Since January is already over, I guess I should formally announce My One Word for 2017. I have picked a word of focus for my year over each of the past two years and I believe the practice helps to shape my year in many positive ways.
The first year, I chose “balance” because I felt my running was out of balance ( I was always getting injured) and time management in my life was out of balance as well. Of course, maintaining balance is an ongoing struggle but I do believe that I handle it better since maintaining focus on it for an entire year.
Last year, I chose the word, “uncomfortable”, because nothing good ever happens in your comfort zone. WOW! I had NO idea how uncomfortable I could make myself, and I also had NO idea the amount of growth that could happen once I pushed myself to live in that uncomfortable place. To say that 2016 was an amazing year would be an understatement.
Moving on to 2017…..I wanted to choose a word that would build upon what I accomplished last year. At first, I toyed with “risk”, because I wanted to risk “failure” in training and races. I felt like the best way to grow was to push myself to do something that wasn’t a sure thing. However, after some input from friends, I realized that “risk” implied that I was leaving things to chance. And I am doing anything but that! So after my Sole Sister mentioned the word “conquer” (and explained some of her reasoning), I realized that “conquer” would actually be more difficult for me to achieve.
Sooooo, as Jenn pointed out, I actually DO need to conquer self-doubt, second guessing and feeling inadequate. WHY does she always have to be right?? Even so, I really didn’t want to settle on “conquer”. Putting myself in a situation in which I might have to deal with failure would have been MUCH easier than working on these other issues. I even had a race picked out that I didn’t think I would finish – I think I could DNF a difficult race and be OK with myself before I could conquer self-doubt. Conquering myself is definitely going to be the bigger challenge, by far!
Fast forward to Houston Marathon. Contrary to my normal mental outlook, I was actually VERY confident going into the race that I would get my BQ, even when the weather conditions went South and the race was to start under caution. But going into a race with confidence and actually achieving the goal are two different things.
Earning that BQ has been a game-changer where my mental state is concerned. I know it won’t last forever and I know that I’ll find myself in a place of doubt again at some point in the future, but for now, I actually believe in and am proud ofmyself. Before, I felt like I had something to prove (maybe only to myself??) and I feel like I have proven it. I am legitimate and enough, in my eyes anyway, which has calmed the restlessness of feeling inadequate (for now, anyway).
Right now, I’m in a really good place. I have some big races coming up, but I am still basking in the glory of my performance at Houston. Obviously I want to race well anytime that I race, but I am not putting a lot of pressure on myself at all. These are bucket list races and I am running them for the pure joy involved. More on those adventures next time!!
So much has been happening in the World of Jen, but I haven’t had the time to blog about it!! I am going to make a concerted effort to post on a regular basis again.
This weekend was the culmination of more than 9 months of focus and hard work. In the beginning, this goal seemed so far out of my reach and the race so far away that it seemed like a dream. And now that the race is done, it still seems like a dream! Someone needs to pinch me.
The week before the race was the SLOWEST WEEK EVER. It seemed like time was standing still. I had worked so hard for so long – I was just ready to race and find out – could I do it or not??
Despite all the hurdles and doubts I experienced during training, I had gained a lot of confidence about the race. My training had been going SO WELL. But my last long run was horrible. I figured out after the run that I had let myself get dehydrated. As bad as the run was, I stayed in zone 1 for the majority of the run and was only one minute off my marathon goal pace, which was very encouraging going into the race! My goal was 3:45, although my *official* BQ time was 3:55. I knew that a 3:45 would give me a big enough time cushion that I wouldn’t have to wonder all summer about actually making it into Boston.
Moving on to the race
Race morning finally arrived, with the race starting under “Yellow” (caution). The humidity was 97% and temps at the start were in the mid-60s. Race officials urged runners to slow down as heat exhaustion and dehydration were expected to affect a lot of people. Now, I’m a Texas girl and I consider myself a pro at dealing with humidity, but this humidity was tougher than anything I had ever dealt with. Even so, I felt fairly confident that I could run close to my goal of 3:45.
There were a couple of Renegades staying in the same hotel and I met them in the lobby to walk to the corrals. Renegade Alex was in route and planned to meet up with us in corral A. And one of my childhood friends, Emily, that I grew up with in church met us in the corrals as well. Alex, Emily and I planned to start slower than goal pace and warm up a couple miles before getting into race pace. The gun finally went off and we started and managed to pace mile one exactly as planned. Seriously though, I was sweating by the end of mile one.
After the mile two, I was ready to get going. I could tell that maintaining my pace would be difficult late in the race and I knew that I couldn’t waste any more time getting up to speed. Emily’s plan was to warm up a bit more, so Alex and I went ahead to try to get into our groove. Alex and I had discussed running the entire race together, but he had some sickness that interrupted his training. The plan on race day was for him to hang with me as long as he was able.
Truth be told, he drug me along. There were a lot of times that I wanted to slow down, but having Alex there was enough to push me to maintain the pace. I am certain that my race would have derailed in the first half, if he hadn’t run with me.
Mile 7 was definitely a highlight, because Renegades Ashley and Ryan had set up camp to cheer all of us on. I am always amazed by how much of a boost seeing familiar faces along the route gives me!
Alex and I kept plodding along, right on track until around mile 16. Our splits up to that point had been mostly between 8:30-8:40, but our pace was beginning to slow somewhat and we were hitting around 8:45. I was tired, but I wasn’t exhausted and I didn’t feel much differently than I had at mile 5. Alex told me that his legs were starting to cramp and that he wasn’t sure how much longer he would be able to keep up the pace. I stayed with him another mile or so then decided that I needed to go on without him so I could try get back on track, even though leaving him killed my soul!!
