I love my library. I love that I can borrow books, music cd’s, movies, and magazines. So much information available for free and all I have to do is return it on time. What a deal! The best part is there’s a branch not far from where I run most often. So I will run to the library to pick up or drop off items – literally running an errand. That was one of my first “Twofers.”
A few months ago, I started doing hot yoga, aka Bikram. My right knee felt weak and I asked one of the instructors for advice on how to strengthen it. He suggested trying the Cr***fit workouts at the Hollywood Park location. Since it’s part of my yoga membership, I figured I’d give it a try.
I went a few times, and it was actually “fun.” It certainly wasn’t as aggro as I imagined it would be. (But that’s probably because it’s a beginner’s class.) It was like going to the gym, but instead of having to figure out what to work on, someone tells me what to do and I try to do it. I liked that aspect very much and kept going back.
It takes about a half hour to drive to the location, so I decided to put that drive time to use. I started listening to my Thai language audio tapes. I don’t know how well it works since I’m half paying attention (since I’m driving) but I’m going to keep at it.
So the yoga studio is next door, and I would always see everyone in there practicing. It eventually occurred to me that I ought to try a Twofer. I was concerned I would be too tired to do an hour thirty in the hot room, but decided to give it a try. It was tough at first (and still is) but I got through it. It’s not so bad and now I look at he Cr***fit workout as a warmup to the hot yoga. The best part is I don’t have to think about when to go to yoga, at minimum, I go Tuesday and Thursday.
Today, I’m going to do a new Twofer- running to Yoga. The Huebner studio is only about 4.5 miles from my house, so that should be a pretty easy run. The weather today is perfect: cool and sunny. Once I get some new tires on my bike, I think riding to yoga would be another great Twofer option.
I use Strava to log my miles, and recently started taking Instagrams during runs – another Twofer! – and I’ll include those when I get back.
This past weekend I ran the Houston Marathon. It was not the race I had hoped for, but it was the race I expected.
At the end of October, I ran my first 100 Mile race, Cactus Rose. That jacked up my knee sufficiently that it took a week to walk normal and without pain. And then I went to Thailand for 7 weeks. At first I felt like I was still recovering, then it was just laziness combined with lack of motivation. And beer. I ran maybe 6 times in those 7 weeks. Got home two days before Christmas leaving me about three weeks to “train.” Yeah, that’s not going to work out so well.
I booked my hotel and then found out a friend wanted to carpool, but was going on different days. I couldn’t change the dates of my stay, so I changed hotels. My new hotel was much cheaper but much … what’s the word? Skeezier?
Actually, it was more of a motel – the door opened directly to the parking lot. And since I was in a somewhat sketchy area, I felt thankful the motel was kind enough to provide something to barricade the door, locks or not. And check out the festive carpeting! I can only imagine how they chose that carpeting and I’m pretty sure LSD would have to be involved. And I was now a bit further from the start of the race, almost two miles. I figured at least I’ll be warmed up by the time I got to the start.
Oh, and did I mention I was sick? I didn’t volunteer at a race the week before because I feared the weather would get me sick… and then I got sick anyway. Fortunately, the day of the race I was at 98% good. I debated whether or not to carry my phone with me. I was afraid of dropping my phone and/ or getting it wet. I really wanted to try to take pictures during the race, but it’s difficult to get anything worth a darn. And I would be able to find my friend easier after the race. I figured out how to wrap my phone in my Buff to carry it easily and safely, so I decided to take it.
The start of the race was a bit chilly. I was wearing a two tech tees, and that was good enough. It was the perfect temp for running and would only get warmer. In the A corral, I positioned myself around the 3:30 group. I started off at a comfortable and conservative pace, and held that. I didn’t want to burn myself out like I did at the last marathon. I felt like I was running well. Then I remembered I was going to need calories…
I forgot that there isn’t real food at road races. (Bananas don’t count.) I had 4 gels and a pack of chews with me, but would definitely need more calories. What I meant to do was to pick up gels people accidentally dropped. You seem them all the time at the start of a race. That didn’t work out so well since by the time I saw them, I’d already run past them. So I ate the bananas. I had about 3 of them during the race. Normally, I like bananas, but they don’t really do it for me during a race. By my third gel, I wanted to puke, it was like eating sugar. Luckily, there were a few spectators with bowls of snacks like pretzels and gummi bears. There was an aid station handing out gels late in the race, mile 21 or 22? I took one, and was counting on the calories, but I just couldn’t bring myself to force down another packet of sugary goo. And for that, I would pay the last few miles. It was painful to see so many people looking strong and running past me. It was Chicago all over again.
I had hoped for maybe a 3:30, but came in much later at 3:50. I felt lightheaded after I finished and desperately wanted to eat something… I would even have eaten another banana at that point. It seemed like another mile before I was finally able to get some food, sit down, and eat.
So what did I learn from this Marathon? (This is me talking to myself.)
Dude, you gotta train right for this! Make your training specific to the race. In order to run fast, you have to run fast!
