Rawhide 50 Race Recap

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

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

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

The storm before the race

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

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

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

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

Renegade sisters head South

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

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

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

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

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

The journey begins

Loop 1 

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

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

Loop 2 – Struggle bus loop

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

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

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

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

Loop 3 – Riding the wave

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

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

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

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

Last loop – I CAN DO THIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

The monkey is off my back

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

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

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

Checking off my race goals

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

Areas to improve

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

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

Race Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

See you at Brazos Bend 100!

RnR Dallas Race Recap: Finding the Sweet Spot

First, I want to apologize for this post being so lengthy.  I try to keep my posts short and sweet, but I just couldn’t condense this much – plus I mostly write these for myself so when it shows up on TimeHop next year I will be able to relive the day in its full glory.  I’m not quite sure why I am attempting to write this now, so soon after the race.  I’m still trying to process the whole amazing experience.

Last week as the weather forecast became more and more favorable, I started gaining confidence that I would be able to hit my goal of 1:50.  Still, I tend to doubt myself and my abilities and I just didn’t know if I would be able to run as hard as I needed to without having my teammates drag me along during the race.  Running with them at Cowtown was instrumental to my success in that race, but I learned a lot, too, and hoped I could capitalize on that at RnR.

Crazy Jen always finds a way to escape

People laugh when I talk about Crazy Jen, but she is a real part of my personality, on the running side anyway.  I can’t actually say that I have done anything spectacular to keep her at bay – when I just stick to the plan and do the workouts my coach gives me, she stays hidden.

But taper…..taper is a time when the craziness emerges and even the most sensible people do un-sensible things (I am NOT sensible, even when I am not tapering).  I was so proud of myself earlier in the week when I made the wise decision NOT to try Bulgarian Squats.  I have tried new exercises during taper before and, to no one’s surprise except mine, it did not turn out well.  So I was batting 1.000 for Smart Jen. <smiley face>

It takes a lot of energy to resist all the taper temptations, however, and I was completely exhausted by Saturday evening.  All of a sudden, I felt anxious about not having hydrated enough during the day and went straight to work to try to remedy that situation.  (Hint: the breakdown had begun.)  I decided to try this “new” drink mix (called ZipFizz) that I bought at the expo.  It was supposedly full of electrolytes, and of course I needed electrolytes!!  At the expo, I had tried a “cocktail” of Blueberry/Raspberry and Citrus.  It was sooooo tasty!!  I decided this was what I should drink.  Each tube is one-16 oz serving, so I made a 32 oz bottle in order to mix both of them in.  When I had downed, oh, about 24 oz of this fizzy goodness – just as I was getting ready to crawl into bed,  I remembered that it was also touted as an energy drink and was FULL of B12!  I yelled at myself – WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?!?  I was hoping that it wouldn’t affect me, and I can’t say for certain that it did, but I was awake for about 1 1/2 hours between 11:00-12:30.  I wasn’t stressed at all about the fact that I was to get up at 4:00AM!  LOLimg_7879

Sadly, the madness didn’t stop there.  I didn’t have a hard and fast race plan, so naturally I started stressing about that around 8:30.  I had a gut feeling that I was going to be able to hit 1:50, but hadn’t really set out about mentally preparing for what that would look like during the race.  I pulled up the splits for a 1:49 half marathon (because what’s the use unless you can get under 1:50?) and then…..I PANICKED.  Like literally panicked to the point that I had to tell myself to STOP THINKING.  This probably contributed to my middle-of-the-night insomnia.  I did revise my race strategy, though, by deciding to go out a little faster in the beginning than I had planned.

Race day jitters

In spite of the difficulty finding sleep early on, I managed to get some quality winks in before my alarm went off.  I got up easily enough with plenty of time to meet my friends Erica and Dara in McKinney for my car pool ride to the race.  I was increasingly nervous the closer we got to the race.  I seriously thought I was going to throw up from nerves by the time we parked!   Luckily, the feeling subsided after I got out of the car….kind of.

Erica talked me into paying for VIP, which I thought was ridiculous and stupid and never imagined I would be confessing that purchase to anyone.  I’m so glad she did because parking was close and more importantly, we were able to wait inside until time to head to the corrals AND….bathrooms.  Not port-o-pottys.  REAL bathrooms.

