PREFACE:I decided to break this post up in two. It got very wordy and I had so much to say. This post is specific to details about the running of the race where as the next post has to do with some other stories that are more relevant to the impact of the team and experiences we had outside of running during the race. I hope you will read and enjoy them both.
I love Ragnar races! I look forward to them every year. I had no intention of doing one in 2018 though especially after running Vegan Power 50k and then going to Wanderlust Stratton with my friend Pete. Those two events ate away my race time, so a Ragnar was not necessarily on my radar.
About 5 weeks before Ragnar Adirondacks was scheduled I got a message from my friend/ teammate, Jess Ryle. Seems someone dropped and they were having issue finding a fill in. I hadn’t run since VP50k but after working out schedules and stuff, I made the commitment to go to upstate NY and run ADK with Strong Hearts Vegan Power once again and got back to running.
Five short weeks later it was time to get my stuff packed and head out to Glen Falls, aka Tent City. A bunch of us were planning on camping out at Jess and Andrew’s house the night before the race that way we were only 25 minutes from the start line. I decided to make a stop in Albany to not only support one of our sponsors, Berben and Wolffs, but also to try them out because we don’t have stuff like that on ole Cape Cod. I was able to get some seitan buffalo wings, which I devoured on site and a cubano panini for later. Wow, the food is so good. If you are ever in Albany and are looking for vegan grub you won’t be disappointed.
The next morning came quick and we found ourselves in Saratoga Springs at the start line. Everyone found their vans and teams they’d be running with. Running (SHVP) gear was handed out and we all started moving our packs, food and whatever else we were going to need into the vans we’d be living in for the next 24+ hours. Things seemed pretty seamless, I mean heck, this team has been doing this for a bit now so it was like a well oiled machine.
Our first team was headed out at 8am so we all made our way over to see them off. Their was a team to start 8:30am, my team was at 9:00am and our last, and fastest team, the ultra team went off at 11am. My van was the second out of our team so we went off for some breakfast “sandos” (sandwiches) at Healthy Living. We then shot over to the next major exchange where van 1 would meet up with us and it’d be our turn.
We had a great van of people. Marie was our van Captain, driver and van mom. The run grunts were Trish Ann Novelli ( Ragnar vet, an amazingly fast and inspiring woman), Peter Nussbaum (co-founder of Tamerlaine Farm Animals Sanctuary and leg grinder), Steve Reddy (Equal Vision Records owner, krishna hardcore icon and mile crusher), Jonathan Reith (volunteer medic for the Kurdish Peshmerga and all around badass) and myself. This crew has some experience and more grit than We figured it out and the average age of our van was 45; needless to say we took on the moniker of Strong Heart SENIOR Power and started hashtagging our photos on social media with #aarp and #wherearemyreaders.
Fast forward to my first run which was 6.7 miles with 457 feet of elevation gain. That’s not a ton of elevation but considering my training ground is the flat lands of Cape Cod, it slowed my pace a bit. I got this leg done in just over an hour (1:05 and change) and passed off to Trish. Before our next legs were to start there was supposedly some bad weather moving in and Ragnar put a halt to all running for a bit. This was kind of bothersome as nothing ended up happening minus some downpours, but who hasn’t run in the rain before.
Anyhow, Marie got the next batch of runs going after bombing down a hill and killing her 2.2 mile run. She passed off to Steve and unfortunately for him, he got the worst of the weather and was soaked within minutes. Being the positive guy that he is, he cranked it out though and didn’t complain one bit; Steve is one tenacious dude. Peter cranked out his leg, Jonny smashed his and then I was up for my minuscule 1.9 mile night run.
Back it up a bit….
I’ve never been the strongest or fastest runner, I’m just the most bullheaded and won’t stop unless I’ve injured myself hence the reason I hadn’t run in months before this. That said, I’ve never had many “kills” during a Ragnar. As a matter of fact, I think the most I ever got during an event was 2. You read that right! I’m normally the guy that other racers can count as their “kill.”
Definition of a kill: Simply, it’s when you pass someone during a leg and they never pass you back.
During my first leg I had 5 kills and was shocked. So here I was just starting my second leg, the shortest of the three, and I was thinking there was no way I was going to outdo 5 kills in 6.7 miles.
I ended up getting 6!
We kept on going from there and got into our third, and last, legs to run. My run was just under a 5k but had some elevation and ran parallel to the High Falls Gorge on Whiteface Mountain. I had not done a ton of mileage so far, but the lack of running before ADK and not being able to train on real hilly terrain was taking its toll and I felt very sluggish. About 1/4 of a mile before the end of the run I looked behind me and saw another runner creeping on me. Normally I’d let them pass and be done with it but I was not letting this one kill me. I was so close to the end and I didn’t want to be killed in front of my team or their team. I dug as deep as I could and sprinted toward Trish to pass her the slap bracelet.
That runner never passed me!
Trish brought it in and we were done.
Our finishing time of 28:02:08 gave us 20th place overall and 11th in our division. All of our Strong Hearts Vegan Power teams placed within the top 20 and our Ultra team placed 3rd overall and 2nd in their division.
Thank you to all the admins of the team for putting this all together, the work you put in is priceless and appreciated.