Approaching mile 20, I began to struggle with turnover in my legs. But I was able to push to gain a little ground when I felt like I was losing too much. I had been told that beer would be served at mile 20, but when I passed the aid station at mile 20 and saw no beer in sight, I started feeling a little sad and a little panicked. Michelob was actually camped at mile 21. I drank that Mich Ultra (if you know me – you know how much that I dislike Mich Ultra) and at the time it was the most delicious tasting beer that had ever passed my lips! The beer always gives me a boost late in the race and it was no different this time. I really wanted to pick up the pace for that last 10k, but I just couldn’t maintain the turnover in my legs. The last six miles were up and down and not consistent coming in at: 8:31, 8:48, 8:31, 8:41, 8:54, 8:27. I remember the last turn into downtown that took me to the finish. My mouth was watering when I saw the 40k sign, then the 26 mile sign, then the FINISH!! I crossed the mat with 3:47:45 and GOT MY BQ!!!
I don’t remember much about the course, honestly. I was so focused on maintaining my pace and staying on track. Alex kept me going for the first 2/3 of the race. My homemade pace band was a LIFESAVER. I had noted all the water stops and where I should be in 5 mile intervals. I stopped at ALL the water stations up to mile 20 and after my beer, decided that I was good to go and needed to keep pushing. I never hit the wall. My nutrition was perfect and I had ZERO issues with nausea or GI stuff. I didn’t experience any chafing or blisters, either!! After my dehydrated training run, I had been hyper-focused on being well hydrated for the race and I believe that helped as well. (People were down all over the course those last 6 miles.) The entire race, I felt confident that Sunday was MY day to BQ. The race went so well (except for the humidity making it feel like I was breathing through a straw) that I felt more secure every single mile. I remember thinking at mile 20 that I totally had it!! But 10k-to-go is a lot of race and I quickly cautioned myself not to get cocky and comfortable. I really did push as hard as I could on that last 10k, but I just didn’t have the ability to really pick up the pace like I wanted. I need to figure out how to give myself that kick in the rear that is needed to make a last-ditch effort and grind out the best time possible. Guess I’ll go back to the drawing board on that one!
I am still on cloud 9. I still can’t believe it!!! I am also unsure what to do with life at this point. I have been laser-focused on this race for the last 9 months. It’s an odd feeling to have no BIG races coming up (unless you count my first 50k and my first half Ironman as BIG ;).
BIG thanks to all who supported me along the way!! I appreciate you so much!
I had the BEST. WEEKEND. EVER!! I went to the Houston area for Brazos Bend 100 – but I only ran the half marathon. So many Renegades were running it that I couldn’t resist the opportunity to hang out with my awesome teammates! Seven of us were running the half, one was running the full marathon and four brave souls were attempting the 50 miler. Side note: I was originally signed up to run Big Cedar with this group and I dropped that race to attempt to qualify for Boston. Even though I know it was the right decision, seeing them attempting the 50 really made me want to be out there with them – and made me a wee bit jealous!
Fellow Renegade Jeri and I made the trek down to Houston on Friday afternoon. We met the crew for dinner, then brought Renegade Melinda back with us as the three of us were all staying at the same hotel. (Somehow, we didn’t take ANY pics of the group at dinner!!)
We got up before the ass-crack of dawn and started the trek to Brazos Bend. Thankfully, we had an uneventful trip and arrived right on time. The parking gods were smiling down on us (probably because Melinda is SO NICE) and a park ranger waved us onto the grass to park (we had heard that the grass might be off-limits). We were LITERALLY as close to our Renegade camp as we could get. Sweeeeeeeet!!
I went to pick up my bib and then started going through my pre-race routine. I stopped to go cheer the 50 milers on as they started on their long journey. I spent a little more time getting ready then went to see Ashley off on her 26.2 mile stroll (which was actually closer to 28). Before I knew it, it was time to head to the start line for the half!
I really had no specific goals for this race. Even though this was technically a *trail* race, the *trails* were gravel and smooth, for the most part. And even though these trails were to be easy and non-technical, I didn’t expect to run as well as I do on asphalt. I decided to run the best I could but play it smart and hold back, if needed. With Houston only 5 weeks away, I had no wiggle room for nursing an injury – especially if it was a result of my stupidity.
I started out a little bit fast and decided to ease up a tad around mile 3 and let myself get into a groove. Still, I managed to somehow get away from the pack and found myself alone when I came back around Elm Lake – the wind coming off the lake was frigid and I wanted SO BADLY to have someone in front of me to block it. As luck would have it, there were a couple of guys not too far ahead of me. I caught up to them and they were running a pace I could live with so I decided to draft them for a while. I hung with them for a couple of miles until it seemed like they were slowing down (or maybe I was finally warmed up) so I broke up with them and went on my way.
At this point, I was running 8:15-8:20 miles and it felt like such an easy pace. (Add THAT to the list of things that I NEVER thought would come out of my mouth….seriously.) I figured I would rock along and start kicking it up as I got deeper into the race. I didn’t account for the swamp section of the course, where the road was rutted and muddy and I had to run around the puddles in the grass. I felt like this was slowing me down, but the gospel according to Garmin says that these miles were 8:05-8:10 range, so I suppose that was all in my head. I passed Brent and Tim as they were coming back down this stretch – they were nearing the end of their first loop and they looked strong and seemed in good spirits.
I rocked along until mile 10 and decided I should probably try to get myself into the pain zone some, so I tried to kick it up a little bit. I’m not sure if my quads were tired from the surface – it definitely was an easy trail but it wasn’t asphalt – or if it was from the flat course. In any case, I felt a little fatigue in them. I still managed sub-8 on miles 11 & 12. I slowed some on mile 13, but was able to finish strong.
