The Magical DNF

So, spoiler alert:  I DNF’ed my 60k last weekend.  Let’s talk about it.


The race was the third in the Capt’n Karl’s night race series which is at a different location every month, this one at Colorado Bend State Park in Texas.  I’d heard tons of great things about the course and the park itself, so when I was trying to decide which of the four races to do the 60k instead of 30k, I thought this one would be my best choice.  My coach told me that since I was training for Cactus Rose 50 miler, doing the 30k series would be the best training but I kind of wanted to do at least one longer race this summer.  So I signed up for the 60k, thinking that if I didn’t feel up for it beforehand or if my coach strongly suggested against it, I could just drop to the 30k.



So Friday evening me, my husband, and two friends drove up to the park to camp.  We spent the next day at the swimming hole, wandering the park checking out where the aid stations were, and hiking to Gorman Falls.  (I have no idea why I took zero pictures almost all weekend.  The park is really awesome and I really missed some great opportunities for photos.  So hopefully you’re not in this for the photos…)  A few weeks before the race, I reached out to the race director as a Ragnar Ambassador to see if we could help man the aid stations with Ragnar volunteers, and my two friends and husband were awesome enough to tag along to help us accomplish just that (a third came separate on Saturday).  Manning the aid stations at these events is challenging work, and I’m sure this was especially applicable to my two friends who had never done this kind of aid station work before.  Huge thanks to everyone I know who came out to help – I know I’ve thanked you in person already but I seriously don’t think it could be said enough.



So with my friends and husband off to their respective jobs, I headed to the start/finish all by myself after a day of hiking and unsuccessful sweaty napping in the 100+ degree heat, feeling thoroughly unprepared for 37 miles.  Truthfully, my race had unravelled days before we even arrived at the park – my indecisiveness on running the 60k made it less of a thing I was going to do and more of a choice between two races that I hadn’t yet chosen.  In my mind it hadn’t really changed much even after I started running – though I was wearing a 60k bib, I kind of still hadn’t decided to run the damn race.  No doubt in my mind that this was my undoing.


First forty-five minutes or so of the race was super crowded and uphill –  most people running and hiking a comfortable pace preparing for the 37 miles many of them had ahead of them.  The beginning of the course was probably the toughest in my opinion – it’s all uphill for about three miles (more or less) to the first aid station.  The rest of the course I can’t say was particularly hilly, just technical in that there were tons of rocks and lots of tricky footing (which I kind of love).  I blew through the first aid station where my husband and our friend were, stopping briefly for ice and that’s all.  Since the single-track course was so packed at that point, the first aid station was pretty overwhelmed and so I didn’t really feel like stopping in the midst of all the chaos.  I carried my bladder with me similar to what I did at Muleshoe this time (about two-thirds filled with ice water), so I didn’t really need water or anything quite yet.


Honestly, I can’t remember a point in the course where things became particularly bad for me.  I remember distinctly coming through Windmill aid station (about mile 8) and my friend asking me how I was doing.  Automatically, “Not awesome” just spilled out of my mouth.  He asked me if I was “just not feeling it” and I didn’t hesitate to agree.  I had some struggles coming through the Gorman Falls aid station (about mile 10.5) with pain and a growing sense of fatigue (this was there before the race even started) but certainly nothing that can touch the amount of pain I’ve experienced in previous races.



I was very fortunate to meet a few of my fellow Lone Star Spartans at the Gorman Falls aid station, one of whom was the LSS Team Captain Paul.  I lollygagged quite a bit at this aid station, chatting with the volunteers (one of of whom was Team RWB and the other a Rockhopper friend who was kind enough to come out to replace a no-show volunteer) and thanking them for coming out.   I dubiously choked down a tropical Hammer Gel (never had Hammer before, don’t bother lecturing me because I did it already!) and took off, catching up with Paul a few minutes later.  He had recognized me from Facebook and we chatted about Ragnar for quite a while (six LSS teams signed up right now – holy crap).  Paul had eaten an unholy amount of salt earlier in the race and was having a pretty hard time, so I stopped and walked with him for a while.  I wasn’t feeling too terrible here (again, not sure if I ever did) but it was honestly nice to have some company in the dark – I hadn’t seen anyone I knew since briefly being passed by my coach’s husband at mile 6.5 or so.


