Blazing 7’s 100k

I arrived late afternoon, surprised by the feeling of remoteness though the drive wasn’t that long.  I had time to say hello to a busy Rob and Rachael, who were trying to get the course markings back in shape after the Demon Cows had eaten many of the flags.  Never trust a ruminant.  I was still feeling very positive about this race.  Unlike my last two ultras, I didn’t feel a sense of pressure – I was just looking forward to having a good time on the trail.  And the ranch scenery was more beautiful than I expected. I had 3 level goals: (1) Complete two full loops to give me my birthday in miles (survival year 4!!!), (2) Complete red 3, which would be farther than I’d ever run before, (3) Finish the whole thing.

As I headed back to my camp with my packet, I stopped to chat for a few more minutes with Matt and Rachael about the race.  I mentioned one of my other more recent struggles, the mental hardship of so many hours alone.  Matt said I needed to keep practicing until I got used to it.  I just nodded, which is what I do when fast people say that kind of thing to me.  Because I want to point out that whatever amount of time you fast people are spending out there running alone?  Double it.  Then get back to me about how that is.  And also be an extrovert, forced to be alone in your own head.  Now that one is a good character builder for me, and sometimes allows me to unpack a problem or issue and find some clarity.  But sometimes it’s just my idea of hell.

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I sent Ahren, my pacer, some additional logistical instructions, then set up camp for the night.  My view of the rolling hills to the east was complemented by view of a guy in his underpants to the west.  There’s always one guy who’s really kind of naked around a race, and I felt a sense of completeness for finding him so early.  As the sun set I tucked into my pre-race meal of a sauté of grilled sundried tomatoes with prosciutto, and Star Wars mac n cheese.  (This is an awesome field meal, by the way.) I had a pang of really wishing for company – the only thing that makes an adventure better is having someone to share it with you.

I’d been sleeping fairly well the previous week, which was a good thing, seeing as how the camp baby in a neighboring tent was quite vocal.  Even ear plugs didn’t muffle it. I gave up at 5:30, which turned out to be a good thing. I hauled my drop bags to the staging area, taped my feet, prepped for the race.  Jupiter, Venus, and Mars have been bright in the predawn sky.  I hoped I would be done before I saw them again.  As I ate breakfast, Ahren texted I that I was a rock star, which inspired me to add “All Star” to my playlist, and dance around my campsite in the dark like the shameless idiot I am.  I was so excited about the race!

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As we lined up at the start, Rob had an aside about why there was a 24 hour cutoff, and I suddenly had a wave of nervousness.  I texted Ahren about it, but then switched right back into the path of determination, ending with “fuck it, this is my day.”  And that’s mostly where I stayed, the whole time.  It was my day, and nothing was going to stop me.

I stayed in the back, getting the demoralizing part where everyone passes me out of the way early.  It was a beautiful, cool, clear morning.  I hit the first patch of sand, and settled in to cultivate a massive sand-hate that was only surpassed by Ahren later that night. At a clearly marked turn, a bunch of the 25Kers got lost, prompting one of them to say “I’d be very concerned right now if I were running the 100k” to which I replied “nope.”  But then, I never worry about getting lost.

The first red loop seemed endless, and I felt slow.  I was deliberately taking it easy, not pushing, which I learned from BB100, and enjoying my morning.  I was surprised to be ahead of goal pace, which I didn’t really figure out until the first orange, because I was busy updating Will and Ahren with instructions.  The race map showed the main aid station to be up near the start/finish, and not ~100m down the road and around the corner.  I’d put all my stuff too close to the start/finish, so I had Will come move it.  Fortunately I didn’t need anything in there until the afternoon, so that worked out.

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Orange 1 flew by, and I slipped into the creek trying to be a goddam graceful ballerina at a stream crossing.  It made me laugh, and was so refreshing, that at the next crossing, I jumped right in with both feet.  AH!  But the problem with orange then, was that I let myself go down that path which I don’t usually go.  When I start to feel the crushing weight of it on me, the trauma, I just go and do something that is meaningful and important and awesome, and then that takes over.  But I couldn’t do that in the race.  It was me, alone, and my mind was getting lost in this sea of sadness.  I had to do something.  And that is when I came upon Melissa.  She was sitting on the side of the trail, and not looking well.  I was about to offer aid, when she spoke up, “can you help me?”

“I would be delighted? What can I do for you today?” (I apparently went right into manager mode! Ha!)

