19 December 2016

Conference House 6 Hour Race Report: Timed Races in the Freezing Cold Are Actually Fun

The Conference House 6 Hour Race was 32 miles of cold, sunshine, and friendship.  

I usually run a BUS race but whenever I can, but this time, I had my favorite yoga class that I teach: my Sunday Flow & Restore at Awakening. I usually include readings, meditation, sometimes pranayama - we open with short meditation, warmup, flow, and then totally melt into restorative poses. And I'll skip the class on occasion, but really didn't want to on this particular week. So I found this random 6 hour and signed up, despite having almost zero info.

I convinced my friend Jill to drive down from Rhode Island and run with me. She was struggling with a return/nonreturn to ultrarunning after a break (and ultimately, decided to take another break). I was worried about my tendon flaring up, and my training has been pretty minimal because of it.

NYC has been pretty mild this autumn. I've been biking everywhere and feeling pretty good about it. Of course, the weather plummets for the start of the race....

I got the start and realized, you idiot, the race is right on the water....which means crazy wind. Jill lent me a stinky windbreaker, which I was grateful for. 

The course was a two-mile loop, primarily easy trails.  The terrain was pretty easy - trails, but nothing technical, one baby hill. There were two port-a-potties next to the course, and we could easily leave drop bags. There were some pretty basic aid stations - they had M&Ms and kisses and pretzels (pretzels, that's all I really ever need) and I think clementines too. But I mainly had eyes for pretzels. They only had water in small bottles, which meant filling up your bottle was rather time-consuming (especially as it wasn't always readily available).

Nearly every time we ran through, the RD and timers would cheer us on. It was a really great feeling. One of the runners had the most amazing wife - she was out there, cheering us on, the entire time, with the kindest of words and a huge smile. The volunteers were great, and I felt like I was running in a small race of neighbors and friends.

The race started and I took off at a decent pace, not pushing too much, but not going too slow. I ended up chatting with this random guy, and we ended up spending the first 10 miles together. The pace was in the 8 minute range the entire time, and I felt good.

But I had decided I was going to run this one slow, for various reasons. I told Jill I'd run with her, and she tried to dissuade me. "I'm too slow. You won't want to run that slow." But I figured I'd run until I caught up with her (lapped) and then finish with her.

After 10 good miles, I passed her. I used the bathroom and then waited at the bottom of the little hill for her to reach me - and then it was like 22 miles of easy fun. 

Ultrarunning is more like hanging out with your friends sometimes than racing. Like, Jill and I could go out and drink wine and talk - but it was also pretty much the same as when we were running (except we complained about Jill's period and my stomach or whatever). Oh, and it was freezing, and I doubt I'd drink wine if I was freezing. Aren't you supposed to drink whiskey in the cold???

We finished. There were no partial loops, and we finished without enough time to go out and do another loop. That was fine. I got my plaque, I got my 50k coin (32 miles), and I got some pizza.

Jill and I headed back, and I questioned my sanity as to why I had avoided heat for the past six hours. But I felt so good - so amazing in that "this is why I love doing it" way.

25 October 2016

OMG: Last-minute running-a-marathon tips

This is adapted from the North Brooklyn Runners workshop from the 24th of October, where we shared our ideas on how to prep for the marathon. As the Educational Member Program Coordinator, I provided framework and ideas; everyone also shared their own great tips. While this is geared towards the NYC Marathon, you can apply many of the tips to any marathon. Ultras break all the rules, so many of them won't apply...unless, of course, they do!

Last minute tapering...

  • You can't cram in all the last minute training. These last two weeks, it's about maintaining your fitness and resting. Don't try anything new, don't exhaust yourself in workouts.
  • Add in a bit of speed if you can - but nothing you won't recover from.
  • Your mileage should be cut way down - 1/3 of peak to even 1/4 of peak. Less is best.
  • If you haven't trained properly, tell yourself that undertraining is better than overtraining, because with overtraining you risk injury. 
  • Eat normal food, nothing out of control new.
  • Old school carb deprive/carb load is out. 
  • You don't want to carb load w too many carbs. Sorry, you really don't need to eat 18 bagels.
  • Low fiber the day before. If you have stomach issues, pay attention to the fiber you eat. I know a runner who (no joke) does a liquid diet the day before races because of her stomach issues. (Sounds miserable to me, but she swears by it).
  • No beets the day before. No. Just no.
Marathon Expo
  • Try to go earlier so you don't tire yourself out.
  • Buy new clothes/gear is okay; using it race day might not be a great idea.
  • Usually cheap place to buy gels - but so is Amazon Pantry. You pay $6 for a box and you fill it w goods. But don't buy new snacks to try marathon day. No new clothing or shoes for race day!

