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.

 

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Conquering or Being Conquered?

Oh my, it’s been a long time since I blogged.  I’ve actually run 3 races, which have gone undocumented, since I last hit the keyboard.  Summer went by in a blur and before I knew it, I was back at work and busier than ever.

Race recaps in a flash

In July, I stayed an extra day after USAV Junior National Championships to run Afton Trail Run 50K.  It was to be a challenging, hilly course and I was excited to run a race that would cause me to struggle.  Except I didn’t struggle as much as I thought I would.  The course was 2 loops of 25K and I did suffer some fatigue during the first loop.  I didn’t start the race feeling my best and did the first loop at a  pretty good pace, considering the hills I had to climb.  Near the end of the first loop, I cursed myself – A LOT – for not overriding my ego and *just* doing the 25K.  I DID NOT want to go back out on a second loop.  I stopped at the aid station before heading back out and made a spur of the moment decision to throw out my fueling and nutrition strategy.  I ate M&Ms, pretzels and drank Coke then headed out on the 2nd loop. I ran conservatively the first part of the loop but broke off with 10k to go and ran a really good pace.  I wanted to finish under 6:30 and knew that I would really have to push to get to the finish in time.  (At this point, I feel I should remind you how TERRIBLE I am at run math.  I CAN NOT correctly do run math during a race.)  I kept fueling on Coke, M&Ms & pretzels at the aid stations but got in and out as quickly as possible.  I was also starting to feel the fatigue creep in, but the lure of sub 6:30 was enough to keep me going in spite of it.  I ended up finishing in 6:23, which was just 14 minutes slower than Wildflower but there was also much more elevation.  I was pretty happy with the way I pushed at the end and with the overall result.

In August, I traveled to 7iL Ranch in Cat Spring, Texas for Trail Racing Over Texas’ Habanero race weekend.  My coach was attempting the 100 miler and I was going to be one of his pacers.  Since I was already going to be there, I signed up for the 30K.  The thing about Habanero is that the race starts at NOON.  In Texas.  In August.  So it’s HOT.  I, luckily, only had to do 3 loops of 6.2.  When I finished, the heat index was 106 or something crazy like that.  It was brutal.  BIG kudos to all those who kept battling out there loop after loop.  I don’t perform well in the heat and I was starting to decline fast there at the end.  UltraSignUp has this ranking system.  I should never go in and look at these rankings, but I do.  I was ranked 3rd overall female going in – please know the field wasn’t large.   Even with a small field, I honestly didn’t believe that I could get 3rd OA female.  But….I finished 4th overall female and just 5 minutes behind 3rd place.  I wasted more than 5 minutes in that race.  This was the beginning of a wake up call for me.  Still, I was really proud of myself for battling it out with the heat the way I did.  It was a victory, for sure.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I went down to Mission Tejas State Park in East Texas to run another TROT race.  I know they have worked hard to find places to host events that are outside the Houston area and wanted to support their efforts to host more races North.  Plus, I had 36 miles scheduled that weekend and a 50K is a nice way to get miles in and break up the monotony of training.  I was NOT prepared for the hills!  Seriously, these hills reminded me of Afton Trail Race.  This race made me realize just how unprepared I am for my upcoming 50 miler in the Hill Country.  Again, I went in ranked 3rd overall female and, again, I thought there was no way that I could pull that off.  I started out with the lead group but I was having a little calf issue and slowed down on the first big climb.  It was dark.  At the time, I didn’t know that I was the only female in that lead group, so I thought that I had fallen WAY out of contention for the podium and I just set out to check off the loops and get to the finish.  As it turns out, I was in 2nd and 3rd most of the race.  Of course, I didn’t have any crew there and I didn’t check the screen after each loop so I was completely in the dark.  I struggled during the last 5k and it was during this time that I got chicked.  I later learned that I was in 3rd place at the time and this woman knew I was 3rd place and she gave everything she had to pass me and try to stay ahead of me.  Second race in a row that I missed the podium, coming in 4th OA female (my time was 6:27) and this time I lost by THREE MINUTES.  I have to sharpen my skills and get myself to become more aggressive in these ultras.  I am SO AFRAID of bonking.  I MUST get out of my comfort zone in this area.  If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears…  This one is totally mental and I think I may be subconsciously sabotaging myself due to a fear of success??  Or maybe I just think too much.   img_7098

I may have conquered myself but training is conquering me

I’ve been thinking a lot about my word of the year: conquer.  It’s amazing the effect of simply choosing a word has on your life.  I do not think of my word on a daily basis.  Sometimes not even on a weekly basis.  But the simple act of choosing a word has a profound impact in shaping the year, or it has in my case.  This is the 3rd year that I have focused on one word throughout the calendar year and each year, I am amazed at how things come together.  I think this relates to goals, as well, and posting our goals where we can see them daily makes a huge difference in us meeting those goals.

When I originally chose this word, it was to conquer my inner demons.  I was going into Houston Marathon trying to get a BQ.  I had gained A LOT of confidence but I still didn’t trust myself the way I should.  I still had a lot of self doubt and anxiety about my performances.  I trust myself so much more than I did 10 months ago.  I believe in myself so much more than I did 10 months ago.  I feel like I’ve turned a corner, for now, in that department.

But I’m still being conquered.  Training for a 100 miler is NO JOKE.  I thought that my biggest challenge would be juggling my hectic schedule to get all these miles in – and it has been a big challenge.  But a bigger challenge has been battling the fatigue that comes with 40-50 mile weekends.  I.  AM.  EXHAUSTED.  Like Walking Dead zombie exhausted.  And I’m just getting into the real meat of training.  I have 2 more months of the Walking Dead before taper.  I know this is all designed to give me the best chance of success on race day, but that doesn’t keep me from whining like a big pansy.  Still, I’m thankful for the ability to run and the opportunity to train for a 100 mile race.

Brazos Bend will be a blast, but first….Rawhide

Next weekend, I’ll be attempting my first 50 mile race.  This race is held on Flat Rock Ranch, which is where Ragnar Trail Hill Country was held last year.  I didn’t get to run all my legs at that race, so I felt like I needed redemption on that course.  Now that the race is getting close, I wonder if redemption is overrated.