“I can’t get up. When I put my hand down, it’s on stickers”

“No problem!”  I offered her my hand, and hauled her up.  We both had this moment, and I looked at her butt.  Coating of stickers!

“Here, let me get that for you.”

“I’m so sorry!!!”  She was so embarrassed, but hell, this was an easy problem to fix, and helping people is the best medicine for anything, and I’m a geologist, and I’ve had and seen much worse than this. I used some sticks to pull them off.

“Bend over a little more.  You’re not going to like this, but I need to get up in there for that last one.”  Heh. “I’m Lisa, by the way.”

“I’m Melissa. I’m so sorry.  Thank you.”

“You’re so welcome! You have a great day, and keep off the grass!”  Heh.

I rolled into the main aid station, happy to see people, and hug Racheal.  I was having the best day, and every stop felt like a 60 second party with the volunteers.  They were such fun.  Rachael cheered me as I talked about coming out of a deep low, and I was ready to rock on again.

Somewhere in there, I tried to make some trail friends, which I usually do, but no one was that into it.  There were some women close to my pace, but there was some negativity going on I didn’t want a piece of.  And the timing beeps.  I get that some people need a run/walk timer as part of their process, but criminy that drives me up the freaking wall!  Dear everyone, I do not want to hear your crappy music, nor your beeping wrist device.  So on purple, I declared enough was enough, got out my headphones, and started my playlist, singing my heart out to “I Will Survive” because fuck your watch.  This was the race of terrible music earworms, and I could not get “Two Tickets to Paradise” out of my head, so I sang that all day and night.  Please send help.

Loop one I was at least 35 minutes ahead of goal pace, which was fine as I knew in the heat of the afternoon, I’d slow down.  Don’t get overheated, like at RR50, I kept repeating.  I was hot, but feeling good still, and having a great time, when Will showed up and really saved my bacon.  He brought my chair and stuff down, and charged my phone for me after magically appearing just after the red aid station.  It was awesome!  He was happy, I was happy, good times!

Purple was a strange place.  It’s meadow, and grass that fucks with your depth perception, and has the illusion of being all uphill.  This was the only time I fell, hooking my foot under a root and rolling in the dirt.  That was the end of that toenail for sure.

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The sun was setting as I ran through purple 2, my anticipation growing because I knew Ahren would be at the aid station waiting for me.  I’d made the devil’s bargain.  If he finished the orange and purple loops with me, I’d go skydiving with him.  I hate planes.  Jumping out of one is full of ass clenching terror!  But this is how we do adventure.  Ahren had never run farther than about 3 miles, and I was asking him to go for 14.  In the middle of the night.  I promised him I’d look out for him, and that he would be able to do more than he thought he could.  Because I absolutely knew he could – he’s strong and determined, and he knows how to push.  I ran, feeling good, signing along to my playlist, excitement building, and suddenly, I was cresting the last hill, and I saw someone in terrible neon socks sitting in my chair, and I thought it must be him.  I spazzed out all over him.  I talked at him nonstop and he said quietly “this is the most ADD I’ve ever seen you.” I laughed so hard I couldn’t cry.  I’d just run my birthday in miles.

He took off on red with me, which later I pointed out wasn’t part of the agreement (“Fuck” I believe was the response) but turned out to be the most fun for us. We ran through the fields and he beat me to the hay joke with “hay, hay, hay,” which still cracks me up.  I made him promise to tell me if he had problems, before they got out of hand, which earned me an “aw, you’re giving me the trainer speech!”  Ahren had some problems, but never anything that needed serious intervention.  He was an animal out there!  He set the tone for us, “hey, how many layers of spandex are you wearing?” “Mmmm, just the one.”  “BECAUSE I’VE GOT ON THREE!”

I checked my pockets for snacks and trash periodically, and found a bean quesadilla I’d stuffed in there.  I think I squealed with glee as I ate it, causing Ahren to shake his head at me.  He still gives me shit over my pocket quesadilla.  Whatever.  It was delicious!

We made jokes about cows, especially Ted, who would not shut up.  Ahren tried to convince me that there were some horror movies I should watch, that might actually be scary.  Heh.  We played sporadic rounds of FMK, I told Ahren my stories from the previous 12 hours of running (I was only about 10 minutes over goal pace finishing my 44 miles).  I learned all kinds of things from him, like animal eye shine, and other things I’m forgetting.  The red loop seemed a blur of laughter and wonder.  Running with friends does that for me.

