2014 Stonecat 50 Miler Race Recap

I signed up for the stone cat 50 miler way back in July… but the idea of running Stone Cat has been festering for well over a year after my first 50 miler DNF at TARC 50 that ended up being a 25 mile swim. Unfortunately the 2013 Stone Cat was the same day as the NYC marathon… So I waited again and tried another TARC 50 miler on a different course… with the same DNF result… In July, I signed up for the lottery to get into Stone Cat and got in! I wasn’t sure what to expect for a fall race since historically Fall is busy time of year for my job where I end up working most Saturdays until 10/15… However, I ended up switching jobs and for the first time in a while, I had weekends opened up to get some of the long runs I would need to get myself ready for this adventure… I can go into more about my training, but I think it warrants a post of its own since it wasn’t the most traditional of plans.

The Stone Cat 50 Miler was held on Saturday, November 8th 2013 at 6:15. The cost of the race is $85 plus fees so essentially $90. The cost to the lottery is Free and while I’m pretty sure the getting picked rate is probably around 100%, the lottery is there to relieve some of the registration stress that seems to happen with races nowadays and servers going boom on the opening hour of registration.

The week of the race I wasn’t traveling for work and unfortunately didn’t get the best rest that I would have liked… It was also that week that I started to feel pain on the side of my leg. Basically the part where my foot connects to my leg in the front. I ignored it for the most part, thinking it was maybe the hotel treadmills and me not getting enough sleep… I got home and ran on Wednesday night and felt okay. Thursday, I went for a 10K on my home treadmill and when I was done, my leg was killing me. At this point, I still thought my pain was muscular and would be gone with a good day of rest. So Friday I worked from home, icing, elevating and the whole RICE treatment hoping that my leg would be good to go by 6:15 AM Saturday.

But first there was the headlamp fiasco… I couldn’t find my old headlamp I used.. and the Fenix flashlight I usually use has had an unfortunate death with Duracell batteries refusing to remove themselves… so I did what any ordinary girl would do… I ordered 1 day delivery from Amazon… only to be disappointed…. Yes, as a prime member, I paid extra to get my delivery in 24 hours only to be disappointed that my headlamp was still in Indiana… so Friday night after packing everything else… we tore the house down looking for the old headlamps because I doubt REI is going to be open at 5AM… luckily we found them.

Initially if everything went to plan, I wouldn’t have needed the headlamp… but as I learned two weeks ago in Ghost Train.. it’s always good to have.

So finally.. I am fully packed with 20 pairs of socks, a few extra layers ready from 100 degrees to negative 100 degrees and more pairs of shoes than most people own in 5 years… yes, when I pack for an ultra.. I pack more than I would for a 3 week trip to Asia. But yes, finally I am packed and ready for bed.

And BAM! the 5AM alarm goes off… I can wake up early… but I really hate it and this wake up with the stress of traveling during the week really felt like a punch in the face. Luckily, the race is only 30 minutes from my house in Ipswich. Tony graciously dropped me off at the race start as we got there around 6:05 AM… Yea probably a little bit late. As I grab my number and shirt from the awesome volunteers, I start to set up my drop back area. My leg feels better, but I can still feel a minor dull ache that I continue on ignoring.

The weather is somewhere in the 30s and I feel groggy and a little cranky as I try to evaluate what layers I need. I finally decide to go with a tshirt and my 2012 Boston Marathon Jacket for some comfort and warmth…Plus it’s bright and orange and makes me happy and reminds me of one of the most difficult runs I ever had. 2012 Boston Marathon was no joke and I’m proud that I stuck through it.  I also kept a hat on which I probably didn’t need but I was just not in the mood to be cold. For the bottom I am wearing a pair of old black Capris I got a few years ago from Express… Yes.. not exactly ideal tights for 50 miles of running… Unfortunately with all the commuting, travel and working from home, I forgot that I pretty much horde a whole closet of workout clothes at work in Boston which is where my three pairs of favorite running capris were currently residing at. Whatever, it’s not the gear that makes the runner… it’s the runner that well fuck it gotta do what she gotta do because a 3AM drive to Boston was not in the cards.

So I am dressed… or undressed from my warm layers… hearing the trail briefing and ready to start when I decide maybe it would be a great idea to take a bathroom visit before I start running. Unfortunately, unlike road races, trail races for some tragic reason (for the almost late Liana) seem to always start on time… so as the rest of the runners start their 50 mile journey, I scurry over to look for the bathroom… which of course is proceeded by a line. So aside from being a 50 miler, stone cat trail races also has a marathon that starts 15 minutes later at 6:30 so all of those runners are being timely. In my head I scream a few expletives about being such a morning wreck and debate the merits of peeing on myself instead of this line… but eventually decide that running with a full bladder or wet pants for 50 miles will probably not be fun.

