Pinhoti 100

Way back in the Spring, I registered for Pinhoti 100.  Honestly, I picked this race because a couple of my Team Ninja sisters were running it and I wanted to play in the woods with friends.  Being a point-to-point also made this an attractive race as well as the runnable course, though it had 15,000′ of elevation gain.  One of our group had to drop the race due to injury, so it was down to me and my favorite-est partner in trail-crime, Kelley.  In addition to experiencing this race with Kelley, some of my favorite people in the world were coming along for the ride.  Bobby came to help crew.  He went to Ouray, but that ended sooner than we had hoped so this would be a real test for him to see how he liked the gig.  Baha came to pace me and Greg and Fiona came to crew and pace Kelley.  History was made because it was the first time the Team Dirt & Vert trio have all been together at a big race.img_3738

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I experienced pre-race jitters for a solid two weeks before the race.  I think it was a combination of getting my mental game back on track and not wanting to let Baha down.  Pacing and crewing is a special gift, because it requires taking time away from work and family.  I appreciated Baha being there to pace me and I didn’t take the sacrifice lightly, at all.

When one registers for these events, they seem so far in the future that it is difficult to get your mind wrapped around the reality that you will actually be running ONE HUNDRED MILES.  My mind was still in denial, even after waking up and making the final preparations on Saturday morning.

We stayed near Talladega, which was slightly closer to the finish than the start.  We left in plenty of time to have a bathroom stop and get to the start line with about 30 minutes to spare.  While the weather was clear, it was SO COLD and hanging out, freezing, wasn’t something any of us wanted to do.  We stopped at a McDonald’s on the way, which was the same McDonald’s that the race busses had stopped at not long before us. As Bobby was buying coffee, the cashier mentioned that we had just missed the busses full of “5k runners”.  When Bobby told her that they weren’t running 5k but 100 miles, her jaw nearly hit the floor.  I laughed about that for a good 15 minutes and it was a nice break from the pre-race nerves.

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The whole crew just before the start.

We arrived at the Start at just the right time, only having to stand around for 10 minutes or so.  I was so ready to get going at that point just because I wanted to get warm!  Because everything I read about the race mentioned the “conga line” in the first miles of the race, I didn’t want to start near the back.  I didn’t want to start near the front, either, because I planned to use the conga line to pace myself in the early stages of the race.  Running always feels “easy” when you’re fresh and I knew that I would have even more difficulty holding back because the weather was forecast to be SPECTACULAR.  I endured the line for an hour before starting my move to the front of the pack.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I most likely ran the next several miles too fast, but the legs and lungs felt so strong and I honestly felt like I was running an easy, all-day pace.  Those first 20 miles were nothing but fun, except mile 13 when I rolled my ankle.  I tweaked it pretty hard, but it worked out easily enough and only bothered me going forward when I stepped wrong.  I did a pretty good job of staying on top of nutrition and hydration through these early miles, too.

Having crew is really a game-changer.  I had never run a race in which I had crew rushing from aid station to aid station, but it makes a huge difference in the amount of time spent at aid as well the mental aspect of the race.  I was able to see everyone at miles 6.7, 13.27, and 18.27 before a LONG stretch to mile 42 without them.  I kept thinking how weird it was that they all seemed giddy about how well I was running.  Like, guys….I’m taking it fairly easy out here!

I began to feel a little tired around the 50k mark, but I also think that the long stretch without seeing crew played a role in that as well.  I managed the climb up to Bald Rock just fine, although I hiked most of it.  I was relieved to make the descent down Blue Hell in the daylight, as I had heard many runners discussing that as key to doing well in the race.  After Blue Hell, I found myself at Cheaha Lake, mile 42, but…..my crew hadn’t arrived!  I called Bobby but signal was so terrible that I couldn’t tell if he had understood what I was trying to say.  I joked to myself that I was like Devon Yanko in Billy Yang’s film, “Life in a Day”.  All I really needed was my jacket, as the sun would be setting soon, so I resolved to keep moving fast enough to keep myself warm in my sweaty, long sleeve shirt.  I knew I could make do with the food I had on hand, took a couple extra minutes to eat at the aid station then decided to get on my way.  As luck would have it, I would be on the road for a couple of miles and I ended up passing them as they pulled into the aid station.  Fiona said to me, “You’re 20 minutes ahead!”  I laughed about that for a long time – as if I had one clue whether I was ahead or behind.  The important thing is that I was able to grab my jacket, restock nutrition and keep moving!

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Bald Rock

The Silent Trail section from miles 45-52 was much slower than I wanted.  The sun was beginning to set, the trail was littered with just enough large rocks to keep me from getting in any kind of running rhythm, and there were a ridiculously high number of water crossings.  This section started wearing on me mentally but I was able to make it to the 52 mile aid station still moving pretty well.  The next section was only 3 miles, and at the end of that 3 miles I would see my crew and pick up Baha.  Despite having those carrots dangling in front of me, I struggled to move well through through here. I barely managed to not completely suck, so I guess that I should be happy it wasn’t worse.

The race shifts when you get to pick up your pacer.  You aren’t alone anymore and you’re still feeling halfway decent which makes you care about running strong, whether you feel strong or not.  And having someone who is fresh and chatty helps divert your mind from the fact that your only halfway there.  The next miles clicked away about as fast as they could at that point in the race.  For some reason, I didn’t think I would see Bobby again until mile 85, but he was at mile 68!  That was an unexpected boost, for sure.  From Porter’s Gap at mile 68, we had to make the climb up Pinnacle.  I had asked a runner about that climb early in the race and his assessment was spot on.  He said that the number of switchbacks was what made it hard, that it was more mental than physical, and that most likely people felt it was the most difficult of the race because it was past the 100k mark.  I agreed with all of that.  We managed to make the climb then were able to see crew again at Pinnacle.  Bobby and Greg were both there…wait…Greg wasn’t supposed to be there..he was supposed to be with Kelley.  Bobby told me that Kelley had missed cutoff and was forced to drop from the race.  My heart sank.  I was so sad for her.

There was even more climbing after Pinnacle, WHY DID IT HAVE TO KEEP GOING UP??? The section from Wormy’s Pulpit to Bull’s Gap would quite literally run me into the ground. Those miles from 79-85 were the most difficult of the race, by far.  We were out there in the middle of the night, temps were freezing, the wind was howling, and I was at the point in the race that the pain and fatigue were winning and I COULD NOT stop thinking about Kelley.  It is also likely that I hallucinated here.  I could have sworn that Baha said he was going to the bathroom, so I leaned up against a tree and closed my eyes.  I opened them when I felt Baha staring at me, asked him if he was ready and off we went.  He later denied that he stopped for the bathroom.  <shrugs>  This section really beat me up.  I felt with each step my movement was getting worse.  I was so cold that my legs didn’t want to move.  I was SO TIRED and the pain was starting to get more and more intense. I ended up taking Advil to help with the pain.  Advil is always a last resort and part of me feels like it is cheating, but I needed to take the edge off in order to start moving again. I don’t think I’ve ever been as relieved to arrive at an aid station as I was at mile 85 aid.  Bobby had me sit down in a chair and we were working on taking in calories. Oh! Maybe one reason that last section SUCKED was because I DID NOT EAT ANYTHING.  I know so much, but execute so poorly at times.  I noticed Greg talking to Baha and figured that Baha was telling him how shitty I was running.  (I learned later that Baha was concerned he had pushed me so far that I might DNF, but that was NEVER a possibility in my mind.)  For a moment, I became angry with myself for allowing that last section to be SO BAD.  I quickly stopped the negative talk.  Negative talk certainly wouldn’t get me out of this mess, so might as well STOP.  (HUGE win for me!!)  After talking to Baha, Greg came over and asked me if we passed some females in that last section – um, what?  I DID NOT PASS ANYONE IN THAT LAST, SUCKY SECTION!!! Then I wondered, “WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME THIS STUPID QUESTION?”

