I’ve spent the better part of 2018 struggling. I haven’t been able to muster lasting motivation. My energy level has been low, at best. The Spring was a mixed bag of training, between breaking an arm and running Boston with a long run of 15 miles under my belt. When I regained consistency in training, I didn’t feel that my fitness was improving AT ALL. In fact, I have often felt that I was loosing ground with my fitness. Even thinking about the simplest tasks caused me great mental fatigue. The hope that I felt from my initial workouts after Ouray recovery quickly faded. And over the last few weeks, I have felt increasingly weak, mentally and physically. So much so, that I have seriously questioned whether I should continue endurance training and racing. Seriously.
I haven’t blogged all year. I did manage to throw a post about Ouray together, but that was the first post since Brazos Bend 100 in December. I have had intentions of writing many posts, but when I finally found the time, the task of writing was simply overwhelming.
It’s hard admitting there is a problem. I try not to engage in negative self talk. Plus, I don’t EVER want to sound like a whiner. That’s the double-edged sword of social media, right?? It really isn’t that I am trying to hide the negatives in my life. I just don’t want to be a complainer. And, at the time, I couldn’t mentally handle the discussion. that would ensue. (At one point, I became so overwhelmed with responding to notifications from simple posts that I considered shutting down all social media.)
Sometimes the journey to enlightenment takes a few detours
A new day is dawning since I received some much needed information yesterday. But first, I’ll discuss the road I’ve been travelling this year.
I made excuses for living (yes, LIVING) on the Struggle Bus. Initially, I was coming off of Brazos Bend 100 and I was understandably fatigued. Training for and running my first 100 miler in December took its toll. Instead of taking 2 full weeks off, as originally planned, I convinced my coach to let me get back to running just over a week after the race. So, in January, when I was still feeling tired and unmotivated, I chalked it up to returning to training too quickly and assumed that I would work myself out of my funk.
Except the funk just kept getting funkier. By the end of January, I had accepted that it was due not only to the fatigue caused by the 100 miler, but also to post-race blues. And I’m sure that I did have some post race blues. How could I not? I had a STELLAR 2017, which started with qualifying for Boston, then running my first 50k and progressing to 100 miles. I mean, you have to come off the mountain top sometime, right? I felt like what I was feeling was totally normal, so I allowed myself to embrace the funk, knowing that I needed to work through emotions in order to move forward.
Add to the mix having a player on a national-level volleyball team and all the practices, extra practices and weekend tournaments that come along with that, plus trying to work full time — I had some great excuses as to why I felt like crap. Winter seemed cold and rainy (to me, at least), which didn’t improve my mood at all. I missed the sun. It was always cloudy. I was SURE that when the time changed, I would be able to improve my mood because of the increasing daylight.
So all this time, I was supposed to be training for Boston but my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t completing my workouts as with the consistency that I once did. I tried not to skip completely, but sometimes, with volleyball, it happened. And sometimes, I cut workouts short. I tried to tell myself that I was just upset that I wasn’t training for trails. I tried to force myself to embrace the training cycle because running Boston is such an honor, but all to no avail.
During Spring Break, I decided some trail running was in order to help with the mood. My trail brother and I went to explore a new trail and I fell and broke my arm. It actually worked to increase my motivation in the short term, because being so close to not being able to run caused me to be thankful for the runs that I was able to get. (Thankfully, my orthopaedic gave me a soft cast and the green light to continue running.)
Boston came and went and I survived. The rain and cold didn’t affect me (Luckily!) and I am so glad that I was able to embrace the experience, because it was absolutely wonderful. Just a month later, I ran a 50 miler and managed to finish it. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it, enjoyed it, and was kind-of OK with the result given the amount of training I had under me.
Finally, I found myself on summer vacation. Volleyball was still in full swing getting ready for Nationals, but at least I had time to get my workouts in and take a nap in the afternoon. Still, I felt that my fitness wasn’t coming along at all. Running was harder than it should have been and seemed to get harder with every workout. But, I was in the build phase of training and it was supposed to be hard. Ouray 50 was next on my schedule at the end of July. I knew that I couldn’t build the type of fitness needed to finish with the amount of time I had to train, so getting halfway before being pulled for time cut off was a win in my book.
I came back after Ouray recovery feeling reasonably good – the short break was needed. But I slowly started questioning my fitness again with each consecutive workout. I had long been wondering if I had developed Exercise Induced Asthma. I sometimes felt like I was wheezing during workouts, but that was usually related to a high allergy day and the wheezing wasn’t consistent by any means. Believe it or not, I am pretty in-tune with my body, even though I don’t always listen right away. I knew, in my core (subconsciously, anyway), that I was having problems oxygenating my blood (the asthma theory kind-of fit). I couldn’t complete even my short workouts without feeling out of breath and completely exhausted. I was seriously contemplating giving up ultra running. I felt like I wasn’t cut out for it and I knew that it shouldn’t be that hard. Racing added even more stress. Well intentioned people would wish me luck, telling me how great I would do. But deep down, I knew I knew I knew my performance in workouts and, as a result, knew I couldn’t do that “well”. I knew my struggles and those well wishes only served to cause more internal turmoil.
