Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011!

For unto us a child is born!

 Wishing each of you the peace and joy of the season and praying you feel the blessings overflow into 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011


Did you see that?  It just flew by!  December that is!  As well as 2011!  OK, enough with the !!!!!!..!

It's been a busy Advent around the home front.  I finally finished up the Christmas preparations today and am looking forward to sliding into my favorite time of the year...the week AFTER Christmas.  That week when no one is expected to really do much except be lazy, enjoy family, and drink and eat about anything one would like.

I have finally figured out that "treat weeks" (weeks where I don't worry about what I eat as a sort of reward to myself) are not really reward weeks.  They are more apt to wreak havoc on my intestinal track which in turns causes "CODE BROWN" to show up at the very worst times while on my runs.  Or in the pool.  It just isn't worth it anymore and I am giving up "treat weeks".  I'm sticking to the plan that works day in and day out, just throw an extra side of Hummus on my plate! (oops, another ! snuck in).

Jamoosh over at Last Mile Lounge is hosting the Hard Core Club for 2012.  You can bet I am in.  This is the one area I have yet to really get the results I seek because, well, I stink at following through with consistent core work.  Funny how that works. 

I have a few thoughts about my direction for 2012, not just running, but over all.  I will take some time next week to compile them together for your reading pleasure.  Key word for the year?  Simplicity.

Wishing all of you a Very Merry Christmas and a Blessed and Peaceful New Year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Texas Trails 50K

Friday afternoon turned to Friday evening and I realized I hadn't thought much about the 50K I was scheduled to run on Saturday morning.  I found it funny that I wasn't nervous, worried, or concerned so much about all the little things that I normally obsess about.

By 10:30 pm, I had a small bag packed, a towel, an extra pair of shoes, socks, and a small med kit.  Save for the shoes and towel, everything could have fit into a gallon size ziplock bag with room to spare.  In the past, I have had so much more with me and it has become somewhat of an art form of sorts to show up at a race with as little as possible.

Typically, I use my hydration vest, but lately, I've been using my hand-helds for most all of my running.  This day I stuck with the hand-held and it worked perfectly.  I make good use of my Spi belt making sure I carry my nutrition and electrolytes necessary for each loop.  My drop bag has what I will use to replenish the Spi belt for each subsequent loop.

Saturday, my nutrition consisted of honey chews, S-caps, water, a few raisins and chips from aid stations.  I took the S-caps on the :48 and ate on the :58, as I stuck with my typical 8/2 plan for a majority of the race.

I had a bit of a horrible morning beginning at 4:35 am.  I was awoken by the vicious sound of attacking dogs.  This was coupled with the sound of a cat screaming as well.   I jumped out of bed and glanced out the window to see two unknown dogs tearing apart my neighbor's cat.  I ran as fast as I could down the stairs and scared the dogs off, but I really wish I could have caught them.  I am a dog lover and would never want any harm to come to one, but these dogs were on the loose and out to kill.   They need to be caught, and the owners need to be held responsible for their dogs being out.

I made my way over to Pumpkin, a ragdoll breed cat.  The most beautiful cat I have ever seen. He has adopted my front porch and sometimes my garage as his second home with another neighborhood cat, Harley.   He was still alive, but in horrible pain and shock.  I didn't dare touch him as I wasn't sure how he would react.  I talked quietly to him and tried to soothe him with my voice.  It wasn't doing much good.  He didn't appear to be able to move.  I had to figure out what to do.  I thought perhaps my race would be out the window.

I decided to go to the neighbor's house to see if there happened to be a light on.  4:35 in the morning, no such luck.  I went back to Pumpkin and he was gone!  I couldn't believe it!  I know that he was not capable of moving, so how he got away, I have no idea.  I knew he could not have gone far.  I looked under my Suburban and saw him in the same state.  Panting, crying, miserable.  My heart was breaking into a million pieces for him.

There was no way I could start my car with him underneath it, so I laid a towel to the side of my car, opened the garage door, thinking perhaps he would try to make his way in there to hide.  I went back into the house to get a few things and as I came back outside, I heard a meow like I have never heard before.  It was a "Please don't leave me!" type of meow.  He was looking straight at me as he had again somehow managed to get partially out from under the car.  I went to him and pet him awhile.  He was a bit calmer and let me pet him.  But he was in horrible agony.  I slowly moved him onto the towel and carefully wrapped his beautiful body into the towel.  He allowed me to pick him up and I just talked to him.  I told him how beautiful he was and how strong.  I told him I wouldn't let anything bad happen to him.  And I just held him for a minute.  I made my way back to the neighbor's home and rang the bell.  By now it was a bit after 5, and as she told me later, she knew it couldn't be anything good.

As she opened the door, I had tears on my face and I handed her Pumpkin telling her all the story.  She was calm and mentioned that she had been through this before and would know what to do.  I let Pumpkin go and I knew I wouldn't see him again. 

I knew if I thought about things much longer, I would bail on the race, so I got into the car and started driving.  That meow haunted me the entire way to the park.

As I pulled in, I saw Richard, parked, and we walked in to get our race packets.  I also saw Evan and Tessie (sweet, sweet dog!).  Tessie brightens anyone's day!  Evan took a picture of us visiting and while it's not the best one of me, she is adorable!

The start line was a nice place to catch up with a few faces I have not seen in some time.  The 50K had just over 110 entrants, so it was  not too crowded.  I'm not sure how many showed up for the 20K, but that crowd seemed larger.   Again, Evan was kind enough to snap a picture of some of the local runners that were ready to run.

It was a bit chilly waiting for the start, so I kept my jacket until the last minute.  Richard was kind enough to tuck it away as he waited for the start of the 20K.

I saw Rachel, who was running her first ultra, at the start.  She ended up having a great race and every time I saw her on the course, she looked happy and strong.  Sara was also at the start and I quickly thought back to the fun times we had "lost in The Woodlands" with Pat!

The first loop was a 10 K, and I wore my Pure Grits for this aspect of the race.  Almost immediately I recognized a bit of wonky-ness in my right achilles.  I was glad I brought the spare shoes, my Cascadias.  I came in at 1:10, about an 11:25 pace.  I changed my shoes and headed out for the first 20K loop.  It was very pleasant weather and there was a lot of opportunity to see the same faces on the out and backs.  I love being able to say hello and encourage everyone I can.  It makes for a great day!

The loop was fairly uneventful with the exception of the 4 bathroom stops I had to make.  I have no idea why this was such an issue this day, but it was what it was.  I finished the 2nd loop at the 3:32 mark for a pace of 11:37.    Richard hung around for a bit to see me come in and cheer me out on the last loop.

Talking with Richard for a moment, I downed my coconut water and ate a few Chocolate Cranberry Craisins  (TO DIE FOR!!!!!!)  I bid my farewell and headed back out to finish up the last 20K.  About a mile from the aid station, I realized that I had forgotten to refill my Spi Belt with my supply of Honey Stingers.  I had one package left, so I calculated that if I ate every 5 miles, I would be good to go.  I continued to hydrate and take the S caps, focused on keeping a consistent pace, and ran the trail truly knowing it.  I knew where the hills were, and saved my walk times for then.    My mantra for the race was to run slow, stay consistent, and the real race for me would begin at the last aid station.

I had a few time goals for this race.  I ran this race at a 6:22 last year.  My PR for the 50K distance was 6:14.  For some reason I had remembered my PR incorrectly and thought it was 6:04, so I was eager to break 6 hours.  I was really praying I could come in at a 5:59.  On Friday night, I looked over my prior times and discovered that my true PR wasn't a 6:04, but a 6:14.  I would be lying if I didn't admit that this played with my head quite a bit during the race.  I kept the mind games in check the best I could and just focused on enjoying the run.

Heading out the last loop, I knew I had run the first 20K in 2:22, so a 2:30 would be a good final loop.  I kept running numbers in my head.  I had to let all the "figuring" go and just run my plan, only making the decision on my true goal 2.7 miles from the finish line. 

The loop again, was fairly uneventful.  Still lots of smiles and hellos to be offered and received.  Focusing on remaining consistent and not running my butt off just yet was difficult, however, it was a great exercise in patience for me.

As I ran past Lake Raven, I could feel the mental drama play out, but I held it at bay a little longer.  I arrived at the final aid station and surmised that I had 15 minutes to run the final 2.7 in and beat my PR.  I really didn't think I was going to be able to do it.

