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 ūüėČ

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. 

Race Recap: Wildflower Trail 50k & 13.1

Better late than never, right??

I’ve been trying to compile my thoughts so that I could recap my race in a somewhat organized manner, but I have completely given up on that. ¬†I’m going to try to hit the highlights without boring you to death or bouncing around so much that your head spins. ¬†The bottom line is that this may end up being¬†long and if you have the stamina to read it all the way through, then kudos to you!

Wildflower race weekend had been on my radar for quite some time. ¬†However, Alli’s team was scheduled to play that weekend if they didn’t get a bid to Nationals beforehand. ¬†Luckily, her team earned a bid at their first qualifier, so that issue was taken care of and Wildflower weekend was open on my schedule! ¬†Enter taper for Galveston – during which I COMPLETELY wigged out and I ended up registering for a 50k only 5 weeks post-70.3. ¬†Disclaimer: I have never claimed to make the best race decisions, or any decisions for that matter. ¬†At the moment I registered, it seemed like a such a good idea. ¬†Hours after, however, the realization of what I had done hit me like a brick wall when I suddenly realized that 50k is actually longer¬†than a marathon (just don’t ask).

Yes, I had a good base going into Galveston. ¬†Yes, I am stronger and more fit than ever before. ¬†But I trained to run a half marathon for Galveston 70.3 and I would basically be tripling that distance only 5 weeks later. ¬†Coach made me recover for a week after Galveston. ¬†Then I tapered the week before which took another week away. ¬†So I basically had 3 weeks to train and that made me a bit nervous. ¬†My longest long run was 15 miles. ¬†I can hardly type that without laughing, it sounds so ridiculous! ¬†Oh, and then I was lured by the double medal challenge and with Brent’s blessing added the half marathon to my race weekend plate. ¬†If I was going to do crazy things, might as well go totally insane with it.

Somehow, I kept my wits about me during this taper (so no crazy race sign-ups or excessive run gear purchases). ¬†In part, this was due to only having trained a short period of time for these races. ¬†I hadn’t been training long enough for it to become a constant factor in my mind. ¬†Also, I had ¬†ZERO expectations. ¬†My mindset going in was to put my body to a test and to <hopefully> develop some strategy for the ultras I have scheduled the remainder of the year. The most exciting part of doing this race (aside from the fact that it would be my first ultra on trails) was that my teammates who would be there. ¬†Originally we were to have a few Renegades racing. ¬†In the end, Ryan and I were the only ones who made it to the start lines. ¬†Ryan was also doing the double day challenge – he is actually the reason that I decided to participate in the double day challenge. ¬†If a teammate was going to run it, then so was I!! ¬†Ryan’s wife, and more importantly – MY Renegade Sister, Ashley was coming as well. ¬†Aaaaaaaand, my brother from another mother, Tim, had decided to volunteer since he couldn’t race. ¬†Having fun and fellowship with my teammates was WAYYYY more important to me than how my race went!!

I drove down to Bastrop after work on Friday, finally arrived just before 9 PM, got settled in and was in bed as quickly as I could manage. ¬†Of course, one never sleeps well on the night before a race and this proved to be no different. ¬†I couldn’t get the air conditioner set the way I wanted, ended up too warm and tossed and turned most of the night. ¬†I was up before the crack of dawn and was well on my way to the park by 4:30AM. ¬†The 50k started at 6:00AM, but there was no parking available in the park so we had to take shuttles in to the start line. ¬†Tim had just pulled in¬†when I got there, so we hitched a ride on the shuttle together!

Before I knew it, it was time to take off.  The sun was just starting to rise, but still dark enough that headlamps were a must Рeven if only for 15-20 minutes.  Temps were cool Рif memory serves, hovering around 50 degrees.  It was a great way to start a long day on the trails!  This course was a loop Рeach loop was 6.2 miles and we were to run 5 loops.  My strategy was to take it easy on the first loop, figure out what I had to deal with and adjust from there.  Also, I wanted to finish feeling as if I could still run 2 loops (because I would be running 2 loops the next day in the half).

Ashley took this gorgeous sunrise photo

First of all….the single-track course was so congested through the first half of the first loop ¬†– I couldn’t have attacked it hard even if that had been my plan. ¬†The first mile or so was somewhat technical with ups and downs and no places where you could open up. ¬†At the end of this section was the biggest climb in the race. ¬†At the top of this climb, the course crossed a road and fed into rolling trails heading to the back side of the course. ¬†The back part of the course was my favorite because in this section, I could open up and actually run. Knowing this was coming after the semi-technical front section helped me stay at ease and not push too aggressively on that part on the subsequent loops. ¬†About halfway through the back section, the course crossed a red-rock road and then continued on with small rollers. ¬†I loved this part of the course as well – this was the part of the course I ended up calling “The Ferns”, because the trail was cut through ferns and rich foliage. ¬†PLUS, there were enough trees established that a good part of this section was shaded!! (This park was damaged in the Austin area wildfires a few years ago and is finally seeing some growth again.) The end of this section fed right into the back aid station, which was around the 4.5 mile mark on the loop. ¬†We would then run down a gravel road for a bit before turning onto the next part of the trail, which was still very runnable and was shaded in spots. ¬†At around the mile-to-start/finish mark, we made a non-technical climb up a hill, then a very steep descent on which I never tried to brake too much. ¬†It was just easier to go with it than to try to resist gravity. And honestly, I was more scared to try to take it cautiously than I was to just run it. ¬†The only problem was that it was curvy and narrow and if people were ahead I had¬†to slow it down. ¬†After that, there was a short run through more rollers, then what I called “The Stairs”. ¬†This section was a fast descent but to combat erosion, logs had been placed and the end result was something like stair steps. ¬†At the end of the stairs, we crossed over water on some logs, then made a short climb and were back on the state park road. ¬†We had to run up this ridiculous (short) hill, then a small turn and run up some more to reach start/finish area. ¬†And then do it all again. ūüôā

