Wild Hare 2013

It was my birthday, and year 2 of my survival anniversary.  It had occurred to me that if I were successful, for the first time I would run, the sun would rise, I would run, the sun would set, and still I would run.

(If you want to read the rest of this post, I warn you it’s going to get explicit and filthy and offensive; you know, the good stuff.)

My friend Jose promised to run with me, but of course neglected to sign up until race day morning.  At which point I asked him, “when’s your birthday?” “Next Year.” “Fine, because I’m going to get you a bag of getting your shit together.”  Jose had arrived at some late time the night before.  I was already in my pillow fort in my tent, because I was car camping, and why the hell not.  Even though I was extremely tired (I’ve been having wicked insomnia for the past few weeks), and very comfortable, and not at all anxious about the next day, I never really slept.  When the alarm went off at 4:30, I just sighed and went about getting ready for the day.  I was still back and forth at the 10 minute countdown, camp was quiet, but by the 5 minute mark runners started appearing in the barn.  Yes, we started in a barn.  That was pretty sweet.  Rob gave me a colorful sparkle lai to wear and a horrible pink foam crown that said, “Birthday Princess.”  At the end he told me he did that on purpose because he knew it would piss me off, and that is why I love him.  Asshole.

I am still so fucking sick of running in the dark, and on the first loop I finally figured out why.  My poor, stupid, chemically eroded brain. The 2 lamp technique does help, but it’s still very hard work processing the strange, dim illumination quickly enough to run on it.  It makes me so tired.  I seriously need to get myself to MDA neuropsych to find out if this can be helped.  But I think my conservative pace on the first loop was a good thing in the end.  Jose and I set the tone for the day with a rousing volley of farts.  Jose was very polite for most of the day, and if he was ahead of me, he would pull over to the side of the trail and let me pass while he let fly.  This would come to an end somewhere in the last two loops, where he’d just yell “FARTED” and we kept moving.  (I hear this is nothing compared to Rob’s Frito death farts, which I suspect are a ploy to get everyone behind him to speed up.)  We occasionally traded burp yells, because the trail will shake loose everything inside you.

The first loop came to and end quickly, and we went back for more.  It was miserably humid, and I felt like a self shower.  On loop 2 I named the first section of the course, Fairy Land, and we suddenly developed an irrational hatred for the section labeled, “Spaghetti Bends.”  Every time we encountered it we’d yell, “AH, FUCK YOU SPAGHETTI!!!”  On loop 2 we finally got to hit the back section of the course.  I was well into singing “Don’t Let’s Start” at every downhill – this was stuck in my head for about 6 hours.  (Thanks, James.)  The back section starts with a steep descent of paved concrete, and I realized I needed to pay attention so I didn’t wipe out on it and ruin my day.  That first big loop of 7.8 miles was already hard, and I felt it, so by mile 11 I was already working.  The climbs in and out of the washes took a lot out of me, and I wished the course map had labeled the contour interval (I suspect it’s 25′).  Incomplete maps give me the fits, but I am a special geologist that way.  I heard Rob had measured the total elevation change of the 50K to be ~5100′, which puts the 50 miler at ~7000′.

I gave a slippery hug to Ryan at some point, and I saw Liz and Ryan twice at an aid station.  Thanks for coming out!  I love you nuts!

At some point we stated calling the back part of the course, “The Back Passage.” Jose and I traded stories along the way.  We were filthy.  We were degenerates.  Disturbing sex toys, the pros and cons of Craigslist, debates about lube, the dark times, the best running, we laughed, we tried to soothe each other.  We told each other how awesome we were.  At one point I said we should make a quilt with all our awesomeness, but it would spontaneously combust from our awesomeness.  It was beautiful. We were nothing but positive for each other the whole time, no matter how shitty things were.  There was no room for negativity.  This is why running with Jose is the best.

We emerged into a field with a pumping station and Jose told me this horrible story: “I went to this party when I first moved to Houston.  I walked into one room in the house and this group of people were watching homemade porn.  There was this guy going at it with this girl, and he was fat, and had a super pimply ass, and then he just switched right to her ass, without lube or anything.  And then I realized the guy in the video was sitting right there, and I asked him, what the fuck?  And he said we were all drunk, and he didn’t have the decency to be ashamed.  And his buddy off camera started to yell, ‘yeah, DRILL THAT OIL!!!’ but the worst part was when I realized, I knew that chick.”  Heh.  So every time we emerged to the field with the pumping station, one of us would say, “hey, you know what time it is?!?!?” “Yeah, time to DRILL THAT OIL!!!!!!”  So horrifying.  We had no lube.

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On any given day, I can run 20 miles.  After that, things start to get hard, and to hurt.  But on this day, at about mile 20 I decided I really wanted it.  Not just the 42 miles I’d promised myself.  I wanted the full 50.  It’s started to burn inside me, that fire of drive I get when I want something so badly I might rip steel with my bare hands to get it.  I pushed.  Every moment I though I could run, could go faster, could move more quickly or more efficiently, I took it.  My knees hurt, my legs were tired, I was tired all over, it was hot and humid, so much so that we got overheated and had to walk when we’d rather run, not to mention the hot flashes on top of that, and my feet were blistered.  Not once on the course did I want to quit, to stop pushing forward.  Not once.  I wasn’t stopping until someone made me stop.

Steve Moore (course record holder) passed me 3 times, and on the last round, wished me happy birthday!  (I swear it was Doppler shifted on account of how fast he is.)  I tripped twice, and only fell twice.  The second time I was in Fairy Land on loop 5 or 6, and a nice guy happened to catch up to us then and gave me an 8.5.  I was a little disappointed.  Still, my fall made me laugh, and he asked me if I was OK, and I laughed more because I was, even though I took a rock to the hip, and told him I rolled and had my dead bug legs up in the air like Jose taught me, and we all laughed some more.  He was with us for awhile, and I wish I knew his name, because he was pretty cool.  He asked if it was really my birthday, and I said yes, and he said I was a twisted individual to do this on my birthday, which is why he completely understood.  Heh.  Jose said what we should’ve done was run a 5K and then drink 42 beers.  Next year.

The sixth loop, I don’t know what combination of nutrition, timing and magic happened, but I felt renewed.  I took every shred of anger and frustration, frustration at DNFing so many damn races this year, anger at having fucking cancer in the first place, and the good things too, every ounce of passion I have about anything, and I balled it up and threw it at the trail.   I ran.  I asked Jose to let me go ahead.  I flew.  I pushed below 11 min miles, near 10, on the flats after mile 35.  I was not going to let this day get away from me.  Running toward the barn, I saw the clock.  We flew over the mat at 11:33, 27 minutes to spare for cutoff.  I burst into tears.

I had to do a shoe change and put some Aquaphor on my blisters.  I knew the final lap was going to suck for my feet, and that was just the way it was going to be.  I got the opportunity to thank Joe for this race (I was a crying mess – I was so happy), and he said we had time to do it, just keep moving.  Joe is the coolest, and I am grateful that he does these great races that test me.  I thanked him for the race – I don’t think anything I said was adequate to express how grateful to him I was for having this race.  The same goes for the aid station volunteers.  Those people were phenomenal and braved bees to help us.  I know they got stung multiple times.  They are my heroes.  Rob grabbed my shoulder and yelled at me to go EARN IT, and in times of darkness, I remembered that’s what I was doing, what Rob said to me on the way out.  Fucking Rob.  I am so lucky to know the HATRs.

