Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Texas Trails 50K

Friday afternoon turned to Friday evening and I realized I hadn't thought much about the 50K I was scheduled to run on Saturday morning.  I found it funny that I wasn't nervous, worried, or concerned so much about all the little things that I normally obsess about.

By 10:30 pm, I had a small bag packed, a towel, an extra pair of shoes, socks, and a small med kit.  Save for the shoes and towel, everything could have fit into a gallon size ziplock bag with room to spare.  In the past, I have had so much more with me and it has become somewhat of an art form of sorts to show up at a race with as little as possible.

Typically, I use my hydration vest, but lately, I've been using my hand-helds for most all of my running.  This day I stuck with the hand-held and it worked perfectly.  I make good use of my Spi belt making sure I carry my nutrition and electrolytes necessary for each loop.  My drop bag has what I will use to replenish the Spi belt for each subsequent loop.

Saturday, my nutrition consisted of honey chews, S-caps, water, a few raisins and chips from aid stations.  I took the S-caps on the :48 and ate on the :58, as I stuck with my typical 8/2 plan for a majority of the race.

I had a bit of a horrible morning beginning at 4:35 am.  I was awoken by the vicious sound of attacking dogs.  This was coupled with the sound of a cat screaming as well.   I jumped out of bed and glanced out the window to see two unknown dogs tearing apart my neighbor's cat.  I ran as fast as I could down the stairs and scared the dogs off, but I really wish I could have caught them.  I am a dog lover and would never want any harm to come to one, but these dogs were on the loose and out to kill.   They need to be caught, and the owners need to be held responsible for their dogs being out.

I made my way over to Pumpkin, a ragdoll breed cat.  The most beautiful cat I have ever seen. He has adopted my front porch and sometimes my garage as his second home with another neighborhood cat, Harley.   He was still alive, but in horrible pain and shock.  I didn't dare touch him as I wasn't sure how he would react.  I talked quietly to him and tried to soothe him with my voice.  It wasn't doing much good.  He didn't appear to be able to move.  I had to figure out what to do.  I thought perhaps my race would be out the window.

I decided to go to the neighbor's house to see if there happened to be a light on.  4:35 in the morning, no such luck.  I went back to Pumpkin and he was gone!  I couldn't believe it!  I know that he was not capable of moving, so how he got away, I have no idea.  I knew he could not have gone far.  I looked under my Suburban and saw him in the same state.  Panting, crying, miserable.  My heart was breaking into a million pieces for him.

There was no way I could start my car with him underneath it, so I laid a towel to the side of my car, opened the garage door, thinking perhaps he would try to make his way in there to hide.  I went back into the house to get a few things and as I came back outside, I heard a meow like I have never heard before.  It was a "Please don't leave me!" type of meow.  He was looking straight at me as he had again somehow managed to get partially out from under the car.  I went to him and pet him awhile.  He was a bit calmer and let me pet him.  But he was in horrible agony.  I slowly moved him onto the towel and carefully wrapped his beautiful body into the towel.  He allowed me to pick him up and I just talked to him.  I told him how beautiful he was and how strong.  I told him I wouldn't let anything bad happen to him.  And I just held him for a minute.  I made my way back to the neighbor's home and rang the bell.  By now it was a bit after 5, and as she told me later, she knew it couldn't be anything good.

As she opened the door, I had tears on my face and I handed her Pumpkin telling her all the story.  She was calm and mentioned that she had been through this before and would know what to do.  I let Pumpkin go and I knew I wouldn't see him again. 

I knew if I thought about things much longer, I would bail on the race, so I got into the car and started driving.  That meow haunted me the entire way to the park.

As I pulled in, I saw Richard, parked, and we walked in to get our race packets.  I also saw Evan and Tessie (sweet, sweet dog!).  Tessie brightens anyone's day!  Evan took a picture of us visiting and while it's not the best one of me, she is adorable!

The start line was a nice place to catch up with a few faces I have not seen in some time.  The 50K had just over 110 entrants, so it was  not too crowded.  I'm not sure how many showed up for the 20K, but that crowd seemed larger.   Again, Evan was kind enough to snap a picture of some of the local runners that were ready to run.

It was a bit chilly waiting for the start, so I kept my jacket until the last minute.  Richard was kind enough to tuck it away as he waited for the start of the 20K.

I saw Rachel, who was running her first ultra, at the start.  She ended up having a great race and every time I saw her on the course, she looked happy and strong.  Sara was also at the start and I quickly thought back to the fun times we had "lost in The Woodlands" with Pat!

The first loop was a 10 K, and I wore my Pure Grits for this aspect of the race.  Almost immediately I recognized a bit of wonky-ness in my right achilles.  I was glad I brought the spare shoes, my Cascadias.  I came in at 1:10, about an 11:25 pace.  I changed my shoes and headed out for the first 20K loop.  It was very pleasant weather and there was a lot of opportunity to see the same faces on the out and backs.  I love being able to say hello and encourage everyone I can.  It makes for a great day!

