My Journey to Brazos: BB100 Race Recap

This past weekend, I ran my first 100-mile race (and NOT my last : )  I apologize for the lengthy post, but 100 miles is a really long way! 😉

My chosen word of 2017 was Conquer, and my intentions in choosing that word were to conquer myself, not so much other things.  I wanted to conquer self-doubt, fear of failure, lack of confidence in myself, etc.  I knew that in order to do this, I had to be OK with failure and I had to put myself into situations where success wasn’t guaranteed.  I needed to embrace the possibility of failure and be able to accept it and move on if it happened.  This was a SLOW process.  All the races I did through mid-year – my first 50k at Cowtown, my first Ironman 70.3 at Galveston, my first 50k trail race at Wildflower (Trail Racing Over Texas race) and Afton Trail Run 50k; I fretted over how I would perform.  Every time, I did just fine, but still, I doubted myself.

Sometime in early Fall, I came across a Gordy Ainsleigh quote one day that completely changed my way of thinking; “When you’re afraid of failure, you’re more likely to do it.”  My fear of failure was actually making failure more likely.  I had to work on that.

Before my first 50 miler in October, I fretted and fretted over how I would perform.  I nearly made myself sick.  I had a feeling that I could come in under 12 hours, but the cutoff was tight so I also had a good chance at a DNF.  Except I didn’t DNF.  I actually ran a really good race and came in just under 12 hours, PLUS I ran this race without really tapering and I felt that my legs had another 10-15 miles in them when I finished.  This, combined with the mental work I had been doing was a turning point for me.

But training nearly killed me

The mileage in training really started picking up in August.  By mid-October, I was counting the weeks to taper.  I wasn’t sure that I could meet all the demands of my training schedule, a full-time job, mom/chauffeur AND wash all the clothes (I had to let getting the clothes folded go).

Some weeks I didn’t get all my miles in, but I rarely just skipped runs.  My training was consistent and I was dedicated.  I spent a good amount of time working on my mental strength because I knew that the mental test in those late miles would be harder than the physical one.

My last big weekend came and I had 70 miles on the schedule.  I was to run 15 on Friday, 25 on Saturday and 30 on Sunday.  I was so tired at work that Friday that I was on the verge of tears all day long.  I’ve never felt so exhausted in my life.  I ended up not running the 15 at all and instead I decompressed at home.  I ran the majority of the other miles that weekend, and I forced myself to not feel guilty about it.  I had given everything I had to training and that handful of miles wasn’t going to make or break anything.  Guilt couldn’t change the fact that I hadn’t run every single mile on the schedule.

I was off the next week (which was the week of Thanksgiving) and I did NOTHING.  I was so exhausted that I wondered if I would ever have any energy again, much less by race day.  I had a million things to do that had fallen by the wayside during training, but I still did nothing.  I needed the rest.  And slowly, day-by-day, I started feeling that spunk again.

No taper crazies?

Generally speaking, I either lose my mind during taper or I do something really, really stupid.  I did none of that this time.

I didn’t fret.  I didn’t go crazy on Ultrasignup.  I didn’t break any toes.  I DID NOT FRET!!  I was so calm the entire time. (That is, until I suddenly got nauseous about an hour before the race!)

I was in a really good place, mentally.  I felt confident, but not cocky.  I trusted in my training.  I trusted myself.  Something really amazing happened, though.  I was willing to take a big risk and face a DNF in order to see where my breaking point was.  I wanted to take a risk and abandon the safe route.  It was freeing.

My race plan was aggressive.  Too aggressive.  I knew this going in.  People say “start really slow”, but slow is relative to each individual runner.  I didn’t know what my “slow” for a 100 mile race was.  I didn’t know how long my legs would hold out, regardless of the pace.  The farthest they had ever gone was 50 miles…..once.  This entire year had been about doing the not-sure thing and I was finally in a mindset that embraced it.

I’m going to add another running miracle here.  And guys – you can skip over this paragraph.  I was supposed to start my period on Dec 9.  DECEMBER 9.  RACE DAY.  I was fully prepared to deal with it.  I mean – like Scott Jurek said, “Sometimes you just do things!” But it’s OBVIOUSLY an inconvenience and one doesn’t always feel their best during that time.  In any case, I started NINE days early.  I felt like the gods of running were smiling down upon me.  One less thing to worry about on race day.

It’s GO-Time!

I was literally foaming at the mouth the week before Brazos.  I was ready to get out there and tear up the course, or let the course tear me up.

The start temps were in the low 30s, but the sky was clear and the weather during the day was to be clear and warming to around 60.

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My Team ❤

The plan was to run 20-hour pace (I know, I know!!) for the first 50 then just see how long my legs could keep up.  Brent and Tim were coming along for the ride as long as it worked for all of us.  We started off and tried to settle into pace.  The miles went by quickly as we talked and laughed and cut up.  One little hiccup in the first loop was that we followed the lead pack.  There were signs where the course usually had a turn-around, but sometimes runners can’t follow directions well and we all turned and went down another path.  I found out later that we had made a wrong turn!  This trek was in a SWAMP and I was already entertaining thoughts of dread for the coming loops.  Thankfully, the next time I came around, it was clear that I should turn around (happy dance!) and I didn’t have to navigate the swamp again.

I came in just a bit ahead of Brent & Tim at the end of loop 1, took care of business quickly and decided to head out again on my own. Loop 1 was right at 3 1/2 hours, which was a little behind where I wanted to be, but the extra mile put us a little over.  Sherpa Carmen and her sidekick, Brad,  were right there, waiting to get me whatever I needed.  I went with PB&J on this loop but told her next time I wanted oatmeal.  I’m not sure what it is about oatmeal, but I LOVE it on long runs!  I was saving the Coke/caffeine until after mile 70, so I didn’t have any of that.

Loop 2 was uneventful except that I KNOW I ran it too fast.  I wanted to make up some of that time (stupid…ego) and ended up with 3:21 on that lap and that was including the 5 min or so that I spent in camp before heading out! Carmen had the oatmeal waiting, but boy, was it hot!!  I tried to shove it in as quickly as I could, but it took a few minutes.  I think I ended up spending around 10 minutes in camp that time.  Time really bleeds away from you in these events, if you aren’t careful.

Loop 3 was more of the same.  I was in a rhythm but toward the end started feeling a little tightness in my right IT.  WEIRD.  That never happens.  I started trouble shooting and wondered if it was the Hokas.  Plus, I started to feel a hot spot on the inside of my ankle, which is a place that I’ve never gotten a blister.  I knew I was developing one blister in a spot that I sometimes get them, so I decided to stop and change socks and shoes at the end of the loop.  Loop 3 took me around 3:50, which was a little slower but I was pretty happy with it.  This put me at 50 miles at 10:50 total time.

When I came in off Loop 3, Kolbe was there!!!  Kolbe came down just to pace me on my last loop.  I was so glad to see her!  She jumped right in to help Carmen and Brad.  Kolbe started taking my shoes and socks off (GOD BLESS HER) while Carmen got my kit for me.  I drained those blisters, grossed Kolbe out but she still tried to put my socks on for me.  I wear Injinji’s though and she would have had to been a Houdini to get them on!  After trying to shovel more hot oatmeal in my mouth, I put on a long sleeve shirt, my beanie and my headlamp and left after about 20 min in camp.  It was longer than I wanted to spend, but the blisters needed to be drained.

