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Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

The following was authored by Vikram Singh, an all-around great person to be around with. Besides running ultras, he has shown great improvements as an athlete and as a person. He won the Marisol Mendez Volunteer of the Year and Most Selfless Teammate awards at this past year’s QDR Club Night Gala event, and those are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to describing who he is. Read about his upcoming dream race and cheer him on in August 2019!


I don’t know how long I’ve been counting trail markers to pass the time. I had hoped that there was a quantified distance between trail markers so I could figure out exactly how much farther I had to go. I had been dragging my feet for the last few hours, barely feeling like I could walk. I knew I would make it to the finish but at my current rate, I knew I wouldn’t finish in time for the final cutoff. “Running 100 miles is impossible. It’s too long,” I concluded. This was the first race I ever trained for, the first race I followed a  training plan for. It still wasn’t enough. Runners who I had passed in the first quarter of the race were now passing me, around 88 miles in. The “good job” type of encouragements, commonly said when runners meet each other in ultras, turned into “hang on”. I was mentally defeated, it felt like my body was gone and I had accepted that I couldn’t make the final cutoff–that this would count as a Did Not Finish (DNF) at the Mountain Lakes 100.

I had used all the mental tricks, warm thoughts, and mantras I had prepared as pickups in tough times. Now, I was in survival mode. I knew that if I quit at an aid station, in the middle of a forest in central Oregon at the Mountain Lakes 100 race, I could get hypothermia. I had been in such a situation the year before in 2016 when I quit at mile 55 in the same race. I ended up spending time shivering in front of a heater, covered with a blanket for two hours after I stopped running trying to get warm. If I wanted to stop, I had to wait with volunteers for their shift to end, hike to a bail out point and then have a volunteer drive me to the start. The easiest way to get through this ordeal was to finish. 

In the nick of time, as I was leaving the final aid station before the finish at mile 97, a man told me that Martha wanted me to finish. Martha was one of the top female finishers of the Volcanic 50k, a race I did two months earlier and whom I got a chance to talk to after that race. She was volunteering at this race and she made sure to cheer for me whenever I saw her early in the race. From that small connection, I now had a reason to forget about DNFing and start trying again. After hours of feeling like I could barely walk, I started running.

On September 24th, 2017, after 29 hours, 47 minutes, I crossed the finish line of my first 100 miler, with just 13 minutes before the final cutoff.  I went through hours of gastrointestinal (GI) issues, running alone through the night, quads blowing out, and then shin splints to finish the race at last place. I didn’t realize at that point but the race also gave me a valuable 6 points towards a race called Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB). 

Qualifying races

In early November 2017, I decided to look up if I qualified for this European race called UTMB. The race follows the Tour du Mont Blanc trail around the Alps of France, Italy, and Switzerland. I’m not sure at what point I became aware of the race but the idea of running through the beautiful Alps had always been appealing. To my surprise, I found out that I was one point off qualifying for the lottery taking place in January of 2018! I earned 14/15 points in three trail races. I needed a race with 4 points to replace one of my 3 point races to get to 15. I basically needed to finish a 50 miler with some significant elevation gain. I immediately decided to see if I could find a race to make up the difference.

Ultra-running, simply defined as running longer than 26.2 miles, covers many branches and races that are drastically different from each other. From multi-day stage races in some of the harshest environments of the world, to looped timed courses (6 hour, 12 hour, 24 hour), to autonomous mountain crossing with no trail markers or aid stations, to last “man” standing types of events where competitors keep repeating a loop every hour till there is one person left (the only finisher). Of the many branches, the most popular and growing branch is mountain running. While Western States 100 could be considered the equivalent of the Super Bowl of ultra marathons in the United States, UTMB is considered the Olympics of ultra marathons. The race attracts some of the world’s best runners and the number of participants, crowds, media, and sponsors is unrivaled compared to any other ultra in the world.

I ended up signing up for McDowell Mountain Frenzy, a 50 miler outside of Phoenix, Arizona in early December to earn my spot in the lottery. To earn a spot in the lottery, you had to earn a total of 15 points within 3 races in the past two years. Races have to pay a fee to be considered for UTMB points so not all races give points. The points system applies to all runners, even professional and sponsored athletes need to get the necessary points. Gorges Waterfall 100K (which I did in the Spring of 2017 to help prepare for Mountain Lakes 100) gave me 5 points; Mountain Lakes 100 gave me 6 points, and McDowell Mountain Frenzy gave me the last 4 points. (Note that for 2020, the requirements to get in the UTMB lottery have been reduced to 10 points within 2 races).

I entered the lottery for the 2018 race but didn’t get in. Lucky, race results and points are good for two years and I qualified for the 2019 lottery without having to seek additional UTMB point races. Since I didn’t get in 2018, I also got two entries for 2019 (if you don’t get in the second year you get automatic entry the third year as long as you have the points). I entered the lottery again for 2019 using my 2017 races. On January 10th, 2019, I learned that I won the lottery for the UTMB race!

Descending down during the Escarpment Trail Run in the Catskills.

