Tag Archives: ultra running

Dead Horse 50K

Traffic delayed us, finally left REI at about 6:30 pm. A stop at Cubby’s for some tasty sandwiches set us back another 45 min. Then somewhere in the middle of nowhere a serious accident held us up for another 40 min. We arrived at out hotel close to midnight. 

Wake up was 5:30 am, with a short 20 min drive to the start. As were approaching the turn to the start, we could see a line of headlamps high up on the canyon. The 50 milers had just begun their journey. 

All smiles at the start.

It was chilly but crisp. We got our bibs and chips and started shortly after. The first mile was a long climb that offered a great view. The sun peaked over the mountains and would gradually warm us throughout the day. 

Nate had never run more than 17 miles continuously, so he was in for a day of PR’s. Even though Nate had been putting in more miles than Lexi, I wasn’t concerned about her finishing. Lexi and I had run a Timp double which was about 30 miles, so I knew she would survive. 

The first mile was all uphill so we started out slow and I tried to get a shot of the sun rising. We would run the whole thing together which was pretty fun. Both of them are pretty relaxed and Nate can be a funny guy. One of his jokes set the stage for a joke off of sorts. 

Scenery wise, I may be a bit spoiled, but after the first few miles, it felt like we settled in some boring views. We were just out in the middle of the desert surrounded by scrub brush and a smattering of scrub trees. We could see the canyons off in the distance, but they were so far! On the plus side, the single track was soft and runnable. I would have appreciated the soft soil singletrack more if I had known how much slickrock was ahead of us. Although when we we on the slickrock, the scenery was more interesting. :/

“If you don’t care about your time, check out Gemini Bridges.” The Joke Girl and her BF. 

One thing I neglected to do was to pay attention to where the aid stations were mileage wise. Nate had said 9 miles was the furthest apart they were. Luckily, none of us had any issues with water or calories. The aid stations were well stocked. Several had Halloween candy which was sweet.

Nate had a goal to leave with more Gu’s than he came with. He also had a joke for when he acquired one, which he forgot to do at the first aid station. I had forgotten about the joke. I was eating a delicious Pierogi(!) from the aid station, and he walked up to me with Gu in hand and said, “Don’t mind if I Gu.” I gave a halfhearted chuckle. 

Lexi came back from a bathroom break and I told her she needed to go with Nate to get something from the aid station so that Nate could tell his joke. They walked up to the table, Nate grabbed a gel and loudly said, “Don’t mind if I Gu.” A girl standing nearby burst out laughing and several other volunteers laughed. The girl’s boyfriend was nearby and asked what she was laughing about. She repeated Nate’s joke and got more laughs. 

So she started telling some jokes of her own.. What do you call fake noodle? an Impasta!!!  What do you call an alligator in a vest? An investigator!!! She had about a dozen jokes. And Nate had a few too. As someone who is always harping about having jokes for races, I was disappointed that I didn’t have any jokes to offer. 

We left the aid station at the same time as the other two. I kind of hoped that they might want to run with us and keep this joke fest going. But they were moving better than we were, so they took off. I was the caboose following Lexi, and as they passed, I whispered to Lexi, “We have to beat them.” And I guess the joke girl had super hearing because she laughed and yelled, “I heard that!” I was shocked and slightly embarrassed because I was joking. Well half joking.

Later we ran into our joke friend at the aid station. Nate was hurting a bit, and attempting to roll out his butt with a 2 liter bottle. I asked her if she had anymore jokes to help lift his spirits. Before she could say anything, her boyfriend chimed in with, “Have you seen her run? That’s the joke!”

Puppy not having it. 

Also there was this puppy. We wanted to pet him, but he started growling at me, which was pretty surprising. I chalked it up to the little guy being fed up with everyone wanting to pet him. I’m sure even dogs have bad days. 

Two topics dominated the rest of the run: Nate’s sore butt and Lexi looking for a place to poop, although she wasn’t sure if she actually needed to go. Lexi was concerned about the lack of cover. And also talking about having to dig a six inch hole to bury the waste as per LNT standards. We leapfrogged with several people around us. Occasionally we would be running the same pace as them and so they could hear our conversations about Nate’s butt and Lexi’s poop dilemma. 