Give the Marathon its proper respect. Yes, you can do the distance, but this is about doing it fast and without, which is waaaaay harder!
You gotta figure out how to take in calories at a road race.
Running a 26.2 road race can be just as challenging as a trail 50M. They are both hard but in different ways. All the effort you put towards running a fast marathon will also pay off at your next trail race. So who’s up for some intervals?
There’s no way to capture the scale of the Grand Canyon in a photo, so I was looking forward to seeing it with my own eyes and as I ran through it. The canyon lived up to the hype. It was impressive and a little ginormous. The run, however, wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. I expected to be on Death’s door, shriveled up and/or burned to a crisp after finishing.
But it wasn’t that bad, which was oddly disappointing.
Don’t get me wrong, it was tough. Especially the last four hours hiking up Bright Angel Trail. But overall, it felt like another 50 mile race, just with more vertical. I feel like I trained pretty well for the run, but what really made it “easier” was the weather.
Perhaps the trail gods pitied us, as there was cloud cover for a good portion of the day. This made a huge difference: It spared us the heat of the inner canyon, which is supposed to be tortuous. It allowed us to run for longer periods without overheating. And it kept us from running out of water. (Sort of.)
Ultimately, I’m thankful we didn’t have to endure the heat.
I ran with four other people from our group of 20. We started about 4:45 am. Once it got light, the first few miles were spent oohing and ahhing and taking pictures. It was awhile before we really got going. We took our time and drank in the Canyon. We made several stops along the way, but the majority of the first 15-20 miles was uneventful and went by relatively quick.
Lower mid right, that white streak is a baby waterfall.
As the day went on, it warmed up. Going up North Kaibab was probably the worst of the heat. It was hot, but not unbearably so. We stopped in an awesome shady spot and lounged for a bit. The rock was cool and felt great on our tired legs. Once we started back up, we were greeted with a never-ending series of switchbacks to the top.
We eventually made it to the top of North Kaibab and had lunch. One of the other sub groups was already there, so we got to to eat and chat with them. But the best treat? The water. Oh-my-goodness!! So cold and refreshing. (I felt guilty about dumping out my bladder just so I could refill it with cold water.) Oh, and mental note for next time: Extended breaks make it extremely hard to get moving again.
After the agonizing uphill, running –actual running– the downhill was really fun. I felt we had been trudging along all day (which was probably actually a good thing), but now was a chance to to open it up. I love the feeling of bounding through rocky trails as fast as I can. So I started running up ahead at my own pace and then stopping and waiting for the others. They were never that far behind, so that worked out great. But I had to remind myself to keep it in check because there’d be hill to pay later.
At Cottonwood, we stopped and soaked our feet and legs. The ice cold water felt great, though I could handle it for only like 10 seconds at a time. The others had no problems sitting in the water up to their waist, so eventually I had to do the same. It felt great for like a second. It’s crazy how fast the water evaporates though.
We took a detour to check out Ribbon Falls. It was a great little water fall. You can climb up to the top and stick your head under the water. As you might imagine, it felt great.
And then came the slog. Running back through the inner canyon was the running version of Groundhog Day. It was the L-o-n-g-e-s-t S-e-v-e-n M-i-l-e-s E-v-e-r. We would have really suffered here if it weren’t for the cloud cover because the rock absorbs the sun’s heat all day and then radiates it right back out into your face.
By this time, the moon was nowhere to be seen and it was pitch black. Michele had a problem with her headlamp/batteries, so I let her use my headlamp. I ran between her and Tanya and was able to see well enough. The trekking poles were a lifesaver here. They allowed me to cross over the logs more easily, helped provide depth perception, and overall stability.
This was by far the toughest section to get through. It was certainly challenging physically, but even more so mentally. We could hike only so fast. Partly because we were tired and partly because of the fear of walking off the cliff. Chris had said if we could do a 30 minute mile, we were doing well. That sounded ridiculous, but I think it was true.
There were some lights at the top of the canyon that we seemed to be moving toward but not getting any closer. We seemed to be hiking forever but not making any progress. All we could see was five feet in front of us. And those damn lights up top. I started thinking about food. I would have killed for a burger and a Coke. Seriously.
Strangely, it wasn’t even midnight yet and we started getting bombarded by other runner’s (presumably)starting their R2R2R journey. It was disappointing because many of the runners didn’t yield the trail to us or even slow down. (Trail etiquette dictates that those moving downhill should yield to those moving uphill.) A few bellowed the “Looking good!/ Good job!” line which was a little too chipper for my taste.
Some time after midnight, we finally made it to the top of Bright Angel. I thought for sure I would cry, but I didn’t. I was too tired.
Other Notes/ Advice type Stuff
Water: Jason and Michele both ran out of water twice. We gave them some water the first time, and the second time was right before a stop. They got lucky. It’s better to carry too much water than to run out. Simple as that. And really, how do you run out of water twice?!
