Coach Al here with ultrarunning champ Debbie Livingston. We put together a great Q&A session to give you additional information about our ultrarunning camp scheduled for Thursday, April 4 through Sunday, April 7 in Quechee, VT. If you have interested in attending, this video will give you an overview of what you will experience. We see this “retreat and camp” as an integrated educational, inspirational, training and learning experience designed to help you develop as a COMPLETE ultrarunner.
To learn more and to register, please click here–Ultrarunning Camp. If you have questions, we have a form for you to use to ask anything you need to before you sign up.
NOTE: Sign up with a friend by February 1 for extra savings on the double occupancy package. Registration closes on March 21.
Fire away with questions if you have them. Looking forward to running with your in beautiful Quechee, Vermont!
Coach Al here, super excited to tell you about an exceptional ultra running camp I have organized with champion ultra trail runner, Debbie Livingston. Scheduled for Thursday, April 4 through Sunday, April 7 in Quechee, VT, this is sure to be more than just another running camp. Our vision for this unique 3 day – 3 night “retreat and camp” is to provide you with an integrated educational, inspirational, training and learning experience designed to help you develop as a COMPLETE ultrarunner.
As we run, eat, share, learn, and live together, surrounded by the unique, beautiful and varied landscape of this area of Vermont, you will be immersed in aspects of training and learning that are essential to becoming a stronger, faster, and mentally-tough competitor on the trail:
Explore the mind/body connection critical to successful training and racing
Delve into the mental mindset of a champion with our local elite ultra-runners
Learn why incorporating a holistic “movement-based” approach to functional strength is essential for optimal performance and health, and how to incorporate it into your training
Explore the power of connecting the conscious and subconscious minds for enhanced personal and athletic wellness
Enjoy early morning yoga and movement sessions
Learn how to maximize your recovery from training
Learn how to balance ultra-run training within the context of a busy life, maximizing training time and effort
Learn how to eat before, during, and after your training runs and races, for optimal performance
Experience challenging and varied trail runs in the scenic and serene valleys and rolling hills of this beautiful area of VT, right out the door of the Quechee Inn.
You will emerge a smarter, re-invigorated, and inspired runner equipped with the tools you need to make you faster and more resilient–ready to unleash your highest running potential.
To learn all of the details and to register, please click here to sign up–Ultrarunning Camp. All the details are outlined for you. If you have questions, we have a form for you to use to ask anything you need to before you sign up.
NOTE: Sign up with a friend by February 1 for extra savings on the double occupancy package. Registration closes on March 21.
Fire away with questions if you have them. Looking forward to running with your in beautiful Quechee, Vermont!
Hope you had a chance to read my post about the wonderful confluence of events and people that led me to decide to take on the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Run (R2R2R) in November. This kind of ultra running event of 42+ miles was not on my radar in the least–until the universe decided to send the opportunity my way equipped with the greatest group of people with whom to share it. I’m super excited to be taking on this grand adventure, and will keep you posted along the way as I prepare physically and mentally.
As part of my run prep, I ran the Pisgah Mountain 50K Trail Race on Sunday, September 16 in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. I ran with friend and client Tim Mather who is also doing the R2R2R. In brief, event went extremely well–I could not have asked for better result, and that is a great feeling.
Before the race, I felt the 50k was a huge challenge given the fact that I had run three hours only six days before, AND had never done more than 16 miles on a trail this technical ever in my life! But my inner self-talk boiled it all down to this–
It’s just a training run with a purpose…get the time on your feet in the company of other like-minded runners on a challenging course…see if you can complete it, in one piece, recover quickly, and keep the mojo going toward the Canyon.
If I could make that happen, I knew it would be a great confidence booster.
Tim and I traveled Pisgah together. Our race plan was simple:
Be conservative in the beginning
Walk any steep hills
Hold back on speed and JUST FINISH feeling good
By being smartly cautious we hoped to avoid major issues like rolled ankles or gastrointestinal distress that would negatively impact our continued progression. By finishing upright and in one piece, we would be on our way to continuing to build the fitness we needed for the R2R2R run.
