“Race” Report (It’s long!)

I use the term ‘race’ very loosely because my reality is that I am simply racing against myself and the times I’ve accomplished on a given distance during a previous attempt. Although, chasing the proverbial rabbit does help me get through some tough patches, it’s simply a game played out in my own mind in order to keep pushing. If you play or have played any sort of sports related activity you probably know what I am referring to. 🙂

On with it then! The first alarm rang at 5:00 a.m on Saturday morning and by 5:30 I was eating some english muffins for breakfast while standing in the kitchen double checking my gear to make sure I had all the essentials. Not very exciting to be sure! By 7:00 I was on the road watching a spectacular sun rise and feeling steady in my mind. As I drove I was picturing myself running under that start/finish banner at the end of the race. I often use this tactic like a mantra in order to remain positive. It seems to help…

About halfway to the race location at the 7IL Ranch in Bellville, Texas which is a 2 1/2 hour drive from my house, I notice the tire pressure monitor warning light up on my dashboard. Really?!  I decide to err on the side of caution and pull over at a gas station with an air pump to check the pressure since the computer on my truck appears to be programmed by someone smarter than I am. Don’t you know, the doggone air pump doesn’t work there. Off I go, praying that it’s a nail that’s stuck into the tire and it holds pressure. A few miles later I see another station and pull in, stick my quarters in and….promptly get eaten alive by a gazillion mosquitos as I attempt to put air in the tires only to find that this pump seems to be letting air OUT of my tire, not putting it in. UGH! I finally get it situated just right to put air into the tire…as I swat blood sucking flying insects SMACK!

I made it to the race location about two hours prior to race start, picked up my packet and stood around for a few minutes talking to my running friends Dan ‘the man’ Macintyre and Dale ‘the Texas Yeti’ Cougot. The fabulous part of this sport is that one can glean so much knowledge from others, if you choose to listen!! Headed back to the truck to grab a protein cookie and chill for a few minutes while taping and lubing my blister-prone feet. I’d heard that there were patches of beach like sand on the course so I wore Altra shoe gaiters to keep it from getting into my shoes. In my experience, sand plus sweaty feet plus friction equals HUGE blisters! Let’s not have a repeat of that issue. Before I knew it we were all lined up behind the start line and it was GO time!!

A phrase you may have heard is that the first mile is a liar.  It tries to convince you that you’re not ready; the body may be a little taut from the taper and your mind may still be caught up on some minute detail. On this day, the first six miles were decidedly unpleasant. The protein cookie didn’t digest well and because of that my stomach didn’t send the right signal to let me know that I really needed to EAT. You must know that a lack of calories in the body really messes with the mind. Here I was on just the first loop and already thinking how badly it sucked, how slowly I was moving (though I wasn’t) and wondering why in sam hill I had signed up anyway.

I didn’t realize until about ohhh 5 miles in that I was HUNGRY!! That’s why my brain was acting so ugly. The problem was, after the three mile mark there was no more food available at the aid stations, so I had to wait until the start/finish to eat. On top of that, I wore my Hokas & I could feel the blisters beginning within the first 3 miles. I ignored it of course and planned to change my shoes at the turnaround. Though blisters and I are very well acquainted, I did not want them to visit on this day!!

     As I came in to the start finish for a high-five from Rob Goyen himself, I noticed the clock display of 1:27 for the first loop! I was ecstatic and simply wanted to hold that pace without blowing up on the last loop!!  The medic gave me a baggy of ice which I stuffed  in my bra, ate food (pretzels, pickles, ritz),drank coke and changed my silly Hokas for the Altra Olympus. I was trying to hurry up through the aid station but didn’t want to forget something either and the ice was an absolute necessity. I took off walking while eating pretzels feeling re-energized. The baggy of ice didn’t last long though before it was a sloshing bag of water! I popped the bag and poured the cold water over my head….ahhhhhhh bliss!
     Loops 2 & 3 were MUCH better physically and mentally! Loop 2 had an elapsed time of 3:04 where I repeated everything I did after loop one, except change the shoes. I also got rid of the neck wrap I’d made because the ice was all melted and it just felt heavy around my neck. I was still happy with how I was feeling and progressing through the course. At one of the “unmanned” aid stations on loop three I ran into Dan again and he did a double take when I told him I was finishing up the 3rd loop. He said, “Whatever you are doing, keep doing it!” That was the plan! :)) When running ultras, one must take advantage of the moments when you feel good because whatever goes UP…will come down!!
      As I was beginning the fourth loop I crossed paths with Stephen Moore who was just a few minutes behind me. I told him that I’d see him on the ‘flip side’ and he came back with, “unless I catch you.” HAH!! Guess what that meant? I was going to do everything in my power to NOT allow him to catch me!! LOL! Around 2 miles into loop four, I felt a familiar twinge that told me a blister was rearing it’s ugly little head and it needed to be dealt with. I debated just sucking it up until the start/finish point, but I know from experience how ugly they can become if not handled correctly. I had to stop for blister care. Once done and back up out of the blasted chair, I put  the discomfort out of my head & focused on moving forward – I HAD to make up some time. The stop cost me about 15 minutes!! 😦
     At the start/finish for the start of loop five the clock read 6:22 and I knew not only did I WANT to push it the last 10K, but I needed to do so in order to beat the loss of sunlight. I’d brought headlamps but they were in the truck!! It was a repeat of lap 4 – only faster through the aid station. As I ran that last loop, I walked the uphill and there was one looooong one, then ran every downhill as safely as I could. I thanked the medic (Casey?) and “Waldo” for the tape job on the blisters as I blew through their aid station…Somewhere around mile marker 4 on the course, I saw lightning trying to light up the dusky sky! Seriously? Push HARDER! As I rounded that last corner and the tents rolled into view I knew I was home free. I walked for a few to catch my breath, started jogging then pounded up the chute as fast as my legs would go to the FINISH! When I looked back the clock said 7:52 and change. Not the 7:30 I was aiming for but I’ll take it!! 🙂
     Sorry for the lengthy nature of this one!! There are lots of other details I could put but will spare you this time! 🙂
Until next time friends…
~Peace
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Veni Vidi Vici…Rocky Raccoon 100 DNF

As I sit here trying to decide how I feel exactly, this Latin phrase rings through my head in a chorus of simple four letter words. I came, I saw, I conquered or in this case WE came, WE saw and WE conquered.