The end of the crap section (front) was at the top of this hill. I walked it every loop. This was loop 7 of the weekend and I refused to start walking it then! LOL

Race photo from Sunday on a rare flat section on the front part of the course. Lap 7 and still smiling ¬†ūüôā

I was really pleased with the time on my first loop. ¬†Since it was just past 7AM, the temps were still nice and cool. ¬†I felt GREAT and was having so much fun! I stopped at Renegade Central to refill my bottle and make more Tailwind and had a pouch of Clif Organic Food. ¬†Now, before I left my car in the parking lot, I made an error in judgement. ¬†I had brought 2 handheld bottles but opted to leave one in my car. ¬†I realized after that first loop that Ashley was at camp, was eager and ready to help and could have easily gotten it ready. ¬†What a foolish mistake I had made. ¬†This race was all about learning, though, right?? We managed with refilling my bottle and I went off to the port-o-potty. ¬†I should not have tried to go to potty. ¬†I waited in line for a couple minutes, then decided to just go on the back side of the course. ¬†I’m not sure what it is about Tailwind, but it makes me have to pee SO OFTEN! ¬†I ran past the main aid, checked in with Tim and was off on the trail again. ¬†After loop 2, I still felt great but having stopped at port-o-potty and then actually “going” in the bush caused my time to be a little bit longer. ¬†I could tell that Tim was a little worried when I came through to head out for loop 3, but honestly, I felt amazing.

Ashley was sending updates to Sherpa Carmen and asked for a thumbs up ūüôā

Loop 3 is when I started breaking the course down into chunks in my mind.  I had already decided the front mile was going to slow me down.  Nbd, I would make it up on the back 3.5.  I walked up the bigger hills and took the descents as fast as I could.  (I went in wanting to attack the downs and I am really happy with how I handled them.)  I started going through the checklist:  Yucky ascents with the logs (check), first bridge (check), second bridge (check), third bridge (check), big climb (sucky section almost over Рnow you can quit acting like a pansy!!), asphalt road (check), FUN except for the sand Рnow time to open up (check), and so on.  Breaking the course down helped keep my mind occupied and it helped to see that I was making progress.  At the end of loop 3, I was still feeling really good Рexcept for my toes.  I had noticed early on in the loop that my shoes were turning out to be too small and the fast, technical descents were causing my toes to bang into the end of my shoes.  But I chose not to think about it.  Nothing I could do at that point, especially since I had decided against bringing an extra pair to camp.

At the beginning of loop 4, I dug out the bandana, put some ice in it and tied around my neck.  I had tried this a couple of times in training and OH MY, does it help!  I flop around like a fish when temps are warm and I get hot.  Seriously, this whole bandana with ice thing is THE BOMB (Looks dorky but is still THE BOMB)!!!   I had not stopped at the back aid station on my first 3 loops, but I did on loop 4 so that I could get more ice and I decided to fill up with water as well.  The volunteers were so kind and told me how great I looked.  I joked that my longest training run had been 15 miles and how pleased I was with the way the day was going.  After getting some cold water dumped on my head by another amazing volunteer, I was on my way, feeling so refreshed and full of energy!

In no time at all, I was starting my last and final loop. ¬†I decided to get a little extra kick and drank a shot of Fireball. ¬†It sure did taste good! ¬†LOL!!! I’m not sure how much it helped, though, because I think it just made me sleepy for a bit. ¬†I’ll stick to beer. ¬†As far as running, I could tell that my legs were somewhat tired, but nothing near what I thought they would be – and I have felt much higher fatigue in shorter races. ¬†I did walk more ups on the front section than I had in the previous loops, but I still wasn’t sure how I would respond the last half of the loop. ¬†I wanted to play it safe. ¬†Plus, I had to keep reminding myself that I still had 13 miles to run the next day. ¬†I wanted to finish the weekend strong, which meant holding back some on this race. ¬†Once again, I stopped at the aid station on the back of the course to refill the ice. ¬†Again, those amazing volunteers!!! ¬†They went on and on about how strong I looked and one of them even remarked, “That 15 mile training plan is working REALLY well for you!” ¬†That just goes to show that one kind word can completely make a person’s day, because it sure did boost my confidence! ¬†Before I knew it, I was running¬†up that stupid hill back to the finish (I ran that hill every time….the only reason I walked the others was because of terrain and to save energy). ¬†I finished in 6:09:59, which, if I’m honest, was a little slower than I had hoped. ¬†I really wanted 6 hours or less. ¬†But I wasn’t going to waste any energy on regrets. ¬†I had SO MUCH for which to be proud. ¬†I had tackled the race, nailed my hydration and fueling, remained strong throughout the race, stayed in the game mentally AND saved some energy for the next day’s race. ¬†It was EPIC! ¬†Any doubts that I had about transitioning to trails and ultras were completely erased. ¬†And, I have to be honest. ¬†I wasn’t NEARLY as excited as Ashley or my friend, Kolbe (who had run the 10k but hung around to cheer me on and see me finish). ¬†Their excitement was absolutely contagious and I couldn’t help but smile.

Little kick for last loop

Side note: ¬†Toenails. ¬†Does anyone really need them? ¬†So after the race, I knew things would probably¬†be bad. ¬†Like I said – I could tell during the race that things weren’t right. ¬†I gingerly removed my shoes and socks and I had some that were pretty black already, but all were attached so I guess that was a win?? ¬†Ok…I’ve never had toenail issues. ¬†This was a new one for me, but acting like a pansy about it wouldn’t really change anything, so I decided to suck it up. ¬†I had some mild hyperventilation moments here and there but overall, I kept my cool about it. ¬†I knew that Sunday was going to be tough! ¬†My toenails were sore and sensitive and did NOT want to be shoved into a pair of shoes again! ¬†I chose to pull a Scarlet O’Hara and think about that tomorrow.