The end of red 3 was farther than I’d ever run before.  But then I started to have problems.  I changed shoes, socks, and gaiters, retaped my feet again, but the damp grass was going to bring the hurt no matter what.  Orange and then purple were a downward spiral.  Ahren learned to hate sand “FUCK SAAAND!!!” I peed so much on orange that I felt like I owned that trail.  Ahren commented that as the night progressed we grew closer in pee distance because it was too much work to be polite about it.  I’d also warned him about the trail farts. I think I now currently hold the record for fartiest human he’s ever encountered.  I did warn him before I outright crop dusted him, and let him go ahead of me for stretches.

Early in orange I realized the lube wasn’t doing it for me, and I almost cried involuntarily.  I remembered Ahren had a knife in his bag, and I asked him for it.  It was time for drastic measures with respect to my shorts.  I cut a triangle out of the panel, and my excruciating leg chafing subsided.  Ahren really saved my ass there.  (Or leg.)  This is one of my challenges – I don’t always know when I have a problem until it’s almost too late because of the nerve damage.  It’s been a long road to learn to keep visually checking my body.  I think we named my leg chafing “Cleopatra” because we were getting to some full on delirium.

Finally, only purple was left.  This was about the time I was starting to have trouble eating, and thank the gods for ramen mixed with mashed potatoes.  I’d done a great job the rest of the day – I’d had two enormous sandwiches made out of Epic bacon bar, Jenny’s 10 Mile Cookies, and a Nutella sandwich (nested sandwich, FTW!!!).  Ahren had discovered the joy of orange soda, using the silicone collapsible cup I’d given him for “chugging things that begin with a ‘c’.” I knew it was going to be tough, but we just had to get through it.  I showed Ahren the trailer and shack in which he might be murdered, but he thought they must be creepier during the day, which is how I knew he was really suffering.

Before orange we encountered Chris, who was getting rollered so hard we thought he was having a personal moment which required a room.  He and his pacer would leap frog us many times over orange and purple loops. This was a source of much entertainment for us, and in purple, Chris was making such a pain ruckus up ahead of us, that we joked they were having field orgasms.  It coincided with coyotes having a party in the distance.  “Coyotes will hear them and eat them first!” I said.  “Sex meat is the most delicious meat of all!” Ahren said.  And that is how they became “sex meat” in our lexicon.  Ahren reminded me of something later, that at the purple aid station, “he called you sweetheart, and I thought you were going to stab him.”  The hate was visceral, but I was too tired to really give him a hard time.

Everything after the purple aid station was a world of hurt.  We were tired, blistered and done, communicating only in grunts and farts.  We got confused about the trail for a few minutes but then it was all sorted.  Ahren asked me about the bright things to the east, “that’s Jupiter and Venus.”  Shit.  I’d wanted to be done before then.  I was trying valiantly to make it back to the finish before another “brown squirrel incident.”  Nope.  I had to stop for a few minutes.  After that Ahren would quietly sing “trail dump” behind me every few minutes as we hobbled along.  We kept pausing to bend over from pain and exhaustion, regrouping and staggering forward.  I delivered the most hateful coup de gras of FMK with Danny Devito, the guy from the Dunkin donuts commercial, and Quato from Total Recall (MFK, respectively, but Ahren didn’t feel good about any of it).

The last 3 miles were the worst.  I confessed to Ahren I thought about quitting for the first time in the day.  He reminded me I’d still have to walk back to the finish, so there was no point.  Once we got through Keyhole, I knew we were almost there, and I had some hope.  Ahren told me I could go on ahead to the finish while he picked up some things form the main aid station, but there was no way in hell I was going to finish that race any other way than hand in hand with him.  He’d done an amazing job out there.  I was incredibly proud of him – we had almost 22 miles of trail behind us, and he never wavered.

We stepped across the finish gate, hands held high.  I finally cried.  It was an incredible 21+ hours.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.



We staggered back to my camp, wrapped in towels and blankets, drank whiskey out of the bottle, and laughed about our adventure. Ahren took a picture of me with my buckle, the flash so bright I couldn’t open my eyes. I laughed randomly and uncontrollably the rest of the day, even when trying to nap in the afternoon.

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I’ve got all the pieces in place now for the 100 miler.  I can see it, I can do it.  I just have to find the right race.

