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 there...you 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.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Dance

Tomorrow I will be heading out to a dance on the trail at a nice little 60 K race called The Shoe. It will be run as a training run for Pumpkin Holler 100, but if I am to be really honest here, I have to mention that I will be pushing myself harder than a typical training run. Races just have that tendency.

I have unfinished business with this race series. Last year I DNF'd The Lake portion of the series and swore I would never go back. In sticking with my pledge never to return to that race, I picked a different one within the same Capt'n Karl series.

I am hoping to meet a time goal. I have some mental obstacles to get around. I have some physical limitations that ultimately sent me to the DNF status last time around. This race will definitely be a challenge. I pray that I finish healthy and renewed in my quest to remain joy-filled while dancing on the rocks.

My biggest challenge, I think, will be dealing with my asthma. Last time around, my heart rate hit 220 and I had medical people freaking out all around me. I will play it smarter this time. I will walk sooner or sit, or lie down. But I will not quit unless it is obviously the only thing left before significant harm is done.

My next biggest challenge will be to run my own race. Not any one else's race. I tend to get caught up in other people and their suffering on the trail. I can't leave anyone behind. It's not in my makeup. But what I have to remember is this:

1. I would never, ever, ever want anyone else to throw their race for me. I'm a big girl and I can take care of myself. Anyone else on that trail is certainly of the same mindset.

2. No one is ever going to be left alone out there. The aid stations are not that far off and I can notify the folks volunteering that someone needs help on the trail.

This seems so easy when writing it down. I hope I can keep it that simple when I am out there. Stay tuned for the report. I won't be winning any awards, but I will bring home another round of experience that can only help me become a better runner.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Reading an email from a friend today which came complete with pictures of his garage gym and then seeing Jamoosh's post about marathon widows, my framework for the day somewhat changed. How much of my running/fitness life has invaded my home, my family?

As I got down on the floor for a round of ab work, I glanced over to see this in one corner of my bedroom.

Lovingly stacked next to some books I need to sort through is a new pair of Brooks, still in their box and my push up bars.

Looking to the left from the same position on the floor, I noticed my hand weights under the bureau.

My side of the bed, a running log or two are tucked away for those late night calculations. Typically there are a large stack of books, most of which are running related, however, I recently placed them into my library, aka bookshelves in the closet.

The Music/lego room, which is currently suffering from a long, overdue cleaning, I have strategically placed my resistance bands, pull up bar and treadmill.

The cedar chest which holds tablecloths and other such linens is also the home for one of my yoga mats for use during the Jillian Michaels or P90X sessions.

Even the Suburban is not safe from the invasion. In it I have stowed away my swimming gear and gym bag, "just in case".

There are other locations throughout the house that have been taken over by fitness stuff. Master closet, Mud Room, drawers, shelves, etc. I try to be mindful of having my house look like a home, which is probably why things are tucked away everywhere. My home is also my office. It is our school. It is our domestic church. I try to reflect that most of the time.

Currently, I am in the thick of heavy training and my home does reflect this with disorganization, clutter, and chores left undone. This scenario causes me strife quite often as I do like a clean, clutter-free and organized home, but I can't train, work, plan school, and keep things spot on around here. Thankfully, my family not only understands me, they are very helpful.

I do long to have a nice garage gym and have made efforts to get it to the point that I can use it exclusively as such. Maybe this time next year, the transformation will be complete and my family can enjoy a fitness equipment free environment. But then again, there are worse thinks one could have laying around the house.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


It is becoming apparent to me that as the days of life click by, I stress about so many little things that seem to be so unimportant, yet matter so much.

I have been a mom for 23 years. Since before I held my first child, I was preparing. Preparing my house to become a home, my dog to become child-friendly, my car to be safe, my finances, in order to provide. As more children have come along, I continue to prepare. Prepare them to walk, prepare for them to talk, to learn, to grow, to mature. As a family, we try to prepare one another for life. And as parents, we try to fully prepare our children to be able to go out into the world, strong, independent, faithful, honest, trustworthy, dependable, good stewards, and more.

And then the day comes. Your oldest gets married. Is she ready? She has a child. Are they ready? Are they prepared?