Eventually, we became so hungry that we decided a shower and food was now the order of the day and left the race venue to head to our respective hotels to clean up. ¬†Shiner Strawberry Blonde had recently shown up on the shelves and I brought some with me. ¬†I couldn’t wait to have a beer!! ¬†I took it into the bathroom with me, drank half, showered and enjoyed the last half while I was getting dressed. ¬†We all met at a delicious burger joint where I had ANOTHER beer with my burger. ¬†I had such a good time chatting and hanging with my teammates. ¬†It’s always fun and usually full of hilarious conversation. ¬†Tim left soon after to head back home and Ashley, Ryan and I went back to our hotels for some much needed rest before dinner. ¬†Kolbe stopped by to visit with me before she headed out of town. ¬†She loves that Strawberry Blonde so I gave her a few to take home. ūüôā ¬†I enjoyed seeing her SO MUCH!!! ¬†After she left, I tried to rest, but endorphins from the race just wouldn’t let me doze off.

Finishing the 50k

My TEAM!!!

Kolbe!!

Ashley, Ryan and I went to eat at a very cute restaurant that overlooked the Colorado River.  We sat outside and enjoyed the view, good beer, good company and some good music!  We sat there until we realized that we should probably get back to our hotels and get in bed so we could get some rest.

When I returned to my house (I had actually rented and Airbnb room in a woman’s home), I got things ready for the next day and packed up as much as possible. ¬†The next morning I was up early, but not quite as early as Saturday as my race didn’t start until 7:30.¬† Getting socks on was…..difficult. ¬†I had some anxiety – ok A LOT of anxiety – about running and pounding my toes even more than had already been done. ¬†I wore a different pair of shoes, but after the race start quickly realized that the new pair wasn’t really working either. ¬†Basically I think the damage had been done and nothing (short of not racing) would help. ¬†And I did consider DNS but only for a second – what would that accomplish?? ¬†Sometimes you just do things!! (If you know that quote – high five!) My ultimate goal in doing these races to was to put myself in a difficult mental situation. ¬†I hadn’t had any issues to battle during Saturday’s race – it had been much less difficult than I had expected. ¬†I was actually a little disappointed that I didn’t have any mental battles. ¬†To¬†continue on in spite of my toes became the mental battle. ¬†And that probably sounds pansyish, but it really was the only mental battle of my weekend.

We started Sunday’s race by running up a “little” hill to a structure then turning around and coming back down and back through the start/finish area to start loop 1 (Thanks, Rob). ¬†I got caught up in the descent and how fresh my legs felt (YES…my legs felt fresh!) and temporarily forgot about my toes. ¬†I was running well and using the same strategy as on Saturday. ¬†Take it easy. ¬†Walk the big ups and don’t overdo. ¬†My calves did begin to scream at me a little bit on loop 1 and I wondered if it would work out or if I would have to deal with it the entire race. ¬†Well, as luck (or fate) would have it, I ended jabbing my right big toe when I tripped on a rock. ¬†And since I thought that I had completely ripped my toenail off, I stopped thinking about my calves and I was well into loop 2 when I realized I hadn’t thought about them for a while nor did they hurt any longer. ¬†That right toe. ¬†I won’t lie. ¬†I fretted over it. ¬†I wanted to stop and check it out. ¬†But I didn’t. ¬†I knew that there wasn’t anything I could do and it wasn’t keeping me from running. ¬†However, I quit pushing as hard and I took those downhills a bit more cautiously. ¬†In hindsight, that kind of ticks me off. ¬†But in the moment that’s how I handled it. ¬†I didn’t panic or let it affect my race¬†much. ¬†So I guess that’s a win.

We ran to that little speck where my finger is pointing, then back and that’s when the race really started

 

Seven loops over the weekend and my only real issues were toes. ¬†LOL ¬†I know that was directly related to shoes – I needed a bigger size. ¬†Why I didn’t realize they were a little snug when I got them, I don’t know!! ¬†The weekend was about working out the kinks and figuring out what worked and what didn’t and I most definitely succeeded there.

Definitely got dirty out there!

I headed to my car pretty soon after I finished, although it seemed like I had to wait for the shuttle for the longest! ¬†I did “clean up” in my car with my BYOT (Bring Your Own Towel), changed clothes and headed home! ¬†When I got home, I soaked my feet and tried to figure out how to proceed. ¬†I did some work on them over the next few days but I won’t gross you out with the details here. But I DO have all my toenails and things are pretty much back to normal!

Still feeling fresh on Sunday!

The amazing thing is that I didn’t experience much in the way of soreness ¬†– it was minimal. ¬†I credit that to my nutrition and to staying hydrated and fueling properly during the race. ¬†Plus, trails are just easier on the joints. I also didn’t get that big rush of hunger that I generally get a couple days post-long run. ¬†Again, I think that fueling with enough during the race went a long way to helping my body during the race and gave me a jump start on recovery. ¬†I also tried out this stuff called “Vespa” and I am 99.9% sure it made an extremely positive impact on my fueling. ¬†It is a product designed to kick your metabolism into a deeper fat burn and worked really well with my Metabolic Efficiency plan.

I’ve been on ¬†rest and recovery for the last 10 days and I’ve let loose and drank a few beers. ¬†I even let loose over the weekend and just ate what I wanted – I ended up with a headache but I ate what I wanted! ¬†LOL!! ¬†This has been a good reset period to get me ready to go for the remainder of the year, but that is for another blog post! ūüôā

 

 

My Why

I’ve been noticing a lot of people posting about their “My Why” – what fuels their passion (in my circles this equates to running and triathlon, but this movement isn’t restricted to that), which got me thinking – what is MY Why?

Honestly? My Why is selfishly ME. I feel slightly guilty about that, since a lot of people seem to be motivated by their spouse or children or family. The bottom line is that I feel like I love my family better because I do this endurance thing for myself.  And, for me, motivation has to come from the inside Рnot from an outside source. 