Finding that “sweet spot”

It seemed like no time had passed before it was time to head to the corrals.  I wanted to meet up with Lauren, a Renegade Endurance teammate of mine, then head to find my friend Rebecca in our corral.

Lauren, my fellow Renegade!!
Lauren, my fellow Renegade!!
Rebecca has turned out to be a good friend and an inspiration! Love being at all these races with her!!
Rebecca has turned out to be a good friend and an inspiration! Love being at all these races with her!!

Before I could blink, the National Anthem was being sung and the gun was off for corral 1.  Rebecca and I were in corral 2, and luckily there was only 1 minute between each corral.  This would prove helpful later in the race, because I knew I wasn’t much over 1:00 off the gun clock – I ended up using the clocks to see how close I really was to my goal.

I didn’t have much choice in starting out fast at Cowtown because I was running with my speedy teammates, but that experience taught me a lot about my heart rate.  I was able to realize that I have been starting out too slow, waiting on my heart rate to get settled.  I now know that I can run a faster pace and my heart will settle down after the first couple miles.

Originally, I planned to run the first mile at 8:40, then decide where to go from there.  After looking up the splits on a 1:49, I knew there was NO WAY I could do that and hope to make it up.  I revised my plan to run 8:30 the first couple of miles, then settle in and run with my heart rate around 160.

Mile 1 came in at 8:33 while mile 2 came in a bit faster at 8:19 – I am pretty sure there were some downhills involved there!  My heart settled into a steady pace in the high 150s and mile 3 came in at 8:23.  I was feeling really good, the weather was AMAZING, but I knew that I still had A LOT of race to go.  Mile 4 came in at 7:55 because it was ALL downhill through downtown.  My left calf got a little crampy about halfway through – kind of ticked me off because I was going DOWNHILL, but I decided not to give it any mental energy, told it to stop and luckily it settled down.  I kept rocking right along with mile 5 at 8:06, but running up the on-ramp to the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge slowed my mile 6 pace to 8:27.

At the 10k mark, I was right on track to run 1:49.  I knew this because I had written the times I needed to hit for 6, 9, 10, 11, & 12 miles.   I did this, because I never really know what to expect as far as finishing time and it just takes too much mental effort to try to figure mid-race (and I never figure it correctly anyway).  But I was afraid to get too excited and too ahead of myself, because the mile 9 hill was still looming ahead.  There was still so much left to race.

My VIP bracelet, which doubled as a homemade "Pace Band"
My VIP bracelet, which doubled as a homemade “Pace Band”

I decided to go ahead and take a gel just before the mile 7 aid station.  After getting through the station, I realized that I was starting to get hot.  The sun was up and I was in an area that didn’t allow for much wind to pass through.  After I cleared the water stop, I peeled off my arm sleeves – I considered peeling off my shirt as well, but then I wouldn’t have been reppin’ my club! LOL  Miles 7 & 8 came in at 8:05 and 8:16.

Then….I hit the MILE 9 HILL.  Can I say that by this point I was SO OVER THE HILLS?!?!  I made it up the hill, mentally and physically drained and then THERE WAS ANOTHER HILL.  I was so tired.  And I was getting so hot.  Luckily, the aid station was right there and I poured a few cups of water on myself to try to cool down.  Mile 9 came in at 8:38 – the hill really slowed me down.  Honestly, at this point, I was starting to get very tired.  Even so, I still managed to maintain my pace somewhat with mile 10 clocking in at 8:31. Mile 11 – ahhhhhh – downhill.  Wheeeeeeeee!!  This was my second and last sub-8 mile of the race AND the fastest at 7:51.  Boy, did I ever need that mental break!  Mile 12 evened back out at 8:11 before I SLAMMED into mile 13.

MILE 13.  I can’t even think about it now without curling into the fetal position.  IT. WAS. SOOOOO. BAD.  It was over a bridge that *seemed* flat, but was NOT flat.  It was a gentle, LONG, incline.  I may have hallucinated or seen mirages.  It was seriously like being stuck out in a desert.  Every time I thought it looked like I was getting close to the end, MORE BRIDGE would come into view.  To make things worse, I was so close to the finish line at this point, I could hear the finish line announcer and music.  Torture.  PURE TORTURE.  To add to my despair, I was EXHAUSTED.  I was starting to get side stitches (I rarely get side stitches) and I think I would have felt better if I could have puked on the side of the road.  I wanted to stop right there and walk it in.  I questioned my sanity and wondered WHY I voluntarily put myself into this situation.  I even considered canceling all my upcoming races.  And the thought that propelled me to the next phase – WHY do you think you have a chance at a 3:45 marathon??

