Race Report: Ragnar ADK with Strong Hearts Vegan Power


On Friday/Saturday, I participated in Ragnar ADK with Strong Hearts Vegan Power. For those who are not familiar with this race, it is a 200(ish)-mile relay race through the Adirondacks. Teams consist of twelve members that run three legs each. The legs range from approximately 2 miles to approximately 10 miles. Strong Hearts Vegan Power reprented with four teams – so many awesome vegans!!


I headed to the race Friday morning with my friend and teammate Mike. Normally, you don’t get much sleep during a Ragnar race, but this year, we would be even more sleep deprived because of the start times. We left Syracuse at 2:30am and arrived in Saratoga Springs to collect our gear and cheer for the other Strong Hearts Vegan Power teams starting earlier in the day. My team’s start time was initially set for 1:00pm, but we ended up taking off at noon.


Going into the race, I had only met four of the eleven other people on my team. It was great to meet new people and chat with folks. I was runner number 3 and my first leg was 6.3 miles. I was a little nervous because I had run a marathon six days prior and I was still a little sore. Once I got going, I realized it was going to be okay. My legs were a little tired but it wasn’t a huge deal. I averaged 5:54/mile for my first leg. As an added bonus, I got to hand off to my friend and teammate, Laura.


After the six runners from our van went, we got a little break, and Van 2 took over the running duties. It gave Van 1 a nice opportunity to test out some of the amazing snacks that were provided for us. While all of the snacks were amazing, my faves are still Munk Packs and Glo Bars.

As a result of the start time and the schedule, the rest of the race would be in the dark for our van. I can’t remember exactly (because I was already deliriously tired), but I think my second leg was around 11:00pm or so. However, at the relay exchange, there was a pretty fantastic dance party going on (thanks, volunteers), which helped wake everyone up! My second leg had some great downhills at the start and I was able to average 5:48/mile for 5.8 miles.


After the six runners from my van finished, we found our way to the middle of nowhere, which is where we would be spending the next few hours while the runners from Van 2 were doing their thing. Some people attempted sleep, but I decided to wander around in the cold and take in the full Ragnar experience. There was such an interesting collection of people and the time passed quickly. Before I knew it, our van was getting ready to run our final legs!

Sometime around 4am, I took off for my final leg. My legs were a little tired and I was just tired in general! I felt like I was stumbling a bit and it was foggy and there weren’t as many runners from other teams around. It was a surreal experience! Toward the end of my leg, one of the other Strong Hearts’ vans pulled up near me and gave me a great boost! It was just what I needed to get to the finish. I picked up the pace a bit, and I managed to average 6:08/mile for my 5.7-mile leg. I was officially done and went into full-time cheer mode.


A short while later, the rest of my van finished up. Instead of heading to the finish, we decided to become Van 2 groupies. We were actually still racing really close to another team that had also started at noon the day before (thanks for the excitement, Danger Zone). I have literally no evidence to back this up, but I think it was one of the closer Ragnar ADK finishes ever! Anyhow, it was great seeing all the runners from Van 2. They all did such an amazing job!

Overall, this was a great experience. I loved the people in my van – Laura, Mike, Alan, Ellie and Peter. The rest of my team was amazing, and all the teams did a fantastic job. It was great getting to meet more vegans, and of course, I could watch people run all day, every day.

The official results will be out in a few days. With that being said, my team finished 200(ish) miles in 22 hours, 47 minutes and 9.6 seconds.

I can’t remember exactly when I first heard about Ragnar and Strong Hearts Vegan Power from Joel. I try and picture that first conversation… “Do I want to run 200 miles through the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of people I hardly know?” It turns out, the answer is yes.

Go vegan.

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Race Report: Free to Run Marathon

photo credit: Ben Kimball

photo credit: Ben Kimball

On Saturday, BURCS hosted the second annual Free to Run 50-Miler/Marathon/Half Marathon. Last year, I ran the 50-miler, but this year, I decided to go with the marathon. I had to do the 12.5-mile loop twice (plus a little extra), and it also gave me a 9am start time, as opposed to the 5am start for the 50. Prior to the start, I saw lots of familiar faces. Western Massachusetts has an awesome trail running community, and I highly recommend all of the BURCS’ races!

I was a little sluggish for the first few miles, but my legs woke up for the second big climb. The climb comes about five miles into each loop, and it goes up nearly 800 feet in one mile. That’s legit.

photo credit: Ben Kimball

photo credit: Ben Kimball

I was able to hit the top running and I finished up the first lap in about 2:04. I switched out my bottles and headed out for the second lap. I was still running well and everything was going smoothly. I was using this race as my trial run for Oil Creek (in a few weeks) and everything clicked with my shoes, gear, hydration, nutrition, etc. Of course, for Oil Creek, I will need it to click for another 74 miles… but one thing at a time. Anyhow, I finished first in the marathon in 4:10:51.