I do this for ME because running and endurance sports gave me my sparkle back.¬† When Allison died, and for several years after, I really didn’t think that I would ever enjoy life again. ¬†Running gave me that feeling again of actually being alive. ¬†Instead of going through the motions of life, I am finally LIVING life again. ¬†

I do this for ME because every time I conquer something that I once thought was impossible, I gain more confidence. I have struggled with self-confidence/self-esteem my entire life and while I feel like that will always be a struggle for me – I now struggle just a little bit less. ¬†I don’t have to doubt my abilities as an endurance athlete because when I toe the start line, I have put in the training and the hard work to get there – and I’m kind-of good at this endurance thing. ūüôā ¬†

I do this for ME because, at this point, I am having a whole lot of fun seeing what crazy new goal I can accomplish. ¬†I no longer look at a challenge and think, “there is NO WAY I could do this”. ¬†I no longer shake with fear when I consider something unthinkable. ¬†I just try to evaluate whether the pain involved will be worth it. ¬†ūüėČ

I do this for ME because I want to push myself to the edge and force myself dig deeper than I ever have to finish a training run/race.  Because when you push yourself past your limits, you find things out about yourself that you never would have known otherwise.  And crossing that finish line is so much sweeter when a big struggle was involved!!

IRONMAN Texas 70.3 finish

Oh, and I do this for ME because I’m an endorphin addict and I looooooove those long runs! ¬†The bigger the goal, the longer the training runs!

What is YOUR Why??

My First: Ironman Texas 70.3 Race Recap

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. ¬†The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” ~John Bingham

 

Getting to Galveston

What would I do without Carmen?? If the time comes that I do a big race in a far-away city and she can’t come, I may just implode. ¬†We have a great time road-tripping to these events and her laid-back personality helps keep me calm. ¬†I do better when I’m calm.

We headed down early Friday morning with a brief stop in Dallas to visit my ART/FACTR/Graston/Fascial Stretch/Cupping/Massage guy, Mel. ¬†I really never know exactly what technique he will try – it’s always fun to guess! ¬†On pre-race tune ups, it is usually a bit of fascial stretch with ART to get any kinks out and massage. ¬†Ahhhhh. ¬†I left his office feeling lighter than air. ¬†We then grabbed a quick lunch and were back on the road and rolled into Galveston around 5 PM.

No trip is complete without a Buc-ee’s stop!

Race Eve 

Saturday morning, most of us had a bike ride and brick run because Brent coaches almost all of us.  LOL!  So Tim, Craig, Levi, Brent and I went out about 7AM for a very windy ride and run before breakfast.  Of course, no trip is complete without me doing something stupid.  We were nearing the end of our ride and came to a stop light.  I unclipped my right foot (WHY??) and fell right over when I tried to put my left foot down.  So dumb.  I swear I need constant supervision!  Big thanks to Levi and Brent who talked me through some stuff on our ride and gave me a lot of pointers.

After the ride and run, we headed out for breakfast, which was actually more like brunch. ¬†The wait was worth it, though, because those pancakes were some of the most delicious I’ve ever had!

Once we made it back to the beach house, we loaded up our bikes and headed to athlete check in. ¬†After getting all our stuff and attending the athlete briefing, we checked in our bikes. ¬†This caused me some anxiety because at the time there was a high possibility of strong storms (including hail) moving through that night. ¬†I couldn’t stand the thought of her being left out all by herself in the elements. ¬†Once again, Levi talked me through the race step-by-step, which relieved some anxiety. ¬†Knowledge is power!

It was SO HARD to leave her!

A cool part of this race is that our club is registered with Ironman and we qualified for our own bike rack, so all of our bikes were racked together!  It was nice knowing that the people who you would see next to you in transition would be your teammates!

We had a Renegade get-together that afternoon after bike check-in and it was so much fun getting to meet and talk to teammates face to face (many for the first time). ¬†We don’t all get to see each other much and it was great fun!

After the party and dinner, those of us racing made all our last minute preparations then we were off to bed!

I have to say that I received the sweetest text from Ashley that evening Рit brought tears to my eyes!!  She is so supportive of me Рof everyone, really РI hope I can develop that spirit when I grow up!

FINALLY – Time to race!

I slept until 1:30AM. ¬†I just couldn’t sleep! ¬†I wasn’t nervous or anxious, I was just ready to go and see what the day would bring. ¬†When the clock finally rolled around to 4:15, I got up, waited for my turn to hop in the shower and gathered all my things for our 5:15 departure.

I rode with Levi because he had the club’s VIP parking pass. ¬†Turns out that we didn’t need the VIP parking anyway because we got there early enough that our parking spot was right next to transition! ¬†We all headed over to start getting things ready for the day. ¬†After checking and double checking and taking my UCAN for the swim, I slipped on my wetsuit and my friend Tim and I headed over to the Renegade tent to wait until GO time.

Since I was in the first swim wave after the elites and Tim was just 2 starts after me, we headed over to the swim around 6:30. ¬†We had a few moments to sit on the curb and just talk. ¬†At this point, I had started getting some nerves, but Tim is such a calm, soothing soul – being able to talk things through with him calmed me down before the nerves could really take hold. ¬†I wouldn’t have wanted to share that time with anyone else. ¬†I cherish Tim’s friendship more than words can express!

We noticed that someone holding a Wave 9 start was standing right in front of us and realized that it was time to snap out of the zen moment, so we hopped up from the curb and headed toward our places in line.  Leaving Tim at Wave 5 was pretty hard to do, but we said our goodbyes and good lucks and I was on my way to find Wave 3.

The Dreaded Swim

The way this race starts is everyone jumps off the pier (it really isn’t bad – the water might be 2 feet below the deck) and then swims over to the start line. ¬†Even with the confidence I had going into the swim, I was prepared for a full-blown panic attack. ¬†Part of my plan to avoid this was to get at the very back of the pack and start to the right.