Rocky Raccoon 100 did not transpire the way it was planned. SURPRISE! You can make all the plans in the world but when it comes time for execution of those plans you have to be ready for the inevitability that you cannot control everything. Really? Have you heard the phrase, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray? (Robert Burns) Well, this past weekend was a perfect example of this.

Now you may be wondering how in the world can I say that we came, we saw and we conquered IF things did not go as they were planned. I’m going to tell you! With the help of well qualified people, I trained for this event for 4 months because of an inner belief that if one fails to plan then you plan to fail. 100 running miles is not a distance that anyone should take lightly – respect the distance. I knew what to expect going into it since I’d ran the distance before, yet one can never fully prepare for it because there is so much that is left to chance and the unknown.

The weekend began as it was planned. I felt well rested, hydrated and as ready for the event as one can be. I won’t bore you with the minute details, but trust me when I say that when we were walking to the starting line I felt….calm and ready for the day ahead. Allow me at this point to give props where they are due, and give thanks to a fabulous coach and friends who are more like my family. The drop bags were in place, the plan was clear and after a few pictures and chit chat it was time to GO! (We CAME)

Start of RR100

It was a stunning morning to run! The air was crisp with a touch of humidity thanks to the hours worth of rain we’d received earlier in the morning. The pine trees were emitting their spicy scent and as I breathed it in, while the dark of the predawn morning surrounded me, I still felt at ease. The darkness was complete with the exception of the multitude of headlamps bouncing off the tree trunks. Foot steps fell in a steady rhythm until there was a section of roots nobody wanted to trip and fall over, and then the rhythm slowed. Like a caterpillar we inched our way along through the early morning. I was content for once, running without the noise of music in my ears as I listened to the chatter of those around me. (We SAW)

After the third mile or so, the line stretched out and we no longer were inching along like a rubber band was attached to each of us. I settled into an easy jog and paid heed to the trail ahead of me. Roots are evil you see and quite insidious if you don’t pay attention! The first aid station floated into view, I did a quick mental check and found I needed nothing so I kept on moving through rather than stop. Aid stations can be like miniature black holes you do not want to get sucked into if you can avoid it! The next aid station again just kind of appeared and once again I was not lacking in anything so kept it moving.

It was somewhere around mile 15 when I noticed this little niggling jangle taking place on the inside of my left knee. It didn’t hurt exactly but it was enough to concern me because it was far too early to be feeling anything but GREAT. Told myself, it’s SUPPOSED to hurt so stop being a baby and keep it moving. So I did. That first 20 mile loop honestly felt effortless for the most part even though I was ahead of our “A” plan. I knew it would be necessary to slow it down.

The crew was waiting for me there asking me how I was doing, what did I need etcetera, so we took care of business, rubbed some Tiger Balm on my leg and I moved out with a backwards yell that I was ‘slowing down’ (intentionally). I walked out of the start finish line, ate some and started jogging again while telling myself that there was still a long road ahead and I needed to conserve some energy. Still I was feeling good! In order to ‘get outta my head’ as my friend Mike says, I slipped on the headphones and started listening to some music so I could tune out to tune in to that inner space needed to keep driving on.

Somewhere around mile 25 I guess my knee gave a real twinge of pain. There was not a precipitating event (though I had fallen at the end of the first loop!). I decided to err on the side of caution and slowed it down to a power hike. It was still possible to pull off some decent splits (14 min miles) even power hiking and then I ran into Dave from England by way of Dallas who was also hiking. We shot the breeze for the better part of the next 8 miles I suppose. He’s quite the jet setter having ran some of the most awesome marathons all over the world!

One of my awesome friends, Cindy, met me at an aid station and I told her of my issue with the knee. The message was passed along and it was decided we’d use some KT tape at the last aid station before the start/finish line. Cindy and I did a power hike/jog combination for the next couple miles until nature called. No details needed here only to say that as I was headed into the tree line, I stepped onto the forest floor covered in fallen leaves and twigs, only to feel my left knee give a TWIST and I growled LOUDLY. It hurt – A LOT! It was right about here I really knew that unless there was a miracle, I was not going to finish what I’d set out to do.

At that final aid station before the start finish my friends came into sight and sat me down for a ‘talk’. “Let’s tape it and see how it feels by the time you get to the turnaround point 5 miles away.” Okay. So as I sit and get my leg taped up by another friend, Tony the Footsteps for the Fallen Fireman, who appears as if by magic? My husband and three daughters!! This was quite the SURPRISE! My family has never came to any of my races in the woods!!

Wrapping RR100

The tape job was completed and I was fed so it was time to be off to the turnaround! Tony warned me that the first mile with the tape may not feel the greatest and good thing because it pretty much sucked!! Those last 5 miles hiking and slowly jogging were full of a mental turmoil I am only still processing. I came to do a job! I had prepared – but had I prepared well enough?! Could I make it through another 60 miles of this WITHOUT seriously injuring my body? I had all these people here to support my effort and I felt as though I was letting THEM down by my inability to perform as expected. There were so many thoughts running through my head, even my music wouldn’t shut them up!

The start/finish line…..this is where we conquered! Conquered because I turned my control over to the capable hands of my crew and told them to make the decision of whether I’d continue or not. I’m a little competitive – not with others so much as with my own inner demons and if they’d not told me to stop, I would have kept going until I could not or was pulled. Emotionally WRECKED. Physically a mess, with the love and comfort of my friends and family around me the decision was made.

Today though, I am able to walk without a walker!! I conquered!! Today, I am able to move around with only a modest amount of discomfort that is expected after running 40 miles. I conquered! It’s okay. I’m not happy with it but I am slowly wrapping my head around the idea that although I didn’t finish, DNF stands for something else…..Did Not Fail. I didn’t fail because I TRIED.

We came….We saw and we conquered….