I walked out of the aid station, walked up the elevation and then began to run a fairly hard pace.  I knew I couldn't open up completely just yet, so I refrained from an all out sprint.  I felt strong, though tired, but I pressed on.  The hardest thing was passing by Ken and Edwin and not being able to stop long enough to give them each a hug.  I have never done that before.  I  yelled out that I was trying to break my PR and prayed that they would forgive me.

As I got to the final stretch along Park Road, I became faster and faster, keeping my turnover directly under my hips as I have been practicing on my training runs.  The quicker my pace became, the better I felt.  It was surreal.  I didn't believe I would break 6 hours, but I knew I would have a new PR.

Seeing the concrete pathway which heads towards the finish line, I dropped the hammer and ran through the finish line at 5:54:54!  A better-than-I-thought-I-ever-could have PR!   I also later learned that I was the 11th female and 27th over all.  There are no recognitions for age group, so I am not sure where I fell in that category.  Roger Soler was at the finish to hand out medals and sweatshirts and I hugged him as hard as I could.  I am sure he appreciated the sweaty love fest I left all over him!

All in all, it was a another great day to run and an awesome way to end my 2011 racing season.  Looking forward to new adventures in 2012!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Just Because I Can

Doesn't mean I should.

Cryptic, eh?  I have been focusing on new goals for the upcoming year and my reasons for them.  After PH100, I had some pretty dark moments of anger and resentment that I have had work through.

First, I was very angry at the RD of PH100.  I felt misled, misguided, and then in the end after reading many of his posts and comments about the race, I felt as though he was laughing at those of us who felt the race was not as advertised.  I have spoken to a few close friends about this situation and while most people would blow it off and never look back, I am a firm believer in finding the lesson in everything that I go through.

Yes, I do believe he misled the runners, yes, he did advertise a fairly flat, fast course when in fact it wasn't one.  Yes he did make jokes about the folks who complained, and in the end, he even ran the course himself to "prove" how easy it was.  Slap me in the face.  He finished the course in 31 hours, 1 hour over the time limit allowed to the rest of the runners and then gave himself a belt buckle.  Speaks to his character I suppose.

Ultimately, the lesson can not be about him, however.  It must come back to me.  What was my part in this race?  How did I fail?  How could I have prevented the dnf of my "A" race?  The answer is simple.  I need to be a better runner.  Better able to handle ANY terrain thrown at me, regardless of how it is advertised.  Better able to handle ANY weather, regardless of what time of year it is (I don't do well in temps close to 90 during races).  Better able to discern the correct races to enter. 

I thought I had investigated enough about PH100 before entering, but I am convinced now that I should have found an elevation chart, an objective course description, or even better, visited the course before I registered.  Granted, I really did think I was given accurate information, but rest assured, I will never take an RD's word for anything ever again, unless his name is Joe Prusatis.  He doesn't lie.

Here are the personal goals I decided upon after PH100 for 2012:

1.  No 100 milers for 2012.  Primary focus will be on the 50K - 50 mile distance with a possible culmination race at Bandera in 2013; 100K.

2.  I will refrain from any race that requires the use of a pacer and a minimal, only if it's convenient, occasional crew.  I felt that I let people down at PH 100 by not reaching my goal.  I know that they don't feel that way, but I do and in order to alleviate myself of that emotional bag, I will stick to this plan for the year.

3.  Focus will be on consistency, strength, confidence in runs on difficult terrain.  This will involve rigorous cross-training of swimming, yoga, strengthening and if I can add it in, cycling.

4.  For cost-effectiveness as well as convenience, I will run most every race in Texas, as many of Tejas Trails races that I can and strongly consider completing the Capt'n Karl's series this year.  I will avoid as many comforts as possible, ie hotels, so as to add to the mental toughness I feel I need to acquire right now.  I love to camp, and I camped the night before Rocky in 23 degree temps.  It was a great race!

5.  My training will be done to meet MY goals.  While it is nice to have company for these long runs, I can no longer sacrifice my own "plan" just to have company.  If our plans mesh, great, if not, then no hard feelings.  I'm letting go of guilt this year.  I will register for the races that I feel I can finish, not because a good friend is running it too.

Some may say that I am being too hard on myself.  I am anyway, in my mind, so why not put it out in the open.  I am responsible for what happened in Oklahoma.  I dnf'd.  I decided to stop.  I wasn't fully prepared.  I didn't have all the information.  I spent a bunch of money that ended up being for naught.  I should have done better.  Next time I will.  I don't regret the experience because I learned so much that I really needed to learn about myself, especially with respect to my running.  I spent a wonderful weekend with my husband and some good friends.

Shortly after I devised my goals, I heard that Western States Lottery was about to open.  I don't know what happened to me.  I left these well-thought out, well-intentioned goals completely in the dust and threw my name in the proverbial hat.  I entered the WS lottery, why?  Because I could.  Because I finished a 100 miler within the specified time period that the race officials require.  Because my ego thought it would be cool.  Because I can't stick with a goal to save my life.  Because....

But just because I can, doesn't mean I should.  The next morning, I realized what the heck I had just done.  I entered the WS lottery.  Sure, my chances of being selected were small.  2000 applicants, 350 slots.  What are the odds?  Right?  What ARE the odds?
A Daily Mile friend suggested a book, Relentless Forward Progress.  I have never before purchased a book for my kindle app on my phone, yet, I felt compelled to buy this book.  I did and I quickly found my new mantra, my new threshold for which everything I do will now pass through.  FOMO.  Fear Of Missing Out.  In the book, he is referring to why we feel burned out, depressed, anxious, etc, during our training and his answer is that we are too quick to sign up for so many races that we feel we may miss out on something.    This could not be more true for me.  And I didn't even know it.  The most successful athletes I know are meticulous about their training plans, even more methodical about the races they enter.  Sure, I know a few who run everything and run every day and seem to be doing great, but most of the successful, balanced, and happy folks I know follow a carefully thought out plan and racing schedule which includes time for recovery, rest, and relaxation. I have been operating somewhat in this way in the last year, but I want to refine my approach to reflect what I want to become.  And yet, I enter the WS lottery.

If you don't know, the WS lottery is drawn and you are immediately charged the 340.00 entry fee.  There are no refunds, no transfers, no roll-overs to another year.  This is an expensive price to pay for my ego's sake.  I ran a few weeks ago with a group in Houston and met a guy who was selected FOUR YEARS IN A ROW!  Now, I know people that have been on the lottery list many times and not yet gotten in, but this guy made it in FOUR TIMES!  My chances of getting in seemed almost inevitable.  And the saddest part about it all, I really had no TRUE desire to run this race, yet.  I am not ready.  Not physically, not emotionally, not spiritually, and not financially.  The only reason, I could discern, was my ego.  My pride.  My stupidity.

I spent all of last week praying about what to do.  I didn't know if it was possible to withdraw from the lottery, but I started believing that I should consider asking.  I spoke with a trusted friend who has come to understand the inner workings of my mind, and he was able to help me sort through the ego and realize what I really wanted.   Finally, I asked myself one question, "If I could wake up tomorrow and be withdrawn from the lottery, how would I feel?"  I knew then I had to ask about withdrawing.  I knew because I would feel complete relief.  I had even determined that if I had been selected, my ego deserved the 340.00 fine, so I have been holding that aside just in case I ended up having to pay up. 

Tuesday, I contacted the RD of WS and briefly told him that I was in no shape to run WS at this time and would like to be sure that someone on the list of 2000 people that were hoping to get in should have the opportunity for that slot, not me.    He was so kind.  He sent me words of encouragement to consider entering the lottery again next year and removed me from the lottery.   I was elated.  And lesson was learned.  Just because I can, doesn't mean I should.

Now my focus is back to where it needs to be.  Appropriately, the book title, Relentless Forward Progress, seems to be another good mantra for me.  Not hanging out with the negative stuff too long, only long enough to learn and then move on.

Happy running to all of you over this Advent season.  Stay blessed, balanced, and run with joy!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's Good to Feel Good!

It seemed like the crud would never leave, but as I woke up yesterday morning, I discovered that all symptoms related to the last 8 weeks of crud had disappeared!  This was a wonderful blessing, especially at 4:30 am!

H-Trex hosted a great run on the Ho Chi Minh Trail yesterday.  I planned to arrive in plenty of time to find the group and start with everyone.  I did get to Memorial park in plenty of time, unfortunately, at 5:30 am, it is still very dark, and having never been there before, I really had no idea where I was or where I was to go.

