Blog-narok, Heat, and Motivation

Blogging is hard.

 

Well, blogging regularly is hard.  My coach and I have challenged each other to a 30-day blogging type of deal.  (Visit her blog, it’s way funnier than mine and also her adorable baby girl is prominently featured.)  It’s been a while since I’ve written here.  I’m pretty good at the stop-and-start of writing, but not so much the styling and finalizing.  I was terrible at writing the “conclusion” paragraph in our neat little MLA-styled essays in school – knowing ahead of time that I was bad at writing that part made it hard to even start.  I’ve also been in a bit of a running funk for a little while, which has made for some pretty uninteresting blogging.  (Read: grumpy blogs are not okay.)

 

Turns out it gets pretty hot in Texas during the summer, so suddenly all that good training I felt like I was doing turned into a series of epic bitchfests in which I felt like I was Usain Bolt but was really running eleven minute miles (really, if I was lucky).  Going for a casual run transformed into this huge endeavor of planning just the right time to go outside without instantaneously melting, loaded down with water and Tailwind like some weird Texas version of an Everest sherpa.  What was once easy (logistically) became harder than I expected, and with what seemed like very little payoff.

 

I didn’t really train a whole lot last summer.  Or at least, I wasn’t training for anything in particular – I was running when I felt like it, and not running particularly long.  I was mostly just running for general fitness, weight loss, and to keep up my score on the Navy PT test (I finally obtained my long-time goal of scoring an “outstanding” on the run portion that cycle).  It was easy.  I didn’t start “training” until around late October or November (can’t remember exactly) when I decided to sign up for Nueces as my first 50k and took on a most wonderful coach.

 

Having a coach really changed running for me.  I felt accountable to someone else at that point, and was definitely running the most organized and serious running plan I had ever done as a runner.  I had Nueces as my goal and I was seeing improvement all the time.  In a way, training back then felt different.  I’ve asked myself several times lately if maybe the motivation just isn’t there and that’s why a lot of running has seemed like suffering lately.  It’s hard to feel motivated when you don’t feel like you’re improving because the weather just turns everything on its head.  I’ve never been competitive with anyone but myself, so when I start to feel like I can’t even compete with myself, I get a bit discouraged.  Nueces went by, then Brazos Bend went by, and there was a bit of a lull there where I wasn’t really training for anything in particular.  The idea of doing Cactus Rose 50 miler was kicked around, but even to this day I still haven’t registered.

 

50 miles?  Me?  That’s insane.  If I went outside right now and started running (it’s 1135) I’d get barely a handful of miles and feel like I wanted to die, easily.  All the poor performance really filled me with self-doubt that really kind of kept me from committing to anything.  Even though the weather has been my major source of ire lately, the piss-poor attitude that it brought along with it was really the biggest cause of my suffering.  (But also the heat and humidity.  They’re not getting off scott-free while I’m around.)  I’m sure you’ve seen all the inspiring quotes about pain being inevitable but suffering being optional.  I was doing a lot of lingering on my decreased performance and suffering because I was stuck there in that attitude for a long time (well, like a month or two).

 

Weirdly, I really feel like what grabbed me and pulled me out of this rut was CrossFit.  I was in a kind of bad place at this point; skipping a lot of runs/workouts, doing a lot more sitting around, eating a lot more ice cream, feeling fat and out-of-shape because I was on the verge of puking/collapsing every time I went outside and ran for more than three seconds.  Not really a great place to be.  Going back to CrossFit regularly helped me get back into a routine and kind of made me realize…hey, I’m not a completely useless limp noodle.  I think it’s impossible for anyone to deadlift 305 pounds (new PR, whoop whoop) and then go “Damn, I’m so out of shape.”  I guess it turns out I’m alright at CrossFit – I mean, I’m also bad at a lot of it (toes-to-bar!), but still – and am not out of shape in the slightest.

 

So I guess this blog post is mostly an explanation of where I’ve been, and what I’ve been doing.  Not really full of any major insight.  Still not running super fast, but I’m getting better (despite everything).

(Dude I’m going to be so fast when it gets cold again.)

I’ve got some goals to keep me going. (60 days until the marathon.)  Mostly I’m just trying to enjoy what I’m doing.  Suffering is optional.

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Brazos Bend 50k

Long face hair don't care?

Long face hair don’t care?

So having all my wisdom teeth ripped from my skull is providing me with a great opportunity to sit around and catch up on my blogging.  Life’s been a bit hectic lately due to finishing a month-long training that has left me drastically behind at work.  There’s also been a few Team RWB things I’ve had to get done – not huge things, but sometimes even a few hours worth of work can seem like a neverending task when you’re already juggling a million other things.  But I’ve been mostly productive (with some much needed down time) despite all the craziness…except when it comes to blogging.  I have a few drafts hanging out that I start with gusto and then get distracted by something else that prevents me from picking it up again (mostly because I find if I stop in the middle of a blog, I lost steam and don’t want to pick it up again, haha).  SO, since I’m just sitting around on post-surgical quarters (and also I can’t seem to watch Game of Thrones online anymore – this is a big factor) I figure it’s time to catch up.  I need to resolve to try and do this a certain number of times a week…

 

 

So, I posted that a few days ago (I never really have been into actual New Year’s Resolutions, so never made one) but figured setting some goals would be good.  So I’m going to set a goal to try and blog at least once a week.  Hopefully a bit more if I can find the time/fun stuff to blog about.  More on that later.