Until next time my friends

~Peace

 

 

Parenting

There is nothing that will make one feel more inept and often guilty than parenting. Guilt can ride your back like an ugly monkey if you let it. Taking from you every ounce of joy parenting can elicit. I have been on my fair share of guilt trips – both self imposed and those thrown at me by those with less than good intentions. Funny enough, I don’t believe that anyone is able to impose on me a greater feeling of guilt about past mistakes than I can impose on myself!

You see, I am quite aware that as a child/mother/wife of 18 years old, I did not set the best examples for my children. I am aware of the fact that I made many mistakes as I was bearing and attempting to raise four boys in my late teens and early twenties. I am also painfully aware that my mistakes cost me to lose so much time with the boys. Time I am unable to get back – nor do I want to.

That’s right! I said I don’t want to take back that painful time. Do I wish I had been a better parent? Absolutely! Do I wish that I had not made the mistakes I made along the way which made the lives of my children harder than they needed to be? Of course! However, those difficult times created resilient young men and helped me be a better parent to my daughters. Those tough times that saw me lose my temper and forget momentarily how precious life is, helped create young men of immense amounts of patience and compassion.

Now, as I look back, after laying next to my youngest sleeping child who had thrown her arm over me and snuggled in for a good nap, I am grateful. Grateful for the knowledge that those mistakes provided. Grateful for the growth that occurred out of the pain. Grateful for the fact that my boys know in their hearts that no matter my mistakes, my love for them is never-ending. There is no reserve amount – no price to be paid. I love them no matter what – even on their worst day.

This is another lesson from parenting you see. I had always heard of the unconditional love of God and my mom always provided me with her manner of unconditional love. I did not truly know the meaning of the term though until the girls came along. You see, there is a different type of relationship (IMHO) between a mother and her sons versus a mother and her daughters. There is no doubt that boys love their mamas without reservation or hesitation – and I them. The love of mother and daughter however, is another animal altogether.

I am not even sure I can put this thought into a cohesive paragraph that makes sense to anyone but myself. With the girls there is an understanding. We communicate on the same plane using the same words that identify emotions. As people of the female persuasion there is a different type of communication that takes place – sometimes it does not even require that words are spoken. We pay attention to the smaller nuances of human behavior and for a great majority of us, this means that we are able to attain a new or different level of understanding.

What I miss about the boys: the sound of raucous laughter and them calling for ‘mama’. The mornings when one of the youngest attempted to make my toast ‘crunchy’ the way I like it, but misinterpreted BURNT for crunchy. They served it to me before I even rose from bed, as though they were serving a queen! I miss sweaty boy hugs and the look of pride on their faces as they successfully accomplished whatever feat they had attempted.

For me, being a parent is quite similar to my ultra running and in fact, the two worlds often intersect in unique and interesting ways. I breathe a sigh of relief as I enter the dirt/mud/cobwebby world of the trail. It is often quite unforgiving, cruel and difficult at the same time it brings me a fantastic sense of PEACE. The trail does not require one to think much beyond putting one foot in front of the other. At the same time, there are an abundance of thoughts that occur within my head simply BECAUSE it does not require a whole lot of conscious thought.

Running, especially as slow as I tend to go, requires some patience and compassion; fortitude and stubbornness….persistence and consistency. Does this not sound very similar to parenting? Ironically I find that many of these characteristics I thought I did not have, I have found on the trail. Not only directed or felt for others….but for myself as well. There is so much we can learn about who we are and in what direction we would like our lives to meander by hitting the open road, sidewalk or nearest rocky trail!

It is my serenity….my peace and the place I go to think. It is where I go to just BE…..me. Not mother, wife, teacher, student, counselor….etc., etc., to just be a body cruising the trail….

I am thankful and blessed to BE back on the trail and that has been another lesson learned. That is a story for another day though.

Until next time, don’t be a stranger…

Peace

~TLT

Identification

During this time off from all the running I tend to do, there has been a lot of time for me to THINK….about running! Hah! Funny isn’t it? Anyhow, I realized the other day after several conversations with other friends who run – WE ARE RUNNERS. Seems simple right? There is more to it than that however.

When we are running we are thinking or talking about running and other facets of our lives that pertain to running or training for this event or another; we are speaking in short sentences about what kinds of foods we eat to make us better runners (we hope); we are laughing about the most recent escapade we encountered on the trail when we ate something in the previous 24 hours that we really should NOT have; we are planning out loud or with our running friends the events we are signed up to run next or those which we would give a leg or at least a few toenails TO run…

We are not thinking about the bills that need paying, the kids that won’t stop crying or stomping on our very last nerve; the car that needs repairs, the assignment for school or work that needs completion……or perhaps we are thinking of these aspects of our running lives but if so it is taking place behind the lines of all the stuff going on inside our brains that pertains to running. Sometimes, all I can think about is the next breath, the next step, watch that nasty trail troll  – you know it’s going to try to trip you; don’t run so closely to ND’s heels; don’t run too far behind – you will never catch up. Most recently running solo the thoughts are mostly – arrrgh this sucks getting back the base I lost from NOT running due to injury.

What does this have to do with the title: identification? Great question! We ARE runners….5K’s, 10K’s, half-marathon, full marathon, 50K, 100K…and 100 milers, plus – we run. That is not only WHAT we do but is also one way we identify WHO we are. I’ve truly enjoyed this sense of belonging to a community of brethren I’ve not really experienced since I left the military over a decade ago. These people, runners, are a different lot – especially those who tend to run the trails rather than the road. What a great breed of people!! Most of them are truly in touch with their person-hood and who they ARE as people. They will give you the shirt off their backs, sometimes literally…it’s a brotherhood I identify with to a great deal!

For someone who has always and forever felt like an outsider looking in at all the other so called, “normal” people, it’s been a relief to feel as though I belong somewhere! Unfortunately, the last (almost) 6 weeks has left me bereft of their company – this family of runners! I’ve been out of the game due to an injury that truly began about 5 weeks prior to the start of the 100 mile run I completed on December 14 and was further exacerbated during that particular expedition into another realm of my psyche.