Thank you to Jess and Andrew for graciously offering up their home for the guests of tent city.
Thank you to our sponsors Hurraw! Balm, Outdoor Herbivore, HippieCakes Vegan Bakery, Berben and Wolff’s Vegan Delicatessen, Rock Hill Bakehouse Cafe, Raul’s Mexican Grill, Tofurky and Vegan Outdoor Adventures.
Thank you Strong Hearts Vegan Power for making me a better person, I love this team and can’t wait to see you all soon!
It’s taken me a few days of reflection to share my thoughts on this race. I had much higher hopes than the outcome but let’s go back to the beginning and everything leading up to it.
A couple of years ago I did the 25k version of this race and really enjoyed it. It was a good course, very technical with all the roots and rocks; but fun none the less. It made sense to come back sometime and do the 50k, I mean, why not right?! So for the past few months I trained the best I could for it.
After a few weeks of training I was dealing with an Achilles thing and it put me back as I had to recover and that took over a month or more. I tried my best to get back into it after I felt good and was able to knock out some decent long runs before the race, my longest being 20 miles just a week before the race. I know, not a good idea as I should be tapering, but I wanted to make sure I could sustain it. It went well, was tough as it was really warm out but I got the 20 done and was healed and ready to go a couple of days later.
I drove up the night before and met up with some of my fam from Strong Hearts Vegan Power. We decided to camp on site, the race was being held at Pittsfield State Forest. I got a chance to see some old friends and make some new one’s. We really have a great group of people in this running crew, and the new folks seem to gel just as well as some of the long timers; SHVP is amazing to sum it up. We got a fire going and cooked up some dinner. I had brought some seitan ribs and others brought some Fieldroast sausages.
After grubbing pretty hard we all turned in to get some sleep, the next day was going to be long no matter if you were running the 25k, 50k or the relay option.
5 a.m came pretty dang quick and I was the first one to wake up. I got outside of my tent and looked around, it was so peaceful and I absorbed what I could before the storm of the day was to come. I cranked up my portable stove top and got the percolator working so we could get some coffee in us before our 6:45 a.m race meeting. We went over a bit earlier to grab bibs and our shirts.
After a brief pep talk it was suddenly 7 a.m and the 50k racers were off. The course starts off with a pretty gnarly paved hill that has a sharp angle to it. Knowing it was going to be a long day, most people walked it to save that gas for later. At the top of the hill you enter the woods. The course is a loop that is just over 5-ish miles so the 25k folks do three laps and the 50k racers double that. I was running with a teammate, Jess (also of Vegan Outdoor Adventures) for a bit. We were chatting quite a bit and had to be careful, it seemed like when we got super chatty our focus would come off the course and the potential for tripping and eating sh*t became real.
I don’t remember when but maybe around mile 4 I wasn’t paying attention and hit a root that twisted my knee pretty good. I didn’t feel it right away, but that was the beginning of the end for me.
Jess and I finished that first loop strong, she was absolutely crushing it. Mid way though the second loop I encouraged her to run her race and leave me to run mine. I started running from aid station to aid station, trying to keep my mind off the growing pain in my knee.
It was after my 4th loop that I decided to call it and take a DNF. Technically I finished the 25k but I didn’t sign up for that; I signed up for the 50k and failed. I was super hard on myself. The self-deprecation was real and palpable. Like a child, I sat down on the grass and pouted. My team (friends) were sitting across the street from me and would have been nothing but supportive yet rather than join them, I sat alone; dejected.
It’s now 4 days later and while I still feel a bit bummed out, I feel accomplished. I showed up for the race, did what I could and logged just over 20 miles. I could have been riding the couch instead but I chose to get out there and give it all I got and that’s what I did. I feel good about what I was able to do and can’t wait to try for some redemption.
Thank you to my teammates, to the Vegan Power 50k folks, those at the aid stations, the other racers that checked in on me as I walked a good amount of the course. Thank you to my wife and kids for always being supportive of me and for not letting me pout too much when I got home.
One of the first things my wife asked me was if I was done now, meaning, am I done ultra-running. A few hours earlier I may have said yes. Luckily for me I had a 3 1/2 hour drive home to settle down and realize I enjoy this sh*t. Sure, it hurts whether you are injured or not. I enjoy the test though. This will not be my last 50k or my last ultra attempt, hell a year from now I am hoping to take on my longest run to date. See the tab up top titled “Run Across Cape”? You can read more about it there. See you all soon, it’s off to Wanderlust this weekend!
* photos taken by Ben Kimball, Ellen Biagini and myself.
It’s now late Tuesday night and the Ragnover is starting to wear off… not too much though and I’m definitely still missing my teammates from the weekend.
I’ve gone over what a road Ragnar is in previous posts (PA 2017, ADK 2016, Cape Cod 2016) but have yet to do a trail Ragnar and it is quite different. Rather than piling 12 runners (and two drivers) into two vans and leap frogging for over 24 hours, Ragnar Trail has a smaller team of 8 that camps out for 24 hours or so in one spot. There are three loops that are mapped out and each runner does every loop one time throughout the 24+ hour time period. There is a transition area where you meet your runner and swap a bib that is on a belt. Super simple, right?
