When the Mountain Wins

“Success is not final.  Failure is not fatal.  It is the will to continue that counts.” ~Churchill

I’ve tried to come up with words for this race and I just don’t have them.  Maybe they will come later; maybe they won’t come at all.  Everything I try to say just sounds like one big excuse.  Everything I try to say sounds really negative and that isn’t the way I usually approach things.  However, I’m going to keep on writing here, negativity and all, because I feel like being raw and honest is the only thing that will get me off this ledge that I’ve been perched on the last couple of days.

I went in knowing a lot of things – knowing that I didn’t have time to sufficiently train, knowing that I wanted to use whatever I got out there as training for Ouray – but when the DNF actually came, none of those things actually mattered.  Our emotions rarely consult with our intellect.

This isn’t my first DNF, but it stings the most.

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My favorite from the race, with my favorites at the race.  PC: Meg Reed

I’ve struggled in the past few days.  As ultra runners, we talk a lot about attempting things that are out of our comfort zone and embracing the prospect of failure, but our actions don’t always match our words.  Mine did.  But now that the “failure” happened, I’m stuck in a negative mental loop.

  • Did I over-reach?
  • Will I ever be strong enough?
  • Am I foolishly chasing something that I can never achieve?

These questions have haunted me and are still haunting me.  I keep trying to redirect my brain to the positives:

  • My climbing is stronger.
  • My downhill is WAY BETTER than at Cactus Rose
  • My footwork and agility have come a long way.
  • I HAVE IMPROVED.
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PC: Trail Racing Over Texas/AJ Stasulli

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PC: Trail Racing Over Texas/AJ Stasulli
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The rewards of a long climb.

I enjoyed most of my time out there, even during the suffering.  Climbing anything, but especially mountains, puts a sparkle in my eye and a spring in my step.  Running in the middle of the night is, hands down, my favorite thing in ultra running.  I think the thing that is most difficult for me right now is that I keep questioning my decision to attempt Ouray again.  Is it really within my reach?  Will I ever be strong enough to gut out a finish on that course?

I need to get my mind right again.  I’m not exactly sure how to do that.  But, for now, I’m going to allow myself to feel defeated.  I’m going to allow myself to feel upset.  I’ll lick my wounds and visualize rising strong like a phoenix from its fire.  Hopefully, when my pity party is over, I’ll be ready to unleash hell on the trails again.

In the mean time, I’ll be focusing on this.  Even though Lone Star was far from Barkley Marathons, this quote from Laz gets me in the feels:

“you all know about the comfort zone.
that’s where most ultras take place.
running ultras is all about staying in the comfort zone.
all our strategies revolve around staying in the comfort zone.
all our advice is about staying in the comfort zone.

“start slow”

“walk every uphill”

“dont take any chances”

for all the talk about exploring human potential, and seeking our limits, ultrarunners tend to play it safe.
they line up “challenges” they know they can finish.
and run them carefully
well within their “limits”.
we believe that success is never failing.

at the barkley success is about over-reaching our abilities,
and living to tell about it.
sometimes success is getting your ass out alive.”
~Lazarus Lake

 

 

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Lone Star 100, Here I Come!

“Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.” ~Steve Prefontaine

This time last year, I was 2 months out from Brazos Bend 100.  I was training for Boston Marathon.  Yet all I could think about was getting out to El Paso to run Lone Star 100 in the Franklin Mountains.  At the time, it seemed like a pipe dream, one that would never come to fruition. I didn’t think I could EVER pull it off because it is firmly in the middle of club volleyball season.  I didn’t feel that I would ever become strong enough to even consider running a race as difficult as Lone Star.  Heck, at the time, I thought Cactus Rose 100 would forever be out of my reach.

2015 Franklin Mountain Trail Run - Pre Race
PC: Trail Racing Over Texas

Here I am, one year later, getting ready to hop on a plane at the end of the week and tackle this beast.  I’m not in the most optimal shape.  Training hasn’t been perfect.  Did I do everything I could to be prepared for this race?  Nope.  But did I do everything I could to be prepared for this race, while still retaining a shred of sanity? Yes.

I have a hard time juggling training and life when we aren’t in club volleyball season, so training for and running a big race during club is quite an undertaking.  Even though the season is still early, the demands on my time have been substantial.  Add to the mix the fact that I took on additional duties at work in January and it’s a small miracle that I even survived.

I am going into this race with a lot of doubt.  Training breeds confidence and I felt like I started taper the second week in January, because, volleyball tournaments.  However, with some reflection I have started redirecting my doubt to three main truths:

  • This race is training for Ouray.  Period.  I knew when I registered that making cutoff would be difficult.  At the time, I acknowledged that every mile and every foot of vertical gain that I am able to get will be good training in the bank.  There is no other place in Texas that I can get this kind of training.  So, even if I don’t finish; even if I don’t make cutoff, I will still have been successful.
  • I’ve come so far in just a year.  Really, in less than a year, because I didn’t get into any “real” trail training until after Boston last April.  I am hard on myself and focus a lot on my weaknesses and how far I have to go.  In recent days, reflecting on how far I’ve come has been rewarding and also confidence-boosting.
  • I find joy on the trails, whether it is in training or racing.  Regardless of the outcome, I will be out there getting some of that coveted dirt and vert.  I’m looking most forward to seeing a couple of sunrises and a sunset out there in the mountains.
    2015 Franklin Mountain Trail Run - Pre Race
    PC: Trail Racing Over Texas

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    PC: Trail Racing Over Texas

I can’t close without giving thanks to a few people.  Without a support system in place, I couldn’t consider any type of success in this sport.  My husband, Bobby, has been a great support in this training cycle.  Alli is always understanding of my need to get out on the trails on our off weekends.  And my good volleyball mom friend, Marcy, for being a surrogate mother to Alli this weekend while I’m off playing in the mountains.  Love you all!!

I’m ready.  Franklin Mountains, give me all you’ve got!!

 

2018 Recap – Finding the Positives

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

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

But the low continued.

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

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

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

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Radkey & I enjoying the view before “the break”

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

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

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

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

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

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We had no idea what great buddies we would soon become

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Counting Blessings

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

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

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

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