I had a 2L bladder for water which I filled completely at each stop and a 21 oz bottle for Perpetuem/ Heed.
Calories: I brought around 6,000 calories, almost twice what I actually consumed. (Although about 2000 of that was Perpetuem and Heed.) Often what seems edible in the grocery store is anything but on the trail. And again this was the case. A dozen+ gels, 3 bars, cola flavored gel chews (next best thing to a Coke), pretzels, beef jerky, cookies, almonds, single serve tuna fish with crackers, olives, a real sandwich, and powdered Perpetuem and Heed. And I forgot to bring Payday candy bars. I think those would have done me well.
I love my Salomon pack. I bought it specifically for this trip and it has been great to me. Maybe I should finish the review I started.
Garmin Forerunner 310XT did work in the canyon (even though it was constantly losing satellite reception), lasted over 17 hours. I never stopped it, if I had, it might have made the whole trip. What I should have done was to stop it at each water stop and treat that as a run. The drawback is you have to remember to restart the watch…
Trekking poles were a HUGE help going uphill. I’ve never used them before (hills in Texas?) but they were easy to get the hang of. Most of us rented them from the General Store. Best $12 I ever spent.
A wide brim hat or a legionnaire’s cap is a must. And sunscreen.
Make sure your headlamp works! Put in new batteries and/or carry spares. You might even take two headlamps. If your sole source of light breaks somehow, you’re in a tough spot.
Proper foot care the week prior to the run: Clip and file your toenails, pumice any tough spots, and moisturize with lotion. Wear double socks – toe socks under Drymax- and gaiters. And carry a spare pair of socks. Dust and sand still managed to infiltrate the mesh in my shoes, but I had ZERO blisters.
Wow. I got a taste of mountain running and I want more!
Eight of us went and camped at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. It’s a 7 hour drive but luckily I didn’t have any driving responsibilities. (Hello naptime!) We got there Friday afternoon, set up camp, and suited up to run. The weather was dry and cool, but the nonstop wind made it rather chilly. None of us expected it to be as “cold.”
The first day we hiked up Guadalupe Mountain. The starting elevation was about 5800′ and topped out at 8700′ for a gain of 2900′. That isn’t that big for a mountain, but it’s way bigger than anything we have in town.
The rocky terrain was pretty challenging. You pretty much had to keep your eyes glued to the trail. If you wanted to take in the view, you had to stop. There were a couple of scary vertical-cliff-so-don’t-look-or-you’ll-fall-off points along the trail. There were also some runnable portions , but they were few and brief.
The peak was marked with a big pyramid monument and had a book to sign for posterity. We hung out there for a bit, soaking in the view. But before long we were off, ready to enjoy the downhill payoff.
Prettiest cactus I’ve ever seen.
Bush Mountain (?) from the RV parking lot.
The monument at the peak. The metal case has a book to sign.
Julie, Chris, Kellie, Brian, & Lorenzo posing at the peak.
Hat hair and loud sunglasses.
Almost a cool pose photo.
Near one of the other peaks.
Cute little red flowers along the trails.
El Capitan, not the famous climbing one, but his lesser known cousin.
* * * * * Day 2
The second day we ran Bush Mountain. This was all sorts of awesome. The initial climb was a slog fest. It seemed like there was an inexhaustible amount of uphill. But I focused on the trail in front of me and kept on pushing onward. Once we reached the peak, the views were fantastic. (Although they don’t look very fantastic in any of my pictures or videos.)
The best part of the run was the final few miles of downhill which were very runnable. It was a blast to be able to cruise along after having to dodge rocks all day. Lorenzo and Stefan full out raced the last miles and I would have liked to have joined them, but I was a bit more cautious.
We finished early in the afternoon. I had a few beers which put me into power nap mode which is unfortunate, because a few of them went out and ran a picturesque 5 miler. I was bummed when they got back and I saw the photos. So save the beer for the evening when you’re sure the running is done for the day!
* * * * * Day 3
On Sunday we did Guadalupe Peak again, which I thought was weird. But it was still fun, even if the vicious wind turned me into a popsicle. Always be prepared for cold weather in the mountains, even Texas mountains. A simple shell jacket, gloves, a buff, these small things can make a huge difference.
This might sound/seem dumb, but one of the things I was excited about was seeing the profile of the climbs we did. It’s sort of like looking at the results from a race, seeing your efforts measured and recorded in black and white. I almost feel like I should print out and frame the profile until I run another mountain.
In our group email forum, one group member mentioned that he held the Strava course record for the 1/2 mile long hill climb that a bunch of us were planning to do repeats on. He offered a light-hearted challenge to beat his record. I was not a Strava user, but I’d certainly entertain an open challenge.
Last Thursday, I met up with almost the same group of people from Tuesday, – Rachel, +Stefan, +Thor. (Yes, that’s his name. He is fast, having recently run a 3 hour marathon in New Orleans. ) We did an easy mile warm up, thankfully without running into the angry driver. We stashed our bottles at the bottom of the hill and slowly began our hill repeats.
