Ragnar: The Adventures Outside of the Race

Ragnar weekend simply had too much going on to capture in one post.  I try not to be to wordy (SERIOUSLY, I try) and hitting all the highlights of the weekend would have made yesterday’s post too long.  Plus, I can’t focus on that much info at once.  #ADHDProbs

I started out the trip with my Shiner. #likeaboyscout #alwaysprepared

I started out the trip with my Shiner. #likeaboyscout #alwaysprepared

Fredericksburg: Just drink beer

When we arrived in Fredericksburg early Thursday evening, there wasn’t much time to do anything except drink beer and eat.

In Fredericksburg, it is legal to walk around drinking.  When this was discovered, Dara and I had to buy a beer to drink while we searched for a restaurant.

Always a good beer to start out on.

Always a good beer to start out on.

I can’t even remember what I ate.  I remember it was some pizza joint and I didn’t have pizza, but for the life of me I can’t remember what I ordered.  I’ll blame it on the beer.

My RE bunch stalked me on Facebook and caught up with me at the pizza place….so much fun and it was the first time for me to meet many of them.  I look forward to the next time we meet so that I can hopefully spend more time talking to everyone! 😉

I may not have taken a picture of my food, but I took a picture of my next beer.  Sadly, I can’t remember what it was, either, although I am fairly certain it was also a porter….I do remember that it was extremely tasty!  img_8319

After the Race

Massage – what a great idea!  NOT

My pre-massage happy hour Austin hotel beer.

My pre-massage happy hour Austin hotel beer – not a fan of Amber.  Wouldn’t care to have it again. 

I know what you’re thinking.  WHAT A BAD IDEA!  Yes, I know massages post-race are no-nos.  Yes, I know they aren’t good for recovery.  Yes, my brain was detatched (once again) from making coherent decisions.  But a massage sounded so divine!  I shouldn’t have mentioned my hip flexor issue….

Actually, it felt REALLY good.  When I got up, though….the fact that this was all a mistake was confirmed.  He must have irritated a nerve or something.  I could barely put weight on my leg at that point.

I had a choice.  I could be angry and continually mad at myself for all the stupid decisions I make (at least my coach keeps me from making as many stupid decisions…he really has his work cut out) or I could just deal with it and enjoy what was left of the trip.  I decided to enjoy the rest of the trip.  I know I will be back to normal in no time and I have to accept that I can’t save me from myself every time.  Wasn’t that grown up of me?!? 🙂

BBQ – It’s what’s for dinner

After our massage, we went back to our hotel to change and get an Uber to our place of dining, Scotty’s BBQ.  Apparently Scotty’s has quite a reputation in the Austin food service industry.

Let me preface this next paragraph by saying that it had been rainy/raining on and off all day.  Our Uber driver rolled up to a lot (NOT in the best part of town) with picnic tables littered about and food trucks lining the boundaries.  It took a minute to process what was going on, and I laughed a bit when our drivier said, “this is the place?”img_8467

We got out of the car, ordered and started praying that the coming rain would hold off until we got our orders and had time to eat.  It started sprinkling about the time we got our order – I have NEVER eaten a meal so fast in my life!

Best cole slaw I've ever had! And the pulled pork was good too :)

Best cole slaw I’ve ever had! And the pulled pork was good too 🙂

Honestly, we swallowed our food whole, just in time for Uber to pick us up before the bottom fell out of the sky.  The experience was unexpected and way more fun than going to some stuffy restaurant!

Twitter friend meet-ups

Our Uber driver dropped us on 6th Street, where we were planning to meet up with an Austin Twitter runner friend, Kolbe.  We ended up going to a couple of different bars for drinks.  After the rains subsided, we ended up on a rooftop bar overlooking 6th street.  It was just beautiful, and I was too tired by that point to care about snapping a pic.

I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we thoroughly enjoyed meeting and spending time with Kolbe.  She is absolutely amazing and a beautiful soul inside and out.  I will definitely try to connect with her next time I’m down in Austin! img_8481

While we were strolling up and down 6th Street, we couldn’t help but notice Voodoo Donuts.  This had been a place the girls in our van wanted to visit before going to the finish, but it was too far out of the way.  OF COURSE we stopped and got some!!  What kind of quesiton is that?!?img_8469

All I know is that the top right was called "Old Dirty Bastard" and it was by far the best donut in this box.