I had spent just about everything I had doing the 6th loop.  Jose kept trying to tell me to move it, and I am embarrassed to say I almost felt like I was whining when I yelled at him that I promised I was working as hard as I could to move forward.  I tried not to pass out at several places.  I had to adjust my bra on the left side once again and I saw white sparkles and thought about passing out. (My port scar only poked me once, and I think that was the knot in the stitches.  They were right!  I did heal up in time!  Still, I had that bitch covered with gauze and Kinesio tape.  Surgery 10 days before a 50 miler is a great idea kids!)  The chafing was intense (I have scabs), and this was all work.

Jose left me in the dark for a long time in Fairy Land.  I was angry about it.  I thought he’d really left me.  I was giving everything I had, though it felt paltry.  Everything sucked.  I struggled not to pass out from the effort.  Jose kept saying things about time, and how we had to move.  I told him I had nothing to prove to anyone, and that I’d already exceeded my expectations.  This was true.  I knew I was going to run 50 miles on that day, even if I didn’t make the end of race cutoff, I would run 50 miles, and that was all that mattered to me – I knew I could not have run any harder on that day.  I was proud of what I’d already accomplished.  I just wanted to finish, chin up.  As we ran along, Jose pointed, saying things like, “fuck that tree, we don’t have to see that again.  Fuck that grass.  Fuck this hill.”  It made me happy.

But then, emergency trail dump!  Jose had his issues earlier in the day, but the last loop, I had a pressing problem.  I kept it together until we got to the steep beginning of The Back Passage, and then I just looked for a convenient tree, because there was no way I was going to be able to squat, so my solution was to hold onto a tree while I hung my ass over the side of the hill.  I told this story at the end and Jeremy said he imagined some poor squirrel down slope going”WTF is this?!?” and I said that was possible as I heard the impact, and then Jeremy asked why he wasn’t running with us as we had all the good stories.  Next time, my friend.  Jose thought I fell and called out, to which I just screamed “POOPIN!!!!” as loudly as I could.  I felt much better after that, and I choose to believe I got a little faster.  But after PUMPING THAT OIL for the last time, my brain had a biofeedback induced meltdown.  My heart rate was high, I was fatigued, and hot, and I felt this crushing wave of anxiety.  I still didn’t want to quit, or slow down, but I felt a powerful urge to curl up into a ball and cry and scream.  That was never an option.  I just told Jose I was struggling with anxiety, and he asked me about it, but I knew I just had to get past it.  We finally climbed out of a wash, and the breeze cooled me a bit, and I finally found a place of peace in my mind, and went there for awhile.  The next thing I know Jose was saying “it’s past mile 47 – how the hell are we still running?!?”  “Because we have to.”

For most of that loop, I felt like lines on a crumpled piece of paper.  I couldn’t think, I couldn’t be anything.  I only knew I had to keep going.  There was nothing else.

We slogged on.  We saw a group ahead of us, and some people on bikes behind us we thought might be sweepers.  Jose kept talking about time, and I kept telling him to shut it, because it wasn’t going to make me go any faster.  His watch finally died, and it made me happy.  I really didn’t think we’d make the race cutoff.  As we rounded camp, I saw my cool friend from before who yelled, “hey is that birthday girl?!”  I could hear a crowd cheering, but it was just happy noise.  But he quickly set me straight, “DON’T STOP FOR ME, YOU’VE GOT 5 MINUTES!!!”  And then I realized we were damn well going to make the race cutoff.  We took off and hauled ass as fast as we could.  As we crested the hill to the barn, the clock still said 13…… and we kept pushing.  I saw that we were going to make it.  I grabbed Jose’s hand as we ran though the barn.  There was a crowd of people screaming on the other side of the gate.  I will never forget that final flight through the barn, holding Jose’s hand, my friends at the other end, giving every last ounce of anything I had.  I collapsed over the gate and grabbed at people keep me from falling.  Someone told me to walk it off, and i did once I caught my breath.  The next thing I remember I was sobbing into Jose, and all those people circled us and sang happy birthday at me.  I want to hug you all, and if you were there, I hope you will introduce yourself at a race next time so I can. 13:57:36 – 2 minutes and change to spare.

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I sat in the HATR tent and we traded war stories and ate the delicious pies Rachel made for me.  Rob said she spelled things on the pies, there was a 42, an L, and the last one, “says EAT ME” I guessed.  He said it spelled Lisa in pecans and I said, same thing.  When I took my shoes off, the HATR boys gathered around and had a collective gross out, so naturally they started taking pictures.  I feel like my ultra cred went up a few notches for running on those bad boys.  (A very nice lady gave me some lancets and alcohol wipes – thank you!!!)  Nothing like scarfing pie and checking out someone else’s horrible feet.

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Thank you to everyone who took care of me at the end.  Really.  People got me food and water.  Greg took charge of reheating pasta and making sure I got to my tent and had a shower.  And Jenny just generally made sure I was alright.  It really meant a lot to me that Greg and Jenny drove all the way out there just to cheer for me.  Jose and I texted each other for an hour lying down because we were in too much pain to sleep.

I’m not sure what to say in conclusion about that day.  Thank you to everyone who came out and supported me.  I couldn’t have done it without you.  What I said last year is till true - it’s easy to do great things when you’re surrounded by people who love, support, and inspire you.  I can’t adequately express what it feels like to finally live a dream you’ve been working for, to put your whole self out there at risk, to hold nothing back and see what happens.  I exceeded what I thought was possible, and it was glorious.  All in one day.  Tomorrow, go get that thing you want, and don’t let anything stop you.  You won’t regret it, and you will soar.

M2M, Year 2

I had one goal returning to Marathon.  I would find out whether I sucked more or less.  It would be one of those.  I suck less, but not in the way I expected.

Consistent, quality sleep is ever elusive, so when I woke for the race, I was not at 100%.  I was still more well rested than during my summer racing, and Utah, but I was tired.  And furthermore, I did not want to run.  You heard me.  I was in no mood to run.  Yes, now would be a good time to check the Matrix. I even had a hard time eating breakfast, so I took a protein bar with me.

Then it was on to the bus and the impossibly far drive to the start.  I was sitting next to people who’d never done this ride, so it was amusing hearing them realize that we were still driving down the road where we’d have to run back.

This time I didn’t meet anyone so convivial as Mark at the start.  The mood wasn’t that friendly, even though I did try to start up conversations.  Not a good start to the race.  There seemed to be fewer people than last year, even though this was the 10th anniversary of the race (maybe around 70?).

Our race official held the start until people were done at the port-o-cans, which is something I’ll probably never see again in racing.  Then we were off, and I felt a bit tired almost immediately, but at least it was not that level of fatigue tired I struggled with over the summer.  But I knew I wasn’t going along at any great pace.  Most people passed me, and I struggled a bit more with altitude than last year, or at Utah.  It wasn’t significant, but it was noticeable.  I started leap frogging with a gentleman doing run-walk, using a watch timer, and we exchanged a few pleasantries.  We were going to start a conversation during his next run interval, but I told him I had to pull off behind a tree and pee.  When I ran back to the road, a couple passed by, and the guy kind of chuckled at me (he’d probably seen my pee standing up move, which others find amusing), but his wife gave me the whale eye.  I caught up to timer guy, which I wasn’t happy about exactly, because when you’re running in the beautiful quiet, that timer going off gets really fucking annoying.

