Rawhide 50 Race Recap

Last yeimg_7361ar, I ran Ragnar Hill Country and fell IN LOVE with the trails at Flat Rock Ranch.  I wasn’t an experienced trail runner, at all, and I wasn’t nearly as strong of a runner as I am now.  The trails left my body a little battered and my ego severely bruised.  At the time, I was still building strength after a psoas injury and I had been forced to ask my teammates to pick up my last miles so that I could recoup and focus on qualifying for Boston at the Houston Marathon.  It was absolutely the right call but runners like to feel strong and invincible and I felt anything except strong and invincible.

I’m not really sure when I decided that I would run a 50 miler in 2017, but I had already signed up for Brazos Bend 50 by January 11.  One day, I happened across Rawhide 50 miler and was immediately intrigued because it was at Flat Rock Ranch.  A chance for redemption AND my first 50 miler??  It was too much temptation to resist.  But…the cutoff was tight.  The race was small.  I remembered how my legs felt after 23 miles on those trails and I would be doubling that.  I genuinely didn’t know if I could do it.

I revisited my word of the year (suggested to my by my Soul Sister Jenn), which was “CONQUER”.  I though about what Jenn had said to me when she suggested that word:  “You need to conquer self-doubt, second guessing and feeling inadequate.”  Part of being able to conquer those things was to put myself in situations where I wasn’t guaranteed success and being OK with myself if I didn’t “succeed”.  So I decided to go for it.  I would attempt something that I really didn’t believe I could do (and at that time, I really did not believe that I could do it).

The storm before the race

Shouldn’t that say, “the calm before the storm”?  No.  No, it shouldn’t.

The last couple of races, I haven’t fretted at all.  I packed the day I left, hoped I didn’t forget anything and rolled up to the start line without a care in the world.  This race wasn’t like that at all.

A couple of weeks before Rawhide, I started to fret.  I hadn’t been having the best long runs and my confidence was a little cracked.  I started worrying about the weather.  The realization hit me that I was about to run 50 MILES on some fairly tough terrain with a very tight cutoff.  Panic set in as I started realizing that I might not finish.

And then, allergies happened.  Even though I am on allergy shots and take allergy medicine, I always find myself in a battle during peak Ragweed season.  Monday night, I didn’t sleep much.  I felt achy and I had the post-nasal drainage which made my throat sore.  I had to work really hard not to panic (and I still did, kind-of).  I changed allergy meds, got my next shot as soon as I was able and started using the neti pot again.  All this helped but I still wasn’t sleeping well.  I didn’t feel like myself.  All I could think about was how hard running 50 miles would be if I started out feeling well.  I wasn’t sure I could do it if I started out feeling like crap.

Renegade sisters head South

Carmen and Jen reunited again!!! Carmen and I left around noon on Friday.  We were going to drive down to the ranch, grab our packets, eat and head to our Airbnb.  We took the scenic route, meaning we avoided I-35, and had a wonderful drive.  I miss getting to see Carmen and love our adventures together.img_7360

I still felt terrible.  I was exhausted.  But I tried to act like all was well.

We made it to the ranch and got checked in then set up our canopy and unloaded the stuff that we could (which was a huge weight lifted for race morning).  I don’t think either one of us could believe that in less than 12 hours we would be out on the course!img_7359

We decided on pizza and headed to the restaurant.  I felt like I walked into a twilight zone.  We didn’t quite fit in.  There were ashtrays on every table.  People were at the bar, hanging all over each other and acting a fool.  LOL.  We sat at a table without anyone acknowledging us for about 5 minutes, so I started looking for other options.  There was another pizza place, so off we went!  It was so cute and just our style and I’m so glad we made the decision to switch.

After eating, we made our way to our Airbnb, which was a little apartment over a garage.  It was so cute and cozy.  We turned the AC on high, crawled under the covers and the next thing I knew, my alarm was going off.  I SLEPT SO WELL!!!  I felt like a new woman and was so relieved that I could start the race feeling halfway human.  I might have a chance!!  We had our breakfast and got ready and were off to the ranch!

The journey begins

Loop 1 

The challenge of a long distance race is not to go out too fast.  I struggle in this department.  It is difficult to hold back in the beginning when you feel so fresh.  Plus, since the race started at 5 AM, the cover of darkness and cool air caused me to feel even better.  I settled in to a comfortable pace right behind another woman.  In the dark, I was more concerned with keeping my light and eyes on the trail in front of me than I was concerned with checking my pace.  I stayed right with her until after we passed through the first aid station.  When my watch signaled the next mile marker, which was around 7, I realized that I was WAY ahead of even my best case race scenario.  When we hit the next hill, I stopped to hike to slow myself down and let her go on her way.  I was more interested in not blowing up my race than I was in keeping up with her.
At this point, I knew that I was sitting in 3rd.  At the race start, I had counted the females – there were only 6 – and I knew that 2 of them were behind me from the beginning.  Plus, we had passed another female at the aid station so I was confident that I was sitting in 3rd.  I slowed some but still ran faster than I should have. I justified this by telling myself the more miles I could cover before the head of the day, the better off I would be.  The last forecast I had seen predicted sunny skies with a high of 85 – I expected a struggle.img_7362

I rolled off the first loop, feeling good in 2:28, which was, um, about 20 minutes faster than 11 hour pace.  Going in, I was hoping to get better than 12 and, in my opinion, getting 11:00 would have been nothing  short of a miracle.  Carmen was ready and waiting.  She helped me refill my bladder and confirmed to me that I was 3rd female.  I was feeling good, it was still cool and I didn’t want to waste any time at camp.  (Another one of my goals for the race.)  I ran back out, only to realize that I hadn’t grabbed any gels for the loop, so back I went to grab my fuel.