My time telling skills were way off by this point, but it didn’t seem like we spent much time at mile 85.  It seemed like we were off again in no time.  We would be running mostly on Jeep roads to the next aid station, 10 miles away.  Baha stopped just as we left the aid station and asked me for 10 good miles, which I promised I would deliver.  I would have killed myself to give him 10 good miles, especially after that last, sucky stretch.  Luckily, the Advil had taken enough of the edge off that I began moving fairly well again.  Being on gravel roads helped a lot, too.  We had managed 5 pretty awesome miles when I suddenly felt a terrible pain go up the side of my left calf.  I still don’t know what happened, but it scared me to death.  I screamed, and I didn’t even scream when I broke my arm.  Honestly, the pain of that broken bone was nothing in comparison.  I know Baha had to have been worried, but he was so calm.  I tried to walk, but I couldn’t toe-off on that foot.  Initially, I was in panic mode, but that was quickly replaced with “I refuse to walk this thing in BECAUSE IT WILL TAKE FOREVER.”  Luckily, I had kept my poles and it only took a matter of minutes for me to work out a method of running.  We were off again!

We made it to the final aid station at mile 95 and had a “mere” 7.5 miles to go.  I was able to get some more calories in (you guessed it, didn’t eat anything to speak of in that 10 mile stretch) and Fiona rubbed some Runner’s High Herbals on my calf.  And that’s when Greg spilled the beans…..he said something about me being 6th female and 7th place was only 9 minutes back.  Me: “You mean age group?” Greg, “No, overall.” Me: “YOU ARE LYING!!!!”, then “HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE??” Soooooo glad I didn’t know that earlier because that would have been A THING for me to get mental about.  At least this way, I only had to fret for 7.5 miles about whether or not she would catch me.  I’LL BE DAMNED IF I LET HER CATCH ME AT THIS POINT.  And off Baha and I went again.

I fell at mile 98 after getting my pole stuck between my legs.  Don’t ask me how because my brain was too far gone to analyze what happened.  I took a moment to whine and whimper.  I really wanted to cry but I think I was too tired.  First my ankle, then my calf, NOW THIS.  I was so freaking tired and just wanted to be done AND THERE WAS SOME CHICK TRYING TO CATCH ME.  Jason told me to take my time….and I am thinking…he was being wayyyy too nice.  Why was he being so nice??? Am I THAT pathetic now?? Ok, enough of the pity party.  Get your ass up and GET MOVING.

Even though the remainder of the race hopped on and off trails, they were smooth and easy and mostly DOWNHILL.  We finally got dumped out onto a road where we came across a sign proclaiming, “Pinhoti runners – 2 miles to go!”  I asked Baha if that could be right and while he laughed, I was totally serious.  I wanted to be DONE!  Those 2 road miles seemed like the longest of the race! We finally turned off that road and I saw the back of the stadium and knew that we were home free!

I have such a great feeling of accomplishment tied to this race.  I felt that way about my other two 100 mile races, but this one is even more special.  I ran strong for the majority of the race.  I spent less time and distance walking/hiking even though this race was more difficult that my last two 100s. Point to point races are pretty awesome.  Oh, and Baha paced me to finish as 6th place female – more than I could ever have hoped for!

My crew and pacer made this all possible.  There is NO WAY I would have done this well on my own.  Thank you doesn’t do justice to my feelings of gratitude.  And I am soooo happy that Bobby was able to go and that he actually had a good time!  The experience is definitely more special since I was able to share it with him.

Until the next adventure!

 

 

 

2018 Recap – Finding the Positives

2017 was a stellar year for me.  I qualified for Boston in January; ran my first ultra in February; ran my first trail ultra in May and then I worked my way up the ultra distances, culminating with my first 100 mile finish in December.  I was pretty much on a high the entire year and didn’t give myself time to recover between races or process all the emotions that accompany such epic accomplishments.

So, when I found myself feeling a little funk-ish in mid-January, I didn’t think much of it.  I realized that I had asked a lot of my body and my mind in 2017, and it seemed quite normal that I was experiencing a bit of a low.

But the low continued.

I believe in the “fake it ’til you make it” mentality.  I still had Boston on the horizon.  I had to stay in the game.  I continued to train, but couldn’t maintain my usual intense focus.  I felt like I was drifting, without a goal.  Qualifying for Boston was the biggie.  Running Boston was like dessert.  I didn’t expect to run at my BQ pace because I had wanted to check off my first 100 miler more than I wanted to maintain my absolute speed for the road.

I continued to limp through training.  I was still consistent, but not as consistent as usual and I couldn’t manage to find enjoyment in the process like I usually did.

Spring Break came and I needed some trail therapy, BADLY.  I hadn’t been on a real trail since my 50 miler in October, 2017.  I talked my friend, Radkey, into coming with me to explore Cross Timbers on Lake Texoma.  It was amazing and difficult and more than I could have hoped. I was on Cloud 9.  And on our way back, I tripped, fell and broke my arm.

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Radkey & I enjoying the view before “the break”

The break obviously set me back, but my ortho gave me a soft cast and clearance to continue training.  I suddenly felt a renewed focus.  It was almost like I needed the added difficulty to give me a purpose.

Boston came.  The weather was horrible (by other’s standards – it didn’t bother me at all) and I was under trained but I crossed the start line with the intention of enjoying every step of that race.  I did just that.

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Enjoying Boston with my besties!
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Running on Boylston Street was an honor!

After Boston, I made the decision to change coaches.  I loved my coach, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was time for a change. The decision was a difficult one that I agonized over.  In the end, I trusted my gut instinct and made a leap of faith.  I knew that in order to conquer the mountains, I needed someone who knew how to build a mountain runner.

With Boston behind me, it was time to turn my focus back to trails!!  I had Possum’s Revenge 50 miler just 3-4 weeks after Boston and went in undertrainined…again (broken record – story of 2018 so far!).  I ended up struggling toward the end, but there is always some beauty to be found in the misery.  I shared those last miles with someone who was also struggling and we ended up becoming the best trail buds!!

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We had no idea what great buddies we would soon become

With Possum’s behind me, I could now focus on my <foolish> goal of running Ouray 50 miler.  I had an entire 2 months to train for this beast and literally had NO CLUE what I was up against.  But I had a bit of a renewed sense of excitement for training, which was a nice feeling.

I showed up for Ouray knowing that I had slim to none chance for a finish, but I was just there for the challenge whatever the result. I got halfway before missing the cut, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything…and I was now IN LOVE with the mountains!

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I can’t wait to go back and finish what I started.

Coming back after Ouray, I had to go right into training for Cactus Rose 100 at the end of October.  However, workouts weren’t going well.  I was fatigued ALL THE TIME and all I wanted to do was sleep.  When I ran I felt wheezy and out of breath.  I couldn’t see any improvement in my fitness despite all the heat training I was doing.  I was becoming seriously concerned that I was suffering from depression.  I had also contemplated whether I was actually cut out for endurance.  It was a dark time filled with a lot of doubt and apprehension.

I had considered Inside Tracker blood testing several times, but had never pulled the trigger.  I decided that the time had come and finally ordered my blood test.  I received the results just days before my next race: Alamo City 50k.  The test revealed that I was severely deficient in Ferritin.  I was overwhelmed with this knowledge, but it was also very freeing.  I FINALLY had a reason for the way I had been feeling!