I was not less tired, even though I’d been making good progress on my protein bar, when I saw a woman up ahead wearing a hydration pack.  I’d seen her briefly at the start.  She was cruising at turtle speeds like me, but I thought I could catch her.  Typically a hydration pack and an easy pace on a course like this is a good indicator of someone training for an ultra or ironman.  (I was right – I’d later find out she was training for her first 100 miler.)  As I pulled up along side her, she smiled brightly and we immediately started talking.  And that was how I met Erin, and had one of the best races of my life.

Everything changed.  Erin and I were a house on fire.  We laughed, and laughed, and told each other our running stories, and terrible medical history, and Erin inspired me.  She runs through some serious shit too.  So when my foot started to hurt, I shut up about it, because there was no way my stupid foot hurt more than Erin’s broken one.  She said she was doing the same thing.  And there was more laughing.  We met early on the course; we couldn’t figure out exactly where, but it was between mile 2-6, and just before either of us gave up and put in our headphones earlier than we’d like.

We stopped occasionally between aid stations and ran over to Andy (her husband), who was cheering us on from their truck, and dog Mayhem, mostly to pet the dog.  We started calling these Puppy Stops.  Every few miles we’d kind of squeal at each other how lucky we were to have run into each other on this day, because everyone else was a big serious runner and grumpyface.

One of the most important things I took away form the day was about speed.  I’ve been struggling with time cutoffs, and wanting to get faster, and failing to make much progress on that this year.  Erin told me that she had the same problem, and spent the time/year once getting fast, and it didn’t make her happier.  We’ll come back to this.

Nothing felt like work until around mile 22, where things started to get a little hard.  Before that the miles were invisible, because I had Erin for company.  The last aid stations were phenomenal, with cheering volunteers, and this year, they were well stocked with snacks.  And by snack, I mean at the mile 24 aid station, they had margaritas, which Erin jumped on immediately, and so who was I to not be social?  We ran along with our margaritas until we thought that we’d have a tough time running in a straight line, and we dumped the rest.  The margarita made the shitty hill at the end much more tolerable.  And on our final leg into town, we buddy systemed it by checking to be sure we weren’t weaving.  We rock.

We finished strong, hand in hand, crossing the finish line with May in tow.  It was beautiful, and I didn’t feel like I’d just run a marathon; I felt like I could keep going.  I saw Erin and Andy again at the post-race party, and we laughed even more.  I’d be lucky to run another race with Erin, and I hope she kills it at Rocky.

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Ultimately, this race was about people.  In the beginning of running, and during The Great Ordeal and soon thereafter, I was content to be solitary, to let my running carry me away from the void, to learn and know that I can conquer whatever I take on by myself.  But now I know, I can.  After numerous episodes of trail therapy, with Erin in this race, Jose at RPR, and most recently Jane on a Saturday Morning HATR run, I’ve learned that I’m no longer interested in being alone.  As Jane and I neared the end of our first lap last week we noted how so many of us share the same experience, “I run to quiet the voices,” we said.  (You can read about that here.)  And sometimes, that’s still true for me.  But I’ve spent a long time on this journey being and feeling alone, working so hard, so painfully, in so many ways almost no one else can understand.  It’s not the quiet that I seek anymore; the voices of others in the run weave themselves into my heart and soul and carry me forward to a future without fear.  And that is now why I run.

