Friday, October 23, 2015

The Friday Five - Five Things I'm Loving

It's a nice, rainy (monsoonish) day where I of those days where it'd be great to 
just nap and watch Lifetime movies all day!

I liked up with the DC trifecta again for the Friday Five - the things I'm loving right now (besides the givens: my family, pets and friends!).

1.  Ultramarathoning/Trail Running

Having come from Minnesota, where my outdoor quality of life was pretty much a 10 out of 10, Texas always seemed very low in that area.  Having discovered that there are some really amazing trails, hidden gems really, has increased my outdoor quality of life in Texas quotient A LOT.

One of my favorite trails, pretty much right outside my door!

This is in Texas!
I can't seem to get enough of trail running/races right now.  I've spent the last two months dreaming about all of the trail races I'd like to do someday.  The Rough Creek race gave me the added confidence boost I needed to consider some significantly more challenging races.  I can't wait to see what pans out.

2. Fridays Off (for now)

I magically worked out a schedule with UHC that allows me to work 10 hour days, 4 days a week.  I kept that schedule this summer (except with no days off really), but was fortunate enough to continue it so I could catch up on some things before I start my clinical rotation again in December.  It's a day off to do all of the things that I won't have time to do for the next 9 months.

3. 34 days until Thanksgiving

ok...maybe not quite yet, but SOON!
I adore the fall holidays, but the one that takes that cake (or turkey!) is Thanksgiving. I love me some Christmas, but I love that Thanksgiving is, for the most part, stress free.  There are no presents, no elf on the shelf antics, no over the top lights to put on the tree (guilty)...just really amazing food and family.  It's no secret in my circle that I LOVE cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  It's the best meal I make all year and I am very proud of that.  My mom taught me how to make my turkey extra tasty and I can give Martha Stewart a run for her money with my pie making skills.

Pumpkin Pie - for reals.

4. Audio Books and Podcast

Once someone who only listened to music while I was working out/running, I have become a big fan of someone else doing the talking.  I've been listening to audio books during my ultras and I love that I can actually finish the entire book at one time.  So far my favorites have been A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson - I wanted to "read" the book before I saw the movie) and Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me.  I LOVE 'Another Mother Runner' podcast.

At this point, I have listened to them ALL and have to wait each week for the new one to come out.  I feel like I'm having a chat with my girlfriends.  There is a lot of random laughing!

5. Cats

I guess the cat (pun intended) is pretty much getting out of the bag.  We are officially crazy cat people.  What started out as getting a pal for Khleo (our girl cat) led to the tragedy this summer, then to us collecting cats.  Apparently, it took many cats to fill Tyrion's place.  We started with Batman (aka Fatman, Bear) who we got after we got back from Mexico this summer and added Charlie Brown to the mix in early September.  Historically a "dog" person, I never thought I could be swayed to have cats.  Especially a small herd of them, but here we are!  Four cats later...

Kitties in a basket!

Charlie to the left, Batman to the right.  These two are rarely far from each other.

What are you loving right now?

Thanks to Courtney @Eat, Pray, Run DC, Mar @ Mar on the Run and Cynthia @You Signed Up For What? for the Friday Five Link-Up!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Tale of the Trail That Almost Beat Me - Rough Creek 40 miler

Rough Creek was the 4th installment of the "High Five" challenge series from Endurance Buzz Adventures.  To say this was a challenge would be something short of a lie.  It was a feat.

Up until this point, somewhere around 35-36 miles had been my longest run (because I got lost at a 56k-my first ultra).  While four extra miles doesn't seem like much, it was.  Had it been flat, it'd probably have been no problem, but damn.  The hills.  Hills, small mountains, inclines, what have you.  There was about over 4k of elevation gain total that day.

My friend Aimee and I set off for Glen Rose, the small town near the race was held, Friday night.   When we pulled into town we did a little carb loading at the very first drive through pizza parlor we'd ever been to!  We stayed at the highly acclaimed Glen Rose Inn (please don't ever, ever, ever stay there) with the promise of an "upgraded" room!  We can laugh about this now, but we may or may not have all been a little nervous.

We prepared our wardrobes for the next day...I had 4.  Over prepare much?

5:30am came fast and we were up and ready to hit the road a little after 6.  We dropped our bags, got our numbers, slathered up with sunscreen and prepared for the task at hand after some pre-race instructions.