Rocky Raccoon 50

Truly, this is one of the best race experiences I’ve ever had.  You are doing yourself a favor by participating in this race, as it’s possibly the best time I’ve had racing to date.  The volunteers are the best!  Also, aid station snacks were awesome!

I’d never been to Huntsville State Park, which is a surprise right off of I-45.  No, really, it was a surprise when I’d run up to the gate to the access road and the noise and sights of the freeway.  But this is a great little park.  When I pictured what trail running might be like, this park is just about a perfect match to that vision.  I got a campsite right on the lake, and the view couldn’t be beat.


The only thing in the minus category is that the campsites are very close together, so you’d better enjoy your neighbors, and not mind when someone arrives at 9pm and takes an hour to back their giant trailer into their tiny spot.  Try a tent.  It goes anywhere and doesn’t make noise.

Other than that, I enjoyed the sunset.  The only thing I minded (more than the impossible to park trailer that kept me up), was that I was alone.  I knew this would be a huge factor in the mental aspects of the race, but I had questions that needed answering.  I wasn’t nervous or stressed about the race – I was very much looking forward to it. So I prepared everything the evening before, and timed how long it would take me to walk to the start (just under 10 minutes).  And then I slept, not well, unfortunately, and I’m sure that played a role in the outcome of race day.

I arrived in the cold morning exactly when I intended, amidst the great energy of the dark start, with 10 minutes to go.  As much as I hate running in the dark (I just can’t see very well and it’s exhausting), it does keep my pace in check.  I felt good, considering the lack of sleep, and I met a very nice doctor from San Antonio who was doing his first 50 – we ran the first few miles together.  Not long after the first aid station, I met Robert, who’s run numerous 50’s, and made the first loop go by in happy times.  We talked at length about what makes a good race, and many other things related to our mutual workplace (small world).  One of the aid stations gave him a hard time about collecting a harem, and good for them.  But giant hugs to Robert, because there is not a lot of company beyond the back of the pack in the tail.

All the aid station volunteers were phenomenal, and I want to hug them all.  Dam Nation has a special place for me, though, for having those bacon soaked magic pancakes, and inspirational Will Farrell movie quotes.  The pancake was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.  There were also sausages, and a breakfast spread.  I was doing a good job snacking, and focusing on moving that walking pace.  I’d struggled with this recently, as I had the flu as part of my taper, and I was just starting to feel like I was getting back to my normal level of activity on the Wednesday before race day.

I had a good first split of 4:12, and felt like I was ready to work that second loop (I think I PR’d 25k, 30k, and 50k distances).  I’d lost Robert, who had an excellent walking pace, but I’d known going in that this was going to be hard mentally, and I had to find out what I really wanted.  And I learned that yes, I love running, and racing, but I still hate running alone.  No, really, I’ve come to hate it.  (This is one of the reasons why I mostly stopped going in to town for group runs – I end up running alone anyway, so why spend an hour and 20 minutes driving?  Well that and the mountain bikes.)  I don’t mean for every minute, but when you’re as slow as I am, that’s a lot of alone time, and I’ve found after about hour 6, I’m really done.

Why and how did I come this far?  Well, I’ve also lost my “why.” The things that made running alone/running in the dark worthwhile prices to pay are no longer with me.  My life is substantially different than it was in 2012, and it’s changed for the better.  My priorities have shifted; I’m starting to think I might actually live for more than a few years.  So I’m hitting a wall of time.  I could do better racing, I could be faster, but I just don’t want to spend every free second I have dedicated to this pursuit.  That’s a lot of alone time, just in training, and I have other things that are important to me right now.  All this kind of hit me as I approached mile 30.  This is one of the things I do love about trail racing, and the long run – you can’t escape the truth of yourself, which emerges with great clarity.

The other thing that happened at about mile 30 was a great big ball of fatigue, unlike anything I’ve felt in some time. I was hallucinating throughout the second loop – the floating Pepsi can was kind of entertaining, but the upside down trees were disconcerting.  The ground started spinning, and I had to slow down to below my race walking pace.  Every injury over the past year came back to visit me, plus it brought its friend the psoas knotting up.  In the second half of the second loop I’d had trouble eating and swallowing, and I started to feel like I was chocking.  I put my hands on my psoas and immediately felt like I might pass out and puke.  Yep, that was the problem.  I made it to the end of loop 2 in 9:05, still ahead of where I thought I might be, but I was limping across the gate.