Loop 2 – Struggle bus loop

It didn’t take me long on loop 2 to start feeling fatigue.  Thankfully, there was cloud cover, but the humidity was so thick that it reminded me of the 97% humidity at Houston Marathon.  I felt like I was sucking air through a straw.  This loop was also much more technical and rocky than loop 1 and that slowed me down some, but I still kept a decent pace in the runnable sections. Midway through the loop, I encountered huge, flat boulder-size rocks that were slick from the humidity.  I stopped to text Carmen and Tim to let them know that I was slowing down because of that.  I really struggled from miles 18-when I came in at mile 25.  I was getting a little achy – I had been a little achy from the allergy mess the past few days – and I realized that my calories were low.  I decided that I would take some time when I came off the loop to force some calories down and recoup before tackling the second half of the race.

I suffered A LOT of paranoia on this lap.  I knew I was 3rd female going into the lap, but I had no idea how close 4th place was.  Even though I only ran into a couple of runners on this loop, I kept hearing what I thought was a woman’s voice in the distance so I naturally thought it was #4 and that she was gaining on me.  (Later I realized that the “voices” I heard were either the 10k’ers or goats, or maybe a mixture of both.) The volunteers at the Loop 2 aid station were ROCKSTARS!  They cheered me on when I rolled into camp and told me that I was 3rd female (without me even asking).  I only stopped for a moment before rolling on.

As the loop went on, I felt more and more fatigue and achiness, but I was determined to keep moving as fast as my legs would allow.  I stopped to text Tim to ask him to make me some oatmeal, if he arrived at camp in time.  I knew it would be close and was kicking myself for being so far ahead of schedule early on.  Thinking about the possibility of eating oatmeal was the carrot that got me through the end of that loop.  My mouth was watering thinking about oatmeal those last 3 miles.  I finally rolled into camp at 10:25 (Tim was hoping to arrive by 10:30) and Tim wasn’t there. I grabbed some pretzels from the aid station and a peanut butter and jelly wrap from the cooler, sat down and started force feeding myself.  Man, all that stuff tasted horrible and the last thing I wanted to do was to eat but I knew that I had to get some calories down.  I also made the decision to take Ibuprofen for the aches.  I never take it and I have it available in my pack for emergencies.  It’s a once-per-race Hail Mary and I had already been weighing the pros and cons to taking now or at mile 38.  I ran to the restroom and as I came out, Tim was walking by!  We went back to camp and he got to work refilling my bladder while I started grabbing my fuel for the loop.

I used all my will power to get myself moving and out for the next loop – I had already spent a good 15 minutes in camp and needed to get back out.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  I was disappointed due to having these issues so early in the race, but I knew that I had to deal with whatever the day threw at me.  So I forced myself to get up and back out I went.

Loop 3 – Riding the wave

Early on in loop 3, I changed my fueling strategy.  I was using Vfuel gels without any stomach issues, but wasn’t able to sustain my energy levels.  I knew that I needed to try to maintain 250-300 calories per hour, or 60-90 grams of carbohydrate.  Luckily, I had remembered my Mas Korima corn cookies and thrown some in my pack for this loop.  I started taking a gel at :00 and :30 and two cookies at :15 and :45.  This got me to my target of 300 calories/hour and 61 grams of carbs, so I was right on the money.  It didn’t take long for me to feel like I was on top of the world.  I could not believe the energy that I had.  It was AMAZING!  The miles started clicking away and I kept feeling better and better.

I wasn’t far from the mid-loop aid station when I got a text from Tim.  I decided to check and see what it said – I had asked him to find out where F4 was, because I was REALLY paranoid about whether or not she had passed me during all that time I spent in camp after the second loop.  I was not prepared for what I read.  Tim told me that Carmen had fallen close to the end of the 10k and was almost certain that she broken her ankle and was going to go to the hospital – that news hit me like a ton of bricks.  Dumb me – I assumed that she would to drive my car (why ambulance transport never occurred to me, I’ll never know).  I told Tim to GO WITH HER and he responded that he had already tried and she wouldn’t let him.  She was making him stay to be there for me. When I made it to the aid station, I mentioned it.  I had to tell someone – and there was no one on the course with whom I could chat it up.  They had heard all about it over the radios.  I was so sad for Carmen. After a couple sips of Coke, I moved out of aid quickly.  This is when I had a complete and total meltdown.  Physically, I still felt fine and was maintaining my energy but emotionally I was crumbling.  I cried for a few minutes over Carmen and then decided that I had to pull up my big girl panties and run the rest of the race for her.

I had already passed one guy who was struggling early on in the loop and I passed another one after the aid station.  I figured they would get their resurgence at some point, but I wanted to put as much distance between us as I could until that happened.  I fully expected that I would hit another low spot in the later miles.

As I came off the loop at mile 38, I still felt incredibly amazing.  Tim had made me some oatmeal, which I ate as quickly as possible.  It tasted so good.  In less than 5 minutes, I was heading out for my last loop, almost literally skipping.  I felt so fresh and was ready to tackle the end of the race.  I made a terrible mistake in rushing through, though, which would come back to bite me in the rear.img_7346

Last loop – I CAN DO THIS

Dang.  Back on the slower, harder loop. I was cursing the RD just a little bit.  Why couldn’t we have run the course in the opposite order so I didn’t have to fight for my last 12 miles?? LOL  Amazing the things that go through your brain when you are out there ALL ALONE.  Just so you know – I didn’t see one runner on the final lap.