As we passed this one lady, who I assumed had heard our conversation, I jokingly asked her if she would massage Nate’s butt which totally shocked her from whatever she was thinking. 

Nate stretching for the 34th time.

We stopped on a dirt road for Nate to stretch. The people we had passed came by one by one. An old guy ran by Lexi and asked her, “You dig that hole yet?” We had a good laugh at that because that was totally unexpected. Just as the hilariousness subsided, another runner ran by and asked Nate, “How’s your butt?” It was too perfect. 

We got to the last aid station and found out that we were closer to finish than we expected. This lifted Nate and Lexi’s spirits. Lexi’s foot was hurting her and she had been smelling the barn since mile 20. Nate’s butt was slowing him down, but he was excited to be finished. He put on some music to get himself pumped. He was still “struggle-bussing,” but in good spirits. 

Earlier, Nate had shot a quick story for Instagram to see if he could get some good vibes from his followers. Unfortunately, service wasn’t great and his story didn’t post. Lexi filmed Nate feeling pretty crusty and coined the hashtag #PrayForNate which became an instant classic.  

Cool rock. 
Lexi excited to finish.
Nate thugging. 

There was a good bit of climbing in the last few miles, which was tough since we were so close to the finish. But then finally there was a long downhill which we could run. Near the finish, they decided to sprint the last portion in the chute. I think Nate beat her in the sprint, but Lexi was announced as having a faster time. But in the final results, they are both listed at 6:56:59. Nate’s final Gu count was four, I think. 

Sprint to the finish.
They did it! Stoked for both of them. 

Kirby Flats 50K Report: First DNF (with an Asterisk?)

Kirby Flats was an inaugural race, and actually the first time the director had ever put on a race.  There was a 50K,  25K,  and 10K. All three were free provided we gave our honest feedback about the race.

It was a small turnout, maybe 50 people for all three races combined. In the 50K, there were only eight runners, and three of us were Rockhoppers. The race started at 6 am. It was a cold, misty, and dark. At the start we joked how everyone was guaranteed a top ten finish. And whoever came in first would set a course record.

Kyle the race director sent us on our way at 6 sharp. We started with a long steep incline. The other two Rockhoppers Brian and Ed chatted away, I just listened. There was another guy right behind us who became part of our group due to proximity. After a mile, (!) we never saw the other four guys again, which was weird because we were not running fast at all.

The second mile was unrunnable. There was no clear trail on the ground, so we had to keep hunting for the next flag. And unfortunately, the flags were not reflective. But what really slowed us down was the terrain: tons of slippery exposed rock and steep uphills/ downhills covered with scree and leaves. It took us 29 minutes to cover mile 2.  This set the tone for the rest of the race.

Eventually, we did reach some sections that we could run. After hiking so much, it felt weird to actually run.  Unfortunately, we soon entered a super flat and super boring section that ran along the fence line of pasture. It felt like when you were in high school and they made you run laps around the field as punishment.

I felt dumb having complained about how tough the earlier sections were and now how boring these flat sections were. And we were still having to figure out where the flags were leading us.

It may have been as early as mile 2 when the topic of dropping the race came up. At an average of only three miles per hour, it would have taken about 10 hours… to finish a 50K! We had expected 6 or 7, maybe 8 hours, but 10? Was it worth it? (I joked that we weren’t even getting a t-shirt for our efforts.)

I had never not finished a race, and I knew this would happen eventually. I felt conflicted as to whether I should continue or not.  I wasn’t injured. But did I really want to spend another 6 hours out here in the cold rain on this poorly marked course essentially by myself? (The new guy said he wanted to finish. But this was his first trail run and he didn’t even bring water with him. I certainly didn’t want to have to rely on him.)

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Trail version of Groundhog Day: Stephanie, Jazzy, and Adnil ran the same loop 3 times.

After almost 4 hours, we made it back to the start having completed one 20K loop. (The 50K was (2) 20K loops + (1) 10K loop.) There were lots of 25K runners at the tent. The race director was there, listening to the runners’ woes. Apparently, everyone had had navigational issues. One group of ladies had somehow managed to run a small loop three times. Basically, it turned into a big drop party. At the time, I didn’t feel bad dropping since everyone else was.