In no time, I had hit my stride again.  The sun had set and the air was growing cooler with each passing moment.  I knew that I was slowing a little but I still felt really, really good.  I know a lot of people get mental in the dark alone, but I actually enjoyed it.  I don’t have any problem at all being by myself and that was definitely a strength of mine.  I spent a lot of time on this loop just cruising.  I felt so good but I knew that the time was coming that I wouldn’t feel good  Maybe I should have slowed down?  Not slowing down was probably stupid, but still part of the learning process and in my mind this race was one long experiment.  I made it through the mind f*** part of the course – have I mentioned that part of the course??  Arggggggggggg it got me mentally every time.  Toward the end of each loop, there was an aid station, a one mile stretch of road.  The road FINALLY turned left, except you were left with another TWO MILE stretch of road until the next aid station,  But that aid station was a dead-end.  So you had to turn around, run TWO miles back to the turn then ANOTHER mile back to the other aid station.  Mental suicide.  But the wonderful thing is that once you got back to that aid station, it was a 2 mile cruise to the start/finish.  I was starting to get tired by the time that I got to this part of the course.  The temps were also dropping, making my quads stiffen up (I was still wearing only shorts).  I debated on stopping to put on my gear, but decided it would be faster at camp where I had people who could actually move their limbs well to help me out.  LOL  That loop came in at 4:07, but that included the 20 minutes spent on my feet in between loops.  All in all, very encouraging, considering I was at mile 67 and my legs had never gone past 50 miles.

Carmen and Kolbe helped me get my cool weather gear on while Brad got me some food.  Or maybe this is the loop Kolbe got me ramen noodles and mashed potatoes?  I can’t remember.  I DO remember sitting there, ready to go back out and saying, “I want a nap.” Carmen, without hesitation, told me to get my ass up out of that chair and get back out there.  So I stood up and got my ass back out there. I’m a rule follower and I take directions very well.

Loop 5 was tough.  TOUGH.  I was starting to hurt.  I was very tired.  I didn’t want to run.  It hurt to run. This is the loop that the battle started.  NEVER did I think about quitting.  I had decided before the race that quitting wasn’t an option.  If you convince yourself of things before the race, you will stick to them during the race.  I had joked, but not really, that Rob would have to drag my cold, dead carcass off the trail before I would DNF.  I seriously had no intentions of dropping.  I am thankful that I didn’t encounter any situations that were serious enough to cause me to consider that option, because I fully realize that things happen out there that are completely out of our control.

Loop 5 was basically a back and forth between my mind and my will.  My mind wanted the pain to stop and running was causing pain.  My will wanted me to finish.  I had a constant dialog – the longer you walk, the colder you will get and the longer you are going to be out here.  The more you run, the warmer you will be and the sooner you will get there.  RUN, DAMNIT!!  Then I would run and it would hurt and my mind would convince me to walk.  I also knew that Carmen and Kolbe would be worried and I hated that it was taking me so long.  This is when I thought about all the people who were supporting me and started naming each person that I could remember.  That distracted me from the pain of running long enough to get a little bit of running done.  OH!!!  I haven’t mentioned that I had to stop to pee basically every 20-30 minutes on this loop.  I have never had to pee so often and so much in my entire life!!  There’s no telling how much time I spent squatting in the woods.  I finally rolled into camp with a whopping 5:10.

I don’t think we took much time between loop 5 and 6.  Pretty sure I ate oatmeal, or maybe not??  Heck if I know.  I am 99.9% sure that I did drink Coke.  My body ached all over and the LAST thing I wanted to do was go back out on that loop.  But THANK GOD I had Kolbe coming with me.  I was so glad to have her, but….have I said that I didn’t want to run??  We started out walking and probably walked a mile.  I knew we were wasting time.  It bothered me that we were wasting time.  I may have said – we need to start running in a bit.  Kolbe was talking and telling me about her day.  Listening to her definitely took my mind off all the troubles at hand. After we tried running and I would wimp out and want to walk, Kolbe knew it was time to take charge.  She told me that we were going to start running .  We would run 1/2 mile then walk a couple of minutes.  I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that.  It was such a simple solution to this problem.  We did this for a while and I finally got into a rhythm and actually didn’t feel half bad.  We came across the first aid station and I drank some coffee.  After the coffee kicked in, I was starting to feel REALLY good (relatively speaking).  Kolbe told me that since I was handling this run/walk so well, we would increase our run distance.  I was in a groove and ready so I told her to run a mile.  We did, and we finished the rest of the loop in this way.

It’s hard to explain how hard it was to run on loop 5 yet I found the strength to run on loop 6.  I think the fact that Kolbe was telling me what to do was the key.  My mind had no control over Kolbe, so my mind couldn’t tell her to stop.  I had no choice but to run because the choice of whether or not to run had been taken away from me.  All I did was watch her feet and run.  Yes, it still hurt, but my mind processed all this in a different way.  It’s very difficult to put into words.  Of course, I still had to pee every 5 steps on this loop as well.  At one point, Kolbe actually told me that I needed to pee in my pants next time…..and my bladder may have gotten the message because I think that was the last time that I had to go!

I made it through Mind F***, I mean Sawmill, one more time (with Kolbe’s help) and I knew I was home free.  I could TASTE the finish line.  I was so ready to be DONE.  Kolbe knows me so well.  We would come upon some runners and she would whisper to me, “you’re about to take these people down!”  It was just enough to keep me going and I was surprised and happy that I still had that competitive spirit that wanted to overtake them.  When there were no people to pass, she told me that even though loop 5 may have won – I was CONQUERing loop 6 and finishing strong.  I can’t even remember everything she said, but every word struck a chord with me and gave me the strength to take another step.

Kolbe radioed Carmen to tell her we were about a mile out from the finish and I got tears in my eyes.  I knew I would finish.  Such a surreal feeling.  I had dreamed of this and worked for this for so long that it seemed it might never come to fruition.  But here I was, about to become a 100-mile finisher!  It’s a strange paradox – feeling so amazing that about what you’re about to accomplish while trying to hold back tears because everything hurts so badly.  But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything!

I wanted Kolbe to lead me right up to the finish.  She had quite literally drug me through this last loop.  I wasn’t sure that I could run that finish line chute alone.  I didn’t want her to be out of my sight for a second.  She told me that this was my moment and that she would see me after I crossed….and she was right there.  I started crying – crying by my standards, at least.  I was handed my buckle and received hugs from Carmen, Kolbe, Ashley and Brad.  Others may have been there, but everything was such a blur that I can’t even remember.  Kolbe drug me through that loop in 4:54, which was 15 minutes faster than the previous loop.  At the end of a 100 miler, I’ll gladly take a negative split loop!  My total time was 24:51.  Not the time I wanted, but my intentions were to see what I could do and I definitely didn’t play it safe in those early miles.  A nice bonus was an 8th overall female finish – I was hoping to finish in top 10, so I was able to check that off my list 🙂

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I’ve never felt such a rush of emotions at a finish

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A race is just a race, but a pacer is a friend for life.

