Bandera 25k

sky

The stars at night, are big and bright…

As you can probably glean from my brief confession of panic in last week’s Thinking Out Loud Thursday post, I was pretty freaked out about running Bandera this year.  I ran the Wild Hare 25k in November of 2012 – my first 25k – after having not ran more than 12 or so miles.  I ran the Pensacola Half Marathon on Sunday with a friend, and drove back the next day and ran the Wild Hare 25k on Saturday, having no idea what to expect.  It went well – the course is (for a Tejas Trails race) relatively tame, few rocks, mostly dirt trails in the woods with a nice 50 yard drop into the back routes and a climb back out.  I was still relatively new to trail running, so I was challenged a bit by this (in retrospect, mostly because of the distance – I had only been very loosely “training”) but I had a lot of fun by the end.  It fueled the fire of my trail running obsession and I ended up signing up for the Bandera 25k not too long after doing this race.

Bandera…”a trail of rugged & brutal beauty where everything cuts, stings, or bites.”  Joe wasn’t kidding about that. Just to get to the long and short, I had a miserable time at Bandera last year.  Everyone who asks about it, I tell them the same thing – it was the first time I had EVER been running a race and thought “What the hell am I doing?”  I’ve never let doubt get to me like it got to me at that race.  I forgot my Garmin beforehand and had no idea what mile I was at at any point in the race until I hit Crossroads Aid Station (mile 10.75).  I was completely unprepared for the rocky, steep, and seemingly endless hills.  I remember to this day being furious by the end when it was winding through the woods, completely flat and runnable, but I still could not bring myself to run because I was so worn out.  I had a completely miserable time.  So it was with some trepidation that I registered again this year, deciding about December that I had been training hard enough to at least give it another shot.

Not to mention they had completely overhauled the new medals/buckles - and they were completely freaking awesome and I needed one in my life a little bit.

Not to mention they had completely overhauled the new medals/buckles – and they were completely freaking awesome and I needed one in my life a little bit.

I’m completely glad and without regrets with this decision.  While it was only a 25k, it was definitely a “mental block” race for me – I’ve even been to Bandera on my own time to train since the race last year, so theoretically I should have nothing to be afraid of – so I knew I just had to nut up and do it.  I’d been training more and I knew it, whereas last year I don’t think I did a single long run between Wild Hare and Bandera.  I KNEW logically that I was more prepared.  I spoke with my coach about fueling and nutrition plans for the race.  We camped out at Hill State Natural Area the day before the race so we wouldn’t have to deal with the insane bottlenecking traffic coming into the park for the race.  I was prepared in a million ways I was not last year (I was actually late to the race last year due to the traffic!)

I chomped down two gels before the start, filling a spare baggie of Tailwind to put in the pocket of my handheld bottle (already filled with Tailwind).  I had almost five hours worth of nutrition on me, and I was pretty worried about whether or not I would be diligent about drinking my nutrition when the temps at the starting line were in the high thirties.  Fortunately this proved to be a non-issue – between the hard running and the hills, I did not have a problem with thirst, and had almost drained my first bottle by the time I got to the first aid station at Boyles (about 6 miles in).  The trail coming into Boyles is a freaking blast to run, as it’s a nice steep downhill with lots of rocks – I completely love throwing myself with abandon down these steep declines because it always allows me to catch up to others that I might have lost on the uphills.  As I got down to Boyles I quickly filled my bottle, very briefly spoke with my husband, and flew off down the trail again.

Leaving the aid station at Boyles, still feeling good!

Leaving the aid station at Boyles, still feeling good!

I don’t have a lot of awesome running powers to brag about, so when something awesome happens to me I might hang on to it a bit more than is probably necessary (every little bit of encouragement counts, guys!)  As I was leaving the aid station and about to dump my Tailwind into my bottle, a fellow runner spoke to me who had been in front of me before the decline into Boyles and who I had quickly flew by as he gingerly picked past all the loose rocks.  “Where do you train that you learned to run downhill like that?”