Seriously, though.  Originally, the thought of this race took my breath away.  It scared me to death.  I thought that there was NO WAY that I could manage 50 miles, PERIOD, and especially on this course.  I thought about my word of the year and how the only way I could conquer anything was to step out and attempt what my brain registered as impossible.  So I signed up.  I love the transformation that happens during the course of training.  I am not sure at what point I realized that I could do it, but I began to believe, fully and completely, that I am capable of finishing this race.   However, I definitely still have my doubts.  I’ve been wrestling with them the past few days but doubts aren’t all bad.  They keep you humble and grounded.  I’ll need to stay humble and grounded to keep my ego from getting in my way on race day.img_7230

Brazos Bend will be the next up on the schedule and the big finale for 2017.  Most days, I feel pretty confident about being able to finish.  Some days, I panic and wonder what I was thinking to believe I could do this.   So many people talk about getting “the buckle”, but that is the least of my concern.  I am not doing this for a buckle.  I am doing this because I wanted to push myself farther than I ever have.  I am doing this because I wanted to put myself into a place so low and so dark that I have to fight with every cell in my body to keep going.  I am in it for that life-changing moment.  The buckle will just be a tangible reminder of what I was able to accomplish.

But first, I have to survive the training.

OH!!! Almost forgot….I got another tattoo 🙂

In July, Carmen went with me to get another tattoo.  I’ve been waiting for the perfect inspiration for my running-specific tattoo and I didn’t waste any time when it finally came to me.  I hadn’t used this artist before and chose him because of a couple landscapes that I saw, but when we got there he mentioned that landscapes weren’t even his thing!  I settled on Kokopelli and the cool thing is that he grew up in Arizona and knew all about Southwest and Kokopelli culture.  He ended up being the perfect artist for this tat, and I LOVE the completed piece!img_6688

Happy Hump Day,
Jen

Jen’s Toenail Chronicles: The Stages of Loss

I realized today that my toenail journey as not been documented as well as it could or should have been.  I haven’t shared the daily developments of the slow and sad demise of my big toenail as it deserved.  That toenail has been good to me and in its time of need, I simply turned blind eye. OK….for real…..I didn’t want to gross you out.  If you’re reading this and you are a runner – I know that nothing can gross you out.  But the general population is NOT equipped to handle this kind of stomach-churning info.  So non-runners proceed with caution.

It all started at Wildflower

My last blog about six weeks ago recapped my epic race weekend at Wildflower 50k & 13.1.  I mentioned briefly then that the trails BEAT my toes up.  Actually, my toes were more likely beat up because my shoes were a bit too small. I’m still in the denial state of grieving regarding those trail shoes.  I LOVE them and I keep trying to justify continuing to wear them.  It’s time for acceptance, but that simply isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

After the race, my two big toenails were completely purple, terribly sore and the worst was how they felt when I walked.  I honestly thought they might pop off at any moment.  (Talk about being FREAKED OUT.) I had some other toes with issues, as well, but the big toes were the main concern.

The Stage of Denial

As with any trauma, regardless of whether it is a large or small trauma, the first stage of grief, loss or just dealing with the situation is denial.  I kept thinking that my toes would be fine by the time I finally pulled into my driveway and got out of my car, but NOPE.  Denial is a lovely place – I’ve lived there a lot during my times of injury – so I tried to keep the visit there fairly short.  I went straight to…..

The Stage of Bargaining

I knew that the only way I had a chance of saving my toenails was to get holes in them and get the blood drained off. (OK…deep down I KNEW that I couldn’t save the nails, but damn, they hurt and I had to do something!)  I had dealt with blood under my toe once before, YEARS ago, when I dropped a 16 oz can of tomatoes on my big toe.  At the time, I had taken the tiniest drill bit and drilled a hole in my nail but it had taken me an entire afternoon to complete the task because I was so freaked out!  In the end, I lost my toenail but not until the new one grew in underneath.  I had hope that the same would happen here, but I wasn’t a runner then and I wasn’t pounding that foot on the ground several thousand times per week.

So when I got home from the race, I asked the hubs to get me the tiniest drill bit and I went right to work.  I drained the right toe because it was the worst.  (And it only took me 3 minutes this time!)  It still hurt, but it felt soooo much better!!  I drained the left toe the next morning.  Don’t even ask me why I waited.  I have no clue.  Sometimes I don’t have the most sense.

I made myself a tool to keep in my trail kit….for the next time 😉

The Stage of Anger

I immediately found myself in this stage when I was trying to walk the next morning.  I wore my Altras, because…they soft and have a big toe box!!  I could NOT let the pads of my toes touch the ground.  That would cause pressure on my nail which would cause me to cringe and start hyperventilating and have a little panic attack.  I moved really slowly the next couple of days.  I may not have been *angry* but I was definitely experiencing high emotions regarding my toenails.  The biggest question was WHY DID I LET THIS HAPPEN?!?!?

The Stage of Denial…..again

As my toes started getting better (by the end of the week), I found myself in the stage of denial again, except this time I moved in and made myself comfortable there.  My big toenails looked pretty decent!!  I was convinced that I had saved them.  It was a miracle!!!  I spent a few days in ignorant bliss before transitioning to the next stage….

The Stage of Depression

My feeling of victory was short-lived.  A few days later, I trimmed my toenails then noticed that the right big toe was beginning to lift away from the nail bed.  NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!  I was crushed.  

I knew saving the nails was a long shot, but all signs seemed to signal that my heroic efforts were going to pay off.  I kept looking at it and thinking that maybe it wasn’t actually lifting.  Some days I went back into Denial, believing that the nail had actually reattached.  (I told you, I have a really nice house in Denial!!)  But every day the nail seemed to lift a little more and I soon arrived at Acceptance.

The Stage of Acceptance

Currently, I am waffling between the Stage of Acceptance and the Stage of Anger.  I have accepted that I am going to lose the nail.  I am patiently waiting to see how long the 3 on my left foot hang in there.  But I am at the point that I want this toenail to give up the ghost and go toward the light.  I may have sung “Let It Go”, in hopes that the toenail would LET GO.  I am sick of it being on there and me getting freaked out if I forget to cover with a bandaid and catch it on something.  That FREAKS ME OUT.

Today, I soaked it in Epsom salt water.  I tried to pry it loose.  No luck there, so I cut it wayyyyy down.  My current strategy is to treat it like a loose tooth and wiggle it every chance I get.  I know.  GROSS!!! 

I’m stuck in this holding pattern until the stupid toenail decides to give up or Jenn decides to come to Texas to yank it out!

Losing toenails isn’t that bad, y’all. 

Race Recap: Wildflower Trail 50k & 13.1

Better late than never, right??