The race

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is a single-stage, 106-mile race with almost 33,000 feet of elevation gain. The race is the highlight of a weeklong festival at the end of August (26th until September 1st) in Chamonix, France. The festival also includes six other races, ranging from 15 kilometers to an approximately 300 kilometers relay race. UTMB is considered one of the most difficult foot races in the world yet it attracts more than 2,500 participants. While this number doesn’t seem high compared to road races, this is a huge number compared to your average popular trail race where participants may be capped at 400-500 runners.


100 miles is a daunting distance but it’s the massive elevation gain that’s the x-factor for this race. In addition, the remoteness of the race requires racers to have mandatory gear throughout the race. I will be dealing with twice the elevation gain I have ever done in a race (Manitou’s Revenge is 54 miles with 15,000 gain) and will have to do it with a pack, carrying more weight than I am used to. My experience ascending Mount Elbert, with QDR at Colorado earlier this year, taught me the usefulness of trekking poles in ascending mountains. I have long hesitated to use poles in trail races but 95% of the field uses them at UTMB and the advantage of poles increases with more vertical gain, so I’ll be using poles! The poles will help reduce the workload on my legs and help save strength for later in the race. Hill repeats will be a greater focus instead of track workouts for training. While I could do short hill sprints at Cat Hill and Harlem Hill to develop power, 45 minutes of climbing repeats is more difficult to get in NYC. I will be using some weekend days to get away to the Hudson highlands and Catskills to get vert (vertical gain) more similar to the race.

Speed hiking is another variable to work on. With the elevation gain, it’s not possible to run the entire distance. Hiking muscles are not the same as running or walking muscles. Simply being a good runner would not mean I’m a strong hiker. Practicing speed hiking would allow me to increase my slowest speed which could save large amounts of time towards the later stages of the race. Spending time hiking would also allow me to spend more time on my feet and gain training benefits in a low impact way.

For any 100 mile race, one has to practice running at night. UTMB, itself starts shortly before nightfall so I will be running two nights in the race. Training at night would be even more important this time around. I will be getting up in the dead of night to do a few runs with my headlamp on. NYC is well lit and the headlamp may not help much in illumination but practicing while I’m already tired and getting use to having the lamp on my head will help me be better prepared for the race.

Chamonix, the start and finish of the race, sits just under 4,000 feet and the highest point of the race is 8,323 feet so attitude is not crazy high but might be enough to bother some people. Other than getting there a few days early to allow my body to adjust, I can’t train for this. Items such as altitude tents are limited in their benefits.

I’ll be using a mental strategy similar to what I use during marathons: I will be breaking up the race into smaller, manageable distances, thinking of the race 10k at a time. My focus will be in the present moment. I can’t be questioning if I can make this massive climb or if I can make the next 62 miles. That is destructive thinking (negative thoughts compound over time) and will not help me take care of myself to the best of my abilities. I have to learn to focus on things under my control, not simply the outcome. This requires a consistent and deliberate practice of mindfulness, which I’ll be practicing 10 minutes daily.  

Complicating my training a bit is the Lake Placid Ironman the month before UTMB which forces me to spend half my available time on cycling and swimming. Cycling in particular may be useful as it would help develop the quads–the muscles that get the most impact on running downhill. Another important training tool, a staple of ultra-running, is the back-to-back days with long runs. The run on the second day will help mimic the feeling of running on tired legs.

The aid stations at UTMB are a step above the U.S. counterparts. Most have sport drinks, water, tea, fruit, chocolate, biscuits, soup, other standard race snacks, and lots of dried meat and cheese. Larger aid stations also have pasta and beer! On the other hand, there won’t be gels or salt tablets that U.S. ultras normally have. I might do a few runs after eating French bread dipped into soup to test what works with my stomach.

Looking Forward

This race will be quite different than anything I have ever experienced before.  The communities around the race come out to support the runners which itself will be quite the unique ultra-running experience. Unlike road marathons, ultras usually only attract some volunteers and a runner’s support crew as speculators. People have remarked that the finish line crowd experience is like if you are winning the race. I’m also looking forward to passing by the mountain towns and villages of Les Houches, Les Contamines, Courmayeur, and Champex, getting cheered by people speaking various languages, seeing the beautiful views of from highest point Col des Fours and the cool views of Mount Blanc, and watching the first sunrise during the race.

For those interested in ultras but not sure if they should take the leap of faith into it, I would start with the “why”. Even with perfect pacing, nutrition, and hydration, the body’s energy levels are unpredictable and hard to explain. You will feel downright awful at some point in an ultra. The longer the distance, the more variables and the higher chances of something going wrong. Expect to reach points where going forward feels impossible but remember your “why” and keep the faith: “it doesn’t always get worse.”  You may be surprised at how your body rebounds in a few miles.

See you out on the trails!

Vikram Singh

Follow Vikram on Instagram and read his other blog posts.

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You Never Know Until You Tri

Like Lori in the previous blog post, Elsie Alonso also completed her first triathlon this past summer. What started as wanting to learn how to swim for fun turned into signing up for a triathlon after a year of swimming. Even after multiple obstacles along the way, like taking a bad fall during the bike leg of the triathlon, Elsie was determined to finish and earned the right to be called a triathlete.