WELL.

I got in the water, swam to the start, looked around and realized – I WAS AT THE VERY FRONT OF THE LINE. ¬†We were off and I swam about 100 yards (maybe) before I completely lost it. ¬†I should have tried to start slow and easy, but it is hard to start slow and easy when over 100 people are swimming up from behind over and around you. ¬†So I tried to backstroke to calm myself down and that DID NOT work. ¬†I actually had to stop for a bit because I was so close to hyperventilating. ¬†I did have the presence of mind to realize that I needed to keep moving forward, so I inched along as I could. ¬†This went on for at least 10 minutes. ¬†Me making progress little by little because I didn’t want to put my face in the water and feel like I was drowning. ¬†Until….I just got pissed. ¬†I told myself to quit acting like a pansy and just swim. (That’s the PG version.) ¬†And I started swimming. ¬†I decided to breathe every other stroke and that would also help me keep my eyes on the buoys. ¬†I found a good rhythm very quickly and found my swim zone. ¬†By this time, I had made the first turn and was heading down the longest stretch of the course. ¬†Red buoys were the turn markers, but on the long stretch the buoys in between were orange so it was hard to tell how far I had to go when I looked down the line. ¬†Not cool. ¬†I like yellow. ¬†LOL

I FINALLY reached the buoy for the last turn and was on the home stretch! ¬†I was so focused on watching the now yellow buoys that I didn’t even realize how close I was to the exit. ¬†I did a happy dance inside my wet suit when I figured that out! ¬†Before I knew it, I was on the exit ramp. ¬†I walked out of the water (just like coach instructed) and headed to the wet suit strippers. ¬†But after I got through with them, I was just ready to get to transition so I started jogging a bit. ¬†I heard Carmen yelling my name and looked to see her and Brent standing there. ¬†I think I managed a wave and continued on to my bike!

Side note:  By the end of the swim, I was SO OVER salt water!  I did a good job not swallowing much, but my sinuses and throat were starting to burn.  (My nose ran like a faucet for the rest of the race Рit was like I had an entire hour with a Neti pot.)  Also, I was thinking during the swim that the waters sure were choppy, but I had no reference so I thought all that was normal.  When I ran into Noah in T1 and he made a remark about how bad the swim was, I felt much better about myself!

Blustery Bike

The bike is always windy at Galveston. ¬†I knew this going in, but with the crazy weather that had been forecast, the winds were supposed to be even more brutal. ¬†I really don’t know what the winds actually were but I heard 20-25 mph. ¬†I know there were times that it gusted more than that because it would catch my wheels.

So I finally got out of transition and out on the bike, but there were SO MANY PEOPLE that I was riding like 14mph, which honestly ticked me off. ¬†I had to remind myself that it would thin out when we got out on the main road and that the goal was NOT to chase people down. ¬†I was committed to riding a smart bike leg and not blowing my legs out for the run. ¬†I found a nice rhythm pretty quickly and, depending on the amount of cyclists around, was able to keep anywhere from 17-22mph. ¬† (I’m not going to lie, I wanted 20mph avg on the bike, but I knew it was foolish to attempt that.) ¬†I passed a lot of people and got passed by a lot of bad ass men – and a few women, too. ¬†I kept my pace and just passed when I had to. ¬†HOWEVER, if you were a woman and I could see 45-49 on your calf, I DID pass you! ¬†LOL ¬†Apparently I managed the no-draft zone well because I saw the race officials often and never got a penalty!

I had to stop at the first aid station, which was around 20 mile mark, I think, because I was about to pee in my shorts!  I would have peed on the bike, but since they specifically said not to in the athlete briefing I figured best not to chance it.  As far as nutrition, I took UCAN again before the bike and had Tailwind in my bottles for out on the course.

The bridge that we had to ride over was so freaking bumpy. ¬†I swear I felt like I was riding on rumble strips. ¬†I noticed at the turn around that the bracket holding my bottle cage between my aero bars was loose on one side. ¬†I thought about stopping and getting my hex tool out of my bag, but I wasn’t sure if I had packed it. ¬†Then I considered stopping at one of the support vehicles, but all that would take time that I didn’t want to give up, so I decided to chance it and see what happened. ¬†Well….that bracket came loose and fell off. ¬†And right before it fell off, I found myself on the bumpy bridge again and a guy behind me said I had lost my left rear bottle (out of a Gorilla cage) and that bottle had my last leg of Tailwind in it. ¬†I wasn’t too concerned about it though, because I had enough Tailwind for 3 hours on the bike and I had elected to start the bike with UCAN which covered the first hour. ¬†I was pretty sure that my nutrition would suffice. ¬†As I approached mile 40, my shoulders were starting to cramp from white knuckling my aero bars (to keep my bike from blowing over in the cross winds) and I noticed that I was hungry, too. ¬†Plus that stupid cage between my aero bars was driving me NUTS. ¬†I stopped at mile 40 and grabbed the emergency bar I had stashed on my bike, rearranged my bottles so that I didn’t have anything in that aero cage, stretched out my shoulders and went off again. ¬†My mouth was watering for the end of the bike. ¬†I was SO READY to be done because my shoulders felt crampy, but my legs still felt fresh. ¬†I checked my heart rate – 107. ¬†LOL ¬†I know it wasn’t that low the entire bike, but I laughed a little bit that it was that low at mile 50. ¬†I stayed in aero basically the entire 56 miles, to combat the wind.

I’ll speak to the wind a bit. ¬†Even though that wind would catch my race wheels, I was SO GLAD it was a crosswind. ¬†I didn’t feel like I had to fight for every pedal stroke the way I feel when I ride into a headwind. ¬†I think that is what made my bike leg so manageable.