Or another day comes and you send the next child off to college. After being homeschooled for most of her life, is she ready, is she prepared?

A few years later, the oldest is worrying about if they are properly preparing for their child and the child that will join them early next year. And the phone call comes that their beautiful child is in the hospital. And I worry, is my daughter prepared for this? Should I run to her side and be there for her? And my heart aches. I know that God is calling me to stay at home and allow my granddaughter's parents to be the ones who are at her side. Being 5 hours away gives me reason to reflect on this. Are they prepared for this? Have we carried out our responsibility to them?

Preparation for a long and wonderful journey to another part of the world. Packing, planning, visas, money, maps, food, customs, backpacks, the right shoes, airports, buses, Euro Rail passes. Is daughter number 2 prepared beyond all of these things for her studies abroad? It is hard to know.

As we dropped one daughter off at the airport and waited for an update from the hospital from the other, I was struck with this thought:

We are in a constant state of preparation. And as parents, this is even more obvious. We look forward to the day when we can look upon our adult children and see that they are all that we have hoped they would be and more. And then the sadness hits. They ARE all that we have hoped they would be AND MORE. And they will be called to more. To new places. To new people. And I am filled with an aching, yet joy-filled heart that causes tears to flow from my eyes.

All I want to do is hold my baby who is 5 and tell him to stay just as he is, but I know that this can not be. He must be properly prepared. Prepared for me to let him go.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Secret is Out

I get questions about what I do on the trail when I am out there for hours at a time all alone....

It's been a long-kept secret that I am finally ready to divulge. I dance. Like this. You know you do too.

Here's praying the Dog Days of Summer break soon around here!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Progressive Core Sets

***Edited to add:
A year ago I began the push up challenge not being able to do one push up. I worked up to 100 push ups and now I make a point of doing 100 push up 3-4 times per week. Typically, I do 4 sets of 25 or 5 sets of 20. The following core set is what I am doing on the days I am not doing the 100 push ups.

I've really never found a core program that I absolutely can't live without. There are many good, even great ones out there, but with the amount of training I am currently doing with running, swimming, rowing, and perhaps spinning in the near future, spending another 30 - 60 mins in the weight room 3-5 times per week, or trying to vie for the DVD player and television in a home full of people, so that I can target specific muscle groups just is not feasible for me.

I have used P90X, Jillian Michaels, countless "Core workouts for runners" and various websites to try to hit my weakest areas. The problem is that many of these use more time than I can commit to them or require weights/balls/resistance bands and the like that don't fit in my purse or suitcase.

I am finding that the best way to get a good core workout in is to do it when I can. Oftentimes this is right before or after a run, after a shower, in between loads of laundry, or while waiting for one of the kids to be ready to be picked up. Sometimes I fit it in while working with my clients or if I just need a break from the computer work. My core routine needs to be quick, intense, and require no equipment except my own body weight coupled with a serving of "let's get this done!"

Over the last several weeks, I have come up with what I think will help me to achieve the fitness level I desire in the small amount of time I have during any given day to get it in.

Here is what it looks like from a basic structure:

Round 1:
Burpees (no hop, no push up)
Standard push up
Traditional crunch
Traditional plank

No rest, directly into Round 2:

Burpee with push up
Triangle push up
Oblique crunch
Side plank (star position)

30 sec rest

Round 3

Burpee with push up and hop
Push up with alternating leg raise
Opposite side oblique crunch
Opposite side Side plank (star position)

That's it. I do it as fast as I can, without compromising form, and with minimal rest in between.

I have left reps off so that this can be adopted if you choose to give it a try.
My workout today looked like this:

Round 1:
5 burpees
10 push ups
25 crunches
1 min plank

Round 2:
5 burpees with push up added in
10 triangle push ups
25 right side oblique crunches
1 min left side star plank

Rest 30 secs

Round 3:
5 Burpees with push up and hop (jump up at the end of the move)
10 push ups alternating leg raises
25 left side oblique crunches
1 min right side star plank

This is a bare minimum workout for me. I can do this every day if needed. On days when my time is EXTREMELY tight, which can be any day around here, I commit to only ONE ROUND and max it out. In that instance, I try to get in both sides of the obliques by either only doing the oblique crunches or drop the oblique crunches and add in the hip dip to the side plank, making sure to do them bilaterally. If I have more time and I want to add more reps, I do. Some days I try to max out everything the last round. Some days I will do decline push ups and/or try some one-armed push ups. I may also do the side planks with a hip dip in it. It really depends on how much time I have and what the demands of the rest of my workout schedule looks like for the day.