It was January 2017 when I signed up to run the Honolulu Marathon in December of the same year. I had promised my friend Meredith who lived in Honolulu that I would pace her for her first marathon and I thought of no better time to do so than right after the New York City Marathon while my legs were still used to the mileage. At the time I signed up, I had already been to Hawaii a few times and the one restriction that kept me from enjoying the islands as much as I could was my inability to swim. I lived in Honolulu for 3 months in 2016 and while I watched Meredith swim, snorkel, and dive into water, I wished I could do the same. I promised myself that I would learn how to swim before the Honolulu Marathon.

That summer in 2017 I took a swimming class for adult beginners at the YMCA in Long Island City, Queens. On my first day I was surprised to learn I was the youngest of the groupnot including the high school senior that was teaching the class. One man was in his 70s which, like running and any other sport, reminded me that it’s never too late to be involved, to challenge yourself, and to achieve a goal. At the beginning of June I was “swimming” with a kickboard and by August I was backstroking, freestyling, and moving around the pool comfortably even if that meant doggy paddling. I was so happy I went from being someone who was terrified of not being able to touch the sandy underwater floor at the beach, to being someone who could jump into a pool and not sink. I didn’t want to lose this momentum so I became a member of the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Aquatic Center, where I still continue to regularly go.

Elsie (right) and her friend Emily.

While in Hawaii to run the Honolulu Marathon, I was definitely more comfortable in the water, but unfortunately was unable to do the ocean activities I wanted because of the rough waves during that time of the year. Bummed from those missed opportunities, I wanted to find something else to look forward to in swimming. My triathlete co-worker Emily mentioned a “sprint” triathlon to me that would be in June and I had no reason not to do it now that I knew how to swim. She talked me through everything I needed to know: the order of the triathlon (swimming, cycling, and running), what I should do during the transitions in between each sport, and she even trained with me on a few runs and a swim. 

The Hempstead Harbor Tri was in the middle of June 2018. I was nervous as the days approached because I wasn’t the strongest swimmer and I was new to swimming in open water. Despite knowing how to stay afloat and swim, I didn’t feel as confident in the ocean as I did when I was in a pool. In a pool, I knew the depth, had the floor lines guide me, and had an entire lane to myself. At the triathlon, it was a different story. But, as I waited to lunge into the ocean I felt oddly calmI wasn’t sure if it was because of Emily’s last pep talk on the beach, the fact that the way we were lined up reminded me of any NYRR race, or the fact that because I was going into unknown territory I didn’t know what to expect, thus I had nothing to fear.

This all changed once I was about 50 meters into the 500 meter swim. Like the start of any running race, people crowd at the start and the attempt to make it through becomes a challenge itself. It’s completely different doing the same in open water. I was in the middle of the pod when another swimmer pushed my head underwater as I was taking a breath and I took a huge gulp of water instead. I treaded water for a few seconds and was quickly aware of how far away I was from the beach and that I couldn’t touch or see the bottom of the bay. To stay calm I floated on my back and let everyone pass me before the next wave of swimmers started. I saw how far I was from the shore and instead of freaking out, I decided to float on my back and backstroke the rest of the way. This way, my head was above water at all times, but unfortunately had less of a sense of my direction.

I had to take a few breaks on the paddleboards of lifeguards to wipe my fogged-up goggles and check how far I had left to go. One of the lifeguards I latched onto saw how scared and upset I was and told me to take as much time as I needed. In a daze, I found myself telling her what led me to that pointhow I just began swimming, that it was my first triathlon, and how I wanted to be done already. In the middle of my rant she interrupted me and said, “Girl, you got this.” With that, I thanked her, left her, and kept backstroking. With about 100 meters to go I latched onto another paddleboard and the lifeguard told me he would take me to shore if I was struggling. Tired, I agreed. Before he began paddling I asked, “Will I be disqualified if you take me in?” He answered, “Yes, your race won’t count.” That said, I instantly let go of the board and kept backstroking all the way to the shore. The toughest part was over and I was glad to finally be on land and finish. Little did I know that the swim portion wasn’t the only challenge. 

Elsie finishing the run section of the triathlon.

In the transition area I grabbed my bike and peddled off. This portion of the tri was composed of two five-mile loops. I felt great, my legs were moving fine and I was conserving my energy for the run. I was following another cyclist for the final mile and during a turn in the last few meters she slipped and I followed her fall with my left side hitting the floor. My next memory was me sitting in an ambulance with an EMT flashing a light in my eye and noting down the identification number on my arm tattooed in Sharpie ink. He asked me my name, where I was, and my birthday. I answered his questions, but at that moment I had no idea why I was in the back of the ambulance. I used context clues (my triathlon suit, sneakers, and helmet) to realize I was in the middle of the triathlon. It was only after he began to bandage up my arm because of my bleeding elbow that I knew I fell. I looked at my Garmin to check my time and the screen was cracked. I refused to quit on land instead of in the water, which was where the real struggle should have been. I asked if I could continue and the EMT told me it wasn’t the best idea. I told him I was a marathoner and he finally obliged.