Since our own Pursuit ultrarunner Debbie Livingston has WON this race in the past, I checked in with her for some tips. She had a number to share, but managed to hold back on actually telling me how incredibly hard this trail is! I think she planned it that way. Keep the secrets a secret, and watch how the coach responds when he actually finds out that this trail is no walk in the park! More likely, she is just so incredibly good that she doesn’t consider it particularly hard! Either way, Tim and I quickly learned from some other experienced runners on the course that there were plenty of challenges ahead. Among them is a summit of Pisgah Mountain, which comes after many false summits along the way, and plenty of technical trail with rocks, roots, and the like. On a hugely positive note, we had gloriously sunny skies and a DRY trail, which is huge blessing. This course would have been SO MUCH harder on wet rocks, roots, and moss. Thank you to the weather gods!
So how did the day go? Tim and I ran virtually all of the flats and downs at a very conservative pace. We walked all of the steep ups during the early miles, and eventually ALL of the ups. The end result was a +/- 7 hour finish for the 50k distance.
I feel we executed a perfect race. We achieved what we wanted and needed to in terms of managing hydration and fueling well, and avoiding any rolled ankles or falls. We can now look ahead with renewed confidence about our physical preparation. Even more, we talked a great deal of the time and enjoyed meeting so many other runners out there. We even experienced some “discomfort” and built some of the mental fortitude that we are sure to call on in November. It was a huge success all around.
I came out of the day with three major thoughts that are important to share with you:
1. My commitment to functional strength– and ALL of the elements I espouse in this blog and preach to the athletes I coach on a daily basis– is the only way I was able to put this day in the record books. Had I foolishly run tons of miles without the requisite strength work, I surely would have been injured long before this race was even on my calendar.
2. As I sit here two days after the race, when “DOMS” (delayed onset muscle soreness) should be at its highest level, I can’t believe how good I feel! I have some minimal soreness in my legs and low back (from having over worked my hip flexors getting over the rocks and roots on the trail), but otherwise feel totally ready to rock and move forward with my training. No tweaks, no minor injuries, no real soreness. Every day, I’m reminded that when we move welland are functionally strong, we recover so much more quickly from these kinds of racing efforts. Our clients tell us the same thing every day as well.
3. The top trail runners are AMAZING, Debbie Livingston included. The winner covered the course in half the time I did. The female winner was about 45 minutes behind. You would have to see these trails to know what I mean–to average 8-minute miles is incredible and a testament to the amazing skill and fitness of the top runners. Congratulations to them!
I have to say, I believe that with a year of consistent run training under my belt and even MORE STRENGTH, I could show up here next year and take two hours off of my finish time. But, that isn’t the point. The point of the day was to finish healthy, finish strong, and keep on the path toward the R2R2R. Mission accomplished!
Thanks for reading! GET STRONG. It MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
I am excited to announce that I am taking on the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Run in November. I am posting this update for a few reasons–to give you a view of what I’m up to, how my training has progressed, and to tell you the story of how this whole darn thing came about. The universe works in wonderful and mysterious ways, and I am going along for the ride!
This past July, I traveled to Death Valley to crew for Jason Rita as he took on the Badwater Ultramarathon. The experience had its share of ups and downs. One of the “ups,” however, was meeting the other crew members including Jon Nassif. Jon is from Denver, and he owns a couple of restaurants including Green Fine Salad Co. He is an avid ultra runner and wanted a first-hand look at Badwater. He sought a team to crew for, and ended up assisting Jason. (And let me tell you, Jon can cook!)
Jon and I instantly hit it off. We talked for hours about training and life. He was very interested to learn and to share, as was I. Our discussions ranged from gait analysis to personal relationships to business, and everything else in between. We established a friendship.
A few weeks after Badwater, Jon contacted me about a bucket-list run he wanted to do–the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Run (R2R2R). The opportunity, and the people to do it with, never manifested for him–until now. He wanted to do the run with me, and, perhaps, a few more folks with whom we would enjoy sharing the experience.
My first reaction? That sounds amazing! And fun. And really, really hard.
Then I started thinking….
The longest run I have done in the past YEAR was about an hour. I have been enjoying mountain biking, and I have been working around the clock coaching and in our gait analysis lab. I did not have any run racing planned for the future, so anything more than running to maintain basic run fitness was not in the cards.
But, still…. I was intrigued.
The reasons were simple, really. The R2R2R was not going to be a “race.” Right now, at this point in my life, racing does not light a fire in my soul. If I took on the rim run, it would be an ADVENTURE and a JOURNEY with an amazing guy. It was going to be a unique opportunity to see a place few people ever do. And it was going to be an extraordinary challenge.