I got PISSED.  I was mad at myself for allowing that negative talk in my head.  I was mad that I wanted to quit.  I reminded myself that these few moments of pain were NOTHING compared to the regret and disappointment I would feel if I ended up missing this sub-1:50 goal because I quit on myself.  I reminded myself that I have bigger goals than a sub-1:50, and this is just one more step in the ladder on my way to those goals.  I started repeating the quote: Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.  I was in pain, but I DIDN’T have to suffer – suffering is mental.  Thank goodness this was enough to pull me out of my funk.  I was elated when I finally reached the end of that bridge!!  Now it would be downhill to the finish line, and the finish line was not much more that .10 away!!

Errrrrr….that’s what I thought anyway.  I had a nice little downhill happy rush only to round a corner and realize that I had to not only go UP to the finish, but I had to turn a corner AND go UP an even steeper incline as well!!  I WAS SO MAD because I WAS IN PAIN and race finishes should be DOWNHILL.  But when I rounded that corner, I caught a glimpse of the clock and knew that I still had a shot at my time goal, so I ran as hard as I could for those last yards.

I stopped my Garmin and was so tired and happy to be finished that I didn’t even think to look at it.  As I walked to pick up my medal, I was so overcome with emotion that I started sobbing and I nearly shed a tear…nearly.  I had just gotten my phone out when I got a text from one of my best friends.  The first text was, “Oh my so close!”  My heart sank.  I had been so sure that I made it under 1:50.  THEN the next ones came through…I was still so emotional – I was still sobbing.  I ran that race with my heart and soul and the end was SO HARD.  I sat down on the curb just trying to process the last hour and 50 minutes of my life.  I was overwhemed with emotion.img_7891

After the race, I stumbled around aimlessly, freezing, looking for beer (which was terrible, by the way) until I remembered that I BOUGHT VIP!!!img_7867

It was quite the obstacle course getting over there, but it was sooooo warm and there was food! The food didn’t really matter because I tried to eat and it made me sick to my stomach.  Having a seat at a table in warm space was well worth the extra money I paid.  I waited there, still trying to process my accomplishment, while I waited on Erica and Dara to finish.

I realized later that the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders were performing at the finish line.  In my state of extreme pain, I developed tunnel vision for the finish line and had NO idea they were there!

Here I sit, one day later, so proud of my performance.  I think I finally found that sweet spot of pushing just hard enough to finish my best.  I have some pretty lofty goals, and meeting those goals will require me managing the pain of races and I think I did that pretty well, too.  For the first time EVER, I am satisfied….for now 🙂

Race Recap: Hot Chocolate 15k – Dallas

I was so excited to be able to run Hot Chocolate 15k in Dallas this past weekend.   Hot Chocolate started giving out some sweet medals in 2015 but since I was just beginning my come-back from the ITB injury, I was not in the position to race.

Even though Alli had a tournament on the same weekend as Hot Chocolate this year, I decided to take a gamble and run that race.  (The gamble payed off because she played in the afternoon!)  My next *big* race is Cowtown Half Marathon at the end of February.  The timing of Hot Chocolate 15k in relationship to Cowtown works well (for me) as a training run.  Of course, who ever runs races truly as a *training run*?  (Hint: not me)

Getting there was half the battle

Traffic along the way and into Downtown was light, thank goodness, because it came to a virtual stand-still as I neared the parking areas.  I still had plenty of time to get parked and to the start line on time.  The reason that I even mention this is that I was witness (once again) to the stupidity of humanity.  The road on which I was stopped was RIGHT NEXT to a DART station, and yet, people still stopped in the middle of the tracks as if no trains ever came through.  One person came very close to getting the top of his car whacked.  I laughed as he managed to back out-of-the-way, literally in the nick of time.img_7244

Meeting up with friends, old and new

Several of my Twitter peeps were running and we had grandiose plans of meeting up before the race – one even came down from Tulsa!  I was really excited about meeting them, but traffic held them up and we ended up only seeing each other long enough to snap this pic.  Maybe our paths will cross again soon!img_7294

I met up with another special friend before (and after!) the race – Rebecca.  I met Rebecca through Alli’s volleyball team.  It didn’t take us long to realize that we are on about the same level of running crazy and have been pals since!img_7247

The race

Two years ago when I ran Hot Chocolate, my time was 1:37.  When I registered this year, I had to provide recent race results to prove my pace in order to be placed in a corral.  OK….I am much faster now than I was then, but I still have a hard time thinking of myself as a faster runner, so it caught me off guard!

