Monday, October 29, 2012

Thoughts on 24 The Hard Way

Going into the race I wasn't feeling my best.  Wednesday I went to work not feeling well, and progressively got worse as the day wore on.  By days end, I was in the doctor's office with strep throat and a prescription for an antibiotic. I went home and went to bed.  Thursday I stayed home from work and rested, and was feeling better by the end of the day.  Friday I woke up feeling great.  I was still determined to do the race, but wasn't sure how I would do or how far I would go.  I still had to try.

I thought doing a one mile loop continuously for the better part of a day would get awfully boring.  Surprisingly it wasn't.  I don't know how, but it wasn't.  There were lots of people to see, nature to watch, conversations to eavesdrop on that I didn't find myself getting bored.  About 5 hours in I put my iPod in and started listening to it because I was getting tired of my own thoughts and wanted a distraction from the growing aches and pains that were developing. 

I talked with a lot of interesting people.  Met people from California, Washington, Minnesota, Australia, Texas, Philly, and right down the block.  I got to hear lots of neat stories and listen to some boring ones.  I heard tales of ultras gone wrong, ultras gone right, PR's, kids, jobs and wild adventures.  Seems like I did FAR more listening than talking.  Maybe because I didn't want to bore people like some people were boring me.  More than once I would say I had to stop and tie my shoe, or stretch or something just to get away from someone.  But really, it just seemed like most people I came upon just wanted to talk, and didn't bother to ask questions of me.  Unless prodded, I'm not going to blabber on and on just to hear my own voice.  Nobody cares... and if they act like they do, they're probably just being polite.

I'm an extrovert by nature.  I like talking to people and being silly, but I really become an introvert on long stuff like this.  I prefer silence or the voices in my head to actual conversations.  I like to look around and listen to nature or just take it all in.  I like to mull things over or work things out, or just worry about what they will do when they find my body after I fall over dead on the trail after a zombie attack. You know- real stuff.

I had a LOT of time to think out there.  Think about lots of things.  But the thing I thought about the most was: Why do I do this?  It's hard to have a good reason for it.  I guess it's my drug of choice.  Nothing makes me feel more.... alive than when I'm doing something so long that I feel every emotion that you can feel as a human.  Anger, happiness, sadness, doubt, confusion, worry, elation, fright, regret, etc. 

Some people use substances to get to the extreme emotions we have as humans.  I use sport. 
I enjoy the polar opposites of feeling wild elation and happiness, and then feeling so low and crying in pain or frustration.  I don't know how to explain it.

There was a moment on the course where I was hurting.  I think it was probably around mile 33. Hips, lower back, hammys, feet and I was walking along just trying to zone out.  Then I went through the aid station, got a drink of Coke and Rhianna's "Umbrella" comes on my iPod and all of a sudden I feel no pain and I'm dancing out of the aid station feeling like a million bucks.  Was it the Coke?  The song?  A weird switch flipping in my brain?  Early onset dementia?  I don't know, but those wildly swinging emotions are my drug.  It's why I do this.  I enjoy it in some strange way.

Feeling such a wide range of emotions makes me feel alive.  I don't get those feelings doing the mundane things of everyday life.  Going to work, grocery shopping, doing laundry, visiting family, playing fetch, cleaning the house.  I enjoy those things in different ways, but none of those have me on the edge. I love being on the edge of my emotions while challenging my phyical limits.  It's what makes me feel like there is purpose to what I'm doing in the other hours of my life. In our experience as humans we have to push ourselves to our limits to find out what we are capable of. 
And that's why I like this so much.

Other endurance junkies will understand.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

24 The Hard Way- my first 50 mile race in pictures

I'm not feeling like I can put this race into words just yet, so here is a photographic diary of my race.  There are comments along the way to explain some things, but the pictures speak for themselves. 
It was a great experience.  Truly.  There were a lot of ups and downs, and my pain cave was bigger and deeper than any other race I've done before.  Sometimes I got lost in there and had trouble finding my way out.
A day later I feel very good physically and mentally.  Oddly, I want to do this again in the very near future.
I'll write another post when the thoughts can better come together.