Our team, Strong Hearts Vegan Power, put up two teams. One was a regular group of 8 and that included Jess, Alex, Sam, Dana, Libby, Brett, Kate and myself; we’d each be doing roughly 16 miles. We also had a 4 person ultra team consisting of Jay, Johnny, Marie and Aaron; those crazies would be doing twice the mileage which is basically a 50k!
We were extremely lucky to have won the REI Premiere Camp Site. What that meant was that we really didn’t need to bring a ton of camping supplies. They provided:
REI Kingdom Tents
REI Folding cots
REI Camp X chairs
REI Camp Roll table
GCI Slim Fold table
REI Alcove Walls
GSI Outdoors Pioneer Table Set
Yeti Tundra 50 Cooler
Jetboil Joule Stove
2-Burner Coleman Cooking Stove
REI French Press Coffee Maker
Knife and Cutting Board
How can you beat that? We just had to bring delicious vegan grub, our sleeping bags and whatever else we wanted to bring along and run our loops. I brought Leah’s homemade banana bread which has become a staple at each Ragnar (thanks love for making it), I also made a couple of slabs of seitan ribs which I’m still perfecting, but they were still a hit as well.
One of our team members, Brett, brought another alcove style tent where he created an amazing spread of vegan cookies and candies as well as some promo material that Jason Young had printed out that explained our mission statement and a little intro to veganism for those that were interested. The table (cookies) was a hit and we talked to so many people. They were amazed at how good cookies were, as if somehow them being vegan automatically made them taste like dirt or something. Well, after this weekend the secret is out, they taste FANTASTIC!
Our start time was at about 11am and our first runner was Sam. He took off and ran the green loop, which is a 3.9 mile loop that starts on the beach so it kind of saps your legs from the get go. From their it goes through some of the camping area and then onto a fire road where it’s relatively flat for a couple miles. It then merges with the yellow loop and hits a pretty good elevation gain with some gnarly rocks and roots. Shortly after it catches up with the red loops and you hit some more camps and then back to the beach to hit the transition tent.
Sam passed the bib belt to Alex and it was off to the yellow loop for Alex. The yellow loop was 5.1 miles yet that’s about all I know of it. I did the yellow loop at night so I didn’t see much of it. It was certainly more challenging than the green and it was a step up in technicality. I do remember having to walk at one point, one of the uphills was full of roots and a good amount of them were hidden under newly fallen leaves. I wasn’t looking to twist and ankle or anything so I took those sections easy.
After Alex met back up with the other loops and brought it to the transition tent it was my turn. I had the red loop for my first run of the day. The red loop weighed in at 6.7 miles and was listed as the hardest of the three. You want to talk roots? This one had roots all day long. If you weren’t picking your feet up than you were hitting the deck after a trip. Running this one in the daytime was amazing as it wrapped around Wawayanda Lake and the views were absolutely stunning. Being fall in the northeast, the leaves are changing and it’s easy to take your eyes off the roots and rocks. Yes, there were rocks too. There was this one little neat spot I really enjoyed and that was the rock bridges that went across a swampy area. This was a great run, it would have been an even better hike since it was so gorgeous.
After meeting up with the other loops it was Kate’s turn to hit course and on and one until we cycled through the team.
Comparatively speaking, this Ragnar may have been one of my favorites. I really enjoyed the way the race was put together and how it brought the teams together in a way that rushing from exchange to exchange couldn’t do. For those that went on the SHVP camping excursion over the summer, just add some trail loops and a relay and that’s what this was. It was so chill and it really allowed us to come together and enjoy the company of our teammates.
Do we want to compare the amount of sleep you actually get too? I got at least four hours during the night, that was glorious. Johnny Hero slayed us all in the sleep department though, I think the only time he was awake was when he was running! HAHA!
I love road Ragnars, do not get me wrong. I’m in for ADK as soon as the team starts putting together a roster. But I’d happily jump in on a trail one again and again. Here’s hoping us Massachusetts folk can convince the rest of the team to come do the New England trail race. That would be awesome!
WARNING: A copious amount of reading ahead! Turn back now or if you so desire, enjoy the copious amount of rambling verbiage that lay before you…
It’s hard to really sum up a weekend like the previous one. It’s an emotional weekend. It’s a physically draining weekend. It’s a constant comedy of ramblings and silliness type of weekend. It can even be a stinky weekend. It’s an “eat all the vegan snacks” type of weekend. And for certain it’s a weekend that goes by way to flippin’ fast!
This was my fourth Ragnar; third as a member of Strong Hearts Vegan Power and they’ve become a second family for me. I’ve raced on a few different teams, and there really is no comparison because they all had people who meant a lot to me but if I HAD to compare them one thing would separate SHVP from the rest and that’s equality. No matter who you meet on this team there is a connection that goes beyond primal, it’s a fundamental understanding you are both on the same level and the thing that you are about to do is so important to each and every one of you. While we may have an A, B, C, D and even an E team we are all one Strong Hearts Vegan Power family.
We had members converge upon PA from all over the country, this time we even had a married couple (Corey and Channon who were in my van) who came from Chattanooga, TN. A good portion of the team is from New York, Boston and Philly but we’ve got folks from the West Coast as well. For most, the trip started on Thursday. I left my house at about 7:30am to make it to Worcester (Marie’s house) by 10am.