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Reveille Peak Ranch

I said before in one of my previous posts/race recaps that this year has become about learning about my limits.  I’m still there.
In a fit of caving to running peer pressure, because runners always play that game, I went and registered for the 60 K.  I drove out to the ranch Friday afternoon, thinking it would be crowded and hard to find a parking spot.  I was so wrong, you couldn’t even see wrong from the wrong hill I stood on.  There were 3 other people there when I arrived; a couple with a sweet dog (Fraggle), and Peter.  Peter was gearing up to get a run in the night before the race, “I’m going to go out there and get lost for 12 hours” because he was volunteering at the Gate aid station.  He didn’t have a map, so I gave him my park map, as I didn’t need it.  Peter is much like all the other volunteers in these races, just a fat slab of awesome.  I watched him go as I started to set up camp in the best spot, flat, right next to the showers with a great view of the lake.
I had enough time to go dip in the lake a bit, then the pool, after which I was cooled down enough to get to work on a sandwich.  I took it and a beer up to the roof top deck and watched the sunset.  I kept thinking people would roll in anytime, but only one other couple arrived that I know of.  It was odd.  The ranch is beautiful!  Why would you not camp there?!?
My sleeping arrangements were minimal, but with a nod to the numerous and varied ant species, as I’d learned from my time in the Canyon that no tent is the best tent – cot on top of ground cover.  It was a beautiful, clear night, and I drifted watching the stars and satellites.  I didn’t sleep as well as I’d hoped; I kept imagining things were biting me, but I never saw these mysterious insects, nor evidence of biting.  Until after midnight when I found the ants by my feet.  I just needed to move the tie straps from my sleeping pad, and no more ants.  And I did eventually crawl under my sheet and sleep.
Just after 7am there was a staggering amount of noise.  I wasn’t sure for awhile how awake I was, because there was an entire freaking high school outside my camp.  GOOD MORNING!  SURPRISE CROSS COUNTRY MEET BITCHES!!!!!!  Vol, the ranch owner, asked if they woke me, and said later they’d be gone by the end of the morning.  I watched them run around the lake while I ate my breakfast, then went to the pavilion to steal some power.  That’s when I met Vol, and overheard him talking to Joe (the race director) about Peter.  Turns out Peter is training for a 100 miler, I think perhaps his first.  I really hope he makes it!  He was sick for his potential 1st one and is making a second go of it.  Go Peter!
I took a bathroom break and brushed my teeth, and that’s when I realized I didn’t imagine the biting.  Red dots all over my face and hands.  In fact, by the end of my Reveille Ranch experience I had at least 3 different sets of bites.  I am still itchy, especially from the larger ants, the ones that were hanging out at the ends of the blades of grass, jumping on defenseless runners in the dark and biting us as we ran off with their horrible maws stuck to our legs.  Fuck off, ants.
I waited for my phone to charge for awhile, watching the young runners and Joe start to set up for the night’s race.  After a pause in the action, I put my phone away, introduced myself to Joe and asked if I could help, as there didn’t seem to be other folks around.  I have to admit that I carefully considered this, because I didn’t want to wear myself out before the evening, but running is about community, and you help when you can, and I decided helping would be the right thing to do and I would just try not to overdo it in the heat.  I have no regrets.  Joe is the nicest man, and I’ve really enjoyed the Cap’n Karl races.  So I helped string flags for the start/finish chute, packed and carried gear for the aid station there and the packet pickup area, and hung banners.  Somewhere in there, carrying one of the plastic tubs, I tweaked my back.  I thought it would be an issue later, but I managed to work it out with the pool jet and the foam roller.
Midday came along and when setup paused I went and had some lunch.  A lot of lunch.  I was trying to fuel for the evening.  I also had that dip in the pool, and a rinse in the shower, and flopped down on my cot for a nap soaking wet and cool (that’s another trick I learned from the Canyon).  I napped for a bit, but it wasn’t as deep a sleep as I’d hoped.  Even with ear plugs the human activity woke me.  I finally went and took a proper shower, with soap and everything, and changed into my running clothes for the evening.  The HATR’s started to show up shortly thereafter, and there were more of us than I anticipated!  Rob, José, Mark, Jeremy, Kevin, and Gordon all rolled in to camp in the #1 spot I’d secured, and I was even more glad I’d showed up the night before!  At this point, I declared the HATR convention was my own personal sausagefest, and the tone degenerated precipitously from there.  Much trash talk was had.  It was beautiful.  In the hottest part of the day, Gordon reappears in his own shower and declares that the section over the dome was “brutal.”  He’d run the 10K course as a warm up …for the 10K… and to get the feel of the thing.  Of course he says it in his accent, because he is Not Texan, so you just kind of have to imagine this was funny.
We gear up and start moving to the HATR tent near the start/finish gate.  There were 4 60K’ers, Jeremy, Mark, José, and me, and we all realized we were in a similar predicament with respect to the PRD.  (The rest of this paragraph is about poop so now’s your chance to stop reading.)  We made a pact to update each other with shit status notifications.  José declared that we were bitches for not having proper control over our own bodies, because he can fire one out at will.  We hated him less after he told us the story of using rocks as TP at Bandera.  José is not good at the outdoors.  At half an hour to start, Jeremy and I had given up, but Mark quietly nodded, smiled, and gestured, that he’d done a small one and was feeling good.  Jeremy was afflicted in lap 3, and has a pretty good story about it, so ask him about his “crapus interruptus” on the trail.  I realize now I never updated the guys, but I am all about the clock, and didn’t have anything going on until coffee the next morning after 7am, and then after our giant breakfast at Magnolia, when I heard José exiting the bathroom next door apologizing to the next person to go in there.  Heh.  There you go.  You’re welcome.
The 30K’ers, Laura, Cesar, and Mark (Tall Mark, as opposed to “The Real Mark” – more trash talk) popped into the tent, and we just kind of hung out for awhile and took some pictures before the race.  (The 10K’ers were Eric, Gordon and Kevin – there were a few other runners around, maybe HATR’s or known to Rob and José, but I didn’t meet them.)  I loaded up on ice from my cooler before the start, and never got overheated or dehydrated like at CO Bend.  I was still worried about my ankle, which wasn’t fully healed, but Paul and my team at Valeo did stellar work on me in the week prior to the race, and the ankle was never an issue during my run!
And then there we went.  I was in my usual back of the pack spot, but feeling good and enjoying the day.  I loaded up on more ice and Gatorade at the Gate aid station, and amused the volunteers by having them dump ice right into my shorts.  The “freeze your junk off” technique is something I learned from Pam Smith, winner of Western States, and she’s right.  The only thing about the shorts full of ice is that my socks got very squishy by the 2nd aid station.  My Salomons tend to hold water.  (I’m still not sure about those shoes.)  Also after the 2nd aid station, I got an ice cube right up in my business.  I mean, way up there.  That ice cube was my new boyfriend.  I started singing about it, and I bet José thought I was losing my mind.
Soon we started our ascent up the dome.  I loved the dome!  (They call it “granite,” though it’s a metagranite at best.  I didn’t ladle on the science too much for José, though at one point he exclaimed, “fuck Billy Nye, I’ve got Lisa!!!”  Aw!)  I asked José if he had really neglected to bring a headlamp for the first loop, because he threatened to not and push me to do the 20K in an hour.  I told him he was a dumbass.  Up on the dome he said he left it at the start, and that led to this:
me: So you went full retard on that.
him: Yep. Full.  Retard.
me: Seriously?
him: Yep.  In the dictionary, I want there to be a picture of me next to “full retard.”
me: We should just call it “Full José” then.
him: Yep.
Somewhere up there we started to be passed by the 10K’ers, and Gordon must’ve been so fast that I didn’t even see him go by.  On the descent, we got word one of the 10K’ers was down and hurt, and it took awhile to get to that person.  We kept at it, and ended up running with Bik, from Dallas, for much of the remainder of the loop.  José was an excellent pacer, even when I was cursing him for being a shitty pacer, he wasn’t.  He was at times ahead of me, pushing me to keep up, and then behind me, giving me a break but still telling me to move my ass.  The fact that I can pee standing up still delights him.  I was fighting fatigue starting at around mile 3, not like at CO Bend where it was a wall crashing on me – this was like the tide rolling in, and I was fighting it all the way.
There was much more runnable trail than at CO Bend, and this was my favorite trail to run on to date – Rob was right about how great this trail was.  Somewhere before the 2nd aid station, it got dark enough to turn on headlamps, so I tried my 2 lamp technique for first time.  (I hadn’t had a chance to test it out.)  Visibility was better for me than at CO Bend, and once I got my lamp placed around my hips, my light stabilized.  The reflection off my bib number was annoying, so next time I’ll just pin it out of the way somewhere.  Soon thereafter, I noticed a light coming from José.  Fucker played me!  But at least I didn’t have to feel sorry for his stupidity.
I only fell once, when it was still light out, and I managed not to do more than take a chunk out of the side of my right hand as I fell in the dirt at the side of the trail.  José gave me shit about tripping over a tree root, the one thing on that trail we can actually train for, but he got his later.  He was ahead of me and I saw his light go rolling off to the left.  He popped back up and yelled “rock!”  José can roll.  I am still impressed.  “I’ve got falling down to an art,” he says.
We did encounter a rattle snake – I heard to go off as José ran past, and then again for me.  I learned later there was another one close by but we didn’t see or hear it.  Someone posted pics of it on Facebook.  José freaked out and reminded me, “you’re supposed to protect me from wildlife!”  I said I couldn’t protect him if he was in front of me, so I got to take the lead again.  He was still pissed about the “giant spiders,” the harvestmen that came out on the dome at sunset that I didn’t warn him about.  I told him I was proud of him for not screaming like a little bitch.  He said he was on the inside.  He said we’re all screaming on the inside – it’s how we know we’re alive.  We laughed about that for awhile.
We joked and talked through the miles, going into some deep and serious shit.  Only the trail will hear about it, because that’s one of the reasons we’re out there, running through all the shit that builds up in our heads.  I will say that José is just 6 different kinds awesome, and we left some stories for the next time.  I may have not mentioned it yet, but the whole reason he was doing this race was to run with me, and that right there makes me tear up every time I think about it, that someone is willing to run at least 10 hours, all through the night, just to help me get to my running goal.  It’s humbling.
By the time we looped back to the Gate, I knew I was in serious trouble.  I was working overtime just to stay vertical.  The fatigue was getting me, and I was worried I’d reached a point where I couldn’t put it off anymore.  Sometimes I can, at a price, but the rent was due on this.  I thought I’d wait and see what the clock said before deciding what to do next.  By the time we got back to the start, I was staggering, and trying not to collapse.  I’d already been through the first part of my shutdown, where my brain stopped being able to do certain tasks, and communication was a monumental effort.  An aid station volunteer thought he was being helpful by urging me to go to the next aid station before deciding what to do, but I knew there was no way I should be out on the dome.  José had asked me several times if there was anything I should be doing to help.  I’d been eating all the things I knew to eat, and keeping my electrolytes up, and I’d even had aspirin.  This was just me expiring, because my new body kind of sucks in ways other people’s don’t.  The aid station volunteer kept at it, and I was unable to communicate to him the seriousness of my situation, so I just grabbed some food after he handed me back my pack and staggered back out onto the course and headed for the Gate again.  José caught up with me and we talked for awhile as we walked.  I think.  Actually things become kind of hazy at this point.  I do remember concentrating really hard on the ground, and I didn’t fall over.  Eventually José told me that we should stop (I think, again).  So we went back.
So I only made it 20K before my stupid body had a complete fatigue shutdown.  I flopped down on a cot and was asleep by the time José brought me a burger and a Coke.  (He’s the best!)  That gave me enough recovery to go cry in the shower for awhile and then come back and have a beer with José.  Stopping after the 1st loop was extra difficult because we were 20 minutes ahead of what I thought!  I saw Laura and Cesar finish strong, and Mark come in at the end of his 2nd lap, still looking very good!  Then I went right to the camp and passed out.  I don’t remember anything after that until getting up just after 7.
We slowly broke camp and made a plan for HATR breakfast in Austin at Magnolia Café.  Jeremy told us an excellent story about a scare he had with his junk in loop 3, and you should ask him about it.  Gordon told us the story of having his toenails removed twice, because he’s hardcore like that.  Good times were had at breakfast, and we made our way back to the swamp.
To recap, I know what I need to work on in the gym and technique wise in the coming months, but that wasn’t a limiting factor.  Still need to get faster, but if you project my 30K time, I was almost an hour faster than at CO Bend!  I can feel that, though, as I’m orders of magnitude more tired and sore than after CO Bend.  In general I think I didn’t get enough high quality sleep before this race.  I really tried, but a grown ass adult that needs at least 9 hours of sleep a day is fighting the rest of the world on this one.  In the 24 hours after returning home I slept for 12.  I’ll probably mention this to my oncologist again, but I’m doing everything the Fatigue Clinic would tell me to do, and anyone that can run as much as I do is considered a clinical success in their books.  Mentally, this is really preying on me, because if shit goes horribly wrong for me (which it could at any time) the only thing I will feel is missing, the only thing I feel is left undone is that I haven’t been able to complete a 50 miler.  The need to do get there gnaws at me.  I’m working on it, but it so pisses me off that my body just won’t do this one fucking thing for me already!
Top of Utah Marathon is next!
I’m still not sure what I want to do for my birthday/2nd survival anniversary this year.  I’ll take any suggestions from the readers!  (It’s Nov. 16th, as a reminder.)  Wild Hare is that weekend, but I’m always open to running peer pressure.  Obviously.
I do need to close with a mention of how much I love the HATR’s.  This was the first time I’ve felt like I really was part of a running community bigger than just me and my bullshit, and it was wonderful.  I hope I get to do many more races with them.  I’m so lucky to have found this group of people!  I love you fuckers!!!!!!