When I was on those last 6 miles of the bike, my thoughts jumped back and forth from: I CAN NOT wait to get off this effing bike! to: I DO NOT want to run 13.1 miles! ¬†to: Quit acting like a pansy, Jen. ¬†How the hell you gonna run a 50 miler if you can’t even mentally handle a half. ¬†SUCK IT UP.

And then I was back in transition, getting ready to run!

Running in a sauna would have been cooler

Again, I took my time in T2. ¬†I didn’t want to rush things too much. ¬†I took another serving of UCAN, grabbed my bottle of Tailwind for later in the run and took off out of transition. ¬†I had my watch in Triathlon mode and hit the lap button….twice…by accident. ¬†And that ended the activity. ¬†I’m a data freak and a little OCD about all that stuff being perfect, but I managed to handle it with cool and calm. ¬†It took forever for my watch to save the swim and bike, though, and I was getting impatient. ¬†While all this was happening, I ran right by our Renegade tent and with everyone cheering it gave me a real boost to start the run. ¬†The workout finally saved and I was able to start the run, but I had NO IDEA how far I had gone when was actually able to start the run on my watch. ¬†I wasn’t really worried, though. ¬†The course was 3 loops of 4ish miles, so I felt it should be manageable.

The run was SO HOT. ¬†After being nearly blown away on the bike, I went to running in and around the resort where breezes were few and far between. ¬†I struggle in the heat, anyway, and ¬†I WAS STRUGGLING. ¬†Before the race, I had hoped to do better than a 2:15 half and felt that I could manage a 2:00 half. ¬†So my goal was to just stay on pace for around a 2:00 half. ¬†My only problem was that I didn’t really know how to judge that since my run was off a little on my watch. ¬†My whole goal with the run wasn’t to crush it so much as it was to use it for mental training for my upcoming ultras. ¬†I managed the heat as best I could, stopping at every aid station and getting ice water sponges or pouring ice down my bra and back of my shirt when the aid stations had ice available. ¬†It helped, along with the occasional breeze in certain parts of the course.

The second loop was the hardest. ¬†I was hot and I wanted to STOP. ¬†I was determined that I wouldn’t walk. ¬†I didn’t need to walk, but my brain wanted me to. ¬†Again, mental training for the ultra. ¬†Push through when your brain tries to trick you to stop. ¬†When I came by the Renegade tent for lap 2, they were all standing in a line cheering for me. ¬†Lacy was the loudest and her enthusiasm gave me the boost I needed to keep pushing forward. ¬†I can’t put into words how much it helps seeing your teammates cheering for you. ¬†I started seeing Renegades on the course on lap 2 as well, and seeing those familiar jerseys reminded me that I wasn’t in this alone. ¬†I finished lap 2 and now the finish was just one lap away – and that gave me a huge mental boost!

I maintained the pace that I had been running for the first half of loop 3.  I caught up with Tim and wanted to run it in with him, but he was having stomach cramps and walking some so he told me to go on without him.  I think I left a little of my heart right there.  It would have been so amazing to cross the finish with him!  I stopped at the next aid station and filled my bra with ice, then picked up the pace.  I was so close I could almost taste it!  When I got to mile 12 marker, I really kicked it up.  I went from a 9:29 pace on mile 12 to an 8:48 pace on mile 13.  And when I knew I was close to the finish, I pushed even harder!  I smiled the entire way down the finish line chute РI HAD DONE IT!!!

After the finish

After I zipped across the finish, I downed a water and tried to find the exit. ¬†It was a bit camouflaged. ¬†I turned to go to Medical but realized there was no way out and I had to go back across the finish area to get out. ¬†As I did, I looked at the clock and it was 6:28. ¬†I knew that I had *at least* a 6:20, since I started 8 min after the first wave of elites. ¬†I couldn’t help but smile. ¬†I had hoped that I could do better than 6:30. (I really wanted 6:00, but was smart enough to know it probably wouldn’t happen my first time out of the gate.) ¬†I exited the finish area and had NO CLUE how to get back across to the Renegade tent, nor did I have a clue where Carmen was. ¬†I felt so lost!

The sherpa shirt that I had made for Carmen

It was about this time that I spotted Carmen and I’ve never been so happy to see her. ¬†She gave me a BIG hug and I might have had a tear escape from my eye. ¬†It was a special moment. ¬†We found our way to the food tent which was serving pizza (disappointing) and NO BEER (MORE disappointing). ¬†I grabbed a slice of cheese and Carmen escorted me back to the Renegade tent. ¬†On the way, it hit me that I hadn’t waited for Tim and I felt TERRIBLE. ¬†What a bad team mate I turned out to be!

When we got back to the tent, Tim was sitting there and I gave him a hug and sat down beside him.  The app had finally updated and Carmen shared that my time was 6:18:02 РI was very happy with that!!

Turns out that Ryan is really good at this sherpa thing, too, because he had BEER in a cooler! ¬†SCORE!!! ¬†Ahhhhh it tasted so good! ¬†He may as well have serenaded me with what he said next – he asked if I wanted a hamburger! ¬†Bless him! ¬†If I had been on my feet and able to move at that moment, I would have tackled him with the biggest bear hug. ¬†I’m pretty sure that hamburger was the best tasting hamburger I’ve ever had in my life!

After Tim and I ate, transition was open again for bike pick-up. ¬†We walked over together to get our stuff. ¬†Carmen and I left pretty soon after the bike check-out. ¬†We had a 6 hour drive and possibly some storms to dodge, so we didn’t want to waste too much time.

The Important Stuff

The week before and right up to race morning, the threat of severe weather was real. ¬†Luckily, the predicted storms went North of Galveston and I managed to finish the race before even a drop of rain fell. ¬†(I’m not sure if it rained/stormed after Carmen and I left or not.) ¬†This storm threat caused me to reassess the race. ¬†I had once been so terrified about the swim but realized that if it had to be cancelled, I would be severely disappointed. ¬†In just over a year, I had gone from sitting in my car, nauseated, in the natatorium parking lot – not even able to swim a full lap with my head in the water to KNOWING that I could manage a 1.2 mile swim, even if/when I panicked. ¬†I think that is the most beautiful part of this half Ironman journey.

