Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bandera Trails: How I missed you...

I was looking forward to this weekend because it'd be our Bandera (CR100) weekend. We had made plans to run the Cactus Rose course at least once. Not only would it be a tough great workout, but we'd also get to preview the course before next month's race.

The plan was to run the course at night. Our guide, David Jacobson, wanted to run the course to simulate next month's night running. We couldn't be happier to have him show us around since we had our doubts that we could navigate our way around in the darkness.

There were going to be runners starting when we started, later in the night, in the morning and in the early afternoon the next day. Our group included myself, David Zuniga, Stevan Pierce, Carlos Cerda, David Jacobson, Brett Parker, Kevin Pallardino and Susan Bell. 

We arrived at around 7pm and began at 8:30pm. The temperatures were mild...maybe even cool. After having run the Capt. Karl race series this summer, the cooler temperature was a welcomed relief.  

In short, the course was rocks, climbing, rocks and more climbing. Obviously, what goes up must come down, so throw in there some steep rocky downhills for good measure. Oh, how can I forget the sotol plants? All I can say is "ouch!!!"

We finished the 25 mile loop at around 4:20am. I felt really well at this point but was also starving. I can only eat so many stinger waffles, GUs or chex mix. Luckily, Brett, offered us some fajita tacos, and they hit the spot.

We took about a 20 minute break before starting again. We may have taken a little too long before starting because I was cold, and my body felt kinda stiff. My car's temperature indicated it was 56 degrees. I couldn't wait to start running to warm up. 

The 2nd loop was pretty...interesting. After about 5 miles, David J. fell on the course. He said he fell asleep while running. Yes, we were that tired, but it was good practice for CR. David called it a night/morning shortly after this. With some last minute instructions, David J. pointed us in the right direction which we hoped to be able to do. 

Unfortunately, our adventure without him lasted only a few miles. We got a bit lost and seemed to be running in circles. After watching the incredible sunrise atop Sky Island, we decided to backtrack and end our adventure. 

We ended the run at 33.5 miles. The best part is that I felt great the entire distance. This hadn't happened ever...I think.

I think I also learned some valuable things for my upcoming race, CR: 
  1. it's all about pacing.
  2. there's such a thing as too much GUs, stinger waffles & junk(ish) type food...I'll need solid food. 
  3. RFP (relentless forward progress) - gotta keep keeping on.
The course? Well, I'm not going to go over each section. All I will say is that the course is pretty tough but fun. All you need to know is: be prepared to climb.

In summary, I met lots of awesome runners on this trip.  Whether meeting them for the 1st time or 10th time, these are great friends that made the trip worthwhile. 

I hope to make 1 more trip out to Bandera before CR. Either way, I cannot wait for Oct. 27.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Best (running) Week Ever

I had the best running week I've had in quite a long time...maybe ever: My total mileage for the week was 68.5 miles, 23.5 miles more than I usually average.

The even better part?  Those miles were pain/injury-free.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Running: The New Commute

Yesterday, I decided to change up my 13.5 mile commute to work.  Usually, I drive but this year I have biked and now it was time for me to run.

I was really prepared for this: I took a change of clothes and everything I'd need to "freshen up" the previous day. All I had to do was get there.

I was a little nervous for several reasons: What if I didn't wake up on time? (I did) What if I didn't adequately plan how long it'd take me to get there? (I had) What if there were dogs chasing me at that hour? (There were) What if there were inattentive drivers in the wee hours of the morning? (There were). Obsessive, I know.

The commute began at 4:40am. No, this isn't a typo.

I ran the 13.5 miles in 2:03. As much as I kept telling myself, this run wasnt about time, it didn't quite work out that way. But, in my defense, several dogs had something to do with this. Thank you, dogs, for helping me work on not so fast pace.

I ran with lighting in the front and a blinking light attached to my camelbak. I was even in the bike lane (approximately 4 out of the 13.5 miles had a bike lane). Despite all this, a car came within inches (it seemed) of grazing me. I know it's dangerous out there, but, geeze, this was close.