 

Anyways, the last weekend of April was my second 50k at Brazo’s Bend.  If you read my race report for my first 50k at Nueces, you’re probably aware that I had not that great of a time.  (Well, I had a great time overall, especially first loop…but not so great results as the heat made me quite ill.)  So going to Brazos was redemption time.  I knew going in that provided nothing terrible happened during the race, I would completely destroy my 50k PR due to the problems I experienced at the last one.  So I resolved to try and just show up, have fun, and try and run strong while keeping walking to a minimum.

 

For those not familiar with the race, it’s flat.  Flat, flat, flat.  My Garmin registered about 120 feet of elevation gain for the entire 50k course.  There’s a terrible kind of sneakiness to this kind of course.  When you’re used to the periodic power hiking and hill climbing, using the same muscles for 31 miles because a new kind of pain.  I did not plan to go into Brazos and smoke it, knowing that the lack of climbs would be a challenge for me eventually.  Running the 20 miler at Piney Woods in February taught me that – I was more sore from that race for a few days after than I was for Nueces.  I resolved beforehand to not get caught up in the “flat and fast” moniker of the course and just keep a nice easy pace that would get me to the finish line safe and sound.  (Hah!)

 

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We arrived to Brazo’s Bend the day before the race to camp and got to take a nice two mile walk to the packet pick-up.  This allowed us to walk some of the course, and see some of the local wildlife.  Alligators, snakes, cool birds, flocks of tourists – we were lucky enough to witness a lot of fun and interesting things on our walk!  I might have also almost stepped on aforementioned snake, then spent the next five minutes staring at it in awe with my mouth agape and it’s startling largeness.  (I’m not particularly afraid of snakes, but I don’t see them very often, so I’m a bit wary…)

 

Russell was kind enough to take this first thing in the morning, when I was looking like rough dog crap.

Russell was kind enough to take this first thing in the morning, when I was looking like rough dog crap.

 

On race morning, I completely, totally, 100% had no desire to wake up.  At all.  I was at least smart enough the night before to load my bottles up with Tailwind and pack the race vest with extra bags and all the necessities.  I woke up at the very last minute, ate a muffin, and started taking inventory to make sure I wasn’t forgetting something small.  At this point, I still hadn’t decided what shoes I was going to wear.  I had almost brought every single trail shoe I owned (in retrospect, I might have actually brought every single trail shoe I owned) and just couldn’t decide which one would do the job.  It was hot and muggy outside, and the thought of putting on my socks and shoes was almost unbearable at that point.  So, I decided to throw caution into the wind and just wear my Luna Sandals for at least the first loop, and see how it went.  I’d ran in them many times before (but never for my long run) and loved the way my feet felt in them, so I figured they’d be perfect for the humid race.  Why not, I guess?

 

VERY INTENSELY TIGHTENING THE STRAPS ON MY SANDALS!!!1

VERY INTENSELY TIGHTENING THE STRAPS ON MY SANDALS!!!1

 

I had a bit of an issue with the heel strap on my right foot slipping down every now and again, but it wasn’t too bad.  This lasted a good 60% of the race, then magically resolved itself through no action of my own.  It was never really a huge annoyance, and going through the first loop of the race I just kind of stayed cognizant of it and tried to adjust a small amount at the aid stations.  I took the first loop at a nice clip, nothing crazy, testing the sandal and flat course waters and just trying to do everything “right” as far as nutrition and pacing goes.  I ran with my friend Scott, who was running his first 50k, and we were doing well with having compatible paces.  I was determined to not have issues of any kind this time (aren’t we all?) and just wanted to feel good finishing, so sticking with Scott for the first loop made the race fun and more or less comfortable.

 

Dramatically coming around the turnaround!

Dramatically coming around the turnaround!

 

Also we had fun times like this.

Also we had fun times like this.

 

Somewhere near the end of the first loop, I just kind of hit autopilot and starting wandering off into my own thoughts. Scott had started chatting with a gentleman we had passed (well, I had passed) and I just kind of meandered off, thinking that I wanted to run a little bit faster but not meaning to do so until after I passed the start/finish for my second loop.  Next thing I knew Scott was nowhere to be found, probably still chatting away (this is a thing, I accept it) to every person who came along.  I hesitated, not sure if I should wait for him or not, but decided he couldn’t be too far behind and I was kick it up a bit to the start/finish and wait for him there.

 

In retrospect, I waited waaay too long here.  I waited for him to come in for at least ten minutes, then waited for him to get his drop bag and do his business – then my friend Kerri (from Nueces!) came through right as we were soon to go, and I (we?) decided to wait for her.  This is completely my failure – Scott told me to go ahead and go (I believe Kerri probably did too) but I knew that if times were going to get tough, it was going to be this loop.  Honestly, I kind of wanted someone to hang with for a while, and knew Kerri would be running a similar pace.  We parted ways with Scott in the first mile or so (hence my dilemma at having waited) and trucked on together for the rest of the race.

 

Though I felt really great leaving for my second loop, at around mile 21 or 22 my body got pretty sick and tired of all the repetitive muscle usage of the flat terrain and started throwing a hissy fit.  Luckily I had Kerri around, who chit chatted with me and distracted me somewhat.  I eventually had to stop every now and again and stretch my self-destructing hamstrings, but made sure Kerri continued on without me.  this was a good thing in a way because it gave me a bit of a goal to catch up with her after stretching.  Though it felt like I was kind of exploding at every possible location below the waist, I didn’t necessarily feel bad, not like I did at Nueces.  I chalked it up to the pains associated with running farther than you do around the neighborhood, and told myself to walk if I absolutely felt I needed to, but to keep it to a minimum.  I did a lot of stern self-talking past the 25-26 mile mark as life started to become exponentially more painful.