The next thing I knew, I was on the bike with tears in my eyes because my entire left side was throbbing, I didn’t know how much time I lost, and because at that point my last memory was driving to Emily’s house that morning to pick her up. After I parked my bike in my transition area, I ran to the start of the 5K course. In the middle of the run I caught up to the girl who fell in front of me. Her face triggered my memory and I started to piece events together. I saw she also had a bandage on her elbow and I asked her if she was alright. She said, “I just want this to be over.” I responded, “Same.”

I was beyond thrilled when I saw Emily, her boyfriend Ben, and Danny cheering for me on the two-loop course. I hugged Emily as soon as I crossed the finish line and we walked to the awards section. I was one of the last participants and by that time, the limited amount of medals were already distributed, but I walked away with a pint glass instead and was assured I would receive a medal in the mail, which I eventually did. Emily, who worked her butt off all year, won first place in her age group. It was a day of victories: hers, mine, and everyone who put in work that day. 

It was after the race that I realized I cracked my helmet when I fell and saw my bruised thigh and hip hidden under my triathlon suit. I took an MRI exam the following day as a precaution and was glad all was fine. 

Hempstead Harbor Tri finish photo!

Reflecting back on that race, as tough as it was for me, I consider it my greatest physical accomplishment and one of my proudest moments. What was initially a goal for me to learn how to swim turned me into a triathlete. Am I the strongest swimmer? Absolutely not, I just learned how to swim last year. Am I a strong cyclist? Absolutely not, I don’t own a road bike and had to borrow one for the race. Am I the fastest runner? Absolutely not, but I get the job done.

My determination to complete this triathlon was mostly an emotional effort and I would not have overcome my doubts if it wasn’t for my support system: Emily for putting my irrational fears in perspective (there are no sharks in Hempstead and there would be an abundance of lifeguards along the swim); Ben for waking up at the crack of dawn to lather himself in sunscreen and cheer us on as a bike course marshall; and Danny for volunteering so I can participate, driving my car afterwards because I couldn’t, and signing me up for previous races that were near-death experiences and prepared me for that day.

I don’t know how I want to surprise myself next, but I do know I want to complete another triathlon without any falls and especially as a stronger swimmer. I hope my experience inspires others to challenge themselves in ways they never imagined.

Elsie Alonso

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I Tried

Signing up for anything that you have never done before can be intimidating. Whether it’s your first race, first marathon, or first triathlon, the thought “can I do it?” always crosses the mind. But, even with all the bumps along the way, there’s no better feeling than accomplishing your goal. The following is by Lori Brown who completed her first triathlon and came in first in her age group this past summer!

For years family and friends kept telling me I should do a triathlon. After competing in a team triathlon last year and doing the swim leg, I got the bug and finally decided to sign up for a sprint triathlon this past August.

I’ve been a swimmer since I was 11 years old. I started swimming before I started running. I did both track and swimming in Highschool, so when it came time to choose which I would pursue in college I decided on swimming. I can’t pinpoint an exact reason why I chose swimming, but seeing my sister pursue it and going on college visits to meeting the coach and potential teammates, I knew it was for me.  When I graduated college, I also graduated from swimming. Mentally and physically I was done, and it was time to start running again. Knowing that I had what most would say the hardest part down; swimming, it made sense that I finally decided to give a triathlon a shot.

Since triathlon season is so short (I believe May through September) and it was a late decision to sign up for one, there weren’t many left to choose from. My sister and I wanted to do one together and finding a weekend we both had free was a challenge.  We signed up for the Sprint TOBAY Triathlon located in Oyster Bay, Long Island, that would take place at the end of August 2018. We had only signed up a few months beforehand.

Lori (right) with her sister.

The Training?

Well, I can honestly say I had no plan and not a ton of training was involved. After the Boston Marathon I knew I would need a rest from running, and I kept telling myself to sign up for the pool again (I swim at the Corona Park Aquatics Center). I needed to get back in swim shape, so I wouldn’t drown. I kept procrastinating and about a week after Boston I went for a run (more like a super light jog) and came down on my foot funny. Thinking nothing of it, while dealing with constant pain and swelling, 2 weeks later I decided to get it checked. The diagnosis, a sprained ligament in my ankle. What did this mean? Rest, ice, and physical therapy. That was my sign I needed to swim. I signed up for the pool and the indoor bike became my best friend. I did some light running and let it heal. About 4-5 weeks later the swelling was completely gone, so I started “training for the run.”

I don’t own a bike, so the stationary bike was my only option to get on one. A couple times when I was out in Hauppauge to see my parents, I used my mom’s hybrid bike to get outside and went on a few rides with my dad. That was the bike I would use for the race (not ideal). I never practiced any transitions, so on race day I hoped for the best.

There was just one more bump in the rode; a couple weeks or so before the triathlon I developed bad tendinitis in my left foot, I knew my only option was to get a cortisone shot (this wasn’t the first time). I made an appointment 3 days out and I was lucky that it was enough months since my last shot to get one. Unfortunately, it didn’t kick in as fast as it usually does, and the pain was there come race day (oh well, “I could survive a 5K” was my thinking).