Light bulb moments
About 3 weeks ago, I saw an article tweeted that discussed low iron levels in endurance athletes. Immediately, I knew without a doubt that this applied to me. I had considered Inside Tracker blood tests many times, but never felt that I could justify spending the money on it. Well, this time, I spent the money and it was well worth every penny.
Knowledge is power
I received my results yesterday and, <drum roll>, I am low in Ferritin, which is related to Iron and how well my body can oxygenate my blood. I am SO LOW that if I was one point lower, I would be critically low. One nice perk about Inside Tracker is that there are food and supplement suggestions for you to use to normalize your markers. Having those resources at my fingertips gives me a great amount of comfort and confidence in the process ahead.
I cannot begin to explain the wave of feelings I experienced when I read my results. Obviously, I am concerned about my Ferritin levels being so low, but this knowledge is a HUGE weight lifted. I still feel physically exhausted. It will take me a hot minute to build these levels back up. But I finally feel hopeful and hopeful is not a word that I would have used to describe my mood of late.
Silencing that voice that has been telling me that I’m not good enough and not cut out for this sport is one of the best things that I’ve been able to do with this new information. Yes, I run trails and ultras because I love trails and ultras. But when you come off a year like I had last year, crushing goal after goal to the next year, barely managing to jump hurdle after hurdle…that takes a huge mental toll and causes you to question yourself.
I can finally, honestly say that I am SO looking forward to the rest of 2018 and beyond. I think I’ll celebrate by registering for Ouray 50, 2019!
This past weekend, I ran my first 100-mile race (and NOT my last : ) I apologize for the lengthy post, but 100 miles is a really long way! 😉
My chosen word of 2017 was Conquer, and my intentions in choosing that word were to conquer myself, not so much other things. I wanted to conquer self-doubt, fear of failure, lack of confidence in myself, etc. I knew that in order to do this, I had to be OK with failure and I had to put myself into situations where success wasn’t guaranteed. I needed to embrace the possibility of failure and be able to accept it and move on if it happened. This was a SLOW process. All the races I did through mid-year – my first 50k at Cowtown, my first Ironman 70.3 at Galveston, my first 50k trail race at Wildflower (Trail Racing Over Texas race) and Afton Trail Run 50k; I fretted over how I would perform. Every time, I did just fine, but still, I doubted myself.
Sometime in early Fall, I came across a Gordy Ainsleigh quote one day that completely changed my way of thinking; “When you’re afraid of failure, you’re more likely to do it.” My fear of failure was actually making failure more likely. I had to work on that.
Before my first 50 miler in October, I fretted and fretted over how I would perform. I nearly made myself sick. I had a feeling that I could come in under 12 hours, but the cutoff was tight so I also had a good chance at a DNF. Except I didn’t DNF. I actually ran a really good race and came in just under 12 hours, PLUS I ran this race without really tapering and I felt that my legs had another 10-15 miles in them when I finished. This, combined with the mental work I had been doing was a turning point for me.
But training nearly killed me
The mileage in training really started picking up in August. By mid-October, I was counting the weeks to taper. I wasn’t sure that I could meet all the demands of my training schedule, a full-time job, mom/chauffeur AND wash all the clothes (I had to let getting the clothes folded go).
Some weeks I didn’t get all my miles in, but I rarely just skipped runs. My training was consistent and I was dedicated. I spent a good amount of time working on my mental strength because I knew that the mental test in those late miles would be harder than the physical one.
My last big weekend came and I had 70 miles on the schedule. I was to run 15 on Friday, 25 on Saturday and 30 on Sunday. I was so tired at work that Friday that I was on the verge of tears all day long. I’ve never felt so exhausted in my life. I ended up not running the 15 at all and instead I decompressed at home. I ran the majority of the other miles that weekend, and I forced myself to not feel guilty about it. I had given everything I had to training and that handful of miles wasn’t going to make or break anything. Guilt couldn’t change the fact that I hadn’t run every single mile on the schedule.
I was off the next week (which was the week of Thanksgiving) and I did NOTHING. I was so exhausted that I wondered if I would ever have any energy again, much less by race day. I had a million things to do that had fallen by the wayside during training, but I still did nothing. I needed the rest. And slowly, day-by-day, I started feeling that spunk again.
No taper crazies?
Generally speaking, I either lose my mind during taper or I do something really, really stupid. I did none of that this time.
I didn’t fret. I didn’t go crazy on Ultrasignup. I didn’t break any toes. I DID NOT FRET!! I was so calm the entire time. (That is, until I suddenly got nauseous about an hour before the race!)
I was in a really good place, mentally. I felt confident, but not cocky. I trusted in my training. I trusted myself. Something really amazing happened, though. I was willing to take a big risk and face a DNF in order to see where my breaking point was. I wanted to take a risk and abandon the safe route. It was freeing.