“In the land of absolutely no regard for my own personal safety.   …oh and here, and Eisenhower in San Antonio, and Friedrich.”  (Honestly it’s mostly the first one – I’ve always been the kind of person who throws their self down the declines with abandon, banishing all thoughts of The Dreaded Faceplant…)

So I ran for a while at a nice clip, feeling pretty good.  I really need to start utilizing that “lap” button on my Garmin to analyze my splits more fully, because I’m pretty curious as to the pace I was putting up on some of the miles, but I guess it doesn’t really matter.  Eventually I met up with a girl as I was barreling down a hill as she paced me side by side with reckless abandon, and we discussed our mutual lack of regard for our bodily safety as we flew down the hills like giddy children. By this point I had begun to realize that this was EASILY some of the most fun I’d ever had running.  I felt good, I was flying, not trying to run too fast on the flats, I was drinking Tailwind regularly and now I had a buddy.  We ran together for quite a while, chit chatting about this or that, and eventually parted ways at Crossroads aid station (mile 10.75) as I stopped to stuff my face with oranges.  (I go INSANE when I see oranges during races.  Freaking nectar of the gods.)

The end was near at this point.  I’d had most of the fun with the sotol cactus that I would see for the remainder of the race, as I would eventually turn back into the wooded area of Bandera and hit some pretty solid flats for a while.  I knew this was the area I’d crapped out on last year (well I’d been already pretty far past crapped out at this point) where it was flat and I just COULDN’T run.  So I resolved to take it easy and not push myself until I KNEW I was ready.  I couldn’t remember any significant hills after this point.  (Right?!)

Well, eventually I hit Lucky Peak again, and I was completely, totally unprepared for it.  I won’t say this is where my race unraveled – I don’t think my race ever “unraveled” at any point – but it was definitely where I lost a bit of spark.  I’d completely forgotten about hitting Lucky Peak again.  The runner who was hiking behind me later described me as looking “completely demoralized” upon seeing that wretched hill, and I can’t disagree.  I hiked it, feeling alright at first but then having to stop.  I was a little disappointed because I had hiked (almost powerfully, even!) straight up all the hills so far with no stops, so to make it all the way to the end and have to break that track record made me slightly upset.  But I continued on.  “Don’t let that hill beat you!”  The runner behind me shouted as I took a breather, hands on my knees and face glaring at the rocks as I crouched down slightly.  At this point I was less demoralized and more like pissed off, pissed off at this hill that had the audacity to come in and ruin all my fun.

But you know, that’s life.  And that’s most certainly trail running, so eventually (like, two seconds later – I don’t hold grudges even against gnarly hills) I powered through it and took off again.  I was definitely a bit slower the last 1-2 miles, and the playful skirting through the rocks turned at this point into more of a slog.  As it turned into a slog I definitely started having some dark thoughts about having to go out for a second loop at Nueces in March – if I was tired now, at 14 miles into my 25k, how was I going to feel when I hit mile 15.5 and then had to do it all over again in March?  Was that even going to be possible?

I quickly realized that this negative self-conversing I was doing was exactly what killed me last year (besides being woefully unprepared) and then began to think about getting to Last Chance.  I had been drinking Tailwind the whole race and my mouth was getting a bit irate at not having any straight water for most of the race.  So I thought about getting to Last Chance, grabbing a quick shot of water, and then powering on to the finish (a measly .5 miles away).

One of the few smiling finish line crossings of my time, haha

One of the few smiling finish line crossings of my time, haha

And that’s pretty much what I did.  I got to Last Chance a few minutes later, and after rinsing my mouth I took off with a bit more pep in my step than before.  There were people lined up in lawn chairs spectating and cheering all down the trail from the finish line, and as I began to cross I smiled.  I finished an hour and a half faster than last year. My husband was there taking pictures, once again having followed me around the whole race because he’s awesome and supportive and well, I kind of like him.  🙂

So, in a nutshell…Bandera began as my nightmare and ended up easily being one of the greatest, most challenging and fun races I’ve ever ran.  I’m already thinking about doing the 50k next year.  In fact, I can’t wait to do the 50k next year.  Crazy how these things turn out.  It definitely gave me a lot to think about in terms of doing the 50k in a few months (really not that far away…yikes).  I felt like my nutrition was great but could have been ramped up a little bit for the end.  And as cheesy as it sounds, there’s really no beating the power of positive thinking.  No doubt my miserable race last year was caused by allowing myself to get to that Dark Place of No Return – that gross and soul-suckingly negative place you go when your race isn’t going great and everything seems to have gone wrong.  I resolved to just go and do it, not kill myself, and have fun this year.  And I think it worked out just fine.finish_1

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sunrise

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Thinking Out Loud Thursday

So, I’m jumping on the bandwagon for Thinking Out Loud Thursdays, brought to you by the fine blogger Amanda over at Running with Spoons.