DNF's all around but still smiling!
Three 50K DNFs and three 25K DNFs! Still smiling though!

But two days later, I feel crappy about dropping.  Sure it would have taken a long time, but it’s not like I’ve never run for 10 hours before. Sure the course was confusing, but we (think we) ran it. And the poor new guy – I could have helped him finish his first trail race.  But what bothers me the most is this was a challenge and I pussed out. I could have finished, I just didn’t want to, which seems like the worst excuse possible.

There’s nothing I can do about it now, the DNF is in the books. It’s certainly a bummer, but not the end of the world. I don’t know if the RD is going to post any “official” results – as there may not be any results to post. I am curious if any of the other four 50K guys finished. I will feel a little less crummy if no one finished.

KF 50K DNF

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend @ Guadalupe Mountain

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.

 

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Strava Report Day 1

 

*   *   *   *   *      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!

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Strava Report Day 2

 

*   *   *   *   *    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.

TLDR: I ran some mountains, it was AWESOME!

 

Racing Thor

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.

Know when you’re beat

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?

 

Tuesday Long Run

Missed an opportunity to run at Bandera this past weekend, and wanted to make up for that.

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Hard to see, but some of the trees are turning red.

A beautiful sunny afternoon with temperatures in the forties, it was a perfect day to be out for several hours. The plan was to run to the Power Lines and then turn around, the Power Lines being a three mile stretch of hills that my running group uses for hill training. The trail runs beside electrical power lines, thus its name. Looking at Mapmyrun, the round trip looked to be around 22 miles, with the bulk of the mileage coming from just getting to the power lines. Setting out at noon, I figured on being out 4 – 4 1/2 hours, plenty of time to think about stuff.

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It begins…

I had a short sleeve wicking shirt over a long sleeve wicking shirt. Generally, for “cold” weather in Texas, this works out fine. But there were points where the wind picked up and chilled all the sweat in my shirts. I really felt that and it worried me. I did bring a spare shirt, but it was -surprise!- another wicking shirt. What would that accomplish? That’s when I realized, “That’s what a windbreaker’s for. You should get one of those.” Fortunately, the wind didn’t stick around, but I’ll definitely be looking for a windbreaker soon.

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Looking back, you can see the neighborhood going up. It looks all naked.

Cold hands are the worst! Gloves helped tremendously, but that’s pretty obvious. I was surprised that I could actually operate my phone’s touchscreen without having to take off my gloves. They aren’t those fancy gloves designed specifically for that purpose, so it took a few tries, but I could do it. This allowed me to take a few more photos than I would have if I had to remove my gloves every time, which is nice because one of my goals is to take more photos while out on runs.

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Looking up from directly beneath a tower.

A new thing for me was a Buff bandana thingie, which I was using as a neck gaiter. Holy cow, that works out great! I never realized how nice it is to have a warm neck. The Buff is a ridiculously simple thing, just a super thin tube of stretchy fabric, but it really provided some real comfort. Which is great considering it was ridiculously over priced – $25 at REI. If it continues to provide as much usefulness later on, say in the summer, then it will be totally worth it.

Buff bandana as neck gaiter. Dope!
Buff bandana as neck gaiter. Dope!

One more thing I want to mention is Hammer Perpetuem. It worked well for me in my last race, and it worked just as well on this run. The last two long runs, I didn’t carry much food since I relied on Perpetuem for calories. On this four hour run, other than the Perpetuem, I got by on two gels and a handful of beef jerky. To me, that’s nuts. To me, that says Perpetuem really works. The flavor is very subtle, and I’ve not had any GI issues with it. If you are in the market for liquid calories, you ought to check it out.

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What kind of birds are these? Pretty sure not vultures…

Final tally for the day was 21.22 Miles in 4:04.

Wild Hare 50M Race Report

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.

Wild Hare Finishers medal.
Wild Hare Finishers medal.

Racer’s Anonymous Support Group?

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.

Mario

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.

 

 

 

FFS!! Cactus Rose Clusterfunk

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The start line. That cool little guy is playing guitar, I believe.

