... coincidence? My body just seems to love GU Roctane energy drink.

Above: my vertical data from the race. The minimum elevation was 794' and the max was 1339', with a total course gain of 1838'. I spent a lot of my training time this summer running up and down hills, and here's where it really paid off. I also LOVED that the last 2 miles or so were mega-downhill.
I'd love to do this race again. And I'd love to get more familiar with Pisgah State Park—it is a real local gem!

Ipsy Glam Bag Review: September 2016

I have a new hobby, which is collecting and applying beauty products. It's a long story, but it recently came to light that I used to enjoy girly stuff like makeup and nail polish. I decided to subscribe to a beauty box, and after a little research and asking around, I chose the Ipsy glam bag. It's just $10 a month and has a fun system where you earn extra points by doing reviews and sharing on social media and whatnot. You also get to pick a bunch of beauty preferences to try customizing your bag. Here's my referral link if you're interested! https://www.ipsy.com/new?cid=ppage_ref&sid=link&refer=z8mno



My first glam bag came in a hot pink bubble wrap mailer. It contained this cute "IPSY" figure zip-top bag with 5 beauty products. Here's my quick review!

Tarteist lash paint mascara, by tarte cosmetics


Nice gold/splatter design, but this is rather small and sample-sized so it's hard to have a "real" mascara experience. It's hard to remove the wand from the tube without the mascara being clumped on heavily (the wand just pushes in rather than screwing in, which seems to allow too much product to cling to it). Once I'd wiped and adjusted the mascara on the wand to a normal amount the result was quite nice, with LONG pretty lashes.

Eye Do Liquid Eyeliner in Black, by EYEKO


I did not need liquid eyeliner in black, but if I ever did want to start rocking the winged eyeliner look... well now I'm ready. This stuff goes on very smoothly and evenly. It is seriously black.

video


Restorative Toner, by Épicé International


Nope. This is supposed to be applied "after cleansing" and contains ingredients such as Propylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, and Sodium Hydroxide. These are probably incredibly nourishing and cleansing (and to be fair, other ingredients are herbs like Aloe & Hops), but I'm scared of this toner.

Exfoliating Cleanser, by BeFine Food Skin Care


I'm not a fan of exfoliants since my skin has enough going on without being abraded on purpose. However this is a brown sugar, sweet almond, and oat cleanser, which sounds more like food to me than your average scrub. If I have a lot of gunk on my face I might try this to gently take it off. It also smells delightful, like Christmas morning marzipan.

Ombre Angle Brush, by Crown Brush


I ADORE THIS BRUSH. It is worth the whole glam bag to have this brush. I've started a concealer/setting powder routine and this angled brush is perfect for gently applying that fine setting powder, especially under the eyes. It's like the angle was made especially for my face—perfect.




It's been a while since I tried a product subscription—what about you? I'm sometimes tempted to try Blue Apron but it doesn't quite add up budget-wise.

Costa Rica, Part 2: Animals & Adventures

Sharing more from my September 2016 trip to Costa Rica—see Part 1 here. In this section I'm remembering the animals that we saw around the country and the adventures that we had away from our home-base of Finca Luna Nueva.

On our journey from the airport to the farm we stopped at a wayside restaurant for lunch, Mi Rancho.


I was rather surprised that a mariachi band was a prominent (LOUD) part of lunch here.


I ordered the "Tico Plate" with fish: the best fish I've ever had--loaded with flavor (did they marinate it before breading and frying?).



Average roadside view from our bus--one-story storefront.



99% of houses we saw are small and one story




Day 3: Ziplining! I was nervous at first but then I loved it! We did the SkyTrek ziplines and I highly recommend them. The staff made me feel 100% safe and cared for, but they were also hilarious and fun. Ziplining was THRILLING.




This is a typical view in one direction while ziplining. We were working our way down a mountain/hill near Lake Arenal.



Arenal volcano on the way back to the town of La Fortuna. We were ziplining on the other side, where nobody has lived since a huge eruption in 1968. Now it's a national park with lots of adventure outfitter places.



After ziplining we lunched in the nearby town of La Fortuna




Open-air restaurants are very typical




Our server wore traditional garb.




We shared these appetizers, plantain fritters




I HAD to order the Volcano Rice... how could I resist? It wasn't great (kind of salty, clearly a way of using up scraps that don't go into other things), but it looked awesome.




