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.

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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!

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

Brazos Bend 100 Half Marathon: Race Recap

I had the BEST.  WEEKEND.  EVER!!  I went to the Houston area for Brazos Bend 100 – but I only ran the half marathon.  So many Renegades were running it that I couldn’t resist the opportunity to hang out with my awesome teammates!  Seven of us were running the half, one was running the full marathon and four brave souls were attempting the 50 miler. Side note: I was originally signed up to run Big Cedar with this group and I dropped that race to attempt to qualify for Boston.  Even though I know it was the right decision, seeing them attempting the 50 really made me want to be out there with them – and made me a wee bit jealous!

Fellow Renegade Jeri and I made the trek down to Houston on Friday afternoon.  We met the crew for dinner, then brought Renegade Melinda back with us as the three of us were all staying at the same hotel.  (Somehow, we didn’t take ANY pics of the group at dinner!!)

We got up before the ass-crack of dawn and started the trek to Brazos Bend.  Thankfully, we had an uneventful trip and arrived right on time.  The parking gods were smiling down on us (probably because Melinda is SO NICE) and a park ranger waved us onto the grass to park (we had heard that the grass might be off-limits).  We were LITERALLY as close to our Renegade camp as we could get.  Sweeeeeeeet!!img_3070

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I went to pick up my bib and then started going through my pre-race routine.  I stopped to go cheer the 50 milers on as they started on their long journey.  I spent a little more time getting ready then went to see Ashley off on her 26.2 mile stroll (which was actually closer to 28).  Before I knew it, it was time to head to the start line for the half!

The 50 mile runners

The 50 mile runners

Our lone marathon runner

Our lone marathon runner

Some of the half marathoners. :)

Some of the half marathoners. 🙂

The Half

I really had no specific goals for this race.  Even though this was technically a *trail* race, the *trails* were gravel and smooth, for the most part.  And even though these trails were to be easy and non-technical, I didn’t expect to run as well as I do on asphalt.  I decided to run the best I could but play it smart and hold back, if needed.  With Houston only 5 weeks away, I had no wiggle room for nursing an injury – especially if it was a result of my stupidity.

I started out a little bit fast  and decided to ease up a tad around mile 3 and let myself get into a groove.  Still, I managed to somehow get away from the pack and found myself alone when I came back around Elm Lake – the wind coming off the lake was frigid and I wanted SO BADLY to have someone in front of me to block it.  As luck would have it, there were a couple of guys not too far ahead of me.  I caught up to them and they were running a pace I could live with so I decided to draft them for a while.  I hung with them for a couple of miles until it seemed like they were slowing down (or maybe I was finally warmed up) so I broke up with them and went on my way.

At this point, I was running 8:15-8:20 miles and it felt like such an easy pace. (Add THAT to the list of things that I NEVER thought would come out of my mouth….seriously.)  I figured I would rock along and start kicking it up as I got deeper into the race.  I didn’t account for the swamp section of the course, where the road was rutted and muddy and I had to run around the puddles in the grass.  I felt like this was slowing me down, but the gospel according to Garmin says that these miles were 8:05-8:10 range, so I suppose that was all in my head.  I passed Brent and Tim as they were coming back down this stretch – they were nearing the end of their first loop and they looked strong and seemed in good spirits.

I rocked along until mile 10 and decided I should probably try to get myself into the pain zone some, so I tried to kick it up a little bit.  I’m not sure if my quads were tired from the surface – it definitely was an easy trail but it wasn’t asphalt – or if it was from the flat course.  In any case, I felt a little fatigue in them.  I still managed sub-8 on miles 11 & 12.  I slowed some on mile 13, but was able to finish strong.

My time: 1:52:37 (the course was actually 13.78 miles).  I finished 35th overall, 9th in women and 1st in my age group (40-49).  I was VERY pleased with the results!!  Garmin clocked my time at the 13.1 mark as 1:46:31 – only about 1 minute off my road PR.  Something worth mentioning is that my heart rate on the 1:45 road race was in zone 5 for most of the race.  My heart rate was in zone 3 for the majority of this race and the temps and conditions were similar, so YAY for improving fitness!img_3083

After the Half

After I cleaned up, there wasn’t much to do but wait.  And eat.  And wait some more.  Ashley came in from her first loop looking strong and under her time goal and headed out again.  Then the other half marathoners started coming in.  Brent came through to start his 3rd loop.  Tim came in not too long after Brent.  He was dealing with some plantar and tight calf issues, so I stretched him out and massaged his calves while he grabbed some food.  We got Tim on his way again and then Ryan came rolling through.  We took care of him and he was off in no time.

Before Brent went back out, he mentioned one of us coming pace him on the back side of the course.  Some time passed and Karon mentioned that it was about time to go find him and that I would probably be the best one to run him in.  I went to put on my wet, stinky, cold running clothes back on and headed out to find him.  I was pretty sure I knew where he was, but ran into Ashley as I was headed that way.  I asked if she had seen Brent, but she didn’t remember seeing him – this was on the section of the course that was out and back, so I knew she would have passed him.  I should have kept going but I was afraid that he was back up the course in the opposite direction, so I ran in a bit with her until we ran into Karon.  Luckily Brent called Karon right as I walked up.  He was actually on the part of the trail I had been headed down, after all.  I felt TERRIBLE because of all that time I had just wasted.  So I headed BACK to find him….. I also felt horrible skipping by all these 50 and 100 mile runners. They had been out there so long and I had eaten, cleaned up and taken a nap in my warm car.  I had only run 14 miles, so my legs were relatively fresh. I kept telling them I wasn’t racing – just headed to pace someone. Seriously, it’s such a defeating feeling when people whiz by you like that – it has happened to me during marathons with people running the relay.  I knew Brent had 7 miles to go when I left Karon and I expected to run into him by the time I got to mile 4, but nope. When I started coming up on the last aid station where the course turned around I started to get worried because…..WHERE WAS HE?!? As I got closer, I saw him over at the aid station just snacking and talking.  Off we went to run in these last few miles.  As soon as we got within sight of the finish line, he took off in a sprint…..and met his goal of coming in under 9 hours! I felt so honored to be able to be a part of that!img_3107

Unfortunately, Jeri and I had to head back home and I wasn’t able to see Tim, Ryan or Melinda finish. I really hated to miss it but I also didn’t want to be driving up I-45 after midnight!  But in February….when these guys run the 100 miler…I WILL be there!! Plus I get the honor of pacing Melinda on her last lap. I’m beyond excited!  It is so much fun being able to cheer on your teammates and see them crush their goals!!

Until then, I have my eyes set on Houston. It’s not going to be easy but I am starting to believe that I can do it!!  Less than 5 weeks to go!!

Happy Tuesday 🙂