The first two laps I fell in behind the group. Someone mentioned the email challenge, but everyone seemed content to trudge onward. (Actually the running joke was to have Thor carry everyone’s GPS.) The third lap, I’d had enough following and got out in front and went a bit harder. And then I think it was the fourth lap, I ended up racing Thor up the hill. Or, it seemed like a race, so that’s how I took it.
He took off incredibly fast. My brain says, “Forget it, you whipped.” Almost immediately, I was sucking wind and wanted to stop and walk. And then I was reminded of the time I’d been dropped exactly like this by a girl.
But I kept running. My brain kept telling me, “Stop! This is ridiculous!” My heart replied, “Stupid brain, you shut up now.” Coming in second is perfectly acceptable, quitting is not. Keep running!
Maybe three quarters to the top, I realize I’m actually closing in on him… and then… I catch up to him… and… I pass him! My legs feel like lead but I run the last stretch as hard as I can…. I make it to the stop light and practically collapse. Holy Crap! I caught up to him and passed him. Did not see that coming.
Thor is two or three seconds behind. He stops, says “Good job,” and gives me a high five. He is pretty nonchalant. Was he even trying? I struggle to catch my breath as we wait for the others to summit.
I don’t know Thor well enough to gauge his competitiveness, but if he’s like me, he was not pleased that I managed to catch him and next time he will really be cranking up the hill next time. Which means I’ll have to do the same. This will create a feedback loop of intensity that will undoubtedly result in some great hill workouts and probably some new course records. That’s my hope, anyway.
This little race up the hill reminded me of being a kid. Pure and simple, let’s race and see who’s faster. What I realized is that Direct competition is a great way to really push yourself. It is a tool that can propel you and also allow you to gauge your efforts afterwards.
Yes, (ultra) running is mainly a competition with yourself, but what better way to test yourself than by directly competing with someone else who is also pushing himself?
* * * *Are you competitive? What’s your take on competition?
It used to be pickles. I love pickles and that was the first thing I ever made. Sauerkraut was next because I wanted to make Reuben sandwiches. Reubens pair perfectly pickles. In fact, I say if there isn’t a pickle on the side, it ain’t a Reuben. It wasn’t till much much later that I would try Kimchi.
I’m not sure where or when I first had Kimchi. I do vaguely remember that I was turned off by the smell, so how it came to be that I would ever want to make it is a mystery to me. However things happened, I’m glad they turned out the way they did.
I’ve just made a big batch of Kimchi and it is seriously freaking D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. It’s waaaaay spicy, just like I like it.
God, I’m salivating just thinking about it.
I’ve made Kimchi only a handful of times. Usually, I go by the instructions from Sandor Ellix Katz’ book Wild Fermentation. Unfortunately, my results are inconsistent. And many times, the Kimchi suffers from adding too many vegetables. (Is that possible? Sadly, yes it is.) But this last batch seems to have everything going for it. It’s simple and it’s hot.
Here is how I made this batch, though I should mention that it’s probably not “authentic” Kimchi. So don’t give me any guff about that. And it’s not a precise recipe. Oh, and I like really hot stuff.
5 LB Napa cabbage
1/2 bunch red radish
1/2 bunch green onion
1 small head of garlic
1 big honk of ginger
3 Habanero chiles
2 Serrano chiles
4-5 dried red peppers
box of Kosher salt
You’ll start by making the brine.
You need a big, non-metallic, food-grade container, maybe a big mixing bowl. Whatever, find something. Mix 8 cups of water* with 8 tablespoons of salt and stir until the salt is completely dissolved.
*Chlorine inhibits fermentation, so if your tap is chlorinated, use spring, distilled, or filtered water. I use straight tap water and it seems okay.
Now let’s work on what we will put into the brine.
Take the Napa cabbage, discard the outer layer. Chop off the bottom of the cabbage. Separate the leaves and wash them. Wash the radish and green onion. Drain everything.
Coarsely chop the cabbage and green onion. (Discard the bulb end of the green onion.) Thinly slice the radish. (If the green tops are attached, chop and keep those.)
Put the vegetables into the brine. Dunk it all into the brine, swish it around, make sure that nothing is stuck together. You want that brine to get all up in that cabbage’s business. You also want the vegetables to stay under the brine. So take a zip loc bag and fill it with water. Set the bag on top of the brine.
Okay, now you’re brining! Set it in a room temperature spot, out of the way. Cover it with a clean dish towel. Let it sit for a few hours to overnight. It’s your call. (I’d let it sit overnight.)
The Next day. Let’s make the paste!
Peel and mince your big honk of ginger. Peel and mince the head of garlic. A garlic press works best.
If you have a mortar and pestle, bust it out. If you don’t, you could try using a small food processor. Or just chop everything as fine as you can. And shortly we’ll be working with real peppers, so I want to see goggles, people! (Seriously, if you’re a sensitive soul, you might consider wearing gloves and/or safety goggles.)