 

The fun part about this race is how it is set up.  The lollipop structure of the course meant that there is a lot of crossing paths with other runners, which means that we saw quite a few friends.  (Shout out to Jason, who shouted “Put some shoes on, Brittany!!’ at me as he was headed into the start/finish for the 50 miler as we were leaving it…it gave me a good laugh.)  This is certainly good for lifting spirits, though most of it occurs before the last long stretch of the race which is honestly the hardest part mentally.  There’s a long stretch between the second and last aid station that despite being only about five miles, feels like FOREVER due to it being a straight, seemingly never-ending flat completely riddled with horse-hoof holes that made stabilization a bit harder.  The course here is so straight for so long that you can see straight for an excruciatingly long time, which is a huge mental mind game when you think you should have already arrived at the aid station already.  I walked a bit more here than I would have liked, Kerri almost stepped on a damn snake, and I might have mentioned my hamstrings were exploding approximately a billion times.

 

After hitting the last aid station, there were some weird mind games going on with Kerri’s watch reporting we had quite a bit less mileage left than we really did.  My watch was a little more accurate (off by maybe .4) so though I knew logically my watch was probably correct based on how accurate it was for the first loop, I still kept clinging to the hope that Kerri’s watch was right and we had about 1.5 miles instead of about 4.  The last mile or so was complete and total shit for me.  We hit the paved portion of the course and my feet were angrily demanding to know why the hell I was doing such a terrible thing t0 them at this point.  Hadn’t they suffered enough?  I began to think that I had suffered enough and maybe if I just walked for one second – luckily for me, Kerri barked at me about half a mile from the finish line, “Don’t walk, we’re almost there!”  (If you were not already aware, Kerri is awesome.)

 

Kerri looking fresh and all smiles, and me looking all...like me or whatever...

Kerri looking fresh and all smiles, and me looking all…like me or whatever…

 

It was nice to cross the finish line and sit in a chair very unwisely and drink chocolate protein and oh god I thought I was going to die and nah that wasn’t too bad I guess.  I got Epic Bars and Coke at the start/finish aid station because the race director is my freaking hero (I love Epic Bars, omg) and went to the finish to wait for Scott to roll in.  I found out at this moment that sitting down was quite unwise, but I almost didn’t care because I at least didn’t have to run anymore.  (I want to point out here that at one point my husband asked me after the race “Why are you so sore?”  For real.)

 

It was awesome to cheer Scott in for his first 50k!  Despite all the pain, I had a great time.  In retrospect I should have spent a little less time hanging around the aid stations, as that added an extra minute per mile to my overall time.  Sucks, but still smashed my 50k PR and had a good time with good friends.  Rob (fellow Ragnar warrior and friend) the race director did a killer job on his first race and I can’t wait to hit up the Brazos Bend 100 (…for the relay…) in December!  Cheers!

 

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Thinking Out Loud Thursday

Thinking-Out-Loud

 

1.  First, can we talk about how Liza Howard is amazing:

Six months post-partum (so six months of sleep deprivation, plus three ten minute breaks to breast pump during the race), crushing the female record at Umstead 100 in 15:07.  Truly an inspiration to us all!  For further proof please see this What Is Ultra post about her.

 

2.  Buzzfeed posted an article called  75 Thoughts Every Runner Has While Out For A Run a few days ago, and I’m pretty sure during all the very unsightly guffawing I was relating to almost everything on the list:

buzzrun

Most people have probably already seen this, but I need to note this here just in case there’s one poor unfortunate soul out there who hasn’t happened upon this already.  And while we’re talking about hilarious things:

THIS.

“100 miles? I don’t even like to drive that far.”
“Your mom doesn’t like to drive that far.”

#zerolimits

I’ve never ran 100 miles, but I’ve received this clever (not) little line for just doing half marathons, 25ks or 50ks before, so.  PSA to all you out there: NOT FUNNY.  Also I was torn between pride and embarrassment at how much some of these things resonate with me.  Especially the shoe thing.  …so many shoes.

 

3.  WHY CAN’T I RUN A HUNDRED MILES.

 

4.  On a more serious note, there’s this, a photo project by @DearWorld that admittedly had me a little teary eyed.

DEAR SURVIVORS,

When we asked you to return to the finish line, a place that changed your lives, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. You told us some days are harder than others, but that it’s okay to have bad days.

Mostly you told us about the goodness of others. Colleagues who babysat. School kids who sent notes. Neighbors who cooked dinner.

What happened that day was terror. Terror happens when love is absent.

Boston is a city of love stories now.

Thank you for sharing yours here. As you heal, know you inspire the rest of us to be better, still.

Love,

Robert
Founder, Dear World

 

I think it is incredibly important when tragedies like this occur that we highlight the survivors and wonderful people who were there to help others who were suffering.  This is an beautiful example of how to move on when something irreparably terrible happens around you, and if you have even just one moment to spare I would suggest you check it out.  🙂

 

5.  I went back to CrossFit for the first time in almost two months on Monday, and MY BODY IS STILL BROKEN.  Well, not completely, but it’s been quite a long time that I’ve felt so sore.  I tried to run today and still felt a bit off.  The WOD we did was 3 rounds of 5 body weight deadlifts, 25 box jumps, and 10 pull-ups.  Now, the box jumps and deadlifts I can probably get away with a little bit of stiffness for a couple of days, a bit of tired legs, whatever – I’ve been running the whole time I’ve not been doing CrossFit, so those weren’t really a big deal.  I have NOT however been doing upper body, so the short story here is that lifting my arms went from laughably easy pre-WOD to an impossibly post-WOD (the day after) and then to a very uncomfortable chore within the last few days.  So, that’s a thing.  #crossfitkills

 

6.  I really need to get back into cross-training before my body breaks FOR REAL.  Hence the CrossFit.  I even bought a Groupon for 20 yoga classes.  I went to yoga and am not ashamed to say I bitched for like ten minutes after (jokingly, more or less – but still) because yoga is freaking HARD.  Ugh.  I’ve been trolling r/yoga a lot lately, and if that one yoga class I took last week wasn’t proof enough of my distinct lack of flexibility in certain places, seeing something like this makes me feel like an inflexible stone:

twisty

What is this I don’t even.