After talking with Jon at length about the fitness required, the logistics, and our schedules, it was clear that that the best time for BOTH of us to take on the challenge would be in November. We settled on a run date of November 16th, one day before my 53rd birthday. Our plan is to do the run on Friday, then make our way back back to Las Vegas on Saturday for a true birthday celebration! Sounds perfect.
Of course, the problem is that a November run date meant I had only about 3.5 months to train AND taper for this epic run of ~45 miles. The general scope of the run is simple–seven miles down into the canyon, seven miles across, seven miles up to the top of the north rim, and then returning to the start. It is a total of 42 miles if taken point to point. Of course, nothing like this is ever point to point. Also, variable conditions are the order of the day. It is often 32? at the south rim, and 75? in the canyon itself. The altitude (7,500 feet at the south rim and 8-9k at the north rim) would make it even more of an epic test.
What on earth had I signed up for?
Those of you who know me, or have followed this blog for any length of time, are well aware of my fundamental beliefs regarding training. I KNOW that the ONLY CHANCE I HAVE for a great experience is to be as functionally STRONG as I possibly can be. I do not have the option to conservatively build a long run. There simply isn’t time for a “smart” progression. The success of this endeavor hinges my being stronger than I have ever been, and getting in the key run sessions that will prepare me, progressively, for this ultra run.
As luck would have it, friend and client Tim Mather came in for a session at the lab. Tim had stepped away from “training” to focus on some other life goals, and in the process had let his fitness slip a bit. During his visit, the topic of the R2R2R came up. Tim, being who he is, was absolutely stoked at the idea of doing this run. Over time we talked about the possibility of him joining our group, which has now grown to me, Jon, Jon’s sister-in-law, her good friend Pam Reed (yes, that Pam Reed, Badwater’s OVERALL winner in 2002 and 2003), and Stewart Erskine, one of the other crew members at Badwater. (Stewart ran the Hardrock 100 the weekend PRIOR TO Badwater).
I knew Tim would be a great person to have on this journey, and I knew his motivations were pure. The one major issue he HAD to overcome was his deteriorated fitness. We planned out how he will build the strength he needs to make this journey a reality. We were honest with each other too. We both agree that among the MOST IMPORTANT aspects of our preparation is the fact that neither of us wants to be the weak link in the group, negatively impacting anyone’s experience out there. (You all know what I mean.) Tim was committed to doing the work, so we began with some 1:1 sessions at the lab, which we have continued for some weeks now.
August was simply about upping my game in the strength department, and establishing some consistency in my running. Over the last month, I have had to progress my long run from 2 hours to 2.5 hours to 3 hours. Those runs were a mix of trail and road. I did this specifically because I was very acutely aware of the challenge of doing ALL of the runs on either road or trail. Trails stress the body uniquely (rocks, roots, steep hills, risk of ankle sprain, etc.), and roads have their own unique challenge as well. I decided that a mix, early on, would allow me to keep progressing. My 3 hour run was 14 miles of road running and 1 hr on the trail.
So where am I now in my preparation? This past weekend brought the Pisgah Mountain 50K Trail race adventure that I ran with Tim Mather. We got a chance to experience some “discomfort” and build mental fortitude that we’ll need in November. That race report is coming up in the next post, and includes some important takeaways from these months of training for the R2R2R. Stay tuned!
Q: What do Haiti, the Badwater Ultramarathon, and Pursuit Athletic Performance have in common?
A: Jason Rita
Jason Rita, an accomplished ultra-distance marathoner and long distance adventure racer is a client and good friend of ours who does extraordinary things.
Starting today, Jason is competing in the Badwater Ultramarathon, the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet. Badwater begins at 280 feet below sea level going through Death Valley with temperatures hovering around 130 F. The race covers 135 miles with climbs totaling 13,000 ft of vertical ascent over three mountain ranges culminating with a finish at the top of Mt. Whitney at 8300 ft. As Jason takes on this beast of a race, our own Coach Al will be by his side as one of the support crew. In fact, he began his race prep here at Pursuit Athletic Performance. You can watch the video here.
Jason and Pursuit are also teaming up to raise awareness and funds for Haiti’s isolated Bainet community. For every Gait Analysis purchased from July 15 to Aug 15, we will donate 15% of the proceeds to the Delaware Medical Relief Team, the agency fighting the effects of “bad water,” including cholera in Bainet.