The Night Before
  • Remember - Daylight Savings - fall behind!
  • Set as many alarms as you possibly can. 
  • Try to get lots of sleep all week long - it will make up if you don't sleep well the night before the race.
  • You should have been hydrating all day long (and all week long really) but stop drinking an hour or two before bedtime. You don't want to wake up to pee 12x.
  • If you can't sleep, try to relax. Meditate, rest as well as you can, maybe even read (but nothing too stressful....like, don't read articles about the current state of politics in the US).

Breakfast and Coffee

  • Only have coffee if you know it works. (Coffee makes you poop.)
  • Low fiber breakfast - no more than 9 grams of fiber.
  • Hydrate - but maybe stop drinking an hour or so before you get on the bridge.
  • Hydration and coffee make it easier to poop.
  • A little bit of protein for breakfast w your carbs - some examples - peanut butter on toast or bagel; banana pancakes (Don't those sound delicious?); maybe even maple pecan oatmeal (small portion); smoothie.
At Fort Wadsworth
  • Stay warm. Bring throw-away clothes to stay warm. Hideous is fine, as long as it's warm.
  • Keep your bib on the bottom layer.
  • They have tea, coffee, bagels, bars, but don't try anything you haven't had before.
  • Keep a disposable water bottle to carry with you into your corral.
First Few Miles - Halfway
  • Use a pace bracelet (available at the expo) to keep track of your pace.
  • Try to stay even to your pace.
  • Don't get too excited too early.
  • High fives are fun, but don't waste time high fiving everyone.
  • Tell spectators to wear bright clothing or carry a specific balloon or sign - it's HARD to see them, and for them to spot use.
  • Tell friends and family to track you with the app.
  • If someone love you, they can see you three times - by Atlantic Terminal, go onto 1st ave up in the 90s, then go to 5th ave to see you one more time before they meet you at the finish.
  • Set mini-goals (vs. "I have to run 12 more miles, shoot me...."): the next water stop, the crowds at 1st Avenue; seeing my BFF at mile 20; that huge TV screen in the Bronx; etc.
  • Grab your cup - pinch it twice if you can.
  • If someone wants to cheer for you, tell them chances are, you might be choking on water right after the aid station, so they shouldn't wait right there.
The Wall
  • Get your calories in early - 100-300 calories is recommended every hour. Most people take a gel every 45 minutes or so (and take it with water).
  • Regular nutrition can help prevent the wall. If you start to bonk, liquid nutrition (gels are great bc they're more calories than Gatorade) will be absorbed faster - and thus help you climb out faster.
  • Send a friend to the Bronx - helps to have someone to look forward to.
  • Set a goal - running in honor of a family member or friend - it's easier to dig deep for someone else than yourself. (I ran in honor of my Uncle Jimmy who died of leukemia; seeing all of the TNT peeps meant a lot to me that year he died.)
The Finish
  • Last mile feels like forever - but the crowds at the bottom of the park ROCK.
  • Don't look at your watch at the finish - it will ruin your finishing photo (and how can you get your photo on the bus then??). The will have your exact time online by the time you're ready to look anyway.
  • Have your family meet you in the family meeting area.
  • If you have a drop bag, add some sandals, socks, complete change of clothes. Also add a tasty snack with some protein if you are picky or if you want something more delicious post race.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Change your clothes if you can - or at least get that wet sports bra off.


  • Go run the next day. You will hate me for saying it, and it can be the slowest run you've ever done - seriously, 16 minute miles is fine - just get out there and DO IT. You'll get some of that crap out of your muscles and feel better. Then, take off the next week if you really want.
  • You will want to eat everything in sight - the next day too. Protein helps with muscle recovery. Try to eat 15-30 minutes after you're done - something w protein.
  • Get lots of sleep. You just trashed your body, your immune system is shaky - get lots of sleep.
  • The engraving on your medal the next day is pretty freaking cool.
  • Pick out your next marathon!!!!