At about 8:15am a series of events played out in front of me and I wasn’t as quick to react, I crashed my truck into the guy in front of me that stopped short. Thankfully this was not some sort of calamitous foreshadowing of the weekend, just a blip in the road; literally. After assessing the damage and realizing it was just a glancing blow, we traded info and were on our way.
I got to where I needed to be, albeit earlier than I thought I had to. Shortly after I showed, the rest of the Boston contingent arrived. We arranged all our stuff in two vans and off to Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary we went. The plan was to drop our camping gear there as we would be camping out Saturday night after the race. Some of us thought it’d be smart to set up our tents before hand so we got that done and got back into the vans to head to Philly to meet more teammates and look for food.
One of our sponsors was Blackbird Pizzeria, an all vegan pizza joint in Philly. Not only do they do pizza but they do vegan cheese steak subs and the most glorious seitan wings. We got in kind of late and I think they were overwhelmed. I did reach out when we were about 30 minutes away, but they were busy and 10-15 more bodies on top of their rush was formidable at best. Since we had nowhere else to be, we were patient. Most of us had not been to Blackbird before so between the table, we ordered just about everything they offered. I chose the habanero seitan wings and cheese fries. I sincerely regret not getting the cheese steak, but my stomach can only hold so much and with all those miles coming up, I didn’t want to have to deal with gastric stuff mid run; that would NOT have been good. The wings were great, some of the pieces were quite thick and weren’t as cooked as they could have been, but again; they were overwhelmed so I will give them a pass because the flavor was off the charts. The cheese fries were amazing. I’d give them a solid 4.5 stars!
After sleeping the night away (thanks for the hospitality Erin), 4am came really quick and we were out the door by 4:30am. We hit a Wawa for coffee and off to the start line we went for pre-race meeting, team photo and to see our first team off. We had three teams taking off at 830am including my team for the weekend; team C. Even though we officially started at 8:30am, we were van 2 and that meant we weren’t on the clock until runner six hit the first major exchange at Salisbury Township Community Park, which is where we headed off to.
We checked in, watched our safety video and relaxed a bit. While walking around we had to come to terms with a few things. We were in farm country and we surely would see some stuff that bothered us. Looking around at some of the farms close by not only did you see animals grazing but there were some of those small white containers (veal crates) all grouped together. You know, the one’s where young male cows are hidden away from their moms to live a short life and become veal? Yeah, those things were all over and the realization was horrifying as there was not much anyone could do. The best thing we could continue to do though was to stay visible, it was hard not to notice a bunch of (mostly) tattooed vegans dressed in black with “Strong Hearts Vegan Power” emblazoned on the front in white lettering. And that’s a big part of the reason we are at these things, to represent the animals and be a voice for them.
I’m not sure the exact time but Michael Harren was coming in and the hand-off to Corey was imminent. There were a couple other teams hanging out waiting for their runners so we all crowded the exchange and Michael rounded the corner, came up to the line and… WHAT? Yup, Ragnar moment for sure and the slap-bracelet bent a weird way and it hit the deck. Corey recovered and Team C van 2 was on the clock!
It wasn’t until a little before 4pm that my first run started. The sun had peaked and it was beating down. In my first 2-3 miles my water bottle was empty and I could have used an aid station, but I didn’t see one anywhere. This would become a running theme for the weekend. There were either no aid stations on my run or the one’s that were there didn’t have anyone at them or water in the jugs they so blatantly left unattended.
The hills were rolling and there was not as much elevation as my next two runs were going to have. As I mentioned, this was farm country and most of them are run by the Amish. You could see them everywhere. If they weren’t flying by trying to run you off the road in a horse-drawn buggy, they were zipping along on push scooters. Yeah one Amish guy did try to run me off the road all the while staring me down, it felt very Amish mafia so I just kept running)Even in the hottest heat of the day, the younger kids were outside playing basketball in button down shirts, suspenders and jeans. I started to get into a zone thank to Pandora and the amazing playlist I had going. Nothing like a Black Tongue beat-down as you run through Amish country. The total run was 6.3 miles in 1:08:04 with an elevation change of only a couple hundred feet. Not the best time or pace but I was trying to save something for later, it was about to get real.
At this point, once your van is done you do one of two things, get food or sleep. I say either or because sometimes that is all you can do. We basically lived at Giant Food grocery stores on our time off. Our first stop I grabbed some fresh strawberries, watermelon and a couple of green juices. Everything I bought had a coupon on it and the juices were buy one get on free. This seemed to confuse the person behind the counter and they had to call over some back up. I got over $10 worth of fresh fruits for $3 though; I’m a cheap vegan and look for a bargain everywhere and anywhere I am!! After scarfing our grub we did head to the next exchange and waited for van 1.