As you can see, it’s an extremely difficult course. With that being said, there were some amazing performances throughout the day!! This course is not one to be trifled with, even for experienced trail runners, which made some of the finishes on Saturday that much more impressive.

Many thanks to the RDs, aid station volunteers and other runners. Also, big shout-outs to Ben, Frank and anyone else I may have forgotten. If you are looking for a challenging trail race in 2017, this may be the one for you!

Next up for me is Ragnar ADK on Friday! I’m really looking forward to my first run with Strong Hearts Vegan Power. Check back next week to hear all about it!

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Jug End Loop Ultra Race Report


The Jug End Loop Ultra was on Saturday. Basically, it was a 4.2-mile loop, and you had to run it as many times as possible in 5 hours. Then, you switched over to a .88-mile loop for the final hour (6 hours total). As you can see, the 4.2-mile loop had a pretty decent hill, and the .88-mile loop was a bit flatter.


It was a sunny day and temps got up into the mid-80s. It wasn’t too bad for the first few hours, but it definitely got a little warm by the end. Over the first three hours, I managed to cover 21.5 miles, and over the final three hours, I managed another 20 miles. I slowed down a little bit but not too badly!


I managed to take the win with 41.5 miles. Full results are available here. Tim Goric was tough all day, and he managed second with 38 miles. Tim also completed the 4.2-mile loop a total of eight times. The women’s race was close! Ann Alessandrini took the win with Ana Wolf just a little behind her.

Vegan/Vegetarian Group Picture

Vegan/Vegetarian Group Picture

This was the first time I’ve ever run a race based on time as opposed to distance. I liked it! There is something nice about knowing you will be done at a certain time.


For the win, I got a really nice engraved jug (get it?). I will be using it for flowers… just kidding, I’m going to fill it with beer. I know Ann has already been putting hers to good use!

I highly recommend this race. Great course. Great people. Extremely affordable.

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Product Review: CoffeeBar by New Grounds Food

I was recently given the opportunity to sample some bars from New Grounds Food. The bars are called CoffeeBars, so you know they had my attention right away! If you’ve been following along for a bit, you know that I am a bar connoisseur. A couple of years back, I even did a Sweet 16, where Picky Bars edged out ProBar for the win!

There are lots of bars out there now. There are bars for every type of diet and interest. So what makes bars from New Grounds Food unique? A few things actually:

1) The company that produces the bars was founded by a couple of college students
2) Every bar is infused with a full cup of fair trade coffee
3) Every CoffeeBar is 100% organic
4) Every CoffeeBar is vegan and gluten-free

CoffeeBars come in three flavors:

  • Mocha Latte
  • Coconut Mocha
  • Caramel Macchiato

    Each bar is just under 200 calories, and the first ingredient is organic dates. You can’t go wrong with that!

    I’ve tried all three flavors, and in my opinion, the Mocha Latte is the best, followed closely by the Coconut Mocha (sorry, Caramel Macchiato).

    I am running a six-hour race on Saturday, and I plan on trying a CoffeeBar before the race and during the race. I will let you know how it goes!

    In the meantime, try them out for yourselves. Through the end of August, go to the New Grounds Food website and use promo code fuelyourrace for 50% off a 12-count box of bars.

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    Hoka Speed Instinct Review

    Hoka One One is out with a new trail shoe. It’s a bit different than the other trail shoes offered by Hoka. The main difference is the stack height (more on that later). This shoe has retained some key Hoka features, but it definitely feels like more of a traditional trail shoe.

    I think this is the best trail shoe that Hoka has produced yet. I still prefer a more traditional shoe, and the Speed Instinct might be able to get some new converts over to Hoka.

    Hoka says this shoe has a wider toebox but I disagree. The toebox is quite average. The Speed Instinct wraps the whole foot rather snugly. It’s a little bit firmer in the sole, but it retains some of that Hoka comfort that wearers have come to expect. I normally wear a size 10 and the size 10 fit well – no need to size up or down.

    The shoe has a nice tread that is adequate for most trails, but it wouldn’t get the job done in mud. The shoe has a 25mm heel and a 22mm forefoot – a 3mm drop. That is significantly different than other Hoka models. For example, the Challenger ATR 2 has a 31mm heel and a 26mm forefoot – a bigger drop and a notably bigger stack height.