Just for photo credit sake, all the pictures with an R after them are courtesy of Randy Sadler (  He's an amazing photographer!!
Before the race with my hubs.  He did the trail race, I did the road
hamming it up with my cupcake friend

my other good friend who introduced me to Ironman, trail running, and endurance racing
ready at the start
one lap down, 51 to go
this is a Zebro (a male zebra).  Don't ask...
John, the guy who started the rugby game we would play all day
my hubs out on the course
one of my favorite endurance friends
Found the rugby ball in the trees...time to hide it and begin the day-long game of hide and seek

hitting a wall- not feeling great
still not feeling great, but getting better.  Another marathon in the books.
FINALLY!  My first 50K. 
well, not really just *yet*- only at 30.77
a quarter mile down the trail I officially got to a 50K 
time to play more rugby hide and seek

6:00 pm- all the 6 and 12 hour runners are done and heading back to the finish line.
Now it's just the 24 hour people left
the itty bitty incline that felt like Everest the longer the race went on
My friend Randy taking night pictures- trying to give me seizures with his flash
Tired. Ready to be done. About to go deep into my pain cave for about 8 miles.
FINALLY!  50 miles achieved!!!  I'm so happy I'm about to cry.  But my tears would freeze on my face, so I didn't.  Wearing so many layers that I can barely hold my arm out to take the picture.
Yay!  It's official.  50.01 miles.
Showered and back in the morning at the race site to see my hubs finish his 24 hour race
(he won overall male Masters)
him chowing down after the race

I'm glad I did it.  I wish it didn't take me as long as it did, but I had no idea what to expect.  There was running, walking, and slogging.  There was also laughter, smiles and happiness.  I love how doing this stuff makes me feel (about myself, about my fellow racers, about being alive).  I can't wait to do it again.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I really do have good runs. I promise.

I just realized that all of my recent posts are about bruises or pains or some other such nonsense.  I really do have LOTS of good runs.  Most of them involve some sort of mishap, but that's only because I'm:  a) quite clumsy and b) accident-prone. 
Hopefully the tone isn't all pain and bruise and ouchie.  More often than not I have a really good time out in nature.  I just continually struggle against my inner klutz....

Palo Duro 30K run. A distance they didn't even know they offered.

This is LONG.  You've been warned.

Saturday was my second failed attempt at a 50K.  My first attempt was back in late June at Midnight Madness in Tulsa.  That was a 50 mile race, but I had planned to DNF at mile 31 and call it my first 50K.  Well, I made it to mile 27 and was having some knee trouble, so I stopped.  My second attempt was Saturday at Palo Duro Canyon. 

Here's my tale:

Sarah and I left Friday late morning and drove to Amarillo.  Easy drive (well, easy for me since I wasn't driving).  We listened to Macca's book on tape for entertainment along the way -Chris McCormack is a professional triathlete.  We made it to the canyon about 4 and I set up camp while Sarah went for a quick run.  Then we jumped in the car and headed into the town of Canyon, TX for the pre-race pasta dinner and packet pick-up, and came back to sit by the campfire and hit the sack early.

We were camping in PD State Park, so we just had a short 10 minute drive from our campground to the race start.  We were up at 5:30, ate a quick breakfast, then headed over to the start.  The morning temp was quite chilly, but a really good way to start a long run.  Little did I remember how cold canyons get at night and just how hot they get during the day....even in late October.
Sarah and I headed over to the starting area about 10 minutes before the race start.  She and Julie were SO supportive, and it was really nice to have friends there with me, instead of just being an anonymous face in the crowd.  I placed myself at the back of the group since I know I'm slow.  I know my place in running events- and it's always at the back.
Sarah and I before the start
The horn sounded and off we went.  I had read that the first couple miles was narrow single-track and that we'd be stuck in a line for some time.  It was true.  We were in one long single-file line.  Walking uphill together, running when we could, and staying right in line.  I brought a bright flashlight to illuminate the way.  I'm glad I did because it was pitch-black.  Even with the ambient lighting of others around me, there is no way I would've been able to run that trail without a light showing me where to put my feet.  The girl in front of me didn't have one, so I tried to shine the light far enough ahead for her to see just a little. 
The sun started coming up over the canyon about 7:25.  I still used my light until about 7:45 when I was absolutely certain enough of my footing to not need it anymore.  I'm fairly clumsy, so being able to really see the obstacles in front of me was imperative.  The 20K race started about 7:25 (Julie and Sarah did the 20K), so it wasn't too long before the fasties started coming up on us and passing us "slow" 50K and 50 milers.  I would move over and let them come through as they sped by.  The trail was narrow, but you could get over and let someone by in most sections. 
the sun starting to come up- the white dot is a runner's headlamp
I made it to the first aid station in about 55 minutes.  It's located at about mile 3.5 ish, so I was on pretty good pace for me.  I skipped it, and headed 2.5 miles back to the start for the conclusion of our first 6 mile loop.  The 50K is one 6 mile loop, then two 12.5 mile loops.  I returned to the start at 1:26.  I was actually quite pleased at my time for the first little loop.  I felt strong and my legs and lungs were feeling like a million bucks.
 starting loop #2
Really, it was probably too fast.  I'm usually running in the 16 min/mile range on trails, and these were sub 15's.  I didn't think much about it, because I felt fine.  I left my Garmin at home because I didn't want the numbers to mess with my head, but in retrospect, I probably should have brought it so I could have seen 14's and said "whoa, horsey- time to slow it down a little."
getting passed in the early morning light
On the first big loop, at about mile 8, I moved off the trail to let a fast 50 mile person go by.  I stepped up on the slanted side of the trail into some slick gravel and promptly lost my footing and slammed HARD down onto the ground.  My hip immediately started throbbing and I could tell my skin was scratched beneath my tights because it burned.  My knee was also scratched and throbbing. My hand was scratched.  I didn't want to look at the damage.  I stood up and started crying because it hurt so bad, but also out of anger that I had fallen so early in the race. 
This could derail me and I knew it.
I was mad at myself for not finding a better place to move off the trail and mad at the runner for just breezing by without even stopping to ask if I was OK.  A really nice woman came up on me shortly as I was sobbing and put her hand on my back and asked if I was OK.  I told her I was and she said (as she started running away)- "usually it's ME falling down- hang in there!".  It was sweet of her to stop. 
scene of "the fall heard 'round the canyon"
I started walking, but it really hurt.  It didn't change my gait or anything, but running was totally out of the question.  I walked for about 5 miles, trying to run, but feeling twinges of pain in my hip and knee.  I just kept on moving.  I never could get back into the groove, tho.  The canyon was in full light now, and the walls and floor were brimming with beauty.  It was hard to not want to stop and look all around me, but I fought the urge more often than not and just kept moving.  I wound up taking lots of pictures and tried to spot landmarks that I'd read about. 
I finally made it to the Dos Locos Senioritas aid station (2 really fun and crazy ladies I'd read all about) and was feeling a little down.  They filled my bladder (it was the first time I'd filled it in 12 miles- and it was only half-full to begin with- not a good sign of a well-executed hydration plan).  They were super sweet and we talked for a minute before I headed out.  I was fairly certain at this point that I wasn't going to be doing a second loop.  The temps were really climbing, and I could tell that I was already starting to fall behind on my hydration. With all the walking and the moping I hadn't been taking in enough fluids and I was certain this was bound to bite me later in the race. 