I was *maybe* a mile out of camp when I realized something – I HAD FORGOTTEN TO GRAB MORE COOKIES.  Geez, Jen.  What the hell??  I had plenty of gels, though, so I knew I could make it through.  I decided to try doing a gel every 20 minutes to see how that went. It was OK, but I just didn’t have the same energy level as I did on the previous loop.

I remember making it to mile 40.  While I realized that there was a lot of race left, I also knew that I was getting so close!!  Right before I got to the aid station at mile 43, I was passed by some mountain bikers (they let the bikes back on the course in the early afternoon.)  Seeing as how I was STILL paranoid about F4 and those guys that I had passed, when they passed, I asked if they had seen any other runners back.  They had, but said they were “WAY back there.” YESSSSSS!!!!!

I rolled into the aid station and stayed just a couple of minutes.  Dude asked if I wanted to refill my pack, but when I felt of it, it felt like I was still half-full so I declined and headed back out.  I pretty much hiked the next 1.5  miles – the horrible, rocky, huge boulder rocks section.  I knew it was slowing me down but I also knew that my quads were tired an any misstep could spell disaster.  So I hiked as fast as I could, but it was still slow going.

The day had been mostly cloudy, but in the afternoon the air really started heating up.  (I can’t even tell you how many times I said prayers of thanksgiving for the cloud cover.  The clouds really did save my race.)  I think it was around mile 46 that I ran out of water.  Apparently we didn’t get all the air out of the bladder, so back at the aid station when I was checking the level of my pack it was apparently mostly air.  I knew that there was a water stop near the end of the loop and I was reasonably certain that it was at mile 48.5. I was hoping against all hope that I was wrong and the water stop was actually earlier than that.  I hiked the ups just because I was so low on energy at this point.  I kept forcing myself to run because running would get me there faster than hiking.  At about mile 48, the RD comes running up behind me with flags in her hand.  She remarked about how good I looked and what a great pace I was keeping up.  I asked her if she was sweeping.  LOL!!  She was just out grabbing the flags from the 10k course, THANK GOODNESS.  I told her about the water situation and she said that we were only 1/2 mile away!!! I was so thirsty.

We made it to the water stop.  I nearly cried because I was so happy.  She helped me refill my pack then I was on my way.  That last bit seemed to take FOREVER.  I had no energy.  In fact, I probably should have taken a gel since I now had water (I had been unable to fuel while I was out of water).  I just didn’t see the point with 1.5 miles left.

The monkey is off my back

The closer to the finish I got, the more excited I became.  I was about to cross the finish line of a race that, 6 months ago, I honestly didn’t believe I could finish.  I received my medal and headed to sit down a few minutes.  As soon as I did, my emotions took over and I shed a couple of tears.

The RD brought me a beer and asked if I had checked the results.  Sure enough, I ended up 3rd female!!  She brought my finishers trophy – over which I am having to fight my husband!

Just so you don’t think I’m *that* amazing – I was 8th out of 11 finishers and 3rd out of 4 female finishers.  There were six DNFs – only 17 started the race.  I knew it was going to be a small race when I signed up, but I didn’t care.  The course was the lure and I conquered the course – regardless of my finish or how many competitors there were – that is the most important thing!img_7340

Checking off my race goals

I pretty much met all my goals at this race.  I wanted to finish and was hoping to finish under 12 hours (I finished in 11:56 :).  I wanted to improve my efficiency in aid stations and not get caught in a time trap.  While there is still work to do, I am very happy with how I handled them.  I wanted to know my position, and honestly I wanted to finish top 3.  Knowing my position was more important that top 3.  I am pleased that I was able to keep up with it the entire race.  The beauty of racing such a small race was getting to practice this.

Areas to improve

Aid stations are an art:  I successfully sped up my aid station stops this time, but at the expense of forgetting things when I rushed through.  I’ll be working on not acting like I’m in an emergency situation.  It’s a 100 mile race.  I can take a breath and actually look at my checklist and I’ll still be OK.

Low spots were calorie related:  Some people may argue that the fatigue I felt late in the race was just that – race fatigue – but I still think it was somewhat related to not having those cookies.  At Brazos Bend, I will have an emergency stash of gels and cookies in my pack.  I’ll also have each loop’s fuel in one baggie so I can grab it and not risk leaving anything behind.

Race Reflections

I’ve been much more emotional coming off this race than any other race I’ve done.  I never, ever expected it to go as well as it did.  I know a lot of that is due to the hard work I put in leading up to the race, but I also made good decisions on race day.  I feel like evaluating my situation and coming up with good solutions during the race is one of my strengths.

Something that has overwhelmed me – once again – is the number of well wishes and congratulations received from so many of my friends.  I can’t even begin to count the number of texts, Facebook and Twitter well wishes that were sent my way.  I was absolutely blown away!! I am so blessed to have so many people who care about my crazy adventures out on the trails!