About 5 minutes later, I am off, joining the first of the pack into the woods. Stone Cat 50 miler consists of FOUR 12.5 mile loops. The aid stations are at mile 4 mile 7.5 and then back at 12.5. I’m used to running 20 miles with no food and water and I decide that at least for the first loop or two, I’m going to leave my handheld in my drop bag. I liked being hands free.

The first mile or so of the first loop is a bit lonely as everyone has had a 5 minute head start and I kinda enjoy the peace and quiet of it all… then I start to catch up and see a bunch of runners but none of whom look familiar and I kind of get a little more cranky.

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of rolling single track at the start of races… I don’t run on trails often and sometimes it takes me a bit to get into them. Also, I’m not a fast runner but I’m also not a slow runner until the downhill part. So for the majority of it, I am trying to get around runners on the uphill and flat part and having panic attacks as others run around me on the downhill. And while I’m usually relatively social, I found myself in a mood. Maybe, it was subtle stress of my leg, maybe it was exhaustion, maybe it was everyone looking so at ease and me feeling the struggle of mile 1 like it was mile 31, but I was in a mood. The hard part about being in a mood is that I can’t fake being happy but I also don’t want to be a debbie downer. I am so grateful for having these trails so close by but at that point in time, I was cursing every bump, rock and root. I was just not in the mood for trails or people… or maybe anything. Maybe it was my lack of caffeine?

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Around mile 2, I saw my friend Anj and I instantly felt better. Maybe, I just needed some familiarly to comfort myself as I felt so out of place on the single track terrain. I decided to stop looking at my watch, or time, or miles and just take it step by step. So what if I had to walk every downhill, if that’s the break I needed, then I’ll take it and just run a little faster on the flat part. Many ultrarunners take walk breaks and while most don’t do them on downhills, it’s okay, I don’t have to be like all the other children… As I was working on letting go of my insecurities, I hit the first aid station at mile 4 that was playing music and full of perky, happy volunteers. I immediately downed two cups of coke, not because I was thirsty, but because I’m pretty sure I was feeling caffeine and sugar withdrawal. I didn’t really eat a breakfast even though I probably should have. In the next 3.3 miles I started to pass by more familiar faces from TARC and was finally feeling a little bit  more comfortable. I wasn’t an outsider trying to keep up. These are my people and while most of them I only see at trail races, I am constantly in awe of all their accomplishments, just like sometimes they are of mine. Our accomplishments and skills and background might be different, but we’re all here to challenge ourselves and achieve our individual goals. Maybe it was the caffeine kicking in, but in simple terms, I was finally chilling the bleep out.

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The 7.5 aid station came by quickly as I decided to pass it and hold out for the end of the loop at 12.5. Somewhere in those 5 miles there was a volunteer dressed as a clown… clowns and woods… not cool people.. not cool… I prefer the Yeti ;). It was also around this time that the faster marathons started catch up and lapping me. It’s always though on the ego when you get passed and it messed with my pacing a bit. I wanted to run faster, and keep up with them.. but I kept trying to remind myself that I got double the distance and should focus more on finishing the course versus racing others.

Before I knew it, I hit the first 12.5 miles in about 2:27 (minus my 5 lateness minutes)… a little smarter, a little slower than stone cat. I immediately changes out of my jacket and hat into a thin long sleeve. Had a few bits of pumpkin pie, some salted potatoes and moved on. My second loop was meditative… for the most part I was running alone and I liked it. I love the support and volunteers of races, but when I’m running, I like being in my own head and gazing around. Suddenly, a large portion of the terrifying single track seemed pleasant and beautiful. I went from not just chilling out, but really enjoying myself and remembering why I love trail running and ultra running. The second loop went by quickly, and I even started to pass some of those marathoners that flew past me… pacing is a skill that takes practice physically and mentally.

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As I finished my second loop at 4:53 (less 5), I saw a few more of my favorite familiar faces who were waiting to pace their friends. Then I realized, I kind of forgot to get myself a pacer… in TARC races, the 50 milers weren’t allowed to have them and in Ghost Train since you’re running 7.5 miles pack and forth, you don’t really need one on the rail trail… so it sort of slipped my mind that I might want one on my final 12.5 miles.