I’ve been trying to compile my thoughts so that I could recap my race in a somewhat organized manner, but I have completely given up on that.  I’m going to try to hit the highlights without boring you to death or bouncing around so much that your head spins.  The bottom line is that this may end up being long and if you have the stamina to read it all the way through, then kudos to you!

Wildflower race weekend had been on my radar for quite some time.  However, Alli’s team was scheduled to play that weekend if they didn’t get a bid to Nationals beforehand.  Luckily, her team earned a bid at their first qualifier, so that issue was taken care of and Wildflower weekend was open on my schedule!  Enter taper for Galveston – during which I COMPLETELY wigged out and I ended up registering for a 50k only 5 weeks post-70.3.  Disclaimer: I have never claimed to make the best race decisions, or any decisions for that matter.  At the moment I registered, it seemed like a such a good idea.  Hours after, however, the realization of what I had done hit me like a brick wall when I suddenly realized that 50k is actually longer than a marathon (just don’t ask).

Yes, I had a good base going into Galveston.  Yes, I am stronger and more fit than ever before.  But I trained to run a half marathon for Galveston 70.3 and I would basically be tripling that distance only 5 weeks later.  Coach made me recover for a week after Galveston.  Then I tapered the week before which took another week away.  So I basically had 3 weeks to train and that made me a bit nervous.  My longest long run was 15 miles.  I can hardly type that without laughing, it sounds so ridiculous!  Oh, and then I was lured by the double medal challenge and with Brent’s blessing added the half marathon to my race weekend plate.  If I was going to do crazy things, might as well go totally insane with it.

Somehow, I kept my wits about me during this taper (so no crazy race sign-ups or excessive run gear purchases).  In part, this was due to only having trained a short period of time for these races.  I hadn’t been training long enough for it to become a constant factor in my mind.  Also, I had  ZERO expectations.  My mindset going in was to put my body to a test and to <hopefully> develop some strategy for the ultras I have scheduled the remainder of the year. The most exciting part of doing this race (aside from the fact that it would be my first ultra on trails) was that my teammates who would be there.  Originally we were to have a few Renegades racing.  In the end, Ryan and I were the only ones who made it to the start lines.  Ryan was also doing the double day challenge – he is actually the reason that I decided to participate in the double day challenge.  If a teammate was going to run it, then so was I!!  Ryan’s wife, and more importantly – MY Renegade Sister, Ashley was coming as well.  Aaaaaaaand, my brother from another mother, Tim, had decided to volunteer since he couldn’t race.  Having fun and fellowship with my teammates was WAYYYY more important to me than how my race went!!

I drove down to Bastrop after work on Friday, finally arrived just before 9 PM, got settled in and was in bed as quickly as I could manage.  Of course, one never sleeps well on the night before a race and this proved to be no different.  I couldn’t get the air conditioner set the way I wanted, ended up too warm and tossed and turned most of the night.  I was up before the crack of dawn and was well on my way to the park by 4:30AM.  The 50k started at 6:00AM, but there was no parking available in the park so we had to take shuttles in to the start line.  Tim had just pulled in when I got there, so we hitched a ride on the shuttle together!

Before I knew it, it was time to take off.  The sun was just starting to rise, but still dark enough that headlamps were a must – even if only for 15-20 minutes.  Temps were cool – if memory serves, hovering around 50 degrees.  It was a great way to start a long day on the trails!  This course was a loop – each loop was 6.2 miles and we were to run 5 loops.  My strategy was to take it easy on the first loop, figure out what I had to deal with and adjust from there.  Also, I wanted to finish feeling as if I could still run 2 loops (because I would be running 2 loops the next day in the half).

Ashley took this gorgeous sunrise photo

First of all….the single-track course was so congested through the first half of the first loop  – I couldn’t have attacked it hard even if that had been my plan.  The first mile or so was somewhat technical with ups and downs and no places where you could open up.  At the end of this section was the biggest climb in the race.  At the top of this climb, the course crossed a road and fed into rolling trails heading to the back side of the course.  The back part of the course was my favorite because in this section, I could open up and actually run. Knowing this was coming after the semi-technical front section helped me stay at ease and not push too aggressively on that part on the subsequent loops.  About halfway through the back section, the course crossed a red-rock road and then continued on with small rollers.  I loved this part of the course as well – this was the part of the course I ended up calling “The Ferns”, because the trail was cut through ferns and rich foliage.  PLUS, there were enough trees established that a good part of this section was shaded!! (This park was damaged in the Austin area wildfires a few years ago and is finally seeing some growth again.) The end of this section fed right into the back aid station, which was around the 4.5 mile mark on the loop.  We would then run down a gravel road for a bit before turning onto the next part of the trail, which was still very runnable and was shaded in spots.  At around the mile-to-start/finish mark, we made a non-technical climb up a hill, then a very steep descent on which I never tried to brake too much.  It was just easier to go with it than to try to resist gravity. And honestly, I was more scared to try to take it cautiously than I was to just run it.  The only problem was that it was curvy and narrow and if people were ahead I had to slow it down.  After that, there was a short run through more rollers, then what I called “The Stairs”.  This section was a fast descent but to combat erosion, logs had been placed and the end result was something like stair steps.  At the end of the stairs, we crossed over water on some logs, then made a short climb and were back on the state park road.  We had to run up this ridiculous (short) hill, then a small turn and run up some more to reach start/finish area.  And then do it all again. 🙂

The end of the crap section (front) was at the top of this hill. I walked it every loop. This was loop 7 of the weekend and I refused to start walking it then! LOL
Race photo from Sunday on a rare flat section on the front part of the course. Lap 7 and still smiling  🙂

I was really pleased with the time on my first loop.  Since it was just past 7AM, the temps were still nice and cool.  I felt GREAT and was having so much fun! I stopped at Renegade Central to refill my bottle and make more Tailwind and had a pouch of Clif Organic Food.  Now, before I left my car in the parking lot, I made an error in judgement.  I had brought 2 handheld bottles but opted to leave one in my car.  I realized after that first loop that Ashley was at camp, was eager and ready to help and could have easily gotten it ready.  What a foolish mistake I had made.  This race was all about learning, though, right?? We managed with refilling my bottle and I went off to the port-o-potty.  I should not have tried to go to potty.  I waited in line for a couple minutes, then decided to just go on the back side of the course.  I’m not sure what it is about Tailwind, but it makes me have to pee SO OFTEN!  I ran past the main aid, checked in with Tim and was off on the trail again.  After loop 2, I still felt great but having stopped at port-o-potty and then actually “going” in the bush caused my time to be a little bit longer.  I could tell that Tim was a little worried when I came through to head out for loop 3, but honestly, I felt amazing.