All I know is that the top right was called “Old Dirty Bastard” and it was by far the best donut in this box.

Time to head home

I MUST mention Dara.  She packed like a Girl Scout and everytime ANYONE needed something this weekend, she would always chime in, ‘I have that.’  Seriously awesome, even though I have to admit I was a little concerned about her baggage!  I HAD to take a picture of her bag of chargers.  She was totally and absolutely ready for every charging situation imaginable!img_8472

We had breakfast before hitting the road home early.  We wanted to get a head start on traffic and I knew that heavy rain showers were forecast to be moving through our path on the way home.  Of course, I should have known how the day would go when I had to endur this:img_8473

Smucker’s peanut butter.  NOT Jif.  I put A LOT of strawberry jam on top of the PB on my English muffin and it made it barely edible.

We made very good time until we got to Waco, then the heavens opened up on us.  At times, we were driving around 45 mph.  We made it home safely, though, and that is all that counts!!

I’m still playing catch up!  I could sleep for days, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything!  Loved this race and I hope to do it again!

Happy Hump Day!

Jen

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Ragnar Austin: the Ragnover is Real

img_8500This weekend I was able to check another item off my bucket list: Ragnar Relay.  This is something that I have wanted to do for quite some time.  Luckily it worked out that I was able to run it in one of my favorite places in the world: the Texas Hill Country.

Last summer, before I had joined Renegade Endurance, my running friend, Erica, got us a spot on the Brew Crew for this race.  Later, RE formed a Ragnar team and while it was extremely hard not racing with them, I had loads of fun anyway!

It all started in Fredericksburg

The race started in Fredericksburg on Friday morning.  Teams were given start times based on their projected finish times.  Our team was given a start time of 7:30 AM.  We learned late Friday that one of our teammates would likely not be coming, as she had not responded to ANY messages.  Christine had brought her onto the team and was beyond upset that this happened.  We were trying to figure out how to best cover her legs, as she was in our van: van 1.  A couple of guys from van 2 were meeting us at the start, so we asked if one of them could cover her first leg then join van 2 from one of our exchange points.  Thank goodness TJ was willing to take on the challenge – he had been disappointed with this mileage anyway, so he was happy to do it.  Courtney, one of the runners in our van, volunteered to take the second leg.  I agreed to run the MIA runner’s last leg, which was right before my last leg and meant that I would be running back-to-back (which, honestly, I think would be easier than running, being off one leg, then having to run again).

Van 1

Van 1

I was runner 4, so I had to wait a bit in order to start my run.  My first run was my by far the easiest terrain – gently rolling hills – and it was my shortest at just under 3 miles.  I.  FELT.  SO.  GOOD.  I was concerned and a little nervous beforehand – if you have been following lately you will know that I have been nursing a cranky psoas (I refuse to call it an injury at this point).  It was the first run since tweaking that muscle that my legs moved without a lot of effort and concentration.  SO.  AWESOME.  But before I knew it, my leg was over <sad face>.  After the run, I didn’t have any issues with stiffness or soreness related to the psoas, so I felt like I was totally winning!!img_8325

Second Leg – not quite as easy

My second leg started off disastrously.  OK…..that may be a bit dramatic, but I started in a rush.  “The Gibbler” (as we started calling “she who shall not be named” aka our MIA runner) was runner 3 and I was runner 4.  Courtney (runner 5) took the middle leg for The Gibbler which was a short 3 miles (and Courtney was a fairly quick runner).  We drove to the exchange point and I went immediately to use the restroom.  When I came out, Erica was running toward me with my safety vest and headlamp because Courtney had alerted us that she was at the “one mile to go” mark.  I barely had time to get my gear on before Courtney was coming down the street and then I remembered  – MY WATCH WASN’T ON!!!  I quickly turned it on just as she slapped the bracelet on my wrist and I was off.  I thought I started my watch, but when I got the alert that it was about to power down (at .5 into the run), I nearly PANICKED.  I felt pretty good during this run, but the terrain was hillier and more difficult than my first leg.  I handled the hills just fine, though, but the downhills seemed to irritate my psoas a bit.