Eventually I left Paul behind as we started to come up on the last aid station.  Right around then is where the wheels started to visibly come off.  Without Paul to distract me I started to become more and more aware of how run-down I felt by the time I got to the last aid station (which is just a second go-through of the first aid station – the last part of the course is just the first three miles run in reverse back to the start/finish).  My husband was still working the aid station and him and my friend greeted me way more enthusiastically than I was in the mood for at the time (cranky cranky) and I immediately proceeded to just plop down into a chair and ponder all the dumb reasons I had decided to run 37 miles in the middle of the night.  I took my New Balance 1010v2 shoes off and replaced them with my Altra Lone Peaks, had some short conversation with my husband, and then eventually decided to head out to the start/finish.  My husband called out “I love you!” – immediately followed by a “Do you tell all the racers you love them?” from a random racer passing through – and I headed down into what I thought was going to be an easy downhill to the finish.


This turned out to seriously be the most frustrating part of the course.  It is the first 2.9 of the course as well as the last, so 60k runners coming out for their second loop are crossing your path the whole way down.  I eventually started feeling like I was stopping every other minute for people coming uphill.  (This is obviously an exaggeration brought on by my increasingly disgruntled state of mind…)  I was lucky enough to see some people I knew at this point:  shout out to first place 60k female, the consistently awesome Julie, and her pacer Edward, who greeted me with a “Hey, Brittany!” so chipper it could only have come from a pacer only just starting his duties.  I turned off my headlamp a few miles before hitting the last aid station because I had a massive headache that was only growing worse with every minute.  I brought a small flashlight just in case, and it served me well for a while…then on the last flat stretch mysteriously died.  I ran the last half a mile or so to the start/finish with no lights, just me and the light of the supermoon.


I didn’t really feel much of anything when I saw the start/finish.  I didn’t feel any relief at all.  I walked up to the aid station and didn’t really get any acknowledgement at all from anyone behind the table, so I just looked around numbly for a moment and then laid on the ground by the medical tent.  Lying there on the ground, I suddenly became incredibly overwhelmed by everything.  Overwhelmed by running a second loop, by even having ran one loop in the first place, by the pain in my hips and knee, by my pounding migraine, my vague sense of nausea, basically everything I had resolved to push out of my mind at the beginning of the race.  I started to think about my friends at the aid stations and what they would say if I dropped.  I started to wonder what I would think of myself if I dropped.


Basically I just laid on the ground for what seemed like forever and cried a bit until someone happened to wander by and ask me if I was okay.  I was completely drained at this point and really could not think of anything to tell them.  I felt disoriented and every simple question she asked me involved a superfluous amount of effort.  If there was any doubt in my mind at this point that I was not heading out for a second loop, it pretty much vanished at this point.  I just knew it was what had to be done, and my brain wasn’t functioning well enough to tell me exactly why – and for some reason that just made everything that much worse.  I felt like I was quitting for no reason.  Was I injured?  Not really.  I had clearly aggravated a knee/IT band/something problem I’d been off and on having  for a while.  But probably not injured, per se.  I wasn’t laid up with heat exhaustion like so many others were at this point in the race (102 degrees in the shade at race start – maybe spending all day hiking around in 100+ degree weather was unwise?).  If you had asked me “Why are you quitting?” at that point in the race, I absolutely could not have told you why.


There were lots of waterworks over this, I’m not going to even begin to bullshit anyone.  I have never DNF’ed a race before (those of you who said I didn’t DNF, I “still ran the 30k” can kindly take that excuse elsewhere) and though I wasn’t foolish enough to believe that would never happen to me, I was still wholly unprepared for it.  I felt like a failure and then some.  A few people eventually came up to me and tried to console me with the standard “You can’t win them all” or”It happens every now and again” type of speech, but I couldn’t even begin to accept this kind of thing.  While completely true, it all sounded so trite to me at the moment.  I couldn’t accept it and the fact that I couldn’t accept it was upsetting me on top of that.  Basically, I was a hot mess.


Eventually Joe (the race director for Tejas Trails, who helps put on the Capt’n Karl’s series) was headed up to one of the aid stations to break down and agreed to give me a ride up to the aid station where my husband was.  By then it was about 2:30 in the morning, and I’d had a bit of time to settle down at this point (so his mere mentioning of my DNF didn’t send me into a pitiful weep-fest right off the bat, basically).  He asked me what happened, and I gave him the short version.  Nonchalant as can be, “Well, that happens.” like it was no big deal.  (Second spoiler alert:  It wasn’t.)  He explained to me that sometimes it’s good to fail, because if you never fail then you get all cocky.  That it’s good to fall down sometimes, as long as you remember that the most important part is to get back up.