I have to thank my coach, Brent. ¬†He was relentless in trying to talk me into triathlon – I know he knew it would help me spread my wings. ¬†I am so glad he didn’t give up when I said NO over and over and over and over again. ¬†I am thankful for his training, his support and his friendship.

I have to thank my sherpa, Carmen.  I cherish our friendship and am SO THANKFUL for her dedication to come with me to these races and wait on me to finish.  We really do make a good team at these things!

And my dear friend, Tim. ¬†He is a very treasured friend, indeed. ¬†His wisdom resonates with me and he has talked me off the ledge of anxiety more times than I can count. ¬†Those fake Galveston wind updates, though…..

Finally, my TEAM! ¬†Oh my goodness. ¬†I love each and every one of you! ¬†When we have these events that a bunch of Renegades are racing, it makes the experience SO MUCH FUN! ¬†Racing is so much more fun with friends and I’m so glad that I get to do it with YOU!

OH!!  I later found out that the founders of our club decided to do top 3 male and female awards and I ended up as 2nd place female!!  I feel really lucky, too, because the two women on either side of me are young and amazing athletes.

And now, I’ll continue the rest and recovery. ¬†Hitting training hard again next week as I prepare for a 50k just 30 days away!

 

My One Word 2017: Conquer

Since January is already over, I guess I should formally announce My One Word for 2017.  I have picked a word of focus for my year over each of the past two years and I believe the practice helps to shape my year in many positive ways.

The first year, I chose “balance” because I felt my running was out of balance ( I was always getting injured) and time management in my life was out of balance as well. ¬†Of course, maintaining balance is an ongoing struggle but I do believe that I handle it better since maintaining focus on it for an entire year.

Last year, I chose the word, “uncomfortable”, because nothing good ever happens in your comfort zone. ¬†WOW! I had NO idea how uncomfortable I could make myself, and I also had NO idea the amount of growth that could happen once I pushed myself to live in that uncomfortable place. ¬†To say that 2016 was an amazing year would be an understatement.img_3507

Moving on to 2017…..I wanted to choose a word that would build upon what I accomplished last year. ¬†At first, I toyed with “risk”, because I wanted to risk “failure” in training and races. ¬†I felt like the best way to grow was to push myself to do something that wasn’t a sure thing. ¬†However, after some input from friends, I realized that “risk” implied that I was leaving things to chance. ¬†And I am doing anything but that! ¬†So after my Sole Sister mentioned the word “conquer” (and explained some of her reasoning), I realized that “conquer” would actually be more difficult for me to achieve.

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Sooooo, as Jenn pointed out, I actually DO need to conquer self-doubt, second guessing and feeling inadequate. ¬†WHY does she always have to be right?? ¬†Even so, I really didn’t want to settle on “conquer”. ¬†Putting myself in a situation in which I might have to deal with failure would have been MUCH easier than working on these other issues. ¬†I even had a race picked out that I didn’t think I would finish – I think I could DNF a difficult race and be OK with myself before I could conquer self-doubt. ¬†Conquering myself is definitely going to be the bigger challenge, by far!

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Fast forward to Houston Marathon.  Contrary to my normal mental outlook, I was actually VERY confident going into the race that I would get my BQ, even when the weather conditions went South and the race was to start under caution.  But going into a race with confidence and actually achieving the goal are two different things.

Earning that BQ has been a game-changer where my mental state is concerned. ¬†I know it won’t last forever and I know that I’ll find myself in a place of doubt again at some point in the future, but for now, I actually¬†believe in¬†and am¬†proud of¬†myself. ¬†Before, I felt like I had something to prove (maybe only to myself??) and I feel like I have proven it. ¬†I am legitimate and enough, in my eyes anyway, which has calmed the restlessness of feeling inadequate (for now, anyway).

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Right now, I’m in a really good place. ¬†I have some big races coming up, but I am still basking in the glory of¬†my performance at Houston. ¬†Obviously I want to race well anytime that I race, but I am not putting a lot of pressure on myself at all. ¬†These are bucket list races and I am running them for the pure joy involved. ¬†More on those adventures next time!!

Happy February, all!

Jen

My BQ Attempt: Houston Marathon Race Recap

So much has been happening in the World of Jen, but I haven’t had the time to blog about it!! ¬†I am going to make a concerted effort to post on a regular basis again.

This weekend was the culmination of more than 9 months of focus and hard work.  In the beginning, this goal seemed so far out of my reach and the race so far away that it seemed like a dream.  And now that the race is done, it still seems like a dream!  Someone needs to pinch me.

The week before the race was the SLOWEST WEEK EVER.  It seemed like time was standing still.  I had worked so hard for so long РI was just ready to race and find out Рcould I do it or not??

Despite all the hurdles and doubts I experienced during training, I had gained a lot of confidence about the race. ¬†My training had been going SO WELL. ¬†But my last long run was horrible. ¬†I figured out¬†after¬†the run that I had let myself get dehydrated. ¬†As bad as the run was, I stayed in zone 1 for the majority of the run and was only one minute off my marathon goal pace, which was very encouraging going into the race! ¬†My goal was 3:45, although my *official* BQ time was 3:55. ¬†I knew that a 3:45 would give me a big enough time cushion that I wouldn’t have to wonder all summer about actually making it into Boston.img_3778

Moving on to the race

Race morning¬†finally¬†arrived, with the race starting under “Yellow” (caution). ¬†The humidity was 97% and temps at the start were in the mid-60s. ¬†Race officials urged runners to slow down as heat exhaustion and dehydration were expected to affect a lot of people. ¬†Now, I’m a Texas girl and I consider myself a pro at dealing with humidity, but¬†this humidity was tougher than anything I had ever dealt with. ¬†Even so, I felt fairly confident that I could run close to my goal of 3:45.