With the economic challenges facing the western world, it is easy forget that the 2010 earthquake killed over 250,000 people in Haiti, displacing many more, and caused tremendous health challenges. In response, Jason and his wife created a non-profit, 501c3 called Delaware Medical Relief Team (DMRT).
DMRT immediately responded to the crisis by sending to Haiti eight medical teams, hundreds of volunteers, and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars used for medical aid and supplies.
At that time with the spotlight on Haiti, governments around the world made huge promises. As these countries’ economic challenges worsened, they failed to deliver promised money, infrastructure, and aid. In response, Jason and DMRT are once again picking up the call to action, and Pursuit Athletic Performance is backing the cause.
The goal is to help the isolated community, Bainet in its health struggles with the consequences of bad water. DMRT has committed to working with the local health clinic to transform it into a functioning hospital.
In addition, we are planning a marathon from the ocean-side port town of Jackmal to Bainet! Our plan is to use the event to help Bainet in three major ways: as an incentive to local authorities to rebuild infrastructure, an event that will create a recurring source of revenue, and a way to raise additional aid.
If you are interested in supporting this marathon initiative in ANY WAY… whether it be marathon participation to various levels of support, please use leave your information on our interest form, and we’ll be in touch!
It’s the day before the start of the Badwater Ultramarathon! I’m here in Death Valley to serve as support crew for friend and client Jason Rita who will take on this epic 135-mile beast of a race starting tomorrow.
Badwater is the hardest footrace on the planet. As Jason will face temperatures as high as 125?F, I thought it would be an opportune time to post a few tips to help you in your summer racing. As Jason’s crew, we need to help him handle the fundamental triad needed for racing in the heat–hydration, electrolytes, and calories– or Jason will have no chance of finishing this race. A DNF or poor performance can happen to any of us as we face racing in the summer–even if the heat is not as extreme as what we’ll face in Death Valley. The video below gives you my thoughts and guidance.
We will be posting updates as we can from Badwater to give you an insiders view on such an epic event, and to let you know how Jason is doing. He is dedicating the race to raise funds to help alleviate the effects of “bad water” in Haiti, and we are teaming up to help him do that. You can read about our efforts here.
Signing for now with three keys to successful racing in the heat!
On July 16, Pursuit client Jason Rita will begin the the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet–the legendary Badwater Ultramarathon. Jason will run 135 miles (217km) non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA in temperatures up to 130F (55c). When he takes on the beast known as Badwater, our own Coach Al will be by his side as one of the support crew. We’ll fill you in on details of the race as they unfold!
Jason has accomplished incredible feats in the world of ultra-endurance running including an unassisted speed summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the Himalaya 100-mile stage race, which included a third place finish at the Everest Challenge Marathon. He finished third in the Leadville 100 “Leadman” competition, which is comprised of the Leadville Trail Marathon, a 50-mile mountain bike, a 50-mile trail run, 100 mile mountain bike, and a 100 mile trail run. The list goes on and on.
So how does an athlete with such an amazing and accomplished running pedigree begin his prep for Badwater?
By learning how to MOVE through our Gait Analysis.
Our hope is that every athlete learns how important it is to begin their own epic journey–whether it be taking on a 5K or Badwater–with solid functional strength, and stable movement that is the foundation for conquering your hopes and dreams. Let’s hear what Jason learned from the experience in this video.
It is my true pleasure to introduce you to one of the outstanding athletes I coach, ultrarunning champion Debbie Schieffer Livingston. I think you will really enjoy this interview as we cover a host of topics including how Debbie prepares for running distances up to 100 miles, how she recovers, her thoughts on the value of functional strength training (hint: she says it makes a “huge difference”), fueling and hydration, and the mental challenges she faces when running such long distances.
Debbie has been running ultras for more than a decade. She is equipped with with a wealth of experience and broad perspectives. Plus, she is the nicest person you could ever meet!
We filmed this interview in the Massachusetts Berkshires at the Mt. Graylock Trail Races Half Marathon where Debbie was third woman overall. That’s impressive enough, but what is truly mind blowing is that she did the Mt. Graylock race only SIX DAYS after her record-breaking performance at the Laurel Highlands 70.5 Ultra! In that race, Debbie smashed a 22-year course record by 12 minutes! (You can see her Laurel Highlands race report here.) Her results tell you this is an athlete who has learned how to put all the pieces together.
