Bandera 25k

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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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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.

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    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.

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      …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:

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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:

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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.

Texas Spartan Beast Day 1

I keep writing all these posts and scrapping them because they’re not thrilling adventures or something. I read a lot of blogs, and a lot of bloggers post about their daily lives (albeit their daily lives as they relate to their athletic/running/what have you endeavors) and somehow transform it into interesting stuff. I think about writing about how I had to run for my 50k training on Tuesday and almost collapsed into a useless heap of something resembling a human being, and wonder who on Earth would read about that…

I guess it’s just growing pains.

Luckily, I did have super thrilling adventures last week, as it was finally that glorious time of the year that the Spartan Beast comes to my neck of the woods. The last year, I aimed to get my trifecta with my husband (for all you non-Spartan racers, you earn a special “trifecta” medal for completing all three Spartan Race distances – Sprint, Super, and Beast at 3-4, 6-7, and 12-14 miles respectively – in a calendar year) and since he’s only recently began to run, for me it was a bit slow going. (Sorry hubs, no offense!) But it was an amazing time I got to have with my husband, where we traveled around Texas for our Sprint and Beast distances and then to Vegas for our Super distance (as there was not a Super distance race in Texas at the time).

So this time around, my husband opted to sit the Beast out. He’s been dealing with the dreaded Plantar Fasciitis, in addition to other crap, so he seemed content to follow me to the edge of the Earth up north to the Spartan Beast and cheer me on from the sidelines. So this race was going to be my race this time, free to go balls to the wall and tackle the Beast on my own terms. The plan as it stands is to tackle all the Spartan Races I can within the next year before the Spartan Ultra Beast comes back around. The Spartan Ultra Beast (for those unaware) is the real shit Spartan Race – a marathon (or more…I hear this year it was more) distance Spartan Race that you can be accepted by application only and is certainly not for the faint of heart.

Friday afternoon we packed up the car and headed up to Granbury, about forty-five minutes away from the race’s location in Glen Rose (all the hotels were sold out…book early, folks). I was supposed to run the Hurricane Heat (a team-style heat led by the founders of Spartan before the actual race begins, normally in the morning or the day before) but since I got out of work that morning late, we were late leaving, and so I missed it. In retrospect I’m pretty bummed I missed it, as I’ve never participated in the Hurricane Heat before, but it was probably for the best considering I was trying to post a good time on Sunday. So instead of being at the Hurricane Heat all night and getting no sleep before we had to be at the race at 0630 on Saturday, we headed out to Granbury to get some dinner before we headed to bed.

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This turned out to be pretty cool, because we found a rocking burger place in the town square (this is a real thing in small towns, which is news to me if it’s not to you haha). In the town square they were having a Christmas celebration with various groups of performers singing and acting out Christmas skits. It was a very cool experience for someone who is used to a huge city like San Antonio.

The next day we had to get up super early for our all-day volunteer shifts. I immediately checked the weather and the Glen Rose Beast Facebook, where people were chatting about the conditions and rumors were spreading about Spartan cancelling certain water obstacles due to the weather. There was snow in some places. Icebergs in the lake (where there is a ~160m swim during the race) and ice on the ground. Upwards of 20mph winds.

We were assigned to the inverted wall obstacle, where we would be all day from 0700 until the last racer passed through in the evening. The weather all day was brutal. I was wearing a polar (cold weather) buff, a regular buff, long sleeved UA shirt, regular shirt, large puffy down jacket, a pair of tights under a pair of cold-weather running pants. Due to the wind, I was still pretty cold most of the day, so just looking at some of the ill-prepared racers coming through in short-shorts, sleeveless shirts, shirtless (!!!), etc was enough to make me cringe.

Long story short, I called medical more times that day than I have ever called medical combined in all my volunteer experience – Spartan and non-Spartan – most of them for hypothermia-like symptoms. The inverted wall was located between miles nine and ten of the course, and it was completely maliciously located right in plain view of the festival (finish line) area of the course, which lead most people to believe that they were near the finish. However, when you left the inverted wall, you would head straight INTO the festival area, hit the cargo net obstacle, and veer off back into the woods for almost five miles. Pretty bastardly. Upon seeing the festival area before attempting our obstacle, a lot of people asked us if they were almost done…and though it’s normally protocol to keep this kind of stuff under wraps in a Spartan Race, I seriously just could not bring myself to mislead most of these people, especially when they already looked so miserable and in a questionable state of health. This turned out to probably be for the better, because a lot of people understood how long they had remaining based on this information and knew damn well that 5 more miles was too far beyond their abilities.