I’m not even sure what to think of things like this.  What are you, Gumby?!  Meanwhile I can’t even get my heels to the ground in down dog.  Damn.

 

7.  (I had to check to see what number I was on.  Probably a sign this is going too far.)  So I’ve been pretty good at avoiding overpriced workout clothes lately, but today the local lululemon store posted this adorable tank on their FB page, and it’s got my jimmies all rustled.

lulutank

 

This is getting long and soon it won’t even be Thursday anymore.  So I leave you with, number 8:

 

8.)

I think this speaks for itself.

I think this speaks for itself.

Hell’s Hills 25k, or what happens when you don’t pay attention

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So the week after TIR, I decided I wanted to run the Tejas Trails race Hell’s Hills for the first time.  I’d never done this one before, and heard that it was a much less technical course compared to something like Bandera or Nueces, so I was hoping to get in a good training run for some speed (in preparation for the Brazo’s Bend 50k at the end of the month in Houston) and have a blast in the  process.  Me and a friend talked to Joe (the race director) the night before the race, and he mentioned that the first and last miles of the race were particularly gnarly, with some nice speedy flatland in between.  Contrary to what the name suggests, the course is not super hilly – the ranch is named for the couple who founded it (their last name is Hill) and for the fact that it’s usually one of the first hot races of the year in Texas before everyone has had the opportunity to acclimate.

 

Knowing that the race was not actually as devastatingly hilly as the name implied in addition to the forecasted weather looking BEAUTIFUL, I decided maybe this would be a good race to try and beat my 2:49 25K PR I’d set at Big Bend.  The day before the race I returned home after class, packed my stuff and headed out to camp the night before.  The weather could not have been more amazing for camping as well as racing – it was a cool 56-60 degrees during the night and well into the morning.  I planned out my breakfast, set all my stuff up, and set my alarm for 0600.  Turns out the 50 milers were starting at 0500, and the 50k at 0600, so I really didn’t need any alarm clocks between all the hooting and hollering that was occurring at the start line at that time.

 

Before the race I decided that it would be a good idea to not worry too much about my Garmin.  I wanted to run this race mostly on feel, to try and get some good speed but at the same time be careful to not lose all my momentum before the last quarter of the race (a frequent issue on my part).  After hearing Joe talk about how gnarly the first and last parts of the race are, I had settled for a goal of sub 3 hours, and if I felt super awesome I would try to PR my 25k.  I had still been filling a bit stiff from TIR (mostly my hamstrings have been stiff as hell all week) so I knew that just going by feel would be my best bet.  It’s sometimes a bit disheartening to go from road to trail racing for me – when at TIR I was running 8:30 m/m-9:30 m/m, it’s pretty rare I run anything even slightly resembling that sort of speed on the trail.  So feeling like I’m running fast and looking down at my Garmin telling me I’m running slower than a 1o m/m normally gets me frustrated during races.  Hence the ditching.

 

There were a TON of people signed up for the 25k.  This was super obvious to me in the beginning of the race when tons of people were pushing (no, really) past me and others to try and run up all the hills to the front.  Those first few minutes of the race were probably some of the crappiest (in terms of fellow runners) in any trail race I’d ever done thus far.  It’s probably old hat to blame the road runners at this point (sorry, guys!) but when I see behavior like that in trail races I can’t help but always think that.  Double sorry to all you courteous road runners – I know you guys exist!  It’s just kind of annoying to have a bunch of people push past you to get by even when you’re trying to stay out of the way of the “faster” people, but then several people want to go passing you on both sides so you’re technically in the way of everyone.  And then they pass you to run up all the hills only for you to pass them again a mile later because they gassed themselves.  Silly.

 

Lucky for me most of that nonsense dispersed within the first fifteen minutes or so.  I got a really bad cramp in my left calf during this first mile or so of the race, which is exactly what happened at Big Bend (only in both calves).  I’m beginning to think that starting off the race with steady incline is what makes this happen – though Big Bend was far and away the flattest race I’ve ever ran, the first mile was a steady incline the entire way.  Since it was only one calf this time, I resolved to try and run it out as opposed to walking, and after about 20 minutes it had disappeared completely.  So, warming up more/differently next time before running a race that starts off with incline?  Not sure what to do about that.

 

Though the race was mostly flat, it still kept me engaged and having a lot of fun with the way the course winded around quite a bit, lots of switchbacks and pretty fun forest scenery.  There were some “water crossings” (more like puddle crossings) in a spot or two, but most of the mud on the rest of the course had dried up.  Eventually we came out of the woods and out into the back fields before the second aid station, and oh my god:

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SO MANY WILDFLOWERS.  Pictures can never ever do it justice.  The wildflowers were straight nuts here.

 

I am pretty proud of my steady pace throughout most of these miles – often times I find that the less I think about the pace the less I start to kind of get frustrated/grumpy/hate running (not really, but yes really).  I ran into some people and ran with them and chit chatted for a while, played back and forth with one woman (pet peeve – being passed by someone I’ve already passed…uuugggh) and generally cruised and enjoyed my time.