My time: 1:52:37 (the course was actually 13.78 miles). I finished 35th overall, 9th in women and 1st in my age group (40-49). I was VERY pleased with the results!! Garmin clocked my time at the 13.1 mark as 1:46:31 – only about 1 minute off my road PR. Something worth mentioning is that my heart rate on the 1:45 road race was in zone 5 for most of the race. My heart rate was in zone 3 for the majority of this race and the temps and conditions were similar, so YAY for improving fitness!
After the Half
After I cleaned up, there wasn’t much to do but wait. And eat. And wait some more. Ashley came in from her first loop looking strong and under her time goal and headed out again. Then the other half marathoners started coming in. Brent came through to start his 3rd loop. Tim came in not too long after Brent. He was dealing with some plantar and tight calf issues, so I stretched him out and massaged his calves while he grabbed some food. We got Tim on his way again and then Ryan came rolling through. We took care of him and he was off in no time.
Before Brent went back out, he mentioned one of us coming pace him on the back side of the course. Some time passed and Karon mentioned that it was about time to go find him and that I would probably be the best one to run him in. I went to put on my wet, stinky, cold running clothes back on and headed out to find him. I was pretty sure I knew where he was, but ran into Ashley as I was headed that way. I asked if she had seen Brent, but she didn’t remember seeing him – this was on the section of the course that was out and back, so I knew she would have passed him. I should have kept going but I was afraid that he was back up the course in the opposite direction, so I ran in a bit with her until we ran into Karon. Luckily Brent called Karon right as I walked up. He was actually on the part of the trail I had been headed down, after all. I felt TERRIBLE because of all that time I had just wasted. So I headed BACK to find him….. I also felt horrible skipping by all these 50 and 100 mile runners. They had been out there so long and I had eaten, cleaned up and taken a nap in my warm car. I had only run 14 miles, so my legs were relatively fresh. I kept telling them I wasn’t racing – just headed to pace someone. Seriously, it’s such a defeating feeling when people whiz by you like that – it has happened to me during marathons with people running the relay. I knew Brent had 7 miles to go when I left Karon and I expected to run into him by the time I got to mile 4, but nope. When I started coming up on the last aid station where the course turned around I started to get worried because…..WHERE WAS HE?!? As I got closer, I saw him over at the aid station just snacking and talking. Off we went to run in these last few miles. As soon as we got within sight of the finish line, he took off in a sprint…..and met his goal of coming in under 9 hours! I felt so honored to be able to be a part of that!
Unfortunately, Jeri and I had to head back home and I wasn’t able to see Tim, Ryan or Melinda finish. I really hated to miss it but I also didn’t want to be driving up I-45 after midnight! But in February….when these guys run the 100 miler…I WILL be there!! Plus I get the honor of pacing Melinda on her last lap. I’m beyond excited! It is so much fun being able to cheer on your teammates and see them crush their goals!!
Until then, I have my eyes set on Houston. It’s not going to be easy but I am starting to believe that I can do it!! Less than 5 weeks to go!!
This weekend, I ran a much-needed redemption race. I know a lot of people will shake their heads in disbelief that I said that, but it is true. I’ve been struggling mentally, off and on, since dealing with my psoas issues that started in April – I’m not going to rehash it again. I’ve beat that dead horse enough.
After I finally got myself together mentally, I began looking toward this little race as a BIG chance to redeem myself. I reflected on my race performances over the past few months to see what I could improve upon and I came up with a few things to practice during this race.
First, I wanted to get out of aid stations more quickly. The last half of Rochester, my walks through the aid stations got longer and longer – too long. Even though a half isn’t the same kind of beast as a full, I knew I could use practice getting in and out of the aid stations as fast as possible. I can’t run and drink from a cup. PERIOD. I realized after Rochester that the temptation to slow down while walking through the aid station is too great – especially when I am tired and in the last stages of the race. I decided to try stopping, downing the water and immediately moving on. It worked in this race, but the temps were favorable and cooler and obviously I didn’t have to contend with mile 20. Regardless, I’m sticking with this plan. It seemed to work.
Second, I wanted to race aggressively. Last Spring, I was finally learning how to manage taking risks during races but then – psoas happened. I had to baby it and take it easy and not push too hard. For MONTHS. My personality is to stay in the safe zone anyway, so I didn’t need any encouragement to take it easy. I have to constantly remind myself to get out of the comfort zone. So my plan for the race was to warm up, keep my heart rate in mid-high 160s and then increase from there. I executed this part perfectly!! (Although I may have had some help from the steroids that I’m currently taking for my shoulder. LOL!!) Honestly, I was afraid that I started out too fast, but my HR settled into the zone that I wanted by mile 2, so I decided to stick with it as long as I felt OK. I was still feeling really strong at the halfway point. I knew I was sitting at 15th female overall because it was an out and back course and I had counted the women ahead of me. I was a little (OK..A LOT) ticked that I was in 15th, so I used that as motivation for kicking it up at the half. I cranked it up and ran in the upper 170s until the 10-mile mark. I passed 3 women (and a handful of men), so I was sitting in 12th at this point. Number 11 female was still a ways off with her pink pullover and her ponytail braid. I didn’t really think I had a chance to catch her but figured I might as well keep trying to close the gap.
Side note: at mile 9, I began calculating what my expected finish time would be if I could maintain my pace. (Disclaimer: I am HORRIBLE at run math!!) I was on track for 1:45 at the half and I knew I hadn’t slowed, so I was expecting to still be on track for 1:45. I was at 1:12 and started calculating in my head. I was running 8 minute miles, on average, so I multiplied….forty minutes to go would put me at the finish at 1:52. WAIT…HOW is that possible?? I spent an entire mile trying to figure out how I was suddenly so far behind and FINALLY realized that I multiplied by 5 instead of 4. THIS is why I just run by heart rate!
