“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

 

 

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…

Prose…..on Running

Sunrise in August

WHAT ARE YOUR REASONS FOR RUNNING 10, 25 OR 100 MILES THEY OFTEN INQUIRE?
AND TO WHICH I OFTEN HAVE NO REPLY OTHER THAN TO STUTTER OUT…
I JUST DO IT, I DON’T EXACTLY KNOW THE WHY OF THIS INTERNAL FIRE

I RUN TO PUT ASIDE MY DEMONS FOR JUST A LITTLE WHILE
I RUN TO SEE HOW FAR I CAN PUSH MY BODY
TO SEE HOW FAR IT TAKES TO RUN BEFORE I BEGIN TO SMILE

I RUN TO PUT THE PAST BEHIND ME FOR JUST A BIT
OUT THERE ON THE TRAIL OR THE ROAD
THERE ARE NO MISTAKES TO HAUNT MY THOUGHTS
FOR THOSE PEACEFUL MOMENTS IN TIME I SHELVE THE HEAVY LOAD

I RUN TO CONVINCE MYSELF THAT I REALLY AM ABLE
DESPITE ALL THE DOUBT AND CRITICISM ENCOUNTERED
TO PUT ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER AND KEEP PUSHING
BEYOND THE PHYSICAL PAIN INTO ANOTHER REALM ALTOGETHER

HOW CAN YOU LEAVE YOUR FAMILY AT HOME WHILE YOU TRAIN FOR HOURS?
YOU ARE SO VERY SELFISH! I OFTEN HEAR THEM EXCLAIM
I HAVE NO RATIONAL REPLY BUT MANAGE THROUGH MY ANGER TO STUTTER OUT
I JUST DO IT, I DO IT TO SWEETEN THE PERSON INSIDE THE WORLD ATTEMPTS TO SOUR

IF SELFISH I AM FOR PUTTING MYSELF FIRST FOR JUST A FEW HOURS A WEEK
THEN ASK MY CHILDREN ABOUT THE LOVE THEY RECEIVE
ASK THEM IF YOU DARE WHAT KIND OF A MOTHER I AIM TO BE
THEY WILL TELL YOU I AM SURE, I AM HARD AND FAIR AND LOVE THEM DEEPLY.

OUTSIDE OF ALL THE TITLES OF WHO I AM SUPPOSED TO BE
NO MATTER WHAT THE HOLD ON ME
RUNNING EVEN THE HARDEST 25 MILES LEAVES ME SATED
FEELING COMPLETE, AS IF THE ENTIRE WORLD IS ONE OF POSSIBILITY.

~TLT 10/24/14

And so it began…….

           Hell’s Hills 50 K was a turning point in my running. I think a decision had been made that day, only my conscious mind did not know it yet. When you surround yourself with people who live full lives, it begins to make a change in the way you perceive all that is around you. For me, this journey in the land of ultra running started only 22 months ago. The very first time I set foot on the local trails with this crazy group of runners who called themselves, Belton Endurance Junkies. A man by the name of Mark Chandler was the originator of this group of people who ran the trails……..for fun. After 4 years of running the roads – only long enough to be ready for this triathlon or the other and training for several half marathons here and there – I had no idea what I was setting myself up for that first time on the trail.
          I won’t bore you with all the details of those first 30 days spent running the trails but know that a change began the very first time I heard Mark say it didn’t matter that I was slowing the group down and he had to keep coming back for me, because it was “time on his feet” that mattered, not the (very slow) speed in which we were traversing the trail. 
Time on your feet is what matters? What the heck does that mean? What do you mean, the speed doesn’t matter? I remember thinking those questions but feeling too silly to ask them! While my other triathlon friends were talking about this “gu” or that “gu”, I watched Mark inhale corn tortillas mid-way through a 15 mile run, and thought he was crazy…..Yep, those few times on the trail is what started it all!

More to follow…….