Ashley was sending updates to Sherpa Carmen and asked for a thumbs up 🙂

Loop 3 is when I started breaking the course down into chunks in my mind.  I had already decided the front mile was going to slow me down.  Nbd, I would make it up on the back 3.5.  I walked up the bigger hills and took the descents as fast as I could.  (I went in wanting to attack the downs and I am really happy with how I handled them.)  I started going through the checklist:  Yucky ascents with the logs (check), first bridge (check), second bridge (check), third bridge (check), big climb (sucky section almost over – now you can quit acting like a pansy!!), asphalt road (check), FUN except for the sand – now time to open up (check), and so on.  Breaking the course down helped keep my mind occupied and it helped to see that I was making progress.  At the end of loop 3, I was still feeling really good – except for my toes.  I had noticed early on in the loop that my shoes were turning out to be too small and the fast, technical descents were causing my toes to bang into the end of my shoes.  But I chose not to think about it.  Nothing I could do at that point, especially since I had decided against bringing an extra pair to camp.

At the beginning of loop 4, I dug out the bandana, put some ice in it and tied around my neck.  I had tried this a couple of times in training and OH MY, does it help!  I flop around like a fish when temps are warm and I get hot.  Seriously, this whole bandana with ice thing is THE BOMB (Looks dorky but is still THE BOMB)!!!   I had not stopped at the back aid station on my first 3 loops, but I did on loop 4 so that I could get more ice and I decided to fill up with water as well.  The volunteers were so kind and told me how great I looked.  I joked that my longest training run had been 15 miles and how pleased I was with the way the day was going.  After getting some cold water dumped on my head by another amazing volunteer, I was on my way, feeling so refreshed and full of energy!

In no time at all, I was starting my last and final loop.  I decided to get a little extra kick and drank a shot of Fireball.  It sure did taste good!  LOL!!! I’m not sure how much it helped, though, because I think it just made me sleepy for a bit.  I’ll stick to beer.  As far as running, I could tell that my legs were somewhat tired, but nothing near what I thought they would be – and I have felt much higher fatigue in shorter races.  I did walk more ups on the front section than I had in the previous loops, but I still wasn’t sure how I would respond the last half of the loop.  I wanted to play it safe.  Plus, I had to keep reminding myself that I still had 13 miles to run the next day.  I wanted to finish the weekend strong, which meant holding back some on this race.  Once again, I stopped at the aid station on the back of the course to refill the ice.  Again, those amazing volunteers!!!  They went on and on about how strong I looked and one of them even remarked, “That 15 mile training plan is working REALLY well for you!”  That just goes to show that one kind word can completely make a person’s day, because it sure did boost my confidence!  Before I knew it, I was running up that stupid hill back to the finish (I ran that hill every time….the only reason I walked the others was because of terrain and to save energy).  I finished in 6:09:59, which, if I’m honest, was a little slower than I had hoped.  I really wanted 6 hours or less.  But I wasn’t going to waste any energy on regrets.  I had SO MUCH for which to be proud.  I had tackled the race, nailed my hydration and fueling, remained strong throughout the race, stayed in the game mentally AND saved some energy for the next day’s race.  It was EPIC!  Any doubts that I had about transitioning to trails and ultras were completely erased.  And, I have to be honest.  I wasn’t NEARLY as excited as Ashley or my friend, Kolbe (who had run the 10k but hung around to cheer me on and see me finish).  Their excitement was absolutely contagious and I couldn’t help but smile.

Little kick for last loop

Side note:  Toenails.  Does anyone really need them?  So after the race, I knew things would probably be bad.  Like I said – I could tell during the race that things weren’t right.  I gingerly removed my shoes and socks and I had some that were pretty black already, but all were attached so I guess that was a win??  Ok…I’ve never had toenail issues.  This was a new one for me, but acting like a pansy about it wouldn’t really change anything, so I decided to suck it up.  I had some mild hyperventilation moments here and there but overall, I kept my cool about it.  I knew that Sunday was going to be tough!  My toenails were sore and sensitive and did NOT want to be shoved into a pair of shoes again!  I chose to pull a Scarlet O’Hara and think about that tomorrow.

Eventually, we became so hungry that we decided a shower and food was now the order of the day and left the race venue to head to our respective hotels to clean up.  Shiner Strawberry Blonde had recently shown up on the shelves and I brought some with me.  I couldn’t wait to have a beer!!  I took it into the bathroom with me, drank half, showered and enjoyed the last half while I was getting dressed.  We all met at a delicious burger joint where I had ANOTHER beer with my burger.  I had such a good time chatting and hanging with my teammates.  It’s always fun and usually full of hilarious conversation.  Tim left soon after to head back home and Ashley, Ryan and I went back to our hotels for some much needed rest before dinner.  Kolbe stopped by to visit with me before she headed out of town.  She loves that Strawberry Blonde so I gave her a few to take home. 🙂  I enjoyed seeing her SO MUCH!!!  After she left, I tried to rest, but endorphins from the race just wouldn’t let me doze off.

Finishing the 50k
My TEAM!!!
Kolbe!!

Ashley, Ryan and I went to eat at a very cute restaurant that overlooked the Colorado River.  We sat outside and enjoyed the view, good beer, good company and some good music!  We sat there until we realized that we should probably get back to our hotels and get in bed so we could get some rest.

When I returned to my house (I had actually rented and Airbnb room in a woman’s home), I got things ready for the next day and packed up as much as possible.  The next morning I was up early, but not quite as early as Saturday as my race didn’t start until 7:30.  Getting socks on was…..difficult.  I had some anxiety – ok A LOT of anxiety – about running and pounding my toes even more than had already been done.  I wore a different pair of shoes, but after the race start quickly realized that the new pair wasn’t really working either.  Basically I think the damage had been done and nothing (short of not racing) would help.  And I did consider DNS but only for a second – what would that accomplish??  Sometimes you just do things!! (If you know that quote – high five!) My ultimate goal in doing these races to was to put myself in a difficult mental situation.  I hadn’t had any issues to battle during Saturday’s race – it had been much less difficult than I had expected.  I was actually a little disappointed that I didn’t have any mental battles.  To continue on in spite of my toes became the mental battle.  And that probably sounds pansyish, but it really was the only mental battle of my weekend.