Thinking-Out-Loud

    1. Am I the only one who spends totally inordinate amounts of time trolling the internet for awesome races?  I recently discovered the Squamish 50 miler while browsing UltraSignup and have been obsessed with it ever since, especially since they frequently post beautiful images of the trails:squamishDisgustingly beautiful!  I thought I would luck out and it would be in Canada near to where one of my best friends back home is moving to (Toronto I believe), but Squamish is near Vancouver, so uh totally off.  But I’ll get there one day anyways, because this race looks completely beautifully amazing.
    2. Speaking of awesome races I want to do, this one is coming up:
      ultracbI know since Born to Run came out, everyone and their mother probably says they want to do this race, but I seriously want to do this race.  I spoke with a girl at the Fuego y Agua Hunter Gatherer race last year who went down and did it with her boyfriend and it sounds like a totally rad and amazing time.
    3. I’m running the Bandera 25k this weekend and I am completely terrified.  I had a miserable time last year, and I’m determined to make it better this year.  And by miserable I don’t mean “holy shit this is freaking hard why would I do something so hard” but more like “EVERYTHING THAT COULD GO WRONG HAS INDEED GONE WRONG” which is always followed by sadness.

      This is Bandera in one picture.  ROCKS.  And looming at the top, the sotol.

      This is Bandera in one picture. ROCKS. And looming at the top, the sotol.

    4. Can we talk about how cool the Ragnar Trail Relay is?  It’s like all the fun parts of the Texas Independence Relay or Capital to Coast without all the…uh…roads.  I’ll probably talk more about this later.
    5. It’s warming up outside, which is good in a way because it was fourteen freaking degrees on Monday morning (shut up, Northerners) but  bad because I will no longer be able to justify drinking hot chocolate.  /singleteardrop
    6. My dog is creepily staring at me as I write this blog post.

      chloecreep

      …or as I check Facebook. Whatever.

    7. Registration for the CrossFit Open is next week!  I can’t believe it’s that time again.  I’m excited.  I will continue to be excited until the first Open WOD with muscle-ups, then I will become suddenly disinterested and sad I still cannot do muscle-ups.
    8. I’m feeling pretty peer pressured into posting a 2014 Goals post.
    9. Meghann at The Life and Fork needs to make it her 2014 Goal to tell me how to make the allegedly amazing butternut squash bread she made the other day…or else.
    10. I think the fact that I made it to number ten on this post means I’ve gone too far.

Texas Spartan Beast – Race Day

I’m just gonna preface this by saying that I had the most amazing time at this race.  Everyone knows all about Spartan Race so there’s no need to go into the nitty gritty of every single obstacle, but this race was a wholly new and different race for me, even after getting my Trifecta – it was the first race I did solo, racing to my own potential.  Being that I am primarily a trail runner whose friends have yet to convert to the superior sport from road running (sorrynotsorry), I am used to running alone but also run many (road…) races with all kinds of people, not to mention the Trifecta I ran with my husband.  Running with someone is a totally different experience.  The joy I felt jumping the fire pit and plowing through the gladiators during the three Spartans I did with my husband were a different feeling – a feeling of happiness for just having DONE it in addition to the pride I felt for my husband who got off the couch to accompany me on the journey.  I’ve always really admired this quote from Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run:

mcdougall_running

Some would call me sappy for that, so I might speak for myself when I say I believe that completely.  I run with people sometimes who just urge me to “go on without [them]” or say “don’t let me hold you back” etc, but sometimes it’s just as fun to run with a friend.  I would never give this up…but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy racing as well.  They’re just two different sides of the same running coin.