Debbie is truly an elite athlete, but as you listen I think you will see that issues regarding smart training, recovery, strength work, flexibility, fueling, and taking the long view apply to all of you too. At least that is how we guide and train ALL our athletes at Pursuit Athletic Performance, whether you are breaking records or gearing up for your first 5K.
Enjoy the interview. And wait until you hear what she has planned for the rest of the season!!! ~ Coach Al
Our athlete Debbie Livingston broke the record in the 70.5 mile run at the Laurel Highlands Ultra on June 9! No one works harder than Debbie, and no one is more deserving of this grand success.
We thought you would enjoy her race report. It’s a look inside the experience of a champion running a very long way. Enjoy!
Laurel Highlands Ultra By Debbie Livingston
For me, last year’s Laurel Highlands Ultra was different than this year’s in many ways. Last year was my first time. The course had a road detour that added 6.5 miles to the standard 70.5-mile trail race on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. I was also still nursing my daughter, Dahlia. 2011 was challenging, but I was able to make it to the finish line as the first female and that win secured a space for this year. With a new footbridge installed, there was no detour this year. With Dahlia done with “mommy’s milk,” I was determined to come back, race strong, and possibly win again.
Leaving for our long drive to Pennsylvania, our family had a hard time getting out the door of our house. Not only did I have to remember all the items for my race but also I had to be sure I had all the kid’s clothes, enough food for all of us, as well as all our camping gear. So, it was inevitable that I would forget a very important item (or items)…..my Succeed S!Caps salt tablets! I didn’t realize this until I was setting my race items aside, but I wasn’t worried. I knew that somehow we would find other runners or crew that had extra or they would offer them at the aid station.
We camped at Ohiopyle State Park, which was less than a mile by trail to the start area. After listening to countless train whistles blow, and even a child yelling in the middle of the night, morning rolled around fast. I jogged down the trail just like last year and crossed the Youghiogheny River via the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail to reach the start area at 5:10am. I pinned on my number and asked Rick Freeman, the race director, if there were any salt tablets at the aid stations. He said there we not. Bummer! I had faith that Scott would still be able to find some. I would see him at the second aid station at mile 19.3 miles. I headed to the restroom for one last stop and then back to the start line where RD Rick handed me a bottle of SaltStick Electrolyte salt capsules. and said, “Take what you need.” I thought, “How wonderful!” I had never used these before, but I was not concerned.
The race started right at 5:30am and after going up the road and under a bridge we turned left and began climbing uphill. I chatted with a few guys heading uphill. I went back a forth for a bit with a couple of them and then lost site of everyone. No one in front, and no one in back. This was the theme for 80% of the race. Running alone gives me lots of time to think. One of the games I get into the habit of playing is crunching numbers; constantly calculating my pace and what I need to do. It helps pass the time and is quite entertaining. I had looked up the course record and without telling anyone decided I would make it my goal to break it or at least get under 14 hours.
I breezed through the first aid station at mile 11.6 and came into the second aid station in about 3 hours 15 minutes. I exchanged my UltraSpire Surge hydration pack with a fresh and fully stocked one and headed right back out. Scott was also able to get a hold of more SaltStick Caps. There was no time to hang out in the aid stations at this race!
I felt good about my pace and I got into a rhythm with my fueling; take a swig of Perpetuem from my flask on the hour and half hour, take a SaltStick Cap at three-quarters past the hour, and sip water every 5-10 minutes.
I was nearing the 50k mark and knew I wanted to be there in less than 6 hours. I hit that mark at 5 hours 45 minutes and was happy with that. I didn’t see Scott at the next aid station and it took me a bit by surprise. He and the kids weren’t able to get there in time after leaving the prior station. I ended up stopping, getting a cup of water and grabbing a 1/4 banana. I didn’t need either of them but got caught up in the aid station.
When I realized I had a banana in my hand I quickly left but decided that I would eat it since it was so small. This section of the course took us through Seven Springs Resort, which is the most open section of the entire trail. I ran around a pond, across ski slopes and on horse trails. It felt good to have a bit of sunshine on my face. I looked at my watch at 35 miles and it said 6 hours 32 minutes. I was still on pace, which was almost half way, and with a 45-minute buffer.