Alamo City 50k ended up being my worst 50k to date, but I fought through the fatigue, finished and had hope for what was to come. I just had to hang in there and give my body a chance to recover from this setback.

I started supplements very soon after learning about my Ferritin deficiency and the results were almost immediate.  My mood improved, I no longer felt the need to sleep all the time and the BEST thing: I could feel the fitness improving each and every workout!

Cactus Rose was quickly approaching and the dread I had initially felt was replaced with an excitement about getting out there to race.  Plus, my best trail bud had volunteered to come crew and pace!  Tommy knew of my struggle to get back to being myself and deemed that Cactus Rose would be my reset race.

He was so right!!  Cactus Rose 100 ended up being my best race ever!  Thanks to Tommy, the great training provided by my coach and my body getting back to normal, I felt like I finally “raced” a race.  I came out of that event with a renewed confidence in myself.

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Tommy pushed me farther than I have ever been able to push myself.  The experience was a highlight of 2018.

I closed out 2018 by pacing my friend, Brent, to his first 100 mile finish at Brazos Bend 100.  The next weekend, I was able to return the favor to Tommy and crew and pace him at his first 100 mile finish at Loup Garou 100.  Being there, helping him get to that finish line is one of my most rewarding experiences to date!

Counting Blessings

Cactus Rose was more than a restart for me in my racing world – it was a reset for me mentally as well.  Since then, I have started to feel like I am myself again.  Mentally, I am focused and more confident and I am excited about tackling some big challenges in 2019.

For the biggest part of the year, I had negative feelings when I thought about 2018.  But as my health and mental state have improved, I am seeing the year in a positive light.

  • I started and ended the year pacing and crewing.  Focusing on others and helping them achieve their goals is a good way to stay grounded and provides a different and meaningful way to stay connected to the ultra running community.  I wasn’t able to volunteer as much as I wanted in 2018, but the time that I was able to volunteer was extremely rewarding as well.
  • I ran the BOSTON MARATHON.  It was a truly amazing experience that I’ll treasure for years to come.
  • Changing coaches ended up being one of the biggest blessings of the year!  Greg’s training has made me stronger than I ever imagined that I could be and we have just started.  A special bonus is the Team Ninja family that I inherited as a result.  I have grown to love these people as if they were a part of my family.  The camaraderie has enriched my life more than words can describe!
  • My oldest daughter got married and we had a fabulous time celebrating with friends and family.
  • I met my best trail buddy.  We are so much alike it is a little freakish and have wondered if we are twins that were separated at birth.  His friendship has definitely enriched my life!
  • Continuing on through the adversities of the year definitely built some mental callouses that will come in handy in tough times to come.
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    Just some of my Team Ninja family ❤

Here’s to 2019: testing limits and having adventures!

Racing from the flip side: reflections of a pacer

Last weekend, I crewed and paced my bestest trail buddy to his first 100 mile finish.

I LOVE crewing and pacing.  It is completely different from the grind of racing, yet so important to the success of a runner, especially over the course of 100 miles.  Because crew and pacer can make or break the race for a runner, it comes with A LOT of pressure.  And contrary to what many people believe, pacing is NOT about keeping your runner company.

I was so fortunate to have a good friend and fellow Ninja teammate, Kelley Mims, to come along for the fun.  Kelley grew up in Louisiana and loves any excuse to go for a visit.  Plus, she loves trail running as much as me and is always willing to help someone out.  We were also camped next to some Dallas Dirt Runner gals and helped out with them when we could.  We ended up having some hilarious adventures with Ang while all our runners were out on the loop.  I honestly can’t wait until I see her again!!

The race

The race was held at Chicot State Park somewhere in the middle of Louisiana and started at 7AM.  The race was to be 5 loops of 20 miles, with me jumping in at mile 60 to bring him home to the finish.  The weather was cool and overcast, with some misting throughout the day. Kelley and I would soon learn, as Tommy came in off the first loop, that the trails were muddy with standing water in some areas of the course from rains that had moved through during the week.  Kelley and I worked to get Tommy everything he needed so that we could get him back out as quickly as possible. I taped a hot spot, slathered as much Trail Toes as I could get on his feet and sent him on his way.  Tommy was moving well, but I was REALLY concerned about the feet.  It was clear to me that feet were going to be the battle of the day.

Between second and third loop, Tommy was still moving well and looking good.  Kelley had taken one for the team and warmed up his macaroni & cheese with tuna (I COULD NOT warm up tuna. GAG)  I taped a hot spot on his other foot, slathered more Trail Toes on, then on with dry socks.  He also opted to change shoes.  I should have stopped this – I should have made him wait until the start of the 4th loop.  He didn’t have another dry pair with him and I didn’t override my gut on that one.  I’m not sure if it made a huge difference or not, but everytime I reflect on it, I regret letting that happen so early.

Tommy would update us at mile 8 and mile 16 aid stations each loop.  I could tell during loop 3 that it was becoming difficult for him.  He came in at the end of loop 3, 60 miles behind him, looking tired and a little defeated.  But I know from firsthand experience that knowing you get your pacer can pick up the mood, so I was hoping that would help to put a little pep in his step.  We changed his socks (again), and this time there were blisters to attend to.  I did everything I could to make his feet more comfortable, but all day trapsing through mud and water in wet shoes was beginning to take its toll.  Kelley and I were trying to get calories in him as well, but he wasn’t having much of that.

Off we went on loop 4.  The course was fun.  I didn’t think the first 4 miles were nearly as bad as everyone had said, but then again, I was fresh as a daisy and hadn’t been battling the course all day.  Tommy was moving slow.  I had a good idea what battles he was fighting in his mind.  I had to be careful at this point.  I knew we were in that delicate time during a 100 miler when your body is telling you to eff off, you’re off your goal pace and you can’t see any hope in the situation.  I had to keep him in it, but without pushing him to a point that he went over the edge mentally.  I never feel that I handle this part well.  I can troubleshoot your GI issues, take care of your feet and manage all the other moving parts, but I feel like I always fall short in managing the mental state.  In any case, I was concerned.  I knew he was in a bad place, but somehow I managed to keep him eating and drinking and moving.  Now if we can make the feet last 30 more miles….

We came in from loop 4 and I went to work on Tommy’s feet.  Kelley had gone out to pace a runner from Dallas Dirt Runners who didn’t have a pacer lined up, so I was on my own! LOL.  God bless Tommy.  His feet were a mess.  I drained so many blisters…again.  I drained one with blood – I know, I know – but I had to do what I had to do.  I joked that I could do this without issue but warming up mac & cheese with tuna crossed the line.  Tommy wasn’t about to eat anything.  I know how the stomach feels at mile 80, so I didn’t push it too much.  Tommy asked about dry shoes, but we had none.  Oh how I wish he could have worn my shoes, but they were just a tad too small.  We sat for a minute to let him reset, then we were off for the victory lap.

Tommy got cold while we were in camp and wanted to take it slow for a bit to get warmed up.  After the first mile, I was beginning to worried.  We HAD to pick up the pace or we wouldn’t make cutoff.  But suddenly, he started running.  I asked about it and he said that he realized he felt better running than walking.  I’ve been there and know how that feels.  That was all the confirmation I needed to know that I could start pushing him more.  I knew that the key to keeping him moving was to keep him from submerging his feet again.  If I was successful at that and could keep, at least, a slow flow calories in him then I could get him to the finish!  We started making a wide berth around the muddy areas and when I couldn’t find a way around, I would find a way through.  We used logs already laying in place, or I found logs to drag a path across.  I would then wade in so Tommy could grab my shoulder for stability.  I was willing to carry him across on my back, if it had come to that.  With each mile, I could see him becoming stronger physically and mentally.   Come hell or high water, I wanted to get him in under 28 hours.  And he made it 🙂

Tommy ended up crossing the finish in 27:26:42.  I was so proud that my eyes actually got watery.  I was more proud than I would have been if he had hit his original goal of sub – 24.  He experienced the misery that 100 miles had to offer and WON the battle!