My third and final goal was to spend the last 5k in the pain zone. Like I said earlier, I usually play it too safe and end up still having a lot of energy at the end of the race. It works well for negative splits, but I’m always left wondering if I could have done more. My goal was to cross the finish line on empty, leaving NO doubt about whether or not I could have pushed harder. Mile 10 came and I gave it all that I had, which seemed like a lot but didn’t really reflect in my splits. Miles 12 and 13 were THE MOST PAINFUL miles I’ve ever run or raced. I was getting close to pink ponytail braid girl, but I was right in the middle of the pain zone so I didn’t feel like I had any extra to give at that point. I also felt like I was slowing down and really thought I ran mile 13 at an 8:30 pace (until I went back and looked at the splits and saw that it was 8:10). My Garmin pace was all over the place even when I knew I hadn’t changed pace *that* much – this may explain why the course measured short on my watch. Even through all this pain, I never entertained the idea to slow down or walk, which was a BIG battle won!!
Regardless of my time, I managed to meet all the goals that I set for myself so this race was a big mental boost. Speaking of time…..I ran this race in 1:45:11!!! Going into the race, I felt pretty confident that I could run a 1:45, but I was trying to focus more on the processes which needed improvement as opposed to the end result. However, I was VERY excited to cross the finish with that time!! I was pretty sure that I placed in my age group, but had to wait around for what seemed like forever for any race results to be posted. I did end up 2nd in my age group. I missed first place by only 21 seconds and…..pink ponytail girl was the one that snagged 1st!! So close! LOL
One issue that I have is how to handle these super flat races, as Houston will also be pretty flat. It does make it easier to manage running even splits, but I ALWAYS think that I am going up! I seriously thought I was going up virtually the entire first half and was looking so forward to the second “downhill” half. But then when I actually got into the second half, I still thought that I was going uphill. And even though going up hills slows me down, I can still make up some time and get my heart rate down on the downhills. I’ll be working on wrapping my mind around how best to handle this so I can be as mentally prepared as possible at flat Houston!
I had serious Rangover this week. If you’ve never run a Ragnar, then you have no idea how real Rangover is!
I struggled in coming to terms with my performance in this race. I started having some hip flexor issues and ended up not running my last leg which knocked my ego and pride for a few loops. I could not shake the terrible feelings that I had. I HATE making excuses and even though I knew it was the smart thing to do to protect my training going into Houston; I still felt like I was making excuses for my lack of performance.
I have also been holding on to a lot of disappointment in myself at Rochester. I know that I got a PR. I know that I got 2nd in my age group. I know I should be happy with that. But I went into that race thinking that I needed to run 4:00 or better to be on track for Houston. And whether or not that is true, my brain is still hanging onto that as truth. As a result, I still have lingering feelings of that race being a complete and total failure. (OK….it does sound ridiculous when I write it down, but my mind can be a little ridiculous.)
Aaaaaaand I’m still dealing with the emotional scars from my first psoas injury and the battle to get my fitness back that spanned the hot summer months. I’ve been busy enough in training that there hasn’t been much time for all this to bubble to the surface.
Oh, and now that Ragnar was over, I had nothing to distract me from the fact that Houston is LESS THAN 90 DAYS AWAY. I may have wondered out loud why in the world I thought I could ever BQ and that I was stupid for even trying. Yeah, I know.
Honestly, I wanted a break between Ragnar and the remainder of my Houston training. I was getting pretty tired and I know how much good just a little rest does for my body and my mental state. I was relieved when I first saw that Brent had included these few days of rest in my schedule. But I was SO disappointed with *my* Ragnar performance. Our team got 3rd and I think that made it worse because I felt like if Kelly and Brent hadn’t been as tired from running my mileage, we could have probably snagged 2nd. Here I was coming off yet another disappointing race performance and then I had to sit ALL WEEK. It was the perfect storm.
By mid-week, I was to the point that I was not dealing well at all with all my emotions. I fell COMPLETELY apart. I am usually so controlled and so good at holding things together, but I could not redirect my thoughts no matter how hard I tried. Yesterday, I had a complete and total meltdown at work FOR THE ENTIRE DAY. My coworkers that knew about it were shocked and scared, I’m sure, because I NEVER cry and I rarely lose it. Our counselor came strolling by mid-morning during one of my many mini-breakdowns during the day and wanted to discuss, but I wasn’t in ANY mood to discuss ANYTHING at that moment. In fact, I wasn’t planning on being in a mood to discuss anything at anytime during the rest of the day. But she has figured me out pretty well so she cornered me at lunch (I literally had NO escape). And 1,000,000 counselor-y questions later, she had actually calmed me down and helped me come to a point of acceptance (kind-of) about my recent race performances. (So, thank you, Julia!! Even though I was super irritated with you at the time and might have thrown daggers toward you had any been in my pocket!)
Basically, she said that maybe my expectations in certain situations are unrealistic. Ragnar, for example: I didn’t really have a lot of control over what my hip flexors did yet I was beating myself up for making a decision that protected my long-term plan. So my expectation that I should be able to “do it all” in that situation was unrealistic. I’ll admit that she was probably right. In addition, I think the fear of failure at Houston was a big part of it, too. The closer it has gotten; the more my anxiety has grown. I have A LOT of anxiety about not being able to meet my goal.
After our discussion, I felt better but still had a few meltdowns throughout the day. I got a good night’s sleep and even though I still don’t feel completely over it, I have felt much better today!