We started Sunday’s race by running up a “little” hill to a structure then turning around and coming back down and back through the start/finish area to start loop 1 (Thanks, Rob).  I got caught up in the descent and how fresh my legs felt (YES…my legs felt fresh!) and temporarily forgot about my toes.  I was running well and using the same strategy as on Saturday.  Take it easy.  Walk the big ups and don’t overdo.  My calves did begin to scream at me a little bit on loop 1 and I wondered if it would work out or if I would have to deal with it the entire race.  Well, as luck (or fate) would have it, I ended jabbing my right big toe when I tripped on a rock.  And since I thought that I had completely ripped my toenail off, I stopped thinking about my calves and I was well into loop 2 when I realized I hadn’t thought about them for a while nor did they hurt any longer.  That right toe.  I won’t lie.  I fretted over it.  I wanted to stop and check it out.  But I didn’t.  I knew that there wasn’t anything I could do and it wasn’t keeping me from running.  However, I quit pushing as hard and I took those downhills a bit more cautiously.  In hindsight, that kind of ticks me off.  But in the moment that’s how I handled it.  I didn’t panic or let it affect my race much.  So I guess that’s a win.

We ran to that little speck where my finger is pointing, then back and that’s when the race really started

 

Seven loops over the weekend and my only real issues were toes.  LOL  I know that was directly related to shoes – I needed a bigger size.  Why I didn’t realize they were a little snug when I got them, I don’t know!!  The weekend was about working out the kinks and figuring out what worked and what didn’t and I most definitely succeeded there.

Definitely got dirty out there!

I headed to my car pretty soon after I finished, although it seemed like I had to wait for the shuttle for the longest!  I did “clean up” in my car with my BYOT (Bring Your Own Towel), changed clothes and headed home!  When I got home, I soaked my feet and tried to figure out how to proceed.  I did some work on them over the next few days but I won’t gross you out with the details here. But I DO have all my toenails and things are pretty much back to normal!

Still feeling fresh on Sunday!

The amazing thing is that I didn’t experience much in the way of soreness  – it was minimal.  I credit that to my nutrition and to staying hydrated and fueling properly during the race.  Plus, trails are just easier on the joints. I also didn’t get that big rush of hunger that I generally get a couple days post-long run.  Again, I think that fueling with enough during the race went a long way to helping my body during the race and gave me a jump start on recovery.  I also tried out this stuff called “Vespa” and I am 99.9% sure it made an extremely positive impact on my fueling.  It is a product designed to kick your metabolism into a deeper fat burn and worked really well with my Metabolic Efficiency plan.

I’ve been on  rest and recovery for the last 10 days and I’ve let loose and drank a few beers.  I even let loose over the weekend and just ate what I wanted – I ended up with a headache but I ate what I wanted!  LOL!!  This has been a good reset period to get me ready to go for the remainder of the year, but that is for another blog post! 🙂

 

 

From Grief to Depression to Ultras

If you’ve read my blog over the years, you know that I lost my dearest friend years ago – 13 years ago tomorrow to be exact.  I try not to bring it up too often.  I know it can be a subject that makes people feel uncomfortable and helpless and I totally understand why.  I don’t want to be that person…the one that can never move on or process their feelings, constantly reminding everyone of her sorrow.  But sometimes, I need to process and work through emotions for myself.  And that is the real reason for today’s blog – so I can hash out and work through some of these emotions that have come flooding back to me today.

This morning, within the span of minutes, I found myself in a funk.  All of a sudden, I felt like I had a great weight on my chest, my stomach was nauseated and hurting and I felt incredibly anxious.  At first, I blew it off as nerves for my upcoming 50k/13.1 race weekend but as I considered that, I didn’t believe the anxiety was race-driven.  And then it dawned on me.  Thirteen years ago today was the last day that I would spend with Allison.  We had been sponsors at church camp and after driving home had decided to go wash our clothes  at the laundromat.  It was there that she would have an episode that would lead to her being carried by air ambulance to the hospital where she would later pass away.  Even though it has been 13 years, it is still incredibly difficult for me to think about the events of  that day.

One of my favorite pics of Allison. I can still hear her laugh.

Losing Allison was obviously a terrible tragedy for everyone involved, especially for her family.  It was the biggest devastation that any of us had ever faced, and with it came a loss of innocence about the world.  Where I had once embraced life with joy and anticipation, I could no longer find the joy in living.  I’ve often said that the light in the world dimmed the day that Allison died.  I think it is still true today, even after years of coping with the grief and finally finding ways to feel joy – it will always be a hollow substitute to what I felt before she died.

The grief was so huge and overwhelming, at first.  Just trying to process the enormity of that loss was nearly impossible.  As the days and weeks went by, the loss was hammered home and I didn’t handle it well AT ALL.  Soon, my grief turned into depression and instead of being constantly sad, I felt like I was living in a black hole, void of all emotion.  I did force myself to continue going through the motions of life.  I wasn’t really vested in it, but I tried to be.  Looking back at that time in my life feels like I was trapped in a nightmare.  I don’t really remember much of what I did, but I remember everything just feeling gray.  Thank God that my husband and children survived that era.  I was completely checked-out.

I practiced this going through the motions for years.  YEARS.  I slowly began to have more moments of joy.  Real joy.  Where, for a few moments, I began to actually feel happiness again.  Those moments starting coming more often, but I was still trapped in the fog of depression.

I’ve mentioned several times about how running gave me my sparkle back.  Allison was a runner.  I believe with all my heart that this is no coincidence.  Allison was always trying to convert me to running in life – why would it change in death??  Anyway, the more I ran, the more I began to feel joy again.  I never run without thinking of Allison, so I think running has helped me continue to feel close to her as well.

The reason I’m detailing all this now – today – is because of a running documentary that I recently watched.  This film highlighted ultra-runner Nikki Kimball and her attempt to break the MEN’s FKT on The Long Trail in Vermont.  She missed the men’s record by a day, but went on to set a new women’s record by 2.5 days!  Anyway, she was very candid about her struggle with depression – intense depression.  When I heard her say this in the movie, it stopped me dead in my tracks.  I knew immediately that this was the real reason I’ve been drawn to ultra-running.