Welcome to the 100 mile club, Tommy.  You EARNED it!!

Ouray 50 – My First Mountain Race and My First DNF

It’s been a long hiatus, but I’m going to throw my hat back into the blogging ring with a report of my attempt at the 50 mile run at Ouray 100 and 50 Mile Endurance Runs.

I went into this race as strong as was possible.  I chose this race while my hands were tied with broken arm/Boston training, plus I already had a 50 miler planned one month after Boston.  I know I give my coach a really big headache with the way I schedule races.  Being prepared for a 50 miler a month after marathon training seemed really doable when I registered for it.  Preparing for the most ridiculously hard mountain race (my first mountain race, mind you), which was a mere TWO MONTHS after running a 50 miler in Texas  also seemed very doable at the time. Apparently I have some sort of dissociation complex, in which I can’t process the negatives associated with the way I pick races.  Once the 50 miler in Texas was done, I started training for climbing. Reality set in and I quickly realized that I had gotten myself in wayyyyyy over my head.

I contacted the RD of Ouray well before Boston to see if he would accept my finish at Brazos Bend 100 as my qualifier for this race – he basically said that if I was brave enough to register, that I was welcome!  I still waited for quite some time to register because the family couldn’t come with and I was anxious about driving alone. In the end that was wasted energy because Kolbe volunteered to come with me!  We had a great time travelling (I did, at least) and I appreciated her coming along for the ride.

Highlight of the drive to Ouray was stopping in Silverton to find THE Hardrock!

I was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof during the drive up to Ouray.  I told Kolbe that I felt I was driving myself to my own execution.  I had a pretty good understanding of what I would be facing and also understood that there was no way to replicate those climbs in my area of Texas.  I realized that a finish was likely out of my reach – I just wanted to race in the San Juans and see what I could accomplish.

We arrived in Ouray on Thursday afternoon and went immediately to pick up my bib.  Suddenly, a wave of calm rushed over me (even though I had been given “lucky” bib #13).  It’s hard to feel nervous when you stand in that valley and see the majesty of those mountains ALL around you.

Friday, Kolbe and I “attempted” a hike on the Ouray Perimeter Trail, but we ended up on a closed section where I had to literally use my hands not to slide down the side of the mountain.  I finally admitted that we had somehow gone off the maintained trail, we backtracked and found the location where we missed the turn to stay on the actual trail.  I chose to see this as my one wrong turn while in Ouray,  rather than to see it as a foreboding of difficulties ahead.  We had planned this hike around Ouray to include visiting Box Canyon, but after taking the wrong trail, decided to drive there instead.

Kolbe is much better at posing for pics. And I realized I didn’t take any pics at Box Canyon – just videos

Our breath was taken away by the visit to Box Canyon, where we witnessed a waterfall within the mountain.  I was also able to walk through the tunnel and down the stairs that would take me out of Ouray on the first section of the 50 miler.  We were planning to rent a Jeep and explore some of the Jeep roads that would take me to the trails during the race, but it rained all afternoon and neither of us felt like driving around in the rain.  I used this time to re-organize all my gear and get things race ready.  The rains finally moved out for good (for Friday, anyway) and after dinner we soaked in the Hot Springs.  My legs enjoyed that and it set me up for a really good sleep.

Saturday morning, I was up early as usual even though the race didn’t start until noon.  I was surprisingly calm – I was just ready to get out there and experience all the race had to throw at me.  We went for breakfast at a coffee shop we had found the day before and enjoyed coffee and bagels and more coffee.  When we got back to the hotel, the antsy started setting in.  I couldn’t stay busy enough.  It was impossible to sit still, but I really didn’t have anything to do. We decided to head to Fellin Park around 10 and just hung around, chatting with others, until it was time for the race to begin. North Texas had a good showing – there were 3 guys from Dallas Dirt Runners there, as well as myself.  We had set up our own little Facebook group to compare training and share info.  I registered for this race thinking that I would be going alone, but it was so nice to be able to share with others from my area.  I also met a guy at my motel from Ft Worth that ran the 100 and we met yet another Texan while waiting on the race to start.  While we were waiting for those final moments to tick away, Mother Nature reminded us who was boss with a quick rain and hail storm.  I had <seriously> joked that I would not be happy unless I was hailed upon during the race, so check that box off the list.  I was also able to use the little stash of duct tape that I had in my pack to secure my SPOT tracker, so I was pretty pumped about that as well. It clearly doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Before we knew it, RD was counting down and off we went.  We hit the Perimeter Trail, up the stairs, through the tunnel, then onto the Jeep roads that would eventually take us to the Weehawken aid station.  That first little section was mostly on Jeep roads, but still clocked 1300′ in ascent and Mother Nature unloaded on us with pouring rain.  The next section up Weehawken Pack Trail to the Alpine Mine Overlook was up the side of a mountain on beautiful single track.  Mother Nature still had quite a bit in store for us and we were rained and hailed on again.  I laughed like a 5 year old – I had so much fun!!!  And while the hail stung a bit, it was so small that it didn’t cause an issue.  I didn’t even bother getting my jacket out.  I did attempt to record with my phone, but my hands were wet so I aborted that attempt quickly.  The DDR boys were a bit ahead of me, but I was still happy with my climbing at this point.  I reached the overlook just as they were about to head back down.  Bryan was kind enough to snap a couple of photos of me and we all began the descent together.  The sun was shining now and it was actually a little warm (I secretly wished for another downpour – I would later get my wish).  We didn’t want to blow our quads on the first descent, so we made our way down quickly, but didn’t bomb down the mountain.  The trails were also wet and slippery in places and I actually slid off the trail once.  We made it back to Weehawken AS, quickly refilled water, ate and moved onto the next section.  One of the volunteers told us the next section was a “burly” climb.  I appreciated the honesty.  We had clocked about 2360′ of vertical ascent in this section and were up to a rough total of 3,680.

Coming out of the tunnel to cross the bridge at Box Canyon.

 

Can’t. Punch. The. Bib.
Ended up with a hanging chad.
Complete elation at this point