My race plan was aggressive. Too aggressive. I knew this going in. People say “start really slow”, but slow is relative to each individual runner. I didn’t know what my “slow” for a 100 mile race was. I didn’t know how long my legs would hold out, regardless of the pace. The farthest they had ever gone was 50 miles…..once. This entire year had been about doing the not-sure thing and I was finally in a mindset that embraced it.
I’m going to add another running miracle here. And guys – you can skip over this paragraph. I was supposed to start my period on Dec 9. DECEMBER 9. RACE DAY. I was fully prepared to deal with it. I mean – like Scott Jurek said, “Sometimes you just do things!” But it’s OBVIOUSLY an inconvenience and one doesn’t always feel their best during that time. In any case, I started NINE days early. I felt like the gods of running were smiling down upon me. One less thing to worry about on race day.
I was literally foaming at the mouth the week before Brazos. I was ready to get out there and tear up the course, or let the course tear me up.
The start temps were in the low 30s, but the sky was clear and the weather during the day was to be clear and warming to around 60.
The plan was to run 20-hour pace (I know, I know!!) for the first 50 then just see how long my legs could keep up. Brent and Tim were coming along for the ride as long as it worked for all of us. We started off and tried to settle into pace. The miles went by quickly as we talked and laughed and cut up. One little hiccup in the first loop was that we followed the lead pack. There were signs where the course usually had a turn-around, but sometimes runners can’t follow directions well and we all turned and went down another path. I found out later that we had made a wrong turn! This trek was in a SWAMP and I was already entertaining thoughts of dread for the coming loops. Thankfully, the next time I came around, it was clear that I should turn around (happy dance!) and I didn’t have to navigate the swamp again.
I came in just a bit ahead of Brent & Tim at the end of loop 1, took care of business quickly and decided to head out again on my own. Loop 1 was right at 3 1/2 hours, which was a little behind where I wanted to be, but the extra mile put us a little over. Sherpa Carmen and her sidekick, Brad, were right there, waiting to get me whatever I needed. I went with PB&J on this loop but told her next time I wanted oatmeal. I’m not sure what it is about oatmeal, but I LOVE it on long runs! I was saving the Coke/caffeine until after mile 70, so I didn’t have any of that.
Loop 2 was uneventful except that I KNOW I ran it too fast. I wanted to make up some of that time (stupid…ego) and ended up with 3:21 on that lap and that was including the 5 min or so that I spent in camp before heading out! Carmen had the oatmeal waiting, but boy, was it hot!! I tried to shove it in as quickly as I could, but it took a few minutes. I think I ended up spending around 10 minutes in camp that time. Time really bleeds away from you in these events, if you aren’t careful.
Loop 3 was more of the same. I was in a rhythm but toward the end started feeling a little tightness in my right IT. WEIRD. That never happens. I started trouble shooting and wondered if it was the Hokas. Plus, I started to feel a hot spot on the inside of my ankle, which is a place that I’ve never gotten a blister. I knew I was developing one blister in a spot that I sometimes get them, so I decided to stop and change socks and shoes at the end of the loop. Loop 3 took me around 3:50, which was a little slower but I was pretty happy with it. This put me at 50 miles at 10:50 total time.
When I came in off Loop 3, Kolbe was there!!! Kolbe came down just to pace me on my last loop. I was so glad to see her! She jumped right in to help Carmen and Brad. Kolbe started taking my shoes and socks off (GOD BLESS HER) while Carmen got my kit for me. I drained those blisters, grossed Kolbe out but she still tried to put my socks on for me. I wear Injinji’s though and she would have had to been a Houdini to get them on! After trying to shovel more hot oatmeal in my mouth, I put on a long sleeve shirt, my beanie and my headlamp and left after about 20 min in camp. It was longer than I wanted to spend, but the blisters needed to be drained.
In no time, I had hit my stride again. The sun had set and the air was growing cooler with each passing moment. I knew that I was slowing a little but I still felt really, really good. I know a lot of people get mental in the dark alone, but I actually enjoyed it. I don’t have any problem at all being by myself and that was definitely a strength of mine. I spent a lot of time on this loop just cruising. I felt so good but I knew that the time was coming that I wouldn’t feel good Maybe I should have slowed down? Not slowing down was probably stupid, but still part of the learning process and in my mind this race was one long experiment. I made it through the mind f*** part of the course – have I mentioned that part of the course?? Arggggggggggg it got me mentally every time. Toward the end of each loop, there was an aid station, a one mile stretch of road. The road FINALLY turned left, except you were left with another TWO MILE stretch of road until the next aid station, But that aid station was a dead-end. So you had to turn around, run TWO miles back to the turn then ANOTHER mile back to the other aid station. Mental suicide. But the wonderful thing is that once you got back to that aid station, it was a 2 mile cruise to the start/finish. I was starting to get tired by the time that I got to this part of the course. The temps were also dropping, making my quads stiffen up (I was still wearing only shorts). I debated on stopping to put on my gear, but decided it would be faster at camp where I had people who could actually move their limbs well to help me out. LOL That loop came in at 4:07, but that included the 20 minutes spent on my feet in between loops. All in all, very encouraging, considering I was at mile 67 and my legs had never gone past 50 miles.