 

Joe was not messing around about the gnarliness of the last mile, though – the “rolling hills” on the course turned into death drops onto unsteady wooden plank bridges, dropping down and then immediately heading straight back up.  I am admittedly extremely reckless when it comes to running steep and technical downhill, but even these gave me a little bit of pause.  This was due in part to the appearance of instability in the bridges (planks with spaces in between them – I kept imagining myself flying down and tripping on the gaps in between planks) and just general distrust of the bridges in general.  I’ve been doing alright on the knee front lately, but running steep downhill kind of aggravates it so I didn’t want to throw myself straight down with abandon…but you know, sometimes you just gotta make up time.  😛

 

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Eventually we came out of the woods again, and the frequency of the “motivational signs” posted on the trees was dramatically increasing so I figured we must be close to the finish at this point.  I kicked the pace up just a little, feeling a bit sore but overall still pretty good.  Eventually we were suddenly at the finish, and I kicked it up again a bit, still pretty comfortable but breathing heavier.  I crossed the finish line and hadn’t even thought about my time during that whole last part of the race.  After talking to a friend for a few minutes, I realized I hadn’t checked my time and finally looked at my Garmin – 3:00:41.  Seriously?!  I waited for the official results, in hopes that maybe I had started my Garmin a bit early and would be miraculously granted my sub 3 hour goal, but alas…it wasn’t meant to be.

 

Perhaps most frustrating about the whole thing was that I know I could have easily ended up with a sub 3 hour time if I had been checking my Garmin and knew where I was in relation to my goal, but oh well.  You live and you learn.  Maybe next time I’ll settle for only looking at my Garmin every half hour or something like that.  Or I’ll just go back to obsessively looking at it and then spontaneously die of frustration during some race one day.  Whichever.

 

Race equipment included Tailwind as always, my trusty Team RWB running shirt that makes me run faster, Pearl Izumi E:M N1 shoes, and my Ultimate Direction Jenny Vesta.  Full disclosure: I literally only wore this vest to hold my phone so I could log the Charity Miles for my local Team RWB chapter (I left my SPIbelt at home…)  I hate running with my phone, but I also hate losing, so I’ve been running with my phone so our chapter can log those miles!   😉  Luckily this vest is crazy light, so it didn’t even bother me in the slightest.

 

Coming up:  Fast 50k training, how yoga is hard, and my return to CrossFit.  Yikes.

 

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Texas Independence Relay

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Sign posted on the course of the Texas Independence Relay for John Sharp, who ran all 200 miles solo.

 

This year was my second year running the Texas Independence Relay, a 200 mile relay that runs from Gonzales, TX to the San Jacinto Monument in Houston, TX.  For all you non-Texans (sorry), here is an abbreviated history of the events behind the race.  If you haven’t done a relay of this sort of epicness before, the basic gist is that everyone piles into vans and takes turns running legs of various distances until they all die of exhaustion or finally arrive at their destination.

 

 

Being that this was my second year, I pretty much knew what I was in for.  I also did the 223 mile Capital to Coast relay (Austin, TX to Corpus Christi) last year as well, so while I wouldn’t call myself a veteran, I would say I definitely know what’s up when it comes to absurdly long Texan relays at this point.  Honestly though –  it doesn’t really matter at all how mentally prepared you are going into it, because when you get exhausted all mental preparation goes out the window.  People get cranky.  Hangry.  Whiny.  Sleepy.  Legs refuse to move.  You have to wear a tiara.  (Side note: the wife of one runner brought a tiara along, and anyone who was being excessively bitchy had to wear it.  If I had a dollar for every time I heard “Do you want to wear the tiara?!” I could pay back my race entry.)

 

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Doing a 200 mile relay is definitely what is classified as “type 2 fun”.  While you do have fun during, eventually it gets dark and you get sleep deprived and everyone starts to point the blame at me for making them join the team and telling them it was fun or something.  (Whatever!)  During the race you cheer on your runners, tag other vans, drink beers and have fun in whatever way you possibly can.  Through all the crap parts – the sleep deprivation, the heat, the getting lost – there’s a lot of meeting and hanging with rad people, seeing the Texas countryside, and some more drinking beers.  Some running, too.  Where we were very unfortunate in our fate of being the van to run during the heat of the day – and it got HOT as hell – we were very fortunate that Texas blessed us with some amazing wildflowers and some beautiful country.

 

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My last two legs were slogs if I have ever had them – the third was right after our van’s break in running and our short nap, which I feel like just intensified my exhaustion by that point.  It was about four or five in the morning, and the entire leg was set up in such a way that the van could provide no support for the entire leg.  As we got into Houston, all the big obvious signs pointing us in the right direction were replaced by small flags stuck in the ground that were barely visible in the pitch-dark of the early morning.  I got lost a few times.  My legs felt like they were made of stone, and protested every single step I took.  It’s those moments in the dark where you start to get a little bit loopy – things start to make less sense, you start to feel like you’re probably going to be running forever in the dark because though you’re relatively sure you’re not lost, you can’t help but think maybe you are.  We found out later in the day (well into the afternoon) that a lot of the flags as we came into Houston had been stolen by passerby and as a result many people got lost.  One of our runners whose leg was in the thick of downtown Houston called us several times at one point because he was completely lost and without direction.

 

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These things suck.  They suck a lot.  It’s so cheesy to say these kinds of things bring you together as a team – the suffering, the confusion, the exhaustion – but it’s completely true.  When you cross that finish line and everyone runs through to the San Jacinto Monument, you realize how completely INSANE what you’ve just done was and no matter how much you might have thought it sucked at one point, it’s completely awesome afterwards.  And if you’re a team that has to return 200 miles west to get back home afterwards, once you start making that drive home you start to realize “Oh shit, we ran all of this…”  Mind blown.  Also the assholes who blamed me for their suffering (“THIS WAS YOUR IDEAAA UGH”) say they had a lot of fun and want to do it next year.  BOOM!

