Crew Lesson Learned “Not to be here for the next race” Hamsterwheel 11/6/21

I didn’t know I had it in me. I’m a quarter mile into the last 4 mile loop (mile 48) and my headlamp starts blinking. I stop dead in my tracks as the path ahead is pitch black – it’s about 11pm with 4 dark miles ahead. Will it last? How long will my flashlight work in 30F cold….back at the aid station I had mistakenly thought it is a great backup because I was too lazy to carry the backup headlamp I KNEW I should take because I didn’t have my pack….then I remembered in my notes that historically it lasted less than 30 min on a cold day. Should I call Kenny and have him walk over and give me the backup headlamp? That would delay me and I just want to be done! I’m so stupid!!! I’m so stupid – I know better! I can’t believe I am going to be stuck in the dark AGAIN… I just start running fast hoping it would last.

I had no idea I had it in me. My Garmin died mile 48 so I have no record of this amazing pace I know I did. It didn’t hurt or anything but I was fast! This proves being tired is mental because I sure found it in me to haul some ass. I caught up with two women and asked if I could hang out with them and their light. They had an extra hand torch and loaned it to me so I was off for the rest of the loop.

52 miles, 15:03 hours done! Felt great first 30 miles and slowed a little last 20 but no hip pain, just sore feet. A HUGE SUCCESS!!



  • Temps 28F at starting warming 5F per hour to 50F then back down at night. Wore short sleeved shirt with ultra lightweight smartwool shirt, gloves, hat and pack for first 2 laps then just shortsleeve xoskin with basic tights (not thermal). Later, I put on Arcteryz overpant (which wasn’t good as I had a hard time accessing pockets), and a basic fleece over my xoskin short sleeve and over the lightweight smartwool long sleeve. It was perfect temp control. I think although the temps were the same at night as when the race started, I needed the extra fleece layer because I was more tired.
  • Used Altra Lonepeak 5.0 size 10 with lacing to give bunion extra room and Darn Tough socks.
  • We brought one director chair and one high table as our aid station

Stat Summary and Comparison to Stonecat 50k I did in Nov of 2019:


  • I was sick during Stonecat and had a ton of hip pain – last 15 miles were a true sufferfest.  Hip pain was #1 major performance issue I worked on solving since that race and I am still managing it but have made clear progress.  Also had a little cramping issues in every race in 2019 which I didn’t have this year.  I also had dizziness issues after about 5 hrs I didn’t have this year.
  • In Hamsterwheel, I felt hip a little but basically no hip pain at all even with 20 more miles.  Main issue at Hamsterwheel was bottom foot pain.  I also had general poorer performance (speed) in 2021 in general due to a long year of work stress but faster at this distance.  Zero cramping issues in 2021 (due to being stronger/more rugged in general?).


  • I tried to run straight in Stonecat.  Walked a good bit of last 5 miles in Stonecat
  • Used run/walk intervals (30s run/30s walk) in Hamsterwheel and ran all the way through 50 miles at Hamsterwheel (I think this is a big accomplishment).  This is why I thought my overall first 30 miles would be a ton better at Hamsterwheel….
  • Same basic food and hydration strategy, I just ate more after 5 hours and after 12 hrs this year (chicken noodle soup, apples/mini cliff bar, PB&J).  Worked great at Hamsterwheel, only one 4 mile lap with minor stomach issue.
Around mile 24 starting to layer up for the dark! Felt great!

OVERALL TIME and feeling at end of race: Hamsterwheel was 18 min faster in first 30 miles – this is less improvement than I thought it would be (a little disappointed here).  I wonder what it could be if my overall stress levels were normal!! Opportunity!

  • Biggest difference is I felt pretty good at mile 30 vs. being destroyed at Stonecat with hip pain.  I wouldn’t call any miles at Hamsterwheel suffering.  Feeling basically good at the end of a 50k race was a goal. 
  • I did not have a ton in me to really push at the end of Hamsterwheel like I did at Kilkenney where I felt I could have gone a lot faster the whole race but was being careful to avoid hip issues and to just feel OK whole rade.  Based on my faster speed unrecorded due to dead Garmin when I thought my headlamp was dying at Hamsterwheel, maybe there is some mental toughness to help me speed up at later stages of a race because I could and did go a lot faster for a mile.


