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

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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 🙂