24 October 2016

Hinson Lake 24 Hour 2016 Race Report: Listen to Your Body

Hinson Lake 24 Hour is a race I kind of always have to do. My first time there was a blast - not only did I win it, but I made a ton of new friends. Everyone cheers each other on; there are silly signs around the 1.56 mile loop ("Mount Hinson" at the small hill; "200 miles to South of the Border;" "Woohoa, we're halfway there" amongst others); the aid station food is pretty fantastic; the volunteers are friendly; and the race is super cheap. Plus, it's 2 hours from my sister's place, and I always like to have another reason to visit her and my adorable niece and nephew. Oh, and her husband too. Hi Brian. 

A few days before my race, my old tendon injury flared up a bit. I took off a day, and was glad the race was on softer trails.

My nutrition was good, my sleep was okay, and I was feel pretty excited to run for 24 hours.

Before the race start, several different people, including the RD, came up to tell me I had a win in the bag. I felt all the pressure on me suddenly, and it overwhelmed me. "I'm just going to have fun."

A lot of people out there, kept asking, "What's your goal?" I have various goals, but would rather not share them with people. I had a few people who kept saying, "Well, yeah, what's your mileage?" I'd respond, "All fun miles," and finally one guy I had to say, "LOOK, I don't want to talk about it - why don't you tell me your goals." He was happy to do that, and we had a nice conversation.

In the beginning, I was not topping the leaderboard at all, but I know Hinson. You get lots of people who just come out to run a fast 50k, fast marathon, whatever. People who think they're going to run all night, but don't. I had my pace, which was pretty chill, and I felt good. 

My pace was slower than I would have liked, but I stayed there, deciding to take it a bit easier and see what would happen. Every so often, I felt a twinge in my ankle, but it was definitely better.

Well, better until the 40s. I saw Ray, my coach, and we had a chat lap. He of course is always favor of pushing it, and doesn't really understand the concept of injury. I told him I was going to go to 100k, and then make a decision. I got into the 50s and still wasn't sure. Darkness began falling, and what was I doing out here.

My name was on the leaderboard. I watched myself climb places as people dropped from the race. 

The pain grew. It wasn't a twinge; it was full out pain. I was at mile 59 and starting to hurt.

Two more. I can do this.

I finished those two more - at what cost? I was nearly limping at the end. I didn't take my own advice.

I was in second place.

I walked away.

My tendon was hurting a lot. Did I ruin myself?

I saw Ray, "Maybe you want to just rest and then --"

No, this isn't something an hour or two can cure.

I drove back to my sister's and was there in the morning to wake up with her kids. I took a week off of running fully - and was able to come back to running. Listen first, run later.

27 September 2016

12 September 2016


Best burn ever.

This year...

  • 50k went awesome (except I pooped 4x during mine!) w a new male course record set and fastest naked runner ever!
  • Playa wedding to my love, Stedman. Will likely be more fun than our regular wedding (if we don't just run from our families and head to City Hall!)
  • Amazing art
  • BEST CAMP EVER - Pink Lightning totally rocked this year
  • Awesome beer mile spectating
  • Did I say amazing camp?
  • Fell even harder in love with Stedman
  • I love my yurt
  • Great vibe
  • Great music
  • Super fun duststorms

VERY Belated Pajama Run Race Report

Super delayed, but better late than never! 

Richie and the BUS crew moved the Pajama Run to Fort Totten Park in Queens...a way more inconvenient location, but there was a nice breeze, it was an interesting change, and there were raccoons (I am a bit scared of wildlife, so it made me run faster).

I began the race freaked out since apparently an email I had not fully read (I heart Richie, but his emails are like 10000 paragraphs long) said don't go topless. I had no shirt. Luckily I was fine w my sports bra and a mini-running skirt. We were basically running for 6 hours on what was the hottest and most humid day so far.

My legs still felt tired after VT100, and I ran well/crappy on and off. Some laps I was slower, others faster. 

I ran with good friends: Stephanie, Matt, Zandy, Karen, and others. There was a super dark section and I had no headlamp so I kept slowing down.

At one point, a runner I vaguely know said, "Oh, just doing a training run?" I said, "Excuse me?" and he said, "Well, you usually run way faster. So you must be taking it easy and just doing a training run." I swallowed all the profanity in the world and simply said, "I ran Vermont 100 last week. THIS IS hard. I am racing, trying to."