I started hitting a lot of dirt road crossings, and kept wondering when I would finally get to see that trail section and bridge that was in disrepair last year. I finally came upon it. This section seemed to go on forever!
At 39 miles I came into Linn Road aid station. I switched my pack quickly and swigged coconut water. I also told Scott I would like to change socks and shoes at the next aid station. I wanted to be proactive. I knew my sneakers were not as fresh as they should have been. I asked Scott for a caffeine gel as I left.
About a half hour after leaving that station I pulled out my Perpetuem flask and found it empty! Empty! Ugh! How did Scott forget to refill it? Oh, well I thought, “no big deal.” I sure was happy that I asked for an extra gel. I believed I would be fine.
I reached 46.4 miles in good form. I promptly changed my socks and shoes. I drank a half a bottle of electrolyte drink and ate another caffeinated gel. I left with a little spunk and decided to wear my visor.
By the time I got to 57.3 miles I was starting to waver. I needed more fuel and a pep talk. I sat down and drank electrolyte drink again. I ate another caffeinated gel and pushed on. Not long after, a runner came up behind me. His name was Matt Clay. He helped push me a bit. I told him I was aiming for the course record and if I could only average 12-minute miles I would get to the finish with time to spare, but I was feeling low.
He believed we could do it. Matt asked if I needed anything. I had my fuel, water and salt tabs, so I said, “no.” He got in front and tried to “pull” me along. He asked again and I said I needed caffeine. I don’t drink coffee or soda at home, so caffeine really pumps me up at the races. After a few minutes of tailing Matt, I started running more and walking less. Eventually he said that he thought he might have been a bit too optimistic and that I could go ahead. Off I went.
Soon after, another runner, Andrew Bartle, passed me, and he was moving quite well. I tried to keep him in my sights but could not. One mile before the very last aid station at mile 62.5, the trail turns to rocky dirt road. It feels awful to me because the rocks are tough to run on and you can see so far ahead. One good thing was that I could see the runner that had passed me not long before, and I was keeping pace with him. I reached the aid station, grabbed water and promptly left. There was no standing around! I had 1 hour 40 minutes to run 8 miles and from what I remembered, it was mostly downhill.
So I began to dip into my reserve well. I remembered how I ran the last 6 miles of the Grindstone 100 in about 60 minutes, and it was almost all uphill. I also remembered that the very last mile is a bit short. Andrew passed me right way when we left the aid station but I never let him out of my sight this time. I watched for the mile markers and kept doing the math. Things were looking good! When I hit the cell tower I knew for sure that it was all downhill, and that I was golden; barring any terrible falls. Now the question was how much would I be able to break the record by.
I turned up the intensity. Running downhill takes very little effort for me. I went into autopilot and focused on my target. My fellow racer, Andrew, hit the ground a few times as the toll of the day started getting to him. At one point he hit so hard he did not get up. I came up behind him, paused for a moment, and asked if he was okay. When he shook his head yes, I barreled on encouraging him with words, “We’re almost home!” I began smiling ear to ear as I navigated the last of the rocky trail. I crossed the finish line with my fists pumping in the air. I did it! I was well ahead of the course record (13:46:07), which was set by Alice Thurau in 1990. I finished in 13 hours, 34 minutes, and 12 seconds, and was 4th overall!!!! After I crossed the line, I looked for my husband.
I heard my son Shepard yell, “Daddy went back to the van.” After all that, he missed my finish! Scott came running over and we hugged. The after celebration could have been more fun if I had a better feeling stomach and was able to rest. Due to all the caffeine I put in my system I didn’t sleep a wink. Morning couldn’t come soon enough!
The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail climbs 10,700 feet and descends 10,560 feet over 70.5 miles of rocky terrain when traversing south to north. It is a gorgeous trail and the second longest continually run trail ultra in the country. The RD, Rick Freeman and his volunteers put on an amazing race. I will be back again.
Debbie Livingston, Winner and Course Record Holder, Laurel Highlands 70.5 Ultrarun
Congraulations Debbie! PAP athlete Debbie Livingston WON the 2012 Laurel Highlands 70.5 mile trail race this past weekend, setting a NEW COURSE RECORD in the process! We are so proud of her hard work and dedication. No athlete we have worked with has worked harder than Debbie. She is so deserving of this level of success!