Upon getting to work, I was expecting to be tired for the better part of the morning. Lunch would definitely wake me up, but I was expecting a "crash" in the early afternoon. I was wrong. I felt GREAT the entire day.

I'm definitely doing this again and I recommend others do it also. Next time, I'm running to work AND riding my bike back...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Runner's Bible: The Running Log

I had several goals at the beginning of the year. One of them was to log 2,000 miles for the year of 2012.

Ill admit, I'm a nerd...I had it all figured out. The way I calculated it, I'd have to average:

166.6 miles per month.
41.7 miles per week.
5.9 miles per day.

The good news: I'm ahead of quite a considerable amount.

The bad news: I've been obsessed with averaging these averages.

Due to my compulsion with these numbers, I've kept 2 running logs, you case I lost one. I've got notes in there about how I felt, what I ate, could I have kept going, etc. Plus, I constantly track my progress or lack of it.

Logging my runs is not something new that I've just recently started, I've kept one for a loooong time. I've always run for the sake of running. Let me clarify: I dont just  run  in preparation for a race, not that that's a bad thing - It's just that I've always loved to run just because, so I'm not sure why I even kept a log. I wouldn't look at it - just fill it out and start a new one.

Now, that I am training for something, that log is like my bible. I pretty much take it with me wherever I go. It's become a must 'gadget' for me - more so than my ipod or garmin. I think if I lost it, my life would be over...well, not really, but you get the idea - it's important.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Running To Extremes

I've come to the conclusion that running (for me) is a thing of extremes. Either dip your toe in the water or dive in the deep end. There's no in-between.

This occurred to me yesterday:

I ran 6 miles in the morning on a track (I love running in circles, btw) wearing my vibrams. I ran differently. I stepped differently, and I felt graceful. Yes, I used the word graceful to describe my running. I was actually paying attention where I was stepping and how I was stepping.

Later in the afternoon, I ran 6 more, but this time wearing my Hokas. The exact opposite. I can't really say I felt graceful. I felt...'in charge.' It was as if I was playing destruction derby. Everybody, you better get outta my way. It didn't matter how I was stepping or where I was stepping. As a matter of fact, I was looking for something to step on.
Extremes? Yep, from footwear to distances.

I still enjoy an occassional 5k. They make me work hard. They're quick and painful. The beautiful pain.

...But, I also enjoy 60ks, 50milers and (attempting) 100 milers. They're definately not quick - a prolonged process.

As I get mentally and physically prepared for my next challenge, CR100, it occurred to me that I'm an extremist, and that may not be a bad thing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why Football Season Means More Running...

Today is Wednesday, and it's significant. 

Because it's humpday? No. Because I have morning duty at work? Pfft, no. Because, tonight, is my running group, iRUN's, evening run? Ok, yeah, but there's another reason. I'll tell you why: because the NFL season begins tonight. How is this significant, you may be asking right about now.

Let me begin, at the risk of alienating many of you out there, by saying that I strongly dislike the Cowboys. Strongly. When they play, it's always A.B.C. (Anybody But the Cowboys). Them's fighting words down here in the RGV, but it had to be said.

But I digress. Several seasons ago I realized that the best day and time to do my long runs (and not worry about traffic) was when the Cowboys were playing. Everybody is watching them play at home or at a bar. Everybody.

For those 3 hours or so, I can afford to cross the street at any point other than an intersection, and I don't have to worry about those annoying honks (unless they're friends honking to say hi). Added bonus: no traffic means I can run without inhaling exhaust fumes.
As a matter of fact, it's probably the best time to go to HEB or Wal-Mart. The places are D-E-A-D. For a person like me who doesn't like crowds, that's perfect!

Football season couldn't begin a moment too soon - my Sunday runs are about to get long - just in time for my next ultra: Cactus Rose.

For the next 5 months or so, I will be rooting for "America's Team" to play...not win, just play. If they lose, it'll be icing on my ultra running cake.

While you're watching the game for 3 hours, I'll be running for those same 3 hours.