“I think that depression is my secret weapon.  When things get really, really bad in an expedition or an ultra race, I can look back at the pain I was in at the worst of my depression and the pain of an ultra race isn’t that bad.  ……..One of the things about depression, you know it’s not that you just feel sad – you feel nothing.  And I think one of the reasons I do ultras is because it gives me the highest highs and the low lows.  But I can handle acute, strong lows.  That juxtaposed to feeling nothing is fantastic.”     ~Nikki Kimball

First of all, the feeling nothing within the framework of depression is SPOT ON.  And as far as feeling pain – I have felt some pain in my racing and training.  I’ve been tired and hurting and all I want to do is stop.  But when you keep going through the pain, it is such a victorious feeling.  But I haven’t felt the pain enough….

I don’t have a lot of ultras under my belt right now, but I truly believe the lure of the pain is a big part of what makes ultras so enticing to me.  Getting to that place where you don’t think you can continue.  Getting to the place that you don’t want to continue.  Yet you do continue and you prevail and you feel something and it is a reminder to you that you are still living.  Maybe I’m crazy, but all of us distance runners are.  And most of us have pain in our past that pushes us to keep doing the crazy things.

This weekend is going to be tough.  I signed up for a 50k on Saturday and 13.1 on Sunday…on a trail….in the Hill Country.  I knew it was a stretch when I signed up, being only 5 weeks out from Galveston.  I didn’t give myself time for a proper build.  But I’m going to welcome the battle.  I want it to hurt.  I want to fight for it.  Because I will prevail.  And because it’s that time of the year, I will be fighting in honor of Allison.  I know she will be right beside me.

My Why

I’ve been noticing a lot of people posting about their “My Why” – what fuels their passion (in my circles this equates to running and triathlon, but this movement isn’t restricted to that), which got me thinking – what is MY Why?

Honestly? My Why is selfishly ME. I feel slightly guilty about that, since a lot of people seem to be motivated by their spouse or children or family. The bottom line is that I feel like I love my family better because I do this endurance thing for myself.  And, for me, motivation has to come from the inside – not from an outside source. 

I do this for ME because running and endurance sports gave me my sparkle back.  When Allison died, and for several years after, I really didn’t think that I would ever enjoy life again.  Running gave me that feeling again of actually being alive.  Instead of going through the motions of life, I am finally LIVING life again.  

I do this for ME because every time I conquer something that I once thought was impossible, I gain more confidence. I have struggled with self-confidence/self-esteem my entire life and while I feel like that will always be a struggle for me – I now struggle just a little bit less.  I don’t have to doubt my abilities as an endurance athlete because when I toe the start line, I have put in the training and the hard work to get there – and I’m kind-of good at this endurance thing. 🙂  

I do this for ME because, at this point, I am having a whole lot of fun seeing what crazy new goal I can accomplish.  I no longer look at a challenge and think, “there is NO WAY I could do this”.  I no longer shake with fear when I consider something unthinkable.  I just try to evaluate whether the pain involved will be worth it.  😉

I do this for ME because I want to push myself to the edge and force myself dig deeper than I ever have to finish a training run/race.  Because when you push yourself past your limits, you find things out about yourself that you never would have known otherwise.  And crossing that finish line is so much sweeter when a big struggle was involved!!

IRONMAN Texas 70.3 finish

Oh, and I do this for ME because I’m an endorphin addict and I looooooove those long runs!  The bigger the goal, the longer the training runs!

What is YOUR Why??

My First: Ironman Texas 70.3 Race Recap

“The miracle isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” ~John Bingham

 

Getting to Galveston

What would I do without Carmen?? If the time comes that I do a big race in a far-away city and she can’t come, I may just implode.  We have a great time road-tripping to these events and her laid-back personality helps keep me calm.  I do better when I’m calm.

We headed down early Friday morning with a brief stop in Dallas to visit my ART/FACTR/Graston/Fascial Stretch/Cupping/Massage guy, Mel.  I really never know exactly what technique he will try – it’s always fun to guess!  On pre-race tune ups, it is usually a bit of fascial stretch with ART to get any kinks out and massage.  Ahhhhh.  I left his office feeling lighter than air.  We then grabbed a quick lunch and were back on the road and rolled into Galveston around 5 PM.

No trip is complete without a Buc-ee’s stop!

Race Eve 

Saturday morning, most of us had a bike ride and brick run because Brent coaches almost all of us.  LOL!  So Tim, Craig, Levi, Brent and I went out about 7AM for a very windy ride and run before breakfast.  Of course, no trip is complete without me doing something stupid.  We were nearing the end of our ride and came to a stop light.  I unclipped my right foot (WHY??) and fell right over when I tried to put my left foot down.  So dumb.  I swear I need constant supervision!  Big thanks to Levi and Brent who talked me through some stuff on our ride and gave me a lot of pointers.

After the ride and run, we headed out for breakfast, which was actually more like brunch.  The wait was worth it, though, because those pancakes were some of the most delicious I’ve ever had!

Once we made it back to the beach house, we loaded up our bikes and headed to athlete check in.  After getting all our stuff and attending the athlete briefing, we checked in our bikes.  This caused me some anxiety because at the time there was a high possibility of strong storms (including hail) moving through that night.  I couldn’t stand the thought of her being left out all by herself in the elements.  Once again, Levi talked me through the race step-by-step, which relieved some anxiety.  Knowledge is power!

It was SO HARD to leave her!

A cool part of this race is that our club is registered with Ironman and we qualified for our own bike rack, so all of our bikes were racked together!  It was nice knowing that the people who you would see next to you in transition would be your teammates!

We had a Renegade get-together that afternoon after bike check-in and it was so much fun getting to meet and talk to teammates face to face (many for the first time).  We don’t all get to see each other much and it was great fun!

After the party and dinner, those of us racing made all our last minute preparations then we were off to bed!

I have to say that I received the sweetest text from Ashley that evening – it brought tears to my eyes!!  She is so supportive of me – of everyone, really – I hope I can develop that spirit when I grow up!

FINALLY – Time to race!

I slept until 1:30AM.  I just couldn’t sleep!  I wasn’t nervous or anxious, I was just ready to go and see what the day would bring.  When the clock finally rolled around to 4:15, I got up, waited for my turn to hop in the shower and gathered all my things for our 5:15 departure.

I rode with Levi because he had the club’s VIP parking pass.  Turns out that we didn’t need the VIP parking anyway because we got there early enough that our parking spot was right next to transition!  We all headed over to start getting things ready for the day.  After checking and double checking and taking my UCAN for the swim, I slipped on my wetsuit and my friend Tim and I headed over to the Renegade tent to wait until GO time.