To say I had an amazing race is probably a bit of an overstatement.  I did burpees almost immediately in the race upon coming to the log hop – an obstacle I have never failed – mostly because I was almost numb from the waist down after plunging into the muddy water at the very beginning of the race (really?  I couldn’t help but laugh at the evil in this decision) and also due to two logs being almost impossibly far apart…which gave me a second of pause.  A second of pause is not good on the log hop, it’s all about momentum.  Despite that, I felt really good about my race at the very beginning – I killed a lot of the obstacles, took on the male weights and challenges a few times with no problems, and was running steady in between obstacles.  Around mile two or three we were instructed to memorize a specific combination of words and numbers for a memory obstacle based on our bib number – the instructions said “You will recite this later”…mine was Lima 383 2898.  I went flying down the hills following, repeating the phrase over and over in my mind and out loud, expecting the volunteers to soon ask me to recite it.  (I was so, so wrong.)   My amazing husband spent the entire day dashing through the woods and the Ranch to try and catch me at various obstacles to take pictures and offer moral support.  I saw him after the first barbed wire crawl and frantically confessed to him that I forgot my phrase, but then suddenly it came to me as it had been getting ingrained with all the repetitive reciting along the way.

I got seriously lucky this race, I feel like – compared to some past experiences, I did not have ANY wait times on obstacles (to be fair I started in the first open heat of the day, though).  Though this hasn’t been a serious problem in the past, it makes a HUGE difference on the barbed wire crawls (there were two in this race…or three?) where getting backed up behind someone can be a huge hindrance.  I managed to go flying through both of my crawls, somehow earning a deep, bleeding gash on my right hand on the first one that I was worried would hinder me on the rope climbs and Tyrolean Traverse later on.  But adrenaline is a magical thing.

Hercules Hoist, Inverted Wall, log hop number two (featuring zero burpees!)

Hercules Hoist, Inverted Wall, log hop number two (featuring zero burpees!)

After nailing the spear throw (YES!!) I started heading toward the lake, which was my one and only serious doubt about the entire race.  Last year there was a swim and I had not received any word that it was cancelled…after trudging through a mud-water pit a volunteer instructed me to hit before entering the last barbed wire crawl before the lake, I was starting to become seriously worried.  The pit was much more treacherous than it looked and I quickly sank into the pit as the mud was soft enough to suck me down all the way to my waist, which had the water hitting my chest.  As soon as the water hit my chest I involuntarily began gasping uncontrollably as I completely lost my ability to breathe from the frigid water.  The plants entangled around my legs combined with the thick mud left me momentarily unable to move.  For a moment I was pretty much resigned to pitifully die in the mud pit until I got all pissed off and hurled my body violently to the shore.

When I rounded the corner, I could see Spartans who had gone before me trudging through the lake.  I almost cried with relief.  I’m all about Spartan’ing up and doing what I have to do, but I’m not afraid to admit that the thought of doing a 150m swim in a lake that currently had ICEBERGS floating in it was scaring the everloving shit out of me.  We were instead instructed to enter the lake at the middle point where we would have began the swim, and walk/trudge/prance/run through the water on the perimeter going clockwise.  This was better in a way, but also worse because it inevitably had most people in the water even longer than they would have been for the swim, and though we were only knee to almost waist deep, it was still cold as hell and I had pretty much made peace about thirty seconds in with the fact that feeling my body below the waist was a luxury that Spartan Race was no longer going to afford me.  I resolved to suck it up and trudged through the water, cheerfully greeting the volunteers and plastering the deliriously happy face on in order to convince myself that I was HAVING TONS OF FUN.  (I was.  Sort of.  Sometimes I have to remind myself.)  As I climbed out of the lake and began the familiar trek past some of the lodges, I steeled myself for the Tyrolean Traverse, as I knew it was in the same location as last year.  My hand was stinging, but I thought it would be okay.

However, the first obstacle I hit here was not the Tyrolean Traverse but the MEMORY OBSTACLE.  As I climbed the hill I saw a volunteer at a table with a clip board.  Almost seven miles and heaps of obstacles later, there they were.  The cold water had long erased any semblance of memory from my mind and upon seeing them I completely panicked.  There were already a few people gathered around them doing burpees (the guy who ran up to the initial instructions with me immediately exclaimed “Fuck that,” upon seeing it, and discussion with a few people afterwards lead me to believe that most people just disregarded the memory challenge all together).  I began to furiously search my brain as I walked up to the skeptical looking woman (I probably looked confused or probably brain dead in my state of intense concentration).  She asked me for my number.

“Lima…383 2898.”