Carmen and Kolbe helped me get my cool weather gear on while Brad got me some food. Or maybe this is the loop Kolbe got me ramen noodles and mashed potatoes? I can’t remember. I DO remember sitting there, ready to go back out and saying, “I want a nap.” Carmen, without hesitation, told me to get my ass up out of that chair and get back out there. So I stood up and got my ass back out there. I’m a rule follower and I take directions very well.
Loop 5 was tough. TOUGH. I was starting to hurt. I was very tired. I didn’t want to run. It hurt to run. This is the loop that the battle started. NEVER did I think about quitting. I had decided before the race that quitting wasn’t an option. If you convince yourself of things before the race, you will stick to them during the race. I had joked, but not really, that Rob would have to drag my cold, dead carcass off the trail before I would DNF. I seriously had no intentions of dropping. I am thankful that I didn’t encounter any situations that were serious enough to cause me to consider that option, because I fully realize that things happen out there that are completely out of our control.
Loop 5 was basically a back and forth between my mind and my will. My mind wanted the pain to stop and running was causing pain. My will wanted me to finish. I had a constant dialog – the longer you walk, the colder you will get and the longer you are going to be out here. The more you run, the warmer you will be and the sooner you will get there. RUN, DAMNIT!! Then I would run and it would hurt and my mind would convince me to walk. I also knew that Carmen and Kolbe would be worried and I hated that it was taking me so long. This is when I thought about all the people who were supporting me and started naming each person that I could remember. That distracted me from the pain of running long enough to get a little bit of running done. OH!!! I haven’t mentioned that I had to stop to pee basically every 20-30 minutes on this loop. I have never had to pee so often and so much in my entire life!! There’s no telling how much time I spent squatting in the woods. I finally rolled into camp with a whopping 5:10.
I don’t think we took much time between loop 5 and 6. Pretty sure I ate oatmeal, or maybe not?? Heck if I know. I am 99.9% sure that I did drink Coke. My body ached all over and the LAST thing I wanted to do was go back out on that loop. But THANK GOD I had Kolbe coming with me. I was so glad to have her, but….have I said that I didn’t want to run?? We started out walking and probably walked a mile. I knew we were wasting time. It bothered me that we were wasting time. I may have said – we need to start running in a bit. Kolbe was talking and telling me about her day. Listening to her definitely took my mind off all the troubles at hand. After we tried running and I would wimp out and want to walk, Kolbe knew it was time to take charge. She told me that we were going to start running . We would run 1/2 mile then walk a couple of minutes. I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that. It was such a simple solution to this problem. We did this for a while and I finally got into a rhythm and actually didn’t feel half bad. We came across the first aid station and I drank some coffee. After the coffee kicked in, I was starting to feel REALLY good (relatively speaking). Kolbe told me that since I was handling this run/walk so well, we would increase our run distance. I was in a groove and ready so I told her to run a mile. We did, and we finished the rest of the loop in this way.
It’s hard to explain how hard it was to run on loop 5 yet I found the strength to run on loop 6. I think the fact that Kolbe was telling me what to do was the key. My mind had no control over Kolbe, so my mind couldn’t tell her to stop. I had no choice but to run because the choice of whether or not to run had been taken away from me. All I did was watch her feet and run. Yes, it still hurt, but my mind processed all this in a different way. It’s very difficult to put into words. Of course, I still had to pee every 5 steps on this loop as well. At one point, Kolbe actually told me that I needed to pee in my pants next time…..and my bladder may have gotten the message because I think that was the last time that I had to go!
I made it through Mind F***, I mean Sawmill, one more time (with Kolbe’s help) and I knew I was home free. I could TASTE the finish line. I was so ready to be DONE. Kolbe knows me so well. We would come upon some runners and she would whisper to me, “you’re about to take these people down!” It was just enough to keep me going and I was surprised and happy that I still had that competitive spirit that wanted to overtake them. When there were no people to pass, she told me that even though loop 5 may have won – I was CONQUERing loop 6 and finishing strong. I can’t even remember everything she said, but every word struck a chord with me and gave me the strength to take another step.
Kolbe radioed Carmen to tell her we were about a mile out from the finish and I got tears in my eyes. I knew I would finish. Such a surreal feeling. I had dreamed of this and worked for this for so long that it seemed it might never come to fruition. But here I was, about to become a 100-mile finisher! It’s a strange paradox – feeling so amazing that about what you’re about to accomplish while trying to hold back tears because everything hurts so badly. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything!
I wanted Kolbe to lead me right up to the finish. She had quite literally drug me through this last loop. I wasn’t sure that I could run that finish line chute alone. I didn’t want her to be out of my sight for a second. She told me that this was my moment and that she would see me after I crossed….and she was right there. I started crying – crying by my standards, at least. I was handed my buckle and received hugs from Carmen, Kolbe, Ashley and Brad. Others may have been there, but everything was such a blur that I can’t even remember. Kolbe drug me through that loop in 4:54, which was 15 minutes faster than the previous loop. At the end of a 100 miler, I’ll gladly take a negative split loop! My total time was 24:51. Not the time I wanted, but my intentions were to see what I could do and I definitely didn’t play it safe in those early miles. A nice bonus was an 8th overall female finish – I was hoping to finish in top 10, so I was able to check that off my list 🙂
My good friend, Tim Radkey described it best when he said that the feeling you have at the finish is like you are completely and totally emptied, yet completely and totally full at the same time. There was definitely a feeling of having been cleansed by this experience.
