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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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