This absence from my ‘tribe’ of other runners has left me feeling backwards in more ways than I care to recount! When you start feeling like you are important, meaningful in this life and your head swells a bit because of your success…….take a 6 week break away from that ONE thing that makes you feel FREE. Take 6 weeks away from friends who are oftentimes more like distant siblings and only converse with them half a dozen times over the course of those 6 long weeks – mostly via electronic communication with very little actual ‘face’ time. Tell me how you feel then!

I can tell you it has left me with a changed perspective! It has also made me realize how much I identify myself with all those folks in my tribe…..as RUNNERS. It is not only what I do but it is part of who I am. It is not another hat I wear like: teacher, trainer, accountant, housekeeper, mother….etc., rather it is a part of who I AM. This body that has always felt too heavy, too ‘thick’, too big…..too slow….to be a runner – fits into this tribe just fine as who I AM as a runner…and as a person. A person who also happens to be a runner and a mother, wife and all those other titles life throws at us….

Be careful with how much you identify with any one thing in life for it will define who you are unless you define yourself…..WHO ARE YOU?

My, not so random, thoughts for the day! Until next time….

Peace

Brazos Bend 100……..50 – 100 miles through my eyes…the pain truly begins

I don’t have a funny quip or smart quote for this part right here. It really was a down and dirty grind for miles. The 3rd loop began with us walking, of course, because the blisters were not getting much better. I had tried doubling up on socks thinking my feet were sliding inside my shoes and that’s the reason why they were such a mess. At the moment I am not sure if that was an accurate assessment. The us I speak of is Mike A. This man is someone, a runner, worth emulating. He has an easy, humble mannerism that makes him easy to just BE with. He was always aware of where I was at physically and with my nutrition. He counted not necessarily the calories I was taking in (or not) but also how long it had been since I had taken any. This loop was the second most difficult mentally and less so physically.

It was dark and I was kinda tired but I had chugged a can of Starbucks double-shot espresso in hopes the caffeine would help wake me up a bit. We walked for probably the first mile while I ate and drank and probably with an ode of things to come, in order for me to reacquaint myself with how to walk or jog comfortably with the blisters on my feet. They were treated but unhappy. Mike was masterful at saying the right thing at the right time to get or keep me moving forward. He cracked me up when he said something to the effect, let’s pick up the pace if you want….and, as soon as you’re ready we can pick up the pace…ha ha ha! I told him that was funny because at that point what I WANTED and whether or not I was READY was pretty irrelevant.

We talked about whatever subject came up and there were moments of silence. Yes friends!! Believe it or not…this girl DOES know how to not talk. For the most part, I didn’t miss my music but there were moments during this loop I really would’ve loved the distraction! This section is pretty much a blur. We made it aid station to aid station and I kept all the negative at bay pretty much until I think we hit Brazos or shortly thereafter because I remember thinking in my head that we’d made around 68 miles and then WHAM! I had a whole lot of WTF’s going on inside my head. Every.Single.Time. the ball of my right foot landed wrong on a stick or stone I felt the water inside the blister move. WOW! That will wake you up fast I promise!

As I said, this section is pretty blurry in my mind and I think because it was a combination of some moderate amounts of pain with extreme amounts of exhaustion. I am an early to bed early to rise lady so I am generally up by 5:00 M-F and in the bed no later than 10:30 and that’s only on the nights I teach until 9:00 and need some time to unwind when I get home. Because of this aspect of my natural diurnal tendencies this was a pretty rough patch. There were some pretty significant patches of mild nausea but I didn’t vomit (thank God!) and almost worse than the nausea was the dizziness that hit me. It’s hard to explain other than to say it was like my rudder was broken and no matter which way I wanted to go….I kept jigging left.

This was unlike any feeling I can relate to other than being tipsy. Just before you reach the point of no return and you are still aware of what you are saying and doing – before the downer occurs but your body betrays you in silly ways like a sway or a slur. That’s similar to what it felt like. I remember even commenting to Mike that I felt like I was drunk! He laughed a LOT….He told me stories about running in the fog on a mountain with narrow trails. There was very, super dense fog Saturday night, early Sunday morning. So dense in fact that it looked and felt like it had rained!

Guess what the dense, wet fog did for the slimy muck? Yep! Made it slimier and muckier…lol! That even sounds funny to my own ears! Did I tell you about the dips in the trail? They were kind of like moguls if you’ve ever skied but rather than just going up and over, you go down one then back up the other side. I (less than) affectionately call them dipsy-do’s….energy suckers they are! Anyhow…at this point we were past Brazos aid station and into the muck, I met up with Steve again and Reed who I had been playing cat and mouse with pretty much all day and we’d chat as well we could for a bit and then off I would chug in an attempt to keep moving. I told Mike several times – those guys cannot pass me AGAIN. It was great motivation to make me MOVE! I am moderately competitive….moderately. 😉

I managed to skate down the dipsy-do’s and leverage myself back up the other side and pretty soon we were on the homestretch. During this time I remember we talked about my favorite subject at the end of a long run……FOOD. I don’t know why this is. Maybe it’s the subconscious telling me that I need to EAT or eat more or something…The fog…and Mike just gently pushing me that’s mostly what I remember. The (old) song that goes something like this….’cause it’s easy, easy like Sunday morning’….not that the loop was easy but that his company and the conversation made the loop go by relatively quickly with a few exceptions. The low points didn’t last long and time just moved along…

Some snapshots…just moments in time that partially stuck: me saying “cuss word, cuss word, CUSS WORD..” and Mike telling me to just let it out and say what I wanted to say. There were some very colorful words I wanted to say but told him I didn’t want him to think badly of me the one and only time he ran with me…..Him saying that he couldn’t think of anyplace he’d rather be than having a great conversation on a beautiful trail. The moon was spectacular – even though it was only a half of one. The late night reflection of the moon off Hale Lake (I think Hale Lake) right between this little island like cosp of trees. It was stunning! We joked that it would be hard to express it in words that a photograph would be better and here I am attempting to explain the beauty of it.