As I started my third loop, I started thinking whether I wanted a pacer. I was still feeling great. In fact, I was surprised by how much energy I had as I was going into the middle of my third loop. At mile 30 at ghost train, I was fading fast,, versus here, with a slower and more consistent pace, I was keeping relatively steady with my energy level. Maybe this whole pace yourself theory does have some logic. As I continued, I would sync up and chat with a few runners. I loved hearing where people run, how far, and other details. I love that you can run alone for a bit, have a nice little chat and then go back into your personal zone. When people ask if I ever get lonely running for 10 hours in the woods. The answer is no. In a world where I’m so connected via social media, and close coworker cube office environment. I cherish those moments when I’m unplugged and with nature. Plus, I know if I slow down or speed up, I can eventually find another like minded person I can chat with for a bit.

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The great and happy selfie…

On my third loop, around mile 36 just as I was thinking of how great I felt with energy, my left knee gave out. It just wouldn’t take any more running. When I got near the clown, I had to get over my fear and borrow his chair for a stretch. For the first time in a rice, I felt great, my back wasn’t hurting, my energy was on cue and only thing that was stopping me was a sharp pain in my left knee with each step. I tried to do a jog, a run walk and eventually just gave up to walking the final 2 miles of the loop. Before my sudden sharp pains, I was on cue to hitting 37.5 miles in under 7:30. Right on plan with my 10 hour goal. My actual time at loop three was 7:45 minus 5.

As I was in the zone of debating between what to do with my life… because I’m so dramatic… I mean race between loop 3 and final loop 4, I decided to sit down and grab some food. I drank a little noodle, had some hot coco and take a few steps into a warm school bathroom because even though I was running with no hydration, I was definitely downing more liquids than I needed to.

My mind was racing and I was going back and forth about whether to DNF or not. I always said I would never run on an injury. However, I figured what’s the worse that could happen. I heal fast. At this point, I still thought my injury was soft tissue. Plus at this point, I had more than 4 hours to walk my final 12.5 miles of the course. Should I really DNF because I didn’t want a slower time than my goal? That seemed silly. I was tired of DNFing for all the wrong reasons and while for the first time, I probably have a legit reason, I felt like a disappointment if I didn’t finish this one. I wanted an official 50 miler and ghost train because the loops were 15 miles, didn’t really count as one. I’m also, not sure when I’ll have the time and energy to train as hard again. This had to be it.  I grabbed my Jacket and my head lamp. I wasn’t cold. but I knew I had some serious hours and miles ahead of me if I was going to get through the final loop. I also decided to change my shoes from trail to road because they had a bit more cushion and I wanted comfort for walking vs. the protection and feed back of my Innov-8.

I was definitely not making the sunset cut-off. After chatting a little bit with my friend Mike and walking a half mile. I felt a bit less shaken and determination took over. I can finish in the time I had left and at this point, all my pride wanted was an official finish.

My final loop was a haze. Well that’s a lie. The first 8 miles of the 4.5 was a haze as I was right foot, left foot. My knee stopped hurting but the pain in my leg by the shin returned. Any down step felt like what I always imagined a kick in the balls would feel like. I started to get passed by runners I passed before and there was nothing I could do about it. I was running my own race and they had theirs. It wasn’t about others anymore, it was just me and my battle.

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At one point I saw my friend Anj on her final loop and was really excited by how great and strong she looked! She asked me to run with her, but I just couldn’t get my foot to match my energy and wish her luck on her final miles. It was also at some point that I hit my right toe straight into a rock as I was texting on my phone… and for a bit, the pain in my toe, made me forget about the pain in my left foot and I rain for a few minutes.

I made it to the final aid station with 5 miles left to the course and Tony wasn’t there. I convinced him to walk the final 5 miles with me but he couldn’t find the trailhead and said the road was too rough for our Prius. I continued and only made it half a mile before darkness took over.

The funny thing about sunset in the woods in the November… it sort of happens in a flash. One moment you’re running and you’re fine, the next you’re dependent on a headlamp that you realize has a lot less light depth than you thought before. You’re looking for the trail marks and ribbons, but none seem to be visible. Instead, as you enter single track again, you rely on your footing.. if the footing feels consistent you’re on trail, if things get a little bit more soft, less trimmed, you’re bushwhacking off trail. Amazing how much you start relying on the feel of your footing when you’re visibility is limited to a step or two in front..