I have to give a couple of special shout-outs to my extra special friends, though.  First, to my Homie for Life, Tim.  Tim lives in San Antonio and gave up his Saturday to come out and see me run through the start finish line 3 times.  I am so thankful he was there, not just for me, but especially for Carmen after she broke her ankle on the trail.  Hearing the stories later about how he stayed with her in camp and helped her call and make arrangements with her family made me feel so much better about not being there with her when it happened.  Tim is one of the most generous and genuinely kind people I have ever known.  I am not sure how I won the lottery by earning his friendship, but I WON THE LOTTERY!

Second, regarding Carmen, one of my bestest friends.  I can’t begin to put into words how much Carmen means to me.  She has been one of my biggest cheerleaders and having her with me makes this crazy ride that much more fun.  The tables have turned and for the past year, I’ve been able to practice my cheerleading skills for her, as well, since she started her own running journey.  I am so freaking proud of her for taking on the challenge of Rawhide 10k, because I know how much courage it took.  And I am even more freaking proud of how she acted like the break was no big deal while the rest of us acted like crazy people (even if I was out on the trail – I was acting like a crazy person).  Then you add in the selflessness of her not letting Tim accompany her to the hospital because she wanted him to stay there with me – it STILL brings tears to my eyes.  Carmen is the REAL MVP.  Her bravery is much more of an accomplishment than me finishing a race.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.  But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.  ~Robert Frost

See you at Brazos Bend 100!

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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 😉

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. 

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 – not 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. 🙂  

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.  😉

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??

Popping my Ultra Marathon Cherry

On Sunday, I finally realized a dream that I had been holding on to for a really long time.  I became an ultra marathoner.

The Backstory

I started running in 2011 and ran my first half almost 2 years later in 2013.  One year later, I ran my first Cowtown Half Marathon, which was my second half.  This is the race that made me want to become an ultra marathoner.  I hate to admit it, but I was envious of all the people running the ultra.  Even though I hadn’t even run a full marathon at the time (although I had trained for Dallas 2013 which was cancelled due to ice), I knew that running an ultra was my ultimate goal and I wouldn’t be satisfied until I achieved it.

I trained for Dallas again in the Fall of 2014….too well, because I ended up with IT issues.  But I was too stubborn to quit and “ran” it anyway.  (Those last 6 miles were so slow and painful, but I finished with an embarrassing 5:18.)  I was determined to train smarter in 2015 and took the time to rehab my IT.  Running Dallas again was a MUST – I needed redemption, but Cowtown Ultra was the main blip on my radar.  I signed up for both, convinced that I could do it.  THANK GOODNESS that the running gods had me cross paths with my coach, Brent.  He started coaching me late in the Fall and got me to the Dallas start line healthier than I had ever been and I ran a 4:15 (which was 15 minutes faster than my goal).  But in order to keep me healthy, he recommended that I drop from the ultra to the half at Cowtown 2016.  It made me SO SAD, but I trusted him and knew it was for my own good.

So for 2017, I was registered for the Cowtown Half – I planned to use it as a training run/warm-up for the run portion of Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston.  When one of my teammates started asking about the ultra, I asked if I could run it and was given the green light! (And I upgraded my registration in record time – before Brent could figure out what he had given me permission to do!)

Carmen Reed was running her first 10k and Suzanne Kennedy joined her in the fun for her first 10k – they crushed it in their Saturday race!!  Jeri was running the half on Sunday.  We spent the weekend together roaming around Cowtown and had an wonderful time together!!img_4472

The Race

I ran Houston Marathon just 6 weeks ago.  I quickly realized that training for a 50k so soon after and training for a 50k and half Ironman simultaneously was a foolish choice.  Training kicked my rear but I persisted (with a lot of uncharacteristic whining and belly-aching) and I survived.

I typically fret over how I will perform at races, but I didn’t fret about this race.  Houston gave me A LOT of confidence and removed any feelings of having to prove myself.  I have proven myself to ME and that needed to happen because I was full of self-doubt.

I went into the race without any goal times.  Well…..I knew what I would like to hit, but I was prepared to be OK with just finishing.  I knew that hurting at some point in the race was inevitable so my strategy was to run by heart rate and try not to go out too fast.  I felt that I could manage the extra mileage by keeping my heart rate in check, but I was still a little leery because of the time crunch caused by running this so close to Houston made any training for this race short and sweet.  In any case, I had no doubt that I could do it – it was just a matter of how well I managed everything.  Early in the week, the forecast was horrid.  Temps were supposed to be close to 70 with sunny skies and winds gusting up to 30 mph.  Honestly, I dreaded this because it would only serve to make a difficult race even harder.  I didn’t check the forecast again until we were in Ft. Worth on Saturday and I literally started jumping up and down, screaming with excitement (while we were in CVS and I *may* have startled the clerk).  Temps while I was expected to be on the course were to be in the 40s with partly cloudy skies and winds around 10 mph.  I felt like I had just won the lottery!

Race morning was so cold at around 40°!!  Several of the Renegades were racing and everyone who could make it met for a pic.  My fellow Renegade sister, Ashley, said it best when she shared our group pic, “From first time 10k finishers to 50k & everything in between. Love sharing the dreams & then witnessing the successes of these Renegades. We all have our own story but together it’s an even more powerful one.”  Being a part of this group is one of the main reasons I’ve been so successful over the past 1 1/2 years.  This is the MOST SUPPORTIVE team out there – and we support EVERY one of our athletes from slower to faster and shorter to longer distance athletes.  It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of!img_4502-1

I waffled back and forth on whether to do UCAN or Tailwind for this race.  I tried Tailwind at the tail end of training, but I don’t think I found the right balance because I found myself hungry and hitting an energy wall.  I ended up going with UCAN because it really does work for me and I can tell a HUGE difference when I don’t fuel with it.  (Some tweaking will be in order as I extend my distance to the 50 miler later this year.)  In the end, UCAN came through for me again, as you’ll see when I describe the later stages of my race.