Place the dried peppers in the mortar and grind them down. Then add the ginger and the garlic. Mix that all up and smash it and grind it good.
Back to the cutting board. Mince the serranos and the habaneros. Add them to the paste mix. Grind them up as well. Set your paste mix aside.
Grab your brine bowl. Drain it, reserving a cup or two of the brine. Taste a piece of the cabbage. It should be salty, but not overly so. If it’s too salty, rinse the cabbage. If it’s not salty enough, sprinkle some more salt and mix.
Now that the vegetables are drained, add in the pepper paste. Mix everything together. Keep mixing, yeah, that’s it.
Time to pack it in!
Okay now get a jar. You probably have some in the recycling. Make sure there is no residual odor. Take your vegetable pepper mix and jam it into the jar. Pack it in tightly till about 3/4 from the top. Pour a little of the reserved brine over the top. You want to cover the vegetables.
Annnd you’re done! If you still have more vegetable- and I hope for your sake you do -pack another jar. Put the jar(s) in the same spot you put the brine and cover with a clean dish towel. Let it sit there for a few days, up to a week or so. Taste a little each day. The flavor develops over time, so once you are happy with it, put the lid on the jar and stick it in the fridge.
This report is almost three weeks late. Nevertheless…
Camped out the night before. Cooked up some food and went straight to bed. I have a hard time falling asleep, so I tried to sleep as early as possible. However, my nutrition plan was shaky and creating anxiety.
I had tried this before in a previous race and it was semi-successful. For each hour of running, I had a bag of gels and other snacks that would provide the proper number of calories. I sort of had it planned out as to where and when I would pick them up from each drop bag. I had quite a few different things to eat to prevent myself from getting bored of eating the same thing. Which seems like a good idea, but I may have taken it too far.
* * * * *
Before the race start, it was chilly. I was hoping it would stay that way, but unfortunately, it got “hot.”
The first loop went well. I felt fine, everything was working normally, no pain or aches. I had set my watch to beep every 20 minutes to remind me to consume some calories. That went pretty smoothly for the first hour, and then it seemed like it was beeping every five minutes. Each time I was like, “More food?”
I stuck with the plan until I realized I had consumed 3 hours worth of food in 2 hours. How that happened, I don’t know. But it did explain why I wasn’t feeling so great. At least then I was able to back off eating for a bit.
Oher than that, the first lap was uneventful. I finished the first lap in about 5 hours 30 minutes. That was great because it was close to my lofty goal of 11 hours.
Then my knee started gimping out. I had to walk. A lot. I was walking pretty fast without any pain, but when I tried to run, I was quickly reduced to walking again. It was awful. I wasn’t there to walk fast, I was there to run!
The thought of having to walk 31 miles was scary. It made me want to quit. I mean c’mon, I was injured! Also I didn’t want people to pass me – I hate being passed. Mainly I just didn’t want to have to be on the course for so long. Walking would take waaaay longer than running. And it would soon be dark. And cold.
I told myself, “That’s crybaby talk. You can walk just fine and if you have to walk it in, that’s exactly what you’re going to do. However long it takes. You’re going to finish the fucking race. Period.”
So I kept chugging along.
Whenever I felt a twinge in my knee, I told my knee: “Next aid station I’m going to stop and get some ice and ice you.” But somehow, I forgot at three consecutive aid stations.
That’s one thing that I’ve noticed. After several hours and many miles, my brain is so focused on forward progress, that it forgets about what the body needs in order to maintain that progress. And I don’t take full advantage of the aid stations. My brain keeps thinking that I need to be moving, so I end up zipping through. Finally, it occurred to me to ask for Tylenol. I took 2, and another 2 at the next aid station. The Tylenol seemed to help. I was still mostly walking, but now I could run for short periods.
Getting closer to sundown, I tried to hustle a bit more. I wanted to reach the aid station before dark so I could get my headlamp. I was high up on a ridge and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. I got to Crossroads and was rummaging through my bag…looking…where is it… Oh for pete’s sake. It’s in my other drop bag. At the finish. I did not plan this well. Surprisingly, I wasn’t that upset. Maybe I was to tired to give a flip, but I didn’t care. I looked at it as an additional fun challenge. No headlamp? No problem!
With the sun gone, it had gotten cooler. The cooler temps, along with the Tylenol, really helped my knee. I was able to run for increasingly longer periods. I still had to walk occasionally, but I was covering more ground.
And as luck would have it, the moon was about 3/4 full, so there was enough light for me to see where I was going even without my headlamp. The only place that was tough was under the trees, so I just walked those spots.
I ran the majority of the last 12 miles. But at one point, an old man passed me. That was sort of depressing.
Starting up one of the final big hills, I saw the old man at the top. I powerhiked that hill like no one’s business! Partly because I wanted to catch up the old man, but mainly I just wanted to finish the damn race!