I’ve come to realize that during extended periods of running, my heart must be diverting blood and oxygen headed for my brain to my legs, because my mental capacity bottoms out. I made logistical mistakes that slowed me down, but one huge demoralizing blunder earned me the Einstein title: I took a wrong turn.

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The field where I “camped.”

I got to the park, dropped off my stuff, and picked up my packet. I ate some food, pinned on my bib, got my clothes ready. Even though it was still daylight, I figured I might as well try and go to sleep. Later in the evening, it started to sprinkle. It was off and on for a few hours, and I was glad to not be in a tent. Then I realized that the drop bag with my change of clothes and my rain jacket were just outside of the aid station tent, exposed to the rain. Even though it hadn’t full on rained, I figured my clothes were soaking wet by now. The only thing I could do was to accept it and know that I’d be running in the same clothes all day.

As I lay there, tossing and turning trying to get comfortable, I remember thinking, “Jeez, right now I’m just laying here trying to sleep, but tomorrow I’ll actually be running.” And then bam! It’s 4:55 a.m. I’m standing in a small crowd and some lady is yelling, “It’s 5 minutes till the start!”

The countdown commenced 4, 3, 2, 1 and away goes the pack! The first 14 miles went by pretty quickly, as this is the easiest part of the course, and I was still pumped up. When I picked up my first food bag, I discovered that I put the wrong bag in the cooler, and so I had the wrong split information. No big deal. I ate up everything in my food bag and was feeling good about that. Extra bonus was being able to blast a duke while it was still dark. Fortunately, other than being slightly hungry, I had no stomach issues at all during the race.

At the second aid station, Nachos, I wanted some cold water. Three giant Gatorade coolers and I’m looking around for cups. “Cups?” I ask. Guy replies, “Not at this race.” I was at a loss, and was going to just open my mouth under the spigot, but thankfully the same guy let me borrow his cup. (I had no idea that they weren’t going to provide cups! And I thought that there weren’t any volunteers, but that had to be wrong. No doubt many of the people were spectators waiting for friends / family, but there were definitely some volunteers.) Next aid station: Equestrian B.

I had one food bag that was supposed to be for the Lodge aid station (Mile 25). In an effort to simplify the drop bag business, I decided to leave that bag at Equestrian B. My plan was to grab two food bags when I went through. No big deal, right? Well not if you remember to grab the bag! Which I didn’t! It would be much later until I realized I’d fudged up.

I start working on food bag #2. Power Bar brand gels are freaking sweet, and not in a good way. The vanilla tastes like vanilla frosting. And normally I like Chips Ahoy cookies, but they tasted extremely weird and chemically. The pretzels were pretty rocking, probably due to the salt. The tropical lifesavers were good for keeping dry mouth at bay and tasted yummy. But the big winner was the cola flavored gummies. AWESOME!

By this point in the race, the field of runners was spread out. It seemed like I was the only one out there. Somewhere in there I ran with Ed Brown for a little while. He, in his insanity, was doing the 100 mile. I thought he was going too fast, and so did he. But he was having a good time and was super upbeat.

Miles 18-24 were the big hills. Strangely, they didn’t seem so bad. I was pretty stoked around Mile 23, knowing that I was almost halfway done. And then I got to Mile 24ish. The course came to a tee. There were two signs, one said LOOP 1&3, the other LOOP 2&4. I stopped and looked at the signs, confused. I asked some runner, “Is this the way for loop 1?” I now realize he was probably just as confused as I was. He said, “Yes.” What I should have asked him was, “Which way to the Lodge?” Or better yet, the sign should have said (for the benefit of Einsteins like myself) LODGE with a big fat arrow pointing right. Instead, I went left.

I saw trail markers and thought that was a positive sign. But I didn’t see any runners behind me, in front of me, or coming from the other direction. (When you reach the Lodge at Mile 25, you turn around and go back. So there was two way traffic on the trail.) After 3.5 miles, I came across two ladies on horseback. They’d stopped because one of the horses was taking a huge dump. I asked them where the Lodge was and they told me it was behind me. My heart sunk.

Backtracking was absolutely dreadful because it was hard not to dwell on my mistake. I really wanted to quit. Why did it take me so long to realize I was going the wrong way? Why didn’t I figure that out sooner? Why didn’t I just ask that guy, “Where’s the Lodge?” 