I didn’t start my next leg until almost 2am. I was prepared for the hand off and headed up the mountain for some nasty elevation. I was about to see 800+ feet of elevation gain in a 2.5 mile climb. Good thing is there was also a 2.5 mile downhill. Getting up was a challenge as my legs we already a tad tired but I slogged on and actually got some kills headed up the mountain. Not being the fastest runner, I am not one to notch too many kills, so it was nice to get some under my belt. I did this run without music. I’m not a huge fan of running in the mountains late at night without being able to hear what is possibly coming out of the woods to eat me. Luckily the bears didn’t see me so I was off the menu; Aaron didn’t see me either so I was doing a good job at not being noticed (just kidding Aaron). The backside of the mountain was great and I gave it all I had. Again, I’m not a fast runner but using momentum was able to log 7:20 for a good amount of the run down. 6.8 miles after starting this leg of the race I handed off the slap-bracelet to Britt. After our van was done we went to the next exchange and I think we actually got some sleep; I’m sure I did because I woke up not knowing where the heck we were, haha!
At 2pm I finally started my last leg and it was going to be brutal to say the least. I was getting out of the port-a-potty just as Brian was hitting the exchange and I wasn’t ready. I grabbed the slap-bracelet though and started the 800+ feet of elevation gain in two miles span; it was a soul crusher for sure. 3/4 of the way up the top the van had pulled over to give me my handheld, again I was unprepared to start this leg. I started pounding the water right away and probably should have tried to save it. I was losing steam fast and for the first time I slow to a thru-hike like pace. As I hit the top I felt a wave of nausea overcome me and I ran for the woods. I lost whatever I had in my stomach and was out of water.
I have never had this happen before but I’m sure a combo of the heat and the abuse my legs were taking from all the elevation changes had a bit to do with it. I got myself back together and put one foot in front of the other and got a run going again. I felt something in my handheld shaking, yet I knew there was no water. Luckily, Johnny had squirreled away some GU Chews for me and they came in really f*cking handy at that point.I ate them with sincere ferocity and got into a zone to finish this leg. 5.8 miles later and 900+ elevation gain, I did!
The rest of the van crushed it and the final 4 runners got a great pace going as we headed toward the finish line. Channon brought it home for us and as she came toward the finish we followed behind her, along with van A, and finished together. There was an overwhelming sense of elation for the team, more so for myself. I’ve done races with elevation before, but PA really taxed my ability to sustain forward momentum. I’m so proud of my teammates, not just C team but ALL of the teams. Everyone truly shined in what was probably the toughest Ragnar course we’ve run to date.
We headed toward Tamerlaine after the race for a pizza party and to crash. I seriously don’t know how long it took me to fall asleep but it was quick I know that. The next morning we awoke to the sounds of farm animals starting their day. There were roosters crowing, goats bleating and in the distance (not at Tamerlaine) a peacock was screaming at the top of its lungs. Well, that’s what it sounded like to me. Gabby and Peter (co-owners of Tamerlaine) as well as other volunteers were getting things settled and were also working on an amazing breakfast for SHVP. There was coffee, bagels from a local shop and just about anything you could want on them. I simply had a untoasted sesame seed bagel with almond butter, I was more looking forward to the view out of the back of the veranda more than anything. There was this stunning sense of peace that came over me just sitting there enjoying my breakfast. With all of the hubbub of the race, it was wondrous to slow down and just be present. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that calm and it was beautiful.
Members of the team that had camped on site were waking up and starting to make their way to the veranda for rations and coffee as others who had stayed at local hotels showed up as well. Everyone enjoyed a fantastic breakfast filled with joy and friendship. There was talk of the race, obviously, but it seems that Tamerlaine kind of took over for people and the animals were calling. We all had to go see them.
We first went to hang with the turkeys and the newest resident, Pecan the pig. Things started getting a little hairy when the male turkeys started getting competitive with one of the woman from the team, we had to leave the pen so they could calm down. We made our way over to the goats and they were all so amazing. They were not shy at all and wanted nothing more than to cuddle and to be scratched.
We toured the farm some more and met other residents such as all the roosters and chickens. Some of those chickens were saved from the Kaporos ritual (the link is horrifying, watch with caution) that is held in Brooklyn. All of the animals here were saved in one way or another. Whether it was from a slaughterhouse or some crap backyard farm where the owners got over the head. Tamerlaine is doing some amazing work. It was mind-blowing to know that the fundraiser we had for them that ran concurrent to Ragnar raised over $10,000 for those animals. Some of the donations were from readers here and I thank you as do the folks at Tamerlaine.
Later on in the afternoon it was time to head back to the real world so we got the MA contingent together and off we went. Minus getting caught in some major traffic in CT, the drive was far less eventful than my ride to meet them on Thrusday. Here’s where I finally wrap this up and thank you for sticking with me and reading, but I also want to thank the folks in SHVP. When I say this I truly mean it, I love you guys! It’s hard to put into words what you have done for me just by being here and showing me kindness. I am humbled that you have accepted me as one of your own and cannot wait to see you all next!!!
Lastly, thank you to our sponsors The Herbivorous Butcher, Dandies, Blackbird Pizzeria, Grindcore House, GU Energy, Little Secrets and Newzill! Your support not only helps us do what we do but shows the integrity that stands behind your business, thank you!
First, let me apologize for taking so much time off. I have no excuse other than the fact life got busy with a few shifts over on Nantucket and, more importantly, our travesty of an election. I will go further into that very soon, it deserves its own post. As a preface, the next four years are going to be a great opportunity to practice kindness, patience and extreme levels of compassion; our nation will need it!