He had stopped and was trying to find the best way down the rocks using what seemed like a floodlight. He looked back at me, temporarily blinding me, and then back to the trail. He was unsure where to go, so I took this as the perfect time to pass him. I’d run this section at least a dozen times over the year, so I was familiar with how to run it. I barreled down the section with confidence and ran off into the night. I felt like a ninja.
I was trucking along at this point. The cold weather saved my knee. I came upon another runner. Surprisingly, it was Rachel. I’d assumed she had finished long ago. She looked to be struggling a bit, but she is crazy tough. Still, I felt bad for not chatting with her. The desire to finish was overwhelming at this point.
Looking at my watch, I thought I was only a mile or two from the finish. I was giving it a lot of gas. And then I ran up to an aid station. An aid station? Wait, what? I looked at my watch in the light. Obviously I can’t read. I still have five miles to go. Shoot.
The volunteers didn’t immediately notice me since I wasn’t wearing a headlamp. When they did notice me, one of them offered me a headlamp to use. I declined, since I felt I was doing just fine. The girl that offered the headlamp was not happy about my choice – I’m pretty sure she called me a nasty name after I refused.
I wondered if I would regret my choice, but I managed just fine without. I thought of it as learning experience. Things don’t always go according to plan, and when they don’t you have to deal with it. This headlamp issue (thanks to the moonlight) was not a serious issue.
Right after I left the last aid station, my ipod finally played a song I’d been waiting for all day. My emotions are pretty fragile towards the end of a race, and I started blubbering like a simp. It’s almost 20 minutes long (it’s repetetive), so it lasted almost two miles. My spirits were lifted and I finally made it to the finish.
I crossed the timing mat and…. where is everyone? God, this is like a bad dream. You finish your longest run ever, fighting through physical pain and poor planning and there’s no applause? Yeah, it’s cold and dark. No one wants to sit out here. Get used to it.
But there was Joe, the race director. He shook my hand and gave me my first buckle. I didn’t know what to say. The only thing that mattered though – I was done.
Bandera 100K* – 12:38:33
*I later found out one mile of the course had to be cut, so technically, it was only 96.56K / 60 miles.
The only goal I had for this race was to “channel my inner Mario and enjoy the race.” Alas, Mario was not channeled, there was no floating. However, that did not stop me from enjoying the race.
I drove up the night before to camp out. As soon as I arrived, I cooked up some turkey sausage with onions and peppers on my new camping stove. That worked out nice; when you’re camping, hot food seems like a luxury. Afterwards, I got my drop bag and cooler prepped.
Since there were two aid stations, I didn’t have a solid nutrition plan like I did for the last race. I didn’t do any calorie counting, I just brought a bunch of stuff I might like to eat. Gels, these little date energy bite things I made, cola gummies, pretzels, beef jerky, string cheese, pickles, and the liquids – coconut water, coke, V8, a protein shake, and chocolate milk. Mainly I planned on taking in calories via Hammer Perpetuem. I’d tried it on only two previous training runs, neither of which were very long. My stomach handled it fine, but it remained to be seen if it could handle it for several hours.
And taking a step toward freedom, I chose to forgo my Camelbak and use just my handheld bottle. As much as I hate wearing my Camelbak, it does provide a sense of security. I can carry plenty of water and whatnot, whereas the pocket on my handheld is only big enough to cram in two gels. But since I would hit an aid station every 3.5 miles, this was a perfect opportunity to ditch the pack and go all handheld, like the big boys and girls do.
At 5 I picked up my packet, and pinned my bib to my shirt. Making sure the bib is on nice and straight has become something of a ritual for me. Trying to find just the right spot so the number hangs level and doesn’t pull on the fabric… A little OCD, but hey, you want to look good for the race photographers, right? (Even though I’ll probably never buy one of their overpriced images…)
Fed and prepped, I tried to sleep. It took forever since 20 feet away from me was a group of at least a dozen people (with children) that were up relatively late drinking and having a good time. Eventually, though, I did fall asleep, and woke up at 4:45, 15 minutes before my alarm. I didn’t see any lights on or headlamps moving about, which was good because it meant there wouldn’t be a line for the port-a-potties.
Race start was at 6, it was cool and misty. Of the 80-something people registered for the 50M, only 69 people made it to the start line. But it seemed like fewer than that. Inside a horse stable / barn / house thing, we waited for the countdown. We would do a short 3.2M loop that brought us back to the start, then do 6 full laps of 7.8 miles. The countdown commenced and there I was, about to embark on yet another race.
Two miles in, when I turned around to look, I saw maybe a dozen headlamps behind me. I was at the rear of the pack, so there was definitely no chance of going out too fast. A few people in front of me, I could hear a conversation between two folks in my running group. The conversation was comforting in the darkness. Otherwise, I was fully focused on the foot placement of the guy in front of me.
The first loop was nothing but twists and turns, and once we reached the first aid station (3.5M), we were routed back to the start to do it all over again as a full loop. Luckily, since it was still dark, it wasn’t a big deal. It started to get light just before reaching the AS the second time. My Perpetuem was doing me well, so I just topped it off with water.