A couple days before the race and after debating back and forth with myself I decided to buy a triathlon suit mainly because my sister bought one and I am super competitive (and wanted one myself). I was ready! Go big or go home right?

Race Day:

My parents, being as supportive as they are, woke up at 4:30am to drive my sister and I out to the race to cheer us on. Lucky for us the weather was perfect! We got there before sunrise and set up our transition area. I felt like a lost puppy. I had no idea what to do.  With my sister’s help I got my area set up and I was ready.

Smiling through the run section of the triathlon.


A visual of what the transition area looked like: there were a ton of bike racks in rows, with limited space between each bike. You are assigned a number to where you would mount your bike and prepare your area. In my area I had a towel to wipe off my feet, my sneakers, socks, my Garmin watch, a water bottle, my helmet, and my race number for the run, all strategically placed.

The Swim:

My sister, also a swimmer, knew we could try to stay together for the swim. We stood in the water shivering just a bit waiting for the gun to go off. The gun goes off and I immediately lose my sister, the water being so dark made it difficult to see. The other people kicking me also didn’t help. (Really it was a great time)!  Making sure the big orange buoys stayed to my left I passed a ton of people. When I got to the end and stood up out of the water, my sister was right in front of me. We were one of the first women out of the water. I ran out pulling off my cap and goggles, gave my parents a wave and transitioned to the bike. I wiped off my feet, put my sneakers, socks, watch and helmet on, dismounted my bike off the rack, and I was off.

The Bike:

I knew this section would be where I would lose ground. With the lack of a racing bike and not much practice I hopped on my bike and rode as fast as I could. The course involved some rolling hills. A few people zoomed past me. Toward the end of the bike section two girls in my age group (AG) passed me. I knew they were in my age group because each person has their gender and age marked on their arm and calf. In my head I knew I would catch them on the run. I made that a goal for myself. The bike ride came to an end, I hopped off ran with my bike back to the transition area, mounted my bike on the rail, took my helmet off, attached my bib, and transitioned to the run.

The Run:

Making the 20 minute 5K run look like a breeze.


After re-tying my sneakers and losing some time, I shot off. I saw my parents again, gave them another wave and a smile, and passed my sister immediately. The first 1.6 miles was completely uphill (pure torture). I passed the first girl in my AG who had passed me going up and the second girl when I was coming down. I now knew I was first in my AG. I took advantage of the downhill and picked up the pace. I saw the finish and started sprinting as fast as I could (knowing that there was free beer at the end). With a huge smile on my face, knowing I was about done, I saw my parents one more time, gave them yet another wave and smile and crossed the finish line, placing first in my age group.

I did it! First triathlon complete! Off to the beer! It was an amazing experience. I had so much fun and right there I knew I wanted to do more triathlons. The goal next year in 2019 is to do both a sprint and an Olympic distance triathlon (longer than a sprint; a mile swim, a 25 mile bike ride, and a 10k run), giving myself more time to train.  

My Advice:

Train for the swim section. The swim is really where you can gain or lose time. Get comfortable in the water. Swimming in a pool and swimming in open water are very different. If you have the ability to practice in open water, I would suggest that. Unfortunately, I was not able to do that.  I would also recommend practicing transitions, mine were slow and I lost a good amount of time. I watched a couple of YouTube videos on transitions which I found helpful, and I would recommend watching those as well in preparation. I would also highly recommend getting a triathlon suit, it makes your transitions faster since you can complete the swim, bike ride, and run in it. I got mine off Amazon.  My last piece of advice would be to just have fun doing it, and it is a great accomplishment!

Until next year!

Lori Brown

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The Return

It takes patience to go through an injury and be on the sidelines while you see everyone else running. It takes courage to tell yourself you’ll get through the injury and that you will come back stronger. Rachel Fox, a Queens Distance member since 2015, is one runner who came back from an injury that set her back months, but is now running and even faster than pre-injury! Read about her tragic accident, her comeback, and her current journey to the TCS NYC Marathon.


It’s the sound that everyone dreads—the sound that makes you cringe.  It’s the sound that when you hear it, you have no idea what you are in for, or if you can ever recover from it.  That “pop”. That sound that you hear when your ankle bones have broken and have become unattached to your leg. That “pop” sound that I heard when I fell on skates in a parking lot and thought, “Oh god!  What have I done? Will I ever run again?”

The thing that you have to understand is that I was on this tremendous adrenaline rush.  I felt invincible after completing the NYC Marathon for the second time, three months prior. One month earlier I had done four races in four days – running a total of 48.6 miles and completed a second marathon within a span of two months. So, naturally I thought now would be a great time to take up roller skating, since I did it as a kid.  Nothing could go wrong, right?

Sitting on the ground in the parking lot, I quickly took off my skates.  As I realize my ankle was broken, the panic started to set in, and then the pain.  I knew this was bad but I didn’t know how bad.

I have a lot to be thankful for, including the overall distance between the accident site, the hospital, and the location of where my brother and sister-in-law reside.