I gave Kolbe a goodbye hug – she had to travel back to her parent’s house to grab her pets – then Carmen got me set up in a chair with a sleeping bag and a nice warm heater beside me. She and Brad started breaking down camp and I quickly fell asleep for a much-needed nap.
Nutrition and hydration were on point. I had no stomach issues whatsoever. I know the cool weather helped with this, but I’m really proud of how I managed my nutrition.
Yes, my starting pace was too fast but I don’t think I was THAT far off.
My legs held up much better and much longer than I expected.
Having a good crew makes ALL the difference. Carmen anticipated what I would need and had things ready for me before I ever asked.
The right pacer can save your race. Kolbe was PERFECT.
I need to make better friends with pain. Now that I know the pain doesn’t get any worse, I will be more prepared to push through it next time.
I need to become more efficient during my stops between loops.
I really wanted that sub-22 buckle, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to maintain that pace. Seeing the sun rise, then set, then rise again is an experience that I’ll cherish and I am really thankful that this race gave that to me.
All in all, I’m VERY happy with this race. I did what I set out to do. I found my limits, I conquered the course and, most importantly, I conquered many of my inner demons.
Kolbe wrote about her experience as a pacer. If you want to read about it, click here!
One more thing…..I HIGHLY recommend Brazos Bend to any runner! The race distances range from 13.1-100 miles, so there is something for nearly everyone. This race is the Trail Party of the year and doesn’t disappoint!
I’ve been trying to compile my thoughts so that I could recap my race in a somewhat organized manner, but I have completely given up on that. I’m going to try to hit the highlights without boring you to death or bouncing around so much that your head spins. The bottom line is that this may end up being long and if you have the stamina to read it all the way through, then kudos to you!
Wildflower race weekend had been on my radar for quite some time. However, Alli’s team was scheduled to play that weekend if they didn’t get a bid to Nationals beforehand. Luckily, her team earned a bid at their first qualifier, so that issue was taken care of and Wildflower weekend was open on my schedule! Enter taper for Galveston – during which I COMPLETELY wigged out and I ended up registering for a 50k only 5 weeks post-70.3. Disclaimer: I have never claimed to make the best race decisions, or any decisions for that matter. At the moment I registered, it seemed like a such a good idea. Hours after, however, the realization of what I had done hit me like a brick wall when I suddenly realized that 50k is actually longer than a marathon (just don’t ask).
Yes, I had a good base going into Galveston. Yes, I am stronger and more fit than ever before. But I trained to run a half marathon for Galveston 70.3 and I would basically be tripling that distance only 5 weeks later. Coach made me recover for a week after Galveston. Then I tapered the week before which took another week away. So I basically had 3 weeks to train and that made me a bit nervous. My longest long run was 15 miles. I can hardly type that without laughing, it sounds so ridiculous! Oh, and then I was lured by the double medal challenge and with Brent’s blessing added the half marathon to my race weekend plate. If I was going to do crazy things, might as well go totally insane with it.
Somehow, I kept my wits about me during this taper (so no crazy race sign-ups or excessive run gear purchases). In part, this was due to only having trained a short period of time for these races. I hadn’t been training long enough for it to become a constant factor in my mind. Also, I had ZERO expectations. My mindset going in was to put my body to a test and to <hopefully> develop some strategy for the ultras I have scheduled the remainder of the year. The most exciting part of doing this race (aside from the fact that it would be my first ultra on trails) was that my teammates who would be there. Originally we were to have a few Renegades racing. In the end, Ryan and I were the only ones who made it to the start lines. Ryan was also doing the double day challenge – he is actually the reason that I decided to participate in the double day challenge. If a teammate was going to run it, then so was I!! Ryan’s wife, and more importantly – MY Renegade Sister, Ashley was coming as well. Aaaaaaaand, my brother from another mother, Tim, had decided to volunteer since he couldn’t race. Having fun and fellowship with my teammates was WAYYYY more important to me than how my race went!!
I drove down to Bastrop after work on Friday, finally arrived just before 9 PM, got settled in and was in bed as quickly as I could manage. Of course, one never sleeps well on the night before a race and this proved to be no different. I couldn’t get the air conditioner set the way I wanted, ended up too warm and tossed and turned most of the night. I was up before the crack of dawn and was well on my way to the park by 4:30AM. The 50k started at 6:00AM, but there was no parking available in the park so we had to take shuttles in to the start line. Tim had just pulled in when I got there, so we hitched a ride on the shuttle together!