Really bummed me out to hear that negative comment. (Also similar: "I can't believe I'm keeping up with you. What's going on today?" "Wow. I caught the great Cherie Yanek. You must be really struggling." Thanks, maybe you're just rocking it?!)

I ended up with a decent amount of miles, and wiped down with baby wipes during the awards ceremony. I slathered some glitter on, shimmied into some sequins, and went out dancing at the House of Yes to the Kostume Kult Party with my Pink Lightning campmates! Great night!

09 August 2016

Leave Your Comfort

"You start dying slowly if you do not travel, if you do not read, if you do not listen to the sounds of life... You start dying slowly if you become a slave of your habits, walking everyday on the same paths… You start dying slowly if you avoid to feel passion and their turbulent emotions; those which make your eyes glisten and your heart beat fast. You start dying slowly...if you do not allow yourself, at least once in your lifetime, to run away from sensible advice…" – Pablo Neruda

30 July 2016

Seven Times the Charm? Vermont 100: Cookies, Lightning, Hills, and Fun

Vermont 100 has become a tradition, a staple in my annual racing schedule. I skipped it one year, and I spent that entire weekend, jealous out of my mind with FOMO. A bit overwhelming.

And a mistake I won't make again!

The course is not that easy. While it's not technical like Hardrock, or with the altitude of Leadville, it has a lot of hills. A lot. Some sections have lovely nicknames like "Agony," and some hills seemingly go on forever. Like, "Are we ever going to get to Bill's? This hill never stops." My pacer last year pronounced it cruel.

But it's gorgeous. Meadows and hills and oh-so-scenic. Imagine you bought a calendar of Vermont. These vistas would make the pages. There are rolling hills and meadows and barns and silos and adorable cows and greenery and a section called "The Sound of Music Hills."

worship the oreo-choc chip cookie hybrid

And the food. I have never eaten better food at an ultra. Homemade cookies and grilled cheese and so many other things. I stuck mainly with my staples (gels, chews, those biscotti cookies Delta gives out (I found them on Amazon and bought them in bulk) and coconut waters) but went kind of crazy at Margaritaville (mile 58.5). I mean, maple coconut cookies and chocolate chip cookies baked ON TOP of Oreos. Please, just hand them all over.

Jen was excited to pace me, even though she had never run more than a marathon. She was really nervous, and I tried to explain, "Seriously, it's not a problem. The main things you need to be good at are making sure I don't get lost and keeping me awake."

She was stellar at both, and more.

This girl held my hand as I had a total breakdown - crying hysterically, thinking I was going to die and get struck by lightning. I went to the bathroom way too close to her far too many times (much to the delight of her adorable 4-year-old daughter. Oh, and by bathroom, I mean I squatted in the bushes or on a patch of dirt. I think I did use one port-a-potty, but they are few and far between.

at the start. i want to puke. i feel like i'm going to puke. omg. omg.

Jen and I drove up the day before. She's been through a bunch of major changes in the past year, and we talked abt them, and some changes I've been going through (You know, quitting a job I'd be at for ten years, re-discovering how awesome happiness is, studying yoga for four months while traveling around India, starting a new career of yoga teaching and freelance writing while trying to figure my life out.). She had never been to Vermont before, so I got to impress her with the amazingness of The Vermont Country Deli. (Those cookies in the front...just get one. No, get two. And also - the lemon blueberry tart. And the mac and cheese. And the sandwiches - get one on the marble rye. And the carrot cake. And the...and the everything.)

I had packed everything into drop bags a week earlier, so after getting lost (Another VT100 tradition for me.), I dumped off my drop bags, got my bib, greeted Amy (the awesome RD, and a fantastic elite ultrarunner in her own right), said hi to lots of friends. Then we found some friends front and center and sat down for the pre-race meeting. Rules and talking, and then dinner.

And then I got back to our adorable Airbnb (Fluffy free range chickens everywhere!!! I want to move to VT!), I discovered ALL of my gels were in my drop bags. I remembered finding a few extras that must've been with my first 20 miles stash. Jen hooked me up, and then I tried to go to bed at 8pm. 

That didn't happen.

Finally I fell asleep and then we got up at 230. I force fed myself half of a bagel, drank some smoothie, and then dragged Wayne out of bed. Jen seemed the most ready, and I felt like I was going to vomit.

