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

Advertisements

Sole sisters and beating the ITB

Friday was a really great day.  The staff at my school planned a spread just for the office ladies.  I have to admit I was a bit nervous, because spread food can be somewhat less than healthy.  Of course, everyone I work with knows my eating habits.  And this is just one reason I love working here….so many people brought “healthier” versions of food – just for me! 🙂  I was also blessed with this note from a coworker.  It completely made my day.  note

And then, if that wasn’t enough, when the mail came I was completely blown away again!sole sister

My Twitter “Sole Sister”, @karaokejennjenn had mailed me a package containing this coffee cup.  I absolutely LOVE it!!!  I have to say that I’ve had my coffee out of it for the past 3 days!

Friday evening, Alli and I made cupcakes.  One of her teammates was having a birthday on Saturday and requested our cupcakes. 🙂  She wanted red velvet, so it seemed like a good time to search for a good red velvet recipe (since I had yet to find one that I thought was satisfactory).  I am happy to announce that we found “THE” red velvet recipe.  It is soooo delicious!red velvet

I’m actually looking forward to whipping these up again, red finger nails and all!  LOL

Saturday morning I was out running at 6AM, in order to get my 10 mile long SLOW run in before the volleyball festivities of the day were to begin.  I know that no one would believe me if I told them I wore a shirt that said “Minnesota” on it, so I took a pic before heading out.  minnesota

I feel this needs some explanation…. A LOT of explanation.  Because everyone who knows me knows that I am a Texas gal through and through.  However, Taylor recently went to Minnesota to a National Qualifier with one of her club’s teams.  She found this running shirt in a store and bought it as a souvenir.  I actually really like the shirt, even if it does have a weird state plastered on the front of it! 😉

The run was amazing.  Absolutely amazing!  There really is nothing better than running when the sun comes up.  But the run wasn’t without its problems.  Last week, I suffered some ITB issues from mile 6 on (and it was a 10.5 mile run).  The rest of the day, my leg really bothered me.  I have been diligent with my foam rolling and strength training, so I tried my best not to worry.  (Those of you who know me know that I failed miserably at this attempt.)  It bothered me again just a bit on my next run, but got better each day.  This week, ITB started bothering me around mile 5.  I couldn’t believe it.  I tried not to get too upset about it, but with my history of ITB derailing my race efforts (and my first half marathon of 2015 coming up next weekend), it was hard not to let it get in my head.  However, something happened…..by mile 7, it had worked itself out.  I have NO idea how this happened, but this gave me hope that I am just working through some issues related to the distance increases.  The miracle in all this is that my legs felt AMAZING Saturday afternoon!  I couldn’t believe how fresh they felt after driving the distance to the tournament location, then sitting as long as I did.  When they still felt so good on Sunday, I really began to get excited.  Maybe this actually is related to the distance increases and not the beginning of more problems!

Alli’s team played in the North Texas Region tournament this weekend, in the 12s division.  The teams in this tournament were vying for a bid to next weekend’s Region Bid tournament, so they were a higher caliber 12s than we typically play.  The girls didn’t play well on Saturday in pool play.  We dropped 2 sets (we never drop sets in pool play) and ended up seeded 2nd in our pool, but still earned our way into the Gold bracket for Sunday play.

Sunday morning we faced the Texas Image 12 National team that handed us second place in our first tournament of the year.  They beat us 22-25, 23-25 in the finals that day and our girls were so upset!  Every single tournament, Alli has asked if this team will be playing in it because she wanted a rematch!  The girls seemed so nervous when they found out who they were playing, but they stepped up their game when they went out onto the court.  We lost the first set 24-26, after being up 24-17.  Heartbreaker….we SO should have won!!  The second set we rallied and closed out the set 25-17 to force a tiebreaker.  We went point for point in the last set, but ran out of steam and ended up losing 11-15.  The girls had nothing to be ashamed of – they were playing against giants!  playing against giants

You can see the size difference in that picture! LOL

I was so proud of Alli this weekend.  She really stepped up her game in getting to the ball and rarely called for help.  It has been so much fun to see the improvements with all the girls on the team this season!  We are now finished with USAV tournaments and can focus all our efforts toward AAU Nationals (and beating the Puerto Ricans) in Orlando in June!

Happy Monday!!

Jen