To get to the next section, we had to go back down the Jeep road that had brought us to Weehawken (DOWN!!!), then we would take a right onto another Jeep road that was somehow more steep than the one we were on.  After what seemed like an eternity, I finally made it to the trail head.  It was raining….again and hailing…again.  Honestly, the weather didn’t bother me.  I kind of liked it.  It kept me cool (still hadn’t put a jacket on).  This section was…..tough.  We left Weehawken 25 min ahead off the cutoff, which meant I had about 3 hours and 30 minutes to get out to Crystal Lake and back to Fellin Park.  Only 7.1 miles.  As soon as I started climbing, I knew I would be cutting it close.  The trail was roughly 2.2 miles to Hayden Pass with 3600′ gain.  Which sounds totally doable, right?  I was moving so slow.  The climb was relentless – there was never really a break in going UP.  Even the switch backs – take a turn and you’re still going UP.  I am sure altitude played a role in my energy level, but the main contributor was that I just wasn’t fueling.  I had my poles out and it was a real hassle to get the gel out, get the baggie for trash out and manage the poles while I was doing all this.  Plus, so much of this was on the side of the mountain.  I waited (foolishly) to fuel until I made it to a section that wasn’t as exposed.  By this time I was behind on fueling yet I continued to take only one gel at a time.  I kept thinking that I had to be nearing Hayden Pass.  One of the 100 mile runners came down and I asked her if I was getting close.  I love truthful people.  She said, “No.  Sorry.  You’re going to keep going up. Then down just a bit.  Then up some more.”  I felt like I would never get to the pass!  When I did, I knew I was falling behind on time, but part of this journey was about the experience.  I took a minute to soak in the beauty of the view and snap a pic.  Then I was on my way again.  After the pass, there was a relatively flat section that cut across the mountain – my best guess is that it was about a mile long.  It was above the tree line so the views were amazing.  I knew that I just needed to get across to start my descent into Crystal Lake, but at this point I was getting dangerously close to the cutoffs.  I finally made it across and started the descent.  I was moving as quickly as possible, but also cautiously because the trails were still a bit wet.  I passed several runners making their way back up and they all felt I had time to make the cutoff.  I wasn’t convinced, but I had to give it my all.  I met the DDR boys and Bryan told me to “run like the Devil was chasing me.”  I continued as quickly as possible, but was slowed due to a more technical section. DAMN.  I made it to the bottom, but the aid station was near the parking area for Crystal Lake – I ran as fast as my legs would take me, but I knew I had missed the cutoff…by FIVE MINUTES.  When I came into the AS, the volunteers asked what I needed.  I said, “I missed the cutoff.”  They told me the cutoffs were “soft” and that I looked really good, so they would let me continue.  I got tears in my eyes and nearly started crying.  I DID NOT want my race to end at Crystal Lake.  I knew that, realistically, getting back to Fellin before the cutoff would take everything I had – and then some – but for some reason, my mind felt that getting halfway before a drop would make it more palette-able.  Bryan’s wife, Shellene, was a God-send.  She had waited there for me and refilled my bladder while I was digging out a long sleeve shirt, stuffing more gels in my pockets and eating.  I was in and out of that aid station in less than 5 minutes.  I couldn’t have done it without Shellene!!

Hayden Pass
The beauty that was the run across Hayden Mountain

Now I had the pleasure of climbing BACK up to Hayden Pass.  As I made my way past the trail head, Mother Nature opened up the skies again and dumped more pouring rain and hail down on me.  I went just a little way before I decided to get out my jacket.  I had just put on this dry long sleeve shirt and I knew that the mile across the top of the mountain would be cold.  It was windy up there and the sun was starting to set – wet clothes wouldn’t make that any easier.  Onward and upward I went, maybe just a tad faster than my ascent from the other side of the mountain, but not much.  Luckily, the way back was a shorter ascent with only 2,600′ gain.  I made it to the top, crept across the mountain and was elated to finally be back at the pass and ready to go DOWN.  The elation was short-lived, though, as I soon discovered that the trail was now a muddy slip-n-slide after the day of rain – in many places the trail served as the avenue for the rain water runoff.  I’m not the best at sliding down slopes (without skis, anyway), so this section was painfully slow.  The glimmer of hope that I had of making it to Fellin before the cutoff was quickly snuffed out.  My lack of fueling was also beginning to catch up to me in a bad way.  I knew that I needed to eat, but, but, but…..

This last section was the darkest part of the race, for me.  I felt pretty defeated.  I was exhausted.  I could tell that mentally I was starting to drift.  I just wanted to get back to Fellin Park.  The great thing about mountain races is that no one is coming to save you.  You can’t take any shortcuts down.  I had to see it through.  I reminded myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  As slow as it was, I just had to keep moving.  I also had to pee ALL THE TIME, like I did during the night at Brazos.  Still haven’t figured out if this is how my body reacts to the cold, or if I was low on sodium.  I stopped to take an Oral IV, but had to pee AGAIN not long after.  At one point, I thought I was off course.  The trail looked different in the dark and I think the runoff made it look different as well.  I was able to use the Gaia app that I had downloaded and could see that I was still on course. (I continued on and found a flag just steps later.)  It was at this point that I also realized that I was still a very long way from Fellin.  I decided to try to text Kolbe – weird thing is that I had better service on the side of the mountain than in Ouray!  It was around 10pm and I told Kolbe I hoped to be there by 11, but clearly would miss the 10:10 cutoff.

As luck would have it, I was much closer to the trail head than I realized.  I was so excited to be back on the Jeep roads.  I ran as quickly as I could, but those little roads seemed to go on forever!  After what seemed like an eternity, I was back on Camp Bird Road, which would take me to the Ouray Perimeter Trail and then back to the streets of Ouray to Fellin Park.  That last stretch of road to Fellin Park seemed never ending.  Then I missed the turn to go over the bridge to get back to Fellin.  Luckily, some people were out walking and asked where I was going.  They told me I had overshot the turn by about 1/4 mile.  (GREAT)  One of the ladies in the party ran me back to the turn (God bless her!).  She told me that she had attempted the 100 for the 4th year in a row and DNF’d for the 4th year in a row.

Getting back to Fellin was a mixed bag of emotions.  I knew I was too late to continue but I was glad that the suffering was finally ending.  If I had been given the opportunity to go back out, I’m quite certain I would have declined.  That bothered me initially, but some time and perspective has allowed me to decide to use that as fuel for next time.  In the end, I climbed around 9,900′ – not nearly as much as I had hoped but much more than my legs have ever handled at one time!

I was so muddy. Kolbe was bringing stuff in from the car. I didn’t know what to do or where to sit…..so I sat on the toilet. LOL!!

In the end, I’m pretty happy with it.  I was able to get halfway through this beast with 2 months of dedicated training (not bad for a flatlander from Texas!), so clearly the training that I did paid off.  I was so worried about my quads, but they felt so strong even though they dealt with more descent ever before.  My mental game was decent.  The only thing that really got to me was the climbs.  I felt defeated and was angry that those climbs were so slow.  I realize now that some of this was altitude but a very large part was TERRIBLE fueling.  Terrible fueling isn’t new for me – it has been an ongoing problem for me in races and training.

Special shout out to my coach, Greg, for encouraging me to take on this challenge and getting me as ready as humanly possible!!!

There will be a next time – I’m already planning to go back!!  But for 2019, I’m going to train more than 2 months and see how far I can go!

 

It’s Race Week!!

Here I am, FINALLY just 4 days away from my first 100 mile attempt and so much is going through my mind.  The strangest thing is what isn’t going through my mind.

Generally speaking, I LOSE MY MIND every time I taper.  It is a common affliction and many in my sport like to call it the “Taper Crazies”.  I am usually consumed with anxiety, restless energy, doubts and fears.  More times than not, I do something really, really stupid.  Like going for my first open water swim, slipping on the boat ramp and breaking my toe.  Or I go crazy on Ultra Sign Up and register for races that are harder than the one I’m about to run.

But this taper…. The taper before the BIGGEST race of my life to date, and I have yet to experience any anxiety, doubt, restless energy, or fear.  I keep trying to assess why I am so calm, because there HAS to be something wrong, right? Or maybe not.

I am confident.  I worked my ass off in training.  No, I didn’t run every mile that was scheduled, but I was consistent.  And during all that training, I never went out and “just” ran.  Knowing I gave it my all has helped me trust my training.

I am mentally tough.  I fought many mental battles during training and spent countless hours outside of training getting my mind right.  I read everything I could get my hands on and listened to countless podcasts to gain insight into tackling this distance.

I am prepared.  I have packed everything (times 3 – no kidding) that I can think of that I might remotely need.  (Well, I’ve decided not to take the kitchen sink.)

I know that nothing is guaranteed.  NOTHING IS GUARANTEED.  I may not finish and I am OK with that.  My goal this year was to push myself and get to that place that I had to fight with every fiber of my being to continue.  If I get to that place and I am unable to finish, I will still have accomplished what I set out to do.

Pain isn’t optional – it’s guaranteed.  Whether or not I suffer is completely and totally up to me.