The race finally started with sunny skies and temps still close to 40. I started out consistently running 8:45s and thought that I was DOOMING myself to failure.  But I had decided to run by heart rate and my heart rate was in zone 1, so I maintained that pace.  I went over 9 minutes on mile 7 and thinking back it was probably the streets in the stockyards…or the shucking of my t-shirt – I was trying to be extra careful not to twist an ankle (or step in Longhorn dung!).  Early on, it seemed that the day would be sunny and that caused me some anxiety but the clouds slowly rolled in. Winds stayed at around 10, I’m guessing, and I even got chilly coming up to the mile 9 hill and through downtown. I managed the mile 9 hill just fine and enjoyed the cruise DOWN through downtown through the marathon split.

The back side of the course had an immediate hill that I was not expecting.  I could obviously have avoided this surprise by studying the elevation map, but as I said earlier – I did not concern myself about this race at all.  I barely got packed in time to leave town!!

I maintained splits close to 8:45 but started creeping up toward the 9:00 mile pace in miles 15-17.  Around mile 18, I found myself running next to a man named Joe, from McKinney, who proudly proclaimed his Florida roots with his Florida Gator shirt.  He was running naked (all you non-runners calm down – it just means he was running without a watch!) and was hoping to hit a 4:00 marathon or better.  Well, guess what!?! was hoping to hit a 4:00 marathon, too!! (Even though I wouldn’t admit that to the general public.) We decided to stick together until the marathon split around mile 25.  My friend Joe kept me going during those 7 miles and the funny thing is – he thought I slowed down for him.  WE simply kept at OUR pace. It was a nice relief to share the road with someone.  And I just do better when I feel like I have to keep up with someone.  All my miles with Joe were sub-9, except for mile 19.  I was a little sad saying goodbye to Joe, but I sent him on his way – he should have easily come in around 3:52-3:53 which was under his goal!

I'm past mile 20 at this point and STILL SMILING! :)

I’m past mile 20 at this point and STILL SMILING! 🙂

Honestly, I was amazed that I was able to maintain mostly sub-9 miles up to this point, which made me smile even more. 🙂  And my legs felt amazing!  A tiny bit fatigued, maybe, but my legs felt better at mile 25 than they felt at mile 20 in Houston.  I was extremely encouraged because at this point, I knew if <when> things went downhill fast, I could suffer through a 10k and manage.  I crossed the 26.2 timing mat at 3:53 (which was only +5 from my Houston time) and legs were STILL feeling OK.

Mile 27.  Mile 27 is when my quads started feeling grouchy.  And my brain wanted to be at the turnaround already.  Except I didn’t really know where the turnaround was because I hadn’t studied the race map that well.  I did know that it had to be by mile 28.  Well the turnaround was at mile 27.5.  Mile 28 was my slowest mile of the race, because I stopped for a BEER.  And that beer tasted SO GOOD!!! The aid station volunteers laughed at me because I went on…and on….and on about it!  I drank almost half and realized that I would never finish if I hung around drinking beer all day. (In reality it was maybe 45 seconds.)  So off I went and then I was joined by another male runner – and he rocked the trail runner look with his well-maintained beard.  This guy was a lifesaver.  He was the type of person that oozed positivity.  He cheered on EVERY SINGLE runner that we passed.  Between mile 28-29,we had turned back South and at this point the wind had really picked up.  My legs didn’t want to have ANYTHING to do with running into these winds.  I knew I would be OK if I could just make it to mile 30.  Mr. Positive stayed with me until then, but at mile 30 he cranked it up, said, “One mile, LET’S GO” and was off in a flash. My goal was simply to maintain what I could at that point and I couldn’t have kept up with him if I had tried so I let him charge on.  I was getting so close to that last little bit of the course that is so familiar to me. It seems to go on forever yet I know it isn’t THAT long…and….there was a tiny hill.  I walked just a bit.  I’m a little mad at myself for this, but at that moment I felt that I needed to give myself the chance to collect my wits for the finish.  Onward and upward I went!  And right over the hill was the turn to the road to the finish!

My ONE pic with Mr. Positive - he is waving and I am struggling!

My ONE pic with Mr. Positive – he is waving and I am struggling!

But 5 steps later and I manage a smile....AT MILE 30!

But 5 steps later and I manage a smile….AT MILE 30!

That last little bit of the course always seems so long.  My mouth always starts watering because I want to see that finish line and cross!  My best pace on mile 31 was 8:27 and my best pace on the last .06 was 8:07.  I was SO READY to be finished!  After I fought my way down the finish line chute, I grinned the entire way across.  I came close to crying, but I managed to hold back the tears.  I was BEYOND happy (and still am)!!img_4546

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After I got my medal and grabbed my phone to text Carmen, a woman sitting on the curb congratulated me.  I told her it was my first ultra and that I was over the moon!  She said, “You HAVE to ring the bell!!”  I mentioned getting my friend to come take my picture, but she volunteered.  She stood in line with me, videoed me ringing the bell and then took my picture.  I thanked her and went on my way to get food, finisher shirts and my extra challenge medal.  And after that, I went to find the important stuff – BEER!!img_4542img_4511

I think cold molasses moves faster than I do after a race.  It always takes me SO LONG.  I finally made my way to the building where Carmen, Suzanne and Jeri were waiting on me.  Carmen is my sherpa – she is THE BEST sherpa!!  I can’t believe she hung around in the cold for almost 5 freaking hours just to snap a couple of pics of me finishing.  She is seriously amazing.  Suzanne, deserves her own medal for sticking around as well when she really didn’t have to.  That meant the world to me!!