Since I was in the first swim wave after the elites and Tim was just 2 starts after me, we headed over to the swim around 6:30.  We had a few moments to sit on the curb and just talk.  At this point, I had started getting some nerves, but Tim is such a calm, soothing soul – being able to talk things through with him calmed me down before the nerves could really take hold.  I wouldn’t have wanted to share that time with anyone else.  I cherish Tim’s friendship more than words can express!

We noticed that someone holding a Wave 9 start was standing right in front of us and realized that it was time to snap out of the zen moment, so we hopped up from the curb and headed toward our places in line.  Leaving Tim at Wave 5 was pretty hard to do, but we said our goodbyes and good lucks and I was on my way to find Wave 3.

The Dreaded Swim

The way this race starts is everyone jumps off the pier (it really isn’t bad – the water might be 2 feet below the deck) and then swims over to the start line.  Even with the confidence I had going into the swim, I was prepared for a full-blown panic attack.  Part of my plan to avoid this was to get at the very back of the pack and start to the right.

WELL.

I got in the water, swam to the start, looked around and realized – I WAS AT THE VERY FRONT OF THE LINE.  We were off and I swam about 100 yards (maybe) before I completely lost it.  I should have tried to start slow and easy, but it is hard to start slow and easy when over 100 people are swimming up from behind over and around you.  So I tried to backstroke to calm myself down and that DID NOT work.  I actually had to stop for a bit because I was so close to hyperventilating.  I did have the presence of mind to realize that I needed to keep moving forward, so I inched along as I could.  This went on for at least 10 minutes.  Me making progress little by little because I didn’t want to put my face in the water and feel like I was drowning.  Until….I just got pissed.  I told myself to quit acting like a pansy and just swim. (That’s the PG version.)  And I started swimming.  I decided to breathe every other stroke and that would also help me keep my eyes on the buoys.  I found a good rhythm very quickly and found my swim zone.  By this time, I had made the first turn and was heading down the longest stretch of the course.  Red buoys were the turn markers, but on the long stretch the buoys in between were orange so it was hard to tell how far I had to go when I looked down the line.  Not cool.  I like yellow.  LOL

I FINALLY reached the buoy for the last turn and was on the home stretch!  I was so focused on watching the now yellow buoys that I didn’t even realize how close I was to the exit.  I did a happy dance inside my wet suit when I figured that out!  Before I knew it, I was on the exit ramp.  I walked out of the water (just like coach instructed) and headed to the wet suit strippers.  But after I got through with them, I was just ready to get to transition so I started jogging a bit.  I heard Carmen yelling my name and looked to see her and Brent standing there.  I think I managed a wave and continued on to my bike!

Side note:  By the end of the swim, I was SO OVER salt water!  I did a good job not swallowing much, but my sinuses and throat were starting to burn.  (My nose ran like a faucet for the rest of the race – it was like I had an entire hour with a Neti pot.)  Also, I was thinking during the swim that the waters sure were choppy, but I had no reference so I thought all that was normal.  When I ran into Noah in T1 and he made a remark about how bad the swim was, I felt much better about myself!

Blustery Bike

The bike is always windy at Galveston.  I knew this going in, but with the crazy weather that had been forecast, the winds were supposed to be even more brutal.  I really don’t know what the winds actually were but I heard 20-25 mph.  I know there were times that it gusted more than that because it would catch my wheels.

So I finally got out of transition and out on the bike, but there were SO MANY PEOPLE that I was riding like 14mph, which honestly ticked me off.  I had to remind myself that it would thin out when we got out on the main road and that the goal was NOT to chase people down.  I was committed to riding a smart bike leg and not blowing my legs out for the run.  I found a nice rhythm pretty quickly and, depending on the amount of cyclists around, was able to keep anywhere from 17-22mph.   (I’m not going to lie, I wanted 20mph avg on the bike, but I knew it was foolish to attempt that.)  I passed a lot of people and got passed by a lot of bad ass men – and a few women, too.  I kept my pace and just passed when I had to.  HOWEVER, if you were a woman and I could see 45-49 on your calf, I DID pass you!  LOL  Apparently I managed the no-draft zone well because I saw the race officials often and never got a penalty!

I had to stop at the first aid station, which was around 20 mile mark, I think, because I was about to pee in my shorts!  I would have peed on the bike, but since they specifically said not to in the athlete briefing I figured best not to chance it.  As far as nutrition, I took UCAN again before the bike and had Tailwind in my bottles for out on the course.

The bridge that we had to ride over was so freaking bumpy.  I swear I felt like I was riding on rumble strips.  I noticed at the turn around that the bracket holding my bottle cage between my aero bars was loose on one side.  I thought about stopping and getting my hex tool out of my bag, but I wasn’t sure if I had packed it.  Then I considered stopping at one of the support vehicles, but all that would take time that I didn’t want to give up, so I decided to chance it and see what happened.  Well….that bracket came loose and fell off.  And right before it fell off, I found myself on the bumpy bridge again and a guy behind me said I had lost my left rear bottle (out of a Gorilla cage) and that bottle had my last leg of Tailwind in it.  I wasn’t too concerned about it though, because I had enough Tailwind for 3 hours on the bike and I had elected to start the bike with UCAN which covered the first hour.  I was pretty sure that my nutrition would suffice.  As I approached mile 40, my shoulders were starting to cramp from white knuckling my aero bars (to keep my bike from blowing over in the cross winds) and I noticed that I was hungry, too.  Plus that stupid cage between my aero bars was driving me NUTS.  I stopped at mile 40 and grabbed the emergency bar I had stashed on my bike, rearranged my bottles so that I didn’t have anything in that aero cage, stretched out my shoulders and went off again.  My mouth was watering for the end of the bike.  I was SO READY to be done because my shoulders felt crampy, but my legs still felt fresh.  I checked my heart rate – 107.  LOL  I know it wasn’t that low the entire bike, but I laughed a little bit that it was that low at mile 50.  I stayed in aero basically the entire 56 miles, to combat the wind.

I’ll speak to the wind a bit.  Even though that wind would catch my race wheels, I was SO GLAD it was a crosswind.  I didn’t feel like I had to fight for every pedal stroke the way I feel when I ride into a headwind.  I think that is what made my bike leg so manageable.

When I was on those last 6 miles of the bike, my thoughts jumped back and forth from: I CAN NOT wait to get off this effing bike! to: I DO NOT want to run 13.1 miles!  to: Quit acting like a pansy, Jen.  How the hell you gonna run a 50 miler if you can’t even mentally handle a half.  SUCK IT UP.

And then I was back in transition, getting ready to run!