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Carmen is the best crew chief around!! And I swear I’m happy – just really tired!

My good friend, Tim Radkey described it best when he said that the feeling you have at the finish is like you are completely and totally emptied, yet completely and totally full at the same time.  There was definitely a feeling of having been cleansed by this experience.

I gave Kolbe a goodbye hug – she had to travel back to her parent’s house to grab her pets – then Carmen got me set up in a chair with a sleeping bag and a nice warm heater beside me.  She and Brad started breaking down camp and I quickly fell asleep for a much-needed nap.img_8010

My takeaways

  • Nutrition and hydration were on point.  I had no stomach issues whatsoever.  I know the cool weather helped with this, but I’m really proud of how I managed my nutrition.
  • Yes, my starting pace was too fast but I don’t think I was THAT far off.
  • My legs held up much better and much longer than I expected.
  • Having a good crew makes ALL the difference.  Carmen anticipated what I would need and had things ready for me before I ever asked.
  • The right pacer can save your race.  Kolbe was PERFECT.
  • I need to make better friends with pain.  Now that I know the pain doesn’t get any worse, I will be more prepared to push through it next time.
  • I need to become more efficient during my stops between loops.
  • I really wanted that sub-22 buckle, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to maintain that pace.  Seeing the sun rise, then set, then rise again is an experience that I’ll cherish and I am really thankful that this race gave that to me.

All in all, I’m VERY happy with this race.  I did what I set out to do.  I found my limits, I conquered the course and, most importantly, I conquered many of my inner demons.

Kolbe wrote about her experience as a pacer.  If you want to read about it, click here!

One more thing…..I HIGHLY recommend Brazos Bend to any runner!  The race distances range from 13.1-100 miles, so there is something for nearly everyone.  This race is the Trail Party of the year and doesn’t disappoint!

This journey to be continued in 2018…..

 

 

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It’s Race Week!!

Here I am, FINALLY just 4 days away from my first 100 mile attempt and so much is going through my mind.  The strangest thing is what isn’t going through my mind.

Generally speaking, I LOSE MY MIND every time I taper.  It is a common affliction and many in my sport like to call it the “Taper Crazies”.  I am usually consumed with anxiety, restless energy, doubts and fears.  More times than not, I do something really, really stupid.  Like going for my first open water swim, slipping on the boat ramp and breaking my toe.  Or I go crazy on Ultra Sign Up and register for races that are harder than the one I’m about to run.

But this taper…. The taper before the BIGGEST race of my life to date, and I have yet to experience any anxiety, doubt, restless energy, or fear.  I keep trying to assess why I am so calm, because there HAS to be something wrong, right? Or maybe not.

I am confident.  I worked my ass off in training.  No, I didn’t run every mile that was scheduled, but I was consistent.  And during all that training, I never went out and “just” ran.  Knowing I gave it my all has helped me trust my training.

I am mentally tough.  I fought many mental battles during training and spent countless hours outside of training getting my mind right.  I read everything I could get my hands on and listened to countless podcasts to gain insight into tackling this distance.

I am prepared.  I have packed everything (times 3 – no kidding) that I can think of that I might remotely need.  (Well, I’ve decided not to take the kitchen sink.)

I know that nothing is guaranteed.  NOTHING IS GUARANTEED.  I may not finish and I am OK with that.  My goal this year was to push myself and get to that place that I had to fight with every fiber of my being to continue.  If I get to that place and I am unable to finish, I will still have accomplished what I set out to do.

Pain isn’t optional – it’s guaranteed.  Whether or not I suffer is completely and totally up to me.

This distance is ridiculously far.  I understand the challenges that I’ll be facing, but I’ll also be in the same boat as veterans toeing the start line.  No one can predict what hardships will be visited upon them during the course of 100 miles.  Part of the challenge; part of the lure of this distance is that uncertanty.

My race plan is aggressive.  Probably too aggressive for my first 100, but, honestly, how does one really know what “too aggressive” is on their first attempt??  Many have suggested that I should just “race just to finish”, but I’m not a race just to finish kind of gal. In most of my races this year, I had a feeling going in what I would run.  And every race, I was within minutes of my guess.  After this happened a couple times, I began to trust my instincts more and more.  I feel in all my being that this is the right race plan for me.  I know that it won’t go completely according to plan.  Hell, it may not go AT ALL according to plan!  But if/when it all falls apart, I’ll use my strengths, which is assessing my situation and coming up with possible solutions.

This race is going to be epic.  It will be an epic success or an epic failure.  But if I fail to finish, I will be FAR from a failure.  If I fail to finish, I will have hopefully found that place, that line that I’ve not been able to find, let alone cross.  If that line is revealed to me, I suspect I’ll have learned much more about myself than I would have coasting easily and cautiously to the finish line, if I had just raced to finish.  Either way, I believe that I will prove to myself something that I’ve known (but not acknowledged) for a very long time – 100 miles is going to prove to be my favorite distance.

Finding Myself in my Journey to 100

Welp, folks, I am 29 DAYS away from my first 100 mile attempt.  I’ve been feeling a bit sentimental lately and thought that this milestone provided a great opportunity to recap my training journey thus far.

My word of focus for 2017 was CONQUER.  And I do feel like I have CONQUERED this year.  My transition into trail and ultra running has been the most fulfilling and rewarding running experience to date and I think I am finally conquering some of those mental demons.

When I signed up for Brazos Bend 100, I was a completely different person than the one penning this post.  As much confidence as I have gained over the past couple of years, I was still very insecure in many ways and felt as though I had a lot to prove to myself (and others, sadly).  Committing to races and distances that scared me to death was actually the BEST thing I could have chosen to do.

Admittedly, I haven’t documented this journey very well at all.  In fact, I suspect that some of the transformation is directly related to me not sharing every detail and every run.  As the fatigue from my increasing mileage began to take over every muscle in my body, so did the weariness of posting on social media.  Suddenly, sharing details of every training run seemed a little silly and a lot overwhelming to me.  But I began to cherish my training more than ever before.  I’ve given this a lot of thought – probably too much – and I think that not posting as much about my training has been the catalyst to my training becoming more authentic.