I parked near the softball fields and found an entrance to the trails.  They were marked with flour so I knew I was on the right trail.  I carried my gear and cooler about a half mile one direction with no luck of finding the start line.  Turning around, I headed back in the other direction for about another half mile with still no luck.

Knowing I was on the right trail, I threw my gear into the back of my truck and figured I would just run the trail and find the start or some other runners eventually.  It was dark and humid.  My new Peztl head lamp worked wonderfully and stayed in place without a hat.  I was glad that I had it with me.

The trail was quiet and dense with understory.  As the sun began to emerge, I heard some men coming up behind me.  As they passed me, they confirmed that they were with H-Trex and I fell in line behind them.  It wasn't long before I realized, these were the front of the pack runners, of which I have no business trying to keep up with.  No bother for them though, they didn't even think twice about me as I dropped off to my own pace.

I came upon the start line at about 2.5 miles from where I started.  I checked in and started on my first loop, 45 minutes late because of the makeshift start line I created for myself.  My first official loop was 7.5 miles instead of 5 as a result of this as well.  If this had been a real race situation, I don't know if I would have continued because of the time factor, but to me, this was just a great way to get my mileage in for the weekend.  This trail is a heavily used trail by runners, bikers, and walkers.  I stepped off the trail to let the cyclists pass at least 20 times during the day.  It was nice to know that I was not alone, but I also was glad I wasn't trying to pr a race. 

My second loop I decided to run in reverse.  Seemed like a nice idea.  Funny thing about running in reverse, you go against the grain and the arrows seem to point in the wrong direction most of the time.  I was feeling the run in my legs as this was the longest I had run since OK.  I ended up catching a good sized root and took a hard fall, flying thru the air and landing on my shoulder and hip, even catching my hand trying to break the fall.  I have only fallen one other time that hard, at the Ouachita 50 miler, which was a great blessing, because I met Brad!  There was no one behind me on this fall, and I sat on the ground for a while assessing my condition.  I knew something had to be broken as hard as I had hit that ground.  My finger was really hurting and swelled immediately.  My first thought...I can run with a broken hand.  I stood up and discerned that though I was a bit torn up, I could absolutely run, but I needed to get moving because if I thought about it much longer, I might realize how bad I hurt.  I didn't even brush myself off.  Just got back to running.  A few miles later, I did try to wipe myself down and noticed a good size knot and bruise on my thigh.  The hand was still aching, but everything else felt fine.  At some point I got myself turned around and ended up going around the same loop three times.  Finally, I gave in and just ran the trail in the way it was marked and finished my 2nd 5 mile loop, only I clocked 8 miles.

The 3rd loop, really my 4th because of the mileage, I decided to run as prescribed and finish up strong.  I had planned to run between 20-22 miles, and finishing the entire loop would put me at 20 miles with an extra 2.5 to the car again.   I was definitely feeling tired so as I left the aid station I had the idea in my mind that if I was too wiped out, I would drop at my car and drive back to sign myself out.  I was starving.  Really, really hungry which has never, ever, ever happened to me during a run.  Ever.  But I wanted some french fries in a bad way!  I ate some nuts and they seemed to take off the edge.  I had been doubling up on S caps because of the level of humidity and this seemed to keep any cramps I might have had at bay.

As I came within a half mile or so of my car, I was blown away when I saw a HUGE coyote on the trail just a few feet ahead of me.  I have never seen one before and at first glance, I thought it was a wolf.  After researching when I arrived back at home, I decided it had to be a coyote, albeit a very large one.  I was quite freaked out by this as he was not running in the woods off the trail but rather, directly ON the same trail that I was on.  I was considering ending my run and this sealed the deal for me.  Not knowing what would provoke a coyote to come out in the open during the daytime on a heavily used trail told me that I needed to get off the trail. 

I exited the trail and logged a 20 mile run.  I figure it was a 22 mile day with the extra walking I did trying to find the start line, but I logged 20.  I was just over 4 hours, so it was a nice easy pace.  I was happy with my efforts for the day.

Today I awoke for a run that I figured I would only last an hour or so.  We met at Creekside and had a great run.  Everything felt great, aside from some overall soreness left over from my fall.  I think my shoulder and thigh are the worst of all, but thankfully, my hand is not broken and I can run without any pain.

Thanks to H-Trex for a wonderful new experience!  One I hope to partake in again very soon!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Finding the Groove

I've been away from the blog for almost a month so I figured I should post a little tidbit just to let the few of you that read this rag know that I am still around, still running, and working on finding the groove for the upcoming running year.

It's been a very interesting 8 weeks for me as I have been sick enough to be miserable since Sept 16, but not quite sick enough to shut everything down.  I finally went to the doctor for steroids and antibiotics 5 weeks into this stuff and while they seemed to do the trick within hours, I have spent the last 3 weeks dealing with the effects of an allergic reaction to the meds.

I am about 85% healthy at this point and it has occurred to me that this may be as good as it gets.  So sticking with training is what I've been doing and what I will continue to do.  Things could certainly be worse for me, so I will embrace the 85% and run through the 15% yet not occupy anything other than my running shoes.

Speaking of shoes, I have been wearing the Brooks Pure Project Grit more and more and I am really enjoying them.  As soon as my budget allows, I will be picking up a pair of the road shoe counterpart, The Flow, I believe.  I hope to post more of a review soon.

For now, back to push ups and mom duty!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Enough Already

Almost one week post race and I think I have had enough.  Enough of second guessing myself.  Enough of being mad at myself.  Enough of being mad at the race.  Enough of looking for explanations, excuses, encouragement, lessons, etc.  I don't have regrets, but I do have a bit of a broken dream.  Perhaps that is the way it should be at this point.  So it's time to refocus.  Last Saturday was a "goal race" but it does not define me.  It was a great day of running that ended before I wanted it to.  Hmmm, there's that word.  "I".

I have a few goals left for the racing season.  Part of me wants to drop those goals for fear of failure.  Part of me wants to train like crazy and surpass those goals.  But I have a nagging voice inside me that is telling me that what is most important.  What my running always comes back to.  Joy.  Running with Joy.

If that involves casting aside the watches, the plans, the goals, the pressure, then so be it.  I choose to run with Joy.  I do not want to come away from another run feeling like I have this week.  It is NOT what I want for my life.

This is a daily decision.  This is a constant turning over of my will, my wants.  This is a never-ending lesson in remaining open to what plans God has for me instead of what "I" have planned for me.  And His plan is ALWAYS so much better!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd

The short story is that I stopped at mile 49.  The quads weren't having any more of the hills, no matter what I promised them.  The Lessons:
1.  Always carry more S caps.
2.  I must find a way to effectively train for hills, especially downhills.
3.  I need to find my pace and remain consistent.
4.  Truly understand the type of course I am planning to race on.  Consider elevation, terrain, and exposure.

Now for the long version.
The course for this inaugural race couldn't have been more scenic.  Gorgeous views of the Illinois river, rolling hills, changing foliage, and wonderful people all rolled into a warm autumn day that seemed to have all the makings of a great race day.

All in all, it was a very good day.  In fact, it was an amazing weekend!  Mark and I were able to meet with some friends that made us feel at home for the weekend.  Not only did Bill and Shelia put us up for the weekend, Bill also was one of the wonderful volunteers for the race and spent most all of Friday (beginning at o'dark thirty) and again back at the race site at 4 am on Saturday, working until the last runner went through his aid station on Sunday.  To do all of this, he had to use his vacation time.  That is some amazing dedication.

Brad and his wonderful wife, Rachel, welcomed us for a lovely visit to discuss the race plan, as Brad was to be my pacer.  He was energized and ready to go, taking time off of work and away from his young family to help me reach my goal.  By all accounts, aside from my tweaky ankle and achilles which has been in and out of a boot for the last two weeks, everything looked as if it were in order.

Mark and I enjoyed the later start time of 8 am and slept till about 5, then headed out to the start line.  It was a bit chilly at 43 degrees, but that quickly became a non-issue.

The RD called the runners to the start line.  There were three groups, 50K, 100K, and 100 milers.  We were all to start together.  I love smaller races for this reason.  We all start together and get to visit along the route.  Ken announced that the initial out and back for the 100 milers which was supposed to be 7 miles was actually closer to 8.  He assured us that it would be ok because we would get the biggest hill in OK out of the way right away.

The gun was fired and off we went.  The road was gravel and fairly flat.  We crossed over the river via a beautiful old bridge, a bridge I was slated to cross 6 times during the run.  Shortly after the bridge, the 100 milers veered right for our extra out and back while the rest of the pack went left to begin their respective loops for their race distance.