Imagine my surprise when I figured out I was in the very first corral!  I still can’t believe it! LOLimg_7248

I found yet another friend, Kellie, in the corral and we started the race together.  However, my heart rate was being wonky (probably due to the cold) and I sent her on her way about one mile in.

OK...this was AFTER the race - by the time we found each other in the corral, the race was starting!
This was AFTER the race – by the time we found each other in the corral, the race was starting!

I LOVE running by heart rate.  It takes ALL the guesswork out of running, for me at least.  But I’m not going to lie, during the first 2.5 miles, I questioned whether or not the race would turn out well because my heart rate was wonky!  I know that my heart rate is unsteady for the first couple miles when I am cold, but I was still a little concerned when it was still acting crazy during mile 2.

I started pushing up my heart rate after mile 3 (just like I was supposed to), but I was wondered if I would be able to hold that intensity the entire race.  I think because my heart rate was so unstable early on, it made me feel a little fatigued.  Still, I somehow managed to keep rocking-n-rolling along.  I felt like I hit my stride after mile 5…that is, until around halfway through mile 7.  I started feeling tired (again) and started wondering how the last couple miles were going to play out.  Then I remembered that I had brought a gel.  (Apparently fueling concepts have been completely removed from my brain because I have been having trouble remembering ANY and ALL kinds of fuel lately!)  So at mile 7.5, I took my gel and kept on trucking!  But when I got to the bridge in the middle of mile 8, I wanted to scream.  I DID NOT want to run up another hill!! The thing about the bridge is that the finish line is literally so close!  I was SO HAPPY to cross that finish line!

I got my medal and immediately saw my friend, Rebecca.  She had crossed the finish just ahead of me, heard my name announced and turned around to greet me.  Then I ran into Kellie (from the pic above) and we chatted for a bit, then I was off to get the bowl of chocolate goodies.  I’m not entirely sure why I got it.  I would much rather have had a beer.  I drank 3 sips of my hot chocolate then threw the rest away.  I never feel like eating after a race or a long run and that icky sweetness was just too much!

When you can’t believe the finish

I ended up running 1:21:52, which obviously blew my time from two years ago out of the water!  While I didn’t place in my age group, I ended up 63/699, and overall female 306/3909.  I’ll take top 10% any day!

Rebecca and I after the race!
Rebecca and I after the race!


Happy Tuesday!!


Let’s talk about Dallas

Before we talk about Dallas, let’s talk training…and racing.

Believe 10K

This past weekend, my training called for 8 miles on Saturday and 20 on Sunday.  However, there is a local 10K (which happens to be the first 10K that I ever ran) that I really wanted to run.  I got coach approval, registered and all was set……until the monsoons began on Thanksgiving day.

It was COLD and it was WET…….I HATE to be cold!  But race or no race, I had to run some miles and running a race – even in wet, cold rain –  was certain to be more fun than a regular training run.  Luckily, the rain stopped just as the race started….for the entirety of the race!

My body felt really good during the race.  I was supposed to keep my heart rate in Zone 2 for the first 4 miles, but I struggled with that because there were SO MANY HILLS.  After some reflection I feel that I could have pushed a little harder on the last couple miles, but I was being a bit cautious…..because of the HILLS.  I was afraid that if I pushed too hard, too early, that I would lose steam and slow down at the end.  I’m still trying to find that magical race exertion balance.  In the end, it worked out, because I PR’d by 1:30 (my last PR was in the Spring) and I won my age group!!  Miracles never cease to happen! Let this be a lesson to all of you to always run in cruddy weather because a lot of people don’t show up!  I didn’t stay for the awards, because I NEVER expected to win my age group.  It was so cold plus the announcing of the winners was so slow that I opted for Starbucks after the overall winners were announced for the 5K.