My Transformation

I have *literally* undergone a transformation.  I am unsure if it is visible to the rest of the world, but I when I compare how I felt about myself in March versus how I feel about myself now – it is as if I went from caterpillar to butterfly.  Here are some ways in which I have changed for the better:

  • Confidence.  I can’t even begin to describe the confidence I’ve gained.  I don’t think it is a cocky confidence, either.  But one that stems from putting my body through A LOT more than I ever imagined it could do and yet my body responded amazingly well.
  • Enjoy the process.  I have always enjoyed training.  I’ve never been one of those people that train in order to race.  I’m the opposite.  I race in order to train.  I wanted to attempt a 100 to push myself to the limits, but also because I just like running long.  Running back-to-back runs AND being fortunate enough to be healthy the entire time has been a blessing that I’ll always treasure.
  • Consistency is key – not perfection.  Anyone that knows me knows that I am a perfectionist – to a point.  Being a wife, mother (volleyball mom!!!) and working a full time job required me to face my perfection demons.  There were a couple of weeks that I ran 20 miles less than scheduled.  Even though I didn’t get all my miles in, I️ was always consistent.  And you know what??  I may have struggled mentally within that week, but I haven’t carried forward any guilt from missed miles.
  • Trust my instincts and follow my heart.  If I had followed a traditional path, I would not have registered for Brazos Bend this year.  I would have raced 50 milers and maybe started dabbling at the 100k distance, getting some experience under my belt before jumping to 100 miles.  But I knew that I could do it.  I knew that I wouldn’t be satisfied if I took the safe route.  I was more than willing to fall flat on my face for the chance to try.  And, boy, am I glad I trusted my instincts!!  More and more, I am making decisions based on feel rather than on intellect.  While this may not work in every arena, it has certainly worked in my running world.
  • *Failure* is acceptable.  Although I haven’t *failed* yet, I fully expected to DNF at Rawhide 50 miler.  I was mentally prepared to accept DNF, if it came to that.  My self-esteem isn’t no longer tied to a medal or finish time or place or buckle.  Not finishing a race isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to me.  And if I find myself facing a DNF, I’ll move on.  The reason I do this is because I enjoy trails and ultras.  I enjoy the community.  I enjoy pushing myself and I do actually hope I find my limit one day and have to fight with every fiber of my being to continue.

Hopefully, I’ll be writing about my beautiful, shiny, buckle in 29 short days.  But if I fall short of the finish, I know that I’ve already won.  I won the day that I committed to this journey.  The rewards of this transformation far outweigh the shininess of a single belt buckle.

Rawhide 50 Race Recap

Last yeimg_7361ar, I ran Ragnar Hill Country and fell IN LOVE with the trails at Flat Rock Ranch.  I wasn’t an experienced trail runner, at all, and I wasn’t nearly as strong of a runner as I am now.  The trails left my body a little battered and my ego severely bruised.  At the time, I was still building strength after a psoas injury and I had been forced to ask my teammates to pick up my last miles so that I could recoup and focus on qualifying for Boston at the Houston Marathon.  It was absolutely the right call but runners like to feel strong and invincible and I felt anything except strong and invincible.

I’m not really sure when I decided that I would run a 50 miler in 2017, but I had already signed up for Brazos Bend 50 by January 11.  One day, I happened across Rawhide 50 miler and was immediately intrigued because it was at Flat Rock Ranch.  A chance for redemption AND my first 50 miler??  It was too much temptation to resist.  But…the cutoff was tight.  The race was small.  I remembered how my legs felt after 23 miles on those trails and I would be doubling that.  I genuinely didn’t know if I could do it.

I revisited my word of the year (suggested to my by my Soul Sister Jenn), which was “CONQUER”.  I though about what Jenn had said to me when she suggested that word:  “You need to conquer self-doubt, second guessing and feeling inadequate.”  Part of being able to conquer those things was to put myself in situations where I wasn’t guaranteed success and being OK with myself if I didn’t “succeed”.  So I decided to go for it.  I would attempt something that I really didn’t believe I could do (and at that time, I really did not believe that I could do it).

The storm before the race

Shouldn’t that say, “the calm before the storm”?  No.  No, it shouldn’t.

The last couple of races, I haven’t fretted at all.  I packed the day I left, hoped I didn’t forget anything and rolled up to the start line without a care in the world.  This race wasn’t like that at all.

A couple of weeks before Rawhide, I started to fret.  I hadn’t been having the best long runs and my confidence was a little cracked.  I started worrying about the weather.  The realization hit me that I was about to run 50 MILES on some fairly tough terrain with a very tight cutoff.  Panic set in as I started realizing that I might not finish.

And then, allergies happened.  Even though I am on allergy shots and take allergy medicine, I always find myself in a battle during peak Ragweed season.  Monday night, I didn’t sleep much.  I felt achy and I had the post-nasal drainage which made my throat sore.  I had to work really hard not to panic (and I still did, kind-of).  I changed allergy meds, got my next shot as soon as I was able and started using the neti pot again.  All this helped but I still wasn’t sleeping well.  I didn’t feel like myself.  All I could think about was how hard running 50 miles would be if I started out feeling well.  I wasn’t sure I could do it if I started out feeling like crap.

Renegade sisters head South

Carmen and Jen reunited again!!! Carmen and I left around noon on Friday.  We were going to drive down to the ranch, grab our packets, eat and head to our Airbnb.  We took the scenic route, meaning we avoided I-35, and had a wonderful drive.  I miss getting to see Carmen and love our adventures together.img_7360

I still felt terrible.  I was exhausted.  But I tried to act like all was well.

We made it to the ranch and got checked in then set up our canopy and unloaded the stuff that we could (which was a huge weight lifted for race morning).  I don’t think either one of us could believe that in less than 12 hours we would be out on the course!img_7359

We decided on pizza and headed to the restaurant.  I felt like I walked into a twilight zone.  We didn’t quite fit in.  There were ashtrays on every table.  People were at the bar, hanging all over each other and acting a fool.  LOL.  We sat at a table without anyone acknowledging us for about 5 minutes, so I started looking for other options.  There was another pizza place, so off we went!  It was so cute and just our style and I’m so glad we made the decision to switch.

After eating, we made our way to our Airbnb, which was a little apartment over a garage.  It was so cute and cozy.  We turned the AC on high, crawled under the covers and the next thing I knew, my alarm was going off.  I SLEPT SO WELL!!!  I felt like a new woman and was so relieved that I could start the race feeling halfway human.  I might have a chance!!  We had our breakfast and got ready and were off to the ranch!

The journey begins

Loop 1 

The challenge of a long distance race is not to go out too fast.  I struggle in this department.  It is difficult to hold back in the beginning when you feel so fresh.  Plus, since the race started at 5 AM, the cover of darkness and cool air caused me to feel even better.  I settled in to a comfortable pace right behind another woman.  In the dark, I was more concerned with keeping my light and eyes on the trail in front of me than I was concerned with checking my pace.  I stayed right with her until after we passed through the first aid station.  When my watch signaled the next mile marker, which was around 7, I realized that I was WAY ahead of even my best case race scenario.  When we hit the next hill, I stopped to hike to slow myself down and let her go on her way.  I was more interested in not blowing up my race than I was in keeping up with her.
At this point, I knew that I was sitting in 3rd.  At the race start, I had counted the females – there were only 6 – and I knew that 2 of them were behind me from the beginning.  Plus, we had passed another female at the aid station so I was confident that I was sitting in 3rd.  I slowed some but still ran faster than I should have. I justified this by telling myself the more miles I could cover before the head of the day, the better off I would be.  The last forecast I had seen predicted sunny skies with a high of 85 – I expected a struggle.img_7362

I rolled off the first loop, feeling good in 2:28, which was, um, about 20 minutes faster than 11 hour pace.  Going in, I was hoping to get better than 12 and, in my opinion, getting 11:00 would have been nothing  short of a miracle.  Carmen was ready and waiting.  She helped me refill my bladder and confirmed to me that I was 3rd female.  I was feeling good, it was still cool and I didn’t want to waste any time at camp.  (Another one of my goals for the race.)  I ran back out, only to realize that I hadn’t grabbed any gels for the loop, so back I went to grab my fuel.