As we were leaving to walk back to our hotel, I got a message from Brent that simply said “Dude! Podium!”  I read it in disbelief, relayed my disbelief and he sent back a screen shot of my results.  THIRD IN MY AGE GROUP!!!  How in the heck??? All I can say is that it was an amazing day!! I later found out that I missed first in my age group by TWO FREAKING MINUTES. The beer stop and the walk stop would have closed that gap for sure. And maybe I should have tried to keep up with Mr. Positive. But I had a GREAT race and placing in my first ultra is an amazing accomplishment, so NO REGRETS! img_4512

This race was absolutely amazing.  I smiled almost the entire race and I rarely smile during races because I’m all business.  I can sincerely say that I enjoyed EVERY SINGLE MINUTE.  I had just been waiting for so long to cross this threshold. And things work out in God’s time. I wanted to rush this and do it last year, but I listened. I was signed up to run a 50 miler but I listened and dropped when I realized it wasn’t the right time. And I was rewarded with one of the most amazing races that I have ever run!! (I know you’re wishing at this point that I would use and adjective besides amazing!)

What’s next to CONQUER? 

Ironman Texas 70.3 at Galveston is next on the plate.  The thought of it made me throw up in my mouth a little today because I feel like it’s totally out of my league.  I am gaining confidence in the water, though, and that is encouraging for the swim.  I say that my only goal is to make the swim cutoff then manage the rest of the race, but I know you all know that isn’t quite true.  I am competitive (with myself, anyway) and I have a time goal in mind.  I just hope I can get close to it!  In the end, my goal is to enjoy Galveston like I enjoyed Cowtown – hopefully good things will happen! I know that Brent will give me what I need to be prepared. The rest is up to me!

After that, all that is on the calendar is Brazos Bend 50 in December. After this race, I know I can do it. I just need to reign myself in and not set the bar too high. But I can worry about that after Galveston.

I know I want to work on manintaining/increasing my speed, then focus on BB50.  Other than that, I’ll just have to see what pops up!

Until next time,

Jen 💙

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

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 🙂

Rochester Race Recap

This past weekend, I traveled to Rochester for a mini-reunion with my Sole Sister Jenn – OH, and to run a little race!  I ran the Rochester Marathon!! 🙂

Back Story

Back in the winter months when I was planning to run the Big Cedar 50 miler this November, my coach advised me to find “a hilly marathon to run in late September/early October” as a warm up to the 50M.  I started looking around and found NOTHING in Texas that fit the requirements.  So I expanded my search to surrounding states and found nothing.  When I started considering farther away states, I had the idea to start looking in states where I had friends.  So I started looking then asked Jenn to send me her race schedule.   Low and behold, she was to run her first full marathon on September 18.  So we started talking about it and she was SO excited, but I cautioned her it was a bit earlier than Brent had suggested so I had to get it cleared through him.  He did and I signed up immediately!  I was so excited to have the opportunity to be there when she crossed the finish line to become a marathoner!!

Fast forward.  Jenn started having pain in her knee…or at least she thought it was her knee.  She ran about 3,000 races before she broke down and consulted medical attention (mind you, she is a MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL).  Diagnosis: stress fracture in her femur.  This meant she wouldn’t be able to run the marathon….or the half-marathon.  I felt SO BADLY that I would be going up there for her to wait around for me to cross the finish line.  On the flip side, she felt SO BADLY that I was coming up to run a race that she could’t run.  So we both felt badly, but there was no way that I would have cancelled!!  She was the ONLY reason I chose that race!!

My own struggle with my psoas and running in the Devil’s Armpit is well documented so I won’t revisit it here.  Suffice to say that I felt unprepared for this race simply because of the Jedi mind tricks the heat played on my brain.

Race week finally arrived and OFF I GO!

This marathon training has seemed so short.  The first half of it was shared with training for my first sprint triathlon at the end of July.  Plus, maybe I’m getting old because time seems to fly these days.  In any case, I didn’t really feel like I trained for a marathon at all! LOL

Friday came and I was ready to go!!  My bag had been packed for days…..well, my race gear at least!  My day didn’t start exactly as I had planned.  I had packed greek yogurt, boiled eggs and some almonds and cheese for the trip AND TSA MADE ME THROW THE GREEK YOGURT AWAY.  I was so mad.  Our security is SERIOUSLY A BIG *&^%(*& JOKE!!!  <insert stress here>  My metabolic efficiency plan is lower carb and currently no grains….try finding anything to fit that description in an airport!  I looked at the yogurt that was available in a couple of places, but it was too high in sugar and carbs so I decided to eat  my eggs and add cheese or almonds.  My fat intake would just have to be a little higher than normal.

This trip seemed to take FOREVER!  I was so ready to see my friend!!  When my plane FINALLY  landed, I was walking to the luggage carousel and I saw the “Ain’t Texas” shirt first before I noticed who was wearing it.  IT WAS JENN!!!!