This distance is ridiculously far.  I understand the challenges that I’ll be facing, but I’ll also be in the same boat as veterans toeing the start line.  No one can predict what hardships will be visited upon them during the course of 100 miles.  Part of the challenge; part of the lure of this distance is that uncertanty.

My race plan is aggressive.  Probably too aggressive for my first 100, but, honestly, how does one really know what “too aggressive” is on their first attempt??  Many have suggested that I should just “race just to finish”, but I’m not a race just to finish kind of gal. In most of my races this year, I had a feeling going in what I would run.  And every race, I was within minutes of my guess.  After this happened a couple times, I began to trust my instincts more and more.  I feel in all my being that this is the right race plan for me.  I know that it won’t go completely according to plan.  Hell, it may not go AT ALL according to plan!  But if/when it all falls apart, I’ll use my strengths, which is assessing my situation and coming up with possible solutions.

This race is going to be epic.  It will be an epic success or an epic failure.  But if I fail to finish, I will be FAR from a failure.  If I fail to finish, I will have hopefully found that place, that line that I’ve not been able to find, let alone cross.  If that line is revealed to me, I suspect I’ll have learned much more about myself than I would have coasting easily and cautiously to the finish line, if I had just raced to finish.  Either way, I believe that I will prove to myself something that I’ve known (but not acknowledged) for a very long time – 100 miles is going to prove to be my favorite distance.

Rawhide 50 Race Recap

Last yeimg_7361ar, I ran Ragnar Hill Country and fell IN LOVE with the trails at Flat Rock Ranch.  I wasn’t an experienced trail runner, at all, and I wasn’t nearly as strong of a runner as I am now.  The trails left my body a little battered and my ego severely bruised.  At the time, I was still building strength after a psoas injury and I had been forced to ask my teammates to pick up my last miles so that I could recoup and focus on qualifying for Boston at the Houston Marathon.  It was absolutely the right call but runners like to feel strong and invincible and I felt anything except strong and invincible.

I’m not really sure when I decided that I would run a 50 miler in 2017, but I had already signed up for Brazos Bend 50 by January 11.  One day, I happened across Rawhide 50 miler and was immediately intrigued because it was at Flat Rock Ranch.  A chance for redemption AND my first 50 miler??  It was too much temptation to resist.  But…the cutoff was tight.  The race was small.  I remembered how my legs felt after 23 miles on those trails and I would be doubling that.  I genuinely didn’t know if I could do it.

I revisited my word of the year (suggested to my by my Soul Sister Jenn), which was “CONQUER”.  I though about what Jenn had said to me when she suggested that word:  “You need to conquer self-doubt, second guessing and feeling inadequate.”  Part of being able to conquer those things was to put myself in situations where I wasn’t guaranteed success and being OK with myself if I didn’t “succeed”.  So I decided to go for it.  I would attempt something that I really didn’t believe I could do (and at that time, I really did not believe that I could do it).

The storm before the race

Shouldn’t that say, “the calm before the storm”?  No.  No, it shouldn’t.

The last couple of races, I haven’t fretted at all.  I packed the day I left, hoped I didn’t forget anything and rolled up to the start line without a care in the world.  This race wasn’t like that at all.

A couple of weeks before Rawhide, I started to fret.  I hadn’t been having the best long runs and my confidence was a little cracked.  I started worrying about the weather.  The realization hit me that I was about to run 50 MILES on some fairly tough terrain with a very tight cutoff.  Panic set in as I started realizing that I might not finish.

And then, allergies happened.  Even though I am on allergy shots and take allergy medicine, I always find myself in a battle during peak Ragweed season.  Monday night, I didn’t sleep much.  I felt achy and I had the post-nasal drainage which made my throat sore.  I had to work really hard not to panic (and I still did, kind-of).  I changed allergy meds, got my next shot as soon as I was able and started using the neti pot again.  All this helped but I still wasn’t sleeping well.  I didn’t feel like myself.  All I could think about was how hard running 50 miles would be if I started out feeling well.  I wasn’t sure I could do it if I started out feeling like crap.

Renegade sisters head South

Carmen and Jen reunited again!!! Carmen and I left around noon on Friday.  We were going to drive down to the ranch, grab our packets, eat and head to our Airbnb.  We took the scenic route, meaning we avoided I-35, and had a wonderful drive.  I miss getting to see Carmen and love our adventures together.img_7360

I still felt terrible.  I was exhausted.  But I tried to act like all was well.

We made it to the ranch and got checked in then set up our canopy and unloaded the stuff that we could (which was a huge weight lifted for race morning).  I don’t think either one of us could believe that in less than 12 hours we would be out on the course!img_7359

We decided on pizza and headed to the restaurant.  I felt like I walked into a twilight zone.  We didn’t quite fit in.  There were ashtrays on every table.  People were at the bar, hanging all over each other and acting a fool.  LOL.  We sat at a table without anyone acknowledging us for about 5 minutes, so I started looking for other options.  There was another pizza place, so off we went!  It was so cute and just our style and I’m so glad we made the decision to switch.

After eating, we made our way to our Airbnb, which was a little apartment over a garage.  It was so cute and cozy.  We turned the AC on high, crawled under the covers and the next thing I knew, my alarm was going off.  I SLEPT SO WELL!!!  I felt like a new woman and was so relieved that I could start the race feeling halfway human.  I might have a chance!!  We had our breakfast and got ready and were off to the ranch!

The journey begins

Loop 1 

The challenge of a long distance race is not to go out too fast.  I struggle in this department.  It is difficult to hold back in the beginning when you feel so fresh.  Plus, since the race started at 5 AM, the cover of darkness and cool air caused me to feel even better.  I settled in to a comfortable pace right behind another woman.  In the dark, I was more concerned with keeping my light and eyes on the trail in front of me than I was concerned with checking my pace.  I stayed right with her until after we passed through the first aid station.  When my watch signaled the next mile marker, which was around 7, I realized that I was WAY ahead of even my best case race scenario.  When we hit the next hill, I stopped to hike to slow myself down and let her go on her way.  I was more interested in not blowing up my race than I was in keeping up with her.
At this point, I knew that I was sitting in 3rd.  At the race start, I had counted the females – there were only 6 – and I knew that 2 of them were behind me from the beginning.  Plus, we had passed another female at the aid station so I was confident that I was sitting in 3rd.  I slowed some but still ran faster than I should have. I justified this by telling myself the more miles I could cover before the head of the day, the better off I would be.  The last forecast I had seen predicted sunny skies with a high of 85 – I expected a struggle.img_7362

I rolled off the first loop, feeling good in 2:28, which was, um, about 20 minutes faster than 11 hour pace.  Going in, I was hoping to get better than 12 and, in my opinion, getting 11:00 would have been nothing  short of a miracle.  Carmen was ready and waiting.  She helped me refill my bladder and confirmed to me that I was 3rd female.  I was feeling good, it was still cool and I didn’t want to waste any time at camp.  (Another one of my goals for the race.)  I ran back out, only to realize that I hadn’t grabbed any gels for the loop, so back I went to grab my fuel.

Loop 2 – Struggle bus loop

It didn’t take me long on loop 2 to start feeling fatigue.  Thankfully, there was cloud cover, but the humidity was so thick that it reminded me of the 97% humidity at Houston Marathon.  I felt like I was sucking air through a straw.  This loop was also much more technical and rocky than loop 1 and that slowed me down some, but I still kept a decent pace in the runnable sections. Midway through the loop, I encountered huge, flat boulder-size rocks that were slick from the humidity.  I stopped to text Carmen and Tim to let them know that I was slowing down because of that.  I really struggled from miles 18-when I came in at mile 25.  I was getting a little achy – I had been a little achy from the allergy mess the past few days – and I realized that my calories were low.  I decided that I would take some time when I came off the loop to force some calories down and recoup before tackling the second half of the race.