Loop 2 – Struggle bus loop

It didn’t take me long on loop 2 to start feeling fatigue.  Thankfully, there was cloud cover, but the humidity was so thick that it reminded me of the 97% humidity at Houston Marathon.  I felt like I was sucking air through a straw.  This loop was also much more technical and rocky than loop 1 and that slowed me down some, but I still kept a decent pace in the runnable sections. Midway through the loop, I encountered huge, flat boulder-size rocks that were slick from the humidity.  I stopped to text Carmen and Tim to let them know that I was slowing down because of that.  I really struggled from miles 18-when I came in at mile 25.  I was getting a little achy – I had been a little achy from the allergy mess the past few days – and I realized that my calories were low.  I decided that I would take some time when I came off the loop to force some calories down and recoup before tackling the second half of the race.

I suffered A LOT of paranoia on this lap.  I knew I was 3rd female going into the lap, but I had no idea how close 4th place was.  Even though I only ran into a couple of runners on this loop, I kept hearing what I thought was a woman’s voice in the distance so I naturally thought it was #4 and that she was gaining on me.  (Later I realized that the “voices” I heard were either the 10k’ers or goats, or maybe a mixture of both.) The volunteers at the Loop 2 aid station were ROCKSTARS!  They cheered me on when I rolled into camp and told me that I was 3rd female (without me even asking).  I only stopped for a moment before rolling on.

As the loop went on, I felt more and more fatigue and achiness, but I was determined to keep moving as fast as my legs would allow.  I stopped to text Tim to ask him to make me some oatmeal, if he arrived at camp in time.  I knew it would be close and was kicking myself for being so far ahead of schedule early on.  Thinking about the possibility of eating oatmeal was the carrot that got me through the end of that loop.  My mouth was watering thinking about oatmeal those last 3 miles.  I finally rolled into camp at 10:25 (Tim was hoping to arrive by 10:30) and Tim wasn’t there. I grabbed some pretzels from the aid station and a peanut butter and jelly wrap from the cooler, sat down and started force feeding myself.  Man, all that stuff tasted horrible and the last thing I wanted to do was to eat but I knew that I had to get some calories down.  I also made the decision to take Ibuprofen for the aches.  I never take it and I have it available in my pack for emergencies.  It’s a once-per-race Hail Mary and I had already been weighing the pros and cons to taking now or at mile 38.  I ran to the restroom and as I came out, Tim was walking by!  We went back to camp and he got to work refilling my bladder while I started grabbing my fuel for the loop.

I used all my will power to get myself moving and out for the next loop – I had already spent a good 15 minutes in camp and needed to get back out.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  I was disappointed due to having these issues so early in the race, but I knew that I had to deal with whatever the day threw at me.  So I forced myself to get up and back out I went.

Loop 3 – Riding the wave

Early on in loop 3, I changed my fueling strategy.  I was using Vfuel gels without any stomach issues, but wasn’t able to sustain my energy levels.  I knew that I needed to try to maintain 250-300 calories per hour, or 60-90 grams of carbohydrate.  Luckily, I had remembered my Mas Korima corn cookies and thrown some in my pack for this loop.  I started taking a gel at :00 and :30 and two cookies at :15 and :45.  This got me to my target of 300 calories/hour and 61 grams of carbs, so I was right on the money.  It didn’t take long for me to feel like I was on top of the world.  I could not believe the energy that I had.  It was AMAZING!  The miles started clicking away and I kept feeling better and better.

I wasn’t far from the mid-loop aid station when I got a text from Tim.  I decided to check and see what it said – I had asked him to find out where F4 was, because I was REALLY paranoid about whether or not she had passed me during all that time I spent in camp after the second loop.  I was not prepared for what I read.  Tim told me that Carmen had fallen close to the end of the 10k and was almost certain that she broken her ankle and was going to go to the hospital – that news hit me like a ton of bricks.  Dumb me – I assumed that she would to drive my car (why ambulance transport never occurred to me, I’ll never know).  I told Tim to GO WITH HER and he responded that he had already tried and she wouldn’t let him.  She was making him stay to be there for me. When I made it to the aid station, I mentioned it.  I had to tell someone – and there was no one on the course with whom I could chat it up.  They had heard all about it over the radios.  I was so sad for Carmen. After a couple sips of Coke, I moved out of aid quickly.  This is when I had a complete and total meltdown.  Physically, I still felt fine and was maintaining my energy but emotionally I was crumbling.  I cried for a few minutes over Carmen and then decided that I had to pull up my big girl panties and run the rest of the race for her.

I had already passed one guy who was struggling early on in the loop and I passed another one after the aid station.  I figured they would get their resurgence at some point, but I wanted to put as much distance between us as I could until that happened.  I fully expected that I would hit another low spot in the later miles.

As I came off the loop at mile 38, I still felt incredibly amazing.  Tim had made me some oatmeal, which I ate as quickly as possible.  It tasted so good.  In less than 5 minutes, I was heading out for my last loop, almost literally skipping.  I felt so fresh and was ready to tackle the end of the race.  I made a terrible mistake in rushing through, though, which would come back to bite me in the rear.img_7346

Last loop – I CAN DO THIS

Dang.  Back on the slower, harder loop. I was cursing the RD just a little bit.  Why couldn’t we have run the course in the opposite order so I didn’t have to fight for my last 12 miles?? LOL  Amazing the things that go through your brain when you are out there ALL ALONE.  Just so you know – I didn’t see one runner on the final lap.

I was *maybe* a mile out of camp when I realized something – I HAD FORGOTTEN TO GRAB MORE COOKIES.  Geez, Jen.  What the hell??  I had plenty of gels, though, so I knew I could make it through.  I decided to try doing a gel every 20 minutes to see how that went. It was OK, but I just didn’t have the same energy level as I did on the previous loop.

I remember making it to mile 40.  While I realized that there was a lot of race left, I also knew that I was getting so close!!  Right before I got to the aid station at mile 43, I was passed by some mountain bikers (they let the bikes back on the course in the early afternoon.)  Seeing as how I was STILL paranoid about F4 and those guys that I had passed, when they passed, I asked if they had seen any other runners back.  They had, but said they were “WAY back there.” YESSSSSS!!!!!

I rolled into the aid station and stayed just a couple of minutes.  Dude asked if I wanted to refill my pack, but when I felt of it, it felt like I was still half-full so I declined and headed back out.  I pretty much hiked the next 1.5  miles – the horrible, rocky, huge boulder rocks section.  I knew it was slowing me down but I also knew that my quads were tired an any misstep could spell disaster.  So I hiked as fast as I could, but it was still slow going.

The day had been mostly cloudy, but in the afternoon the air really started heating up.  (I can’t even tell you how many times I said prayers of thanksgiving for the cloud cover.  The clouds really did save my race.)  I think it was around mile 46 that I ran out of water.  Apparently we didn’t get all the air out of the bladder, so back at the aid station when I was checking the level of my pack it was apparently mostly air.  I knew that there was a water stop near the end of the loop and I was reasonably certain that it was at mile 48.5. I was hoping against all hope that I was wrong and the water stop was actually earlier than that.  I hiked the ups just because I was so low on energy at this point.  I kept forcing myself to run because running would get me there faster than hiking.  At about mile 48, the RD comes running up behind me with flags in her hand.  She remarked about how good I looked and what a great pace I was keeping up.  I asked her if she was sweeping.  LOL!!  She was just out grabbing the flags from the 10k course, THANK GOODNESS.  I told her about the water situation and she said that we were only 1/2 mile away!!! I was so thirsty.