On  February 6th, 2018,  I was quickly taken to the hospital from the accident site. I was too scared to call 911, so a good Samaritan passing by called for me.  I wish I could thank them!

At some point I called my brother and told him I was being taken to the hospital.  I didn’t want to scare him, but I also wanted him to know his big sister seriously injured herself and just needed family around.  I don’t remember if I tried to call my parents or if I didn’t want to scare them either, so I thought I would call my brother first.  The truth is that I that was scared. The only thing I could say out loud to my brother was, “I fell”. I sent my sister-in-law a picture of my ankle.  She told me later on that she knew my ankle was broken when she saw that picture. My brother originally thought I just had a bad sprain. I wish!

I would have my surgery about 8 hours later (on February 7th).  I would return home three days later. The hospital cannot release you unless you have not had a fever for 24 hours.  I don’t remember how I passed the time until I was given the okay to go home. I shared a room with a woman that was hit by a car.  When I was released from the hospital, I knew her stay would be longer than mine. As bad as my situation was, I knew it could always be worse.

We all know that I recovered.  We all know that I made it.  But I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you.  

The first month after surgery was hell.  I was in a lot of pain. The type of surgery I received was ORIF.  This stands for Open Reduction Internal Fixation and it involves the application of implants to guide the healing process of a bone, as well as the open reduction, or setting, of the bone.  I now had to adjust to having metal in my ankle. My poor left ankle, now swollen and had metal in it, looked twice as big as my right ankle! My left ankle was now surrounded by a titanium plate fixed to my bone with seven screws and two splints.   I felt ugly. I felt disabled. I felt defeated. I cried a lot. I used a knee-scooter to get around my apartment (crutches are not a good idea for a klutz, like me). I was, for the most part, independent during my recovery. My family stopped by once a week for a little while to make sure I was okay and help me collect my mail.  My father helped me get to my post-operation appointments.

My days would consist of pain, oxycodone-acetamin (which only seemed to work for 3 out of 24 hours at a time), television, and rest, in what seemed like a never-ending cycle, until sometime in mid-March.  

It was about this time that I now had to practice bending my foot back at a 90 degree angle.  A movement that I never thought twice about, now seemed impossible!

Soon enough, I was approved to put weight on my left foot in CAM boot. CAM, which stands for Controlled Ankle Motion walking boot, is a very clunky boot that is secured with velcro straps and limits motion of your foot, but also allows partial weight bearing.  I was happy to hear I can start walking in a CAM boot, but I was also very nervous. I did not walk or put weight on my left foot for almost a month and a half! The moment that my heel (in a CAM boot) touched the floor, I felt a pins and needles sensation on the bottom of my foot.  The nerves in my foot were waking up. It was exciting but painful.

I know I mention consistently being in pain a lot, but it would subside soon enough.  Unfortunately, pain after surgery is a sign of healing. It is not pleasant, but it is unavoidable.  I just had to be patient.

My recovery started moving forward in April:

  • I would go to physical therapy 3 – 4 times a week.
  • I began indoor cycling again.  
  • By the end of April, I started walking without the boot.

First steps outside without CAM boot, April 22nd.


I started exercising again in June and by July things seemed to be getting back to normal:  

  • My first run post-surgery was about four months after my accident (on June 12th).   I ran for 10 minutes on a treadmill.
  • I started spinning classes on June 16th.
  • My first outdoor run post-surgery was on June 17th – I ran about 2 miles.
  • I started strength training sessions on July 7th.
  • My first race post-surgery was the NYRR (5 mile) Team Championships on July 28th.
  • My first long run post-surgery was on August 19th – I ran 9 miles.

First time being able to balance on the left foot again,  June 3rd.

I left out of the part where I signed up for the NYRR marathon training program on July 23rd.

At the time I registered, it seemed like a crazy idea.  I had no idea if I was going to be able to run the marathon this year.  My original goal was to run a 5 mile race before the end of the year.  As time moved forward, I saw I was able to keep up with the training program.   I knew that I would be able to run the marathon and it was not such a crazy idea after all!

Despite the pain and the struggle I went through to recover, I tried to keep a positive outlook.  Every day I imagined myself running. I kept a schedule of when my post-operation doctor appointments were, and made a note of any milestone changes that would occur – it helped a great deal to look forward to some type of change.

Key moments from November 2017 to October 2018.

In life accidents happen.  It all comes down to how you cope when you are dealt with a bad hand.  You become a stronger person for moving forward in spite of an unfortunate situation.  I wanted to get better, so I fought back.

I want to thank everyone who checked in on me during the time of my recovery, and sent a “congratulations” my way when I started running again.  I’d like to think your full support helped me get back into doing what I love, sooner than I thought. Just in case you don’t know, that would be running!

Rachel L. Fox

Posted on

Pablo Gear

Note: Read the Spanish translation below. Lee la traducción al español abajo.