The trail after this aid station was simply gorgeous.  Wide open vistas with an undulating trail.  The dirt was a deep red color and I tried to pretend I was walking on Mars. 
me walking on Mars
The walls of the canyon were layered with so many different colors I couldn't even count them.  I just walked and walked and stopped to take pictures and look around.  I started doing the math and figuring out how much time I still had left and how much time I would need to do lap #2.  The numbers were depressing, so I put in my earbuds and let my iPod do the thinking for me.  Unfortunately, my iPod was acting like a bratty child.  The day before I had uploaded 60 new songs, but only about 10 were playing.  It was like it was stuck in some strange iPod Shuffle Twilight Zone.  I listened to those 10 songs twice through then gave up on it and shoved it back into my shirt in disgust.  I figured I would just sing the Sweet Brown autotune song instead. It's the only thing that jumped into my head to sing.  Ugh... it's terribly annoying. I linked it so you can get it stuck in your head, too.  You're welcome!
a fast 50 miler flying by
I soon came upon the 3rd aid station.  It was at the bottom of the Stairway of Doom (not an official name, just one that came to me as I was descending it).  It was really steep and dropped right off the side of a hill.  By this point I knew I was stopping, so I grabbed a date bar and one boiled potato to go and headed off.  I didn't even bother to fill up my bladder.  I figured I had enough to get me the 5 miles back.  I munched and walked and sang Sweet Brown's disgustingly annoying song.   
I got passed by fast 50 milers and finishing 50K'ers a LOT in this next section.  I don't remember how many times I stepped off the trail. I remember lots of neat shade and a creek that bubbled and ran through the tamarisk (I think that's what it was).  It was a really pretty section, and not at all what you would expect to find at the bottom of a canyon in the middle of the Texas panhandle. 
The miles dragged on until I arrived at the last aid station before the start/finish area.  I grabbed a cup of coke and walked on.  I tried to run, but my knee would scream in pain after just a couple steps, so I decided to power-walk instead.  It was getting hot and I was tired of being out there and just wanted it to end.  I turned up the speed and walked like a mad-woman the last 2.5 miles in. 

 the last section
I crossed the timing mat at 5 hours and had to go to table to tell the timer that I was DNF'ing. That's when I burst into tears.  I saw Sarah and Julie and shook my head and walked away.  I was trying to keep it together so I wouldn't be a blubbering mess, but it was no use.  It was fatigue and pain and disappointment rearing its ugly head.  They let me have my little blubber-fest and gave me hugs.
It's funny because I had rationalized my DNF for the last 6 miles- knowing that the heat, my poor hydration plan and my upcoming 24 hour race next weekend were all good reasons to stop. The temps were probably in the 90's, and it was only getting hotter.  And I was honestly OK with quitting, but saying it out loud when you know you *could* go on is difficult.  Could go on and want to go on are two different things.