As I was nearing the exchange point, the RE van passed and honked at me 🙂 – it was a great motivator to end the leg, and I even got to talk to them a bit when I finished!  I absolutely love this team and I really did miss getting to run this race with them, even though I had LOADS of fun with my Brew Crew!!

On my last leg….literally

As I mentioned, the downhills in my second leg really put some stress on my psoas/hip.  Honestly, I would think that it would be the opposite and irritated by uphills but NO.  We had to rush to the next exchange after my second leg (because speedy Courtney was running another short leg), which left no time for stretching AT ALL.  Then we went to eat and to get some rest before our final legs started.  The only problem was that I was crammed into the front drivers seat in my car and my hip bothered me the entire time.  I was REALLY worried about running not just my leg, but The Gibbler’s leg as well because I couldn’t walk without a limp after being in the car for 2 hours.

When the time actually came to start The Gibbler’s leg, it was a S L O W start, for sure.  Then every time that I got into a rhythm, I had to wait for the LONGEST STOPLIGHTS EVER to cross the street.  I did finally find a rhythm, however, and my hip didn’t really bother me after I the blood started flowing.  This leg was easy terrain and the last half was mostly a slow downhill, so I couldn’t complain.

At the exchange point for my actual leg, I started a new run on my watch, took an AccelGel and started on my way.  At that time, another runner ran through the exchange point, saying that she was running the next leg as well.  We got to talking – she was running the ultra – and ended up running the entire leg together.  I am so thankful that I *ran* into her – it helped me so much mentally because the conversation took my mind off the never-ending hills!  I know she was glad to have company for those last 4 miles as well, because she told me about every quarter-mile! LOLimg_8348

I actually REALLY enjoyed these last two legs, even though I was COMPLETELY exhausted by this point.  I was just so ready to be DONE.  Naturally when it was over, I got a wee bit sad.

I was SO HAPPY to see this ONE LAST TIME.

I was SO HAPPY to see this ONE LAST TIME.

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Finally finished!

Our van was finished some time before our team’s actual finish, so we did what any van of women would do that close to San Marcos (after our cold $3 shower, of course)…..we went to the Lulu outlet.  Apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea, because we parked right next to another Ragnar van!!img_8382

We arrived at the finish line in plenty of time and the entire team ran through the finish together with our last runner.  It was great fun!  I’m so proud to have been a part of this team – our team captain carried the flag on every run, including our run through the finish.  Honestly, running behind him with our colors flying, I got a bit teary-eyed.

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LOTS of down time

The thing you don’t realize going into a relay race of this sort is that you have A LOT of down time.  There is the rushing around from exchange to exchange, but it’s pretty much “hurry up and wait”.  Then when the other van takes over, you want to try to get some rest but it is virtually impossible.  I was lucky to get *maybe* 2 hours of sleep the entire race.  After our van finished our first legs, we went to the next exchange to wait on van 2 and had some time to lay out on the grass and take a nap!  I was fortunate to actually sleep for about 20 minutes.

My view during mid-day nap time

My view during mid-day nap time

My nap mat :)

My nap mat 🙂

After our second legs were finished, we found a restaurant so we could eat something besides a granola bar.  We waltzed in at 9:45 PM and I went immediately to change/wipe off the grime in the restroom.  I was so tired at this point, I didn’t really care if I ate or not and had to fight falling asleep at the table.  We then went on to the next exchange to meet van 2.  We figured that we had about 3 hours before our the guys would be at this exchange so we all crammed ourselves into a seat in my car and attempted to sleep.  I got a few moments of sleep, but I felt even more exhausted when we had to wake up and get ready for the guys to come in.  I think I would have been better off without any sleep at all.  It was at this point that I started questioning my sanity and wondered WHY I ever signed up in the first place!  I was not happy and actually quite grouchy at this point.