Back in 2016, our team had a casual group run to Little Neck to celebrate Thanksgiving and be grateful for another year that we’ve been together. Leading up to the run, I was talking to future member Pablo Yax who seemed apprehensive of the distance we were running. It turns out that the casual 10 mile run was one of Pablo’s longest, and at the time, hardest run he had done then. Being timid, Pablo was quiet for most of the run and the language barrier made it hard for him to join in some group conversations. But, being Queens Distance and a diverse team in Queens, some of us switched to conversations in Spanish. After warming up to us, we encouraged him to keep coming out and running with us.

As the years go by, we see our team grow in numbers and grow closer together. What you put into the team is what you gain from it and Pablo is no exception to this. The following is an interview I had with Pablo in late September and one that highlights the diversity we have in Queens, what it means to work hard towards a goal, and what developing as a person looks like.

As Pablo and I enjoyed Bareburger in Forest Hills (it was Pablo’s first time there!) he told me of his time back in Sololá, Guatemala. He arrived to NYC about 16 years ago and has enjoyed the New York community since then. Pablo came to the running scene just recently, two years ago, in one of our group runs and has since flourished into a very adept and fast runner—his fastest marathon is 2:51 in the D.C. Marathon earlier this year!

If you’ve seen Pablo race, it’s “con todo”—with everything. He’s one to show grit at the end of a race and go into what many teammates now call “Pablo Gear”—that extra gear found late in a race when the going gets tough. So how did all of this come about? It turns out that Pablo did not play any sports growing up but he and his two brothers did play some soccer. His father and siblings were exceptionally good players but Pablo was not. Fast forward many years and he comes to run with us and then races his first 5K and first race ever at our QDR 5K Championships.

Pablo after the QDR 5K Championships

When I asked him what motivated him to start running and keep on running, he thought long and hard. For many of us, the reasons why we run can be as easy as “I want to beat a certain time”. For some, running is a means to change one’s lifestyle for the better. For Pablo, he use to smoke five years ago, eat unhealthy foods, and sleep very little. Now, through running, he’s motivated by his change in habits for a better lifestyle.

Pablo at the Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn Half

Since his first race, he kept training and attempting longer distances. It was at the 2016 Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn Half where he realized that he had potential for longer distances. As he recalled, that race he ran without proper running shoes or even a watch and he managed a 1:27 time! He remembers that race very well because after resting for half an hour, he tried to walk home but both his feet cramped up. It was a struggle going home but at the end of the day he enjoyed the experience.

Pablo also enjoys the longer distances because they are not as intense as the 5K and he feels he’s capable of doing well in the long distance that is the marathon. He brought down his time from 3:12 at his first and our very own Queens Marathon in 2017, to 3:00 at the Baltimore Marathon (where he went to with a QDR teammate), to 2:57 at the TCS NYC Marathon, and finally to 2:51 at the Washington, D.C. Marathon.

When Pablo is not training for these races, he’s out working in construction and enjoying concerts. Some of his favorite concerts he’s been to have been at Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Allman Brothers Band, ZZ Top, and Hombres G concerts. In fact, back in June he went to an Hombres G concert and that same night traveled to Boston to race the B.A.A 10K in the morning! As he told me, you have to do what you love even if it means only sleeping a few hours. It’s hard to have those opportunities and we have to make the most out of our time.

Pablo at a Bob Dylan concert

Like most of us who run year round and find injuries inevitable, Pablo battled a knee injury which took him out for about half a year. With cross training and strength workouts, he gained an appreciation for running and being healthy. Now that he’s back on track, Pablo’s next goal is the Philadelphia Marathon in November. It’ll be his second time in Philly as he recently went there with a QDR teammate for the Philadelphia Half where he boasts a time of 1:20!

Being Guatemalan, he’s inspired by Guatemalan racers like William Julajuj who ran a 2:18 in the Rotterdam Marathon. Pablo was a top runner from Guatemala at the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon and we know Pablo will keep pushing and placing high for his home country. One of the few things that reminds him of home is food, and one of his favorite restaurant that most closely resembles food from home is Luna de Xelaju in Jamaica, Queens.

We finished off our burgers by talking about what we were grateful for and what we hoped for the future. We can’t control life’s unexpected situations, but we can control our attitude towards what is given to us. Pablo thanked his athletic lifestyle because it has helped him live a healthy life and it gives him reasons to live, and now he intends to keep running as long as his body allows him to.


QDR wishes Pablo the best of luck for all his future races and goals!

Follow Pablo on Instagram.


En 2016, nuestro equipo tuvo una carrera casual corriendo hacía Little Neck para celebrar el día de acción de gracias y agradecer otro año en que estamos juntos como equipo. Antes de la carrera, estuve hablando con el futuro miembro Pablo Yax, quien estaba nervioso por correr tantas millas. Ahora sabemos que esa carrera de 10 millas fue una de las más largas para Pablo, y en ese tiempo, una de sus más difíciles.  Por su timidez y la barrera del lenguaje, Pablo se quedó callado y no participó mucho en las conversaciones. Pero siendo Queens Distance, un equipo de mucha diversidad en Queens, algunos de nosotros empezamos a conversar en español. De esa manera, Pablo se animó más y lo invitamos a que volviera a correr con nosotros.

