Monday, October 29, 2012

Cactus Rose 100 ~ Through My Eyes

...about 12 of us drove up for the Bandera party this past weekend.

Driving up on Friday, I was really nervous: it was cold and pouring in San Antonio. I could already envision running cold, wet and miserable. I'm a pretty wimpy runner when it comes to running conditions, I'll admit. Surprisingly, it was not like that once we got to Bandera. It was cold, but no rain.

We drove around to the aid stations and dropped off our drop bags with goodies. I had tried to remember every single thing I've ever craved during one of our trail adventures. Plus, my bins had been ready for several days in my living room, and I'd fought the urge to get into them the days leading to the race (Note to self:  having bins full of junk food in my living room is not a good idea).

The course would consist of four 25 mile loops - finish a loop and start the next one in the same direction you just finished. My biggest concern (from looking at the course map/elevation): the 1st /3rd loops would end with a really hilly and rough 8 miles section, and the next loop would start with this same stretch. So basically, it'd be a tough 16 mile stretch. Doubt had been creeping in all week: did I train enough? Did I train hard enough? Did I taper too much? Did I eat right?

Loop 1:     I started a little faster than I would have liked, but I blame it on the excitement, adrenaline & seeing so many awesome runners that I hadn't run into in a while. I spent the latter part of this loop taking pictures and taking in the sights. I teamed up with Frank Sizemore most of this loop, and i was able to run the flats and walk the uphills with him as we discussed who was the biggest running nerd. Surprisingly, I finished this loop in 6:15. I was really happy w/ that because I was expecting to finish it between 8-9 hours. "It's just extra time I have to play with" I kept telling myself.

I got into the lodge and had a pretty nice breakfast. I may have overdone it, actually, but I was so hungry.

...and off I went for another round.

Loop 2:     Frank and me had agreed to meet to start the 2nd loop together, but it was kinda hectic and we lost each other. It makes it easier to run with somebody else sometimes, but oh well...gotta keep keeping on. I was also pretty excited that at the end of this loop my pacer, Judy, would be waiting to run with me. I purposely became more conservative this loop. I kept reminding myself that there was still alot of mileage to cover. But I felt really well. I ran/jogged/walked the last 5 miles with David Jacobson. He was also pretty excited that his pacer would be waiting for him. He said he was saving a bit for that ~ good idea.

I got into the lodge and decided to take about a 15 minute break and just relax for a bit.

Loop 3:  The 1st part of the loop seemed to be very runnable, so I wasn't surprised that my pacer took off pretty quickly, but we were all feeling pretty strong, so we kept up. Initially, I did not know what to expect from the CR course, so I wanted Judy to pace me (since I know she is a fast runner) in case I was in danger of missing the 7am loop 4 cut off. (FYI - We were 3 hours ahead of schedule). We ran the next 15 miles pretty well - thanks to her. When we got to the dreaded 8 mile stretch, we took it easy, though. I have to admit that I was worried about ending with those and then starting with those again. We made it back to the lodge at around 3:30am. I had told my pacer that I was going to take my time and wanted to be outta there by 4am.

At this point, my calves were really tight. It made it uncomfortable to climb. Not the time to be feeling that considering what was coming up.

Loop 4:     I told my pacer, Laura, that I thought I'd have to do quite a bit of walking this loop. She said you call it (and THAT's why she's the best). As a result, we spent most of those tough 8 miles at the start joking around and snapping pictures. We ran what we could but fatigue and the need for a nap were creeping in. Around 5am, I started dozing off for split seconds at a time while running. How could I fall asleep for a second while running? I can vouch for it being a possibility.

We made it to Nachos (aid station) where I ate a little and made my 1st mistake: I took off my socks to get some dirt out. What did I see? The gnarliest blister I've ever seen on my toe. It was like my toe had a baby or like my foot had a double toe on the same digit. That was good for some laughs. My pacer thought this was hilarious and began taking pictures of it (which I will spare you from). A couple women at the aid station (whom I assume were waiting for their runner friends saw us off by saying "10 more miles!!!" 10 more and i'll be done!!! Little did I know that these would be the toughest 10 miles I've ever run.