I suffered A LOT of paranoia on this lap.  I knew I was 3rd female going into the lap, but I had no idea how close 4th place was.  Even though I only ran into a couple of runners on this loop, I kept hearing what I thought was a woman’s voice in the distance so I naturally thought it was #4 and that she was gaining on me.  (Later I realized that the “voices” I heard were either the 10k’ers or goats, or maybe a mixture of both.) The volunteers at the Loop 2 aid station were ROCKSTARS!  They cheered me on when I rolled into camp and told me that I was 3rd female (without me even asking).  I only stopped for a moment before rolling on.

As the loop went on, I felt more and more fatigue and achiness, but I was determined to keep moving as fast as my legs would allow.  I stopped to text Tim to ask him to make me some oatmeal, if he arrived at camp in time.  I knew it would be close and was kicking myself for being so far ahead of schedule early on.  Thinking about the possibility of eating oatmeal was the carrot that got me through the end of that loop.  My mouth was watering thinking about oatmeal those last 3 miles.  I finally rolled into camp at 10:25 (Tim was hoping to arrive by 10:30) and Tim wasn’t there. I grabbed some pretzels from the aid station and a peanut butter and jelly wrap from the cooler, sat down and started force feeding myself.  Man, all that stuff tasted horrible and the last thing I wanted to do was to eat but I knew that I had to get some calories down.  I also made the decision to take Ibuprofen for the aches.  I never take it and I have it available in my pack for emergencies.  It’s a once-per-race Hail Mary and I had already been weighing the pros and cons to taking now or at mile 38.  I ran to the restroom and as I came out, Tim was walking by!  We went back to camp and he got to work refilling my bladder while I started grabbing my fuel for the loop.

I used all my will power to get myself moving and out for the next loop – I had already spent a good 15 minutes in camp and needed to get back out.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  I was disappointed due to having these issues so early in the race, but I knew that I had to deal with whatever the day threw at me.  So I forced myself to get up and back out I went.

Loop 3 – Riding the wave

Early on in loop 3, I changed my fueling strategy.  I was using Vfuel gels without any stomach issues, but wasn’t able to sustain my energy levels.  I knew that I needed to try to maintain 250-300 calories per hour, or 60-90 grams of carbohydrate.  Luckily, I had remembered my Mas Korima corn cookies and thrown some in my pack for this loop.  I started taking a gel at :00 and :30 and two cookies at :15 and :45.  This got me to my target of 300 calories/hour and 61 grams of carbs, so I was right on the money.  It didn’t take long for me to feel like I was on top of the world.  I could not believe the energy that I had.  It was AMAZING!  The miles started clicking away and I kept feeling better and better.

I wasn’t far from the mid-loop aid station when I got a text from Tim.  I decided to check and see what it said – I had asked him to find out where F4 was, because I was REALLY paranoid about whether or not she had passed me during all that time I spent in camp after the second loop.  I was not prepared for what I read.  Tim told me that Carmen had fallen close to the end of the 10k and was almost certain that she broken her ankle and was going to go to the hospital – that news hit me like a ton of bricks.  Dumb me – I assumed that she would to drive my car (why ambulance transport never occurred to me, I’ll never know).  I told Tim to GO WITH HER and he responded that he had already tried and she wouldn’t let him.  She was making him stay to be there for me. When I made it to the aid station, I mentioned it.  I had to tell someone – and there was no one on the course with whom I could chat it up.  They had heard all about it over the radios.  I was so sad for Carmen. After a couple sips of Coke, I moved out of aid quickly.  This is when I had a complete and total meltdown.  Physically, I still felt fine and was maintaining my energy but emotionally I was crumbling.  I cried for a few minutes over Carmen and then decided that I had to pull up my big girl panties and run the rest of the race for her.

I had already passed one guy who was struggling early on in the loop and I passed another one after the aid station.  I figured they would get their resurgence at some point, but I wanted to put as much distance between us as I could until that happened.  I fully expected that I would hit another low spot in the later miles.

As I came off the loop at mile 38, I still felt incredibly amazing.  Tim had made me some oatmeal, which I ate as quickly as possible.  It tasted so good.  In less than 5 minutes, I was heading out for my last loop, almost literally skipping.  I felt so fresh and was ready to tackle the end of the race.  I made a terrible mistake in rushing through, though, which would come back to bite me in the rear.img_7346

Last loop – I CAN DO THIS

Dang.  Back on the slower, harder loop. I was cursing the RD just a little bit.  Why couldn’t we have run the course in the opposite order so I didn’t have to fight for my last 12 miles?? LOL  Amazing the things that go through your brain when you are out there ALL ALONE.  Just so you know – I didn’t see one runner on the final lap.

I was *maybe* a mile out of camp when I realized something – I HAD FORGOTTEN TO GRAB MORE COOKIES.  Geez, Jen.  What the hell??  I had plenty of gels, though, so I knew I could make it through.  I decided to try doing a gel every 20 minutes to see how that went. It was OK, but I just didn’t have the same energy level as I did on the previous loop.

I remember making it to mile 40.  While I realized that there was a lot of race left, I also knew that I was getting so close!!  Right before I got to the aid station at mile 43, I was passed by some mountain bikers (they let the bikes back on the course in the early afternoon.)  Seeing as how I was STILL paranoid about F4 and those guys that I had passed, when they passed, I asked if they had seen any other runners back.  They had, but said they were “WAY back there.” YESSSSSS!!!!!

I rolled into the aid station and stayed just a couple of minutes.  Dude asked if I wanted to refill my pack, but when I felt of it, it felt like I was still half-full so I declined and headed back out.  I pretty much hiked the next 1.5  miles – the horrible, rocky, huge boulder rocks section.  I knew it was slowing me down but I also knew that my quads were tired an any misstep could spell disaster.  So I hiked as fast as I could, but it was still slow going.

The day had been mostly cloudy, but in the afternoon the air really started heating up.  (I can’t even tell you how many times I said prayers of thanksgiving for the cloud cover.  The clouds really did save my race.)  I think it was around mile 46 that I ran out of water.  Apparently we didn’t get all the air out of the bladder, so back at the aid station when I was checking the level of my pack it was apparently mostly air.  I knew that there was a water stop near the end of the loop and I was reasonably certain that it was at mile 48.5. I was hoping against all hope that I was wrong and the water stop was actually earlier than that.  I hiked the ups just because I was so low on energy at this point.  I kept forcing myself to run because running would get me there faster than hiking.  At about mile 48, the RD comes running up behind me with flags in her hand.  She remarked about how good I looked and what a great pace I was keeping up.  I asked her if she was sweeping.  LOL!!  She was just out grabbing the flags from the 10k course, THANK GOODNESS.  I told her about the water situation and she said that we were only 1/2 mile away!!! I was so thirsty.

We made it to the water stop.  I nearly cried because I was so happy.  She helped me refill my pack then I was on my way.  That last bit seemed to take FOREVER.  I had no energy.  In fact, I probably should have taken a gel since I now had water (I had been unable to fuel while I was out of water).  I just didn’t see the point with 1.5 miles left.

The monkey is off my back

The closer to the finish I got, the more excited I became.  I was about to cross the finish line of a race that, 6 months ago, I honestly didn’t believe I could finish.  I received my medal and headed to sit down a few minutes.  As soon as I did, my emotions took over and I shed a couple of tears.

The RD brought me a beer and asked if I had checked the results.  Sure enough, I ended up 3rd female!!  She brought my finishers trophy – over which I am having to fight my husband!