Con el pasar de los años, hemos visto a nuestro equipo crecer en números y mantenerse unidos. Lo que uno da al equipo es lo que uno gana y Pablo no es una excepción. Lo siguiente es una entrevista que tuve recientemente con Pablo al fin de septiembre y una que señala la diversidad de Queens, lo que significa trabajar duro por una meta, y el desarrollo como persona.

Mientras Pablo y yo comíamos en Bareburger en Forest Hills (fue su primera vez!) él me platicó de su tiempo en Sololá, Guatemala. El llegó a Nueva York hace 16 años y ha disfrutado de la comunidad desde entonces. Pablo empezó a correr recientemente, hace tres años, en una de nuestras carreras y se ha vuelto en un corredor hábil y rápido. Su mejor maratón es de 2:51 en el maratón de Washington, D.C. este año!

En el maratón de Baltimore

Si has visto a Pablo correr, él corre con todo. El corre con determinación y con algo que sus compañeros han nombrado “Pablo Gear”—su modo de correr al final de una carrera cuando todo se siente difícil. ¿Cómo fue que empezó todo esto? Pablo no participó en prácticas de atletismo cuando era joven, pero él y su hermanos si jugaron un poco de fútbol. El jugaba fútbol pero no era tan bueno como su papá y sus hermanos que eran muy buenos. Después pasaron muchos años y él empezó a correr con Queens Distance, compitiendo en su primer 5K y primera carrera en nuestro QDR 5K Championships.

Cuando le pregunté qué es lo que le motivaba para correr, el lo pensó por mucho tiempo. Para la mayoría de nosotros, las razones por correr pueden ser tan fáciles como “quiero romper un récord”. Para algunos, corriendo es una manera de cambiar nuestras vidas por lo mejor. Para Pablo, el fumaba hace cinco años, comía comida chatarra, y dormía pocas horas. Ahora, él está motivado por sus cambios a una vida más saludable.

Desde su primera carrera, el ha seguido entrenando y corriendo más distancias largas. Fue en el 2016 Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn Half donde el se dio cuenta que podía correr distancias largas. Como el me dijo, él no corrió con zapatos adecuados ni mucho menos con un reloj y todavía corrió 1:27! El se acuerda muy bien de esa carrera porque al finalizar la carrera, descansó por media hora y cuando quería ir a su casa, se le entumecieron los pies con calambre. Aunque le costó tanto llegar a casa, fue una experiencia inolvidable.

1 horas y 27 minutos para Pablo en el Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn Half

A Pablo también le gusta la distancias largas porque no son tan intensas como el 5K y siente que puede mejorar su tiempo mucho más. Pablo ha demostrado mucha promesa en el maratón, mejorando su tiempo de 3:12 en 2017 en el Queens maratón, a 3 horas en Baltimore (donde fue con un compañero de QDR), a 2:57 en el TCS NYC Marathon, hasta finalmente lograr 2:51 en el maratón en Washington, D.C.

Cuando Pablo no está entrenando para estas carreras, él está trabajando en construcción y disfrutando de conciertos. Uno de sus favoritos conciertos son los de Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Allman Brothers Band, ZZ Top, y Hombres G. En junio, Pablo fue a un concierto de Hombres G y esa misma noche, viajó a Boston, para luego correr el B.A.A. 10K en la mañana! Como el me dijo, aveces tienes que hacer lo que amas aunque pierdas sueño. Es difícil tener esas oportunidades y tenemos que hacer lo más que podamos con nuestro tiempo.

Pablo en un concierto

Así como muchos de nosotros que corremos todo el año y nos lastimamos, Pablo se lesionó la rodilla, lo cual le dejó sin correr por seis meses. Con otros tipos de entrenamiento, él aprendió a valorar corriendo y estar con buena salud. Ahora que está de vuelta, la próxima meta de Pablo es el maratón de Philadelphia. Será su segunda vez en Philly, su primera fue hace poco con una compañera de QDR cuando corrió el medio maratón de Philadelphia en 1:20!

Pablo es guatemalteco y se inspira mucho por otros corredores guatemaltecos como William Julajuj que corrió 2:18 en el maratón de Rotterdam. Pablo fue unos de los mejores corredores guatemaltecos en el 2017 TCS NYC Marathon y nosotros sabemos que seguirá luchando y logrando mejores tiempos por su país y por si mismo. Una de las cosas que lo recuerda de Guatemala es la comida, y uno de sus restaurantes favoritos es Luna de Xelaju en Jamaica, Queens.

Los dos terminamos nuestras hamburguesas hablando de lo que estamos agradecidos y por lo que esperamos para el futuro. No podemos controlar las situaciones inesperadas, pero sí podemos controlar nuestra actitud por lo que se nos da. Pablo le dio gracias al atletismo porque le ha dejado vivir una vida saludable, con ganas de vivir, y él seguirá corriendo hasta que su cuerpo lo permite.


Pablo, Queens Distance te desea todo lo mejor en todas tus próximas metas!

Sigue a Pablo en Instagram.



Special thanks to Jessica Peralta and Guadalupe Cariño for the Spanish translation review and to Jose Donado for the cover image.