Lots of fun happened between runs, though.  Some of the most fun was decorating the van, tagging other vans and finding out your van had been tagged.  It’s also a *thing* to count how many people you pass on your run and count them as *kills*.  I know I had at least 15, but I didn’t know about counting kills until after the 2nd leg, so those are the ones that I can remember….there may have been more! LOL

Van 2 apparently held themselves a 31 hour party, because every time we crossed paths, they were EXTREMELY happy and kept talking about being out of beer.  LOL!!  After the finish, they said they remembered buying 4 cases of beer, although I suspect it may have been more.  All I was concerned about was them leaving me a Shiner for the finish….and they did!!img_8444

One thing is for sure – I WILL do another Ragnar.  It was so much fun and the camaraderie is just amazing!img_8450

Next post: The fun that I had outside of Ragnar!

Happy Tuesday!

Jen

Oh, my psoas

Recently the thought occurred to me that running is a lot like roses.  Running is beautiful, but there are thorns that will get you if you aren’t careful.

I try to always put a positive spin on things.  I try to focus on the roses.  Not because I want to appear perfect or innately happy, but because I don’t want to send out negativity into the Universe.  I try to stay away from the thorns.  Sometimes this creates a barrier to me “keeping it real” (in ALL aspects of my life: with myself, my family, and even my social media postings).  So I am embracing my word of the year, uncomfortable, in a way in which I never imagined.  I’m going to bare my soul in regards to my recent training.

Even though I have an exceptional coach, I am not immune to hurting myself.  (Hurting, not injuring)  Since I have been coached by him, I have become a healthier and stronger runner than ever before.  But, I am Jen, and I am still quite a challenge .  Better, but still a challenge.

Same Song, Different Verse

Life has been quite unbalanced for me the last several weeks.  Alli’s volleyball schedule has been taking a toll on me – driving to practice and being gone so many weekends to tournaments lately has me feeling stretched very thin.  Then consider my regular training load (that has been getting squeezed in at any and every available block of time) and the fact that I scheduled too many races too close together this Spring.  Oh, and I still work full-time.

I think it is safe to say that I have been suffering from extreme fatigue, which has been reflected in my workouts of late.  Since RnR Dallas, workouts haven’t felt quite right, although I haven’t noticed enough to say that they were quite wrong.  The weird thing is that I didn’t have much post-race soreness to work through.  (Still a little mind boggling, considering what a big PR that was.)

The week after RnR, hill repeats were on the schedule on one of Alli’s practice days.  I fretted over where to run then settled on a part of trail close to Bob Woodruff Park in Plano (part of the Plano Balloon Half Marathon course).  I remember being tired that day (par, lately), then realizing I had grabbed my very first pair of ONs (which have been retired so LONG they are to the point that I can’t even wear them around the house), but I  decided to continue with the work out anyway.  The repeats weren’t terribly hard, considering how tired I was, but I really pushed the last few as I didn’t want to end up with slower splits at the end.  This *may* have been where my brain broke down, because looking back I am reasonably certain that I was over-striding at the end.  And now…I officially suck at hill repeats.  (By the way, I’m 99.9% certain that I caused the stress fracture during….you guessed it….hill repeats.)

In the days after the repeats, I began to have a nagging tightness in my hip.  Initially, I thought it was due to my lack of consistent stability training between the tapering/racing/recovering and travelling due to volleyball.  (By the way, I had been keeping my coach updated on how things were progressing….yay me!)  During Sunday’s run, I realized that the problem was more than tightness in the hip.  My psoas cramped up several times early on.  Of course, I had a light bulb moment – OH, IT’S MY PSOAS!!!  But Brent took it a little bit differently.  When I reported this to him, he immediately took running out  and changed my schedule to biking only this week .  The miracle here?  I didn’t argue.  AT ALL.

Don’t give up what you want MOST for what you want NOW

Things are feeling much, much better but not completely normal, however, I do expect to run on Sunday.  After that, my schedule is pretty easy next week as I am scheduled to run Ragnar Austin next weekend.  I’m hoping that things are fairly normal by then and that I don’t irritate things too much by running Ragnar.

Don’t get me wrong – I wanted to run this week (even though I know it was the right decision not to).  I have a half marathon scheduled on May 1, which was to be the conclusion, of sorts, to this Spring racing season.  But I have to keep the bigger goal in mind.  The bigger goal is a 3:45 marathon this fall, and I DO NOT want ANYTHING getting in my way.  Which is why I was happy to comply with the schedule adjustments.  It is why I am happy to skip Sunday’s run if I don’t feel things are right (or scrap it if things don’t feel right once I start).  It is why I am willing to scratch that 5/1 half, if needed.