Before I knew it, it was time to take off. The sun was just starting to rise, but still dark enough that headlamps were a must – even if only for 15-20 minutes. Temps were cool – if memory serves, hovering around 50 degrees. It was a great way to start a long day on the trails! This course was a loop – each loop was 6.2 miles and we were to run 5 loops. My strategy was to take it easy on the first loop, figure out what I had to deal with and adjust from there. Also, I wanted to finish feeling as if I could still run 2 loops (because I would be running 2 loops the next day in the half).
First of all….the single-track course was so congested through the first half of the first loop – I couldn’t have attacked it hard even if that had been my plan. The first mile or so was somewhat technical with ups and downs and no places where you could open up. At the end of this section was the biggest climb in the race. At the top of this climb, the course crossed a road and fed into rolling trails heading to the back side of the course. The back part of the course was my favorite because in this section, I could open up and actually run. Knowing this was coming after the semi-technical front section helped me stay at ease and not push too aggressively on that part on the subsequent loops. About halfway through the back section, the course crossed a red-rock road and then continued on with small rollers. I loved this part of the course as well – this was the part of the course I ended up calling “The Ferns”, because the trail was cut through ferns and rich foliage. PLUS, there were enough trees established that a good part of this section was shaded!! (This park was damaged in the Austin area wildfires a few years ago and is finally seeing some growth again.) The end of this section fed right into the back aid station, which was around the 4.5 mile mark on the loop. We would then run down a gravel road for a bit before turning onto the next part of the trail, which was still very runnable and was shaded in spots. At around the mile-to-start/finish mark, we made a non-technical climb up a hill, then a very steep descent on which I never tried to brake too much. It was just easier to go with it than to try to resist gravity. And honestly, I was more scared to try to take it cautiously than I was to just run it. The only problem was that it was curvy and narrow and if people were ahead I had to slow it down. After that, there was a short run through more rollers, then what I called “The Stairs”. This section was a fast descent but to combat erosion, logs had been placed and the end result was something like stair steps. At the end of the stairs, we crossed over water on some logs, then made a short climb and were back on the state park road. We had to run up this ridiculous (short) hill, then a small turn and run up some more to reach start/finish area. And then do it all again. 🙂
I was really pleased with the time on my first loop. Since it was just past 7AM, the temps were still nice and cool. I felt GREAT and was having so much fun! I stopped at Renegade Central to refill my bottle and make more Tailwind and had a pouch of Clif Organic Food. Now, before I left my car in the parking lot, I made an error in judgement. I had brought 2 handheld bottles but opted to leave one in my car. I realized after that first loop that Ashley was at camp, was eager and ready to help and could have easily gotten it ready. What a foolish mistake I had made. This race was all about learning, though, right?? We managed with refilling my bottle and I went off to the port-o-potty. I should not have tried to go to potty. I waited in line for a couple minutes, then decided to just go on the back side of the course. I’m not sure what it is about Tailwind, but it makes me have to pee SO OFTEN! I ran past the main aid, checked in with Tim and was off on the trail again. After loop 2, I still felt great but having stopped at port-o-potty and then actually “going” in the bush caused my time to be a little bit longer. I could tell that Tim was a little worried when I came through to head out for loop 3, but honestly, I felt amazing.
Loop 3 is when I started breaking the course down into chunks in my mind. I had already decided the front mile was going to slow me down. Nbd, I would make it up on the back 3.5. I walked up the bigger hills and took the descents as fast as I could. (I went in wanting to attack the downs and I am really happy with how I handled them.) I started going through the checklist: Yucky ascents with the logs (check), first bridge (check), second bridge (check), third bridge (check), big climb (sucky section almost over – now you can quit acting like a pansy!!), asphalt road (check), FUN except for the sand – now time to open up (check), and so on. Breaking the course down helped keep my mind occupied and it helped to see that I was making progress. At the end of loop 3, I was still feeling really good – except for my toes. I had noticed early on in the loop that my shoes were turning out to be too small and the fast, technical descents were causing my toes to bang into the end of my shoes. But I chose not to think about it. Nothing I could do at that point, especially since I had decided against bringing an extra pair to camp.
At the beginning of loop 4, I dug out the bandana, put some ice in it and tied around my neck. I had tried this a couple of times in training and OH MY, does it help! I flop around like a fish when temps are warm and I get hot. Seriously, this whole bandana with ice thing is THE BOMB (Looks dorky but is still THE BOMB)!!! I had not stopped at the back aid station on my first 3 loops, but I did on loop 4 so that I could get more ice and I decided to fill up with water as well. The volunteers were so kind and told me how great I looked. I joked that my longest training run had been 15 miles and how pleased I was with the way the day was going. After getting some cold water dumped on my head by another amazing volunteer, I was on my way, feeling so refreshed and full of energy!