It was a misty, dewy morning, and although I didn’t actually see the sunrise, the rest of the first loop was quite lovely. Even the stagnant creeks we ran by seemed somewhat magical. (Had to be the sunlight-through-the-leaves-thing that did it.) We ran along one fence line on the other side of which were a bunch of bemused looking cattle. There were a few sections that were fun to run, but only because I was on fresh legs. I knew that this was trail was really made for bikes, and only later would I fully understand what that meant. All those crazy back and forth spaghetti turns and loops? They are fun – if you’re on a bike. But they are maddening to run.
I finished the first loop and went straight for my drop bag: ditch headlamp, grab gel, stuff face with pretzels, go, go, GO! I was so focused on getting out of there quickly, that I took off and forgot to add more Perpetuem to my water bottle. It’s crucial to make sure get things right when you’re at your drop bag or an aid station. Fortunately, one of the biggest benefits of doing a multiple loop course is it allows / forces you to practice your aid station routine. On this day, I would have 12 more opportunities to get it right.
As I started the second lap, the pack had disintegrated and I had all sorts of breathing room. I hadn’t run in several days prior to the race and not surprisingly, my hip flexors (?) were getting tight, causing me to shorten my stride. I haven’t even run a half marathon and I’m already hurting? That is not good. If I manage to get through this, there is going to be some serious hell to pay afterwards. I looked at my watch and decided it was time for another gel.
When I reached the next AS, I again topped off with water. A volunteer mentioned that it was supposed to get up to 81 today. Later, in one of the sunny sections, there was a guy in front of me whose shirt was already drenched in sweat. I thought that poor guy was going to have a hell of a time if it did get up to 81… Fortunately, most of the course was shaded, and it was overcast the majority of the day. That was huge, as it was one less thing to battle.
I also settled on my nutrition strategy by the third lap, which was key. I added two scoops of Perpetuem to my bottle, topped it off with water, and crammed my mouth with pretzels. And was Once I reached the other AS, I topped off with HEED. Most of all, I consumed a lot of gels. I lost count how many, but at least about a dozen. That’s only 2 per loop, but that’s no easy feat.
The aid stations usually only have flavors like Apple Cinnamon, but this time there were actually several different flavors. Excited by this new development, I tried to grab something different each time. All of them tasted pretty good, none of them were overly sweet. Variety enabled me to consume more of them, and that really helped keep me going. Flavor fatigue is a real problem!
Later, I came up with a theory that Power Bar gels (which are what I usually buy) are not really made for endurance events because they are So. Freaking. Sweet. I am definitely going to switch over to Hammer gels. The only gripe I have is the package is hard to tear open. Late in the race I had to ask a volunteer to open a gel for me.
Speaking of trivialities, one of the most disheartening things was getting passed by so many runners from the shorter races. Really it doesn’t matter, but I wish that each race had a different bib color, so that it wouldn’t feel so bad to get passed. Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I know I can’t be the only one that feels this way.
At Mile 25, knowing I was halfway done brought a small ray of hope. 1.2 miles later knowing I’d just run a marathon also brought a smile. However, the fourth lap brought no joy whatsoever. All I could think was how I HAVE TO DO THIS TWO MORE TIMES???
The fifth lap was slightly less terrible. My brain kept thinking about what parts of the course were still coming up, and that I would have to do it again, but each time I would push that out of my mind and re-focus on what was right in front of me. At this point in the story, you’re feeling like I was feeling. This thing just keeps on going on and on in circles… When will it end?
But finally, I was on my last lap. Even though the lap was only 7.8 miles, something about the twists and turns made it seem infinitely longer. I tried to avoid getting caught up in this mental black hole and instead got caught up in a clump of runners.
I wanted to get this over with, and just as I was about to make my move to pass the clump, the guy in front of me tried to do the same. It was awkward, but he let me pass. I picked up the pace to make some room. Then a good song came on my iPod, and I took off. Taking longer strides helped stretch my legs. It felt so good I played the song again and kept up the fast pace. After the song, I slowed down to preserve some juice for the rest of the last lap.
I settled on the plan that I would run the last lap, as much as possible, and walk any inclines. When I reached the aid station for the last time, I had only 3.5 miles to go; I was ecstatic! I hung out for a minute and stretched, something I’d been meaning to do all morning, but never did.
The last 3.5 were the longest ever, but it was it felt great to know that I was so close to finishing. Normally I lame-walk inclines at a normal walking pace. But I was actually swinging my arms and really taking the hills – I was power-hiking! Also, I had avoided looking at my watch most of the day, but when I heard a beep, I had to look – 49 miles. Only one mile to go! In about 12 minutes, all the tiredness, all the misery, all the stupid f*cking loops would be over. I would not have to run this again, this was it, I was done. Hallelujah!
And then, there it was in front of me – the finish line! I ran as hard as I could. I finished in 9:34:22.
The first step is admitting that you have a problem.