Writing all that down seems so corny.  But, well…nobody can deny that shit is true.  I got all that self-pity crap out of the way and eventually moved on.  I stayed with my husband and worked the aid station until shut-down at 6 a.m, and then we headed home later that morning after another slightly unsuccessful sweaty nap.  Admittedly I did not deal well with all the “What happened?” questions that followed, but that’s mostly out of the way now.  I returned home a bit more humbled, no medal for the first time.  I’ve finally reached a place where I can say that I would not have done anything differently.  What happened happened.  I will admit that it has made me a bit more dubious about running a 50 miler in (shit!) 69 days, but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.  (This blog post is getting entirely too full of cheesy generalisms…)


What would I have done differently?  Probably not spent all day in the heat before the race.  Committed to the race more.  Got my mind right.  Toughened up a bit.  Not filled this blog post with cheesy feel-good platitudes.  Who knows?  I don’t know.  It would be a lie to say that DNF’ing this race did not fill me with self-doubt about literally almost everything in my future.  Marathon in 35 days, 50 miler in 69 days?  Can I even accomplish all that?  I guess we’ll see.  Whoever came up with that quote about your dreams not being big enough if they don’t scare the shit out of you wasn’t messing around – at least nobody can tell me I don’t dream big enough.


Well, it happened and I suppose that’s that.  Move along, nothing to see here.


Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

-T.S. Eliot


Muleshoe Bend 30k Race Report



This is a little late, and since it is a night race I didn’t take many pictures…so least thrilling race report ever. (Also, I just finished reading Timothy Olsen’s Hardrock 100 race report  so if you feel underwhelmed by my race report, go read his right after and feel reinvigorated by the magical spirit of ultrarunning)


I’m going to preface this race report with a couple of things. First, this race is the second in a series of local night 10/30/60k trail races called the Capt’n Karl’s series. Second, I ran the first race in this series last month (Pedernales Falls) and it did not go particularly well for me (this is on par with my previous post about being in a funky-funk). I was a bit hesitant coming into this race considering I was trying to use the first two races to gauge whether or not to do the 30k or 60k for the third and I seemed to be failing the 60k pre-test so far.


That said, I decided beforehand to put all thoughts of 60k races and previous race fail shenanigans out of my mind and just run a consistent race. First goal is always to not die. (This might mean don’t bonk. But it also might mean to not die.) Second for this race was just to be as consistent as possible with the pacing and nutrition.


I decided to try a bit of a new strategy this time for hydration/nutrition – I wore my Ultimate Direction Vesta with the front bottles full of slightly extra concentrated Tailwind ( with a bladder in the back with about 35oz of water and a considerable amount of ice. I had such a huge issue with the heat last time around, so by loading up on ice I was hoping to keep as cool as humanly possible. The ice on my back was a serious improvement, since the heat was probably the biggest detriment to my race last time.



I caught up with a friend of mine in the first part of the race after blowing through the first aid station and stuck with her for the rest of the first loop. It was fun to run with someone for a while as normally I’m solo for the majority of my races – Elizabeth is way more aware of her pacing than I am, so even though I felt she was going a bit faster than I could handle, I still stuck with her for the duration of the first loop.  Turned out the pacing was perfect (I always underestimate how fast I can handle – I have a crappy fear of bonking) and I felt good pretty much the whole loop despite going out thinking my pace was too fast.


I was mentally prepared for the conditions of the race beforehand, as the race director explained to me beforehand that Muleshoe was 90% covered compared to the scarce tree cover at Pedernales (a serious issue for me early in the race when the sun was still up).  The drawback to this is that the cover makes everything a bit like a sweltering sauna, so you end up trading just a few degrees of heat for a stifling humidity.  I felt pretty good when I left Elizabeth at the start/finish aid station and went charging back into the woods, but I could feel the weather once again doing a number on me.  I resolved to keep the pace slow and steady, ice as much as possible, and keep hydrating.  I was feeling pretty hungry at this point but at the same time didn’t feel like eating pretty much anything I could think of was available to me.



Side note here – around mile thirteen I ate a cherry jolly rancher and it was like wonderful nectar of the gods for my mouth.    Around this point is where I started to crave sugary/sweet stuff a lot, and the thought of drinking Coke at the aid station reduced me to a mindless junkie chasing each aid station for my next sugary fix.  I think it was around this time that, lured into complacency by my better than expected performance so far, I got a little behind on nutrition.  I can’t really recall filling up any more of my bottles with Tailwind after I took care of the first two, which is something that I have a serious issue with at races.  It’s not terribly time consuming, but it does entail stopping, taking off my vest to grab the bags out of the back (switch some stuff around to put them in the front in the future?), then carefully pouring them into the bottles, blahblah.  In the heat of the moment it always sounds like an ordeal, but maybe one day I’ll realize that slogging through the miles after not getting enough calories is way more of an ordeal than stopping for a minute to mix up some Tailwind.



