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…
200# clean, muscle-up, 50 miles. #nottoolatefor2014resolutions
— Brittany Conrad (@dirtandiron) May 1, 2014
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…)
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.
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.)
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!