We made it to the water stop.  I nearly cried because I was so happy.  She helped me refill my pack then I was on my way.  That last bit seemed to take FOREVER.  I had no energy.  In fact, I probably should have taken a gel since I now had water (I had been unable to fuel while I was out of water).  I just didn’t see the point with 1.5 miles left.

The monkey is off my back

The closer to the finish I got, the more excited I became.  I was about to cross the finish line of a race that, 6 months ago, I honestly didn’t believe I could finish.  I received my medal and headed to sit down a few minutes.  As soon as I did, my emotions took over and I shed a couple of tears.

The RD brought me a beer and asked if I had checked the results.  Sure enough, I ended up 3rd female!!  She brought my finishers trophy – over which I am having to fight my husband!

Just so you don’t think I’m *that* amazing – I was 8th out of 11 finishers and 3rd out of 4 female finishers.  There were six DNFs – only 17 started the race.  I knew it was going to be a small race when I signed up, but I didn’t care.  The course was the lure and I conquered the course – regardless of my finish or how many competitors there were – that is the most important thing!img_7340

Checking off my race goals

I pretty much met all my goals at this race.  I wanted to finish and was hoping to finish under 12 hours (I finished in 11:56 :).  I wanted to improve my efficiency in aid stations and not get caught in a time trap.  While there is still work to do, I am very happy with how I handled them.  I wanted to know my position, and honestly I wanted to finish top 3.  Knowing my position was more important that top 3.  I am pleased that I was able to keep up with it the entire race.  The beauty of racing such a small race was getting to practice this.

Areas to improve

Aid stations are an art:  I successfully sped up my aid station stops this time, but at the expense of forgetting things when I rushed through.  I’ll be working on not acting like I’m in an emergency situation.  It’s a 100 mile race.  I can take a breath and actually look at my checklist and I’ll still be OK.

Low spots were calorie related:  Some people may argue that the fatigue I felt late in the race was just that – race fatigue – but I still think it was somewhat related to not having those cookies.  At Brazos Bend, I will have an emergency stash of gels and cookies in my pack.  I’ll also have each loop’s fuel in one baggie so I can grab it and not risk leaving anything behind.

Race Reflections

I’ve been much more emotional coming off this race than any other race I’ve done.  I never, ever expected it to go as well as it did.  I know a lot of that is due to the hard work I put in leading up to the race, but I also made good decisions on race day.  I feel like evaluating my situation and coming up with good solutions during the race is one of my strengths.

Something that has overwhelmed me – once again – is the number of well wishes and congratulations received from so many of my friends.  I can’t even begin to count the number of texts, Facebook and Twitter well wishes that were sent my way.  I was absolutely blown away!! I am so blessed to have so many people who care about my crazy adventures out on the trails!

I have to give a couple of special shout-outs to my extra special friends, though.  First, to my Homie for Life, Tim.  Tim lives in San Antonio and gave up his Saturday to come out and see me run through the start finish line 3 times.  I am so thankful he was there, not just for me, but especially for Carmen after she broke her ankle on the trail.  Hearing the stories later about how he stayed with her in camp and helped her call and make arrangements with her family made me feel so much better about not being there with her when it happened.  Tim is one of the most generous and genuinely kind people I have ever known.  I am not sure how I won the lottery by earning his friendship, but I WON THE LOTTERY!

Second, regarding Carmen, one of my bestest friends.  I can’t begin to put into words how much Carmen means to me.  She has been one of my biggest cheerleaders and having her with me makes this crazy ride that much more fun.  The tables have turned and for the past year, I’ve been able to practice my cheerleading skills for her, as well, since she started her own running journey.  I am so freaking proud of her for taking on the challenge of Rawhide 10k, because I know how much courage it took.  And I am even more freaking proud of how she acted like the break was no big deal while the rest of us acted like crazy people (even if I was out on the trail – I was acting like a crazy person).  Then you add in the selflessness of her not letting Tim accompany her to the hospital because she wanted him to stay there with me – it STILL brings tears to my eyes.  Carmen is the REAL MVP.  Her bravery is much more of an accomplishment than me finishing a race.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.  But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.  ~Robert Frost

See you at Brazos Bend 100!

Channeling my Pre-Race Anxiety

It’s no secret that I don’t handle taper very well.  Historically, I have either made really stupid decisions, become ridiculously clumsy or signed up for all the races that I had no business running.   It was only recently that I realized all these taper crazies actually had nothing to do with the act of tapering.  I’ve come to realize that taper crazies are more of an outward measure of my race anxiety.

Trust your training, they said

I actually do trust my training.  I trust in my coach 100% and I know that he will always give me the road map to get there and race well.  I trust in the fact that I put a lot of dedication into my training and I follow my training plans very closely.  Rarely do I cut a workout short or skip altogether.

Somehow, I still get nervous when the race gets close.  Maybe it’s because I want to do my very best.  But maybe it’s because I don’t want to fall flat on my face…..which is why I think I’m so nervous about this upcoming 50 miler.  I think I have a severe case of performance anxiety.

Knowing my “why”

I picked this 50 miler for a host of reasons, all of which seemed like really good ones at the time yet seem really stupid to me right now.

First, I wanted “redemption” on this Ragnar course after not being able to run my last leg last year.  Plus, call me crazy (Tim, Brent & Kelly already have – MANY times), but I LOVED this course.  It may have beaten me to a pulp, but I enjoyed every moment out there.

Also, I wanted to push myself to my limits.  At the time I signed up, I thought there was NO WAY I would be able to come close to beating the cutoffs.  And I was OK with that because I needed a race in which I wasn’t guaranteed anything.  I needed to pick a race in which “failure” was a very real possibility.  I needed a race that would break me down and require me to fight like hell to finish.  While this did actually scare me at the time, the minutia of training soon took hold and I haven’t thought about it in a while…..until I woke up one day and realized that race day was only two weeks away!

Managing the crazy

Part of my “therapy” to deal with my race anxiety is to get everything ready.  I was so chill leading up to my last couple of races.  I didn’t even pack until right before I left for them.  The anxiety is in overdrive this time.  But I’ve never attempted something this difficult, sooooooo……

I spent last week making my packing lists and getting race charts together.  I know that seems like overkill, but it helps me focus my energy on things that might actually help during the race.  I know I have packed WAY too much, but my philosophy is “I would rather have something I don’t need than need something I don’t have.”  I finished the packing yesterday, for the most part.  Doing this helps release some of that anxious energy and gives me some satisfaction knowing that I have “most” of my stuff together.  All I need to do now is load the car Thursday evening and that is a huge relief!