The course quickly changed to a tree-covered, gravel road that seemed to have a constant incline to it.  There were areas with steeper hills and then nice down hills.  I walked the uphills and enjoyed coasting the downs, while still trying to maintain my 8/2 running/walking method.   I met a few folks along the way, all just as nice as anyone I've ever met.  A gal, Laci, from Nebraska, attempting her first 100.  Randy Ellis, whom I had heard so much about from Bill.  A wonderful, gentleman whom I wish I could have visited longer with.  Several others and I chatted though I never got their names.  One young man, a Navy man, attempting not only his first 100, but his first trail RUN, never mind race!  Another young man from nearby Muskogee that had only driven the trail once or twice.    I also came upon Deborah Sexton at one point near the end of the first loop.  We were both hurting by then, so I don't really recall what we spoke of.  I probably was doing a lot of whining by then.  Several of us ran the "biggest hill in Oklahoma" together and we agreed that we were certainly glad we got it over early.

As I came through the start/finish aid station, people were yelling "First Woman!" at me.  This may seem like good news to some, but to me, this set me up for a mental battle that I wasn't prepared for.  Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have dreamed myself to be in such a position.  I had to tell myself continually, this is a long race.  You are only a few miles in and you are going WAY too FAST!  SLOW DOWN!  I tried slowing and I thought I was, but no one was passing me.  I made it to the second aid station, Mad Dog, and again, FIRST WOMAN!   Ugh.  This is not my goal...this is not my goal, was playing in my head.  I ducked into the woods hoping someone would pass me.  No one did.  I walked all the uphills and ran the downhills and tried to maintain the 8/2 pattern, but this was becoming more difficult as I was hitting hill after hill after hill.  Relatively butt.  There was not much flat to this course at all.

I continued on to the next aid station, Out and Back.  The folks running the aid stations couldn't have been more friendly, more helpful.  They were truly amazing.  What wasn't so amazing was the disappearance of the tree canopy.  Within an instant, I found myself in very exposed, hilly, and continued gravel road.  I should mention that I have never really run on gravel before.  I had always assumed gravel roads and dirt roads were the same thing.   In Massachusetts, we called any dirt road a gravel road, so perhaps this is where my misunderstanding is rooted from.

As I came back through Out and Back, (mile 10.2 for some, 18.2 for the 100 milers) I was still leading the girls.  I made a decision that at the next aid station, I would sit in the port-a-potty until at least 2 women passed me.

As I approached Savannah, the hills became more steep.  I could see Bill on the horizon cheering us all into the aid station.  He was encouraging us and loving on us and even ran a few steps with me promising that the hills would end soon.  I was hopeful that the backside of the loop would be flat and that this would give my legs a reprieve.  I think it was at this point that I realized that the road I was running on was really not a trail, it was a road.   There was nothing soft or forgiving about this road.  And as the sun beat down on me from the top, the ground beat on me from the bottom.  Everything was hurting at this point.  From the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, everything was screaming OUCH!   I mentioned this to Bill, and he mentioned that he had some Motrin at the aid station. 

I met Mark at Savannah and quickly ducked into the can.  I heard several people pass by and as I came out, I saw two girls take the lead.  Thank you, Lord.  That pressure was off.  I don't know why I let that play with my head so much, but, it did.

I downed some coconut water, filled my bottle, ate some Motrin, handed off my extra layer and left out of the aid station looking forward to flatter terrain.  Within minutes, I found myself climbing more hills.  My calves were already cramping so I doubled up on the S caps and walked more.  Even while walking I somehow caught up to Laci, the # 2 woman.  She was struggling with a hamstring issue.  As we played leap frog, we commiserated with one another.  She would stop in the middle of the trail to stretch her hamstring, I would stop to stretch my calf.  It was nice to have a voice to hear other than my own.

I found myself soon alone again, however, with Laci still battling her hamstring.  My S caps and coconut water seemed to do the trick with the cramping of the calves, at least for a little while.  The hills continued to show up and then the tree canopy disappeared again.  I pressed on hoping still that the course would eventually begin to flatten out.

I came into the Hard Up aid station and Mark was there again.  He really did an amazing job as my crew!  I didn't expect to see him there, but I was so glad he was there!  I was again beginning to cramp and the sun was burning me.  I never thought to put on sunscreen or even bring my sunglasses.  I don't usually have to worry about these two things on trail runs.  Mark filled my bottle again and I downed more coconut water.  He was giving me updates from my friends, most of whom were reminding me to slow down and double up on the S caps, which I was already doing.  Unfortunately, I ran out of S caps as I didn't plan to have to double up on the first loop.  I always carry extra, but for whatever reason, this day, I didn't do that.

There seemed to be quite a few residents driving the course.  I don't know if they were just curious or if the road is always that busy, but each vehicle that went by kicked up a fair amount of dust and made for difficult breathing.  Just more fun in the pot of good times. 

My hydration was good.  I was emptying my bottles between aid stations and seemed to be emptying my bladder often enough.  All good signs that I wasn't dehydrating.  I headed out of Hard Up onto Last Gasp, thinking to myself...there can only be one reason that this station is called Last Gasp...more hills.

Very shortly after leaving Hard Up, the gravel road turned to a black top road, completely uncovered in the heat of the day.  I don't do well in these circumstances.  The hills continued and with each one, I just shook my head in a sort of disgust.  Music wasn't helping, prayer wasn't helping.  I was just plain miserable.  At some point on this section of road, a dog came up behind me and while he wasn't aggressive, he was very "happy" and jumped up on me.  I tried to push him away and took a nice bite on the hand.  He didn't mean to bite me, but this really took me by surprise.

I think the black top continue for several miles, until just before the Last Gasp.  I hit the gravel road once more, the final aid station and headed into the start/finish.  I was still 2nd woman at this point, but I knew that I would be resting a good while at the aid station.

I crossed that beautiful bridge for the 4th time of the day and found myself quickly in a chair.  I told Mark I wasn't going anywhere for awhile.  I needed to have a think about the situation.  I was completely drained.  I was completed deflated by my prospect on those hills for not just one, but two more loops.  I felt as if I had already run 70 something miles, not 40.

As I sat there, having my think, Mark doctored me up with food, drink, pickle juice. Everything he could think of.  Mexican coke in hand, I started to feel a bit better.  My head was back in the game and after about a 25 minute rest stop, I donned the hydration vest and headed back out.

Again, the road was fairly flat until about a mile from the start and then the hills started all over again.  I tried running, but the quads were spent.  My head was ok.  My mood was ok.  My legs quit.  I figured I'd walk for awhile till they decided to show up.  I alternated between a run and a walk.  I couldn't muster more than a few steps without having to start walking again.  And as I gained a bit of a run, a hill would show up, which I had to walk.  The downhills I took slowly.  But it wasn't long before I knew it was over.  I decided to not make a decision until I reached the first aid station, which was reportedly 4 miles out.  Hill after hill after hill, miles came and went, running was near impossible.  Maybe five feet at most ten feet at a time.  This was making for a painstakingly slow 4 miles.  As I looked at my watch, I noticed I was at mile 4.8, with no aid station in site.  At this point, I became angry.  I don't know who or what I was angry at, but I was angry.  I suppose thinking that aid station was at 4 miles and not at 5 was the infamous straw for me.    The thought of going over these hills twice more, possibly having another dog come at me in the dark, the self-doubt and realization that walking 50+ miles was what I was looking at and I didn't like it one bit. 

Finally, at mile 5, I saw the aid station, I saw another runner getting into the car to head back to the finish and I told them to wait for me.  As I hobbled to the car, one aid station worker asked if I was sure.  I suppose the glare from my eyes said it all...he walked away and never looked back.  He knew I was done.

I managed to throw myself into the back seat and couldn't believe I was throwing in the towel.  The volunteers driving us back told us that many people were taken back by the amount of hills this "relatively flat" course had.  The gentleman that was also heading back was dropping from the 100K.  He was just as upset as I.  It was a long car ride back, but the ladies were so encouraging.  We came upon several runners, all of whom were walking at this point, and cheered them from the car. 

I reached the start/finish and was never happier.  I didn't see Mark, so I used someone's phone to call him and tell him that I was done.  He was surprised, but came to see what was going on.  I wanted to be sure to get the message to Brad before he drove all the way out to the race for no reason.