For a mile or so, I felt okay… I was slowing down to make sure I was following the trail but I was okay. However, after about 20 minutes alone in darkness, I started to freak out. Out of nowhere, I heard coyotes all around me howling. Now logically, I know coyotes don’t eat people… but my brain is fried from running for 10 hours and it’s dark and I’m in the woods and I just lose it. I start freaking out that I’m lost since I haven’t seen anyone in a really long time and shouldn’t have somebody passed me by now? I try to go on, step by step and finally hit double track again. I know I still had about 2 more miles to go which at my current pace was at least 35 minutes at best.. but at least I could see where the trail was more clearly.

Suddenly, I hear women behind me. There’s two runners and two of their pacers, reminding me that I really should have picked a pacer but I just felt so guilty asking someone to walk 12.5 miles with me. It’s one thing to ask a friend to run with you, but walking? I don’t know. Anyone’s other humans! Inside, I screamed from joy, but the city road runner in me was starting to get really terrified of being alone in the woods in the dark. I couldn’t run but I was walking uphill at a much greater speed than most at this point. I used all the energy and strength to block out my pain and keep up with this pack. Two more miles, at this point, the damage to my foot was done, I just needed to get to the finish line. Being in the company of other runners for the last few miles, made them go by a lot faster than the single mile I did alone. And when I saw the field, I was in pain, but the joy of being done made me break out into a jog. I just wanted to be back in civilization and lights!

I crossed the finish line 11:42 gun time with probably 11:37 or so net time based on my Garmin.

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I found Tony right away and started to pack up all my gear as I grabbed two slices of pizza. I didn’t really eat much the whole day and got most of my energy from soda so finally chewing some food was a really treat!

The volunteers lined the finish area with light sabers and sparklers adding to the excitement of crossing the finish line.

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Instead of finishing medals, we got these awesome gym bags as our finishing prize. Not going to lie, because part of why I wanted an official finish as this bag! And also…

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and the shirts are super cute and when someone asks me about the race, i was to tell them about a finish and not a DNF.

I don’t know if I will have another 50 miler any time soon, but I know eventually I want to return to the course and run uninjured. I also don’t quite know what is happening to my leg. Based on research, I think I have a stress fracture. It’s been a week and still feel pain when I bend it. Going to the doctor this Thursday to find out the damage done before I resume my 2015 marathon goals.

Newport Marathon Race Report

Newport marathon… my second marathon in 36 hours, part of my crazy back to back marathon plan that started with Hartford, another notch on my 50 states belt. Why did I sign up for Newport? I already had Rhode Island as a state (times 2) and I’m not really thrilled with the race organizers that put on the event.

Well, I picked Newport because it’s relatively close to home (90 minutes with small traffic) and I wanted to force myself into some double long runs. And to be honest, the third and main reason is my ego. It’s the third race in the Triple Crown series that I have partly participated in this year. It consists of three races, Providence, Jamestown and Newport. It’s actually a half marathon series since Jamestown doesn’t have a full, but Providence and Newport those. To still participate, they take our first half split.

I wasn’t planning on competing as my Providence time wasn’t anything exciting after coming off Boston and a 50K the weeks before. Jamestown; however, came with a better time and when I checked the standings after the first two races, I realized I was in the standing if I can hold up in Newport. Now, I am not an elite runner, and the best I usually hope for is an age group in local races where the more competitive runners with more talent and discipline are racing elsewhere. So when I see a chance for extra bling and a new trinket with my name on my fireplace, I kind of want it. Sometimes, we all need our pats on the head, and running local road races is mine. Sometimes I get lucky, sometimes I run well, and sometimes I just have terrible runs.

Although, this desire for some extra bling, clearly wasn’t as important to me as my double long run goal, because otherwise, I wouldn’t have threatened my standings with a marathon the day before.

So right after I signed up for Hartford at the end of September, within 30 seconds I signed up for Newport. Registration was similarly around $100 and probably could have been a bit cheaper if I signed up a few months ahead like I usually do. Jamestown and Providence were much cheaper but way less scenic.

I was familiar with the course since I ran the half (after dropping from the full) two years ago when I started my marathon addiction. It was even my half marathon PR for a while, so I was excited to return to the course and see how it feels as a smarter, older, more experienced runner.

After finishing Hartford, my main objective was recovery. Tony and I walked around a little bit so I could stretch my legs and then headed to Newport. We took some really lovely smaller roads from Connecticut to Rhode Island that really showcased why New England at times is beautiful (when it’s not negative 50 wind chill and snowing for months).