Today, we are turning our blog over to her husband Scott. Here is his fantastic post from the point of view of the support crew. It’s a wonderful testament to family love and support–plus a great behind-the-scenes look at Debbie’s kick-butt race! You can see lots of cool photos by visiting his blog, Life Adventures. We’ll publish Debbie’s race report when it’s ready!
2012 Laurel Highlands Ultra by Scott Livingston
The 33rd edition of the Laurel Highlands Ultra was a fantastic race. This is the second oldest ultra in the country. I gather that only American River 50 is older. Debbie had a breakthrough run. She smashed the 22-year-old women’s course record, running 13:34:12 for the 70.5 mile point to point trail race in southwestern Pennsylvania. She was the fourth overall finisher, only trailing the top three men: Brian Rusiecki (11:30:37), Brian Krogmann (12:21:28), and Gregory Brant (12:56:45). The second and third women were Kaitlyn Kacsuta (16:02:08) and Robin Blendell (16:27:50).
The previous women’s record of 13:46:07 was run by Alice Thurau in 1990. Naturally, I’m incredibly pumped up by her result. She pushed like never before. The result was a bit of a shocker for me. The kids and I crewed for her all day long. We followed her on the epic point to point course from the start in Ohiopyle to the finish in Seward. At the final crew accessible aid station at mile 57, she was in a very low spot. On the verge of tears (from pain), she seemed to have gone deep into the red zone.
I’ve only seen her in that condition a handful of times. One time, in France (and I’ll leave it at that!), her race went downhill from there. This time, she persevered, pushed through the pain, and made use of the literal downhill last section of the course to hammer the last 13 miles. I’ll leave the blow-by-blow for her report. She had a remarkable run.
She had a good, but unremarkable (compared to this year) run at the modified 2011 Laurel Highlands Ultra. The race was 77 miles, 6.5 longer than usual, because of an 8 mile road detour to get across the interstate highway. This year, the new foot bridge was in place, and the Laurel Highland Trail was once again a continuous 70 mile thread. She was still breastfeeding our daughter at this time last year and she was only a year and a half into her “comeback” after having our second child. She really wanted to return to the Laurel Highlands and give this race another crack. She felt like there was unfinished business and she wanted to experience the true course, which is nearly all single track, and tailor-made for her technical skills. Her Suunto watch registered 10,600 feet of elevation gain.
123 solo runners started the hilly 70.5 mile event. The race results show that there were 85 official finishers. There were nearly 25 teams (4 or 5 runners) in the popular team relay division. There was also a 50 kilometer race for both individuals and teams. I don’t have the 50K results yet, but I’ll post when they are available. The 50K started at 7:30 A.M., two hours after the 70.5 start.
This year, she only needed her headlamp at the start. Her scorching fast pace and the “no-detour” route had her in Seward at the northern terminus just after 7:00 P.M. The kids and I only had a few hiccups. I crewed for Debbie in late April at the Zane Grey 50 Mile Endurance Run. That was a solo job, and what a difference! Looking after a 5 and 3/4ths year old (as he likes to put it) and a 2 and 1/2 year old while also looking after Debbie is a big task. I’ve done it many times, and I’m only complaining a little, but a point to point race is an additional challenge.
We stayed at Ohiopyle State Park like last year. It is a great spot only 3/4 mile from the start of the race. Our “crew” only had two real mess up’s. There are seven crew accessible checkpoints/aid stations. We skipped the Maple Summit Rd. aid station at 11.6 miles because it was too early. Debbie ran down to the start after getting up at 4:30 A.M. I saw her off and eventually got the kids awake, dressed, and fed. We first saw her at the Rt. 653 Checkpoint at 19.3 miles. She was looking good. It was mostly uphill climbing to that point.
We saw her again at the County Line Road crossing aid station at mile 28. Our first mess up came shortly thereafter. Checkpoint #2 at Rt. 31 is only 4 miles farther up the trail at 32.3. We made it last year, but his year, our packing and unpacking skills weren’t as good. We hauled all the gear, food, ice, and stuff down a short trail to the aid station when we learned that we missed her by three minutes. She was clearly running faster than 2011. Ugh! I heard that she just tore through the aid station, only stopping for a cup of water, so I crossed my fingers and hauled the kids back to the van.