Here’s Mike and Doug….another very humble, gentle yet so very STRONG man whom I admire and was instrumental in getting me through.
Mike n Doug

One of my favorite guys in the whole wide world picked me up for the final loop. I am just going to call him out because I know he will not mind. John Stasulli whose name used to be SOOO much easier to remember how to spell! LOL Anyway..he was waiting excitedly to begin when I arrived after the third loop ready to get hot. We worked on my feet again, changed out of some wet clothes? and ate something maybe and generally – I took too long in the aid station there at the turnaround. The third loop took me another 6:45 or so hours I think…so it was not a bad loop speed wise but I knew when we left for the final loop it was going to be CLOSE for me to finish and get my buckle. I was very worried about going through all these miles and also honestly, feeling like I wasted the valuable time of all my friends aka The Crew.

It was imperative that I banish any negative thoughts though since right at this point there was nothing I could do but walk. A previous bout with tibial tendonitis had snuck back up on me and was hitting me like a ton of bricks. For those of you not acquainted with your tibial tendon let me give you a quick class. This tendon attaches somewhere sort of mid way at the top of your foot and runs from there up to your ankle then all the way up that bone (the tibia) and it controls the flexion of your feet. When it’s ticked off….every single bend of your ankle/foot combo hurts. Imagine walking or running without flexing your ankle! Oh and then compound that with a blister that resembles a queen size waterbed on the ball of your foot and every time you move your foot the wrong way – the water in the waterbed….er the blister shifts. When that happens it’s like this immediate, bone chilling, hair raising pain all the way up that side of your body and then into your gut. Unpleasant….

I wouldn’t say I was ready for the final loop but I was determined. I had to overcome so many obstacles to even ARRIVE at this place, to even attend the weekend I had planned for 6 months…nothing good comes easy and nothing that comes easy is good said somebody other than me…that was something I had to keep telling myself. So, John and I laughed or not and walked and dumped rocks out of our shoes seemingly every 5 doggone minutes. At some point the ability to truly function as a sentient human being kinda went out the window….perhaps even more than normal. 🙂

For those of you who do not know John…you are missing out on some kinda guy! LOL Like the trees in the swamp at Brazos, I will do him no justice trying to describe him to you. I will say that he is steadfast, loyal, honest to a fault and the best part about John sometimes is his sense of humor! It’s quirky and sometimes off color (in the right company). Oh yeah and he is super smart!! LOL Makes having a conversation easier when one can hold their side of the conversation! So, we walked and talked and John searched with his super high-beam headlamp for gators to pet. (Liz….I protected him from his own silliness as best I could! At least I sent him home with all of his parts intact!)

Mile by mile and aid station to aid station…we walked. This is when I really started to wish for my music! His companionship was welcomed and I am ever so thankful for it. He refilled my bottles, brought me food and continuously asked how I was doing, what did I want to eat…I pretty much lost my sense of humor here. Just navigating the trail….the branch strewn, rock infested, wet, mucky, slimy trail seemed full of perils for me and my poor feet. The sun came up and I didn’t care. I heard the birds, saw the armadillo that looked white in the brightness of his light, the tree branches that made funny shapes and I didn’t give a HOOT…and that’s putting it nicely. Cuss word, cuss word, CUSS WORD!!!

Around 1.5 miles outside the Brazos aid station I was so DONE. The sunrise pissed me off. I was supposed to draw energy from it but instead it made me angry because I couldn’t enjoy it. It gave me no relief from the pain. Screw the dang sunrise….again, this is me putting nicely what was going on inside my tumultuous mind. My monkey mind was really busy chattering at me telling me all the negative things I really did not want nor need to hear – especially at this point. This may have been the very lowest of my lows. John and I talked about me dropping down to the 50 miler and calling it a day. He said to me, “Let’s just get to Brazos aid station and we’ll ice your ankle and decide what to do.” I KNEW he was doing exactly what I wanted or rather – needed him to do in order to get me to the finish but the other part of my mind was flipping him the bird! I wanted to SCREAM…not at him. At the sky. At the dang birds that sounded like chattering MONKEYS…ARGH. I didn’t want him to see me cry. I knew it was coming….the low black dirty chattering monkey and I didn’t want him to feel any worse than he did already. I told him maybe it would be a good idea for him to run ahead to the aid station to get the ice ready for us to use to bring the swelling down. He agreed and off he went.

It was all I could do just to SHUFFLE…this was not even an airborne shuffle…more like the shuffle of someone with bindings around the ankles that prevented them from moving their feet too far forward or backwards. Part of this was mental. I know after finishing that mile and a half or so was really just preparation for a future test. The minute I could no longer see his lime greenness….the tears came. With the tears came more pissedoffedness….not a word but it’s mine. 🙂 I won’t go through the entire inner dialogue with you. Just know that every possible negative thing one can say about themselves or others have said about you all avalanche on top of you like a Colorado blizzard. Tears were streaming down my face and I tried to pull myself together multiple times but it just wouldn’t stop. I thought about just sitting down on the trail and waiting for someone to come get me….shuffle, shuffle…..flippin shuffle.

Finally, after what I can only guess (no tech remember!) was 45 minutes I made it to Brazos for the last freakin time. A few runners had passed me and each set asked me if I needed anything, if I was okay, if they could tell someone I needed help…and each time I relayed to them NICELY that my pacer was just up ahead waiting on me. As I walked up the little trail to the aid station, I saw the nice guy from the HATR’s who’d been there (I think) every time I hit that aid station and he asked me once again, can I get you anything. Not sure I had a response. When I saw Johns face I knew before I even asked him about the ice that the aid station had NONE. Oh my gosh…I don’t think furious would even cover that feeling…I don’t recall saying anything – I just turned around and started back down the little trail. Shuffle…shuffle but now there was a little fire in my tank because I KNEW now that I had to walk 11 more miles or so to get back – buckle or no. There was nothing else until the blasted jeep road….

Lynn and her amazing strength pushing through the mud!

We talked minimally. John was trying everything he could. Texting Liza and tweeting and probably praying for a miracle. Dumping freakin evil rocks out of our shoes..They weren’t NORMAL rocks! They were like the winking trail trolls…they somehow got into your shoes then settled right at the ball of our feet like evil little pieces of sand paper. John kept reminding me about food simply by asking me what I wanted to eat and providing options. Blur……blur…Pain….PAIN. We discussed Mike bringing the pain meds when we were 3 miles out. Do you KNOW how far 3 miles out seems when you still have 6 miles to walk at a 22 (guesstimate) minute mile? FORever that’s how long. There were no more tears to come. I refused them.