 

We dropped my bags, picked up our packets, went grocery shopping for my special diet and for the weekend then headed off to Joshua’s football game.  (Football in New York is WAY different than Texas, btw!)  It was a crazy busy afternoon!

Jenn had this box waiting for me!! She is so thoughtful.

Jenn had this box waiting for me!! She is so thoughtful.

Isn't it perfect?!?

Isn’t it perfect?!?

This cupcake was called Gluttony and I left it in her fridge

This cupcake was called Gluttony and I left it in her fridge <whaaaa>

Saturday we didn’t have set in stone plans.  We slept in (until 7 AM!) and drank coffee for quite some time then decided to head out for my 2-mile run before the rains came.  Jenn rode her bike alongside me and we talked and chatted the whole way.  The run felt SO GOOD.  When we got back home, her husband, John, was finishing up breakfast.  Bless their hearts for being so accommodating with my pre-race food binge/special diet.  I say this because I had to eat SO MUCH FOOD (and it was so specific)! LOL  My ME specialist with whom I am working sent me a very detailed plan.  I followed it almost to the letter (I had to make some modifications for lunch.)  We didn’t have breakfast until 10AM, so with the late start I had even less time between meals to get all this food down.  I felt as if I needed to be rolled away from the breakfast table – I was so full!

Jenn wanted to take me around Rochester, so I made my between-breakfast-and-lunch-smoothie and we headed out.  Our first stop was Genesee Brewery, which is located right on the Genesee River.  I WAS STILL SO FULL – by now it was after Noon and I had downed my smoothie in the car.  I couldn’t drink much, so we decided to get a flight and share.  (The beer here was the best of the day overall, by the way!)  I SWEAR I only sipped!!

The cider was for Jenn. I personally don't consider it worthy of drinking.

The cider was for Jenn. I personally don’t consider it worthy of drinking.

Genesee River (lower falls, I think) right next to Genesee Brewery

Genesee River (lower falls, I think) right next to Genesee Brewery

Our next stop was Rochester Brewery.  The beer here was OK, but they had a scotch ale that tickled my taste buds, so it was my favorite beer of the day.  img_1453

See that liquid goodness at the end?? That's the scotch ale

See that liquid goodness at the end?? That’s the scotch ale

For lunch, we went to an apparently famous BBQ restaurant – Dinosaur Bar B Que.  It was delicious, but different than Texas BBQ.  Of course, I was still stuffed from breakfast and smoothie but that didn’t stop me from stuffing my face…again!

MORE food!

MORE food!

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After we ate, we made our way home for a quiet pre-race evening and late dinner.

GO time!

I slept like a baby.  It seemed like I had just closed my eyes and my alarm was already going off!!  I fixed my race-day breakfast, got all my gear together and we were headed to the start line!  We got there in plenty of time – Jenn and I are of the same mindset that you must get there early.  I like to get there early to get myself centered before the race (and use the potties 200 times), but I think for her it is more about parking.

Joshua's sign gained A LOT of attention. It was so clever!!

Joshua’s sign gained A LOT of attention. It was so clever!!

We made our way to the start and lined up.  I never had pre-race jitters except for the couple of minutes when the race countdown had begun.  The gun went off and the course immediately turned into a steep downhill.  I tried to hold back for a bit but decided just to go with it and let gravity take over.  So my nutrition change called for making UCAN gel.  (Surprisingly, when you add Base salts and use coconut water, it doesn’t taste half bad!)  I had 2 containers of UCAN gel in my belt and each of them had 2 servings of UCAN.  I really only needed three, but I like to be prepared.  I ALWAYS carry extra.  I also had a GU, in case of emergency.  Boy Scout status here.  Running down the hill, I felt those gel containers bouncing around and as I reached back to steady them, ONE FELL OUT.  Either I am as mentally strong as Fort Knox, or things like this have happened too often to count because I didn’t even really panic.  (I think we ALL know which…) Seriously, though, what was I going to do….go back and attempt to get it and get trampled?!?  NO.  I just needed to adjust my strategy.  I decided to spread out my servings of UCAN over a bit longer period of time, then use my GU between mile 20-22.  And so the first mile came in at 7:59. (I SWEAR IT WAS GRAVITY!)

I settled into a fairly steady pace soon after my plunge from Mt. Everest and averaged between 8:30-9:20 until the halfway mark.  All of this time, I had stayed in zone 2 heart rate, which was NOT the plan.  The plan was to run 3-5 in zone 2, kick it up into zone 3 then give it everything at mile 20.  Riiiiiiight.  There were hills.  LOTS OF HILLS.  Downhills, too, which were just as bad because they were generally steep and I could tell my quads would pay for those soon.  By mile 8, I could tell that the ups and downs were already taking a toll.  I was on pace to run around 2:00 for the first half and I knew that my legs wouldn’t be able to keep up.  I knew that I wasn’t going to hit 4:00.  I HAD to reconcile this and not let it affect me mentally.  I made a decision, though, not to slow down.  What would that accomplish??  I knew I was going to slow down at some point and wanted to cover as much ground as I could before that happened.  Despite the killer hills; despite shredding my quads on the downhills; despite my fueling issue; despite the rising temps; I still ran the first half in 1:55.