My Major Award
My Major Award

Another cool thing about this race was that I finally got to wear my race shirt from my run club, Renegade Endurance.  The jerseys came in the week after I got back from St. Louis and I haven’t raced since then, so it was fun to break it in with a PR and an age group win!  (I was too cold to have any pics made at the race site and barely remembered to take the pic when I got home.)  #ADHDprobsIMG_6239

Last Long Run

Because the monsoons over Thanksgiving break caused some flooding in my area, I had to run my last long run on the treadmill. <sad violin music>

Honestly, I didn’t think I could do it.  My longest run on the treadmill prior to Sunday was 5 miles.  I dreaded this run on several levels.  This run was my last chance to work on fueling and hydration before the race.  The conditions on a treadmill are just no match for being outside.  I did tweak my fueling a bit and I won’t truly know if it will work until race day.  Terrain was my another issue.  There is no preparation for a road race like running on a road!  Finally, and I suspect this was highly influenced by terrain (or lack thereof), my heart rate was SO LOW.  I try to keep my heart rate low on long runs, but my heart rate was about 15 beats per minute below where it usually is.  (If you’re confused – it’s just one more way that my treadmill run differed from a road run.)   I could have sped up to increase my heart rate, but then it wouldn’t have been a long SLOW run.  During the run, I focused on the fact that, at the most basic level, long runs are about time spent on your feet.

Mentally, I battled boredom.  I watched movies, but I am convinced that was not a good thing.  As I got into the movie, I paid less attention to what I was doing on the run.  This is the precise reason that I stopped running with music – I do not need any additional distractions!

In the end, a run is a run and when I was done, I felt VERY accomplished!IMG_62539 Days and Counting

Soooooooo, Dallas is 9 days and counting.  This time last year, I was a nervous wreck.  I knew that the race was going to be hard and terrible and painful, but I tried to hold on to that hope that my ITB would behave.  It didn’t.  I’m still shaking my head over it.

This taper is different.  Even though I spent a ridiculous amount of time recovering from injuries in 2015, I’ve also gained an unbelievable amount of fitness and strength over the past two months.  The difference is that I have been working with a new coach since the beginning of October.  In the words of one of my running buddies, “He attacked my weaknesses” and, as a result, I am running stronger and faster than ever.  In the beginning, he told me he would get me to Dallas injury-free and strong.  I didn’t believe him because at that point, I was still injured – mentally and physically.  I had spent SO much time on injury that it was becoming hard to believe that I would ever get over that hump.  I honestly didn’t believe that I could be strong enough to run the full at Dallas.  But guess what?  My coach delivered.

I am more than strong enough to run Dallas.  More importantly, I have transitioned mentally from seeing myself as weak and injured to strong and healthy.  Instead of a taper filled with anxiety and apprehension, I am filled with energy and excitement because I can’t wait to run this race!!

Happy Friday!



Out with the injuries, in with my healthiest running ever!

Disclaimer: This is a kind of 2014 recap/2015 goals post all in one.

In debating the format for this post, I decided to go with “the list”, because goals are a version of a list after all.  And, instead of rehashing all the stupid things Jen has done in 2014 in the name of the run, I won’t be detailing my mistakes here…..only lessons learned.  This is, in part, to avoid sounding like a broken record while simultaneously beating a dead horse.  But, for the most part, this is an attempt to spare the 4 people who read my blog the agony of reading, yet again, about my “lapses in judgement”, as I affectionately refer to them.  Let’s just hope that reading my blog is one of your 2015 goals. 🙂

2014 Accomplishments

  • Suffered my first running-related injury and lived through it!  (It was quite the drama at the time.)  Seriously, it was great experience, looking back.  It only served to make me a more seasoned runner.  And now that I’m going through injury for a second time, I feel I’m growing wiser! (And, boy, could I use some wisdom from the gods of running!)

    No caption needed really, but I've covered the stupid part, now on to the wise!
    No caption needed really, but I’ve COMPLETELY covered the stupid part, now on to the wise!
  • PR’d by over 5 min at Cowtown Half in February, in grueling (for me, anyway) conditions of sticky humid and 60s.  I thank my lucky stars that the sun didn’t come out until mile 10.  I would have melted.