I am still planning to run Ragnar – that is a bucket list item and I have 11 other team members counting on my miles.  Someone was watching out for me, though, because the miles on my leg have been cut down quite a bit since they were first published, and I am OK with that.

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And I’m about to share another little piece of my soul that not many people have seen.  The picture above is from a vision board I created to help me focus on my marathon goal.  I have never created a vision board before, so, honestly, it felt a little weird.  But I have started internalizing the things I have posted on this board.  The quote in the picture caught my eye this morning and it hit me…..  As I have been working through this psoas issue this week, it is all with the bigger goal in mind.  I haven’t even been concerned with running Sunday, or next week, or Ragnar, or Skyline half.  I’ve been concerned with making sure this doesn’t turn into an injury and I am committed to making it stronger so that I am ready when my next training cycle starts ramping up.

I’ve come a long way, baby!!  I *might* be growing up, and I think I owe most of it to the confidence that I’ve gained from the great coaching and guidance that I’ve gotten from my coach. So, thanks, Brent, for taking good care of me!

Happy Friday!

Jen

 

Just Run

First and foremost….look what my good friend, Carmen, surpised me with yesterday!

Ignore my old-looking hands!

Ignore my old-looking hands!

Seriously…..made my day!  She is such a treasured friend of mine – I love her dearly!!

Training Updates

Since Cowtown, my training has seemed to be hit and miss, but I know it hasn’t been hit and miss. In hindsight, I am somewhat regretting scheduling all these races this Spring.

On one hand, racing breaks up the training cycle and keeps things fresh.  On the other hand, racing creates a lot of tapering and recovery.  Between Cowtown Half at the end of February and Skyline Half, I have something scheduled every 3 weeks.  I am looking forward to  just training after Skyline for several reasons, but first and foremost – summer will be near!  I love training in the summer heat because of the rewards when the temps cool down in the Fall!

All this tapering and recovering along with volleyballing has cramped my style.  I haven’t been consistently doing my stability work (or yoga….or foam rolling), and boy, could I tell during Tuesday’s run.  Luckily, my schedule is evening out (for my life, anyway), and I have already squeezed in yoga and stability work twice this week….and I should be able to get more in before week’s end!

Even though I am struggling to get in my stability and yoga and even though I sometimes feel disjointed in my training, training has been going REALLY WELL.  I am lucky and blessed to have a great coach that balances my workouts so that I am continually improving but not over-training.

Those improvements have been showing up in my speed work.  Mile repeats were on the schedule for Monday and I was DREADING them.  I ate terribly and drank a lot of beer during our Chicago trip, so I was convinced that the track session would be disastrous.  However, I had a goal for mile repeats that I had settled upon after finishing them last time.  I figured I might as well try to hit the goal on the first one and if I fell apart, then I fell apart.

The thing is….I didn’t fall apart.  My strategy going forward is to try to hit my fastest time from the previous workout on my first repeat, then go for negative splits.  I figure that I’ll never know if I don’t try, and I always struggle with where to pace the first one, so why not kill two birds with one stone??

Luckily, it worked!!!! My repeats were 7:44, 7:40, 7:38 – fastest EVER!!  In comparison, 3 weeks ago my mile repeats were 7:48, 7:46, 7:47.  I was VERY proud of my accomplishment – and I’m still in a bit of disbelief!

Wednesday, I was back at it again while Alli was at practice, testing my luck as I ran between waves of storms moving through.  Apparently the first wave of storms produced quite a bit of rain, because the trails at Oak Point were covered with water.  At first, I tried running on the grass around the puddles but then I came upon places where running in the grass didn’t really help.  At that point, I decided it was time to play in the puddles – I figured it would be a nice, slow transition into getting me ready for running through streams for the 50 miler! LOL

I LOVE my Clouds!!  On running shoes are THE BEST, wet or dry!

I LOVE my Clouds!! On running shoes are THE BEST, wet or dry!

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Jen