Renegades Alex and Janie with me in the corral

Renegades Alex and Janie with me in the corral

We made Emily an honorary Renegade for the weekend!

We made Emily an honorary Renegade for the weekend!

There were a couple of Renegades staying in the same hotel and I met them in the lobby to walk to the corrals.  Renegade Alex was in route and planned to meet up with us in corral A.  And one of my childhood friends, Emily, that I grew up with in church met us in the corrals as well.  Alex, Emily and I planned to start slower than goal pace and warm up a couple miles before getting into race pace.  The gun finally went off and we started and managed to pace mile one exactly as planned.  Seriously though, I was sweating by the end of mile one.

After the mile two, I was ready to get going. ¬†I could tell that maintaining my pace would be difficult late in the race and I knew that I couldn’t waste any more time getting up to speed. ¬†Emily’s plan was to warm up a bit more, so Alex and I went ahead to try to get into our groove. ¬†Alex and I had discussed running the entire race together, but he had some sickness that interrupted his training. ¬†The plan on race day was for him to hang with me as long as he was able.

Truth be told, he drug me along. ¬†There were a lot of times that I wanted to slow down, but having Alex there was enough to push me to maintain the pace. ¬†I am certain that my race would have derailed in the first half, if he hadn’t run with me.

Mile 7 was definitely a highlight, because Renegades Ashley and Ryan had set up camp to cheer all of us on.  I am always amazed by how much of a boost seeing familiar faces along the route gives me!

Seeing Ashley and hearing her cheering us on was a huge motivator!!

Seeing Ashley and hearing her cheering us on was a huge motivator!!

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Alex and I kept plodding along, right on track until around mile 16. ¬†Our splits up to that point had been mostly between 8:30-8:40, but our pace was beginning to slow somewhat and we were hitting around 8:45. ¬†I was tired, but I wasn’t exhausted and I didn’t feel much differently than I had at mile 5. ¬†Alex told me that his legs were starting to cramp and that he wasn’t sure how much longer he would be able to keep up the pace. ¬†I stayed with him another mile or so then decided that I needed to go on without him so I could try get back on track, even though leaving him killed my soul!!

This was taken by @simonebfd at mile 22.

This was taken by @simonebfd at mile 22.

I remember hearing someone say Jen, but I was too tired to turn my head at that point!

I remember hearing someone say Jen, but I was too tired to turn my head at that point!

Approaching mile 20, I began to struggle with turnover in my legs. ¬†But I was able to push to gain a little ground when I felt like I was losing too much. ¬†I had been told that beer would be served at mile 20, but when I passed the aid station at mile 20 and saw no beer in sight, I started feeling a little sad and a little panicked. ¬†Michelob was actually camped at mile 21. ¬†I drank that Mich Ultra (if you know me – you know how much that I dislike Mich Ultra) and at the time it was the most delicious tasting beer that had ever passed my lips! ¬†The beer always gives me a boost late in the race and it was no different this time. ¬†I really wanted to pick up the pace for that last 10k, but I just couldn’t maintain the turnover in my legs. ¬†The last six miles were up and down and not consistent coming in at: 8:31, 8:48, 8:31, 8:41, 8:54, 8:27. ¬†I remember the last turn into downtown that took me to the finish. ¬†My mouth was watering when I saw the 40k sign, then the 26 mile sign, then the FINISH!! ¬†I crossed the mat with 3:47:45 and GOT MY BQ!!!

I could see the finish and my mouth was watering....literally!

I could see the finish and my mouth was watering….literally!

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I swore I wouldn't show the masses but Sole Sister talked me into it.

I swore I wouldn’t show the masses but Sole Sister talked me into it.

I don’t remember much about the course, honestly. ¬†I was so focused on maintaining my pace and staying on track. ¬†Alex kept me going for the first 2/3 of the race. ¬†My homemade pace band was a LIFESAVER. ¬†I had noted all the water stops and where I should be in 5 mile intervals. ¬†I stopped at ALL the water stations up to mile 20 and after my beer, decided that I was good to go and needed to keep pushing. ¬†I never hit the wall. ¬† My nutrition was perfect and I had ZERO issues with nausea or GI stuff. ¬†I didn’t experience any chafing or blisters, either!! ¬†After my dehydrated training run, I had been hyper-focused on being well hydrated for the race and I believe that helped as well. ¬†(People were down all over the course those last 6 miles.) ¬†The entire race, I felt confident that Sunday was MY day to BQ. ¬†The race went so well (except for the humidity making it feel like I was breathing through a straw) that I felt more secure every single mile. ¬†I remember thinking at mile 20 that I totally had it!! But 10k-to-go is a lot of race and I quickly cautioned myself not to get cocky and comfortable. ¬†I really did push as hard as I could on that last 10k, but I just didn’t have the ability to really pick up the pace like I wanted. ¬†I need to figure out how to give myself that kick in the rear that is needed to make a last-ditch effort and grind out the best time possible. ¬†Guess I’ll go back to the drawing board on that one!

Seriously. I didn't have to think much about where the next aid station would be or try to calculate how far off pace I was. This saved me A LOT of mental energy.

Seriously. I didn’t have to think much about where the next aid station would be or try to calculate how far off pace I was. This saved me A LOT of mental energy.

I am still on cloud 9. ¬†I still can’t believe it!!! ¬†I am also unsure what to do with life at this point. ¬†I have been laser-focused on this race for the last 9 months. ¬†It’s an odd feeling to have no BIG races coming up (unless you count my first 50k and my first half Ironman as BIG ;).612209_246376053_xlarge-1

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Celebration

Celebration

BIG thanks to all who supported me along the way!!  I appreciate you so much!

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. ūüôā

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 Рthe 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 Рonly 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 ūüôā