    My (former) running partner and I running through the Ft Worth Stockyards.  LOVE Cowtown route!
    My (former) running partner and I running through the Ft Worth Stockyards. LOVE Cowtown route! We were discussing strategy for THAT hill! 🙂
  • After recovering from my injury, felt stronger as a runner than I ever have!  Seriously, my best running to date.  I love that healthy, strong feeling.  I will run strong again soon.
  • Ran with Taylor, one of Taylor’s former club coaches at Plano Balloon HM (confused yet?).  It was his first HM and he didn’t train the way I told him to, but he finished!  So honored that he asked me to do it with him. (May I just say that advising him on training made me realize how stubborn and frustrating I must have been to my friends that helped me through my injury?!? #twopeasinapod #hardheaded #stubborn #wedontlisten)

    So proud of this guy!  He wasn't as excited about the hills as I was. ;)
    So proud of this guy! But I was sad that he wasn’t as excited about the hills as I was. 😉
  • Finished my first marathon, for which I trained twice! (Humor of Mother Nature is all that can explain that!)  Initially I was disappointed with the result, but a little perspective has made this day one of the sweetest of the year!

    Taylor snapped this beauty of a pic through a fence.  Be jealous of her skills.
    Taylor snapped this beauty of a pic through a fence. Be jealous of her skills.

2014 Lessons Learned

  • Rest days are good and necessary.  In fact, I learned that I am able to go on the no-running/no-workout/anything but walking 2-week DL AND still remember how to run/am still able to run when I’m reactivated.  And those first runs after the forced break were ahhhhhhh-mazing!!
  • Cross train, cross train, cross train.  I added cross training/strength training and biking in after my injury, but life and marathon training took over in the fall and I gradually did less and less.  Paid the price for it, too, during my marathon.  But I promised not to go there, so…..  Suffice to say that I believe this is the part of the puzzle that helped me run so well early on in the Fall.
  • I CAN run by myself.  I have become a better, stronger, faster, more confident, mentally stronger runner on my own.  This isn’t a negative reflection on my former partner, rather, running alone required me to develop those skills in order to be successful.  However, I didn’t spend as much time injured when I had a partner…..coincidence??
  • Just because I have “that feeling” in my gut does not mean that I need to run my long run as fast as I possibly can, or run when I should be resting, or do any other stupid thing just because “the feeling in my gut said so”.  (For me, this leads to injury.  EVERY. TIME.)
  • Just because I CAN run a 1,000 mile year doesn’t mean I SHOULD.  (I joined a 1,000 mile challenge early on in 2014.  Injury caused me to miss the goal by 55 miles.  However, I was so focused on that, at times, that I failed to focus properly on my rehab.  For me, this is a distraction that encourages me to run junk miles.)

2015 Goals

  • STAY HEALTHY!!! I am working on making my ITB as happy, happy, happy as it can be and once I achieve that, I want it to stay that way!!
  • I will not focus on mileage in 2015.  I will, instead, focus on quality runs.  My runs will be intentional and planned.
  • Cross train, cross train, cross train.  Enough said.  I will ensure that I get my cross training in, even if it means I have to skip a run.  (Those of you holding me accountable might want to bookmark this one.)  I would rather skip one or two runs than sit out for a few weeks to rehab a preventable injury.
  • Sub-2 Half Marathon.  I KNOW this is achievable, since I ran a 2:04 HM during a marathon training run.  (Let’s not discuss the stupidity in that…the PB during a training run.  Reference 4th bullet under Lessons Learned.)
  • Cowtown Marathon 2016.  Of course I want to run another marathon!  If my body had been ready, I would have run another the very next weekend.  I felt like running the full at Dallas next year might be too soon for me (because I want to build my base back slowly), and I’ve already mentioned how I LOVE that Cowtown course, so this seems like the perfect next-marathon for me!  I list this in my 2015 goals because I will begin formal training for it before 2015 comes to a close.  I am REALLY excited about this one!!!

I hope your 2014 was at least half as amazing as mine was!  I was blessed in so many ways during the year.

Here’s to an even better 2015!

OF COURSE my wine glass has Texas on it!!  What kind of Texan do you think I am?
OF COURSE my wine glass has Texas on it!! What kind of Texan do you think I am?

Thanks for reading!