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Although the race did have race day bib pick up, I wanted to minimize some of the race morning stress and get my number in advance. The expo was a pop up tent in a parking lot of the beach with some small local vendors. The shirts, terrible unisex boring designs like my Jamestown and Providence were. It’s a free for all when you pick your size, but they did have multiple color options. I guess if you’re a guy, or love running in oversize shirts, they may work. Sometimes, I wish women had the option to pass on the short and save 5 bucks instead since they’re clearly designed for dudes only. But aside from the short meh mehs, the line to pick up my number was quick (the line for half marathon was long) and the bag that came with it included some yummy snacks of dried cranberries, and nut mixes. I do always appreciate free snacks/swag.

After grabbing my number, we headed to my friend Anj’s house, about 30 minutes away. She volunteered to be our host for the Newport race. We relaxed a little bit in her warm house as I hung up my soaking shoes to dry. Yea, next time I run a double marathon, I might want to pack double the shoes. Showered, warmed up with hot chocolate (which is the true recovery drink) and turned into a functional human again. I’m always a little terrified of showering after a rainy race because I never know where I might have chafed, but lucky for me, no pain!

We grabbed dinner at a local spot nearby Pop’s that served a mix of pasta, pizza and Mexican and yet was amazing.

I started with the soup as this was my first real meal of the day post marathon. I know… recovery fail unless you count tomato soup and half a grilled cheese a meal. Then, I moved onto the chimichanga until I was happily stuffed.

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It was a food coma and I passed out into sleep somewhere around 9:30. I did take two ibuprofen even though, I usually never ever take anti-inflammatory meds post running, because I want my body to heal and adapt on its own. However, this was a special case, and I didn’t care how my body did it, as long as the inflammation, if any, went down.

The race started at 7:30 so my plan was a 6AM wake up with a 6:40 departure. The marathon and half marathon started 30 minutes apart and I knew there were a little less than 1,000 marathon runners with no road closures so I felt fairly comfortable in being able to get to the starting line. The other thing is that these races for some reason always start 10 to 20 minutes late so I didn’t really expect a time start as running Newport once, Providence twice and Jamestown once.

But instead, my early bedtime caused me to wake up at 5:30 fully rested. So I had time to enjoy some coffee and gluten-free brownies. Anj picked up some baked goods from Pumpkinpoolaza at RISD, cause she is the best host ever.  I don’t really eat real food pre-race as much as I just add calories, sugar and caffeine and hope for optimal results. For the most part, this works better for me than a steady meal of peanut butter and bread I used to have and then taste my whole run. And I’m not anti-gluten, but these were pretty amazing. I took a piece to enjoy post race as well!

Anyways, I get to the race start around 7:20. The weather is in about the 40s and expected to climb up to 60 with clear bright sunny skies. I’m wearing capris, a short sleeve, a long sleeve throwaway from the nightmare that was Hyannis marathon (although I did like the shirt) and a pair of throwaway gloves. This wasn’t exactly the plan of my outfit, but I realized I forgot a second running skirt outfit and so decided to go with this plan B as I was feeling a little too cold for the booty shorts I had as plan C. Yes, next time I plan on doing a double marathon weekend away from home, I’ll try not to pack the morning of.

As the marathoners gather around to shiver in a tighter circle, our watches hit 7:30 and no start time, 7:40 and no start time. Boy am I happy I decided to take a throwaway long sleeve this time and the gloves, I may never do another fall race without gloves again. They add this extra layer of comfort and warmth that can’t be replaced.

I spotted a 3:30 pacer and decided I would stick with him through the first half of the marathon and then see where I am. The race finally starts and maybe it’s those glutton free brownies of pure oil and sugar, but I feel amazing. I am filled with adrenaline and I decide to just run with it. This is my final race and I decide to make the most of my energy for the first half. In the back of my mind, I always knew that I would run the first half too fast and pay for it in the second half and I was okay with it. I just didn’t know how fast I would run. As I complete the first 10K and about a quarter into the overall race, I realize, I’m running sub 7 minute miles. After an hour at this place, I do start slowing down a little bit but for the most part I feel amazing. I don’t know for sure, but it felt like the whole first half was flat and the barely any wind to push me back. Even those 4 miles along ocean drive, I barely feel any push back. Before I know it, somewhere around mile 7, I start taking the lead and everyone is screaming first woman as I pass by them. I know I’m running too fast, too hard and probably too dumb for a girl on mile 34 of her weekend and almost 20 miles left in the overall run. However, I’ve never run the lead of the marathon and all this excitement is just fuel for my adrenaline. There’s smart runners and there’s passion runners and the elites have both, for me, my best performance isn’t always my ideal splits and running smart races, it’s usually the ones where the excitement takes over. Around the 10 mile mark, or maybe 11 mile mark, the lead girl takes back her place and I happily slide into a slower second place. As the final 2-3 miles runs along the avenue of mansions. Normally, I would take the time to admire and stare around, but I have a race to run and I just focus on the 13.1 checkpoint.

