Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week 1

Training for Rocky this week went well.  I have been fighting some sort of illness but managed to get 90 percent of my training in.

The legs are feeling a bit "funky" today, calf aches and pains, a hip flexor a bit angry, and a bruised toe are letting me know that the last few weeks of running and racing and little to no real time set aside for a full recovery is not the way to go.  I slept a full 12 hours Weds night.  This is not a normal occurrence for me and was the first indicator that something was up.  I'm still learning to listen to the body and the real trick for me is figuring out if a particular "issue" is something to run through or something to listen to.

When Boo climbed into bed with me this morning at the precise time I was supposed to get up and run another 10 - 15 miles, I opted for the snuggle time with him.  Knowing how quickly this time will pass, I believe I made the right choice.  As we watched Thomas and he ate the breakfast I had prepared him, he said to me, "Mommy, I will always love you.  Even when I'm 39!"  Sigh....  love that kid!

I've been doing more reading on St. Francis and his spirituality speaks so strongly to my heart.  Simplicity.  Humility.  Joy.  Solitude.  All things that I am probably LEAST associated with, but all things that I long for.  Slowly, ever so slowly, I feel God stripping away the things of the world that really don't matter and find Him filling them with tender moments like this morning that will always be cherished.

The only way to make rapid progress along the path of divine love is to remain very little and put all our trust in Almighty God. - St. Therese of Lisieux

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Plan in Place

I have been able to come up with a doable plan for Rocky 100.  I know it is achievable, what I lack is the drive to follow through. 

I thrive very well on structure and discipline and having had a few weeks of neither has not helped me to stay motivated.  I am hoping that following my plan will encourage my heart to follow in a timely manner. 

It was a bit brisk out there this morning, but still quite a wonderful morning for a run.  It definitely feels like fall!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stuck in Planning

I am trying to develop a solid yet realistic training plan that will get me to the finish line of Rocky 100 in Feb.  Nothing is coming easily and I almost feel ready to give up before I even begin because I can't find a plan to fit.

I am coming to truly understand the expression "we are each an experiment of one" now. The most important thing for me is going to be making my schedule work for me and not vice versa.  I do not have a "typical" running schedule if there even is such a thing.  So my plan will look dramatically different than what it has been in the past.  If it gets me where I need to be, I will be good.  If it doesn't...well, I just don't know.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rocky Raccoon 25K

After last weekend's fairly ego-busting romp, I convinced Stacy to run a race that we had already decided to volunteer at, the Rocky Raccoon 10K/25K/50K.

It was decided that we would run this as a training run and have a nice, relaxed run on some beautiful trails and then show up for our time to help the HTrex Aid Station. The 25K seemed to fit our needs perfectly.

The morning started at an early 4:30 am, heading to Huntsville State Park in 34 degree temps. I had Lem and her friend tag along for the "experience" since they both are budding runners. Hot Cocoa and fresh baked Cranberry muffins in hand, they piled into the Nerd Herder with coats and blankets for everyone.

We met Stacy in the dark and suddenly realized how very, very cold it was! I told the girls to hang out in the Nerd Herder for as long as they wanted to so as to keep warm, but asked that they not run the engine because I was low on fuel.

Stacy and I headed to the start line and at 7 AM, we began our training run. It was a great day to run the trails. We saw lots and lots of people, many of which looked as though they had not run trails before, but seemingly enjoying the nice change of venue from road running. One guy was thrilled to find Oreos at the aid stations and kept yelling out to the incoming runners, "THEY HAVE OREOS!" He was ecstatic and we told him to hang in there because there would probably be Gummy Bears somewhere along the line too! I bet he'll be back for more trail running!

We probably started out a bit faster than we should have, but it was all for fun and when we ran into Miles, we decided it was all his fault we were running a sub 9 min pace on the trail! He was kind enough to let us know that his game plan was to run until he either finished or blew up. We thanked him for that information and decided we'd opt for the finish! (Love that guy!)

I tend to run faster than I should and knowing that Stacy is recovering from her first 100 miler as well as running on a BROKEN ANKLE and with a BROKEN WRIST from a recent car accident that happened one week before her first 100 at Arkansas Traveler, I thought it best if I let her set the pace.