Just so you don’t think I’m *that* amazing – I was 8th out of 11 finishers and 3rd out of 4 female finishers.  There were six DNFs – only 17 started the race.  I knew it was going to be a small race when I signed up, but I didn’t care.  The course was the lure and I conquered the course – regardless of my finish or how many competitors there were – that is the most important thing!img_7340

Checking off my race goals

I pretty much met all my goals at this race.  I wanted to finish and was hoping to finish under 12 hours (I finished in 11:56 :).  I wanted to improve my efficiency in aid stations and not get caught in a time trap.  While there is still work to do, I am very happy with how I handled them.  I wanted to know my position, and honestly I wanted to finish top 3.  Knowing my position was more important that top 3.  I am pleased that I was able to keep up with it the entire race.  The beauty of racing such a small race was getting to practice this.

Areas to improve

Aid stations are an art:  I successfully sped up my aid station stops this time, but at the expense of forgetting things when I rushed through.  I’ll be working on not acting like I’m in an emergency situation.  It’s a 100 mile race.  I can take a breath and actually look at my checklist and I’ll still be OK.

Low spots were calorie related:  Some people may argue that the fatigue I felt late in the race was just that – race fatigue – but I still think it was somewhat related to not having those cookies.  At Brazos Bend, I will have an emergency stash of gels and cookies in my pack.  I’ll also have each loop’s fuel in one baggie so I can grab it and not risk leaving anything behind.

Race Reflections

I’ve been much more emotional coming off this race than any other race I’ve done.  I never, ever expected it to go as well as it did.  I know a lot of that is due to the hard work I put in leading up to the race, but I also made good decisions on race day.  I feel like evaluating my situation and coming up with good solutions during the race is one of my strengths.

Something that has overwhelmed me – once again – is the number of well wishes and congratulations received from so many of my friends.  I can’t even begin to count the number of texts, Facebook and Twitter well wishes that were sent my way.  I was absolutely blown away!! I am so blessed to have so many people who care about my crazy adventures out on the trails!

I have to give a couple of special shout-outs to my extra special friends, though.  First, to my Homie for Life, Tim.  Tim lives in San Antonio and gave up his Saturday to come out and see me run through the start finish line 3 times.  I am so thankful he was there, not just for me, but especially for Carmen after she broke her ankle on the trail.  Hearing the stories later about how he stayed with her in camp and helped her call and make arrangements with her family made me feel so much better about not being there with her when it happened.  Tim is one of the most generous and genuinely kind people I have ever known.  I am not sure how I won the lottery by earning his friendship, but I WON THE LOTTERY!

Second, regarding Carmen, one of my bestest friends.  I can’t begin to put into words how much Carmen means to me.  She has been one of my biggest cheerleaders and having her with me makes this crazy ride that much more fun.  The tables have turned and for the past year, I’ve been able to practice my cheerleading skills for her, as well, since she started her own running journey.  I am so freaking proud of her for taking on the challenge of Rawhide 10k, because I know how much courage it took.  And I am even more freaking proud of how she acted like the break was no big deal while the rest of us acted like crazy people (even if I was out on the trail – I was acting like a crazy person).  Then you add in the selflessness of her not letting Tim accompany her to the hospital because she wanted him to stay there with me – it STILL brings tears to my eyes.  Carmen is the REAL MVP.  Her bravery is much more of an accomplishment than me finishing a race.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.  But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.  ~Robert Frost

See you at Brazos Bend 100!

Channeling my Pre-Race Anxiety

It’s no secret that I don’t handle taper very well.  Historically, I have either made really stupid decisions, become ridiculously clumsy or signed up for all the races that I had no business running.   It was only recently that I realized all these taper crazies actually had nothing to do with the act of tapering.  I’ve come to realize that taper crazies are more of an outward measure of my race anxiety.

Trust your training, they said

I actually do trust my training.  I trust in my coach 100% and I know that he will always give me the road map to get there and race well.  I trust in the fact that I put a lot of dedication into my training and I follow my training plans very closely.  Rarely do I cut a workout short or skip altogether.

Somehow, I still get nervous when the race gets close.  Maybe it’s because I want to do my very best.  But maybe it’s because I don’t want to fall flat on my face…..which is why I think I’m so nervous about this upcoming 50 miler.  I think I have a severe case of performance anxiety.

Knowing my “why”

I picked this 50 miler for a host of reasons, all of which seemed like really good ones at the time yet seem really stupid to me right now.

First, I wanted “redemption” on this Ragnar course after not being able to run my last leg last year.  Plus, call me crazy (Tim, Brent & Kelly already have – MANY times), but I LOVED this course.  It may have beaten me to a pulp, but I enjoyed every moment out there.

Also, I wanted to push myself to my limits.  At the time I signed up, I thought there was NO WAY I would be able to come close to beating the cutoffs.  And I was OK with that because I needed a race in which I wasn’t guaranteed anything.  I needed to pick a race in which “failure” was a very real possibility.  I needed a race that would break me down and require me to fight like hell to finish.  While this did actually scare me at the time, the minutia of training soon took hold and I haven’t thought about it in a while…..until I woke up one day and realized that race day was only two weeks away!

Managing the crazy

Part of my “therapy” to deal with my race anxiety is to get everything ready.  I was so chill leading up to my last couple of races.  I didn’t even pack until right before I left for them.  The anxiety is in overdrive this time.  But I’ve never attempted something this difficult, sooooooo……

I spent last week making my packing lists and getting race charts together.  I know that seems like overkill, but it helps me focus my energy on things that might actually help during the race.  I know I have packed WAY too much, but my philosophy is “I would rather have something I don’t need than need something I don’t have.”  I finished the packing yesterday, for the most part.  Doing this helps release some of that anxious energy and gives me some satisfaction knowing that I have “most” of my stuff together.  All I need to do now is load the car Thursday evening and that is a huge relief!

Even the best laid plans can go to shit

As far as my race plan, I have a few goals and I have some charts that will help me know if I’m on track.  I KNOW that ANYTHING can happen in an ultra and that no plan is fail-safe.  I’m actually really good at punting mid-race when that is required.  Having a plan makes me feel ready for the day and if that helps my anxiety, so I’m all for it.img_7249

I’ll admit that my first goal is pie-in-the-sky and probably unattainable, but a girl can dream. 🙂  I would LOVE to do sub-11.  I’m sure I could do sub-11 on another course, but it ain’t likely on this one.  The men’s course record is 11:16 and the women’s CR is 12:36.  Shoot for the stars and you’ll still land on the moon, right??

After that, my goal is to place top 3 women.  Obviously that depends a lot on what the women’s field is like and since this company doesn’t use UltraSignUp, I haven’t been able to stalk ANYONE.

My final goal is to beat the cutoffs.  The 13 hour cutoff is tight, for the course, so this is probably the goal that I’m going to be chasing all day.  I’m OK chasing this goal.  And I’m OK if I fall short, as long as I give everything I have while I’m out there.

The weather could also be a huge factor with forecasted highs in the low 80s.  Currently, the forecast is calling for cloudy most of the day, which would be AWESOME!  If the sun comes out, I’m going to suffer much, much more.

And now, chill time

I am feeling fairly chill today.  Every once in a while, waves of “oh shit” come over me, but those are few and far between and passing rather quickly.

I’m focusing my energy on getting my mind right for the race and keeping nutrition where it should be.  I have been thinking about all the “whys” that I run and all the “whys” that made me want to do a 50 mile (and 100) mile race.  I have thought about all the things that I have accomplished this year.  I’ve also smiled as I reflected on the way that my attitude has changed toward these longer ultra distances.

So whatever happens on Saturday, I’ve already won.