Coming down Lucky’s Peak, I slipped and fell on my butt. I got up and two steps later fell on my butt again. I sat there for a minute. I felt like a baby. I thought for sure I was going to cry. I really wanted to cry, to get all the anger and frustration. But for some reason, I couldn’t. Since I couldn’t get myself to cry, I tried to push all the negative thoughts aside and shift my focus to the trail directly in front of me. That helped. My spirits were lifted when I finally reached the Lodge, but there was still plenty of running to do.

The

next

ten

miles

felt

like

this.

It was soooo slow. Now I understand what they mean when they say you have to train yourself to run on tired legs. It’s like your legs blow a fuse and refuse to run. As a result, I walked a lot. But you can push the reset / manual override and tell your legs to keep running. Provided you are consuming enough calories.

Ah, calories. I was very fortunate that they had gels available at the Lodge. I grabbed only two because I didn’t want to take more than my fair share, but I should have grabbed like four.  As a result, Course Miles 25-35 were tough because I was short on calories. I was actually licking my arms for salt. It would have been way worse without those gels. And I will say this about Hammer Apple Cinnamon gels: as much as I’m not generally a big fan of apple cinnamon flavor, they are the perfect amount of sweetness.

When I finally made it to the Equestrian B aid station, I immediately went to my cooler and gorged: massive instant gratification by chugging a chocolate protein drink, then starting in on some watermelon, and a string cheese, a sip of coke, and chase it all with coconut water…. Glorious! There were several Rockhoppers there that checked up on me and offered assistance. Weirdly, I’d see them again at the next three aid stations. (I believe they were following a runner behind me.)

Having finally consumed some much needed calories, I was able to run some of the last 15 miles. They weren’t fast miles by any means, but speed was the last thing I was concerned with. It was all about finishing.

At this time I, came to the conclusion that I must have kicked every single rock in the park. Twice. I thought about coming back with a sledgehammer and smashing some of those damn rocks, a la Office Space. But rocks are like Gremlins, if you smash one, they turn into more rocks.

My toes were getting pretty beat up, and my shoes felt tighter than usual. Going downhill became a new challenge. I had to be very slow and deliberate with my foot placement, and it was still painful because my toes would get all jammed up in the toe box. I think the Cascadia’s I was wearing simply DO NOT have a large enough toe box. I thought for sure when I finally peeled off my socks, all my toenails would be black. Surprisingly, as of now, I have only one.

Amazingly though, I got not a single blister! I attribute that feat to my double sock method. Injinji toe socks “liners” with Drymax super trail socks. (The Drymax were like $25, but worth every penny.) And I’m not too big of a sweater, so normally chafing isn’t a problem. But I did chafe –ahem this might be TMI– on my nutsack. That has never happened before, and was quite unpleasant.

When I made it to the last aid station, all I could think was, “I’d be done by now.” I tried to enjoy the fact that the finish was close. Maybe an hour. Tim helped fill my Camelback and reminded that, “The rest of the course is easy, it’s all flat.” Except of course, for Lucky’s Peak. Criminy! Just when you think you’re done, the course gives you the finger one more time.

But I finally found my way to the finish line in 12:51. (By my Garmin, official results still pending.)

Jiminy Christmas, the Finish!!!
Jiminy Christmas, the Finish!!!

*   *   *   *   *

So what did I learn?

Planning & Organization = Success. The importance of having your ducks in a row before the race cannot be understated, especially with an undertaking so complicated. I thought I was organized, boy was I wrong!

Make sure your calories and hydration are positioned where and when you need them. Eating solid food early in the race was a little difficult. The food bag was a nice concept, and somewhat successful. However, consuming calories in liquid form is way more efficient. I didn’t drink the Perpetuem like I had planned, so I don’t know how my stomach will handle that. But now I can test it out in training. And I’ll save solid food for the end of the race.

Study the course. Bring a map. You’ll never regret it. If you do get lost or turned around, just concentrate on what’s 5 feet in front of you until you are back on track. Don’t dwell on mistakes and don’t let a time goal be the end-all; sometimes it’s just about finishing. Once you’re finished, you can think of your excursion as “bonus” miles.