Hell’s Hills 50K

      On Saturday I participated in a trail running event organized by Joe and Joyce Prusaitis of Tejas Trails here in Texas. I chose this event specifically because I had been told that it was a great course and the name of the event made the course sound harder than it actually is. I thought it would be a great way to complete another 50K distance so I signed up and felt pretty good about completing the distance since I recently shaved some time off a road marathon. I knew it would be a fabulous event no matter what because I had the best company a girl could have and the race director is a stickler for the details which means his events are always spot on. No camping out this time around though and I packed my bag for any eventuality.

       You see, here in Central Texas, during the Spring months, one never quite knows what the weather will bring. It can be 80 degrees today and low 30’s tomorrow….sometimes the extremes can happen all in one day! I had capris, shorts, short sleeved shirt and a jacket, plus a hat, mittens, calf sleeves, extra socks….you get the idea. I wanted to make sure that if mother nature turned against me, I would be READY. NOTHING was going to keep me from finishing this run!! My plans for Friday went off without a hitch and before I knew it – it was 4:00 a.m Saturday morning and it was time to get the ball rolling for a 6:00 a.m race start. 

      Allow me, if you will, to digress a bit as I am often prone to doing…..This event came a 3 days after a terrible tragedy struck our military community and rocked us emotionally. Men died during acts of valor. They gave their lives to prevent further harm from coming to those around them in one place where they should not fear for their own safety. Even today, as I sit and type this, it saddens me and brings tears to my eyes to think about these men. I did not know them personally although my husband did. Memorial walks were had and lots of discussions partaken about this single act of desperation on the part of the man who created the crisis…..

     A crisis of conscious and a feeling of desperation can be had by anyone and I’m sure that most of us have had moments when we did not feel 100%. My question is, what then? What do we do with these feelings? How do we handle these momentary upsets in our lives? It was heartbreaking for everyone with the ripples evolving out from the epicenter in a greatly expanding circle of impact. Experiences in life have taught me to persevere…..move forward even if slowly and often painfully….just – keep – FIGHTING and do not dare give up.

     Therefore, when I lined up with the other 100+ runners for the 50K run on Saturday, it was with these thoughts in my head. I will run light and easy (per Christopher McDougall in Born to Run), I will take my time and run my race……and I will just keep putting one foot in front of the other until I reach my destination – that being the finish line. I will continue to move forward, even when it hurts, because that is what we do. The start was in the dark of course since the sun is not even awake at 6 a.m but there were plenty of headlamps to see where we were going so off we went into the dark morning. The pace was quite slow to start and I was shocked by the ease.

      There was chatter going on all around me and when I dared to look ahead into the forest of trees, it looked like there was a bejeweled snake all aglitter winding its way through the trees. The lights with all their various hues and brightness provided quite an illusion of movement within the movement. It was beautiful unto itself! Another runner behind me began chatting me up at some point in the dark of the morning. He had noticed my careful footfall….and likened my landings amongst the rocks to a dancer, perhaps ballet because I was intentionally trying to stay up on the balls of my feet, light in my socks. It made me chuckle to think of myself on a barre like a ballet dancer though!! 

      The first 15.5 mile loop felt almost completely effortless, almost. I do not remember the exact mileage of the tripping windmill action I was party to only that it resulted in the pulling of a muscle in my leg that appears prone to such things. ARGH! Seriously? I was miffed to say the least but thankful that I did not fall. Right around mile 9 we came out of the trees and into this clearing…..ohhhh this clearing was absolutely FULL of spring flowers – Bluebonnets to be specific. It was a sea of blue flowers in this clearing and it made me remember that this is FUN. I LOVE TO RUN! I stopped and took a couple pictures and moved on out – newly energized by the beauty of it all. Down at mile 10 was an aid station with some smiling people ensconced there, including my most awesome friend who kindly took my jacket off my hands. 

     From that point to the turn around point back at the start/finish line it was kind of a blur. I was just in a zone I suppose and do not recall much about it – except for the photographer sitting in wait at the top of a particularly gnarly uphill section. I laughed at him for taking such a spot! 

   Are you wondering yet….wondering where is the lesson in all this? It’s coming – be patient….ahhhh, be patient….something is happening. You cannot yet see it, or feel it buried within the details but it is there, growing steadily in its own right……to be continuedImage