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The race provides free photos and that’s great an all, unfortunately, I seem to be making this face a lot as I get closer to the 13.1 checkpoint

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Anyways, after the 13.1 mile check point I slow down a bit to maybe 7:30 and those last me a few miles, but as the miles go by, my quads are starting to feel more and more sore. I don’t know if its because Hartford or the fast half, but I’m suddenly feeling the prior miles in my legs. I slow down to an 8 minute mile and that lasts me for about a mile before I’m starting to really not want to run.

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Around the final 7-8 miles the struggles hit full on. The course gets a little more boring with a little out and back loopy doo. Every little bump in the road felt like a mountain to climb. If you follow me on social media, you might have noticed the increase in tweets. It’s how I get myself through hard finishes. I distract myself a little bit. The final 10K was an ultimate ultra style finish. I would powerwalk and text every mile or so to recovery and run another mile or half a mile before taking a few seconds to walk. It wasn’t an ultimate way to finish, but it got my across the finish line. The final hill to the finish line is on Purgatory street… what a name.

And as I start to dash to the finish line, I don’t quite have the same kick as I did yesterday, but it’s still there, kicking. I forget the pain, the aches and complaints of the past miles and just remember the joy of why I run.

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My hair was on a marathon of its own!

After the finish line, I grabbed two slices of pizza and ate as one. The one problem with taking walks in a run is that it makes you realize that you are hungry!

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The weather did reach a lovely low 60s and as you know, here in New England, that screams beach weather!

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Did I mention that I really love how scenic the course is and this is what you get to enjoy at the finish line.

Pros

  • GORGEOUS COURSE! Okay, so here in the northeast even if advertised, we rarely get good ocean front view for races. This one delivers on its promise. The ocean drive run gets a little windy, but nothing feels more epic than running against the wind with the ocean on your side

  • Pizza and beer post race, they had plenty left even for the marathoners!

  • Part of the triple crown series

  • Great volunteers and just overall great happy vibe on the race source

  • Pacers if you’re into using them

Cons

  • Support and crowds get a little more skimp in the second half

  • Roads are not closed – it’s a small marathon so understandable, but I think things get a little packed if you’re more of an average pace runner in the first half

  • Cheap unisex shirts – maybe they work for men, but I don’t even bother getting mine or I donate them

  • Delayed race start

Overall, despite the cons of this race, I think the gorgeous course makes up for it all. It is a fairly local race and they do a nice enough job that if I lived just a little bit closer I would run the course more often. At least for the half. Maybe even the full!

Total Time: 3:31:40

Overall Place: 70/807

Gender Place: 13/385

I have to admit, aside from the fact that I ran two very different races, I finished only 9 seconds apart. Hartford, although rainy was an almost perfect steady effort, while Newport was a more win, crash and burn type of event where I barely know how I got myself across the finish line. A perfect double if you ask me.

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And in case you’re wondering, I am happy to report, I did win the triple crown for overall female winner! Can’t wait for my trophy!

A Spooky World New England Review

‘Twas a dark and dreary night… You know the kind where you could see your breath for seconds before the cold rain beat it down.

Any other time of year and I would shut myself inside and watch reruns of Gilmore girls but it’s October. October, halloween, leaves changing, and scaring myself silly but not really. It’s also where I start mourning the loss of sunlight and warmth for the next 6-8 months. Ugh.

But in the mean time, it’s October and the month of my favorite holiday, Halloween. Did I mention Orange is one my favorite colors?

So when blog and tweet Boston did an event at Spooky World, I signed myself and Tony up unexpectedly. You see, I get scared easily, so while I love, pumpkins, candy, and dressing up for Halloween, I avoid other more bumpy things. I watched the first Saw movie with hands in front of my eyes the whole time and I think that was the last scary movie I watched.

However, after 4 or more years of avoiding scary movies and haunted houses it was time to face my fears. Spooky world on a cold wet night seemed to be the perfect frightful experience.