But then I started. I settled into a rhythm pretty quickly and felt kinda decent.

I also knew I had no business shooting for the moon. But you try anyway, right? Because if you don't, well, what's the worth of living in mediocrity?

My training had been crappy. I didn't have a strong enough base from being in India in yoga-land (I often started meditating and chanting and asana at 6 or 7am, which meant I had to get my run in before...and there weren't too many safe places or enough sunlight for me to run enough.) and then dealing with my weak ankle...I had one 100k, an 18 miler, two 16 milers, and a handful of 13 milers. Ummmm, yeah.

But mentally, I was good. All this yoga has really settled me. I have never felt so mentally good. The miles flew away. I kept running. I walked some atrocious hills. I did what I could. I didn't feel bad when I knew I wasn't running as strong. I caught up with friends. I enjoyed the views. I ate tasty treats.

Jen was the best crew. She showed up at all the aid stations with so much energy. It really kept me going. (That, and the popsicles...."I want the red flavor." Not cherry, red.)

It was hot, but not too hot. I enjoyed the peacefulness of my mind, the beauty of the hills. I reflected on so many of the changes, and hydrated in between.

My feet were also in pretty good shape. Farm to Feet had offered me an ambassadorship, which meant free socks - but I have never had such good feet after a race. (Usually I am covered with blisters. This time - whew!)

And then somehow - I was back at Camp Ten Bear again. It was time to start running with Jen.

So glad Jen joined me at Camp Ten Bear my second time...just over 69 miles run!
We had a good time. We talked and laughed, told each other tales about our day.

It was dark just before Spirit of 76, and I was glad to get there. Wayne was there! Always a great pickup.

A few miles beyond, we picked up another runner at an aid station. Riley was only 21 and so full of good energy. We chatted as we ran.

And then the lightning began.

I am totally afraid of lightning. You can die it if hits you.

Riley and I were holding hands. We were both crying. I'm pretty sure if was not either of our finer moments in ultrarunning.

The rain began. In buckets. It sucked. I have not been wearing my glasses very long, and this was my first time racing in glasses (I only wear them at night). The rain was hitting them sideways. It sucked.

Bill's was a haven. I peed in the port-a-potty and then we didn't stay too long. It was kind of like carnage. Wayne never showed up (He got lost with the thunder and lightning.) and I figured he was asleep in the car.

When we took off, the rain had stopped. Everything was somewhat magical and dewy and beautiful. My hallucinations were intense and things were glowing and gorgeous. I could do this. I could do this.

And then I couldn't. The rain picked up. It drenched us. I fell apart. My hallucinations went from gorgeous pieces of art to scary things. I stopped looking off trail; there were too many scary things popping out that weren't really there.

Riley took off. I began almost falling asleep. The rain in my eyes. It was all too much.

The lightning. I was pretty sure we were going to die.

I got to Polly's, mile 94.5 or so. I didn't want to leave. I was shivering. They fed me warm plain noodles in water. I didn't want to leave. What? I figured I'd wait out the rain. (Bad tactic - it never stopped and I just wasted time.)

Then we left. More lightning. We were running through open fields, and I was pretty sure I would never go to Burning Man or do anything. I was going to get torched by lightning. (I somehow never thought Jen would; just me.)

But we made it. The trails became horrendously muddy and difficult and barely runable. I slogged. Mudfest.

And then, I saw the sign for a mile. I wanted to cry. It still felt so far.

Jen was there. We saw a huge hill. "Are you going to run this thing?"

"This course is eating me alive."

And we pushed. And we pushed and we pushed.

I finished. It was pretty miserable at the finish line, but Amy was super nice, giving hugs, buckles, amazing shorts (great schwag!) and then I had hot cocoa. 

The race was a big deal for me and Jen. She's never run further, and I never ran a 100 on such poor training. It pulled us closer together, we shared so much about ourselves, and I'm so glad she was there for me.

Wayne was there with hugs and rain jackets for both of us, and I am so grateful that even though life isn't perfect, he's always there to try to make it as good as possible.

And obviously...this will not be my last time at my fave 100 miler!

The end. See ya next year, VT100!
Post finish. Best hot cocoa. Seriously, it was a packet, but tasted divine.

All pics by the best pacer, Jen Cwiok! (except maybe Wayne took the ones of us together, but Jen was the photo director)