The volunteers were really looking out for me though, and from then on, my standard line was “spirits are high! but the rest, eh, I don’t know……”  The only reason I went out for a third loop was because I got the last mashed potatoes and gravy, and I was able to eat it.  Unlike other hill country trails, Rocky is a low risk for injury if I actually did pass out, so I figured, what the hell, this is what I’m here for.  Other runners encouraging me also helped my motivation (thank you Anna, Susan, and Gloria!).  I did try to run a few more times, but every time I did, the ground would spin violently.  Every so often I had to stop completely and lean against a tree, breathe deeply, and get the ground back from going sideways.  I still kept making time cutoffs, until I missed the second pass at Dam Nation by 6 minutes. (I will say that I’m super proud of Anna the Annamal here for trucking on and finishing this thing – she rocks!)  I will say that the view from the dam at night is quite peaceful and beautiful.

Tom and Amanda(?) gave me pie (!!!!), and packed me in to Tom’s car and we started back to the lodge area.  Everyone at the last bit at Dam Nation was incredibly kind and supportive.  I really hated being a bother to them.  And then, something happened I’ll never forget.  The last person to leave the aid station had a walking stick (he was bent to the side, and really struggling).  We caught up to him on the dirt road.  The love and caring that the aid station volunteers showed as everyone jumped out of their cars to help him make it the last half mile to the next aid station will live forever in my memory.  They got him a snack, some gloves, filled his water bottle, put a headlamp on him so he wouldn’t have to carry a flashlight, wrapped a buff around his neck for warmth, and sent him forward with all the love and encouragement – it was a privilege to watch that.

When I turned in my chip everyone was still floating the love and warmth, even though I didn’t make it past mile 42 or so.  One of the other Dam Nation volunteers told me that I’d better come back next year, and you know what, after that display, I will.  If I’m not running, I’ll volunteer. Because it would be an honor to be in the company of these people again.


Brazos Bend 100

Sometimes you have a race that humbles you.  This is one of those races.


I was feeling prepared, but very nervous, but also excited.  This felt like a monumental undertaking.  I can’t thank everyone who supported me enough.  I had Will and Greg as crew, Jenny came out to the race to support me (and made treats!), Duck also made treats, Shawn, Ann, Liz, and Tony were going to pace me through the night and the next day.  And thank you to everyone who voted for me!  I love all of you and you mean the world to me!


We set up camp , went to the trail brief, then back to eat and rest.  I ate 2 mountains of raviolis, had a decent night’s sleep, considering the the excitement factor, and woke up 20 minutes before the alarm.  We walked over to the start, and made it perfectly 15 minutes before.  I said hello to the Marks!  Next thing, we’re trotting down the trail in the dark.  I struggled to get my emotions under control.  I just wanted to stay calm and focused, but that was out of my grasp for most of the day.  I met Steve and Reed in the Big Creek  loop – nice men, Steve was in his 2nd attempt at a 100, and Reed had done “a few.”  “I don’t know where all these people are going in such a hurry.  They’re above a 24 hour finish pace and we’ve got 30.”  I happened to be there when Reed crossed the finish – I didn’t recognize him in the daylight at first.  I tried to hobble after him to congratulate him, but he just casually strolled over to his bag and went off about his day.  I was very happy to see Mark “Sailboat” Kenny finish – so proud and happy for him!



The sun was up by the time I got to the first manned aid station, 40 Acre.  I was feeling pretty good, but was concerned about my left knee.  My IT band had gone haywire earlier in the week for no reason, and I’d spent the week aggressively rollering it and doing yoga.  I had Will meet me at Bridge for more rollering, and I felt like it was maintaining fairly well.

It was a glorious morning.  And I relaxed into it a bit, changing up my pace and stride, using different muscle groups, saving it for the hours ahead.  The only time I pushed was during walk breaks – I’d been working on my abysmal walking pace every day for the last 4 months or so, knowing it was my weakest element.  I reslathered Trail Toes on my feet at Brazos, and Jeremy was super helpful getting me together and moving again.