I thought a lot about all the DNFs I had that day when I was chipping away at my own race the next day. For someone in Texas especially, those kinds of weather conditions were completely unexpected and a lot of miserable, shivering faces came through my obstacle. I felt very grateful to at least have the sun out the next day when I raced, especially considering I had originally registered to race on Saturday and later decided to switch to Sunday in order to give myself a rest between the Hurricane Heat on Friday and my race on Sunday. I’ve been lucky enough to never have to DNF, but it sucks to have your race ruined by something that seems so out of your control such as the weather.

So, that sounds super doomy and gloomy, but rest assured that plenty of people skipped happily through my obstacle and Spartan Race provided me and my husband with tons of free chocolate coconut water, so at least someone was enjoying their time that day.

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Team RWB Trail Running Camp (Part Two)

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Saturday and Sunday brought a whole slew of amazing experiences!

Our first run was at 0700 but coffee was being served at 0615, so my plans of sleeping in a bit were shattered by all the stirring coffee-drinkers at 0600.  I dressed and walked down to the pavilion to chit-chat, where I ended up learning that coming between a trail runner and their coffee is a big fat no-no, as the coffee was still brewing and a mob of coffee-fiending runners was beginning to gather ominously around the brewing pots.

Glad I don’t drink coffee.

Eventually we all gathered in our respective pace groups to head out on the first of many “Focused Running Workouts” – runs where we would receive an on-the-go seminar of sorts from one of the various trail running mentors who were in charge of leading our group.  We learned a bit about trail running form on this one, namely picking up your feet and mostly some general running form that transfers over to trails.  For me personally, being instructed to focus on “quick, light feet” has always been something that has helped me immensely – it’s so easy after long distances to start plodding along.  High cadence, light feet, quick over the rocks.  Easier said than done sometimes, but it helps me out from time to time to remember that.

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Though I learned a lot of new things from the various running workout/seminars, the best part about the runs was easily Camp Eagle’s awesome terrain.  The trails are beautiful but difficult, and once you get done cursing those steep and seemingly never-ending climbs, you’re rewarded with some of the most amazing views.  We did a “Downhill Running Technique” and a “Speed Intervals” workout (two separate seminars, but we sort of combined them since they were in the same trip) later in the day that had us running repeats on a pretty steep hill 3-4 times.  Hills are easily my biggest weakness with trail running, so this was a bit of a tough time for me.  It sounds like a cliche to say the views made it all worth it, but I don’t care because they did!  It also gave me an excuse to stop at the top and be all “reflective” and whatnot (aka, catch my breath because those hills are intense!)

Nikki Kimball speaking to an enthralled crowd

Nikki Kimball speaking to an enthralled crowd

After dinner, we were treated to an amazing presentation by an amazing keynote speaker:  Nikki Kimball, three-time Western States 100 mile champion and a seriously all-around epic woman.  Nikki spoke of her struggles with depression as well as her attempt to beat the record for Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail.  In addition to running and beating the record, she was also trying to raise funds and awareness for the organization Girls on the Run, an awesome non-profit geared towards encouraging young girls to pursue active lifestyles through running.  I’ve volunteered with GotR before and they’re an amazing organization, and it was so awesome to hear that extraordinary women like Nikki are out there supporting them.  

 

Nikki cited the pervasive problem of women being unrecognized in sports as one of her inspirations to beat the record – the women’s record at the time was seven days, while the men’s record that Nikki was shooting to beat was four and a half.  She mentioned when winning Western States, how the male’s race was front page news while her win was barely even a footnote.  As a woman, hearing how Nikki overcame crippling depression to break records and run insane distances was incredibly important for me.  People like Nikki are important to showcasing how powerful and competitive women can be in sports…I really admired her honesty and her strength in describing her struggles, as well as her will to blaze the trail for women aspiring to great things in her wake.