I have no idea where those words came from, they just spilled out of my mouth.  Apparently those miles of repetition did me some good.  The volunteer, very visibly surprised I had provided the correct answer, congratulated me and I dodged a guy doing burpees to hit the Hercules Hoist with a quickness before busting out the Tyrolean Traverse in (for me) record time.  An easy mile to the next log hop (which I did not fail this time) and the inverted wall, and I could see the festival area.  I didn’t get my hopes up, as I knew from volunteering the day before that I was not quite at mile 10 and the course would veer back into the woods after hitting the cargo net.  As a side note, I’m proud to say that I did not act like a totally pitiful idiot when I hit the cargo net this time – they were kind enough to shoot video at the cargo net at the Vegas Super, and you can literally hear me coming painfully close to whimpering as I walked across the net in such a way that pretty much required me to look down the entire time.  This time I just rolled across and all was right with the world.

My picture from this one is woefully inferior to the one from last year.  Believe me when I say that I was super cool.

My picture from this one is woefully inferior to the one from last year. Believe me when I say that I was super cool.

My husband pretty much assured me I was slaughtering at this point, telling me I looked great and was passing lots of people, etc etc.  Unfortunately, this is probably where my race totally lost it.  The few miles through the woods were one thing, but the complete and total onslaught of leg obstacles after this point combined with probably not taking in enough nutrition to account for the very end of the race slowed me down a ton.  I think I speak for me and the hundreds of Spartans who came before and after me when I say this second bucket carry SUCKED.  I have no eloquent words to describe the complete and total suckage of this obstacle at this point in the race.  People were cheating and just running off like mad on this one, and the volunteers were going super militant on checking everyone’s buckets because there was so much cheating going on here.  (I am completely not condoning the cheating, but most people were so wiped by this point…but so was I, and sometimes you just have to embrace the suck.)  The entire race after this obstacle was a suckfest of a slog.

I completely trudged through the last 1.5-2 miles of the race, finally emerging from the woods to see the traverse wall.  Thinking it would be an easy day, as it was not an obstacle I had ever failed before (though it had never been at literally the last few meters of the race before, either) I took a deep breath and climbed up.

Hardly a minute later I was doing burpees.  Shit.  My brain is not working properly at this point.

Rope climb.  Try number one.  Fall.  Volunteer yells at me to try again.  Try again.  Fall.  No upper body strength left.  Remind myself that climbing the rope is so damn easy at CrossFit (stupid thought) and try again after the volunteer instructs me to try a different rope.  Fall.  Almost scream with frustration (I didn’t fail the earlier rope climb, why can I never get this one?!)  The volunteer is yelling at me to keep going but I know at this point I am completely not capable.  I climb out to head to my punishment, in what the volunteer calls her “Wonderful World of Burpees”, and throw myself on the ground for my first one.  The volunteer could see that I was pissed at this point.  I felt like I killed the whole race only to fail it at the end.  A few burpees in she started doing burpees with me to cheer me on (so I thought) and then I get to twenty she tells me she did ten of my burpees for me and to GO get my fucking medal.  I smile and thank her, tell her what I tell every freaking volunteer I come across (that they are amazing) and run towards the barbed wire crawl (it was three!) and up the slippery wall.  I slide down the wall the first time, but get it the second after drying my hands on a nearby tree.

I have no idea what the hell I am doing here, nor can I decide if it looks cool or completely stupid.

I have no idea what the hell I am doing here, nor can I decide if it looks cool or completely stupid.

One fire jump and a trio of gladiators later, I am crossing the finish line.  The photographer is telling me it is 1330 on the dot.  I am in complete shock.  I am close to an hour past my goal time.  I spend all of two minutes beating myself up about this, then I realize I have to take a freezing cold shower and that becomes my preoccupying worry.  (I don’t like to dote on stupid things like missed goals/PRs, fleeting things….hah.)

So, 14.5 miles later, a shitload of obstacles, and I feel alright.  I have a few worries in regards to my time in regards to this race, but I’ll save those for later.  (2014 goal posts, guys…they’re a thing.)  But for now here are the stats as they stand for the my race at the 2013 Texas Beast:

beast_results

325 overall for Sunday open, 36th for my gender and 9th in my age group…I’ll try to be satisfied with this.  But until next time, all I can do is train.