Running in a sauna would have been cooler

Again, I took my time in T2.  I didn’t want to rush things too much.  I took another serving of UCAN, grabbed my bottle of Tailwind for later in the run and took off out of transition.  I had my watch in Triathlon mode and hit the lap button….twice…by accident.  And that ended the activity.  I’m a data freak and a little OCD about all that stuff being perfect, but I managed to handle it with cool and calm.  It took forever for my watch to save the swim and bike, though, and I was getting impatient.  While all this was happening, I ran right by our Renegade tent and with everyone cheering it gave me a real boost to start the run.  The workout finally saved and I was able to start the run, but I had NO IDEA how far I had gone when was actually able to start the run on my watch.  I wasn’t really worried, though.  The course was 3 loops of 4ish miles, so I felt it should be manageable.

The run was SO HOT.  After being nearly blown away on the bike, I went to running in and around the resort where breezes were few and far between.  I struggle in the heat, anyway, and  I WAS STRUGGLING.  Before the race, I had hoped to do better than a 2:15 half and felt that I could manage a 2:00 half.  So my goal was to just stay on pace for around a 2:00 half.  My only problem was that I didn’t really know how to judge that since my run was off a little on my watch.  My whole goal with the run wasn’t to crush it so much as it was to use it for mental training for my upcoming ultras.  I managed the heat as best I could, stopping at every aid station and getting ice water sponges or pouring ice down my bra and back of my shirt when the aid stations had ice available.  It helped, along with the occasional breeze in certain parts of the course.

The second loop was the hardest.  I was hot and I wanted to STOP.  I was determined that I wouldn’t walk.  I didn’t need to walk, but my brain wanted me to.  Again, mental training for the ultra.  Push through when your brain tries to trick you to stop.  When I came by the Renegade tent for lap 2, they were all standing in a line cheering for me.  Lacy was the loudest and her enthusiasm gave me the boost I needed to keep pushing forward.  I can’t put into words how much it helps seeing your teammates cheering for you.  I started seeing Renegades on the course on lap 2 as well, and seeing those familiar jerseys reminded me that I wasn’t in this alone.  I finished lap 2 and now the finish was just one lap away – and that gave me a huge mental boost!

I maintained the pace that I had been running for the first half of loop 3.  I caught up with Tim and wanted to run it in with him, but he was having stomach cramps and walking some so he told me to go on without him.  I think I left a little of my heart right there.  It would have been so amazing to cross the finish with him!  I stopped at the next aid station and filled my bra with ice, then picked up the pace.  I was so close I could almost taste it!  When I got to mile 12 marker, I really kicked it up.  I went from a 9:29 pace on mile 12 to an 8:48 pace on mile 13.  And when I knew I was close to the finish, I pushed even harder!  I smiled the entire way down the finish line chute – I HAD DONE IT!!!

After the finish

After I zipped across the finish, I downed a water and tried to find the exit.  It was a bit camouflaged.  I turned to go to Medical but realized there was no way out and I had to go back across the finish area to get out.  As I did, I looked at the clock and it was 6:28.  I knew that I had *at least* a 6:20, since I started 8 min after the first wave of elites.  I couldn’t help but smile.  I had hoped that I could do better than 6:30. (I really wanted 6:00, but was smart enough to know it probably wouldn’t happen my first time out of the gate.)  I exited the finish area and had NO CLUE how to get back across to the Renegade tent, nor did I have a clue where Carmen was.  I felt so lost!

The sherpa shirt that I had made for Carmen

It was about this time that I spotted Carmen and I’ve never been so happy to see her.  She gave me a BIG hug and I might have had a tear escape from my eye.  It was a special moment.  We found our way to the food tent which was serving pizza (disappointing) and NO BEER (MORE disappointing).  I grabbed a slice of cheese and Carmen escorted me back to the Renegade tent.  On the way, it hit me that I hadn’t waited for Tim and I felt TERRIBLE.  What a bad team mate I turned out to be!

When we got back to the tent, Tim was sitting there and I gave him a hug and sat down beside him.  The app had finally updated and Carmen shared that my time was 6:18:02 – I was very happy with that!!

Turns out that Ryan is really good at this sherpa thing, too, because he had BEER in a cooler!  SCORE!!!  Ahhhhh it tasted so good!  He may as well have serenaded me with what he said next – he asked if I wanted a hamburger!  Bless him!  If I had been on my feet and able to move at that moment, I would have tackled him with the biggest bear hug.  I’m pretty sure that hamburger was the best tasting hamburger I’ve ever had in my life!

After Tim and I ate, transition was open again for bike pick-up.  We walked over together to get our stuff.  Carmen and I left pretty soon after the bike check-out.  We had a 6 hour drive and possibly some storms to dodge, so we didn’t want to waste too much time.

The Important Stuff

The week before and right up to race morning, the threat of severe weather was real.  Luckily, the predicted storms went North of Galveston and I managed to finish the race before even a drop of rain fell.  (I’m not sure if it rained/stormed after Carmen and I left or not.)  This storm threat caused me to reassess the race.  I had once been so terrified about the swim but realized that if it had to be cancelled, I would be severely disappointed.  In just over a year, I had gone from sitting in my car, nauseated, in the natatorium parking lot – not even able to swim a full lap with my head in the water to KNOWING that I could manage a 1.2 mile swim, even if/when I panicked.  I think that is the most beautiful part of this half Ironman journey.

I have to thank my coach, Brent.  He was relentless in trying to talk me into triathlon – I know he knew it would help me spread my wings.  I am so glad he didn’t give up when I said NO over and over and over and over again.  I am thankful for his training, his support and his friendship.

I have to thank my sherpa, Carmen.  I cherish our friendship and am SO THANKFUL for her dedication to come with me to these races and wait on me to finish.  We really do make a good team at these things!

And my dear friend, Tim.  He is a very treasured friend, indeed.  His wisdom resonates with me and he has talked me off the ledge of anxiety more times than I can count.  Those fake Galveston wind updates, though…..

Finally, my TEAM!  Oh my goodness.  I love each and every one of you!  When we have these events that a bunch of Renegades are racing, it makes the experience SO MUCH FUN!  Racing is so much more fun with friends and I’m so glad that I get to do it with YOU!

OH!!  I later found out that the founders of our club decided to do top 3 male and female awards and I ended up as 2nd place female!!  I feel really lucky, too, because the two women on either side of me are young and amazing athletes.

And now, I’ll continue the rest and recovery.  Hitting training hard again next week as I prepare for a 50k just 30 days away!