 

It’s made a million times more awesome to be able to do it with Team RWB.  The opportunity to go and represent this amazing organization and spread the word about our mission is a huge blessing!

 

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We looked pretty cool doing it, too.

For the record, I ran in my Brooks Pure Connect 2s ($40 for last year’s model…how could I pass that up?).  I don’t own very many road shoes (aka I only own one very thin-soled pair of Merrell’s), so I was admittedly a bit neurotic about finding the “right” shoe for the job.  I had to take the insoles out for them to feel right, but in the end they worked out perfectly for me!  I fueled the entire weekend with Tailwind Nutrition and was dealing it out like crack to my vanmates before their runs as well.  All in all, with the many things that could possibly go wrong on a 200 mile relay, I feel like everything more or less worked out to our benefit.  😀

Nueces 50k

You can tell this is the first loop because I'm smiling!  Yeah!

You can tell this is the first loop because I’m smiling! Yeah!

So, after my thrilling visit to Ragnar was the Nueces 50k.  This was to be my first 50k, and it was on 01 March – the day after I was slated to fly back to San Antonio from Ragnar HQ.  I was in a state of serious doubt about my ability to do well at this race because I had been incredibly sick during my visit to Ragnar, but decided to go out and run it anyways.  I was scheduled to arrive at the San Antonio Airport from Salt Lake City at about 5 PM on Friday, where my husband would pick me up and we would immediately make the two hour drive to Camp Eagle.  Unfortunately, every single flight I was slated to be on that day got delayed.  My original flight to Las Vegas was delayed about three times, until I was told I would miss my connecting flight and was rescheduled for Phoenix instead.  My flight to Phoenix was delayed.  After finally arriving in Phoenix, my flight to San Antonio was delayed about three times.  I did not return to San Antonio until about 1 AM.

We elected to stay in San Antonio and get up and make the two hour drive to Camp Eagle, not wanting to arrive at Camp Eagle at 3:30 AM and wake everyone in the shared dorm we were slated to stay in. My friend Meghann was crazy awesome enough to show up at my house at 4 AM for the drive to Camp Eagle.  I got about an hour and a half of sleep.  I was still quite sick – coughing, congestion, short of breath, the whole shebang – and though I had packed everything beforehand I still felt incredibly unprepared when we arrived to Camp Eagle.  The long and short of this is that the careful pre-race experience I had crafted in my head was a complete disaster.  I hurriedly filled the bottles on my vest with Tailwind and water, tried to allocate things like extra socks (didn’t happen) and my buff (also didn’t happen), while also having to hit the bathroom and pick up my packet.  In the parking lot, I could hear Joe (the race director) counting down to race start…10, 9, 8… I kissed my husband, waved by to Meghann who was urging me to GO, and ran to the start line.

All the frantic scrambling around made me forget that I was insanely tired and sick and did I mention tired?  Loop one is a go, all adrenaline, who needs sleep? Honestly, describing the first 25k loop of this course is probably an exercise in monotony – I spent most of it hydrating as appropriate, briefly visiting my husband and Meghann at the aid stations, and wondering at what moment the crushing tiredness and fatigue would set in.  It never happened on the first loop.  Everything went exactly according to plan – I never stopped too long, I hiked the hills, ran most of the way, chit-chatted with a person or two.  Near the end I started feeling a bit fatigued, but didn’t really pay too much attention to it, thinking I didn’t have too much more to go.  (The “just think about getting to each aid station” approach can backfire this way – eventually you realize you do have to go the whole 25k all over again…and become quite sad.)  Eventually I emerged from the woods to find Meghann and Russell waiting for me.  Meghann informed me that I was close to the start/finish, and now I “get to do it all over again!”  Then this happens:

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This is my “are you freaking serious?” face.

I sigh, keenly aware at this moment that I’m starting to get tired.  And not just tired like “Well I just ran 25k probably a bit faster than I should have considering I need to do it again,” (I actually ran the first loop about an hour faster than I ran the 25k race last year)  but more like “Well, now that all the adrenaline has worn off I now realize I got an hour of sleep and desperately would like a nap.”  When I finally get back to the start/finish, I trudge over to the aid station under the pavilion and am greeted immediately with Olga barking “Salt!  Coke!” at me.  I immediately comply, and just as a side note from someone who has never drank coke during a race before, that shit was GLORIOUS.  I talk with Russell and Meghann for a second, then Liza comes by and tells me I am still looking good, though in retrospect I’m not sure if she was just saying that because it’s her coachly duty because I think I kind of looked like dirt.  I’m just starting to think that I’ve been standing for far too long when Olga tells me it is time to go, time to start running again.  Not really into defying Olga, I nod and start to trot off.

Please note the piteous, mom-like way Liza is looking at me.  Also, how freaking red my poor ginger face is.

Please note the piteous, mom-like way Liza is looking at me. Also, how freaking red my poor ginger face is.

As soon as I’m out of sight I start walking again.  It’s getting really hot at this point, but eventually I head back into the woods and start the run/walk, on again/off again routine that will pretty much become standard for (almost) the entire last loop.  Eventually I start a back and forth with another girl on the trail, her passing me, me passing her, going back and forth like this for a while until she is right in front of me and trips and hits the dirt pretty hard.  I run to her side and ask her if she’s okay, and she laughs it off a bit and tells me she had just been telling some friends the day before how she had never fallen on the trails.