    The size 10 weighed 10.4 ounces on my scale. That makes it a tiny bit lighter than the Challenger ATR 2, but not significantly so. It’s also a little bit lighter than the Speedgoat.

    To sum up, I’d say it’s a really nice shoe but it’s definitely snug! If you like a snug fit, this is the shoe for you!

    – more of a traditional trail shoe
    – decent weight for racing
    – nice tread
    – decent quality
    – perfect amount of cushioning

    – not wide enough in the toebox
    – a little too snug throughout

    This shoe retails for around $130.00.

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    Green Lakes 50k Race Report


    The Green Lakes 50k was on Saturday. At 3am on Saturday – just a few hours before the race – a decent storm rolled through. It was definitely enough to wake me up, and I was worried that it would muddy up the course. Fortunately, it has been so dry this summer that just a few hours later, there was no evidence it had rained at all! However, at race time, the humidity was still hovering near 100% (more on that later).


    The race went off at 6am and Chris Raulli took off at record pace. I knew it was too much for me, so I ran in a chase pack with Stephen Paddock and Louis Ferrone. I knew Louis from previous races, but Stephen was new to me. Both guys looked fit and seemed like they were up for the challenge. Stephen and I finished the first loop in just under 53 minutes. That’s not a bad split; however, it is a problem when a 53-minute loop feels like a 51-minute effort. I realized that the humidity was going to be more than a minor nuisance.


    Stephen and I stayed pretty close for much of the second lap. I came through in just over 56 minutes. Chris was way out in front, and at this point, the race was for second and third. I slowed pretty dramatically for my third lap (I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one). The weather was actually improving slightly, but I was feeling the effects of sweating buckets for the first two hours of the race. I finished that lap in a little over 1:02… and I saw Chris Raulli. Apparently, in the middle of his third lap, he decided to call it a day. I was now in first place and I only had one loop to go.


    The weather was actually still improving at this point. It was getting hotter but there was also a light breeze and the humidity was decreasing. I ran the final lap in about 1:03 for a total time of 3:55:09 (7:34/mile).


    The women’s race was filled with excitement! Neela D’Souza and Kristen Roe battled from the start – they were never separated by more than a couple of minutes. Even when they hit the beach on the final lap (last than a half mile to go), the outcome was still in doubt! Neela hung on for the win in 4:25:16 and Kristen finished just behind her in 4:25:50. In addition, in the 100k, Justyna Wilson was the outright winner in 10:00:18!! I think Justyna had the performance of the day – that’s an incredible time given the conditions on Saturday.

    Full results of the 50k are available here.

    Full results of the 100k are available here.

    My next race is the Jug End Loop Ultra on August 20th.

    When is your next race?

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    Preview: Green Lakes 50k


    The Green Lakes 50k is tomorrow morning. This was my first ultra back in 2013, and I’ve done it every year since. I consider it my home course, as I’ve run these trails hundreds of times, and there really aren’t any other trail races as close to me.

    The 50k course consists of four loops that are approximately 7.77 miles each. The 100k course is eight loops! As far as trail races go, this course is flat and fast! However, if you are a roadie and this is your first journey to the trails, you’ll be surprised to find a decent climb that you have to complete four times (or eight for the 100k). It’s actually two separate climbs separated by a quarter mile of flat trail, so you do get some recovery and it is manageable.


    Tim Hardy, the race director, does an excellent job. The course is well-marked and runners get a nice swag bag (shirts, pint glasses, race stickers, etc.). In addition, because it is a loop course, runners will pass each other throughout the day, and it is a great opportunity to lend support to your comrades on the trails.

    This race always attracts some speedy folks. Past runners include Mike Daigeaun (holds course records in the 50k and 100k), Valmir Nunes, Daven Oskvig, Rebecca Harman (100k course record holder), Brian Rusiecki, Amy Rusiecki and Cole Crosby.

    This year’s race also includes some speedy individuals. In particular, keep an eye on Chris Raulli in the men’s 50k and Neela D’Souza in the women’s 50k. I think both 50k course records are vulnerable, as the trails are in excellent condition and the weather should be satisfactory. Speaking of the weather, the 50k will be 72 degrees at the 6am start, and it will climb towards 80 as the first finishers come through. The 100k will be 72 degrees at the start, and it will be in the low 80s as the first finishers cross the line.

    My goal races are later in the year so I haven’t done much of a taper for this one. I’d like to run under 3:40. Ideally, I’ll run faster than 3:37:26, which was my time in 2013.

    Entrant lists for all the races are available here.

    Check back next week for my full report! Have a great weekend!

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