Somehow….through the muck, the slime and the horse divits…and then here comes Mike and Doug, my boys in blue!! I don’t even KNOW how far we had left. Only that time was really running short if I was going to get my dang BUCKLE. Oh….I forgot to mention my friend I don’t see often, he is such an unassuming soul – Jason. Jason came along for the last 8 miles I guess so he joined us before the boys in blue. What I adore about Jason and really ALL of these men is that they came to give me a hand UP. They are humble, kind and positive men and will give you the shirt off their backs – literally. BUT – you have to be willing to do the work.

The boys in blue, Jason and John plus me…I felt awed. I took some pain meds and off we continued on a quest for the BUCKLE. Doug….oh Doug!! He looked at his watch adjusted his stride (he has legs to the sky I think!) and said, “this is the pace you have to make in order to get your buckle.” I would get into a decent rhythm pushing with my arms…how do you push with your arms when you are walking with your legs? Come see me some time in about 2 weeks when I CAN walk – I’ll show you! LOL Then I would step on a branch, a pebble or have to go down a dipsy-do and climb back up the other side and lose my momentum. Mike was walking next to me, reminding me to breathe, concentrate, focus your breath…he kept saying, “don’t think just move.”

For awhile that was a cadence in my head: don’t think just move, don’t think, just move…..then step on something and the waterbed in my foot would send that pain again. My heart was breaking it felt like. John was RIGHT THERE at my elbow…”you got this” he kept saying; “you’re doing great”….I didn’t have any energy in reserve to say much. I tried to hum a song and couldn’t come up with a tune in my head. 3 miles out Doug said….3 more MILES!!!!

The push begins!

I bent over, put my hands on my knees….I cannot DO THIS…there’s no way I am going to make it!! Oh my GOD I hurt so bad. Feet feel like raw hamburger meat…silence and then there was Doug. I couldn’t hear him really. It was like a foggy tunnel and I could see he was talking to me but not what he was saying – entirely. I heard him say…”WHY did you start this? Find that reason….you CAN do this.” So, we played the tree to tree game. Pick up the pace on the sore tendon in the left ankle with it’s own blister on the ball…and the waterbed of a blister on the right foot that was squishing every time I landed. Unpleasant….nah…Then walk, push those arms, breathe..you got this…you can do this..2 MILES…and up the gravel jeep trail that felt like HELL.

Move those feet and swing those arms!

Move those feet and swing those arms!

Come on, another turn and you’ll be off this crappy jeep trail…keep pushing…I was thinking that this is like giving birth naturally. Just keep pushing until it no longer hurts…Sorry guys!! 1 mile put your dang head down and just go (I told myself!!)….a football field Doug said…we were jogging on and off…I heard Doug say something about a 10:30 pace – IN MY DREAMS I thought…keep going…you got it..I had to stop jogging once more just to catch my breath..then I saw the finish line and the CLOCK…the dang CLOCK..I couldn’t see all the numbers but what I saw showed 29 hours…crap!!!

I REFUSE to come all this way and be beat by a few seconds on a clock!! Push…get your asssss moving!! I refuse to let those who told me I couldn’t do it be right! I have all these awesome friends here with me who have VOLUNTEERED their time and energy to help us with this journey – do NOT let them down…think about the girls…the buckle!! The daggone BUCKLE!!! Pick it up…Pick it up……..cheering. John saying to me – “Go Lynn….it’s all YOU”…..DONE!!

Hope you enjoyed the journey to my (our) first 100! Thanks for reading. There will be one more about this race if you aren’t sick of reading about it already…LOL It will be all about the aftermath of running 100 miles as a newb.

Until next time….
Peace

Brazos Bend 100 mile race….through my eyes the first 50 miles

The alarms were set in 5 minute increments between 3:15 and 3:30 Saturday morning and I woke up at 1:45 unable to go back to sleep no matter what I did. It’s RACE DAY MORNING peeps!! I meditated and tried to doze all to no avail. At 2:30 or so T2 woke also – having to pee is a great motivator to wake up and hit the bathroom!! Since neither of us could sleep we do what most females do in the absence of anything else – we talked. We brought a new meaning to the phrase ‘pillow talk’…ha ha ha! I crack myself up! I won’t bore you with the details….It was a new day…RACE DAY and it began at 3:30 telling N.D it was time to get up! That was funny!

The IMPORTANT PEK!

The IMPORTANT PEK!

The morning didn’t really go to plan exactly because we ran a bit later than intended but being flexible is important so I just rolled with it. The important part was getting in the line with that mass of humanity of the other runners at 5:58 after we had said a prayer of safety, guidance and strength! Here we were! Oh my GOSH! 6 months of planning, training and so many early mornings and some late nights too and it all came down to this very moment – or so I thought at that very sliver of time. There used to be a soap opera that began with an hourglass tipped up so the sand was running out – that image has new meaning to me now!

We're here!!

We’re here!!

Mile one we ran with several other runners and I kept slowing myself down because the pace was far, far too fast. We’d been training at 14 minutes per mile except on fast days when we’d drop it down to 11 minute miles and the first 4 miles we ranged between a 12:01 and 12:45 or so! Waaaaay too fast for the 100 miles in front of us that was all unknown. Here we go with the plan – which was for us to stick together for 50 miles then N.D would take her pacers and go kick some tail. I needed to slow us down and I did. The key for me really is if I don’t feel like talking because I am focused on just breathing we are going too fast. So, anytime there was a conversation taking place around me and my overactive brain didn’t feel like participating, I told Norma we need to slow down. Miles 5-7 were respectable 14’s and then we were caught by some other folks we know and our pace went back up to an 11:18. Ironic as I look back! In order to participate in a conversation I have to run slower but whenever we run with other people it makes me run FASTER! Silly….

This was at the very start of the race! Look how HAPPY we were!!

This was at the very start of the race! Look how HAPPY we were!!