In no time at all, I was starting my last and final loop. I decided to get a little extra kick and drank a shot of Fireball. It sure did taste good! LOL!!! I’m not sure how much it helped, though, because I think it just made me sleepy for a bit. I’ll stick to beer. As far as running, I could tell that my legs were somewhat tired, but nothing near what I thought they would be – and I have felt much higher fatigue in shorter races. I did walk more ups on the front section than I had in the previous loops, but I still wasn’t sure how I would respond the last half of the loop. I wanted to play it safe. Plus, I had to keep reminding myself that I still had 13 miles to run the next day. I wanted to finish the weekend strong, which meant holding back some on this race. Once again, I stopped at the aid station on the back of the course to refill the ice. Again, those amazing volunteers!!! They went on and on about how strong I looked and one of them even remarked, “That 15 mile training plan is working REALLY well for you!” That just goes to show that one kind word can completely make a person’s day, because it sure did boost my confidence! Before I knew it, I was running up that stupid hill back to the finish (I ran that hill every time….the only reason I walked the others was because of terrain and to save energy). I finished in 6:09:59, which, if I’m honest, was a little slower than I had hoped. I really wanted 6 hours or less. But I wasn’t going to waste any energy on regrets. I had SO MUCH for which to be proud. I had tackled the race, nailed my hydration and fueling, remained strong throughout the race, stayed in the game mentally AND saved some energy for the next day’s race. It was EPIC! Any doubts that I had about transitioning to trails and ultras were completely erased. And, I have to be honest. I wasn’t NEARLY as excited as Ashley or my friend, Kolbe (who had run the 10k but hung around to cheer me on and see me finish). Their excitement was absolutely contagious and I couldn’t help but smile.
Side note: Toenails. Does anyone really need them? So after the race, I knew things would probably be bad. Like I said – I could tell during the race that things weren’t right. I gingerly removed my shoes and socks and I had some that were pretty black already, but all were attached so I guess that was a win?? Ok…I’ve never had toenail issues. This was a new one for me, but acting like a pansy about it wouldn’t really change anything, so I decided to suck it up. I had some mild hyperventilation moments here and there but overall, I kept my cool about it. I knew that Sunday was going to be tough! My toenails were sore and sensitive and did NOT want to be shoved into a pair of shoes again! I chose to pull a Scarlet O’Hara and think about that tomorrow.
Eventually, we became so hungry that we decided a shower and food was now the order of the day and left the race venue to head to our respective hotels to clean up. Shiner Strawberry Blonde had recently shown up on the shelves and I brought some with me. I couldn’t wait to have a beer!! I took it into the bathroom with me, drank half, showered and enjoyed the last half while I was getting dressed. We all met at a delicious burger joint where I had ANOTHER beer with my burger. I had such a good time chatting and hanging with my teammates. It’s always fun and usually full of hilarious conversation. Tim left soon after to head back home and Ashley, Ryan and I went back to our hotels for some much needed rest before dinner. Kolbe stopped by to visit with me before she headed out of town. She loves that Strawberry Blonde so I gave her a few to take home. 🙂 I enjoyed seeing her SO MUCH!!! After she left, I tried to rest, but endorphins from the race just wouldn’t let me doze off.
Ashley, Ryan and I went to eat at a very cute restaurant that overlooked the Colorado River. We sat outside and enjoyed the view, good beer, good company and some good music! We sat there until we realized that we should probably get back to our hotels and get in bed so we could get some rest.
When I returned to my house (I had actually rented and Airbnb room in a woman’s home), I got things ready for the next day and packed up as much as possible. The next morning I was up early, but not quite as early as Saturday as my race didn’t start until 7:30. Getting socks on was…..difficult. I had some anxiety – ok A LOT of anxiety – about running and pounding my toes even more than had already been done. I wore a different pair of shoes, but after the race start quickly realized that the new pair wasn’t really working either. Basically I think the damage had been done and nothing (short of not racing) would help. And I did consider DNS but only for a second – what would that accomplish?? Sometimes you just do things!! (If you know that quote – high five!) My ultimate goal in doing these races to was to put myself in a difficult mental situation. I hadn’t had any issues to battle during Saturday’s race – it had been much less difficult than I had expected. I was actually a little disappointed that I didn’t have any mental battles. To continue on in spite of my toes became the mental battle. And that probably sounds pansyish, but it really was the only mental battle of my weekend.
We started Sunday’s race by running up a “little” hill to a structure then turning around and coming back down and back through the start/finish area to start loop 1 (Thanks, Rob). I got caught up in the descent and how fresh my legs felt (YES…my legs felt fresh!) and temporarily forgot about my toes. I was running well and using the same strategy as on Saturday. Take it easy. Walk the big ups and don’t overdo. My calves did begin to scream at me a little bit on loop 1 and I wondered if it would work out or if I would have to deal with it the entire race. Well, as luck (or fate) would have it, I ended jabbing my right big toe when I tripped on a rock. And since I thought that I had completely ripped my toenail off, I stopped thinking about my calves and I was well into loop 2 when I realized I hadn’t thought about them for a while nor did they hurt any longer. That right toe. I won’t lie. I fretted over it. I wanted to stop and check it out. But I didn’t. I knew that there wasn’t anything I could do and it wasn’t keeping me from running. However, I quit pushing as hard and I took those downhills a bit more cautiously. In hindsight, that kind of ticks me off. But in the moment that’s how I handled it. I didn’t panic or let it affect my race much. So I guess that’s a win.