On our way to Equestrian, we crossed a road and ran into Judy (who had paced me from 50-75) along with a couple other friends of ours who said they'd be waiting at the finish line. This was a morale booster. I'm almost there.

We ran/jogged to Equestrian, and I had told Laura that I just wanted to fill up my handheld with water and take off immediately. By this point, I just wanted to finish. I knew that I'd just have 1 more climb, lucky peak, to do before it was over. I had a really difficult time doing this. My calves were killing me at this point, but I was sooooo close.

With a few miles to go, Nancy Marks, passed me and gave me a hug and a pair of shoelaces with some metal buttons that said "ULTRA" and "100M." She said she'd meet me at the finish line (and she did). Her positive and cheery personality is contagious. As she passed me she said "Make sure you take the wannabe out of your blog title!!!"

With less than a mile to go, I told my pacer to go on up ahead. I'd get there in a second. It was almost as if I needed a little bit of time to comprehend what was happening. I was on the verge of running 100 miles!!! Getting to the finish line and seeing all my friends there, the race director handing me my finisher's belt buckle, was surreal. So many emotions: I wanted to laugh, cry, I'm not sure, really (I remember 1 of my friends asking what I wanted to drink, and I said "a glass of milk." Milk? Really? I musta been delirious.

I wouldn't have been able to complete this race without each of my friends that was there. They all played an important role in this adventure.

What's next for me??? For now, rest. Just rest.

Oh yeah, the only complaint I have is that the sotol tore the awesome running sweater that came in our goodie bag...damn, you sotol!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sometimes Giving Is Better Than Receiving

I officially went into "taper-mode" last week. For me, that means taking it easy and no racing these 2 weeks prior to my race, CR100.

So when my buddy, Carlos, had his Hvergelmir Trail 1/2 Marathon coming up this past weekend, I was torn:  to run or not to run. Of course, when this choice comes up, I always choose, run, but not this time. So, I decided to do the next best thing: man an aid station.

I'd be set up at an aid station at around mile 9 with another buddy of mine, David, and we were there early to set up the water, gatorade, cokes, pretzels, oreos and most cowbell.

My plan was to ring the heck out of that cowbell, and I did. Several runners would later tell me that they could hear the cowbell for miles. I just love the sound of the cowbell and, as it turns out, others do too.

There I was: on the other side of the aid station. Giving instead of receiving aid. It was a different but enjoyable experience. It was a blast to encourage runners and see to their needs (as opposed to the other way around).

It was a brand new perspective - especially if you've required as much assistance as I have at aid stations. I just did what I've seen countless others do during races I've run.

Volunteering at races rocks!!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Government Canyon/Nothing's Easy 50K (pseudo) Race Report

Yesterday, I ran the Nothing's Easy 50k at Government Canyon State Natural Area in San Antonio, TX. I'd never been out there before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Well, it's a beautiful park. I need to make it out there more often to do some of my runs.

I was a little concerned about the weather, especially, when I got in my car at 5:30am and the temperature read 77 degrees. Luckily, the sun didn't come out until after I was done, but it was very humid. A sporadic cool breeze and light drizzle at 1 point helped make it a bit more bearable.

My primary goal was to finish and not get hurt since I've got a 100 mile trail race, Cactus Rose, coming up in less than 2 weeks. This was to be my last significant long run before the dreaded taper is set to begin.

Did I finish unhurt? Yes. I fell once. I'm kinda embarrassed that it was during the first 1/2 mile. One of my friends told me "You're good, nobody saw you." Hahaha!!! Another friend of mine said "At least you got it out of the way early." No harm done - just got a little muddy and a little scrape up on my elbow. Goal accomplished...sort of.

Usually, during most of my ultra races, I end up taking a little too long at the aid stations. Prior to the race, I had told myself that I would not spend more than 2 minutes at each aid station. I did better than that: I spent :45 seconds at each station. Goal accomplished.

I also wanted to run a consistent pace throughout the race. Really, my goal was to run a negative split, but I ran the 2nd loop 13 minutes slower. It's cool. I'll take it. Goal (semi) accomplished.