Let's just hope Cowpoke fans don't drown their sorrows of defeat in alcohol and then have to drive home on the same streets I'm running.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Reveille Ranch 60k : 8 Undeniable Truths

I'm back from the Capt. Karl's Reveille Ranch 60k, and I'm still on cloud 9. It was an excellent racing experience. Everything about it was superb!!! I've made a list of what I experienced this past Saturday night and want to share it with you guys (in no particular order):

     1.  Rocks Are Beautiful...Painful, But Beautiful: The scenery this weekend was incredible. It was as if I'd stepped into another world. Keep in mind, where I live - the RGV. I couldn't stop taking pictures during the 1st of 3 loops. It's funny that something so awesome looking can hurt you if you're not careful or make you so sore that you cry out in pain sometimes. I love it. 
     2.  Donnie Darko Musta Been Out There:  Why else would I be thinking of that rabbit? I saw 4 rabbits during the race. I don't know if they were blinded by my headlamp & flashlight, but it took them several seconds to react and and scramble. When I'm running for hours, many thoughts go through my head - during the race, every time I'd see a rabbit, Donnie Darko would come to mind, and it kinda creeped me out a bit. The crazy things I think about when I have too much time on my mind. 
     3.  The Volunteers Are Incredible:  I realized during the race that I was looking forward to the aid    stations...well, I'll admit - 1 in particular: I'd heard that Liza Howard was going to be at 1 of them, and I was looking forward to saying hi to her (in case you can't tell, she's my idol). Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, the volunteers made me look forward to each aid station. It was like a little physical AND mental boost. Whether it was a wisecrack, encouraging words, filling my handheld water bottle or opening it (my hands were so sweaty during most of the race, that I couldn't open mine - but they did!). They're there for each and every runner. Thank you all. 

     4.  The "Woo Hoo" Heard Through The Darkness:  I kept hearing Nancy Marks' patented "woo hoo" AND the jingling of the bells on her shoes. During the 3rd loop, at 1 point, I was wondering if I was going in the right direction until I heard a "woo hoo" up ahead in the darkness. Yes, I was. That lady is always in a good mood - regardless of the race she's having. I envy that. I hope I continue hearing her for many races to come. 
     5.  McDonald's Salt Packets Saved The Night:  2 friends of mine recommended I carry salt packets from Whataburger/McDonalds and place them in my mouth and let it dissolve since I've gotten ill the last several 60ks (nothing had seemed to work), and I was willing to try anything to keep from getting sick. Several miles before the park, we went up to the McDonald's drive thru window and just asked for salt packets (hoping I wouldn't have to explain why). Luckily, we received a handful of salt & pepper packets - as long as I don't get them confused, I told myself. I started taking them at 2 points when I could feel the twinge of nausea coming on. It worked. Thanks, Mari & Gabby.
     6.  I've Got To Pace Myself By Any Means Necessary:  I always start any race way too fast. Always. Never fails. I decided that I wasn't going to let this happen this time around, and I had the perfect solution: I decided to take pictures during the 1st loop. Plenty of them. Turns out I am disciplined, afterall. I did it. This may have contributed to having the best run this summer.

     7.  Without My Garmin, I Am Lost:  My Garmin's battery died out at mile 30. The warning beep kept reminding me for a couple of hours of the inevitable. I did the math in my head, and I assured myself I was in good shape and would survive without it. According to my calculations, I had plenty of time to finish even if I'd be running without my trusty gadget. When it finally went blank, I panicked a little. I asked the last 3 aid stations: What time is it? How many more miles? Am I in danger of missing the cut off? They all assured me I was good, and they were right. I've got to start cutting the garmin umbilical cord - pronto!!!

     8.  Slow Is The New Fast:  This is my new mantra. Sometimes, at the expense of a good/fun run, I try to run fast(er than I should). I had my slowest, yet, best race Saturday night. Yes, for me, slow is the new fast. I can live with that.  
Although, my trail running road of self discovery continues, I've learned some valuable lessons already. My mind is open and ready to learn some more...