Seven loops over the weekend and my only real issues were toes. LOL I know that was directly related to shoes – I needed a bigger size. Why I didn’t realize they were a little snug when I got them, I don’t know!! The weekend was about working out the kinks and figuring out what worked and what didn’t and I most definitely succeeded there.
I headed to my car pretty soon after I finished, although it seemed like I had to wait for the shuttle for the longest! I did “clean up” in my car with my BYOT (Bring Your Own Towel), changed clothes and headed home! When I got home, I soaked my feet and tried to figure out how to proceed. I did some work on them over the next few days but I won’t gross you out with the details here. But I DO have all my toenails and things are pretty much back to normal!
The amazing thing is that I didn’t experience much in the way of soreness – it was minimal. I credit that to my nutrition and to staying hydrated and fueling properly during the race. Plus, trails are just easier on the joints. I also didn’t get that big rush of hunger that I generally get a couple days post-long run. Again, I think that fueling with enough during the race went a long way to helping my body during the race and gave me a jump start on recovery. I also tried out this stuff called “Vespa” and I am 99.9% sure it made an extremely positive impact on my fueling. It is a product designed to kick your metabolism into a deeper fat burn and worked really well with my Metabolic Efficiency plan.
I’ve been on rest and recovery for the last 10 days and I’ve let loose and drank a few beers. I even let loose over the weekend and just ate what I wanted – I ended up with a headache but I ate what I wanted! LOL!! This has been a good reset period to get me ready to go for the remainder of the year, but that is for another blog post! 🙂
In an attempt to catch everyone up to my crazy antics of late and to pick up where I left off in yesterday’s blog, I’m blogging two days in a row. <shocked face> That hasn’t happened since…….I can’t remember. I always have the best intentions, but you know what they say about that….
2016 is finally taking shape
If you knew me this time last year, you would know that I was still clawing my way back from that nasty ITB injury. I was still attempting to build some sort of base fitness level and was doing those gosh awful run/walk intervals, so any kind of racing was out of the question.
2016 is a completely different year, though, and I am getting close to getting the framework of my race calendar set. A couple of things are still up in the air but I’m hoping to schedule one last marathon toward the end of the year – I’m waiting to see how the rest of the season goes before I make any rush decisions on that one. (Which will be a *first* for me, as one of my friends calls me “Trigger” because of my hasty race sign-up tendencies.)
My next race is RnR Dallas HM on March 20. Even though the weather will likely be much warmer, I am going to see if I can continue the progress that I made at Cowtown, step out of my comfort zone and take a few risks.
Ragnar Austin is quickly approaching! This 200-mile, 12-person relay will start in Fredericksburg in the wee morning hours on April 15. We will race South then back North, ending the race in Austin sometime late Saturday. I am beyond excited for this experience, as a Ragnar has been on my bucket list for quite some time now.
After Ragnar, I am planning to run Skyline HM on May 1. I ran Skyline last year. While I didn’t really care for the course, this race has a special place in my heart because it was my first race post-injury. Of course, it will be hot and I always need practice racing in the heat.
I’ll have a dry spell on the road race front until the Rochester Marathon on September 18. This will be my first full marathon of 2016 (am hoping to schedule another one in late December). It is on track to be my favorite and most special race of the year because it will mean a reunion with my Sole Sister Jenn! AAAANNNNNNNNDDDDDDDD – this race will be her FIRST full marathon and I get to be there when she punches her ticket as a marathoner! I could not be more honored or excited!
I am considering at Salinas Valley Half Marathon on August 6, if a college visit trip to Cali pans out. If I make it, I will get to meet my good friend, Marci, in person and hopefully a few other Cali friends!
Tri-ing the Tri
Oh, the things I let my coach talk me into….
I am officially signed up for Pioneer Power Sprint Tri at the end of July. This will be a special induction into the world of tri because Taylor is doing it with me! Another meaningful twist is that this event is held at TWU, which is Taylor’s college alma mater. I’m still scared to death of swimming 200m AT ONE TIME. Swimming is coming along so quickly, though, that by the time July rolls around I should be MORE than ready!!
Transitioning to Trails
WHEN will I learn to never say never?!? Because once upon a time I am pretty sure I said I would NEVER run a trail race. I am ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE that I said I would NEVER run a 50 mile race. I did, in fact, sign up for a 50 mile race just a mere 3 days after declaring that I would NEVER run a 50 miler. I completely and unequivocally blame my coach and my crazy teammates for this.
As scary as this monumental mound of miles may seem, I am still more frightened of swimming 200m in my July triathlon. Go figure.
In any case, I’m fairly excited about this challenge. It’s fun to run with teammates and this race will give me A LOT of QT with them! LOL We are actually planning to stay together during the race to lend support to each other.
Looking to the horizon
I have another exciting goal up my sleeve that I’m not ready to share with the world just yet. I guess deep down inside I need to find the confidence in myself to actually believe I can do what I’m hoping to do.
Stay tuned…… 🙂
Two more days until Spring Break!!! I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…..