Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011!

For unto us a child is born!

 Wishing each of you the peace and joy of the season and praying you feel the blessings overflow into 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011


Did you see that?  It just flew by!  December that is!  As well as 2011!  OK, enough with the !!!!!!..!

It's been a busy Advent around the home front.  I finally finished up the Christmas preparations today and am looking forward to sliding into my favorite time of the year...the week AFTER Christmas.  That week when no one is expected to really do much except be lazy, enjoy family, and drink and eat about anything one would like.

I have finally figured out that "treat weeks" (weeks where I don't worry about what I eat as a sort of reward to myself) are not really reward weeks.  They are more apt to wreak havoc on my intestinal track which in turns causes "CODE BROWN" to show up at the very worst times while on my runs.  Or in the pool.  It just isn't worth it anymore and I am giving up "treat weeks".  I'm sticking to the plan that works day in and day out, just throw an extra side of Hummus on my plate! (oops, another ! snuck in).

Jamoosh over at Last Mile Lounge is hosting the Hard Core Club for 2012.  You can bet I am in.  This is the one area I have yet to really get the results I seek because, well, I stink at following through with consistent core work.  Funny how that works. 

I have a few thoughts about my direction for 2012, not just running, but over all.  I will take some time next week to compile them together for your reading pleasure.  Key word for the year?  Simplicity.

Wishing all of you a Very Merry Christmas and a Blessed and Peaceful New Year!

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!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Just Because I Can

Doesn't mean I should.

Cryptic, eh?  I have been focusing on new goals for the upcoming year and my reasons for them.  After PH100, I had some pretty dark moments of anger and resentment that I have had work through.

First, I was very angry at the RD of PH100.  I felt misled, misguided, and then in the end after reading many of his posts and comments about the race, I felt as though he was laughing at those of us who felt the race was not as advertised.  I have spoken to a few close friends about this situation and while most people would blow it off and never look back, I am a firm believer in finding the lesson in everything that I go through.

Yes, I do believe he misled the runners, yes, he did advertise a fairly flat, fast course when in fact it wasn't one.  Yes he did make jokes about the folks who complained, and in the end, he even ran the course himself to "prove" how easy it was.  Slap me in the face.  He finished the course in 31 hours, 1 hour over the time limit allowed to the rest of the runners and then gave himself a belt buckle.  Speaks to his character I suppose.

Ultimately, the lesson can not be about him, however.  It must come back to me.  What was my part in this race?  How did I fail?  How could I have prevented the dnf of my "A" race?  The answer is simple.  I need to be a better runner.  Better able to handle ANY terrain thrown at me, regardless of how it is advertised.  Better able to handle ANY weather, regardless of what time of year it is (I don't do well in temps close to 90 during races).  Better able to discern the correct races to enter. 

I thought I had investigated enough about PH100 before entering, but I am convinced now that I should have found an elevation chart, an objective course description, or even better, visited the course before I registered.  Granted, I really did think I was given accurate information, but rest assured, I will never take an RD's word for anything ever again, unless his name is Joe Prusatis.  He doesn't lie.

Here are the personal goals I decided upon after PH100 for 2012:

1.  No 100 milers for 2012.  Primary focus will be on the 50K - 50 mile distance with a possible culmination race at Bandera in 2013; 100K.

2.  I will refrain from any race that requires the use of a pacer and a minimal, only if it's convenient, occasional crew.  I felt that I let people down at PH 100 by not reaching my goal.  I know that they don't feel that way, but I do and in order to alleviate myself of that emotional bag, I will stick to this plan for the year.

3.  Focus will be on consistency, strength, confidence in runs on difficult terrain.  This will involve rigorous cross-training of swimming, yoga, strengthening and if I can add it in, cycling.

4.  For cost-effectiveness as well as convenience, I will run most every race in Texas, as many of Tejas Trails races that I can and strongly consider completing the Capt'n Karl's series this year.  I will avoid as many comforts as possible, ie hotels, so as to add to the mental toughness I feel I need to acquire right now.  I love to camp, and I camped the night before Rocky in 23 degree temps.  It was a great race!