While the RD states he will record my 50K time as a finish, I can't really accept that.  I set out to finish a 100 miler and I didn't do that.  I am ok with my decision, though I am not happy about it.  I was most disappointed in not being able to run with Brad.  I felt pretty badly about not meeting my goal.  Everyone did so much to help me, so much to support me, and I feel disappointed in myself for not meeting my end of the plan.

God and I had a long talk out on the trail.   I asked Him to take over if it was His will for me to continue.  I told Him that I understood He knows my heart and that if what I want didn't mesh with His will, I was ok with that.  Perhaps there was a different lesson in all of this for me today.

I have hashed this out with a few friends, and I understand this.  My disappointment comes not from an incomplete 100 miler, but more, that I could have let others down.  But my support system is so wonderful that they do not feel let down.  They are encouraged and inspired by my efforts, and I am left with two feelings.  I am so blessed and so loved.  I couldn't ask for anything more.  My inspiration and my encouragement comes from those around me, near and far.  Those who are willing to take time from their families to send words of hope, prayers, and well wishes.  Those who give of themselves physically and never complain or expect anything in return.  Those who take care of me when I am discouraged.  Those who take care of my family when I am absent.

I have said before, this is NOT something that I can do alone.  First and foremost, my help comes from Him.  And then, I watch His hands and feet serve me and help me to reach my goals.  I stand in awe of all of those beautiful souls. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Race Week

One of the biggest challenges in my life is remaining completely present within the moment I am in.  I have an uncanny knack for living in the future.  Waiting with great anticipation for things that are to come.  Even to the point of great anxiety and fear and at the expense of losing the moment I should be embracing.

My goal this week is to remain present with the children as we do school, chores, errands, etc.  The simple activities of the day can provide so many opportunities to deepen our relationship with one another, and I am sad to say, I often miss these opportunities because I am planning, worrying, getting ready for something yet to be.

While I do need to prepare for the race, I am going to leave my focus on the present.  It's all I have.  That saying, tomorrow may not come, is so true, and what good is my life if all I have ever done is looked ahead to the moments I "think" I may have the privilege of living rather than embracing the ones I am given every minute of the day?

Simple Mom is a favorite blog of mine and her post today could not have come at a better time for me.  While she and I are going through different scenarios of life, the sentiment is the same.  The grass is greener where you water it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Rest, then Taper

It makes an excellent standing aid.

I had to take a few extra days of rest last week due to a very sore left ankle and some continued respiratory junk left over from the week before.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I was fully prepared to take on my low mileage taper week and not complain about how low the miles would be.  Strangely, as I began to run, I felt a twinge in the RIGHT ankle.  I cut that run short and took the cue to ice it and administer Advil.

Tuesday, I swam and ran a few on the treadmill and it seemed better, but not great.  Waking up Wednesday, I was limping pretty badly.  Darn those rest days!  A few days off and I start to fall apart.
I've been donning "the boot" again and complaining the whole time.  I hate that thing.  Trying to rest the Achilles so it is ready for next week.  I haven't run since Tuesday and I'm a nut job.

100 push ups yesterday.  125 today.  More tomorrow, I'm sure.  Still doesn't take the edge off.  Just leaves me with really sore shoulders.

May go swim or row tonight.  Hoping all of this fades away just as quickly as it showed up.  The apocalypse in my head is spinning out of control.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shoe Review - Brooks Pure Project PureGrit

Who doesn't get excited when seeing this little blue box?!

And who doesn't love free stuff?!  All of this came with my new shoes!

I should preface this review with the disclaimer that I am NOT a professional runner.  I am NOT a professional product reviewer.  Any opinions I state here are purely my uneducated experience I have had with this shoe. 

I have been running in Brooks almost my entire running career, a short career of 5 years.  I had a brief stint with Asics when I first began, switched to Brooks Adrenaline shortly thereafter, and after a hip stress fracture, I realized that I was running in the wrong shoe and had too much structure to my shoes.  While running trails, I have ALWAYS run in the Brooks Cascadia which is a neutral trail shoe. It should be said that I LOVE my Cascadias. What was interesting to me I could not understand why I needed so much support in road running, but seemed to need less on the dirt.  Running in the neutral Cascadia gave me the confidence I needed to switch to the Glycerine last year and I have felt very, very comfortable in my neutral road shoes.

I did read Born to Run and while I can appreciate the minimalist approach to running, I don't think it is a good fit for me, at this point.  I am always interested in a lighter shoe with trends toward the "less is more" approach.

A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune of winning a gift card to Luke's Locker at the Casa 5K.  With that in hand, I headed to Luke's to see about some shoes.  I have been watching and waiting for the launch of the new Brooks Line of shoes, Pure Project since early this summer.  A few reviews had come across my path and though I am not a "minimalist" runner, I was intrigued by this new, lightweight, but not necessarily minimalist style shoe. 

I tried on a few others that have had my eye as well. Specifically, the NB Minimus and the Merrell Trail Glove.  While both of these shoes appeal to my sense of "less is more" and at first glance were very comfortable, a few steps on the treadmill and I knew that there is no way I was ready for them.  They are very minimal in nature and I am just not there in my gait yet.

I then asked about the PureGrit.  What I knew is that the heel drop was 4mm, so not quite at the same level as the other two shoes I had tried on, but certainly a shift from the 12 mm heel drop that I currently have on my Cascadias.  The shoe jock brought them out and I gave them a whirl.  They felt great going on and I took a spin in them on the tread mill.  I could feel a difference in the heel, but I knew that I would experience this from the outset.

I was ready to take the new treads home only to find out that they could not be sold till the next day, October 1st.  I was heartbroken.  Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love new shoes, especially new running shoes.  Knowing I would have to wait to come back and purchase them was Pure alright, pure torture.

I left the store, dismayed and deflated, but I did return to pick them up on October 2nd, exercising my patience muscle.    Probably the best part about buying these shoes was the final out of pocket expense for me.  With my gift card and running club member discount, these beauties cost me 16.00!

I knew I was going to have to wait a day to try them out since I had already run on Sunday morning.  I also knew that I would not be able to tolerate a long run in them as I needed to get acclimated to them over what I figured would be a few runs.

Last evening was the moment I had been waiting for.  I took the new babies out of their box and slipped them on.  First thing I noticed when putting them on was how very, very light they were.  7.6 ounces vs the Cascadia 10.4 ounces makes a huge difference.

I also loved the wide elastic strap across the nicely padded tongue of the shoe.  This made for a comfortably snug fit without the necessity of having to tie the laces too tightly.  I love a snug shoe, but I have found that if I tie the laces as tightly as I'd like, I end up with numbness in my foot.  This is not an issue with the Grit.  Very nice feature.

The shoes truly feel like as if they could be your favorite house slipper.  Comfortable, cushioning the boney areas of my feet, under the ball of the foot.  They were springy and yet, I could feel the ground beneath me.
The sole of the shoe has a one piece construction and seems very durable with rugged tread needed for the dirt.  There is a small split between the Great toe and the others and I believe this helps with the flexibility of the shoe and therefore the foot while traversing the rocks and such.

I headed out to the trail to run a short while before Yoga class.  I have been experiencing some Achilles Tendon pain in the right foot the last week or so and hoped that this would not be an issue.  The trail I ran had a nice flat, compact dirt aspect with a few rocks and sticks scattered about.  I could "feel" the trail much more effectively than in any other shoe I have run in.  Right away, I noticed the heel drop.  While running in the store, it didn't seem too significant of a change, but within 15 mins, I knew I was going to have to ease into these shoes.

My feet felt very comfortable.  My toes had plenty of room, and the legs felt much lighter than normal.  I run a few inclines and interestingly enough, felt like my legs were doing a bit more work than usual.
I even noticed my pace was up quite a bit, but that was short-lived.

By mile 1.5, both legs were feeling the effects of the lower heel drop and the calves were burning.  I took several walk breaks of a short duration to ease up the unpleasant feeling I was experiencing.  That feeling coupled with the Achilles issue on the right foot, gave me reason to stop at mile 3.   I figured out very quickly that the next two weeks should not be about trying out new shoes.  I have a 100 coming up and that needs to be my focus.

I also realized that though my running gait has changed quite a bit, I am still quite the heel striker.  I am definitely not striking the heels as hard as I used to, but I am not by any stretch of the imagination a mid to fore-foot runner, yet.

If I had to offer any negatives about the shoe thus far, my suggestion would be color.  I always feel drawn to the colors of the mens shoes.  I wish shoe folks would get that women don't always need "girly" colors.  I prefer power colors like red, orange, black, neon green, etc.  I love my bright yellow and bright green Cascadias.  Getting them dirty is a badge of honor and seemingly a right of passage for any trail runner.  Somehow, brown trail shoes seem somewhat anti-climactic.  How can I possibly get these things dirty?