Capt Karl, Colorado Bend

For my first attempt at a 60K, I was nervous.  I knew there would be new challenges, and I knew from Grasslands, the trail was not to be underestimated.  I’d been running more trails, mostly with the HATR’s, but the 2 weeks I’d spent in the Grand Canyon as my “taper” was a wild card.  I gained about 7 lbs, drinking cocktails and making meat piles, and I was still working that off.  I didn’t feel like I’d gotten back into proper running form.  But I felt reasonably strong and rested, so I was as ready as I could be at the time.

There were a surprising number of HATR’s in the group tent, and it was good to see everyone and talk before the race.  I learned I was the only one attempting the 60K, which surprised me, but I’m used to doing my own thing all the time, even if it gets lonely.  It took me awhile to get ready, and the nice man who parked next to me (who I would later learn was Steven Moore, 2nd place finisher) kept me from walking off without my timing chip.  More conversation and then lining up seemed to happen quickly!

HATR tent

HATR tent

CO bend 1

I passed over the gate and tried to find my pace.  Before that happened, there was a hill.  A lot of hill.  This hill kept going.  There was climbing.  Not so much on the running.  I was doing OK, and thankful I’d just spent 2 weeks climbing straight up canyon walls, but by the time I got to the top, I was hot.  How did I deal with this before?  Oh that’s right, before going on these hikes, I completely immersed myself in 50 degree river water.  Oh.  Ah.  My water in my Camelback wasn’t that cold either.  I started to get hot.  At some point near the top I bent over to pick up someone else’s ziplock bag, and ended up turning my ankle for the first time.  “Eyes on the trail!” a helpful volunteer reminded me, and took the trash from me.  Indeed.  Good thing he didn’t see me turn my ankle again just a few paces beyond him.  That time it hurt so badly I limped a bit from the shooting pain.  I had to stop to move it around and see if I could work it out to run again.  It calmed down, but this was well before the first aid station, and it slowed me down for the remained of the run.  What was my problem?  Let me quote Michael Welden trying to explain the similar rockiness of the Bandera trails (copied form a Facebook post): “I would say that to create a comparable course, one would take 31 miles of high powered explosives, drape them over a series of small mountains, like Christmas lights on the bushes in your front yard, and detonate them. After some of the smoke clears and the endless sea of jagged and variably sized rocks settles, take thousands of needle wielding, psychoplants and position them in the most inconvenient places possible all over the course. Then carve out an endless sea of deceptively intense climbs with utterly death defying descents (unless you’re one of the elite descent runners that seems superhuman when it comes to tap dancing a 5 minute mile down a jagged mess of inconsistency.) No two foot falls are the same in this race. Only after it ended, would I understand why this made it so perfect.”

Rocks.  So many rocks.  And I was getting hot.  But soon the first aid station came into view.  For those of you who don’t know what this feeling is like, recall the last time you stayed up for a day or two, and then that moment when you finally got to lie down.  Aid stations are your soft pillow in an unending sea of you being stabbed awake with spears.  The volunteers were tremendous!  And the aid stations were very well stocked.  I stuffed ice into my Camelback, my bra, my pockets, and my shorts, as much as I could fit.  I was feeling much better.  Next time I’ll bring a bandana to put some ice around my neck as well.  The volunteers encouraged me to fill my Camelback, and I thought I was good until the next aid station, but I was oh so wrong.  I sucked that thing dry with a ways to go (a mile?  maybe more?), and that made me unhappy.  (I didn’t pee for 4 hours.) Somewhere in there I was passed first by Marc (I think?), who checked in on me.  We were both suffering from the heat.  I said I was hot and tired, and my fucked up ankle was #3 on my list of problems.  This was true.  What I didn’t mention, though, is that I was in the depths of fatigue.  My fatigue, one of the delightful legacies of the deal with the devil I made in order to live.  Cancer related fatigue doesn’t feels like being more tired, it feels like being trapped under a pile of bricks.  You hurt, and you suffocate, and with every movement you move the heaviest object you have ever lifted.  I fought down tears.  I fought down a primal urge to quit.  It was the lowest point in the race, and it wasn’t even sundown yet.  And then I jammed the side of my foot (why do I hate my right foot so much?!?) between rocks.  Hard.  So hard I thought I ripped my shoes and almost went down.  Thank you core work!  Still, that just made my ankle hurt that much more.