The mental game is the hardest
Before this week, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the mental aspect of training and racing. I am able to keep myself focused and calm and I don’t talk negatively to myself during workouts and races. So maybe I have that part covered.
It’s the after workouts (and especially after races!) where I need to improve. I must stop second guessing and over-analyzing my misses in every race and every workout, because I do a lot of that. I need to find a balance between self-reflection and honest criticism versus the unrealistic expectations that Julia mentioned. And Brent was right, too. I do put too much pressure on myself.
I think I have some ways in which I can improve.
Instead of not being able to move on from a disappointing performance, I am going to find something that I can work on to get better. I already had one from Rochester that I was planning to try during my next half marathon in two weeks: getting out of the aid stations more quickly and not keeping my head down as much – I need to look farther ahead instead of getting lost in my thoughts.
As far as putting pressure on myself – I think a lot of this is coming from this BQ attempt. I mean, that’s A LOT of pressure to perform. I have ONE shot. It isn’t like I can pick another marathon a couple weeks later and try again. That, in itself, is a lot of pressure. Plus, I just don’t know how I will react if I miss at Houston. The fear of failing is real and completely overtakes me sometimes. So how can I deal with it? I’m not sure. I think I am going to 1) get rid of the hashtag #roadtoHouston (…does talking about it increase the amount of pressure I feel?) 2) just focus on one workout at a time and 3) try not to think about it. I’ll be spending quite a bit of time trying to master #3.
Finally, I just need to believe in myself. I have a hard time doing that.
My friends are better than yours
I am SO BLESSED with so many good friends. I can’t close without giving them a shout-out. Kelly, who ALWAYS has my back and Carmen, who is honest enough with me not to put up with my whiny-ass bullshit. And of course, Brent! He doesn’t put up with my whiny-ass bullshit either. I know I’ve missed people. But this if for ALL you guys that believe in me when I don’t really believe in myself (which is sadly, too often) – THANK YOU!!
This weekend, I had the honor of running Ragnar Hill Country Ultra on the trails of Flat Rock Ranch with some of the best teammates one could ask for!
I went into this race having NEVER run trails before. EVER. As clumsy and prone to injury I am, I just couldn’t risk injuring myself for a race of this nature when I have my Boston qualifying attempt at Houston coming up next. I’m literally down to the wire and have ZERO time for injury rehab! OK….no, I am not that responsible. Brent banned me from trails! LOL
I picked up teammate Renegade Kelly at the airport on the way to San Antonio and we were off on our adventure!! We met up with Renegades Brent and Tim (and girlfriend, Madison) to eat dinner at a local restaurant that had an ahhhhhhmazing on-tap beer selection! I had difficulty deciding what to pick! After we stuffed ourselves with fabulous food and tasty beer, we went to turn in early for a good night’s sleep.
After breakfast at IHOP on Friday (NO, that is NOT on the metabolic efficiency diet plan!), we were on our way to Flat Rock Ranch in Comfort – basically the middle of nowhere! We unloaded all our gear, picked a campsite and went to work setting everything up. We had plenty of time to get things set up and eat lunch in Ragnar village before our check-in and safety briefing. Kelly and I even had time to go shopping in the Ragnar store and score some sweet gear! Afterwards, we all went back to chill at camp until our 3:30 PM team start.
Ragnar Trail runs have 3 loops. The loops must be run in order: Green, Yellow, Red for a team total of 24 loops. Since our team was an ultra team, we decided to run 2 laps back-to-back so that we would only have to go out three times versus six. This would give extra recovery time between laps. Tim was first up for the Green and Yellow loops; I was our second leg and my first outing would be Red and Green loops; Kelly was to be third and Brent was our anchor leg.
Tim is an incredibly fast runner and before we knew it, he was back at transition and it was my turn to go out! The Red loop was supposedly the most difficult, although I think that distinction was mostly due to the fact that the Red loop was the longest at 7.6 miles. I tried to keep my heart rate in check at the beginning, but it was basically impossible. This trail had an overall elevation increase of 958 feet and the biggest part of that was rocky terrain. I was so relieved when I finally passed the 5 mile mark and the trail started going mostly downhill AND I was able to run some flat, even-ish trails – which really helped my pace. I came through transition to my teammates cheering me on and went out immediately to run the Green loop. OH MY-LANTA! The Green loop was easier in ways, but harder in others. I’m not going to lie – I walked up part of the first hill, which was on a stinking gravel road! This trail had more grassy, flat trail in it, but there were also some technical parts that were steeper and more rocky than the Red loop! The temps on the Red loop were fairly warm, but by the time I got on the Green loop the sun was starting to set and I could feel the cooler air in the low-lying areas. It was fun and fast, though, and before I knew it, I was in transition again, handing off to Kelly so she could start our third leg. The only thing that I disliked about this run was having to keep my head down so much to avoid tripping. When I was able to look up, the views were breathtaking. I LOVE the Hill Country!! I was pleased, overall, with my run. I ran the 10.45 miles in 1:52 at a 10:44 pace. I was hoping to run closer to 10:00 pace, but I knew going in that was a lofty goal! Now it was time to try to get some rest and wait on my next leg.