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The next day we started our morning with “Technical Trail Running Skills” – this was easily the most fun I had running the entire camp.  The first half of the run was a challenging uphill, but then the second half was all technical (slight) downhill, switchbacks and crazy speed!  I ran up front with some of the elites, and felt like a little bit of a big deal chit-chatting with them while we sped down the trail (probably infinitely slower than they ever normally run, but I’ll take it haha).

Highlight of this day though, was definitely the presentation by Mike Ehredt.

If you have three minutes (if you’re reading this, you have three minutes!) WATCH THIS.  Mike ran across America TWICE (from Oregon to Maine and then Minnesota to Texas) to commemorate all the military members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He stopped every mile to plant a flag in memory of a specific soldier’s death.  Hearing him speak was completely amazing.  Mike is truly a testament to how one normal guy can do something completely extraordinary when his heart is really in it.

Later that day we did a 5k obstacle course.  After doing this, I really wish Camp Eagle would put something on like this more often!  As I’ve mentioned, the terrain is really gnarly and perfect for this kind of stuff – as someone obsessed with Spartan Race and things of that sort, coming out to Camp Eagle for an actual obstacle race would be loads of fun.  The course itself wasn’t especially challenging (except the ring crossing!  ugh!) but it was loads of fun, which was just what I was looking for.  I was feeling pretty tired by this point, so when my friend said he was going to pass on the obstacle course I almost bowed out with him.  I think Jason Bryant’s enthusiasm at the start really pumped me up to go out and have fun and not worry about my stupid legs and their stupid tiredness.  (I don’t know why they insist on getting like that…sheesh.)  By the time I returned, I was feeling pretty beat.  We had dinner and I contemplated retiring to bed, but decided to join everyone around the camp fire and socialized with some cool new people over beers.

Monday definitely started out differently, as instead of running we did WOD for Warriors.  WOD for Warriors is a CrossFit workout Team RWB does on Veteran’s and Memorial Day – for Veteran’s Day it was as follows:

9 minute AMRAP

100-meter sprint

11 sit-ups

11 air squats

100-meter sprint

22 sit-ups

22 air squats

100-meter sprint

33 sit-ups

33 air squats

 

add 11 to the sit-ups and air squats for each additional round

 

2-minute rest and reflection

then

 

9 minute AMRAP

100-meter sprint

11 pushups

11 box jumps (RX 24”/20”)

100-meter sprint

22 pushups

22 box jumps (RX 24”/20”)

100-meter sprint

33 pushups

33 box jumps (RX 24”/20”)

We did jumping lunges instead of box jumps.  It was really fun and a blast to get “back in my element” of CrossFit after spending the whole weekend being a back of the pack runner, haha.  I love trail running, but I’m no Nikki Kimball!  It was fun to talk and workout with the runners there who had never done CrossFit before.

After breakfast and the last RWB Leadership seminar, we took our leave of Camp Eagle.  I met a lot of awesome, inspiring, amazing people!  So much passion for trail running and Team RWB that it makes me smile just typing this.  I really hope that I am fortunate enough to return next year, as this was truly one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.  A big huge thanks goes out to Liza Howard, Joe and Joyce Prusaitis, all the volunteers and mentors, and most definitely TEAM RWB for allowing this amazing experience to happen!

 

Leaving Camp Eagle, all smiles!

Leaving Camp Eagle, all smiles!

Team RWB Trail Running Camp (Part One)

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“If a trail runner falls in the woods, does it make a sound?” – The Fabulous Meghann of Life and Fork

So, last year I found out about something amazing – a trail running camp at Camp Eagle that was lead by Team RWB and featured ultra runner amazingness such as Liza Howard.  After being overcome by an excitement akin to a 12-year old girl at a Justin Beiber concert, I took a hard blow in realizing that I was already booked to be out of town to return home to run the Pensacola half marathon with a friend on the very same weekend the camp was being held.  I am not embarrassed to admit that I experienced an intense depression as a result of this, kind of like post-race depression without the actual race.  I ran my first trail race last year (so I’m still a newb I suppose) but have been insanely passionate about this sport I instantly fell in love with ever since.  Road runners probably find this obnoxious, but I can’t say it enough times – road running is so boring compared to trail running, and the community is worlds away from the welcoming family-type atmosphere of the trail community.  Not to say that road running doesn’t have its uses – I like to check in and see how fast my 5k time is every now and again, not to mention road races are plentiful if you need something to do on a boring weekend.  My disclaimer to road runners is that if you love it, ROCK IT – but I’m also going to say you should try a trail run, because it’s amazeballs.