It’s been three years since I last ran the Spartan Race at Fenway Park and almost two years since I last ran an obstacle race, to say I was feeling a bit out of shape is an understatement. Running around the park was not something I was worried about; running I can do. I maybe haven’t run as much as I’d have wanted to leading up to this race, but my legs are/were solid enough for a few short miles.
After making the hike from Cape Cod via the highway, parking in Braintree and taking the T into Boston, I arrived. I grabbed my registration info, and at this point, Spartan Race has been doing this enough that the process was flawless. I had my bag searched, and nothing questioned luckily as I had all my vegan snack and fueling goodies with me. Although Spartan is not a big stickler on people bringing foods in, it’s mainly the Red Sox front office. I got my personal bag checked, another fluid process, pounded the last bit of my Vega Clean Energy and it was off to the start line.
After what seemed like forever, probably because of the cold, we lines up and were off. There was quite a bit of running before the first obstacle which was hands up push-ups in the visiting teams locker room. When I did this race three years ago they were just straight push-ups, in the same locker room, but last time you came out of the dugout and onto the field. We were then sent into the bowels of Fenway and ran quite a bit more until we hit some walls and the rest is kind of a blur to be honest. There was the Spartan staples such as 6′, and 7′ walls. There was the wall crawl which is not just a straight wall anymore, now you have to climb around corners and stuff, so that was fun.
There was the Hercules hoist, which usually gets the better of me seeing as I’m 145-150lbs soaking wet, and I end up doing burpees for failing; not today! There were the jagged monkey bars that I usually nail and did again. We came to the are out back of the park where the spear throw was set up. Can I tell you how much I hate how they do it now with the attached rope?! I understand it makes it easier to pull back for the next racer but it sucks and I’ve missed this twice now because of the ropes. When they didn’t use the ropes I nailed that f*cking obstacle every time; not today and that meant 30 burpees.
We ran some more and then hit that 50lb pancake bag carry, that was a killer on the old legs. Not that climbing up and down stairs for what seemed like hours helped any but what the heck right? There was a jerry can carry, men got the pleasure of carrying two down the concourse and then, of course, up some more stairs for good measure. After this we came down a bit of the concourse and I bombed down it trying to make up time from bottlenecks and stuff. Again, this is not an exact course breakdown as I don’t remember the exact one that came after this one and etc. We had some 25lb medicine ball slams to do. Had to jump-rope with a band around our ankles using battle rope to jump.
When we got down to the field again, finally, the are only 3-4 obstacles left. It started with the huge A-frame climb, some box jumps and then the rope climb. Normally I train my ass off for this. I have a rope hanging in my back yard that I actually purchased from a Spartan employee out of their trunk at the VT Beast a couple years ago, so I train on it specifically when a Spartan is coming up. I have not been training on it and it’s been at least 8 months since the last time I tried. Needless to say, my muscles remember and off to the bell at that top I went and I hit it.
After that it was off to the Gladiator Gauntlet and the finish line. I finished in 53:03 and am proud of that. Could I have done better, sure I could have. This race was a fun one for me and I was enjoying the views of the historic park as we weaved in and out of it. I love running this race and will happily do it again next year.
I had the opportunity to see some old teammates from the New England Spahtens. I saw Jess, Sandy, Jeff, Vince, Michael, Daniel, Marc and Jason. Plus a bunch more. It was a quick visit but a fun on never the less. Thank you to Muddy Mommy for the entry, I won a contest on her blog. I’m very grateful, thank you!
“It’s been so lonely without you here
Like a bird without a song…”
No this isn’t a rendition of Sinead O’Connors “Nothing Compares 2 U” but it is an ode to those that have become a part of my family, the Strong Hearts Vegan Power team.
You see, this past weekend I ran my third Ragnar Relay and second with the team. Rather than it be on Cape Cod like the previous two, and be on familiar territory being a native and all; this one was held in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. Nothing could have prepared this flat-lander for what was to come, but my training had as many hills as I could find and the incline was always on when using the treadmill.
We had an early start for the race, 6 am on Friday morning, so many of us came into the area early to get some sleep. A group of us was staying at Jess and Andrews house (thank you for the hospitality) and while we were all headed that way it was decided we would try to concoct vegan Big Macs. We were all given certain things to pick up on our way and for what ever reason we still ended up with extra Chao cheese.
Casey popped the burgers into some pans, I created the “special sauce”, shredded some lettuce (after Caseys valuable tip) and sliced some buns up. We had a variety of patties to choose from such as Field Roast, Gardein and even some Beast Burgers from Beyond Meat. I love those one’s so my Big Mac was merely ginormous and was super filling. We had also brought stuff for s’mores but by the time we had all gorged on vegan Big Macs we were full and people were starting to think about bed. That was a great idea since we had to be up early so we all crashed.
3:45am-4:00am came waaaay to soon but we were up and at em and headed off to the starting line. It was awesome to see so many people I had met from the Cape Cod Ragnar and to meet people who were coming in for their first race with the team. We all found our teams, were given our race gear and plans were put into motion about how the next 24-30 hours or so would play out. At this point, after chatting and catching up with teammates, it was time for C team van 1 (Rachel, Evan, Christine, Jeanine, Molly, our driver & Captain Melissa and myself) to head over to registration and get checked in, watch the safety video and prepare for our first runner to get going.