  • Way more consistent in Hamsterwheel slowing only about a minute a mile each 10 mile set (see sheet) up until 30 miles.  Stonecat slowed  2 min/mile then 4 mi/mile each 10 miles.  This is a big improvement as I want to be consistent. What is a “normal slowdown?”
  • Hamsterwheel only: Big slowdown in 30-40 miles with almost 4min/mile avg delta – some of that was prolonged aid station eating and clothing changes.  Delta from 40-50 was only about a minute slower.


  •  Need help with how to manage feet.  Had I gone on, I definitely would have had issues with blisters as I had several hot spots at mile 48 so need to learn what I should have done around mile 45 to stop them (ie. apply tape?  apply the blister padded bandaids?).  Wore Altra Lone Peak 5.0s. Should I have changed into shoes with more padding – I just got the Altra Olympus which are much more cushioned?  Note I continue to keep sizing up in shoe size wearing a 10 this year vs. a 9.5 last year as my toes have been taking a pounding on mountain runs.  I also changed how I tie shoelaces to give more room for my right foot bunion, which still hurt in this race….bunion ideas?
  • For some reason at Hamsterwheel, I had to go to the bathroom every 4 miles and once on trail which is way more frequent then normal.... maybe because the porta potties were there?  I did hydrate exactly per plan per hour in this race – maybe drank too much in colder weather?
  • Garmin crapped out after 14 hrs. I should have turned off HR tracking – see separate blog on this. I kept alerts. Phone though lasted the whole thing which shocked me – I didn’t use it and kept next to my body in tight pocket.
  • Used new “Gymboss Charge” interval timer which I had tried out two days before to make sure I could feel it if in my pocket. It was so cold during race though that I couldn’t feel it so ended up holding it the whole race.
  • Headlamp battery lasted about 5-6 hrs. I should have carried several spares.
  • 2/3 of my crew quit – make sure you get dependable crew!
  • Replacement water was too cold – froze my hands. Kenny ended up holding the water bottles up to heat lamps to help warm them up – need a heat source.
  • Food was great: Ate cliff bloks and cliff bar minis whole race with added chicken soup and noodles after mile 30 along with apple pieces and PB&J. Managed to get rid of big hunger I normally get.
  • Nighttime running is lonely – can’t see who the other people are. Need a pacer at night!


I had recruited 3 but only Kenny remained on race day and had flown in the night before with a huge headache. I woke him up at 6am to get going! His main takeaway the next day was “To be gone the next race” – ha! He was awesome although we did have some early communication issues, he spent 15 hours on his feet and dealt with a LITTLE grumpiness when I came in to the find my chair covered in stuff or extra things on the food table. I had to explain that I was like a formula 1 car coming into a pit stop and his job was to be Johnny on the Spot and get me back out there!

Some super awesome things he did for me and the race director:

  • Left just after the start to get his Quadcopter to take overall pics of the race (although this made him miss me coming in after 8, 12 miles…our first communication discussion as I was looking forward to seeing his handsome face!)
  • Left around 2pm to go get me a pair of Aftershokz bluetooth headsets so I could listen to music later – with all the people on the course, it was rude to play it out loud as I usually do. I benchmarked several folks and this was their recommendation. So happy to have them later when it was dark and I couldn’t see anyone and miles 32-36 were the longest in history….he drove to Manchester and charged them up for me!
  • He ran 2nd to last lap with me to give me something to look forward to and to keep me company in the home stretch! His fast walking was faster than my running at that point. He dealt with me telling him to quit walking so fast that he was putting pressure on me, etc 🙂 He was told to just talk about anything like our trip to Italy but somehow, this Irishman who takes hours to leave a party, couldn’t think of much to talk about with me (haha!). He brought up training for some reason and I gave it to him saying I was focused on finishing, not talking about training and more work! Poor, sweet husband that I love so much!
  • During my last lap when I had all the headlamp drama, he packed up all our gear and warmed up the car so I could just walk in and go home. When I finished, I was standing there saying “I can’t stand up any longer – have to sit down!!!!”
  • I owe him big and I do appreciate this man of mine who put up with all my grumpiness and took such good care of me

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