I didn't want to go on, tho.  I really didn't.  Sarah and Julie said they would walk the last 12.5 with me, and I knew they meant it.  I love them for it.  I just didn't want to.  I like getting out in nature and being part of a racing atmosphere, but when it stops being fun and starts being work or a chore or is hurting- it's time to stop.  Ya know?  This is supposed to be fun, and when it's not, it's time to stop. 
So am I disappointed?  Sure.  Do I regret it?  No. 
I don't mind DNF'ing tho.  Honestly.
toe-eating gaps in the boards on the bridges
Some people would rather lose an arm than DNF.  Not me.  If I try it and I succeed, great.  If I try it and fail, well at least I tried it.  I know I don't push myself too far out of my comfort zone, and that's why I'll never be a great athlete. I have trouble controlling the mental aspect of endurance racing.  I'm working on that mental toughness, but it's still a fault of mine.  But that's OK with me.  For me it's all about fun.  In the past I've trained like a crazy person  and then I become a crazy person and it's no longer any fun.  This isn't my job.  This is my hobby.  I did 18.5 miles of a tough trail race and got to experience something new.  Official finish or not, I'm just thankful that I can get out there and be a part of the trail-running community.
Even if it means walking away without a finisher award. 
 Although the giant purple fist-sized bruise on my hip and the bruises on my knee are pretty cool finisher awards.  I'm proud to own my very first Palo Duro battle wounds!

What did I say in my last post?  "I'm going to finish my first 50K dadnabbit.  I WILL cross that finish line."
Well, I crossed it, I just stopped one lap sooner than I thought.  There will be another time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tweaking... and not in a good way

Although really, tweaking in any way is just plain bad.

Tonight I'm referring to tweaking of the knee kind.  

I went running at Bluff tonight.  Well, "run" deserves to be in quotes. Even when I'm running a pace that feels challenging to me, I'm still only eeking out 15 min/miles.  Lots of people can walk that fast. Not this person. These stumpy little legs just can't move that fast.  When I'm walking on the trail at a fast clip, I'm still only putting out 18:30 min/miles.  I'm just not a fast mover, I guess.  It also comes down to the reality that I'm one clumsy mo-fo.  I can barely walk on flat ground without tripping on air or falling down for no apparent reason.  So between stubby legs and clumsy body, I'm just not destined for speed.

Anyway... where was I? 

Oh yes.  I was running at Bluff tonight and came down weird on my knee.  Not hard, not twisty, just came down weird and got a shooting pain in my knee.  Dammit!!!  My 50K is in 3 days.  This is NOT the time to be tweaking things.  That was at 2 miles.  I hobbled the 1.5 back to the car and came home to ice it. 
I'll wear a knee brace the next couple days and cross fingers that it will vanish as mysteriously as it appeared.

Either way, I'm going to have a BLAST at Palo Duro!!!  Even if I have to walk it, I will finish that darn race!!!  Whether it takes me 7 hours or 11, I'm crossing that finish line.  I WILL finish my first 50K this weekend, dadnabbit!!! :) 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Am I the only one who has runs that go like this:

Get out of car. 
Turn on Garmin. 
Wait for satellites to locate.
Stare at wrist like an idiot and wait.
Wait some more.
Satellites located and I'm off-----

00:01   ouch ouch ouch ouch
00:15   OHMIGOSH it's ONLY been 15 minutes?  Ugh...
00:27   so I'm supposed to run for 2 hours, but a 30 minute run is still good.  Right?
00:42   OK, I'm not looking at my watch again for at least another 30 minutes
00:44   DAMMIT!!!!  Only 2 minutes have passed. 
00:58   an hour run is perfectly acceptable for a weeknight, right??? Running is stupid!!
00:59   ouch ouch ouch ouch
1:01     Yes!  Over the halfway point.  I think I can do this.
1:10     OK, things are loosening up.  I'm feeling much better.
1:20     ALL RIGHTY- I'm getting in the groove now.  Time to turn this up and go for a run!
1:53     Holy moly- I'm almost done
1:58     Do I have to stop already???? :(

My engine is like a 1965 Mustang in the dead of a frigid Alaskan winter.  It takes FOREVER for me to warm up, but once I get there I can go all day.  It's that first hour+ that makes me want to scream, but then the time begins to fly by and I lose myself.

Just wondering if I'm the only one...

Palo Duro 50K is just 5 days away.  I'm SUPER stoked!  It will be my first PD run and my first 50K.  I'm not hoping for anything spectacular.  I'm a turtle on the trails.  I average between 14-16 min/miles.  I am hoping for sub 8 hours, but am planning on being out there 9.  I just want to soak up as much of the run as I can.  My friend Sarah is coming with me.  Road trip, running, camping, friends, trails,  and America's 2nd largest canyon.  Is there anything about this trip that doesn't sound amazing??? 

Run wild, friends!