I really, really like the PureGrit.  And I look forward to getting home from this race and taking them out for a few miles.  I will need to keep the runs shorter at first until I feel that my gait has acclimated to the change.  I am not willing to risk an injury at this point or really at any point just for a shoe.   

Thursday, September 22, 2011

About Me

My name on the internet is K.  Friends and family refer to me as Karen.  I am blessed to be a "stay-at-home", Catholic, homeschooling, running, swimming and biking wife and mom who is hardly ever at home!  My husband and I have 6 wonderful children and 2 even more amazing grandchildren!   We have been homeschooling since 1999 and I have been running since 9/16/2006.  This blog is a blend of my life as a mom, wife, friend, daughter, and child of God.

I dedicate this blog to the memory of my Mom, Lynne, whom was one of the first inspirations to become healthy, Hans, who was the catalyst to running my first 5K,to Kelly who was a dear friend and one of the strongest women I have ever known, and to my family who are the biggest cheerleaders and most awesome crew anyone could hope to have. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Are you Awesome?

I haven't been feeling so "awesome" this week thanks to a nasty cold and tired ankle.  A friend sent me this post from a blog she reads and it picked me up instantly! 

Boo and Little NG are both 5 years old, and they are still AWESOME!  Enjoy the post!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Casa For Kids 5K

I had registered for this race on a whim a few weeks back, thinking I could somehow fit it in between a series of back to back long runs.  Some of the Texas Trail Nerds, Bill, Erica, and Nicholas were planning to be there as well.  Our kids were registered for the 1K fun run and they were very excited about participating in their race.

As my week unfolded, I realized that planning to run this race was probably not the smartest thing I have ever done, as it was cutting into the only real time I had to get my long run in.  I planned to run 30 on Friday night and then 15 or 20 on Saturday.  Well, Saturday also happened to be the day of this race, Homecoming for my son, and the Third Day concert that I was NOT going to miss.

Friday night didn't go well at all.  It was one of those runs where nothing felt right from the first step till the last.  I had issues with calf/ankle pain that would not release it's grip until the 6 mile mark.  Oftentimes after a rest day, my legs have a hard time settling into a run, but after about 3 or 4 miles, they are ok.  Not this time.  I was having watch issues, mp3 player issues, attitude issues, etc.  I also had quite a bit on my mind and while running typically helps me to figure things out, that was not the case on Friday. 

I stopped at the park rest room only to find a line at 7:30 at night!  I lost a good 15 mins waiting as I really couldn't run much longer without a visit and there were no other rest rooms along the route that would be open when I would be passing by them.

I kept plodding along, trying to lose myself in the music, in prayer, in anything, but nothing was working.  When dark set it, I was not were I expected to be on my route.  There was no shoulder to run on and the pathways were too dark to navigate.  My light was sitting on the counter at home, yet another glitch in the run. 

By the time I reached Grogan's Mill, I had to run with the flow of traffic, no lights, no shoulder, and the calf/ankle pain set in again.  I had to start walking to get my focus back on the run and off of the pain.  By mile 17, I called Mark and told him I would finish up my 20 but I would not go back out for the 10 mile loop that he was planning to ride with me. I was behind about an hour and we needed to have at least one of us home for the kids.

Mark convinced me to let him pick me up.  He knew that I was in quite a lot of pain to call the run off.  He drove out to meet me and my run ended at mile 18. 

Saturday morning I knew I was not in any shape to run a 5K.  But I donned my bib, just in case.  We got the kids up and ready and headed out to the race.  We met the Nerds out there and had a great time visiting with everyone. 
Evan and I
Erica and I and her beautiful daughter behind us

Time came for the kids to run and it was so much fun to see such little cuties running their hearts out!  Fish and Boo were among them and Foo ran with Boo to encourage him.  Seeing those boys come across the finish line was so incredible!  I am so proud of them!  I know that they had a great time and I hope that they continue to show interest in running.
Boo Crossing The Finish Line
Fish Crossing The Finish Line

As the 5K racers lined up, Mark asked what I was doing.  I told him I would run, but take it slow.  I wanted to see how my leg felt.  It hurt a little, but not like it was hurting the night before.  Mark yelled out that I should run it fast because the kids were hungry...

Gary, the RD made mention of the Trail Nerds which was nice!  He also mentioned that someone at the start line had run a 30 miler the night before (that will teach me for posting on Facebook about my intentions!).  I hung my head in shame.  I was so embarrassed to have someone build me up like that knowing that I had failed.  As outgoing and extroverted as I am, I really don't like being the center of attention.  I did mention to his wife, Denise, when I saw her that I did not reach the 30 mile mark and she was kind enough to let him know that. 

The race started and I settled into a fairly "moderate" pace that felt comfortable and I had no pain, at least nothing more than I had just standing around.  I really didn't feel like I was pushing myself too hard, but I did notice I was passing several people.  Susie and I even ran together and I consider her to be a very talented runner, and quite speedy!  She was trying out her new shoes and we were chatting along the way.  Soon she passed me and I kept both her and Evan in my sights.  I never tried to catch them as I really didn't intend to do anything except enjoy the run.

Around mile 2, I noticed my leg was beginning to ache a bit more, so I figured the sand wasn't helping.  I tried to stay on as much of the packed dirt as possible.  At mile 2.5 or so, I heard someone yell out, "You are the 3rd female!"  Something in my brain said, "WHAT?!  How is this possible?"  And the next thing I heard was a man yelling out to someone behind me, "Kelly, you can pass her!  Come on!  You can pass her!"  I don't know what happened, but I decided at that moment that no one was passing me, picked up my legs and crossed the finish line in 24:55.  That was good enough for 1st Overall Female Masters winner.  I was about 20 seconds behind Susie who took 1st Overall Female.  Amazing race for her too! 

Susie!  Amazing woman, amazing athlete!

Best Family on the planet!

This 5K was a PR for me.  What is strange is that I never felt as though I was racing it until the last 2/10s of a mile.  A PR on a dirt trail.  Maybe my running is paying off?  Maybe I got lucky?  Maybe I wasn't hung up on numbers and pace (watch was at home) and just ran by feel?  I have no idea how or why it happened, but it felt nice and I hope to always cherish this moment.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

40 Done

The course was laid out and the decision was made to run as far as I could taking my breathing into consideration.  Thankfully, this was never an issue the entire day.
I started out on my first ten @ 4:45am.  I was actually awake at 3, but couldn't bring myself to actually start running at that time.
Running under the night sky is always so surreal for me.  The air was humid, but the sky was clear (no smoke from the fires) and the stars where bright.  The moon was full and provided adequate light for my run, though I still wore my own lights for safety.
The first 10 miles clicked by quickly.  I met Richard at mile 10 and we had a nice run through the old Nature Trail of Grogan's mill.  I love that trail, but after an unusual experience out there I won't run it by myself anymore.  It's not really a "trail" as it is concrete, but it is very serene and more wooded than any other "trail" in The Woodlands.
We looped around the Millbend loop and saw lots of folks out on the run, many of them preparing for fall marathons.  I had heard from several people that they were running 20+ milers and they invited me to join them.  I tried to figure a way to make it work, but that would involve me driving to a location just a few miles away and I really preferred to use my home as an aid station and meeting point.
Richard and I had 7 great miles together.  Love running with good friends!  Talking about whatever comes up and changing subjects about as often as our minds feel is necessary.
Richard and I parted ways as he headed home and I headed to my "aid station".  The first 20 seemed almost effortless.  I can tell I'm in good shape when I feel that way.
I heard from Bill that he was on his way, so I decided to wait at the house for him rather than have him try to find me on the road.  He was coming quite a way to support me and I will  never be able to express how much I appreciate his efforts!  I checked my facebook to see how Paul was doing on his run and he was at mile 37 looking for some motivation.  I sent mine along and sent a prayer or two with it!  I was a tiny bit jealous that he was already at mile 37...but I knew I would be there soon enough.
Bill arrived, prepared his bike, and we were off.  I wasn't sure how long he would ride with me.  I figured maybe 10 miles or so, but then he shared that he was riding the rest of my 20 with me, I was blown away!  Amazing!  I was going to have company the whole time!
I had originally planned to run all of the Villages this side of the freeway.  I had mapped out routes that would allow me to hit even Creekside which is in a different county.  But when Bill showed up, I changed my mind and decided I would rather show him some of the trails that I run in the Nature Preserve.  I had planned to run one 20 mile loop and then two different 10 mile loops.
We left out of my home and headed towards the Nature Preserve.  It's about 2.5 miles to Mitchell and by the time we arrived, it was much warmer and the trails were very busy!  There was an Adventure Racing group from Houston out in force.  Seemed like a great bunch of people and they even invited us to a race in Huntsville!  One of these days...
I was happy to be able to share the trail with Bill.  We don't get to see each other's stomping grounds very much at all.  I hope to get to his neck of the woods this coming weekend.  I'm dying to see Lake Houston's new trails.
The trails felt like heaven to me.  No pain, soft ground, and of course, lots of beautiful dirt.  It's just who I am.