At that point we run together for a while, eventually resolving to run together for the rest of the race.  Turns out Keri twisted her foot around mile 9 or 10 on the first loop and had to have it taped up because it was causing her some serious pain.  By the time she met up with me it was only getting worse.  So we ran on together, resolving to see each other to the finish line no matter what (I don’t think she knew what she was getting into at the time, haha).  Eventually we hit what was (I think) supposed to be the 10k self-service aid station (basically a few cases of gallon jugs of water that had been left on the trail).  I remember all throughout (and even at the end) the second looping thinking I had been paying pretty good attention to my hydration, but I very clearly remember how happy I was to see the water at this aid station, immediately downing one of my vest bottles and filling it up, then downing half of it and filling it up again.  In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have been that thirsty if I was keeping up with my hydration.  I helped Keri fill her bottle and we pressed on.

It was around this point that I started to feel like things were about to go seriously wrong for me.  I had a bit of trouble with my stomach, and getting to the next aid station seemed to take an eternity.  At one point me and Keri started wondering aloud how far we could possibly be from the aid station, as it seemed like we’d been running (and walking) forever.  At this point it was (for me, anyways) seriously hot.  I was super tired.  My stomach problems were only getting worse.  I was feeling a bit nauseous, something I had never, ever had to deal with in running before.  When we finally reached the aid station I dumped ice water all.freaking.over myself.  It was awesome for approximately five seconds, until the heat burned it that away.  I ate a few oranges and we started to trudge up the hill from the aid station, where we met with Meghann and Russell again.

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Also this is where Keri displayed her superior photogenic qualities, and I displayed my herpaderp qualities.

Things pretty much only went downhill for me at that point.  I remember a lot of pitiful retching on the side of the trail on my part.  I was extremely nauseous for I would say about the last 10-11 miles of the race.  I remember several times wanting to just stop and lay down on the trail because my head was swimming from fatigue.  If Keri had not been with me, very graciously determined to get me to the finish line, I have no single doubt in my mind that I would have pulled a Liza and laid down somewhere to take a nap.  I’m sure there are many words in the English language I could employ to describe how incredibly tired I was, but I think just saying “I was tired as shit” will suffice.  Keri talked to me the whole way, and when we hit the fence line (the longest hill on the course) I had to stop constantly because I was either on the verge of puking, or had become nauseous to the point where I could hardly stand and was almost willing myself to puke.

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This. This was my favorite thing.

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Suffice to say this pretty much happened for the whole rest of the race.  We ran a little, I inevitably had to stop, Keri gently coaxed me on and we trudged along.  Let me just pause in this oh-so-thrilling narrative of my nausea to point out that Keri was basically the most amazing thing ever to happen to me during this loop.  Having to make that last 10 mile trek all by myself, slowly (seriously – it took way longer than the three hours of my first loop) would have seriously been an exercise in total suckage.  Keri let me stop to do my puke thing, she set little goals for us, and she was completely understanding of my melodramatic exclamations of being on death’s door.  She let me do my thing, while still keeping us moving.  Doing the fence line without her probably would have taken me three times as long because I undoubtedly would have sat down on a rock, puked on myself, and fell asleep in the sun until I got heat stroke or someone found me and put me in the ground.  (Or something.  I don’t know.)

So we hit the last aid station to some amount of fanfare, because Tejas Trails has the best damn volunteers on the planet.  Joyce (one of the race directors) was at the aid station and upon being told by Keri that I was having some serious issues, Joyce immediately descended upon me like a mother hen.  She asked me a few questions I can’t remember, took my bottle and put a little bit of blue something in it and filled the rest with water and instructed me to drink.  She took my vest and told me she would take it to the pavilion for me, saying if I was overheating the vest would certainly not help me in this situation.  I remember someone instructing me to sit, but I told them I didn’t want to sit because if I did I would never get back up again.  There was concerned talk of overheating, dehydration, this and that as Joyce had me put a bag of ice on my neck, head, underarms.  Someone asked me if I was feeling well enough to finish.

“Do you want to just go?”  Joyce asked me.

“Yeah.  Might as well.”

Joyce had me put the bag of ice down my shirt, and we took off.  Slowly.  We walked, tried to run a bit, walked some more.  We came around to the river crossing and I tried to pay no attention to the fact that I could practically see the pavilion from there, knowing that we still had to go around that part of the property and back through the woods again first.  When we finally came out of the woods and took the last of the course through the Camp’s buildings, we started to run.  I was seriously uncomfortable with how much more nauseous running made me in addition to the stomach pain every footfall caused, but we were determined to run through to the finish line.  All manner of crazy emotional thoughts ran through my head as we took those last few steps towards the pavilion, and coming down the incline to the finish I could see Meghann cheering and yelling while taking pictures with her phone.

If you look carefully, you can witness the beginning stages of my devolution into a blubbering baby.  :D

If you look carefully, you can witness the beginning stages of my devolution into a blubbering baby. 😀

So we crossed the finish line, and as soon as we do I fell into Russell’s arms and cried like a little girl as Keri explained to whoever happened to be near that I was having some serious issues and needed to be looked at.  They lay me down, give me something fizzy to drink, and Rachel later tries to feed me some ginger that she then prompts me to spit into her hand (because it was disgusting, how do you ultrarunning people eat that crap?!) because she has serious hardcore mom status.  I laid around on the cot for a while before I was deemed able to get up and run around shortly after, and we hung out at the pavilion for a few hours and drank beers and cheered on many of the remaining runners as they came across the finish line.