One of the things I need to continue to work on is picking up my feet when I am tired. Towards the latter part of the race, I kept kicking rocks. I'm telling you, this is PAINFUL. At one point, I was actually having a conversation with myself: "Pick up your friggin' feet, dude!!!" Immediately, after 1 of these conversations, POOM, I kicked another rock. As the pain shot through my foot and my toes were throbbing, it occurred to me...I won't even listen to myself. Luckily, there was nobody around to overhear this convo.

Overall, it was a very runnable course. There was a little stretch (of what seemed like a couple of miles) where I had to walk the uphills. My 1st instinct was to run up it, but I was able to make myself walk. I'll conserve energy, I kept telling myself.

I was able to finish safely and, in the process, improve my 50k PR by 35 minutes.

As I crossed the finish line, 1 of the volunteers told me I'd finished 8th overall and 1st master's division. "Masters? I thought 50+ was masters, and I'm 44." As she handed me my prize, a $100 gift certificate, said "Nevermind."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Who Let The Dogs Out???

Really, there are only 2 things that scare me when I'm out running: dogs and careless drivers. There are other hazards out there, but those are the main ones that I stress over.

One of my good running friends runs with a can of mace. She's only had to use it once because most of the dogs we've come across are all bark and no bite (no pun intended), but she has used the mace once that I recall: on a pretty brave and charging chihuahua. Don't let the size fool ya. Another friend refers to these small dogs as armpit terrorists. The mace was effective. Poor dog didn't know what hit him.

Yesterday, we were running in the middle of nowhere along a canal/levee when, my friend said "Are those figures over there coming this way?" It was about 1/2 mile away, so I really couldn't see that far. The closer we got to the "figures" we could make out 2 people and what we thought might be a dog. It took us several minutes to get there, but our fear was about to come true.

The debate during this time was on whether it was on a leash or not. Yes. No. Maybe. Finally, who knows. When we finally were about 20 feet away, we realized 2 things: it wasn't leashed AND it was a pitbull. Nothing against pitbulls, but, I must admit, it was a menacing looking dog.

As we carefully walked towards (and past) the couple, the dog walked towards us also. We immediately came to a halt, and the owner said, "He doesn't bite." Thanks for that info, but it doesn't make me feel any better. I don't go up to dogs period, and I really don't like it when dogs come up to me - leashed or unleashed.

To me, when I am running, a dog is a dog is a dog. I like to joke that dogs chasing me during my runs help me work on my speed, but it's no joke - I don't like it. Keep your dogs leashed...

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Tale Of 2 Runs...

It's funny how almost the exact same run/distance on consecutive days can feel so differently. This happened to me this weekend when I did my back to back long runs, but I blame the weather...mostly.

I ran 22 miles this past Saturday. The short of it: I struggled...big time. We started at 5am, but it was really humid. I kept looking for the breeze that never came. Plus, my friends started a little faster than I am used to. Judging from their pace I could tell it was going to be a long (pun intended) morning and we were.

Despite of the crappy run, I felt really good and rested the rest of the day. Definitely, a good sign since I was planning on running 20 the next morning.

Sunday was a different story. It was mild ~ almost cold. I even considered a long sleeve shirt for a second...just for a second before I decided to enjoy the morning coolness in a short sleeve shirt. We ran 20 miles, and it was cool the entire morning. There was almost no humidity, and, at times, when the breeze hit me, I even got cold. It was such a different morning run that we finished almost the same distance in almost an hour less time.

Yep, the weather'll make or break my runs.

I'd classify my performances during the majority of the running/racing I did this summer as pretty lousy, and I blame the heat. I've decided that, perhaps, I'm just not cut out for summer heat running, but I live in South Texas, so what can I do about it?

I've done 2 long runs in mild or cooler weather very recently. Today's run of 20 miles and last week's run of 34 miles. I felt great during these 2 runs. No issues at all. None. I changed nothing ~ did everything the same I did during the summer. According to my unscientific experiment, it must be the heat.

Of course, the bad thing about this is that I will be expecting more from myself, now that the weather will be better. More pressure...