Originally I was supposed to be runner 1, but due to an unforeseen injury from a fellow teammate, I switched to her leg which was six. She then had to pull out completely so the legs were arranged a bit and we took on another runner as she moved into the van driver role. The way this team, Strong Hearts Vegan Power, operates is amazing. Even when the most minor thing happens, or major, it gets ironed out quick and is given no more thought; it just gets done. We had runners on other teams go down and again, the slack was picked up and it went off without a hitch.
After seeing runner 1 off the race was officially on for us. If you’ve never run a Ragnar this is where the fun, and chaos, begins. We swiftly got back to our van and headed of to the next exchange. When our van was on the clock this is how it would go. Drop a runner off at an exchange and then drive to the next where the nest runner would wait for the slap bracelet to be handed off and then on to the next. Each van had 6 runners and 1 driver. After the 6 from that van ran, the slap bracelet was handed off to the second van of 6 making 12 totals runners per team. When our van was off the clock we would head to the next major exchange to chill, clean up, eat, recoup or whatever it is we needed to do.
After our first leg, we had an injury. Rachel had rolled her ankle at one point during her leg. Sam taped her up and we were unsure if she could continue on. Somehow she muscled through and ran her second leg, even claiming two kills in the process. After that though it was decided that she was out and we would have to figure out what to do for her last leg. In order of runners, Christine ran before Rachel and I after. Christine and I decided to split her last leg in half and share it. So how easy that was, we got it done!
How did my legs go? Amazing! My first run was just a bit over 6 miles and I just kind of took it easy as I knew I had a nearly 9 mile run later that night. The Adirondacks are beautiful so the run was relaxing. My second legs had a few hills, quite a few actually. It killed me running up them but going down? I set new records for myself. I have never run anything faster than a 7 minute pace for more than 20 second sprints. As I was bombing down a hill I peaked at my watch and saw I was going 6:24! What?? So I grabbed my phone and took a pic, at that point I had slowed to 6:37 but that was still way flippin’ faster than I had ever run before.Of course I’m not an elite runner, so keeping that pace was a dream. I went back to my usual 9:00-9:30 pace and settled in.
My third leg was just in the morning. It was just about to hit 7am and that was when you didn’t have to wear all the night gear, I was grateful for that. Again, I settled in to a good pace and powered through my last run. There were some absolutely gorgeous sites to see as I ran this leg. It seemed that the trees color was changing a bit more on this side of the Adirondacks so it made it even more spectacular. There was a spot that had a great downhill and I miraculously achieved another sub 7 pace for about 30 seconds and that felt refreshing as the morning was quite chilly. I’d have layered up but by the time the 6 miles was up I was sweating and would not have wanted to carry a sweatshirt with me the whole way. After my leg, we handed off to van 2 and then headed off to the finish line to wait for all the teams to come in.
The finish line was in Lake Placid where they held the Olympics some time ago. There was still signs that they were held there as the ski jump was still up and even the spot where the Olympic flame was lit. It was probably even more beautiful than, in its Olympic glory and all. It wasn’t too shabby though and was the perfect place to have a Ragnar party!!
They had some of their sponsoring vendors there such as Nathan and Nuun. Each runner gets a meal ticket and we were blown away that there was a veg option that we didn’t have to ask for anything to be changed or taken out. I even had a coffee at the pop-up cafe and they offered me coconut milk; the world is changing folks!
While we waited for our van and the others, A team came blasting in with a time of just over 22 hours garnering them 3rd overall and 1st in their division. Who said vegans were slow and unhealthy?? From what I can tell on the prelim results the other van results are:
C = 30:31:46 (my team)
B = 31:06:38
D = 31:28:05
I loved running this race and couldn’t be happier with those that were selected to share the van w/ me. You guys are all my dear friends from here on out, thank you for the laughs (#jesusjumpedup) and thank you for the amazing memories.
While I’m writing my thanks let me add to it some of the most important folks and that Joel, Laura, Dana and any other admin that helps to set all of this up. After creating and helping admin an enormous OCR team I can only imagine what you guys are doing between registration, collecting money for that, gear order, getting contributions from vendors, etc. You guys are all amazing and we do what we do because you set it all up. We couldn’t do it without you. We couldn’t spread the message of ethical veganism the way we do unless we had you standing behind us. Thank you!
I’d like to also thank all the businesses/ companies that sponsored Strong Hearts Vegan Power. Your support is amazing and the team is proud to be partners with you!
GU Energy Gels
Healthy Living Market & Cafe
Louisville Vegan Jerky
The Herbivore Clothing Company
Sweet Earth Natural Foods
Now that I’ve had a few days to let everything settle down, including the achy legs, I’m ready to put down on (metaphorical) paper what would become one of my favorite races so far. That’s a hefty way to start this but you will understand by the end.
I heard of this race, The Vegan Power Ultra, last year and had wanted to run it. I was already running a 50k though (The TARC Summer Classic) and figured doing two within a few months (when I had never done 1 to begin with) might be a bad idea. It was my first attempt at an ultra and I wanted to make sure I finished. So I passed and waited until 2016.