I knew if I wanted to quit, I’d have to make it to the next aid station anyway, so I just kept going, as quickly as I could.  It was somewhere in here I admitted to myself that this trail was a few grades above my skill level at this time.  I was hot, fatigued, hurt, and pretty much out of fluids, but I thought if I could just keep some pace, whatever that was, I’d sort it out later.  Jose, Laura, Cesar, Daniel, maybe others passed me in here.  They were looking strong.  Not long after, I had to get out my headlamp, but I was just happy it was getting cooler.  By the time I got to the aid station, well, those folks were so upbeat I didn’t have the heart to tell them I was thinking of quitting, and besides, they had a buffet of ice and Gatorade!  You can always quit at the next aid station.  But once I was refueled and cooled, I felt much better.  Another woman had come in with a rolled ankle, and was going to sit for awhile.  I figured I must not be that hurt because there was no way I was going to sit.  I may have hallucinated the volunteer with the seashell bra but he was awesome.  A young ranger had this to say about the next section of trail, “the elevation is better, but the rocks are worse.”  The only thing I could think was , are you fucking kidding me?!?! How the fuck can the rocks be worse?!?!?

Oh that’s how.  You know you’re screwed when you see a sign that says “no bikes beyond this point” and that’s where you’re running.  After that in many sections I had to stop and look around at the rocks to find the least grassy part.  That was the “trail.”  Many runners passed me and so many of them were wonderful people, always checking on how I was doing.  I even got an “excuse me ma’am.”  Crap. I got ma’amed.  Hanging reflective ribbons lit the way on the trail – it was very well marked. At the point where the “trail” descended across outcrop in a wash, I asked the universe, “are you fucking kidding me?!?” again. This is a great hiking trail, but I was climbing, not running.  I interrupted a bug parade on one of the ledges, and as I accidentally wiped some of them off, a ~4 cm spider fell onto the back of my leg.  And bit me.  I didn’t even pause or look.  That’s where I was.  Spider bite was a distant 4th, or maybe 6th on my list of problems at that moment.

I climbed out of the wash and tried to make progress, tripping in the dark.  With a headlamp, all the shadows are behind the rocks, squashing your depth perception.  And you do get tired, which doesn’t help your vision.  Maria and Reyna passed me, discussing when they should walk again.  They said it was about 10:30.  It was earlier than I thought, and I tried to pick up the pace as I could.

Another fabulous aid station!  It had cooled enough I didn’t load myself up with ice other than my Camelback.  Also, PBJ, yum!  Then back into the suck of rocks.  Somewhere the trail emerged into tall grasses and fireflies.  It was beautiful.  Also, it was mostly jeep dirt road and I actually ran for probably the longest stretch of the whole race.  I missed a giant porcupine by a few minutes, alas.  But at one point I thought I’d gone off course – it had been awhile since I’d seen a marker.  I figured it was a small park and I knew the trail eventually led to the start gate so I just kept going anyway.  All was well.  Somewhere in here I finally stopped to pee, and I was reminded that Jose suggested I do an ultra workshop presentation for the ladies on how to pee standing up.  Heh.  It’s no big once you get the hang of it.

I made it back to the Lemons Ridge aid station after tripping more than I thought possible, and turning my ankle twice in the other direction, because symmetry is important to me, but still miraculously not falling.  My ankle was really starting to let me know it hated me.  After more fuel and encouragement form the volunteers, I set off on the last section.  The trail was busy with people returning for their second loop, and then, the leaders passing me to finish their 60K!  It might have been Matt Smith who passed me and collided heavily with a rock, “ah, that didn’t feel good.”  I think I grunted, because I was trying not to laugh at his good natured comment, and I was impressed at how he never seemed to slow, even after such an audible thud.

I emerged from the descent, ran the last bit to the gate.  I’d missed the time cutoff by 2:21, which was much closer than I thought.  I might’ve considered going out again if I’d made it.  I have mixed feelings.  Because my ankle was toast.  I had trouble getting my shoe off, and my peroneous longus was on fire.  The nice people at the finish got me a bag of ice and put me in a chair.  They were awesome.  So was Brian, who made sure I made it to the car, and drove my carcass around.

What did I learn?  I need to get faster.  Just generally.  Still.  Probably this means losing more weight, as difficult as that’s becoming.  Continue to work on speed in general.  Ideally, I should train on rocky terrain to get some skills negotiating this.  Not sure if that is going to happen.  Get more ice, carry more fluids.  Try 2 headlamp technique.  Did I mention how wonderful the volunteers were?  I can’t stress that enough.  They really kept me going.  I ran that thing by myself, a condition I didn’t much care for, not because I was fearful or worried, but because I was lonely.  I’m social.  Looking forward to seeing upbeat people made me want to keep going as quickly as I could.

I think this is my year to find the things I need to work on, to find the limits, so I can break them and make new ones.  Some people fear failing to accomplish their original goals, but that just means their goals were too easy in the first place.  One transformative thing that came out of this race was to think about my year now, and my year going forward – what will I be learning next year? I’m not used to thinking in years.  I live in 6 month increments, but for a day or two, I had a year of time ahead of me, and I relaxed more than I have in awhile.

Reveille Ranch gnaws at my brain………maybe.

 

George Mitchell Nature Preserve

Houston weather being what it is, my new dream is to run with dry trail shoes more than once.  Dammit.  I decided to explore a new area on my own.  I needed to add mileage, and when I run with the HATRs, I push myself a bit more than in a typical mileage building run.  Also, I want to start making a mental map of trails that are even somewhat accessible so I can train smarter for trail runs.

Of course, on the day I picked for this adventure, severe thunderstorm warnings abound!  I even got caught in a downpour while walking Star, and I had decided to put on my running shoes prior to the dog walk.  I changed my socks later, but I had wet shoes right form the start.  But they don’t call ultras for a mere rain, so it’s time to man up and figure it out.

I got to the trail head after passing right by it, because it’s called The Woodlands for a reason.  It was still raining at the start of my run, which meant the trails were mine!!!  This made me really happy, and I didn’t see anyone for the first half or so of my run.  I explored the main “fitness loop” trail first, which I nicknamed, “the highway” because I practically could’ve driven my old Saturn on it.  There was more water than actual mud, so I just splashed along through puddles, carefree about my wet shoes!  I veered off to the wetlands trail after, just wanting to see where it would go.  These trails were not as maintained, and the grasses cut me as I ran along.  I surprised a feral hog, which started the hell out of me because I thought it was a dog at first.  But most dogs don’t make pig noises.  Except my Hef Monster, but he’s very special, and also more of a pig-horse-bear-dog.  I eventually came to trails that paralleled Spring Creek, and I looked for a crossing.  I was still passing through various drainages that were flowing into the creek, keeping my shoes wet and adding mud whenever possible.  I eventually came to the intersection of the trail and Gosling Rd., where there was a flood control flow barrier that looked passable.  I decided at that moment, however, I needed more snacks form the car, and I still wanted to explore the other direction of trail so I turned around, intending to return after my snack.