We headed out the short way home to take advantage of the park restrooms.  A pretty funny event occurred on the way back in.  As we were waiting to cross the road at Woodlands Parkway, I noticed a friend of mine, Ellen, waiting at the light in her car, as I was saying hello to her, a landscape truck was driving past.  Out of no where, a large industrial lawn mower rolled off the back of his pull-along trailer and rolled directly into the oncoming traffic.  All of this was happening directly in front of Bill and I.  We flagged down the truck and I ran to the mower trying to pull it out of the way of oncoming traffic.  It weighed about two times more than I do and I'm sure it had to be a sight to see me trying to pull this mower out of a major roadway.  To say I was unsuccessful would be an understatement.  Bill came to the rescue and pulled the thing to the side of the road.  Motorists were thanking us and the lawn guy casually strolled up to us to get his mower.  I don't know why he wasn't more concerned about moving a bit faster, but after 27 miles, I didn't really care. Coming back into my make shift aid station, we were short about 3 miles.  One thing I don't like to do is to add miles on at the end of a run, especially a long run.  I'd rather add on at the beginning.   I knew this last loop was going to be a bit more work than the first 2.
We refueled, I even got to harass my son for a bit before we headed out for the final 13.  The loop was fairly uneventful, though the last 3 miles were quite challenging mentallyI thought of Paul and his request for inspiration at mile 37.  I chuckled to myself that I felt the same way.
50K mark
 I wanted to stop, but I knew I couldn't.  There were several early cut backs to the house and to pass them up was almost like torture, but with Bill hanging with me, I was able to keep my eye on the end goal.  I had received a text from Nicholas letting me know that he was running the loop in reverse looking for me.  This helped my spirits and kept my head in the game.  I knew that us finding each other was a rather slim possibility since I changed my route a little bit to add on the extra 2 miles, but knowing he was out there offered me great support.  Also knowing that Paul and Reece were putting down some tracks made me feel as though we were all running together, if only in my mind.
The home stretch was just that.  I allowed my legs to stretch out and just embrace the final few miles of the run.  I wasn't worried about pace nor overall time. I wanted to hit 40.  I asked Bill to make sure that no matter what happens, when we hit my door at 39.5 miles, his main job was to get my butt to 40.  No matter what.  I shared with him how I did not want 39.anything showing up in my log that day.  It had to be 40.  I don't know why I get hung up on a number, but I do.  39.7 would not have been 40.  Neither would 39.9.  I knew that if I hit the driveway under 40, I would tell myself that was good enough and that I would regret it later.  He promised he would make sure we hit my goal.

We arrived at my driveway and he quickly set his bike aside and ran with me.  It was pretty hot (around 97 I think) by this time and the sun was unforgiving.  The saying "the last mile is the toughest, no matter what the mileage goal is" was definitely ringing true.  We finished up the final mile and then celebrated our little accomplishment.
 I have always said that my running is not something I am able to do alone.  Yes, some of my runs are solo, but I am never alone.  Thank you to everyone who offered kind thoughts, words, and prayers for me and to Richard, Bill, and Nicholas, thanks for getting out there in a very real way to help me reach my goal!

I get by with a lot of help from my friends!
My nutrition for the day went well.  I carried the hydration vest for the first loop, handhelds for the last 20.    I ate S caps every 30 mins. and honey chews every hour.  I also ate a soy yogurt and some fruit at the house in between loops.
My stomach never felt upset and I never felt dehydrated.  I came in 6 pounds under my start weight and I have yet to gain it back. 
The hardest part of this run was the 10 miler I did on Sunday and even more, the 6 I did on Monday.  Things are sore now and I really don't want to injure myself so slow and patient miles are the order of the day/week.  This week will be another heavy mileage week.  I have had to let some of my cross-training go this week in order to fit it all in and keep up with the family schedule.
As always... run with joy in your heart and peace in your soul!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mental Preparation

I have been struggling to wrap my mind around the idea of running a 40 miler on the roads this weekend. Seems ridiculous to worry about it, but I suppose after my DNF at The Shoe, this training run will be more about the cognitive aspect of running rather than the physicality of running 40 miles.

I found my post from this past January that I wrote after I ran that 40. It was helpful today to help me recall that this run will only be as much fun as I allow it to be.

I have extended an invitation to whomever would like to run some or all(!!) of this run with me to let me know and I will be happy to forward along a map of the route.

Run with Joy in your Heart!

Monday, September 5, 2011

40 Days

40 Days till Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd. Just coming off of a week of recovery from The Shoe, I feel fairly rested and ready to hit the training as hard as I can to endure the crunch time before the race.

I am scheduled to hit two fairly long runs which will most likely be solo adventures and unsupported. There are obvious negatives in that, but I need to focus on the positives at this point. I would like to try to hit Huntsville for at least one of the long runs. Running there alone is definitely not the smartest thing to do, so I will seek out a few companions.

Running on my own will help to prepare me mentally for the later stages of the race before Brad picks me up and paces me in.

40 Days. Uniquely significant number in my life. Lent. Days Christ spent in the desert. A time for reflection, repair, and preparation for what was and what is to come. I have an opportunity to grow in this 40 days or stay exactly where I am. The choice is mine and today, I chose growth.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Capt'n Karls The Shoe 60K

This was the last race in the series of Capt'n Karls Trail series for 2011. Last year, I attempted the 1st in the series, The Lake, and swore I would never attempt it again. Officially, I didn't attempt The Lake again, however, The Shoe became a possibility.

I was looking forward to this race with great anticipation as I felt I could have a good race and that would somehow redeem my DNF at The Lake in 2010. I was also hoping this would be a good barometer of where my running fitness is as I head into a fairly busy racing season.

Strength building, cross-training, and smarter running have given me the sense of a much leaner, yet stronger body. And this race proved to me that it isn't always about these things.

The temperature at the start of the race was 104. It was the hottest day on record in Houston, I'm not sure about the Austin area. The heat didn't seem to really bother me, however. I knew it would be hot, as it has been all summer. I was happy that I had done most of my runs outdoors to acclimate to the heat. I knew I wasn't going to use the heat as an excuse for a poor performance.

We had a caravan of sorts heading from The Woodlands to Muleshoe bend, stopping for lunch at Subway near Giddings. It was great to see Erica and Nicholas along the way. This would be Nicholas' first trail race, and an amazing one at that.

Stacy had decided to also run at the last minute, and she rode up with us. We checked into the hotel, had about 30 mins to rest, and then headed to the race. Along the way, we could see signs of the cruel Texas drought that has really taken hold of this part of the state. The Pedernales River has no water to speak of within it's banks. The docks that once held boats and rope swings are now lying in the bottom of a dry river bed.

We heard reports that the lakes were also down, some as much as 50%. Everywhere you looked, the grass was brown to black if there was any at all. Most locations, the grass was completely gone and only dry, dusty dirt remained in its place.

At the race site, our wonderful crew, Mark and Erica, set up our personal aid station. It was so nice. Everything we wanted just a few feet from the start line. I didn't stop into the official aid station for anything the entire race.

We found a few Daily Mile guys, Paul and Reece, and snapped a few pictures. It was nice to meet everyone; I wish I could have met the other DM'ers that were there that I missed.

After the pre-race briefing, we had a few minutes to fidget with things and then the infamous, "Go!" was sounded. On the first loop, there was an out and back that was added on to get the mileage to a full 60K. This was a nice little look at the flatter part of the park and a view of the very low, but beautiful, Lake Travis. Despite the intense dryness of this area, it is still a glorious place to see.

Heading past our makeshift aid station, Stacy and I waved good bye to the crew and headed into the first loop.