We met up with her again at Linn Run Rd./railroad grade at Laurel Summit State Park. We weren’t there long when she came flying through. She changed her shoes and socks, swapped her Ultraspire hydration vest (she has a matched set and we alternated all day long), and was on her way again. All of the aid station volunteers were terrific. Several volunteers, fellow crews, and even relay runners helped me haul gear and watch the kids throughout the course of the day. This race has a great community vibe.
We hightailed it on the dirt roads of the state park over to Checkpoint #3/Rt. 30 aid station at 46.4 miles. We ran into Amy Lane, who was 2nd woman in the 50K. She was chasing down partner Brian Rusiecki. The kids and I saw him for a brief moment at the second aid station, and then he was ahead of us the rest of the day. Amy missed him at 46.4, but she helped me get the kids to the aid station in time to see Debbie. Debbie didn’t stay long, and she was still looking strong. My second mess up came during the prior stretch of trail. Evidently, I neglected to refill her Hammer Perpetuem flask, but she survived. I filled the hydration pack, added salt tablets, gave her some gels, but forgot to fill that flask. I was bummed out, but she took it in stride.
We took our time packing up because the final crew accessible aid station was Checkpoint #4/Rt. 271 at 57.3 miles. We had more than two hours to get there. We drove down the mountain and stopped in the quaint revolutionary town of Ligonier. We drove by the old fort, and then parked just off of the “diamond” (town green). The whole town was set up for an antiques show. The displays were really cool and the kids had a blast. We sauntered down to the corner of the green, where we stopped at a coffeehouse and got smoothies and a sandwich. After we got our order to go, we strolled back to the van, and made our way back up the mountain to the ridge.
We had time to set up at the aid station, which was a short walk from the dirt road parking. This is when Debbie came through in a world of hurt. I was hoping it wasn’t her fueling, which was impacted by missing that Perpetuem flask during that eight mile stretch. She had been pushing so hard, but she was definitely in a lull. We switched her pack again. She sat for a minute, but that was it. She got right back up and headed out. I walked up the trail with her for 50 yards and gave her a pep talk. I crossed my fingers and she was off running again. A couple of guys rolled into the aid station minutes after her. I encouraged them to chase her and offer encouragement. She had been moving her way up through the men’s field all day long.
Little did I know that she had been “doing the math” throughout the course of the race, and she was on a mission to attack the course record. She kicked it into high gear over the last thirteen, while I took the kids to Johnstown and stopped at a cool restaurant. We ordered two pizzas to go, used the potty, and then headed for the finish. We got the van situated and then set up near the trailhead. Debbie surprised all of us. She came blasting into the finish while I was over at the van, fetching some snacks for the kids. I heard the cheers of the crowd and rushed over to see her ecstatically celebrating. It was a cool moment. She caught all of us off guard, including the co-race director, Rick Freeman.
He shared the great news about the course record. He was as thrilled as we were. He introduced us to Ted Massa, who preceded Tim Hewitt and him as race director. We learned a bit about the Laurel Highlands Ultra. The RD’s were pleased to hear that Debbie has been RD of the Soapstone Mountain Trail Races for 11 of the 28 years. The Shenipsit Striders share some of the same pedigree as the guys and gals who put on Laurel. Soapstone, the NipMuck Trail Marathon, and Laurel Highlands all have great history of 28, 29, and 33 years respectively.
Overall, we had a fantastic time supporting Debbie. She ran an inspired race and we were inspired! Last week, at the Rev 3 Quassy Half triathlon, she supported me. This week, It was my turn to return the favor. She didn’t have any falls. She only had one small blister and a little toenail problem. She made good use of caffeinated gels in the last half of the race. This is really a breakthrough run for her. She has put so much hard work in over the last two plus years. I want it to translate into future success. This is a new level for her and she is anxious to go up against top women’s fields (like at Zane Grey) in future races including the Hardrock 100 (she lost out in the lottery this year) and maybe Western States 100. Under the guidance of Coach Al Lyman and Dr. Kurt Strecker from Pursuit Athletic Performance, she has put a lot more structure into her training, and it has paid off.
Next up for us is the Mt. Greylock Trail Race in Adams, Massachusetts, a Father’s Day tradition. Debbie has run it 13 years in a row, and I don’t anticipate that she will miss number 14, despite sore legs. At 14 +/- miles, it’s a baby run!