Back through the grass I went and I started to wonder if I should’ve brought some Zyrtec, because wow did that sting and itch.  Snacked at the car and kept walking.  Suddenly, I experienced the proverb, because I heard a tree fall in the forest, so there you go.  I decided to do the bike trails loop, where things got much more interesting!  I’d been clearing the trails of debris as I went; you’re welcome Woodlands.  There was a tree across the path, and I thought about going over and through it, but then figured, what the hell, if I could pick it up and move it, I would.  I had to break it into 3 pieces, and drag the trunk end out of some grape vines, but I managed it.  About 10 minutes later, some bikers passed me, so I felt like I did a good thing, even though it may have taken me a mile’s worth of time.

tree in the trail

tree in the trail

tree cleared!

tree cleared!

Foot for scale on tree in foreground.

Foot for scale on tree in foreground.

I tried another trail off the loop and got to what I thought was another regular incline.  Oh no.  I slipped in the mud trying to run up it and had a moment of decision on whether to fall on my left or right side.  I’m always going to protect the left, so I wiped out hard enough on my front/right side that it knocked the wind out of me.  I sat there for awhile, breathing deeply, checking that my fall didn’t rip or dislodge my port, which really hurt, and thanking my quick twist to the right for keeping me from falling on my left side.  The fucking hill was not going to get me, so I grabbed tree roots and pretty much just pulled myself up it.  I ran along, and suddenly realized I was headed back down the wetlands trail I’d been on earlier.  But when I got to one of the creek crossings, the water was twice as deep, and the crossings weren’t very good.  I saw a snake in the creek and I tried to follow it to see if it was a coral snake, or that snake that looks like a coral snake but isn’t.  Undetermined.  But I reasoned that if these small crossings sucked, Spring Creek was going to be impassable now, and good thing I didn’t get stuck on the other side.  I went to wipe the mud off my hands on a nearby palm, when I saw that the leaves were a spider party.  Not that plant, get the next one!  Speaking of bugs, there are flies there the size of your thumb!  And they bite.  Hard.  This is when I got to practice a lesser known skill, peeing standing up in less than 15 seconds so the flies didn’t bite me.

I made a renewed effort to find the trails by Bedias Lake, and then the wetlands trail up to the NW.  It was challenging knowing where to turn, and while I was looking at the map, I turned an ankle on “the highway.”  I should not have mocked it.  I finally found the turn, and headed out, but slowly, because I was concerned about the ankle.  I ate a bunch of spider webs on this trail, and there was a section that was completely inundated and filled my shoes with sand.  I was happy I was nearing the end of my run because I couldn’t get all the sand out of my shoes, and I was starting to enjoy the trail significantly less with the sand lumps.  (I had to wash my shoes and socks twice after this to get all the sand out.)

I finally met some people on the trail!  A few very nice other runners, and one guy, who I judge, and his kids.  His dog lunged at me and he said “she’s really very friendly.”  “I’ll have to take your word for it buddy.”  I skirted the trail edge, while he made cooing noises at his dog.  Come on people!  Use your command voice and prompt correction!

And that was it.  A very wet day again, and a beautiful place to run.  I learned that my new backpack isn’t as well balanced as my Camelback, so thank you Tony for hitting the upper body so hard so I could manage it.  Also 3 liters of water defies the laws of physics by seeming 4x heavier than 2.  I was running at a very difficult time of day for me, nutritionally.  I got very hungry and maybe ate too much at once, which slowed me down.  I’ll do better next time!

To Be a HATR

I ran with the HATRs on Sunday, ay 12th for the first time.  It was just what I needed, in more ways than one. I’ve been getting a little nutty, not training for the next challenge, and I’m relieved to be back pushing the miles again.  And because I was running with a group, it pushed me to run faster than I normally would.  I had this expectation going in that I would be bringing up the rear with the sweeper, but much to my surprise, that wasn’t the case at all.
I really enjoyed meeting other trail enthusiasts.  There was some grousing about mud and water, but hell, that’s part of the fun.  Sometimes people have no perspective on what constitutes a real problem.
The trails were more challenging than I thought they would be, which is good, because I’ll be more prepared for elevation changes from these runs.  I was surprised how primitive the trail area felt – you could really pretend you were not in Houston.  The black trail was like a trip into untamed jungle, and I swear at some point I heard The Predator in there.
There were a surprising number of mountain bikers on the trails, but they were polite about it, and no incidents were had.  At one point I surprised a couple walking, which, yeah, you have to really not be paying attention to not see me in my bright orange shirt.  I hope they made it out of the wilderness.
I asked Rob at the end how far we’d run, and he said about 5 miles.  My training sketch said 10-12 for that day, but with the added intensity, I decided to settle for at least 8 as a good compromise.  I wasn’t feeling that tired, sore feeling you get from a high mileage run yet anyway, so after the group dispersed, I grabbed one of Rob’s maps and went back out there again.  I wanted to start making my own mental map of the trails, which is easier for me with a reference drawing.  Running by myself, I more fully appreciated the task Rob undertook to hand roll the mileage on all the trails.  Well done, sir!  and Holy crap.  I made a point to run through all the deep puddles I went around while running with the group.  Gods that was satisfying!  My shoes did alright overall, but I still have some hotspot issues at the sole seam where it rubs my big toes and ball of my feet.  I may try different socks or some other possible padding for that area, because in every other way the Salomons rocked!
I’m going to try to run with the HATRs as much as I possibly can this summer.  It’s going to be awesome!
I got a lot out of that run.  Which is good because this is my next big thing!

Tales of High Adventure in the Grasslands

I never thought I’d be this satisfied with a DNF.

Last Saturday, I ran this race. It was scoops and scoops of high adventure!

We arrived at 6am.  It was darker than I expected.  I was so excited and happy I almost squealed at the nice man who gave me my packet.  Our timing chips attached to the ankle, like triathlon, which should’ve been my first clue that this was not going to be anything like any previous race I’d attempted.  I got my drop bag items situated and waited for the start, Brian poised for my return from the short out and back of our first excursion.

We started at 7am, in rain and darkness, the trail markings demanding full attention. I quickly fell in to pace with Jimmy, an extraordinarily nice man from the DFW area. We helped each other in the dark, and he made everything much easier.  Thanks Jimmy!  By the time we were on the return of the out and back, we had picked up Melinda.  We were all running our first 50 milers.

It was light enough to ditch our head lamps at the TADRA main station, and as it was no longer raining and my outer layer was drenched anyway, I took it off and left it at the camp.  We were quickly off again along the blue loop.  And then things started to get hard.  The sand was that crazy, clay sand that just sticks to you and makes you run like in your dreams where you’re swimming through soup.  Lots of ups and downs.  I was working that loop.  I lost my companions after the first aid station.  I wished them well in my mind. I pressed on.  Marathoners and halfers started crowding the trail and passing me, which was a little tough – oh to start running to quickly! What was really funny, though, was when the runner with the Pomeranian in a wee coat passed me.  This is a dog friendly race, you see.  And if your Pomeranian can run a marathon with you then by god that’s what is going to happen!