Finally, your attitude makes all the difference. You might feel overwhelmed by the difficulties you are facing, but try and remember that it’s the difficulties that make you stronger. Get out of your head and focus five feet in front of you and just keep running.

Cactus Rose Medal. I really earned this one!
Cactus Rose Medal. I really earned this one!

D-Day Again So Soon?

It’s go time again. Nerves! Anxiety! Excitement! Fear! Giddiness! And Delirium

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Tomorrow I am running the Cactus Rose 50 Miler, which will be my second 50. Under ten hours is my goal, which translates to a 12 min pace. That seems downright slow after running 7 minute miles in Chicago, but I have to remember that this is a trail race, there are steep hills. And it’s fifty freaking miles. I fully expect to cry at least once. If not tears of frustration, surely tears of joy once I cross the finish.

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This is the the first loop. You just turn around and head back to the start for the second loop.

In order to avoid bonking at the end of the race like I did in Chicago, the past few days I’ve been gorging on carbohydrates in order to fully load my glycogen stores. I’ve also managed to avoid alcohol, and tried to avoid caffeine. I’ve manged to forgo my morning coffee, but had a Coke yesterday. I’ve eaten a lot of quinoa and bulghur, potatoes, rice, bread… and I think I’m going to have some pasta before I head out.

I’m going to leave today and go get a camping spot at the park where the race is. (Well, really a parking spot, as I’ll be car camping since I don’t have a tent.) The race starts at 5am, packet pickup is 4am if you pick it up the day of the race, the drive is 45 min, so that would make for one hell of an early morning if I chose to stay home. The last race I ran at this park, there was a traffic jam getting in. Luckily my dad had driven me, because I had to jump out of the car and run up to the start to get my bib and get to the start line. Not going to let that happen again, no sir!

I’m not sure if this race is considered “unsupported” or not, but there are no volunteers at the aid stations, and no food at the aid stations. The only thing provided is water, ice and, at two aid stations, a portajon. You have to bring your own food. Which in a way is good, because it has forced me to pay more attention to a crucial aspect of running a good race.

Reading from a couple sources, I’m figuring on 250 calories per hour, and about 30 oz of fluids per hour. The sources are pretty far apart in their recommendations, so I’m taking an average. I made “food bags,” for lack of a better term, that contain various gels, cookies, chips, snacks etc that total at least 500 calories. I will pick up a bag at every other aid station. There enough calories per bag to keep me chugging along, and hopefully enough variety that I don’t get sick of any particular thing. (If you’ve ever had more than 3 or 4 gels in a race, you know what I mean.)

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“Food Bag” with splits taped on back.

On the back of each bag, I attached a print out of the splits from that aid station till the next food bag. I plan to hang and clip this bag around the sternum strap of my Camelbak. I like the idea of having all my food easily accessible right in front of my stupid face. But if that turns out to be annoying, I’ll shove it all into the pockets.

As far as hydration goes, I’ll be relying mainly on water, with a handheld with Hammer Perpetuem. I haven’t really tried the Perpetuem in training, and I KNOW YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO TRY NEW THINGS COME RACE DAY, but I’m going to anyway. I’m going to rely on my “food bags” for my calories, so the Perpetuem is more of a supplement. Also, It may help to have something to drink other than water.

So that’s the plan to get through the race. Watch my pace, hydrate, and consume calories. Keep a sense of humour, talk to people, and most of all, remember that no matter how terrible you feel, this is fun!

Today is the day!

Another Painting “Well—”

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15″ x 21″. The girl is painted with an asphalt based roofing adhesive.

I had used a material like this before, and really liked how dark it seemed. It was a bit hard to work with, as it wasn’t thinning very well. It took awhile to figure out how to make it work. It was fun trying something new, I will def be using the material again.

Don’t think it is as successful as the previous painting. I put in the text before finishing the face appropriately, and don’t want to go back in to rework it. But it’s nice to bang out another little piece, especially a semi-experimental one.

The frame is scrap molding that I had just the right amount of. It’s all rough looking, I’m not sure if that roughness should be fixed or not. Likely it will not be. :)