The first loop was fantastic! Seamless almost. We ran, we talked and laughed and we ate whatever we felt like eating – crackers mostly for me. My stomach is a finicky piece of work and I worked at NOT eating anything that could possibly upset it. About 90 minutes into the first loop the sun came up and we could see it poking its rays through the beautiful trees as we ran eastward on the perfectly manicured trail.

Oh yeah, I didn’t mention that! This trail we ran on was almost perfect for running! There were sections of pavement that I later cussed and at the end of the race was painfully looking forward to. Other sections were made of gravel that was probably one of the primary reasons I am in the situation I am in at this moment with my feet. Other parts of the trail were comprised of packed earth with crispy leaves overlaid, some with intermittent trail trolls aka tree roots and there were also some wooden pedestrian bridges going over the tops of bogs where the gators roamed. Like I said, almost perfect trails for running! Oh, and the trees….WOW! I cannot describe these stunningly beautiful trees in enough detail and do them any justice at all. Tall, majestic healthy trees with a circumference I cannot possible guess at times. Along with the trees there were the already mentioned stinky bogs, a tunnel of trees that seemed to stretch for miles, Some of the trees had spanish moss hanging from them which really accentuated the feel of the entire park. Okay, I digressed……

We hit the halfway point – or so – Brazos aid station in about 2 1/2 hours so we had covered 13 miles in that amount of time. I was happy! N.D was happy and all was well with the world! Then….we hit this awful, terrible sticky mud mess. Ugh! There’s Murphy with his ugly head! We had to sort of scamper through this because it was a combination of sticky mud and slimy mud and it made running hazardous. Well that sounds silly for a trail runner to say! Ha ha! But there are some hazards worth taking for newbie 100 mile runners and other hazards that are simply NOT worth it and this one was not worth the risk – so we scampered – running when we could and walking when we had to. We still made great time!

Like I said, the first loop was fabulous and we came in to start the second after 5:45 or so. Perfect timing and EXACTLY to plan with the exception that I was having tech issues and didn’t feel like fighting with my headphones and ipod for the next 75 miles so I dropped all tech at that point. A FIRST! I did mention to my crew that I had a hot spot on the ball of my left foot so we had to take some time to deal with that. Added some body glide and turned my compression sock inside out thinking the threading was causing the issue. In hindsight it was a combination of issues that caused the blisters I believe but we aren’t there yet. I honestly already do not remember what I ate at that stop. It took 10 minutes because we were unsure what to do about the hot spot on my left foot.

Hot spot repair

Hot spot repair

Back out on the trail for our second loop and we walked a bit at first because we had both grabbed something for food and were eating it while we walked. I was also trying to get the watch I borrowed from another friend to pick up signal to track the second loop…and it wouldn’t so I just forgot about it. So important to keep that forward motion and momentum going!! A truly valuable lesson to learn first hand! You can read it, hear it, etc, but until you have to live with your consequences…you don’t really KNOW. The second loop was not quite as festive but it was still a great run we felt like we were making great time. Our drop boxes were perfectly placed in the front half of the course so we were able to eat early and often. The minute my belly started remotely telling me it was hungry I made sure to have something to dump in. I have to say that ritz crackers and those squeezable fruit purees are a real blessing! The good thing was I didn’t eat too much of any one texture or flavor – except maybe the crackers – so it’s unlikely an aversion to a certain food will arise from this fabulous path we traveled!

I cannot tell you exactly where it happened but at some point around 4 or 5 miles from the Brazos aid station I realized that I had missed an essential task before we left the hotel or the turn around point and it was now coming back to haunt me. Most runners know what I am speaking of. The reason why if we are going to eat before running we give our bodies plenty of time to do what it must before we start running. There was no choice but to walk. N.D could’ve gone on ahead but she chose to hang with me and try to take my mind off it. Sure, there were trees on both sides of the trail but we were in a wildlife preserve where wild animals live – including feral hogs I was later told AND the kicker for me was the possibility of meeting with a poisonous snake. The last thing I wanted was to meet one of them while in a exposed position……so I waited for the next porta-john and we walked.

N.D kept saying, ‘I’m sure it’s right around that bend in the trail up there’, and we made jokes about how the RD must’ve been playing a trick on the runners and making the porta-john move from where it was in a disappearing act! LOL What fun!! I told her, we can try to jog a bit and she laughed and told me another story – so we walked. What a great training friend, battle buddy and friend she has been! We sort of started this whole thing as a fluke almost. I am a firm believer in a couple things. The first is that people really do come into our lives either for a reason, a season or a lifetime and the second is that there is 2 types of karma and whatever goes around is like a boomerang and will come back around – you just don’t know how or when it will get you. N.D has been patient with my talkative nature and kind with my spirit. She has given when she had no responsibility to do so and persisted when she could have easily just went and did her own thing. I am truly grateful for this woman and the impact she’s had on my life!! I could say that there’s no way to repay her but to put a payment on her gift of friendship would cheapen the relationship we have and I would never desire to do that.

Alright….so the porta-john was at Brazos aid station so we were back to approximately halfway through our second loop. Gravy baby! Neither of us were really having any issues at this point that I recall. We went back through the icky, mucky, slimy bog oh and I failed to mention, after the bog there are 2 fields where apparently horses play football or something. There were divits in the trail that were horrible to navigate. I determined during the first loop that there were about 6 miles of bog/divits to slow us down on the backside of every loop. Ugh! At this point we were looking forward to picking up our pacers. KdlP was going to take N.D through 50-75 miles and M.A was going to pace me through the same stretch. For me it was a little intimidating to run with him. We’ve never ran together before which was a good thing because I knew I’d need him to push me some but he runs 100’s pretty often and is super good at it. Very fast and agile on the trail!

Somewhere at this tail end of the 2nd loop we ran into Tony C and he of course made a joke about how he only had 8 miles left to go since he was running the 50 rather than the 100. Ha ha HA Tony!! You got jokes! LOL! Speaking for myself, at this point I was really looking forward to picking M.A’s brain about a future 100…….wait, WHAT?!!!! A future 100? Really? Where the heck did that come from and why was I even THINKING that at that moment? Insanity must be the explanation! Through this section, we ran into Brittany C and she was hurting so I stopped and gave her some of my aleve and encouraging conversation. I wanted to help but not take too much time and lose my momentum so off I went – wishing her well. A few miles later I ran into Romero another runner I know by name and by his picture on social media…he was laying down on a bench trying to stretch so I stopped and offered my assistance to stretch his IT band and move on out. N.D had left me when I helped Brittany so I was solo at this point and that was okay with me.