Spooky world takes place seasonally at Mel’s Funway Park in Litchfield, New England. It’s about an hour drive north of Boston. As bloggers we got VIP passes that allowed us to get ahead of the lines. Even on a wet night, where attendance was relatively low, I loved being instantly in the front.  Plus I really hate queuing as it makes me super anxious and claustrophobic! And everyone that attended got a poncho to help with the rain.

Dark, cold, wet, and the mood was set.

There’s 5 haunted attractions and we started with the 3D horror house…

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Neon paint and 3D glasses we set out.. things jumped out, and things glowed and flickered and ended with a spinning room that really left me dizzy. A good and short little scare. I survived!

The next stop was the Carnage. A haunted, outdoor junkyard filled with trucks and cars to navigate your way to freedom. To be honest, this was my least favorite. The concept was interesting but homeless bums and junky sales people don’t scare me too much.

Next up was Bringham Manor

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A haunted house with every horror, natural and supernatural imagined to scare you. This was my second favorite one. I didn’t take photos inside because I think you should all come out and experience it yourself. I don’t want to ruin any surprises.

After three haunted houses we decided it was time for a break. Screaming makes you hungry!

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There was a firepit going and a beer/dancing area to get your freaky party on. However, my mind was on the food. The usual concession stands from fried dough, fried chicken, candy apply, and hot chocolate was there. But my eyes are always on one thing.

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Yes, I visit attractions for one purpose at times and a seasonal turkey legs is all I want.

After feeding, drinking and warming we continued with our night. Next up:

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Ravenclaw is your usual haunted scary walk in a cemetery. Crypts, ghosts, ghouls, zombies immediately try to befriend you.

And final stop was called the Colony. My favorite out of the five. And where I fully excelled my screaming skills. It was set in the woods and was a mix of scary witch woods style walks with chain saws, and cabins. It was probably the longest attraction as well. Every time I thought we were done, I found something new to scream at.

Overall, we had a blast at Spooky World and if you love Halloween fun, check it out!

 

QOTD – Do you like to be scared? What are your favorite Halloween things to do?

The Boston Food Truck Festival Review

Through Yelp Elite I was able to get 2 complimentary VIP tickets to the Boston Food Truck Festival. B The VIP tickets gave me 1 hours head start on the crowd of eating and a goodie bag. B Basically the festival was supposed to be an eating frenzy of almost 30 New England Food Trucks. B Needless to say my taste buds and tummy were excited for days!

Sadly a few things went wrong, it was moving weekend so I missed my VIP hour and did not get to UMASS Boston until 12:30. B Upon getting there it was an hour bottleneck nightmare to park. B You couldn’t even change your mind and just go home because it was a one way road.

Will we ever move?

Once we finally parked it was around 1PM and the lines were getting crazy! B I heard that between Groupon, Travelzoo, & regular tickets over 3,000 tickets were sold for a festival that only had like 25-30 trucks!

Once I got my booklet of tickets I got my game face on and stood on line to Lobsta Love. It was about a 30 minute wait so Tony left me to stand online for brick oven pizza. B Just like road races when it comes to food, each one of us is on our own. B Can’t you tell we’re quite the loving couple!

It’s okay because he gave me his ticket and I scored some Lobster Bisque and Lobster mac & cheese. B The mac & cheese was amazing. B fresh lobster, some herbs and light on creamy cheese!

We found our friends on the Chubby Chickpea line so we gave them our tickets and they got us some hummus and falafal. B It was okay, not my favorite. B I like my humus a little less gritty and more blended. B I didn’t like the falafal at all. B After going to Israel, all falafals have been disappointing ever since.

While my friends stood online to Chubby Chickpea I attempted to get some ribs. B Sadly by 1:30PMB Big Moe’s M&M Ribs B not only ran out of their ribs but also of the Mac n Cheese. B All that was left was BBQ beans. B I passed but I think Tony sort of enjoyed them.B

Next stop we hit up Bon Me. B These people were great! B They had 5 people in the truck with a super fast assembly time. B Total wait time was 15-20 minutes. B Plus they were the most happiest food servers at the whole festival! B We got a cilantro Chicken and BBQ Pork sandwiches. B I too ate half of Tony’s and both were great!

While we zoomed past our line, our friends waited in the Go Fish! truck line. B That was super slow and took 3 times as long. B However, the food was great! B They got us a smoked Cod and Chorizo Slider. B Good stuff!