5.  My training will be done to meet MY goals.  While it is nice to have company for these long runs, I can no longer sacrifice my own "plan" just to have company.  If our plans mesh, great, if not, then no hard feelings.  I'm letting go of guilt this year.  I will register for the races that I feel I can finish, not because a good friend is running it too.

Some may say that I am being too hard on myself.  I am anyway, in my mind, so why not put it out in the open.  I am responsible for what happened in Oklahoma.  I dnf'd.  I decided to stop.  I wasn't fully prepared.  I didn't have all the information.  I spent a bunch of money that ended up being for naught.  I should have done better.  Next time I will.  I don't regret the experience because I learned so much that I really needed to learn about myself, especially with respect to my running.  I spent a wonderful weekend with my husband and some good friends.

Shortly after I devised my goals, I heard that Western States Lottery was about to open.  I don't know what happened to me.  I left these well-thought out, well-intentioned goals completely in the dust and threw my name in the proverbial hat.  I entered the WS lottery, why?  Because I could.  Because I finished a 100 miler within the specified time period that the race officials require.  Because my ego thought it would be cool.  Because I can't stick with a goal to save my life.  Because....

But just because I can, doesn't mean I should.  The next morning, I realized what the heck I had just done.  I entered the WS lottery.  Sure, my chances of being selected were small.  2000 applicants, 350 slots.  What are the odds?  Right?  What ARE the odds?
A Daily Mile friend suggested a book, Relentless Forward Progress.  I have never before purchased a book for my kindle app on my phone, yet, I felt compelled to buy this book.  I did and I quickly found my new mantra, my new threshold for which everything I do will now pass through.  FOMO.  Fear Of Missing Out.  In the book, he is referring to why we feel burned out, depressed, anxious, etc, during our training and his answer is that we are too quick to sign up for so many races that we feel we may miss out on something.    This could not be more true for me.  And I didn't even know it.  The most successful athletes I know are meticulous about their training plans, even more methodical about the races they enter.  Sure, I know a few who run everything and run every day and seem to be doing great, but most of the successful, balanced, and happy folks I know follow a carefully thought out plan and racing schedule which includes time for recovery, rest, and relaxation. I have been operating somewhat in this way in the last year, but I want to refine my approach to reflect what I want to become.  And yet, I enter the WS lottery.

If you don't know, the WS lottery is drawn and you are immediately charged the 340.00 entry fee.  There are no refunds, no transfers, no roll-overs to another year.  This is an expensive price to pay for my ego's sake.  I ran a few weeks ago with a group in Houston and met a guy who was selected FOUR YEARS IN A ROW!  Now, I know people that have been on the lottery list many times and not yet gotten in, but this guy made it in FOUR TIMES!  My chances of getting in seemed almost inevitable.  And the saddest part about it all, I really had no TRUE desire to run this race, yet.  I am not ready.  Not physically, not emotionally, not spiritually, and not financially.  The only reason, I could discern, was my ego.  My pride.  My stupidity.

I spent all of last week praying about what to do.  I didn't know if it was possible to withdraw from the lottery, but I started believing that I should consider asking.  I spoke with a trusted friend who has come to understand the inner workings of my mind, and he was able to help me sort through the ego and realize what I really wanted.   Finally, I asked myself one question, "If I could wake up tomorrow and be withdrawn from the lottery, how would I feel?"  I knew then I had to ask about withdrawing.  I knew because I would feel complete relief.  I had even determined that if I had been selected, my ego deserved the 340.00 fine, so I have been holding that aside just in case I ended up having to pay up. 

Tuesday, I contacted the RD of WS and briefly told him that I was in no shape to run WS at this time and would like to be sure that someone on the list of 2000 people that were hoping to get in should have the opportunity for that slot, not me.    He was so kind.  He sent me words of encouragement to consider entering the lottery again next year and removed me from the lottery.   I was elated.  And lesson was learned.  Just because I can, doesn't mean I should.

Now my focus is back to where it needs to be.  Appropriately, the book title, Relentless Forward Progress, seems to be another good mantra for me.  Not hanging out with the negative stuff too long, only long enough to learn and then move on.

Happy running to all of you over this Advent season.  Stay blessed, balanced, and run with joy!