As soon as the sun went down, so did the temps! I had checked the forecast and knew that temps were supposed to get down into the mid 40s, but it seems so much colder when you are actually out in it! I crawled into my sleeping bag and was finally able to get somewhat warm. It seemed as if I had just drifted off to sleep when it was time to get up and get ready for my next leg. My go-to pre-run nutrition since starting on this Metabolic Efficiency journey is UCAN, however, I ate a banana with peanut butter for this outing. By this time, I was FREEZING, because temps were really starting to dip, so I went down to the village to hang out by the camp fire until Tim came in. And before I knew it, I was off on my second leg at 12:04 AM! This leg would be my longest run at around 12.5 miles. I would be running the Yellow loop (which was home to the highest point in the race) and the Red loop (AGAIN). The temps were right in my perfect run zone! I do much better when temps are in the low 40s, plus there was no sun! The Yellow loop was pretty much a continuous climb for the first half of the loop. It was a technical trail but, of course, the cover of darkness made it more difficult. I had to slow down more often than I did on my first leg because I wasn’t willing to risk a bad fall. Every time I came across a rocky ascent or descent, my mantra was: Boston. I made it through the Yellow loop, only tripping on a tree root once but I caught myself with my hands so I felt like I was #winning !! I celebrated too quickly. The Red loop BEAT ME UP! My legs were getting tired from trying to stabilize my feet and body on the uneven terrain and this loop had more (or seemed to have more) tree roots on it. I fell three more times and EVERY TIME was due to tree roots!! I was only passed by the super-ultra-guy-runners and I passed A LOT of people – so many were walking. I came back into transition a little battered and bloody, but I was actually proud of that dirt and blood! This leg was a little slower, but faster than I had anticipated while I was out on the trail. I ran 12.53 miles in 2:25 with an 11:36 average. I wasn’t *as* happy with it, but I was glad that my pace was under 12:00.
After stopping at the medic tent to get my wounds cleaned and antibiotic ointment applied, I grabbed clean clothes and went to find a half-way clean port-o-potty in which to change. Of course, I was dripping with sweat and my body was cooling down and I was shivering. It was SO COLD. So cold, that while I was scrubbing the dried blood off my leg in the port-o-potty, there was STEAM coming off my skin. After I cleaned myself up, I crawled into my sleeping bag and NEVER GOT WARM. I shivered and froze the rest of the night. I was SO MISERABLE. I HATE being cold.
Finally, the sun started to rise and I knew it would soon be time for me to go out for my third and final leg. Kelly and I got up and went on the hunt for coffee. But something was wrong. During my second leg, I could tell my right psoas was overworked and I could feel it when I was on the trail. It was a little cranky when I finished, but I had hoped that some rest would help it. Nope. The more I walked around; the worse it got. Tim was out running, and could come in at any moment. Brent had gone to his car to charge phones and I confided in Kelly that I was really, really scared. She tried to put a positive spin on it, but I knew how my left side felt back in the Spring, how bad it got because I continued to run Ragnar road on it, and how LOOOOONG it took to recover. I DO NOT have any recovery time. We walked back to camp with our coffee and I sat down in a chair and started crying. I was so scared. I felt SO BAD. I didn’t know what to do. I knew that if I ran any of my last 8 miles, that I would be kissing any chance at a BQ goodbye. And I felt that by *not* running my 8 miles, I would be letting my team down. Major bummer. As soon as Kelly realized how concerned that I was, she told me she would run my 8 miles….BOTH loops. I knew I couldn’t let her do that (she still had 10 miles of her own), but she insisted on running my 3. She went to tag off with Tim and I went to find Brent to tell him what was going on. When I filled him in, he asked if I would feel better if he ran my 5 miles…..at this point I was just trying to hold back the tears. I felt so relieved not to be running that last leg because I knew it was the right decision but at the same time I felt so guilty that my teammates had to pick up my slack and yet again, at the same time, my heart was so full because they were willing to do what they could to help me protect my chance at qualifying for Boston.
Kelly was pretty worn out when she got back from last leg (Brent was out running the last 2 loops) so Tim and I packed up camp while she sat and recovered with food, food and more food. We loaded everything up and all we had to do at that point was wait for Brent so we could run the finish in with him! When we ran the finish, I knew that the decision to sit out my last leg was the right call because my psoas was cranky and irritable after running less than .10 mile. Knowing that still didn’t help my ego and my pride deal with the situation – I felt really, really badly about it.
We went to have our picture made with our medals, then got Brent to his car so he could make the trek home. Kelly and I headed to Austin, where we were staying for the night and Tim….Tim had to find his keys before he was able to leave. Thankfully, they had been found and turned in! Before Kelly and I left out, I had to use my medal to do a bit of surgery on my knee…..I had a piece of skin that was hanging and I could not get it off. It is true that Ragnar medals are multi-purpose tools!
We found out on Sunday that we took 7th overall out of all the Ultra teams and 3rd in our division of Mixed -Sub Masters, which was VERY exciting!! Words can’t express the amount of love and admiration I feel for my teammates for stepping up and taking my slack. It STILL causes me to tear up! And the GREAT news is that my psoas isn’t giving me any problems at the moment. I am still struggling with that decision, but I know it was the right one. I’m so thankful that I didn’t suffer a set-back on this journey.
I have been feeling called to the trails for quite some time and this weekend, they stole my heart. I WILL be back on the trails, but they will have to wait until after I run Houston Marathon. Now my only focus is getting ready for that race – with all my rest days aka free time this week, I have had several mini freak-outs! When I start working out again (TOMORROW!!!), I am going to simply focus on each workout and execute it the best that I can.
This past weekend, I traveled to Rochester for a mini-reunion with my Sole Sister Jenn – OH, and to run a little race! I ran the Rochester Marathon!! 🙂
Back in the winter months when I was planning to run the Big Cedar 50 miler this November, my coach advised me to find “a hilly marathon to run in late September/early October” as a warm up to the 50M. I started looking around and found NOTHING in Texas that fit the requirements. So I expanded my search to surrounding states and found nothing. When I started considering farther away states, I had the idea to start looking in states where I had friends. So I started looking then asked Jenn to send me her race schedule. Low and behold, she was to run her first full marathon on September 18. So we started talking about it and she was SO excited, but I cautioned her it was a bit earlier than Brent had suggested so I had to get it cleared through him. He did and I signed up immediately! I was so excited to have the opportunity to be there when she crossed the finish line to become a marathoner!!