Honestly, I won’t blather on about all the minutiae of this race – it really was pretty uneventful in terms of fun and exciting things.  There’s a different kind of feeling associated with doing a long night race, I think; it feels a little crazier somehow than doing a long race during the day.  I remember when I was at the Ragnar trail summit, and Tanner (one of the founders of Ragnar Relays) spoke to us about how important the overnight aspect of running was for Ragnar – that somehow being out there in the dark under all the stars was something that was very special to the runner experience.  There’s something unique about a night race.  It’s quieter, perhaps a bit scarier, definitely tougher.  At this point I think it’s safe to say that many runners and especially ultrarunners kind of thrive on that unique aspect of toughness.  It was definitely a special experience for me to come out of the woods and sprint to the finish in the dark, where the race director Brad was there to hand me my medal (and buff!  bonus!) with a bluegrass band playing at the aid station (double bonus).


It didn’t hurt that I finished the race almost twenty minutes faster than I finished Pedernales, despite the fact that Muleshoe is widely regarded as being the tougher course.  I’m going to attribute this to jolly ranchers, Coke, and I guess getting my mind right before the race.  I told myself to prepare to be out there for as long as I need to be, and whatever happened after that would happen.  No being discouraged about being off pace, no suffering bullcrap.  Just a good time, really.



It’s hard to take pictures with a drenched iPhone in the dark…but this is always my favorite sign. In case you can’t see: Little Girl: Mom? What is…Normal? Mom: It’s just a setting on the dryer, honey.







Goals, Training, and Pictures that Move


60 days? That’s forever away. I’ll just eat ice cream.

I now have this fun little “countdown” app.  So just prepare yourselves  to see this crap more times than is even remotely necessary, because for some reason this app pleases me in the same way that looking at graphs and spreadsheets pleases me.


I suppose I have a lot on my plate in the coming months.  With the marathon begins a landslide of runcations and inevitable sufferfests – the Fuego y Agua 50k, Hill Country Ragnar (ultra team), my first 50 miler, the 12 Hour Spartan Hurricane Heat, the McDowell Mountain Ragnar Relay (regular team this time – the week of I also plan to visit the Grand Canyon and run R2R).  All that starting from 01 October to 07 September.  I was trying to explain to a co-worker why I was hoarding all my leave instead of just taking a nice long vacation on my marathon trip to Washington when I started to explain all this stuff to her that I had to possibly reserve leave for in Oct-Nov.  I’m pretty sure she didn’t understand most of what I was talking about.  She just stared at me blankly for a moment while trying to find the words, then decided on an appropriate “You are going to die.”


I’m trying not to become totally neurotic about my training.  Which is hard when you load up TrainingPeaks and your mid-week medium-long run has a coach’s note that reads “aim for 8:50 pace” (freaking out).  I’m pretty sure Liza thinks I’m a sandbagger at this point, since I complained to her that I just wasn’t confident I could hit all these paces in the Texas heat and she kindly pointed out to me we had been running 8:30-8:45 minute miles the whole time we’d been chatting.  So there’s that.


I had a friend who was a bit of a nightmare when it came to her training – she really, REALLY wanted to qualify for Boston and it made her more than a little bit neurotic.  For some reason this left a serious impression on me.  I have to wonder if you’re really even enjoying running anymore when you get to the point where you’re on the cusp of an unholy nervous breakdown at the very thought of trying and failing to do well at your chosen race.  I want to train and do well, but I don’t want it to be a chore, or something that I don’t enjoy doing.  I understand that there’s always going to be a time where I won’t particularly be thrilled about getting up and going running, but that’s just to be expected every now and again (not on the regular).


Anyone who was taking themselves entirely too seriously would probably be wise enough to tone it down on the race front (unlike me).  Maybe I’m not wise enough to see something cool I want to do and tell myself that it’s probably smart to wait until next year.  I guess I’m a bit of a hyperactive 12 year old on the inside when it comes to stuff like that.  Waiting isn’t typically my strong suit.


Despite all my doubts, training is going well.  Not perfect, but well.  I need to work a bit more on my strength in some areas, but I feel a lot stronger in my running now that I’ve gone back to CrossFitting regularly.  The ever-present battle there is balancing CrossFit and running in such a way that I have something other than limp noodles for legs on days I have to run after CrossFit days.  I’ve been trying to counter this by running in the morning and then going right to CrossFit afterwards.  I want to try and keep up with writing about my training here in the blog, and since we’re going to be doing a blog-o-rama for a while…I think it’ll give me something to ramble about.


I was going to write more, but it’s getting late and I have to run in the morning (8:50 m/m are you serious?)…   On a completely unrelated note, Buzzfeed published this article of potential funniest gifs of all time, and it is a very important thing that you might need in your life.





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.

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!)




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?





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



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:


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.  😛




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.



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:


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.


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.


This. This was my favorite thing.


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.