“Hi my name is ________. I have a problem: I’m addicted to racing.”
* * * *
The last two races have not gone as well as I’d hoped, and that has dampened my enthusiasm for racing and running in general. Or so I thought.
After the last race, I didn’t run at all for a week. The first few days I physically couldn’t. Once I could walk normally again, I felt like I had lost my mojo. I didn’t want to run. I wasn’t running and I didn’t care. It didn’t bother me one but. If you are like me, you know there is something seriously wrong when not running doesn’t bother you.
I managed a short run the other day, and then two days slipped by. Finally, last night I went for only my second run in two weeks. It was later than I usually run, but I was determined to get in a run. The temperature was absolutely perfect.
It was dark out, but I chose not to use my headlamp. It’s kind of hard to see, everything’s kind of grainy and dreamlike. What I see in front of me looks a lot like what I’ve seen in my dreams. I’m always running somewhere, and can’t really tell where I’m going.
I started thinking about what to do about this Wild Hare race, which is coming up quick – November 16. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to run it or not. Originally I assumed I would do the 50M, but after my poor performance in Chicago, I thought I would skip Wild Hare and try to redeem myself at the San Antonio Marathon (it’s the day after the Wild Hare), but then I realized it’s waaaay too soon for another marathon. So I thought, “Just do the 50K.” Then for the last few days I felt so burned out, I thought, “Just skip it entirely. Just focus on Bandera in January…”
A couple miles into the run, I warmed up. I started to remember what it feels like to really run, and I remembered why I like doing this. And then my brain made a crazy connection. In one of the old Super Mario Bros Nintendo games, Mario could jump and then gently float down for what seemed like forever. I’ve often had dreams that I could float like that, and that’s what I felt like. My legs were motoring away in a cartoon circle while the rest of me was completely still. I realized that I was floating along; I was Mario. I felt good. I felt happy. I wanted to run again.
Then the choice became clear: Which would I regret more, running a mediocre / bad race, or not racing at all? There are several races that I regret not doing, and I didn’t want this to be another. I decided that I would rather race and whatever happens, happens. But not racing? Well, that’s when you know there’s a problem. And not the good kind of problem.
* * * *
When I got online today, I looked at who was registered. Of all the people I knew, only one person chose the 50K, everyone else chose the 50M. At the Lighthouse race, I chose the 20M instead of the 50K, and I regretted that. My choice was made for me by indirect peer pressure: I signed up for the 50M. Like I had originally planned all along.
From what I’ve heard, the course is not technically challenging and there is not much change in elevation. It’s six 7.8 mile loops with a 3.2 mile loop. So it should be relatively “easy.” The only goal I have for this race is to channel my inner Mario and enjoy the race.
A few weeks ago, I discovered a “hidden” function on my Garmin that has since provided me with greater peace of mind. The function? Keys Locked.
As a road runner, I used to obsess about my times, pace in particular. Pace was the measure of my progress as a runner. The faster my pace, the better I felt. And in order to keep that pace nice and shiny, if I stopped, walked, got a drink of water, had to stretch, take a sh*t, or whatever, I would stop my watch. I mean, why would you track the parts of your run when you’re not running, right?
I don’t completely know why I did this. Maybe because my running buddy always did (and still does) the same thing. Maybe this was just to seem faster without actually having to be faster. Maybe it was just wanting to have good numbers to look at at the end of the run. This bad habit stuck with me as I transitioned to trail running.
Whatever the reasons -or justifications- there was a problem with this constant watch-stopping. On far too many occasions I would forget to restart my watch. These miles were “lost,” and my weekly totals would be lower. And for a trail runner, mileage is more important than pace. Losing mileage was worse than a slow pace!
I tried using both types of the auto pause function and those were somewhat successful. After a few trials, I went back to the old fashioned manual stopping. Then when I forgot to restart my watch, I started chalking up the lost miles as offerings to the Trail Gods. That seemed like an absurdly acceptable solution.
While I would like to be a pious trail runner, I was offering more miles than necessary to the Trail Gods. Perhaps the Gods had been appeased and decided to take mercy on me: they showed me the Keys Locked function.
Near the start of a run, I had pressed some combination of buttons and accidentally locked the keys. I couldn’t figure out how to unlock it, so I just said the heck with it and ran. I realized I didn’t have to worry about stopping or restarting my watch. All I had to do was run. My pace might be slower, but so what? I realized how silly it is to stop your watch anytime you stop for something. You don’t stop your watch during a race, so why should you during training? You’re only fooling yourself if you’re not counting your down time during a run.
When I finished my run, I dinked around pressing different combinations of buttons and eventually figured it out (MODE and the UP ARROW). I was amazed how liberating it was to not worry about the time. Since that run, I lock my keys and let the clock roll, Pace and Time be damned. Well, okay, that’s not entirely true. I still obsess about pace, but I realize it only really matters during a race. And even then, it only matters in a road race.
So if you are a watch-stopper, stop stopping your watch and lock your keys!