It was quite a few days after the race until I accepted the fact that perhaps I did actually do the best I could have done under the circumstances of one hour of sleep, serious sickness, rough weather conditions, etc.  I definitely did a lot of beating myself up about it, because it was the first time I’d gone that kind of distance (having only gone up to 20 miles in training) so I was seriously starting to wonder if it was just that I wasn’t ready to do it.  I’d been training for a while and was told by everyone and their mother that I was most certainly ready (and though I always appreciate the sentiment, most people just say that kind of thing so it’s not always easy to take it seriously when you feel like you’re at your worst).  I’m pretty sure my husband is tired of me randomly bringing it up.

Looking back, there were some things I could have kept up with more – the heat definitely made me underestimate my need for water and fuel.  At the time I was sure I was keeping up with it, but in retrospect I don’t think I was.  I can’t recall exactly how much Tailwind I took in, but I feel like no matter much of that or any supplemental VFuel gels I ate it wouldn’t have really mattered.  The complete and total lack of sleep was probably going to catch up with me no matter what.  I was seriously pleased with the performance of the shoes I wore – I wore the Pearl Izumi E:M Trail N1, a shoe I had bought only a few weeks before and kind of gambled with (I brought a spare pair of Altras just in case).  I never had any serious issues with my feet hurting despite all the rocks out there (and despite the mileage) and the shoes are still light compared to my Altra Lone Peak 1.5s (the original shoe I had planned to wear).  I was prepared as I could have been as far as my gear goes, but sometimes the cards just aren’t in your favor.  I was incredibly lucky to have Russell and Meghann there cheering for me and helping me out with anything I needed at all the aid stations, as well as Keri who stayed with me all those miles and pushed me to the end.  Though I might have still finished without them, it would have been a much more miserable experience.  So, until next time I suppose – Hell’s Hills 25k on 05 April and another crack at 50k at Brazos Bend on 23 April.

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Ragnar Trail Summit

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Salt Lake City

Hey strangers.  (Is making that word plural too hopeful?  Hopefully more than one person is reading this.)  Super lax with the blog posting schedule lately.  Freedom The Navy calls.

So, long and short – last Wednesday I was extremely privileged to be invited to Ragnar Relay’s first Trail Summit.  Me and a few others from the Hill Country, Texas area were selected a few months ago to be Ragnar Trail ambassadors (we’re called Trail Warriors – boom!)  We flew in with all the other Trail Warriors from all over the country to get together and learn all about Ragnar’s new Trail Relay series and how Ragnar is making life freaking awesome.  If you have never ran a Ragnar Relay – or any overnight relay at all for that matter – you are in for a seriously awesome time that will leave you coming back for more and more.  I can’t begin to describe all the things I learned at Ragnar/Salomon HQ without saying the words “awesome” or “rad” a completely superfluous amount of times.  I won’t go into every single detail, but suffice to say this trip was more than just a trip for me.  This video always gives me goosebumps:

If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

Besides the obvious mind-blowing radness of visiting Ragnar/Salomon headquarters, I think it’s seriously important for me to note here that I have absolutely never been to Utah, and I have been DREAMING of going there forever.  We stayed in both Ogden and Salt Lake City, and it’s impossible to convey my feelings to people who are constantly surrounded with that sort of beauty how insanely out of this world my experience was.  I have never felt so lucky in my life as I did in Salt Lake City, surrounded by a team of some of the coolest, most passionate people I have ever met.  Something like that is not just an experience, it’s something amazing and special that (you guys are writing me off as crazy and obsessed at this point, bear with me) changes something about you.  I know this sounds completely dramatic, but seeing people who care about sharing their labor of love is awesome.

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This trip was something else.  It made me think about a lot of things – about my running goals, about my goals in general.  You can’t help but feel inspired to do awesome things when you hear the awesome things other people (not just Ragnar staff, but my fellow Trail Warriors as well!) are doing in their lives.  Everyone’s different, and everyone is doing something awesome and special.  So, I guess I’m done gushing – no gagging guys, this is serious!

While we’re telling fun stories…this experience reminded me of another amazing experience I had a few months ago.  I’ve had great luck in having met amazing people doing incredible things in the trail running community.  When I volunteered at Fuego y Agua’s Hunter Gatherer race last year, I was waiting at the cave “obstacle” that I was assigned to, chatting with some of the racers.  The racers were required to climb down into the cave, crawl through a crack (that’s the best I can describe it – let’s just say it was a tight squeeze for a lot of them) and memorize some symbols they discovered at various points in the cave.  The cavern was so tight that travelling through it was slow going and eventually we had to limit the amount of racers who could go inside to two or three, so we had a group of about two or three people hanging out with us volunteers while they waited.

Eventually the guys started asking us volunteers about our running experience, and one of them asked me if I had ever ran an ultra before.  I kind of laughed, telling him I wasn’t quite there yet.  He asked me what was the farthest I had ever raced, I told him I had done a few 25k races, a bunch of halfs, yadda yadda but I really wanted to run a 50k one day.  He shrugged, and told me to just do it.  What’s the worst that could happen?  DNF?  He told me the story of how he went to run the Copper Canyons Ultra, and DNF’ed about five miles from the finish line (or something similar – either way it was extremely close to the finish) and people gave him shit.  “Why did you quit when you were so close?”  “Why didn’t you just run the last few miles?”

The long and short of it is, he DNF’ed for a variety of reasons, but as far as the doubters, who cares?  He ran like 45 freaking miles.  Nobody can talk shit about that, because that’s still amazing.  This sounds so completely freaking obvious, but to me at the time, the confident way he told me “Just do it, you got it.” made me suddenly very aware that…yeah, I could maybe do that too.  So, it would be a bit of an exaggeration to say I went straight home and signed up for my first 50k, but I did do it very soon after.  Which will bring us to the next post.

So this has gone on long enough.  The point of this post is that life is beautiful and people are amazing, so let’s all believe in each other so we can do excellent shit.

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