Fast forward. Jenn started having pain in her knee…or at least she thought it was her knee. She ran about 3,000 races before she broke down and consulted medical attention (mind you, she is a MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL). Diagnosis: stress fracture in her femur. This meant she wouldn’t be able to run the marathon….or the half-marathon. I felt SO BADLY that I would be going up there for her to wait around for me to cross the finish line. On the flip side, she felt SO BADLY that I was coming up to run a race that she could’t run. So we both felt badly, but there was no way that I would have cancelled!! She was the ONLY reason I chose that race!!
My own struggle with my psoas and running in the Devil’s Armpit is well documented so I won’t revisit it here. Suffice to say that I felt unprepared for this race simply because of the Jedi mind tricks the heat played on my brain.
Race week finally arrived and OFF I GO!
This marathon training has seemed so short. The first half of it was shared with training for my first sprint triathlon at the end of July. Plus, maybe I’m getting old because time seems to fly these days. In any case, I didn’t really feel like I trained for a marathon at all! LOL
Friday came and I was ready to go!! My bag had been packed for days…..well, my race gear at least! My day didn’t start exactly as I had planned. I had packed greek yogurt, boiled eggs and some almonds and cheese for the trip AND TSA MADE ME THROW THE GREEK YOGURT AWAY. I was so mad. Our security is SERIOUSLY A BIG *&^%(*& JOKE!!! <insert stress here> My metabolic efficiency plan is lower carb and currently no grains….try finding anything to fit that description in an airport! I looked at the yogurt that was available in a couple of places, but it was too high in sugar and carbs so I decided to eat my eggs and add cheese or almonds. My fat intake would just have to be a little higher than normal.
This trip seemed to take FOREVER! I was so ready to see my friend!! When my plane FINALLY landed, I was walking to the luggage carousel and I saw the “Ain’t Texas” shirt first before I noticed who was wearing it. IT WAS JENN!!!!
We dropped my bags, picked up our packets, went grocery shopping for my special diet and for the weekend then headed off to Joshua’s football game. (Football in New York is WAY different than Texas, btw!) It was a crazy busy afternoon!
Saturday we didn’t have set in stone plans. We slept in (until 7 AM!) and drank coffee for quite some time then decided to head out for my 2-mile run before the rains came. Jenn rode her bike alongside me and we talked and chatted the whole way. The run felt SO GOOD. When we got back home, her husband, John, was finishing up breakfast. Bless their hearts for being so accommodating with my pre-race food binge/special diet. I say this because I had to eat SO MUCH FOOD (and it was so specific)! LOL My ME specialist with whom I am working sent me a very detailed plan. I followed it almost to the letter (I had to make some modifications for lunch.) We didn’t have breakfast until 10AM, so with the late start I had even less time between meals to get all this food down. I felt as if I needed to be rolled away from the breakfast table – I was so full!
Jenn wanted to take me around Rochester, so I made my between-breakfast-and-lunch-smoothie and we headed out. Our first stop was Genesee Brewery, which is located right on the Genesee River. I WAS STILL SO FULL – by now it was after Noon and I had downed my smoothie in the car. I couldn’t drink much, so we decided to get a flight and share. (The beer here was the best of the day overall, by the way!) I SWEAR I only sipped!!
Our next stop was Rochester Brewery. The beer here was OK, but they had a scotch ale that tickled my taste buds, so it was my favorite beer of the day.
For lunch, we went to an apparently famous BBQ restaurant – Dinosaur Bar B Que. It was delicious, but different than Texas BBQ. Of course, I was still stuffed from breakfast and smoothie but that didn’t stop me from stuffing my face…again!
After we ate, we made our way home for a quiet pre-race evening and late dinner.
I slept like a baby. It seemed like I had just closed my eyes and my alarm was already going off!! I fixed my race-day breakfast, got all my gear together and we were headed to the start line! We got there in plenty of time – Jenn and I are of the same mindset that you must get there early. I like to get there early to get myself centered before the race (and use the potties 200 times), but I think for her it is more about parking.
We made our way to the start and lined up. I never had pre-race jitters except for the couple of minutes when the race countdown had begun. The gun went off and the course immediately turned into a steep downhill. I tried to hold back for a bit but decided just to go with it and let gravity take over. So my nutrition change called for making UCAN gel. (Surprisingly, when you add Base salts and use coconut water, it doesn’t taste half bad!) I had 2 containers of UCAN gel in my belt and each of them had 2 servings of UCAN. I really only needed three, but I like to be prepared. I ALWAYS carry extra. I also had a GU, in case of emergency. Boy Scout status here. Running down the hill, I felt those gel containers bouncing around and as I reached back to steady them, ONE FELL OUT. Either I am as mentally strong as Fort Knox, or things like this have happened too often to count because I didn’t even really panic. (I think we ALL know which…) Seriously, though, what was I going to do….go back and attempt to get it and get trampled?!? NO. I just needed to adjust my strategy. I decided to spread out my servings of UCAN over a bit longer period of time, then use my GU between mile 20-22. And so the first mile came in at 7:59. (I SWEAR IT WAS GRAVITY!)