We had a good run and lots to talk about since we had not seen each other for about 6 weeks. We took the rest of the run easy but Stacy did manage to tweak her ankle and fall. My heart stopped as I saw her hit the ground, but it true to life Stacy form, she got up, shook it off, and kept going. She is a tremendous athlete not to mention insane.

We finished the race/run, and decided we were wanting some real food to eat before heading to the Aid Station to help. As we tried to start the Nerd Herder, there was an eerie "click, click, click" with no engine turn over. Ugh. New cars should not have dead batteries, should they? Upon a bit of investigation, it was discovered that the girls had indeed stayed in the car to keep warm using the radio for quite sometime. Thankfully, there was a nice mountain biker just waiting to offer his help, and soon enough we were on the hunt for some food.

The Aid Station was tons of fun! I have never volunteered at a trail race before. I am so glad that I did and will be certain to do so as often as possible. Trail runners are an incredible bunch of people. From the volunteers that help run the races to the participants of the race, the joy of running shines through even in the difficult times.

A runner, Les, came into the aid station and we noticed that his little finger looked a bit, shall we say, broken? We called Stacy over and within minutes, she fixed him up and sent him on his way! In true runner fashion, instead of crying about how much it must of hurt, he said, "THANK YOU!" and headed to the finish line!

I had the absolute pleasure of seeing several friends finishing up the 50K. Ken, Edwin, Trudy and many others. I had the privilege to meet three ladies, all close to if not already 70 years old. They were walking the 25K. What a fun bunch of girls! Before they left the aid station, one of the ladies shared with me that she had stage 4 lung cancer and that her two friends agreed to walk this with her because she wanted to do it so much. I could barely contain my tears and asked her if I could give her a hug. She appeased me and I could see we were all choked up, so I sent them on their way to finish the final 2.8 miles. My hope is that yesterday was all that she hoped for and more. Friends like that don't come around very often...

So to my friends and family that support what I do, I thank you. Again and again.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cactus Rose

Race Prep

The days leading up to my departure to Bandera were somewhat chaotic which is a fairly normal state of affairs around here, but this particular week, they seemed to be even more chaotic events.
We spent the weekend before CR in Garner State Park and had the chance to visit Hill Country State Natural Area, which is in Bandera and where the race is held. I had not had a chance to run any of the course as a training run, so getting a glimpse of what to expect was a nice treat.

The race venue is exactly how Joe describes it...rugged, nasty, and beautiful. Cactus Rose is the perfect name for this event. Cactus would describe the "biting" aspect while Rose would merely touch the surface of the beauty that awaits each runner as they hit the crest of the many hill climbs throughout the course.

I wasn't able to put a whole lot of time into my drop bag strategy and had a mini-panic attack Thursday night as I tried to figure out how to best assemble them. I think I did a pretty good job of it, though, it turns out, I didn't really use them much at all.

I headed out Friday morning to the State Park. It was about a 4.5 hour drive. A lot of time to think and pray about what lay ahead. The race briefing was short and sweet. One thing I did take away from the briefing was how very dry and dusty to course was and the suggestion was made to perhaps consider using a bandana across the face so as to not breath in so much of it. After my experience at Capt'n Karl's I decided that I would definitely heed that advice.

Perfect Day

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day for a race. It was a bit of a chilly start at 5:00 am. The temps were around 35 degrees according to my car thermometer. I don't mind starting in the cold and dark. I actually rather enjoy it. It helps me to get my head focused on the task at hand and spend some quiet time taking in the night sky.

The first 10 miles were great. Nothing too difficult, just a gentle roll into the next section of trail which awaited us. I placed this section of trail into my mind to recall later if I had to start gutting out some mileage in the second loop. Knowing that the run in to the finish would be merciful gave me hope for a good run.