We wandered around La Fortuna for a bit after lunch. I took this photo because the restaurant on the right is called "Rechicken" which I thought was hilarious.



Back at the Farm: Finca Luna Nueva is part of a beekeeping initiative called Sacred Bees of the Tropics. The goal is to create habitats for Mariola bees, a tiny stingless bee that's native to Costa Rica.





The farm has several bee-houses. They appear uninhabited, but if you look closely you can see teeny bees coming and going.


 

This is a close-up of the tubelike entrance to the hive. The bees are golden with gemlike blue & green heads. Apparently Mariola honey is even more beneficial than Manuka honey, the prized New Zealand export.


 

There is a bird in the middle of this photo I've identified as a Gray-necked Wood-rail. This rock wall is right across from the farm restaurant, and the Wood-rail had a relationship with the kitchen staff. It would wander up to the kitchen door, get a treat, and then fly up this wall and disappear under the hedge with its bounty.


 
One evening on the farm we put on our muck boots and went for a night-walk with flashlights and cameras. We saw frogs (like this one hanging out on a tree), a snake, skinks, spiders, a large mouse-like thing in a tree, bats, sleeping birds, a glowing caterpillar, and a bullet ant.


 

Costa Rican national treasure, the Red-eyed Leaf Frog



We wandered around the farm one evening and surprised a coati--it was BIG and in full profile it was also quite long (here it's looking at me, but it has a long head and pointy nose). I'd say it's the size of an extremely large raccoon.

Day 4: On the Wednesday of our trip we drove north to take a wetlands river tour. On the way we stopped at Restaurante Las Iguanas, where a nearby bridge lets you look down on the treetops (and pipes) and the many iguanas that lounge there.

 


The white spiky iguana in the middle left is apparently the Big Daddy of them all.






 

The bus driver and our guide were very good about screeching to a halt and pulling over for animal photo ops. This is a sloth moving slowly along a tree limb—it was easy to spot because a busload of tourists had already pulled over to take photos.


 
The river tour, like the entire trip, was amazing. Being rainy "green" season, the river was high. There were also very few other tourists. (We heard that in high season, around March, the Rio Frio river is a zoo of boats and guides with microphones. We were basically alone on the river.) This is a Snowy Egret. Nearby we also saw Jacanas, the birds that walk around on lily pads (I didn't get a photo).


Our guide identified this as a type of fig tree. Doesn't it look like Celtic knotwork?


 
Two birds, I believe the grey-ish one is a Night Heron.



Under those two birds and lounging on a branch (slightly right of center) was a bright green Basilisk Lizard, aka Jesus Christ Lizard. Other expedition members actually saw one of these running on the water's surface but I missed it.



This is the Anhinga, also called Snake Bird (because when it's swimming in the water with its head out of the water it looks like a snake). Most of the Anhingas we saw were resting with their wings spread; I did see a few swimming like snakes.



Cormorant


Kingfisher



Spectacled Cayman. Can you believe all of these amazing animals??



 Turtles (two in the front, and one further back facing the camera)


 
Two little blue & white swallows posed for us mid-river 






This is the sacred tree of life, the Ceiba tree. Our guide explained the Ceiba was long believed to connect heaven and earth, and the seeds that came down from her tall wide canopy became people and other creatures.



A tree-ful of egrets against grey skies




The boat stopped by the shore for a photo op at the Nicaraguan border (no place to debark—this is all part of the Caño Negro wildlife preserve so no roads or trails).




This obelisk was right next to the newer wooden sign—an older border post.



 

Our boat driver and river guide, Bernal, had an impressive gift for picking out animals amongst the thick green vegetation. As we motored back from Nicaragua at speed he suddenly stopped, threw the boat into reverse, and pulled over for a close encounter with several white-faced Capuchin monkeys. The monkeys seemed to be having lunch and did not mind us at all. We got so close!



Capuchins are omnivorous and can live 50-60 years. We also saw a troop of howler monkeys hanging out further away—I got some video that I will try to share at some point!

Thanks for reading about my Costa Rica trip! I would love to go back someday, I would love to take my family, I would love to go back to Finca Luna Nueva. I would highly recommend visiting this kind, peaceful, gorgeous, and environmentally friendly country—and the Arenal area where we stayed—for any kind of vacation or getaway or change of scene. The national motto is Pura Vida: PURE LIFE!