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.