Jeremy had warned me about some mud on the trails coming up, but I didn’t find it to be an issue.  I did almost lose a shoe once or twice, but the patches were small.  The tacky bit of the trail was no problem either.  The problem?  Cows.  Cows had gotten into the park and ripped up the Creekwood loops, especially the long loop.  I had to walk those sections, and I hear many people tripped or had other difficulties.  I even rolled an ankle in one cow crater, but didn’t hurt myself.  But this is where things started to go wrong.  I didn’t estimate the time/distances properly, and it got hotter than I expected, so I ran out of water about a mile into the Creekwood big loop.  And worse, when I got back to the Creekwood aid station, there was no water.  I’m usually very on top of my hydration, because it’s one of the things that can be extra dangerous for me, given the damage of all those chemicals that one time for that thing I had.  I upended a cooler for a swallow at the bottom, and sorry to any runners that may have offended.

I took it easy to Bayou, but mentally, I was starting to have trouble – I was preparing to face no water at Bayou, because I figured a cascade of thirsty runners had started.  I was right.  Once at Bayou, I waited for water to arrive, filled my pack, and never let it get low again.  (I had been running with it half full, wanting to save energy, trusting water would be available.)  As I made my way back to the start, I tried to get back on top of my hydration.  I had trouble eating throughout the day, but was staying on top of it as best I could.  Digestion was not my friend.  I did meet Tammy from Weatherford, who was having another go at the 100, and helped keep my morale up.  I hope to meet her on the trails again.

I was utterly shocked to have made it back to the start ahead of my goal time of 6:30, in about 6:05.  I did a shoe change, reslathered and inspected the feet, and started to grow concerned about them again.  I had some hotspots I was trying to stay on top of, and in the next loop I did a sock change half way through and 2 coatings of Trail Toes.

The second loop went awry.  I tripped over a tree root in Big Creek, and had the softest landing ever.  Best place to fall!  But for some reason, it made me so sad. The Budziks passed me shortly thereafter, and that cheered me out of that particular sadness pit.  But after 40 Acre, I just started having this terrible sad feeling.  I was trying to keep on target pace, without overheating, and I just started to feel overwhelmed, and sad.  I saw Will at Hale Lake for more rollering, and had him walk with me while I released some emotion.  I realized I was feeling this crushing loneliness, and it was not a good day to be a full on extrovert.  Will reminded me that when I finished this loop, I got to have my friends, and that was really the only thing that kept me going.  But it also layered on some pressure – I didn’t want to let down the people that came out to support me.  It was terrible, feeling that expectation, but simultaneously on my own out there, and I couldn’t let it go.

I don’t remember much until sundown in the back half – I think I cried a few times.  The mosquitoes were pretty terrible.  I did feel better by the time I got to the Creekwood station, and called ahead to tell the boys that I needed someone to do toe taping if I were going to continue.  I knew my feet were in rough shape.

I never really got into a rhythm with this race – the manned aid stations were all in the first half, which made the back half seem endless.

Somewhere in Creekwood it was very dark, and I started wrestling with fatigue.  I really had to focus on those cow-trampled sections of trail, and that wasn’t helping my mental state.  At some point, and I don’t recall any specific event, but I tried to run again after a walk break, and my right hamstring just turned into a brick.  It wasn’t a cramp, I don’t think, because I can manage those, and stay ahead of that, I think it was just overuse.  But I was shocked, because this is something that’s never been a problem for me.  I walked, kept trying to work it out, then trying to run, because sometimes if I can get over the hump of crap-that-makes-you-want-to-stop-running, and just get in a groove, it’s all ok.  But I started to get dizzy, and almost passed out/puked several times.  Below is what the ground looked like to me, until I got out of Bayou.



I was a mess.  I kept trying to run, and failing.  My walking pace went to hell as my hamstring started to slow me down.  I had to stop, to bend over several times to breathe deeply and try not to puke.  I had Will meet me at Bridge with a long sleeve, and on the walk in I knew I was going to be too far behind my time mark.  I’d decided to do as much of a 3rd loop as I could, provided my feet were in good enough shape.  But I was mentally a mess.  It was agony to tell Daniel and Rob that I wasn’t going to continue past 50 miles.  It was more agony to tell my friends who were all gathered, ready to run.

In spite of my aggressive monitoring and slathering of my feet, they were only marginally better than Wild Hare – they were still shredded after 50 miles.  They are probably what drove my hamstring injury as I changed my gait to favor where the giant blisters formed.  Mentally, I was not in the right place.  I think part of this is burnout – I’ve raced a lot this year, learned that I like being with people more than being alone on the trail.  I’m going to take a break for awhile, see how I feel.  I put a lot of pressure on myself for this race, and lost sight of the joy.  I didn’t have that sense of focused determination that I did at Wild Hare.  I need to find that again, to feel eager and excited about a race like it’s playtime, and not something I have to do.  My last fun race was probably Calgary.  That’s not right.  I hope my friends will come out again one day for a real victory lap!