I settled into a fairly steady pace soon after my plunge from Mt. Everest and averaged between 8:30-9:20 until the halfway mark. All of this time, I had stayed in zone 2 heart rate, which was NOT the plan. The plan was to run 3-5 in zone 2, kick it up into zone 3 then give it everything at mile 20. Riiiiiiight. There were hills. LOTS OF HILLS. Downhills, too, which were just as bad because they were generally steep and I could tell my quads would pay for those soon. By mile 8, I could tell that the ups and downs were already taking a toll. I was on pace to run around 2:00 for the first half and I knew that my legs wouldn’t be able to keep up. I knew that I wasn’t going to hit 4:00. I HAD to reconcile this and not let it affect me mentally. I made a decision, though, not to slow down. What would that accomplish?? I knew I was going to slow down at some point and wanted to cover as much ground as I could before that happened. Despite the killer hills; despite shredding my quads on the downhills; despite my fueling issue; despite the rising temps; I still ran the first half in 1:55.
As the second loop started, I could tell that I was slowing down. Now came the ever-burning question: when to use the last half of the fuel I had left? I had taken the first serving at mile 8, which was around the 1:10 mark. I decided to try to wait until 16, even if it was a bit past 2:20 (which I knew it would be! LOL). I was expecting an aid station at 16, but in the second half there was an aid station at 14.5 and not again until 17. So I took the UCAN at 17. This made me a little behind my re-fuel. I was beginning to fatigue and to add insult to injury, I had to stop for the bathroom, which ticked me off. I NEVER have to stop during races. Bleh. I could tell by mile 19 that my energy level was decent and had been steadied by the UCAN, but remember wondering if my legs would be able to take me another 7 miles. My quads were the problem and so fatigued from the downhills. I ended up taking the emergency GU at mile 21, just to make sure I kept my energy levels up for those last 5 miles. I had already slowed down – I was running between 10:00-10:30 min miles for the most part and I couldn’t afford to lose anymore time by losing more energy. All this time, I was STILL in zone 2. That seriously bothered me, but my legs didn’t have it in them to run fast enough to get my heart rate up. I finally crossed the finish line at 4:10:43, a PR by about 4 min 30 sec – yes, a PR was great but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t upset about not being able to run this race better.
As soon as I got my medal, I was nearly tackled by Jenn! I forgot to mention that Jenn, after the femur fracture, dropped back to the half and had decided to walk it. On Saturday, she said she might run the last 3 miles if she wasn’t feeling any pain. She casually told me that SHE RAN THE ENTIRE RACE. Oh Jenn. What am I to do with her?!? I am so proud of her tenacity and how she refuses to never give up!! She also said that she thought I might have placed in my age group, because (and I quote), “I was looking at people’s faces and judging their age and everyone was younger than you.” Because you can ALWAYS determine someone’s age just by looking! LOL
We made our way to the results tent and I had snagged 2nd place in my age group! That was definitely icing on the cake! I laid down on a bench while Jenn went to claim her special medal for finishing the Four Seasons Challenge, then we went out to claim my Major Award!
OK, I really didn’t food binge. LOL But I did eat a Garbage Plate. Apparently it is a concoction that is unique to Rochester. Jenn and I shared one because I knew that I would NEVER be able to eat a whole one. It had macaroni salad, home fries and hamburger patties on top. So odd! LOL It wasn’t bad. Personally, I would have preferred mac’n’cheese but Jenn claimed that NY’ers love their macaroni salad! LOL
We ended up getting Panera for dinner, which made me happy :), and settled in to watch football before it was time to head to bed.
I want to take this time to say HOW MUCH that I enjoyed spending the weekend with Jenn and her family. She told me before I came how much I would love her husband and her boys and she was so right!!
Post-race demons and coming to acceptance
I’m not going to lie. I was not happy that I didn’t run a sub-4 marathon. In my mind, getting to that point was going to be validation that I was on-track for Houston and my BQ attempt. I tried to focus on the positives. I tried to reason with myself with all the reasons that I should be proud of 4:10, but none of it worked. When my coach asked me what my feelings were about the race (I have a feeling that he already knew), he told me to list the negatives and the positives. That actually helped.
My legs didn’t have it in them.
Stayed in zone 2
Missed goal time of 4:00
Wasn’t as tired afterward as in past marathons (I’m sure that had nothing to do with staying in zone 2)
Didn’t break down mentally in race (I waited until after LOL)
1:55 first half, even with the hills
2nd age group
No stomach upset/issues (this was my first race using UCAN as fuel during the race)
I also decided to list some variables that I knew had effected the race:
Taper seemed shorter (maybe it wasn’t)
Started new nutrition program 3 weeks ago
Fueling fiasco at start of race
Temps for the race had increased steadily and it was fairly humid.
And, things I need to figure out going forward:
Why did my legs feel so dead when I never got out of zone 2? Was it solely the hills? Is any of it related to transitioning to metabolic efficiency? I mean, I just started this process.
Why do I feel like I failed if I was able to come out with a PR and age group place?
I have had a couple days to get the race endorphins out of my system and catch up on sleep. I did a little research and the elevation gain for Rochester (according to Strava) is 915 feet. The elevation gain for Dallas is 524. So I basically ran twice the elevation, or difficulty, and still managed a nearly-5 min PR. That actually made me feel better.
I also need to remember that I had to overcome a setback with that psoas and I still managed a PR. Even more important and encouraging is that I have had no aches and pains aside from my quads. My quads were mad over those downhills, but they haven’t been grumbling too much.
Most importantly, I am BLESSED. Blessed that I was able to travel to see my friend. Blessed that I can even run at all. Blessed that my body is healthy.
So yeah, I was upset for a bit. I acknowledged my feelings, worked through them and have managed to find myself on the sunny side of the situation!
THANK YOU to everyone for all your support!!! All the texts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram messages and comments, for signing up for the tracking that didn’t work – YOU ALL ROCK!!