As the second loop started, I could tell that I was slowing down.  Now came the ever-burning question:  when to use the last half of the fuel I had left?  I had taken the first serving at mile 8, which was around the 1:10 mark.  I decided to try to wait until 16, even if it was a bit past 2:20 (which I knew it would be! LOL).  I was expecting an aid station at 16, but in the second half there was an aid station at 14.5 and not again until 17.  So I took the UCAN at 17.  This made me a little behind my re-fuel.  I was beginning to fatigue and to add insult to injury, I had to stop for the bathroom, which ticked me off.  I NEVER have to stop during races.  Bleh.  I could tell by mile 19 that my energy level was decent and had been steadied by the UCAN, but remember wondering if my legs would be able to take me another 7 miles.  My quads were the problem and so fatigued from the downhills.  I ended up taking the emergency GU at mile 21, just to make sure I kept my energy levels up for those last 5 miles.  I had already slowed down – I was running between 10:00-10:30 min miles for the most part and I couldn’t afford to lose anymore time by losing more energy.  All this time, I was STILL in zone 2.  That seriously bothered me, but my legs didn’t have it in them to run fast enough to get my heart rate up.  I finally crossed the finish line at 4:10:43, a PR by about 4 min 30 sec – yes, a PR was great but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t upset about not being able to run this race better.

As soon as I got my medal, I was nearly tackled by Jenn!  I forgot to mention that Jenn, after the femur fracture, dropped back to the half and had decided to walk it.  On Saturday, she said she might run the last 3 miles if she wasn’t feeling any pain.  She casually told me that SHE RAN THE ENTIRE RACE.  Oh Jenn.  What am I to do with her?!?  I am so proud of her tenacity and how she refuses to never give up!!  She also said that she thought I might have placed in my age group, because (and I quote), “I was looking at people’s faces and judging their age and everyone was younger than you.” Because you can ALWAYS determine someone’s age just by looking!  LOL

How can you be disappointed when you are almost tackled at the finish AND she tells you she ran the entire half?!?

How can you be disappointed when you are almost tackled at the finish AND she tells you she ran the entire half?!?

Joshua holding the signs Jenn made for me!

Joshua holding the signs Jenn made for me!

We made our way to the results tent and I had snagged 2nd place in my age group!  That was definitely icing on the cake!  I laid down on a bench while Jenn went to claim her special medal for finishing the Four Seasons Challenge, then we went out to claim my Major Award!

Survived is a good way to put it. THE HILLS.

Survived is a good way to put it. THE HILLS.

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My Major Award!!

Food binge!

OK, I really didn’t food binge.  LOL  But I did eat a Garbage Plate.  Apparently it is a concoction that is unique to Rochester.  Jenn and I shared one because I knew that I would NEVER be able to eat a whole one.  It had macaroni salad, home fries and hamburger patties on top.  So odd! LOL  It wasn’t bad.  Personally, I would have preferred mac’n’cheese but Jenn claimed that NY’ers love their macaroni salad!  LOLimg_1475

We ended up getting Panera for dinner, which made me happy :), and settled in to watch football before it was time to head to bed.

I want to take this time to say HOW MUCH that I enjoyed spending the weekend with Jenn and her family.  She told me before I came how much I would love her husband and her boys and she was so right!!

Post-race demons and coming to acceptance

I’m not going to lie.  I was not happy that I didn’t run a sub-4 marathon.  In my mind, getting to that point was going to be validation that I was on-track for Houston and my BQ attempt.  I tried to focus on the positives.  I tried to reason with myself with all the reasons that I should be proud of 4:10, but none of it worked.  When my coach asked me what my feelings were about the race (I have a feeling that he already knew), he told me to list the negatives and the positives.  That actually helped.

Negatives:

  • My legs didn’t have it in them.
  • Stayed in zone 2
  • Missed goal time of 4:00

Positives:

  • Wasn’t as tired afterward as in past marathons (I’m sure that had nothing to do with staying in zone 2)
  • Didn’t break down mentally in race (I waited until after LOL)
  • 1:55 first half, even with the hills
  • PR
  • 2nd age group
  • No stomach upset/issues (this was my first race using UCAN as fuel during the race)

I also decided to list some variables that I knew had effected the race:

  • Taper seemed shorter (maybe it wasn’t)
  • Started new nutrition program 3 weeks ago
  • Fueling fiasco at start of race
  • Hills.
  • Temps for the race had increased steadily and it was fairly humid.

And, things I need to figure out going forward:

  • Why did my legs feel so dead when I never got out of zone 2?  Was it solely the hills?  Is any of it related to transitioning to metabolic efficiency?  I mean, I just started this process.
  • Why do I feel like I failed if I was able to come out with a PR and age group place?

I have had a couple days to get the race endorphins out of my system and catch up on sleep.  I did a little research and the elevation gain for Rochester (according to Strava) is 915 feet.  The elevation gain for Dallas is 524.  So I basically ran twice the elevation, or difficulty, and still managed a nearly-5 min PR.  That actually made me feel better.

I also need to remember that I had to overcome a setback with that psoas and I still managed a PR.  Even more important and encouraging is that I have had no aches and pains aside from my quads.  My quads were mad over those downhills, but they haven’t been grumbling too much.

Most importantly, I am BLESSED.  Blessed that I was able to travel to see my friend.  Blessed that I can even run at all.  Blessed that my body is healthy.

So yeah, I was upset for a bit.  I acknowledged my feelings, worked through them and have managed to find myself on the sunny side of the situation!

THANK YOU to everyone for all your support!!!  All the texts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram messages and comments, for signing up for the tracking that didn’t work – YOU ALL ROCK!!

Got my eyes on Houston!
Jen