After about mile 11, however, things got nasty trail-wise. Straight up hill climbs, no switch-backs. Cactus that couldn't be avoided, rocks that rolled, dust that hung in the air for miles. I handled it pretty well until about mile 20 at which point all sense of motivation was completely drained from my body. My legs did not endure the moving rock well, especially on the downhills. I couldn't even feel like I was safely walking down the hills. My quads were fairly shot as I came into the Lodge at the end of loop 1. I did the loop in 6 hours, which wasn't too shabby, but I was hoping for 5. I decided to have a serious think about the rest of the race. I ate some yogurt, drank some coconut water and rubbed the legs out. Ultimately, I knew I was done, but I wanted to give myself some more time. The longer I thought about it, the more I realized that I would probably be out on the trail in the dark and I wasn't sure about my ability to navigate the rock in daylight, never mind moonlight on exhausted legs. My light, gloves, pants, jacket, were all dispersed at different drop bags along the course and I was fairly certain I would need it all sooner rather than later.
I surmised that I would be risking a pretty nasty fall/injury since my lower extremities were pretty well fried after only one loops and did not want to give up the training time that I would certainly lose after this race that I need to complete Rocky. So I handed in my chip. Sure, I could have eeked out a few more miles, walking. But why? I packed up my gear and headed home, tail between my legs. Cactus Rose's thorns got me good.

What Went Right; Went Went Not-so Right

My gear was in check for the race. I had no issues to speak of. I was warm when I needed to be and able to shed layers as necessary. My hydration was spot on. I was drinking regularly and had no feelings of dehydration or stomach upset. I probably could have eaten more frequently, but I really never felt hungry. I ate a little bit every 5 miles, a few honey chews, a bit of a Larabar, and S-caps kept me topped off pretty well.

I think my training for this race as it pertains to mileage was good. The thing most lacking was the ability to train terrain-specific. I am not sure yet how I will accomplish this in the future. I understand that many runners actually run the course a few times during training, but I did not have that luxury this time around. Keeping this in mind, I may alter which races I register for in the future. If I can't duplicate the course terrain, I will need to analyze whether or not I am setting myself for a DNF.

Lessons To Go Home With -

Coming home from Cactus Rose, I had a good 4 or 5 hours to beat myself up. This is just part of the experience for me, I suppose. I need to work through the feelings that I have let others down, that I have failed at my goal, and finally that what I need to learn from it all.

This race was particularly difficult to DNF. I told myself and Mark that I would not DNF under any circumstance, unless there was a physical injury that prevented me from finishing. The lesson I take away from that line of thinking is that I have no business predicting the future. I can't possibly know what will happen out there nor why it will happen. Even in the best of situations things happen.

By the time I was about half-way home, I had retired from my ultra-running career, decided that I would only run for a few miles each week and take up crochet. It was pitiful. I had a good ole pity party, crowning myself queen of all that sucks.

A little further along, I decided maybe I just needed to be more careful in the races I decide to take on and train more specific to the courses I chose to run. If I can't run on a similar terrain, than perhaps I should not run the race.

I told a few people about my DNF and began to come out of my pity party the closer I got to home. I had to pull over for a brief nap as I was nodding off at the wheel. After about an hour of sleep, I felt much better, got my head on straight and heard God's whisper... "Running is what you do, it is not who you are." I prayed about this for a bit and asked myself some questions. Particularly these, "If I never raced again, would I be ok?" Answer... "Absolutely." "If I ran three days a week a few miles a day, would I be ok?" Answer..."Definitely." Running is NOT who I am. Running is what I enjoy. I AM a Mom. I AM a Nana. I AM a friend. I AM a Wife. I AM a sister. I AM a daughter. I AM a believer.

Now the toughest question of all, do I do what I enjoy because of selfish motivation or do I do what I enjoy because I am embracing the gift that He has given me? Do I glorify Him in this?

I am the type of person who needs to see God's hand in all that I can. I can sit and dwell upon why I didn't finish this race and what I need to do to finish it next year, and there certainly will be times when I do that, but for now, I need to see God's hand in the day I was given last Saturday. I ran one of the toughest courses I've ever run. It was one of the hardest runs I have been on. I finished a 25 mile training run in 6 hours and during that time, I was at the crest of a hill at sunrise. I saw God's handiwork in the hills of Bandera. It was worth everything to have been witness to that. It was a gift that many will never see. It is a gift that I will always cherish. My prayer is that I never forget what a blessing this experience was.