Stacy took the lead, since I tend to go out too fast, and I really wanted to stick with a slower 1st loop to learn the course and start out with a good nutrition plan. We ran our 8/2 pattern as much as possible, sometimes fudging it a bit for the terrain we were on the the time. We did salt on the 48 mins and ate on the 58 mins. I was drinking plenty of water, and seemed to need to refill at each aid station. All seemed well. I was feeling good. I was running a pace that I felt I could run all day. It was warm, but under the trees, I was protected from the sun, so it really didn't seem to bother me. I couldn't help but think about how blessed I am to be able to do what I love to do!

The first aspect of the course was full of little inclines and lots of smaller rocks. It proved challenging at points, but it wasn't unmanageable. This course reminded of the Ouachita 50 course. Very beautiful. After the first aid station, the course changed to large, outcroppings of rock that seemed to sit on a nice angle. The "trail" was difficult to see as it was mostly rock and I felt like we were using our trail gut to find the deer trails. There were a few spots where several of us were standing around asking, "where is the trail now?" But it was gorgeous, and the sun was beginning to set, showing us an amazing display of colors.
I began to notice that Stacy was taking things much slower than I expected, but I figured she was pacing us for the better. Then we were slower, and then we were doing more walking than running. I knew she wasn't feeling well, but I waited for her to say something.

After the third aid station, we had 3 miles left of the first loop. I felt wonderful. I knew Stacy did not. She told me that she had a migraine started. I assured her that we would get her back to the start/finish and that I would go on. The last 1/3 of the loop was not too hilly, not too rocky, and seemed to just roll along. We finished loop one with the o/b in 2:15. Not too bad, and on target for my time goal.

I filled up on nutrition and water and headed back out for another round. Loop 2 felt great. It was now pretty dark and the second third of the trail which was difficult to navigate the first time around, became easier as there were glow sticks to help light the way. (Thanks to all the volunteers out guys rock!)

The second loop went by fairly uneventfully, just eating and drinking and enjoying the ride. I came into the start finish and could hear Erica cheering for me. This was so nice! You don't usually get much cheering at a trail race, unless you are one of the elite guys. She got other folks to join in, (she gets the spirit award) and people I didn't know were cheering me into the aid station. It was so nice and so uplifting! Time for the second loop 2:10.

The third loop started out just like the other two. Felt great. Met some folks along the way and talked as we ran. I was able to share some faith moments with a young lady and that is always something I look to take away from the experience. We made it to the first aid station, and my bottle was dry. I remember thinking, it felt like an extra long time to get to that aid station, but I was talking, so perhaps we had slowed a bit.

I allowed some space between myself and the folks I was talking with for the second part of the trail as I wanted to focus completely on the trail. I was still feeling fine, just had some fatigue in the legs. After the second aid station, I felt little things that were giving me reason for concern, but given the mileage I had run, I really didn't think of them as "signs" of anything serious. I had a few stumbles on rocks and when I would hit them, both of my legs would instantly go into cramps. I was able to keep upright and not let the cramping take hold, so I figured all was well. It was just leg fatigue.

Just before the 2nd aid station, I felt like I needed my glasses to see. Weird. But again, maybe just fatigue. It was after midnight after all. I also noticed I was having a hard time eating and drinking and my stomach was not feeling so wonderful. I took a few papaya and kept moving along. I was walking a little more than I wanted to, but I expected to slow down as I became more tired. I finished the 3rd loop in 2:25. Still ok for my time goal.

I made it into the start/finish again, and decided to take my Nathan vest instead of the handheld for the last loop. I drank a coke, ate some potatoes and sat for a minute. The crew didn't let me stay long as they push me back onto the trail. As I headed out onto the trail, I really didn't feel so well. Things turned ugly very quickly. I am in awe of how fast I deteriorated. My stomach was a mess and I wished I could throw up, but I couldn't. I tried to drink, tried to eat, but to no avail. Everything made me feel worse. I even sat down in a few places. I realized that I had not used the bathroom at all for the entire race. I tried with no luck. So I walked. The death march had set in. I ran in small spurts, but most of my effort was at a fast walking pace. I was pleased with the pace and if I could maintain it, I would still finish and wouldn't be out on the trail too long. This time, however, the little inclines seemed like mountains, the rocks seemed like boulders, and I began to have charley horses in my obliques and diaphragm. I realized, I was in trouble. Next, my vision became extremely impaired. I could only see through what seemed like pin-holes and even that was very blurry. Something was dreadfully wrong. I sat. I tried to wrap my head around the fact that I only had 7 miles left at this point and I could crawl if I needed to. I did not want to stop.

The 1st aid station seemed so far away. I felt despair setting in. I had not seen anyone at all on this loop, and I allowed that to play into my fear. Maybe I was the last one on the trail? If I passed out, no one would be able to find me till daylight. But I trudged on. I prayed. I tried to see. I tried to drink. I tried to eat. My stomach was terribly upset so I reached for the pepto. I couldn't open the packages. I had no dexterity in my fingers anymore. I looked to the sky and it was so beautiful. I decided to sit again and rest for a bit. Maybe that would help. As I looked up, the millions of stars gave me reason to lie back and just observe. They were incredible. I had not seen stars in that way since I was a child. Truly a beautiful sight! Through my impaired vision, the stars seemed to be in a kaleidoscope that I didn't want to stop looking at. I lay there a bit and then, next thing I knew, I "came to". I don't know if I fell asleep or passed out. Obviously, no one had come by me because they would have had to step over me on the trail. Yes, I was laid out on the trail.
I knew at that moment I had to make it to the next aid station and drop. 6 miles from the finish. There was no way I could safely make it back to the start/finish, especially over the 2nd section of that course. I always have to remember my number one vocation. I am a mom. I can't be a good mom if I am horribly injured, or worse. The decision was made; now I just had to make it to the aid station.

I knew it was quite possible that there would be no one at the aid station as it was unmanned, but I remembered that there was a paved road leading to it, so I made up my mind to sit there until a car came by. Thankfully, there was a car at the aid station. It was dark and I wasn't sure anyone was in it. I walked up to it, and lo and behold, Brad, the RD was sitting in his car. Thank you, Lord! I asked him for a ride back. He, very sweetly, asked if I realized I only had 6 miles to go to reach the finish and I had plenty of time left. I told him what had been happening to me and he agreed to bring me back. As I got into the car, there were several runners that had come into the aid station. I am glad they didn't come across me splayed out on that trail. That could have screwed up their race too!

Brad kindly took me to the start/finish line. I was done. 50K. 8:10. He walked me to the tent and saw how horrible unsteady my gait was. Liza Howard took great care of me and we shared a bit about running, being mothers, and making the best decisions for our families in this situation. She fed me coke and asked me to try to pee. I couldn't comply. I finally convinced her to let me walk to where Mark and Erica were. She walked with me and I couldn't see very much, but I heard Mark, Erica, Stacy, and Nicholas all seem to be struck that I was back so fast. At first they thought they missed my miraculously speedy 4th loop... then they realized, I was a mess. They took good care of me. Such good care. Stacy was dealing with a migraine, yet she waited for me and tended to me on each loop I came through. Nicholas had finished his race almost 2 hours before and yet, he and Erica waited to see me come in. That's what trail running is all about. Brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. Good people. Good races. Good times.

This race was a great race. I loved the course. I'd do it again in a heart beat. I felt so strong most of the time, I never dreamed this would end the way it did. But as in all things, there are lessons to be learned. Those lessons will come over time, but initially these are the things that have surfaced already.

1. In the 2nd loop, I thought the weather must have been cooling nicely because I wasn't sweating. No sweat=bad stuff. I sweat even when I ran Rocky in 23 degree temps.

2. I had planned to take my S-caps every 30 minutes, but for whatever reason, only took every 60 minutes. I knew better, I just didn't think this one through. I even advised other people to take their salt every 30 minutes.

3. Thinking I needed my glasses during a run is probably an indicator of something more serious coming. Take heed.

4. Drink more than I did. Eat more than I did. Seems simple enough, but I just failed this time.

I plan to go back next year. We will see how the training year unfolds. I do think my running fitness is where it needs to be. I am stronger and faster, I just made a few critical nutritional errors that I will hopefully never make again.

After some IV fluids, I seemed to be feeling better. I had been experiencing severe cramping, headaches, and what seems to be kidney pain. I was able to do some push ups, run a short 2 miles on the trail, and attend yoga class last night, but by the time I got home, the headache and kidney pain had returned. I think the rest of the week, I will run shorter runs, most of them on the treadmill, and concentrate on proper hydration.