2014 Year In Review

I quit updating after Wild Hare last year because I was just overwhelmed with travel.

After my season of marathons last fall, I found I really liked racing once a month, so I decided to keep it up, and really make a year of it.


January – Bandera (25K)

This was my first 25K. It was great to finish a race and feel not utterly hammered. The day was beautiful, and I finished before it started to heat up out there.


February – Piney Woods (20 mi)

I love this race. The course changes every year, and it sneaks up on you and you never know how it’s going to be. I had the traditional guy telling me I was almost done when I had one more loop to go. I never know why this happens.

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March – Nueces (50K) & MD Anderson Scope 5K, MD Anderson Ride of a Lifetime

This is my favorite Texas trail race so far. I love the trail at Camp Eagle, and the HATR lodging and post-race party was so much fun. We started things off with pre-race nighttime ziplining, a first for many of us, terrifying and exhilarating all at once. I ran the first 25K loop with Mandy and Jane, and when I went back out for the second loop, there was a wall of hot. I was all over the place with how I felt about my time – I didn’t account for the race clock starting at the 50 milers, so I thought I was much slower, and in fact finished the 50K in my goal of under 10 hours. On the down side, I hurt my knee on the big hills badly enough it took me a few months to recover. Next year I’m only doing the 25K so I have time for the superswing and the big zipline in the afternoon.

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I decided not to redemption run Grasslands this year after they cranked down the time cutoff to something I knew I wouldn’t make. But that opened the opportunity to run in support of my survivor friend, Diana, at the Scope run. I’ve made it a goal to run with survivor friends at least once, preferably in a race. (Diana is also awesome.) It also meant I could do the MD Anderson Ride of a Lifetime later that evening. The nice folks at MDA asked me to speak at the event and then ride on stage with the Master Instructor and various participants. What I never told folks at these events is that I was actually sick that day, and was getting by on cold meds and grit. After the race I came home and lied down for a few hours before driving to City Centre for the 2 hour spin ride event. Eh, sick is a different scale for me these days.

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April – Hell’s Hills (25K), Relay for Life (marathon), Brazos Bend 50

My knee was hurting pretty aggressively through the last 3 miles of hills, but I still finished earlier than I thought. I fell 3 times on this course. Ow. But the bluebonnets were spectacular this year. I’d definitely do this race again.

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The American Cancer Society has an annual event called Relay for Life. Its origins are that a physician and 2 of his buddies ran on a track for 12 hours to raise support and awareness for cancer. I decided to join the MD Anderson Bay Area Clinic (where I volunteered) team this year, because they promised me I could run instead of walk. I decided I’d run a marathon. On a concrete path 0.25 mi long.  That’s 105 loops if you’re counting.  I figured it would be good mental training for Snowdrop if I decided to do that at some point. Will, Liz, Ryan, and Curtis came out to support me and run for awhile. They are fantastic people!

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I volunteered at BB50, aggressively sponging down runners in the hot afternoon. I promise to be back next year, sponge in hand. If you see me, just take the icy sponge bath. You’ll like it. Promise.


May – Pandora (1/2 marathon)

We went for a wedding in Austin, and I managed to sneak in a half marathon on a Saturday morning. It was a nice change of pace to be able to run Reveille Peak Ranch in the daytime (keep reading). This is another race I’d definitely do again. You get to run on granitoid rocks for a change, which is a nice break from the limestone of the hill country. Also, there was the Rick Roll aid station, which was one of the best aid stations ever. Well done.

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June – Calgary (1/2 marathon) & Captain Karl’s Nighttime Trail Race 1: Pedernales (30K)

I went to Canada to race with a friend running his first half marathon, and my first trip to Canada. Loved this trip, and the race course is a scenic and beautiful tour of the city. Highly recommended!

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This year I decided to race the entire series of Captain Karl, just because. The Pedernales State Park is very cool, and I enjoyed it in the daylight. The use of park roads for the race course makes this race less technically demanding than others in the series, but the placement of aid stations is a bit strange, and I almost had some serious trouble at the end. The last aid station was a “water only” and it was about 5 miles to the finish from there. I was struggling with fatigue (and some of my special fatigue), and was hungry. Fortunately I still had a little bit of something in my pack. I also met 2 nice people who really helped me push through to the end, so the finish felt like a major triumph!