Anyways.

So this year I was determined to get into this camp.  The camp had slots open for veterans, active duty, and civilians alike – keeping with Team RWB’s goal of integrating veterans into their communities, which cannot be done without civilians.  I may be getting ahead of myself a little bit here, but I was absolutely floored by the amount of civilians who professed at the leadership clinics that they were passionate about RWB because it gave them a chance to serve their country by serving its veterans.  Team RWB isn’t about writing the check and then moving on, it’s about the personal connections veterans and civilians make to change the way that America treats veterans after they’ve returned home/retired from the service.

(I keep getting off track.  Even though the camp is over I’m so excited about every aspect…so sorry if this is a bit of a fangirl mess.)

The months crept up and eventually the RWB San Antonio captain, after finding out about my ridiculous excitement to get into this camp, hooked me up with a sponsorship to get into the camp for free.  I can’t even begin to describe how crazy I went at this moment.  Incredibly grateful and humbled to be chosen for such an awesome opportunity to go to this camp and represent San Antonio.

I’ll spare you all of the boring build-up details.  I got off work Friday morning (I work 2230-0630) and dutifully packed and headed to my friend and fellow RWB’er Scott’s to carpool.  The drive out to Camp Eagle in the hill country is always amazing no matter how many times I make it.  I saw a plethora of goats.  (I love goats, you guys.)  We arrived at Camp Eagle at about 1530, got our room assignments and swag bags and began to unpack.  The rooms were a dorm-type assignment, with two large rooms with three bunk beds each joined by a short hallway (it can barely even be called that) and a shared bathroom and shower.  It was a cool opportunity to get to know the people attending the camp with us.

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In the true spirit of someone who would like to renounce her attachment to physical things but can’t quite manage it, the first thing I did when returning to my room was dump my swag bag on the bed and examine the contents.  I was pretty excited to give the Ultimate Direction handheld bottle a try, since I’d read all kinds of great things about Ultimate Direction in general, but had never tried any of their products.  I also received a sample of Tailwind  from my awesome bunk-mate that I intended to try at some point during the camp as well.  (I’ll probably include my experience with these products separate from the camp recap.)

After unpacking and socializing, we were off to our first task of the camp – the first of three leadership seminars for the Team RWB camp participants.  Most people probably aren’t too excited about this part of my experience, but I’d like to briefly touch on it because something Andrew Hutchinson asked us to think about:

“How will the lives of the people I lead be affected as a result of my leadership?”

Sometimes you hear things that may not be earth shatteringly profound for most, but they affect you in a way you can’t really describe.  This was one of those things.  Being in the military, one of the things I’ve struggled with a little bit is leadership – I’m naturally introverted by nature, not incredibly big on telling people what to do, and am sometimes a bit lacking in the confidence department.  Chris (the presenter) himself expressed his belief that he also possessed some similar introvert characteristics, but definitely throughout his presentations conveyed the idea that someone doesn’t have to be an extreme extrovert to be a leader.  Which gives me confidence moving forward that I don’t have to change my personality to finally get that 5.0 on the leadership block on my eval…

By this point, I was exceeding 24 hours since the last time I slept, so after the leadership seminar I was kind of in braindead mode.  We went to dinner and were greeted by Liza Howard, who explained the gist of how things were to work for the rest of the night and the following day.  I remember at this point in the night professing to Scott (27 hours into my lack-of-sleepathon) that “Thinking is becoming quite difficult.”  I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I went back to the room straight after dinner and passed out cold after telling Scott “I’m just going to lay down for a moment.”  He later recounted how he tried to wake me up and I just rambled to him in a foreign language that he was pretty sure was made up.  (I have no recollection of this…)  So the first run of the camp (the run accompanying the instruction on headlamps) I actually slept straight through.  And I did not wake up until 0500.  Not once, for no man or super star ultrarunner (sorry Liza and company…)

So that’s day one.  I promise that day two was infinitely more exciting.