The most important aspect about this routine is that it is specific to what I currently need to strengthen and it can be done anywhere at anytime. All of that will help me maintain consistency.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Thanks to my wonderful friend, JunieB, I have become aware of a problem with folks who would like to post to the blog, but are unable to do so because of a glitch with something-or-other-that-I-will-have-no-idea-to-even-begin-to-remotely-understand.

So, I have removed the said something-or-other, but I have enabled moderation. If you have been able to comment before, please try again and I will try to be diligent in getting the moderation done quickly. Heck, I might even take my chances and remove that allowing all creepy people and spambots have their way with me. Or my blog.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Music: Not My Taboo

I'm having a bit of a coming out on my blog. I've stayed out of the discussions regarding music while running for as long as I have been running, but I can't remain silent anymore. I listen to music while I run. There. That's it. I've said it. I am "out". I not only listen to music while I run, I LOVE to listen to music while I run. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! Now let me explain why...

1. It's the only time that I can listen to the music I want to without someone telling me how much they don't like it, talk over it, ask me questions through it, etc, etc, etc. With all of my kids around, very rarely do I get an uninterrupted moment to think, let alone listen to my favorite tunes. For instance, I have been up and down tending to kids three times since beginning this post.

2. Music helps me steer the voices in my head. Sometimes, my head has to work through things and this usually happens while running. Again, it's my alone time. It's the way to I figure out how I really feel about something. It's how I discern many things in my life. With the physical output that running and now swimming offer me, it helps streamline my thinking so that I can work out whatever is going on in my head. Music helps here as well. When the voices in my headed are pulling me in many different directions, the music helps me to find a rhythm and that in itself offers a calming effect that relaxes me and helps to clear the mind.
Also, when running a particularly tough run, left to my own thoughts without the music, it is much more difficult to motivate myself to continue. The right music will uplift me and I can pull myself out of the funk more quickly.

3. Prayer. I pray most when running. Oftentimes, music is a prayer to me. 99% of the music I listen to is Christian music. I have a few artists that aren't but, typically, I've got some very spirit-led music directing my thoughts and heart towards God. I have had many situations resolved, prayers answered, and problems figured out while listening to music on the run. The songs speak to me. So music is a form of prayer for me.

4. Not always on. I don't listen to music at all if I am running with a friend or a group. I feel that the person I am running with should have my attention. Otherwise, why run with someone? I usually don't even bring it with me, but I will if there is a chance I will end up running on my own.
I also don't wear music on many races. Some of the longer ultras I will have it handy, but I don't wear it very much. I like to be alert to the people and activity around me.
If I am running in crowded or busy areas, or at night, safety comes first. I either turn the tunes off or take out at least one headphone. And I buy cheap headphones so that I never really block out the background noises anyway.

I completely respect those who choose not to listen to music while they run. I think it is an amazing thing that they can tune into their own happy place within themselves while they are out on the road. I know I am capable of doing this as well, but I just don't want to. I love music too much to not enjoy it when I am most able to appreciate it.

Many of you know that my favorite band is Third Day. They are a Christian Rock band with a Southern rock influence. Even as a Yankee growing up in Massachusetts, I loved Southern Rock. And Rush, which isn't Southern Rock, unless you are from Alaska. Third Day has a very distinctive sound and their music hits a place deep in my soul like no other group. Lately, their song "Slow Down" has been getting a lot of replay on the run.

I can't wait to see them in September! In preparation of their arrival, I have been listening to them almost non-stop, with the exception of a few Coldplay and Rush albums. I hope they can stand my singing at their show!

So, feel free to chime in on the music issue, but no bashing anyone...play nice!