For 2016 though, I decided against the 50k option and did the 25k. I’m really glad I did. Even before the race I hadn’t run enough for 30+ miles and I knew it would result in a DNF with the lack of training. So rather than do that, it was the 25k for me. I’m glad I chose it because it gave me an opportunity to hang with my new-found teammates on the Strong Hearts Vegan Power team.
I also met a bunch of people I’ve chatted with online. This group of racers, volunteers and spectators were all genuinely kind and considerate. I don’t think I saw a frown the whole day. Even when racers got injured and had to drop out, they did so with a smile and didn’t beat themselves up over it. The overall feeling of the day was amazing, I haven’t felt that calm and centered since I went on a meditation retreat a few years back.
But I digress, let’s talk about my night before real quick. Driving to Pittsfield, MA from Cape Cod is a 3.5-4 hour drive depending on traffic. Upon my wifes recommendation, I went up the night before so I didn’t have to drive up that morning and could get a good nights sleep. Being the cheap prick I am I booked a room at the Motel 6 in Chicopee. I got there at roughly 6:30-7pm and quickly check in and headed to Northampton to grab something to eat a highly recommended place, Paul and Elizabeth’s. I decided on the Thai-Style Seitan and Udon Noodle Sauté and took it to go. Honestly, I had tried to order from a place called Bela first but they don’t allow to-go orders and are super high-end, which is kind of bullshit, but whatever.
On the ride home I saw a Target, and we don’t have one of those near the Cape. Why mention Target in a race report? Well this has nothing to do with the race but has EVERYTHING to do with cookies. You see, they are one of the few places to sell Hamptons Creeks “Just Cookies” and I had to have some. So, I bought some.
I got back to my room, and tore into my dinner. I had such high hopes and was let down. First, I was told how spicy it was and that it’s a “good thing I like spice because it’s spicy.” That’s what I was told at least. It wasn’t. The seitan was super soggy and was just like hot mush. The meal was a complete let down, but I finished it because I needed the veggies, carbs and protein for the race the next day. After trying an AMAZING cookie, I went to bed.
No sooner had I gone to sleep, ok maybe a couple of hours after, the flippin fire alarms started going off and multiple fire engines rolled. The alarm went off for nearly 45 minutes and made it impossible to go back to sleep until it was done. Once they left and reset the alarm I was about to fall back asleep made 30 minutes later. The alarm clock on my phone came way too soon and I was not ready to get up, but I had to.
I ate some breakfast and started making my way toward Pittsfield. It’s been some time since I’ve been in any sort of mountain range. I realize the Berkshires are no Rockies, but I was still humbled by the mountains and their grandeur made my heart flutter a bit. I think I lived in the mountains in a previous life. Maybe I was a mountain yogi or something, I feel really at peace around mountains. But anyway…
I arrived and said hello to my brothers and sisters of SHVP and went over to registration. I finally met Ana Wolf, the RD, and she is just as genuinely nice in person as she is online. I wasn’t sure someone could carry that kindness into the real world, but you have to be real person to do so and she is. The event, while somewhat small, takes some major work to do. From co-ordinating volunteers, getting medals done up, designing and printing t-shirts, co-ordinating with the beneficiary of race funds, etc. Ana did it all and with grace, it was never about her but about everyone else. She is amazing.
10am came rather quick and it was go time. I was as ready as I was going to be and hit the first hill, the only major hill on the course, as hard as I could. I had heard people saying how it should be taken slow and I did on lap 2 and 3. I wanted to get out as quick as I could, which time and again, proves to be my downfall as I can’t seem to sustain that energy the whole race. Regardless, it’s how it went this time, again.
The trails were absolutely gorgeous and were marked extremely well, probably the best I’ve seen at a race. They were dry but not dusty. There were spots that were quite rocky and were also filled with roots. At times you could see people who looked like they had been running a mud run as they were quite dirty from clipping a root or two.The days weather was great and was warm but no muggy. The flora and fauna was green and healthy. It wasn’t until later that I noticed I probably touched some poison oak at some point. Yeah, It’s really itchy right now!
Lap 1 went off pretty well. I was 5-6 minutes slower than I really wanted to be but I was having fun and I wasn’t really looking to push it, I just wanted to finish. The third lap, during the last mile, the wheels started to come off a bit and I’m really glad I stuck with the 25k option. I finished my race in 3 hours and 48 minutes. Not an awesome time, it’s not competitive in the least. But again, that was not my goal. I hit my goal; I finished.
I had so much fun. After the run there was all sorts of vegan grub to be had. There was pizza from Baba Louies, rice and curried veggies from Veggie Galaxy. There were other items that folk brought such as brownies, bars and all sorts of treats. I absolutely devoured my bowl of curries veggies and rice. Having burnt nearly 1,500 calories I was famished.
Overall, I would do this race again and again. I hope to make it next year and might even dare to try the 50k option and make it my second 50k race. I don’t think I could pick a better race to support and accomplish that goal. I want to thank my teammates who supported me, supported each-other, supported other runners, supported Ana and more importantly supported Vine Sanctuary, who was the beneficiary of the race funds; over $6000! Thank you to the volunteers who were all gracious, and thank you to Ben Kimball for all the amazing race photos.
I can’t wait to go back next year!!
ps. Congrats to SHVP teammates Jason and Samantha for winning the men’s and women’s 50k races and to our first relay team for taking home the crown.