Barrio 5k for Veterans

The last week or so turned out to be much busier than I anticipated.  I was planning on last weekend being the first responsibility free weekend after months of race and volunteer filled weekends as far as I can remember.  Tuesday morning I was supposed to take my Navy PT test, so I planned to take the weekend off to rest and be fully prepared to finally reach the “outstanding” category in my mile and a half time (spoiler: I did, by more than 30 seconds).  Come Friday afternoon, someone on the Team RWB Facebook posted asking if anyone wanted to participate in a 5k that the race director was allowing 10 or so Team RWB members to participate in for free.

Before I continue here, I’m going to talk for a second about Team RWB for anyone who isn’t already familiar.  Almost inevitably when you ask a member “What is Team RWB?” they’ll give you the following response: “Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.”  Which is a pretty good summary of what we’re all about.  Being a member of the military – though I haven’t fought in any wars as of now – I can say that the prospect of figuring out what to do with myself if I were to get out for any reason is kind of scary.  Team RWB is a way to help integrate veterans into civilian society, helping to ease the transition from the family they may feel like they have lost their connection to since getting out of the military with a family made up of veterans, active duty, and civilians.  (Note:  There’ll be a lot more about Team RWB in the next post about the trail running camp, but in the meantime if you are interested you can join for free at teamrwb.org.)

What I’m saying is, it’s basically the bee’s knees.  So against my better judgement, I decided to run this 5k on Saturday because for some reason my brain doesn’t acknowledge that running as fast as I possibly can for only 5k can make me sore (you have to run long distance to get sore, right?  Right?).  The race started at Cisneros Elementary School and travelled through the neighborhoods (barrios!) to pass through Elmendorf Lake Park.  The part is the future site of the La Ofrenda Veterans Monument, which the race was raising money to help fund which I thought was incredibly cool.

The course itself wasn’t too bad, mostly flat with a few hills here and there.  I took off a bit faster than I would have liked due to the majority of people who started in the front being walkers (people who were walking, not zombies for all you Walking Dead folk) who forced me to do a lot of sprinting and dodging because I’m not aggressive enough to try and shove past everyone to start at the front at any race.  All I remember is looking down at my watch about a mile in and realizing that I was running about a 7 minute mile, which is one of the bigger downsides of trying not to pay attention to my watch.  My husband was kind enough to hang around to take pictures for me, but he sucks at taking pictures so I hope nobody came here looking for sweet action shots of me looking like a hot mess.  (Anyone?)

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I was dance stretching, I think? And then some post-race, post-medal ‘murica.

Turns out I got second place in my age group, and sixth place over all.  I’m not normally one to win medals or anything, so this was a pleasant surprise.  I smoked my previous 5k PR by almost a minute and a half at 25:10!  Yippeee.  Despite all this amazingness, I am going to be completely honest and say that the best part of the race was afterwards when they passed out HOMEMADE walnut banana bread at the finish line aid station.  Omgsomoist.  I’m pretty sure nothing beats that.  Small local races are the absolute best.  Almost as good, the elementary school that we started the race at had a skate park in it that got to entertain my husband while we waited for the awards ceremonies.  As much as he follows me around to races (he can’t run right now) it was nice to have something for him to be entertained by, hah!

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Don’t be fooled, that incredibly rad skateboard is in fact mine.

We followed the awards up with an awesome brunch and a trip to the downtown YMCA to pick up my medal from the Siclovia 5k, so I felt kind of big headed all day having two medals, not going to lie.  Luckily for me, it turned out that my PT test was in fact cancelled and moved back to Thursday, so I had plenty of time to recover so I could successfully kick its butt.  Though unfortunately I collapsed into the grass in a fit of post-run exhaustion and got assaulted by a bajillion fire ants, so now my left arm looks a bit like I have leprosy or something.  (TMI?)  After all that, it was time to get ready for the Team RWB trail running camp…

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Second place is apparently my thing.

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Bonus image: This sign at the home and garden store gets me.