Even the best laid plans can go to shit

As far as my race plan, I have a few goals and I have some charts that will help me know if I’m on track.  I KNOW that ANYTHING can happen in an ultra and that no plan is fail-safe.  I’m actually really good at punting mid-race when that is required.  Having a plan makes me feel ready for the day and if that helps my anxiety, so I’m all for it.img_7249

I’ll admit that my first goal is pie-in-the-sky and probably unattainable, but a girl can dream. 🙂  I would LOVE to do sub-11.  I’m sure I could do sub-11 on another course, but it ain’t likely on this one.  The men’s course record is 11:16 and the women’s CR is 12:36.  Shoot for the stars and you’ll still land on the moon, right??

After that, my goal is to place top 3 women.  Obviously that depends a lot on what the women’s field is like and since this company doesn’t use UltraSignUp, I haven’t been able to stalk ANYONE.

My final goal is to beat the cutoffs.  The 13 hour cutoff is tight, for the course, so this is probably the goal that I’m going to be chasing all day.  I’m OK chasing this goal.  And I’m OK if I fall short, as long as I give everything I have while I’m out there.

The weather could also be a huge factor with forecasted highs in the low 80s.  Currently, the forecast is calling for cloudy most of the day, which would be AWESOME!  If the sun comes out, I’m going to suffer much, much more.

And now, chill time

I am feeling fairly chill today.  Every once in a while, waves of “oh shit” come over me, but those are few and far between and passing rather quickly.

I’m focusing my energy on getting my mind right for the race and keeping nutrition where it should be.  I have been thinking about all the “whys” that I run and all the “whys” that made me want to do a 50 mile (and 100) mile race.  I have thought about all the things that I have accomplished this year.  I’ve also smiled as I reflected on the way that my attitude has changed toward these longer ultra distances.

So whatever happens on Saturday, I’ve already won.

 

Conquering or Being Conquered?

Oh my, it’s been a long time since I blogged.  I’ve actually run 3 races, which have gone undocumented, since I last hit the keyboard.  Summer went by in a blur and before I knew it, I was back at work and busier than ever.

Race recaps in a flash

In July, I stayed an extra day after USAV Junior National Championships to run Afton Trail Run 50K.  It was to be a challenging, hilly course and I was excited to run a race that would cause me to struggle.  Except I didn’t struggle as much as I thought I would.  The course was 2 loops of 25K and I did suffer some fatigue during the first loop.  I didn’t start the race feeling my best and did the first loop at a  pretty good pace, considering the hills I had to climb.  Near the end of the first loop, I cursed myself – A LOT – for not overriding my ego and *just* doing the 25K.  I DID NOT want to go back out on a second loop.  I stopped at the aid station before heading back out and made a spur of the moment decision to throw out my fueling and nutrition strategy.  I ate M&Ms, pretzels and drank Coke then headed out on the 2nd loop. I ran conservatively the first part of the loop but broke off with 10k to go and ran a really good pace.  I wanted to finish under 6:30 and knew that I would really have to push to get to the finish in time.  (At this point, I feel I should remind you how TERRIBLE I am at run math.  I CAN NOT correctly do run math during a race.)  I kept fueling on Coke, M&Ms & pretzels at the aid stations but got in and out as quickly as possible.  I was also starting to feel the fatigue creep in, but the lure of sub 6:30 was enough to keep me going in spite of it.  I ended up finishing in 6:23, which was just 14 minutes slower than Wildflower but there was also much more elevation.  I was pretty happy with the way I pushed at the end and with the overall result.

In August, I traveled to 7iL Ranch in Cat Spring, Texas for Trail Racing Over Texas’ Habanero race weekend.  My coach was attempting the 100 miler and I was going to be one of his pacers.  Since I was already going to be there, I signed up for the 30K.  The thing about Habanero is that the race starts at NOON.  In Texas.  In August.  So it’s HOT.  I, luckily, only had to do 3 loops of 6.2.  When I finished, the heat index was 106 or something crazy like that.  It was brutal.  BIG kudos to all those who kept battling out there loop after loop.  I don’t perform well in the heat and I was starting to decline fast there at the end.  UltraSignUp has this ranking system.  I should never go in and look at these rankings, but I do.  I was ranked 3rd overall female going in – please know the field wasn’t large.   Even with a small field, I honestly didn’t believe that I could get 3rd OA female.  But….I finished 4th overall female and just 5 minutes behind 3rd place.  I wasted more than 5 minutes in that race.  This was the beginning of a wake up call for me.  Still, I was really proud of myself for battling it out with the heat the way I did.  It was a victory, for sure.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I went down to Mission Tejas State Park in East Texas to run another TROT race.  I know they have worked hard to find places to host events that are outside the Houston area and wanted to support their efforts to host more races North.  Plus, I had 36 miles scheduled that weekend and a 50K is a nice way to get miles in and break up the monotony of training.  I was NOT prepared for the hills!  Seriously, these hills reminded me of Afton Trail Race.  This race made me realize just how unprepared I am for my upcoming 50 miler in the Hill Country.  Again, I went in ranked 3rd overall female and, again, I thought there was no way that I could pull that off.  I started out with the lead group but I was having a little calf issue and slowed down on the first big climb.  It was dark.  At the time, I didn’t know that I was the only female in that lead group, so I thought that I had fallen WAY out of contention for the podium and I just set out to check off the loops and get to the finish.  As it turns out, I was in 2nd and 3rd most of the race.  Of course, I didn’t have any crew there and I didn’t check the screen after each loop so I was completely in the dark.  I struggled during the last 5k and it was during this time that I got chicked.  I later learned that I was in 3rd place at the time and this woman knew I was 3rd place and she gave everything she had to pass me and try to stay ahead of me.  Second race in a row that I missed the podium, coming in 4th OA female (my time was 6:27) and this time I lost by THREE MINUTES.  I have to sharpen my skills and get myself to become more aggressive in these ultras.  I am SO AFRAID of bonking.  I MUST get out of my comfort zone in this area.  If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears…  This one is totally mental and I think I may be subconsciously sabotaging myself due to a fear of success??  Or maybe I just think too much.   img_7098

I may have conquered myself but training is conquering me

I’ve been thinking a lot about my word of the year: conquer.  It’s amazing the effect of simply choosing a word has on your life.  I do not think of my word on a daily basis.  Sometimes not even on a weekly basis.  But the simple act of choosing a word has a profound impact in shaping the year, or it has in my case.  This is the 3rd year that I have focused on one word throughout the calendar year and each year, I am amazed at how things come together.  I think this relates to goals, as well, and posting our goals where we can see them daily makes a huge difference in us meeting those goals.

When I originally chose this word, it was to conquer my inner demons.  I was going into Houston Marathon trying to get a BQ.  I had gained A LOT of confidence but I still didn’t trust myself the way I should.  I still had a lot of self doubt and anxiety about my performances.  I trust myself so much more than I did 10 months ago.  I believe in myself so much more than I did 10 months ago.  I feel like I’ve turned a corner, for now, in that department.

But I’m still being conquered.  Training for a 100 miler is NO JOKE.  I thought that my biggest challenge would be juggling my hectic schedule to get all these miles in – and it has been a big challenge.  But a bigger challenge has been battling the fatigue that comes with 40-50 mile weekends.  I.  AM.  EXHAUSTED.  Like Walking Dead zombie exhausted.  And I’m just getting into the real meat of training.  I have 2 more months of the Walking Dead before taper.  I know this is all designed to give me the best chance of success on race day, but that doesn’t keep me from whining like a big pansy.  Still, I’m thankful for the ability to run and the opportunity to train for a 100 mile race.