The loop was fairly uneventful with the exception of the 4 bathroom stops I had to make.  I have no idea why this was such an issue this day, but it was what it was.  I finished the 2nd loop at the 3:32 mark for a pace of 11:37.    Richard hung around for a bit to see me come in and cheer me out on the last loop.

Talking with Richard for a moment, I downed my coconut water and ate a few Chocolate Cranberry Craisins  (TO DIE FOR!!!!!!)  I bid my farewell and headed back out to finish up the last 20K.  About a mile from the aid station, I realized that I had forgotten to refill my Spi Belt with my supply of Honey Stingers.  I had one package left, so I calculated that if I ate every 5 miles, I would be good to go.  I continued to hydrate and take the S caps, focused on keeping a consistent pace, and ran the trail truly knowing it.  I knew where the hills were, and saved my walk times for then.    My mantra for the race was to run slow, stay consistent, and the real race for me would begin at the last aid station.

I had a few time goals for this race.  I ran this race at a 6:22 last year.  My PR for the 50K distance was 6:14.  For some reason I had remembered my PR incorrectly and thought it was 6:04, so I was eager to break 6 hours.  I was really praying I could come in at a 5:59.  On Friday night, I looked over my prior times and discovered that my true PR wasn't a 6:04, but a 6:14.  I would be lying if I didn't admit that this played with my head quite a bit during the race.  I kept the mind games in check the best I could and just focused on enjoying the run.

Heading out the last loop, I knew I had run the first 20K in 2:22, so a 2:30 would be a good final loop.  I kept running numbers in my head.  I had to let all the "figuring" go and just run my plan, only making the decision on my true goal 2.7 miles from the finish line. 

The loop again, was fairly uneventful.  Still lots of smiles and hellos to be offered and received.  Focusing on remaining consistent and not running my butt off just yet was difficult, however, it was a great exercise in patience for me.

As I ran past Lake Raven, I could feel the mental drama play out, but I held it at bay a little longer.  I arrived at the final aid station and surmised that I had 15 minutes to run the final 2.7 in and beat my PR.  I really didn't think I was going to be able to do it.

I walked out of the aid station, walked up the elevation and then began to run a fairly hard pace.  I knew I couldn't open up completely just yet, so I refrained from an all out sprint.  I felt strong, though tired, but I pressed on.  The hardest thing was passing by Ken and Edwin and not being able to stop long enough to give them each a hug.  I have never done that before.  I  yelled out that I was trying to break my PR and prayed that they would forgive me.

As I got to the final stretch along Park Road, I became faster and faster, keeping my turnover directly under my hips as I have been practicing on my training runs.  The quicker my pace became, the better I felt.  It was surreal.  I didn't believe I would break 6 hours, but I knew I would have a new PR.

Seeing the concrete pathway which heads towards the finish line, I dropped the hammer and ran through the finish line at 5:54:54!  A better-than-I-thought-I-ever-could have PR!   I also later learned that I was the 11th female and 27th over all.  There are no recognitions for age group, so I am not sure where I fell in that category.  Roger Soler was at the finish to hand out medals and sweatshirts and I hugged him as hard as I could.  I am sure he appreciated the sweaty love fest I left all over him!

All in all, it was a another great day to run and an awesome way to end my 2011 racing season.  Looking forward to new adventures in 2012!


  1. I stumbled across your blog a few months ago, loving the title, and have been reading your posts as they pop up on my RSS feed. An aspiring trail runner and Christian, I've enjoyed your posts and your depiction of the mental struggles of running.

    Imagine my surprise when I get back from a weekend camping and hiking in Huntsville State Park and see your post on the Texas Trails 50K. My friend, my dog, and I hiked on Saturday and had the pleasure of talking to and watching runners go by, leapfrogging several times as the course took different turns than us. I was thoroughly impressed by the optimism and friendly nature of all the runners we talked to. Congrats on your new PR and best of luck on any upcoming races in the new year!

  2. Hey Logan! Glad to meet you! What were you wearing? I may remember seeing you!

  3. I was wearing gray running shorts, a red T-shirt, and a Red Sox cap, and had a small blue hydration backpack. I was with another guy in his twenties and had my brown/red beagle along with me. We started at the southeast portion of the park at about 11 and did a loop on the orange trail in the same direction as the runners.

    I think we finished up around 3-3:30pm and talked to several runners toward the end that were excited to be "almost done". I can't even imagine how that would feel, to be close when you've been running for over 4 hours!

  4. You looked great out there, Karen, it's no wonder why you were able to set a new PR on that day! Also, thanks for sharing the chocolate covered cranberries; unfortunately they are off-diet for me. :-(

  5. Happy dogs, HSP, chocolate covered craisins and PR's. It's the simple things that get us through:) Congrats!!