Then came the heavy lightning.  It was so close and so loud.  Heavy rain started soon after.  One guy said, “I’ll take this over 80 degrees any day” which made me laugh. I said, “yeah, it’s a good thing we’re not exposed out here.” Then things started to get even more interesting, because of the sleet.  It was then that I began to think I should’ve worn a long sleeve, or something else with more coverage.  The only thing to do was to keep running, to keep warm.  I thought about all my fun with hot flashes, and as I was tired, I tried to get myself in the headspace to bring on a hot flash.  It didn’t work, but I did feel better, temperature.  I laughed, thinking menopause was finally coming in handy!

The trail suddenly turned to mud.  Endless sticky mud!  I slipped at about mile 9, and felt a tendon go ping across my pubic bone.  It was like being stabbed with an ice pick.  It would improve if I massaged it, but it became much harder to run.  Every time I went uphill, it would stab me.  Eventually, it got to involuntary crying.

But that was all fine because it started to rain heavily again.  Then, hail.  I put my arms over my head, just in case the hail got bigger, but when I saw it was less than a centimeter, I ignored it.  Which was good because then I slipped down a hill and fell into the sticky mud!  I was pretty well covered.  One lady said she wished  she had an action shot of it.  Me too!  I started laughing my ass off.  I was really enjoying myself at this point.

But it was then I decided I had to start adjusting my expectations.  I wasn’t making fast progress through the mud, and I was cold and stiff, not to mention the groin pain, so I thought I should prepare myself for the possibility I might not make the cutoff time.  Also, I needed to focus on survival and getting back to camp on my feet.  Then I could worry about the rest of the race.

I passed a nice man who appeared to be struggling.  I asked him if he was OK and how he was doing, and he grunted that he was just waiting for the bus.  I promised to send it back for him if I saw it, and laughed a little.  With less than a mile to the TADRA station, he caught up to me.  I was having a tough time then, but still plugging away at it, though another teary episode.  He encouraged me on, saying I’d helped him when he could barely move, and it fed my heart, even if I hurt badly.

People took great care of me at the aid station, and I told them I had at least one more loop in me, and then I’d see what happened.  I staggered off on the white loop trail.  This trail was a great improvement over the blue loop.  And it was just me, which was a relief, frankly.  I was able to relax and just enjoy the day a bit.  The rain stopped, and much of the first miles of the white loop were in forest.  It was a nice break. I thought about music, but the threat of rain made me hesitant to pull out my headphones.  Also, I really needed to concentrate on the trail at times.

I never got lost, like some people did.  I only took a side road on the open prairie once, when I couldn’t find the next blaze, but I kept looking for it and saw it a few meters away on a tree.  It was no problem.  But I’m a geologist, and used to wayfinding.

I started doing the math in my head about the cutoff time once I started encountering serious hills on the white loop.  I decided that I would do the orange loop if I made it back to the TADRA station before 3pm.  I wouldn’t make the cutoff for the final loop, but I’d get to 41 miles, and that would be 22.7 miles further than I though I’d be able to go after I hurt myself, so I would be OK with that.  If it was after 3pm, my body was probably trying to tell me something, and I should stop there.

I passed Nolan before the second aid station.  He was really suffering.  He’d come to the race with Melinda and had the flu in the last week.  He was so discouraged he said he might give up on 50 milers.  I told him I thought he absolutely could do it if he wanted to.  I hope he feels better soon.

I got to the second aid station on the white loop, and asked the time.  They told me it was 2:30, and I had 4.8 miles to go.  I was sad that I wouldn’t make it back by 3pm.  I was also 9th of the ladies, which made me concerned for attrition after the blue loop.

It did feel like forever, those final miles.  I was passed by 2 other runners.  Finally, the camp came in to view.  I don’t really remember crossing the timing gate, though I do remember the time was about 8:20.  So I did 31.1 miles in that time. I thanked the nice man at the gate and told him I had a great time and learned a lot, but that I knew I wasn’t going to make the cutoff and that I should stop there.

Within a minute or two of stopping, I got the shivers.  I wrapped up in a fleece blanket, but it still took about 20 minutes to stop shaking.  Brian told me I had exposure, and should watch out for the next few days until my internal thermostat resets itself.

I still was sad about not getting anywhere near the cutoff time, even though I couldn’t have run any harder on that day.  And as hurt, cold, and stiff as I was, I knew that if there wasn’t a time cutoff, I could’ve finished that race.

But now I know what to do better for next time!

All the volunteers, organizers, and participants that I encountered were super nice people.  There was a ton of good energy at this race.  I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a trail race.  In my mental preparation for not making the time cutoff but still putting in a solid effort, I had decided that I would have to just live long enough to come back next year and try again, that is how much I enjoyed myself.

It’s on, Grasslands.

 

What Worked

Brian is a sock genius!  He found all kinds of threads in my Injinjis that were giving me toe blisters, and he trimmed them up.  The socks worked great, even in the wet!

The visor was like a an umbrella for my face.  Helped keep the stinging rain off.

Had plenty of snacks and fluids.  Aid station spacing was far apart enough to be out of sync with snacking, so having all my nutrition on me was key.

Did a good job of drop bag prep – didn’t miss anything.

Crew member was fantastic in assisting me with gear refresh.

Warm, dry shirt was heaven!

 

What Didn’t Work

Had wicked insomnia in the 2 weeks pre-race.  Slept an average of 4-5 hours a night.  Even though I had a 9 hour sleep in the days before the race, and a 6 hour sleep the night before, I definitely wasn’t caught up on sleep.

May have been overtrained (see above).

Didn’t do enough of the right kind of training for trails and hills…….and sand and mud.

Also probably hadn’t recovered enough from birthday run.

Left long sleeve at TADRA for blue loop, and when rain/wind/sleet/rain/hail started, got very cold. Warmed a bit after shirt change, but stayed cold and that contributed to some sluggishness.

Probably ate a little too much in the ramp up to the race.

Tried to change into trail shoes after the mud bath of the blue loop, but couldn’t get them comfortable on my feet.  Needed to wear the trail shoes from the beginning.

Kept forgetting to dump out pocket trash.

Was unprepared for both cold and wet.  Cold OR wet, yes, but not both together.

polar dash

Registered!

Good thing I’ve been heat training all summer.

finally fell over

I finally went and fell over.  At mile 4.2, running from my house to the start of the Christus Reindeer Run, I bought it on uneven sidewalk and skidded to a halt.  I thought about still running the 5K, until I saw the hold in my knee.  I thought I’d better get that sewn up.  So I tied my bandana around it and limped to the ER.

If you’re going to take yourself out, make sure you do it running to a race that starts at a hospital.  Bonus points if you can make it to the ER under your own power.  Extra bonus points if you’ve been to that hospital a number of times before so they already have all your information.

This is the first time I’ve ever not run a race. Bwah!  I couldn’t stop laughing in the ER.  It was less funny when I was told not to run until the stitches came out.  I made it 7 days, but then I couldn’t get to sleep for 2 hours and had a minor melt down.  Got up at my usual time on Saturday and tried it anyway.  It was fine.  The swelling from my bruising is the thing that hurts.  Can’t really do more than 5 miles until that gets better.

Heh.

 

photos from MD Anderson