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July – CK 2: Muleshoe (30K)

I dragged Will along because it was his birthday so I thought he should run his first 30K with me. It’s a twisty little dirty course. Will found it mentally very challenging to go out for a second loop. He did just fine, though, even after a near-disastrous incident with his Camelbak not closing and losing most of his water in the first mile out from an aid station. We rented a cabin on Lake Travis that was a welcome relief after the race. We celebrated with some beers and a shower, and finally fell asleep at about 4am.


August – CK 3: Colorado Bend (30K)

This was my redemption run from last year when I trashed my ankle by mile 2. My goal was just to finish and not be hurt. I think it was 102 degrees at the start, which explains why I thought it was hotter than the previous year. I ran with a nice man (Micah?) who had a broken toe. He made it to the second aid station before he had to stop. I was sad to see him go. Somewhere after the 3rd aid station I actually started passing a few people, which was a surprise. I was snacking at the final aid station when a woman came in and had a dramatic meltdown. She said she was quitting and thought she was dying, and I thought, honey, I know what almost dying feels like, and this ain’t it. I didn’t share this as the aid station volunteers were doing a fine job of pep talk and I had to move on. I swear the last 3 miles of that race were the worst, and seemed endless. But I finished, unscathed, and went for my cheeseburger reward, where a woman in line asked if I were pregnant. Nice. “Nope, just fat, thanks,” I said. I’m thinking of doing a Moth story slam about this race.


September – CK 4: Reveille Peak Ranch (30K)

This was truly an epic weather adventure, with thunderstorms and rain so thick that in the dark all you could see of the trail was a small black river (run in the river and you’ll be fine!). It wasn’t hot for once in the summer running. I did slip down the rocks and bust open my elbow, but the nice people behind me stopped to help patch me up, and even checked in on me when they passed me during the second loop. Aw, they were the greatest! The medic patched me up and I went back out for my second loop.  I had some potentially dangerous lymphedema in my left after after that, but I kept it under control as I ran.  The important thing is that I  completed the series!


October – Cactus Rose (25mi relay)

I had a fantastic relay team who all killed it out there on the trail. I’m pretty sure everyone exceeded their own expectations, and 2 (maybe all 3?) of my teammates had never raced trails before, let alone raced in the dark! I’m so impressed by all of them. I, however, had one of the worst races I can remember, even though I was wearing a pretty sweet costume. The first 15 miles were great, well, except the dark bit. After Captain Karl, I’m kind of burnt out on running in the dark. But when the sun came up I felt free and happy! The morning was beautiful. I ran for a bit with Jenny from the Rockhoppers – she was after her first 50 mi and had also run all 4 Captain Karl’s 30Ks. She fell pretty hard on one hill, and I hung out to make sure she was able to get up and keep moving. She’s really strong and determined, so she made it up. It was a bad fall, though. After mile 15, it turned hot and ugly out there, and in spite of filling my Camebak at the last aid station, I ran out of water. And oh the chafing! I never wanted to quit a race so badly. Things hurt that had never hurt before. Maybe it was the fire ant bites from the day before. But I had no idea how one went about quitting in the middle of a loop, and anyway my team was counting on me. (I had forgotten that the Boyles aid station was just a short walk down a road back to camp.) I made it, but it took me many hours before I felt like I could stagger over to the start/finish and cheer for the runners completing their loops.  Laura and Cesar took good care of me, and helped look out for the other runners.  Good people.

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November – Birthday Pub Run Then Crawl (5K) & Turkey Trot (10K)

The combination of deciding in September that I wanted to do the Brazos Bend 100, and the fact that I couldn’t find a race on my birthday/survival anniversary weekend led me to conclude that the only thing I could do was a pub crawl. My friends and I spent 12 hours around Midtown and Montrose snacking and drinking. I love my friends.

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As in every year, we did the Turkey Trot by my house. There’s really no excuse as we can run to and from this race from home. Many of my friends PR’d this year! Well done! I did a solid race, and felt more fluid and stronger than I have in several months.


December – Brazos Bend 100

And so we come to the end of the year. I’m attempting my first 100. We’ll see how it goes. Crew is ready, and I’m excited about the adventure!

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.


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.


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.


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.

IMG_1914 IMG_1912 IMG_1913

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!