Brazos Bend will be a blast, but first….Rawhide

Next weekend, I’ll be attempting my first 50 mile race.  This race is held on Flat Rock Ranch, which is where Ragnar Trail Hill Country was held last year.  I didn’t get to run all my legs at that race, so I felt like I needed redemption on that course.  Now that the race is getting close, I wonder if redemption is overrated.

Seriously, though.  Originally, the thought of this race took my breath away.  It scared me to death.  I thought that there was NO WAY that I could manage 50 miles, PERIOD, and especially on this course.  I thought about my word of the year and how the only way I could conquer anything was to step out and attempt what my brain registered as impossible.  So I signed up.  I love the transformation that happens during the course of training.  I am not sure at what point I realized that I could do it, but I began to believe, fully and completely, that I am capable of finishing this race.   However, I definitely still have my doubts.  I’ve been wrestling with them the past few days but doubts aren’t all bad.  They keep you humble and grounded.  I’ll need to stay humble and grounded to keep my ego from getting in my way on race day.img_7230

Brazos Bend will be the next up on the schedule and the big finale for 2017.  Most days, I feel pretty confident about being able to finish.  Some days, I panic and wonder what I was thinking to believe I could do this.   So many people talk about getting “the buckle”, but that is the least of my concern.  I am not doing this for a buckle.  I am doing this because I wanted to push myself farther than I ever have.  I am doing this because I wanted to put myself into a place so low and so dark that I have to fight with every cell in my body to keep going.  I am in it for that life-changing moment.  The buckle will just be a tangible reminder of what I was able to accomplish.

But first, I have to survive the training.

OH!!! Almost forgot….I got another tattoo 🙂

In July, Carmen went with me to get another tattoo.  I’ve been waiting for the perfect inspiration for my running-specific tattoo and I didn’t waste any time when it finally came to me.  I hadn’t used this artist before and chose him because of a couple landscapes that I saw, but when we got there he mentioned that landscapes weren’t even his thing!  I settled on Kokopelli and the cool thing is that he grew up in Arizona and knew all about Southwest and Kokopelli culture.  He ended up being the perfect artist for this tat, and I LOVE the completed piece!img_6688

Happy Hump Day,
Jen

Jen’s Toenail Chronicles: The Stages of Loss

I realized today that my toenail journey as not been documented as well as it could or should have been.  I haven’t shared the daily developments of the slow and sad demise of my big toenail as it deserved.  That toenail has been good to me and in its time of need, I simply turned blind eye. OK….for real…..I didn’t want to gross you out.  If you’re reading this and you are a runner – I know that nothing can gross you out.  But the general population is NOT equipped to handle this kind of stomach-churning info.  So non-runners proceed with caution.

It all started at Wildflower

My last blog about six weeks ago recapped my epic race weekend at Wildflower 50k & 13.1.  I mentioned briefly then that the trails BEAT my toes up.  Actually, my toes were more likely beat up because my shoes were a bit too small. I’m still in the denial state of grieving regarding those trail shoes.  I LOVE them and I keep trying to justify continuing to wear them.  It’s time for acceptance, but that simply isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

After the race, my two big toenails were completely purple, terribly sore and the worst was how they felt when I walked.  I honestly thought they might pop off at any moment.  (Talk about being FREAKED OUT.) I had some other toes with issues, as well, but the big toes were the main concern.

The Stage of Denial

As with any trauma, regardless of whether it is a large or small trauma, the first stage of grief, loss or just dealing with the situation is denial.  I kept thinking that my toes would be fine by the time I finally pulled into my driveway and got out of my car, but NOPE.  Denial is a lovely place – I’ve lived there a lot during my times of injury – so I tried to keep the visit there fairly short.  I went straight to…..

The Stage of Bargaining

I knew that the only way I had a chance of saving my toenails was to get holes in them and get the blood drained off. (OK…deep down I KNEW that I couldn’t save the nails, but damn, they hurt and I had to do something!)  I had dealt with blood under my toe once before, YEARS ago, when I dropped a 16 oz can of tomatoes on my big toe.  At the time, I had taken the tiniest drill bit and drilled a hole in my nail but it had taken me an entire afternoon to complete the task because I was so freaked out!  In the end, I lost my toenail but not until the new one grew in underneath.  I had hope that the same would happen here, but I wasn’t a runner then and I wasn’t pounding that foot on the ground several thousand times per week.

So when I got home from the race, I asked the hubs to get me the tiniest drill bit and I went right to work.  I drained the right toe because it was the worst.  (And it only took me 3 minutes this time!)  It still hurt, but it felt soooo much better!!  I drained the left toe the next morning.  Don’t even ask me why I waited.  I have no clue.  Sometimes I don’t have the most sense.

I made myself a tool to keep in my trail kit….for the next time 😉

The Stage of Anger

I immediately found myself in this stage when I was trying to walk the next morning.  I wore my Altras, because…they soft and have a big toe box!!  I could NOT let the pads of my toes touch the ground.  That would cause pressure on my nail which would cause me to cringe and start hyperventilating and have a little panic attack.  I moved really slowly the next couple of days.  I may not have been *angry* but I was definitely experiencing high emotions regarding my toenails.  The biggest question was WHY DID I LET THIS HAPPEN?!?!?

The Stage of Denial…..again

As my toes started getting better (by the end of the week), I found myself in the stage of denial again, except this time I moved in and made myself comfortable there.  My big toenails looked pretty decent!!  I was convinced that I had saved them.  It was a miracle!!!  I spent a few days in ignorant bliss before transitioning to the next stage….

The Stage of Depression

My feeling of victory was short-lived.  A few days later, I trimmed my toenails then noticed that the right big toe was beginning to lift away from the nail bed.  NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!  I was crushed.  

I knew saving the nails was a long shot, but all signs seemed to signal that my heroic efforts were going to pay off.  I kept looking at it and thinking that maybe it wasn’t actually lifting.  Some days I went back into Denial, believing that the nail had actually reattached.  (I told you, I have a really nice house in Denial!!)  But every day the nail seemed to lift a little more and I soon arrived at Acceptance.

The Stage of Acceptance

Currently, I am waffling between the Stage of Acceptance and the Stage of Anger.  I have accepted that I am going to lose the nail.  I am patiently waiting to see how long the 3 on my left foot hang in there.  But I am at the point that I want this toenail to give up the ghost and go toward the light.  I may have sung “Let It Go”, in hopes that the toenail would LET GO.  I am sick of it being on there and me getting freaked out if I forget to cover with a bandaid and catch it on something.  That FREAKS ME OUT.

Today, I soaked it in Epsom salt water.  I tried to pry it loose.  No luck there, so I cut it wayyyyy down.  My current strategy is to treat it like a loose tooth and wiggle it every chance I get.  I know.  GROSS!!! 

I’m stuck in this holding pattern until the stupid toenail decides to give up or Jenn decides to come to Texas to yank it out!

Losing toenails isn’t that bad, y’all.