Tony wasn’t feeling well so I had to eat for two at this food truck stop as well. B Luckily it was pretty darn good and I had no complaints whatsoever.

By 2:30 we were getting ready to go. B I grabbed a watermelon/lemonB ItalianB ice from some truck I forgot. B What I really wanted was an Ice Cream Hoagie from Frozen HoagiesB . B However by then most food trucks ran out of food and everyone was on that line that it went around the whole field and came back out again. B No ice cream is worth a 2 hour wait. B Especially when I can pay to not wait any more. B So we called it quits.

However on my way out I noticed that Grill Cheese Nation had a short line so I stood there for 5 minutes and got something for the road back home.

B Sadly it wasn’t very good. B I mixed them up with Roxy’s grilled cheese from the Food Truck show so I’ll have to B not make that same mistake again.

Overall I think given the crowd insanity, the Food Trucks did a great job. B I do blame the organizers for getting greedy, overpricing their tickets and then having to oversell them on deal sites like Groupon. B I thought the portions were huge and for the most part delicious. B I wish I came earlier to try out a few more trucks but I’ll just have to find them around Boston on another day.

FTFNE made a public response to the anger and frustration that many people felt on Sunday. B You can read it here. B I personally find their response ridiculous. B Instead of admitting maybe they oversold tickets; they seem to be blaming the food trucks. B I don’t think the festival had more than 5,000 people as they claim. B There just wasn’t enough parking and most people drove there. B I also find it odd that they asked each truck to have 1,000 portions when they sold 4,000 tickets. B If its all you can eat that you’re paying for, people will eat more than just 2-3 samples. B Numbers are just not adding up! B Yes, there were a fewB scavengersB gaming the system but for the most part, I saw people with stamps and a booklet looked sad and frustrated.

They also seem to be blaming the people who traded tickets with their friends so they didn’t have to stand on a line twice. B I would haveB preferredB to grab a few samples from the truck and sit down by the water harbor and eat and hang out with my friends. B I did not go to the festival with the intention ofB standingB on separate lines from my friends with their tickets but that’s just what we had to do to maximize how much tasting we could do with all the people there. B Instead most of my eating was done on a line and most of my friend seeing was done in the food/ticket exchange system we got going.

I hope they’ll make some improvements for the rest of the stops on the tour. B If long lines don’t bother you here are the details.

Participating Trucks Include:
Away CafC) B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B Franca’s Wood Fired Pizza
BBQ Smith B B B B B B B B B B B B B B Go Fish!
Big Moe’s M&M Ribs B B B B B B Grilled Cheese Nation
Bite into Maine B B B B B B B B B B B Lefty’s Silver Cart
Bon Me B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B Lobsta Love
Boston Super Dog B B B B B B B Mei Mei Street Kitchen
The Chicken & Rice Guys B Momogoose
Chubby Chickpea B B B B B B B B Rocket Fine Street Food
Cupcake Mojo B B B B B B B B B B B Roxy’s Grilled Cheese
Del’s Lemonade B B B B B B B B B Staff Meal
The Dining Car B B B B B B B B B B Sweet Truck
Emack & Bolio’s B B B B B B B B B Trolley Dogs
Frozen Hoagies B B B B B B B B B B Woodman’s of Essex

TICKET PRICES:
* VIP Tickets B B B B B B B B B B B $40/each B (limited quantity, $45 day-of)
* General Admission B B B $30/each ($35 day-of)
* Foodie Four Pack B B B B B $25/each with the purchase of four tickets ($100 for four pack)
* Children 6 -12 B B B B B B B B $10/each
* Children 5 and under B FREE

TOUR DATES

June 16 b The Charlestown Food Truck Festival at Pier 4, Charlestown, MA
June 30 b The New Hampshire Food Truck Festival at Rockingham Park, Salem, NH
July 14 b The Worcester Food Truck Festival at Elm Park, Worcester, MA
July 28 b The Charles River Food Truck Festival at DCRbs Artesani Herter Park, Brighton, MA
August 25 b The Cape Cod Food Truck Festival at Barnstable Fairgrounds, Falmouth, MA
September 8 b The Lowell Food Truck Festival at the Tsongas Center, Lowell, MA
September 22 b The Suffolk Downs Food Truck Festival, East Boston, MA
September 29 b The Shipyard Food Truck Festival, Hingham (Shipyard), MA
October 6 b The Framingham Food Truck Festival at Shoppers World, Framingham, MA
October 20 b The Newport Food Truck Festival at the Newport Yachting Center, Newport, RI