Running with music in my ears is generally the way I tune out the pain in my body or the negative thoughts in my head but at this point I was music-less and it was not a big deal. The day was beautiful though a bit sticky and the scenery was breathtaking in spots. Plus, we kept playing leapfrog with the same people. They’d run and pass us while we were walking then we would pass them up again when we ran our 15 minutes of the Galloway split we were doing…..except at this point it was more of a run when we feel like it and walk when the body says to walk. I had some wonderful conversations or moments of conversation with a few people out there and those help keep you moving.

Came into the turn-around point and the 2nd loop took us approximately 45 minutes longer than the first but that was expected so it was around 6:30 or so when we got in. I had to sit down and take care of my feet at this point and N.D was picking up her pacer to take off on her own adventure. This was my first experiment in really popping my own blisters and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be…..I really had to talk positive to myself at this point. My feet hurt but other than that I felt great! Grabbed a double espresso shot – I was kinda sleepy and we headed out. I was a little upset because there was to be a turkey dinner for the runners and I had been looking forward to some real food. The crew informed me that there would be no turkey dinner for at least 30 minutes from the time I was leaving. Really?! Too fast or too slow I was…either way I was unhappy with that situation….

To give credit where credit is due….I know there is someone or something I am missing from this accounting but runners brain is in full effect and my brain happens to be rapidly erasing the painful memories…..and some of the good ones too…

Interested? Look for the next one (hopefully) by the end of the day. It’s pretty emotional so be prepared.

Until next time…
Peace

Preface to a bigger story of heart and plain old gritty determination

A word of warning….this is a LONG post and will have several parts…

Today is simply another ordinary day. I overslept the alarm or actually completely FORGOT to set the thing when I climbed into bed last night. My brain was telling me as I did so that I didn’t need to go to sleep yet, it was only 10:30 and I didn’t feel tired. Not surprisingly, I was more tired than I surmised!

Now, the sun is rising and lighting the house through the windows. There’s no noise other than the tapping of the keyboard as I type and I am sitting here with my feet kicked up trying to get some food in my stomach – and thinking and trying NOT to doze off…what?!! It’s early in the day and I managed to get a good 7 1/2 hours of sleep, so why am I sleepy?! I am so sleepy in fact that I find myself dozing off as I type leaving a trail of some random letters on my computer screen. Zzzzzzzzzzzzmmmmmmmmm

Ahhhhh….there’s a story to tell peeps so sit down with a cup of joe…perhaps slightly laced with a splash of Bailey’s…and get ready for a tale..I hope I can do it justice!!

This tale began on Friday December 12, 2014 as a group of 4 (myself, my partner in crime N.D, our great friend T2 and a young man with a big heart KdlP) loaded up the back of my expedition with all the gear we thought we’d need for a 48 hour excursion, and in hindsight, probably some stuff we did not need. It was pretty comical to watch if I step back from my own two eyes to see it unfold. Like a clown car…how much stuff could we squeeze into the vehicle and still leave room for 4 full-sized adults?

There were storage totes of various sizes with apparently random items within, duffel bags, camp blankets, pillows, sleeping bags….oh and bags upon bags of food (mostly fruit) from the grocery store. All that prodded and moved around until it all fit. Well, with the exception of KdlP’s rucksack – that had to be strapped on top of the truck! We managed to hit the road at noon and everything was moving according to plan. Yes, there was a plan! There’s ALWAYS a plan!!

T2 and Kevin

Three hours and 45 minutes later we arrived at our destination and another 20 minutes or so after that we made it to the briefing about the race…Oh yeah…didn’t I tell you? This is about a running event several of my friends plus myself registered for and were going to participate in. My good friend and training partner were going to run 100 miles! Several other friends were running distance from 26.2 miles all the way up to 50!!

I digressed a bit and took a nap…..back on track…so there we were at Brazos Bend State Park in Rosenberg Texas listening to the race director (Robert Goyen of Trail Racing Over Texas) give us a safety brief. He told us things like don’t jump over the gators and if you pass them do so behind them, not in front of them. He informed us about the course markings, the Christmas dinner that would be served for the runners and the condition of the trail. This information was definitively understated we were to find out later!!

The finishline

The finishline

This is all pretty boring stuff ya know and that’s okay. Consider it the preface to the real story! So after we leave the race brief we placed our drop boxes in the appropriate places and headed back out on the road so we could EAT and rest. Mind you, on the way to Brazos Bend state park there is a series of about 6 almost 45 degree turns and this is also something to think about for a later date. We checked into the hotel – Springhill Suites in Rosenberg where we had some very nice accommodations and guess what – we were still on plan. It always makes me HAPPY when Murphy does not poke his ugly head into my plans!!

T2 happens to be a great friend of mine (ours) but generally life gets in the way and we seldom see each other unless it is exercise related so it was nice at dinner to have a real conversation with her. We ate a leisurely dinner at Cracker Barrel – making sure to eat NOTHING that we had not eaten before and staying away from evil fiber or greasy foods…Trust me when I say THAT is a very important thing to do the days before one runs 100 miles!!! We sat and ate and enjoyed each others company for a bit then N.D left the table for a while and when she came back she came back with GIFTS!! I LOVE GIFTS!! Well, who doesn’t but this isn’t about them…..

She gave me a little stuffed Mickey Mouse! You see, she had asked us a little earlier who was our favorite cartoon character. T2 said Hello Kitty and of course I said Mickey Mouse. I like the classic Mickey cartoons though – when they were funny. I digress again but y’all should be pretty accustomed to that by now if you read my blog or know me personally. Back to the hotel we went for last minute prep and some well needed sleep the night before a race. The plan was that T2 would order some pizzas for us to eat at breakfast while we re-packed or whatever we had to do.

Finally after we all settled down and the pizza was ordered, the alarms were set and the plan for the mornings activities were discussed, I took a sleep aid and it was lights out…