I'm not even sure I had time to let the fact that I was running forty miles sink in.  I waited a minute or two and let the rest of the 40 milers and marathoners to head out so I could have some space and off I went.  Dave, the race director, who is an amazingly outstanding at what he does, ran me out with some detailed instructions about which way NOT to go.  I seriously appreciated that!  Thanks Dave!

The first few miles of the trail were nice.  I kept up a nice 11-12 min/mile pace, knowing that I needed to knock out a really good first loop in order to keep time and avoid the cut offs later in the day.  The sun had started to rise by now, but it stayed fairly cool for the first hour or so.

It was a *really* beautiful sunrise!
I hit the first aide station just before mile 3, rested for just a minute or two, and set back out, knowing "fun" was just around the corner.

The Rusty Crown, as it was aptly coined, is a series of about 18 steep climbs and descents.  Usually you can almost count on making up time on downhills on the trails, except here.  The descents were nearly as dicey as the inclines and the Rusty Crown portion of the race started with a terrifying downhill slide.

This. Way, Terrifying.
The first set of hills passed quickly.  I was onto the "Bowl" portion.  The Bowl was a relatively flatish area of trail between the jewels of the rusty crown.  It was another nice opportunity to make up time.  I hit the second aide station at the half way point of the first loop (around 6.5), wasted no time and kept forging, having no idea of what was next.  The climbs started again.  One after the other, some were two parters and the others just one straight shot up.  And then there was this.

I used to compare every hill to the ones I ran in San Francisco a few years ago.  Now I will compare them to this.  A seemingly vertical wall of doom lovingly coined "the soul crusher", "bend over and take it" and a few other nice words.  It was beastly.  Towards the top, the only way to make progress was to literally climb using your hands.  It seemed to take forever.  Not only was this not the last hill of the back end of the rusty crown, it was the middle, with several more tedious climbs and descents that followed.  Finally, hope was in sight.  The aide station that was just a little under than 3 miles from the staging area.  I took a little extra time there this time, knowing I was right on my schedule that I had set for myself.  I ate a little, chatted and felt refreshed.

Some pretty trail on the way back to the staging area.
Back to the start.  I kept good time on the return and easily made my goal of 3:30 for the first loop (about 13.4 miles).

Before I started the day, I thought about what I wanted my goals to be for the day.

I knew that I didn't want to miss the time cut-off.  I didn't want to fall.  I only wanted to finish.

I knew I'd make time if I spent 3.5 hours on the first loop, 4.5 on the second and 5.5 on the last.  The course closed after 13.5 hours.  This had been a goal race of mine for over a year and this would be the last year that this would be part of the EBA adventures. It would be my only chance at it.

I changed my shoes and socks before I started my second loop.  Chatted with my trail angel/friend Aimee, who helped me get my things in order.  She had completed her 10k portion strong.  I was so proud of her.  She has been at all of the EBA races as well this year and will collect her bell in December too!

I headed out for my second loop a little more conservatively than my first.  It helped knowing where all of the difficult parts were, but at the same time, I knew where all of the difficult parts were.  By this time, a couple of tiny little blisters that I had gotten from an unfortunate shoe choice the day before were starting to cause some problems on my left foot.  The band-aide I had applied to my little toe just wasn't cutting it.  I spent a little more time than I wanted at the first aide station on the course tending to my foot.  New band-aides, a little nutrition, and a little rest felt good.

My feet really hurt, but at least I was still smiling. 
I left the aide station and realized that now it was starting to get hot.  The sun was much higher and hotter than it was during the first loop, but there were some looming clouds in the distance that promised some rain.  The second go round of the rusty crown proved much more difficult than the first.  I think it was at some point on the soul crusher during this lap I decided this would be it.  I didn't want to see this hill ever again.  I was going to call it.  By the time I had gotten to the aide station where I'd stopped for my band-aids (the one closest to the start), I had kind of sealed the deal in my head.  I told my volunteer friends of my plans and they told me I couldn't do it.  Meaning, I couldn't throw in the towel now...that I'd be back.  I told them I wasn't sure and set back out.  Somewhere between there and the staging area where I was headed back to, the bottoms of my feet had started to burn like nothing else I'd even experienced.  I had no idea what was going on down there and part of me didn't want to know.  My socks and shoes had been soaked most of the race so far, from ice I'd had down my shirt and sweat (ew!).  Blisters.  I knew I had a fresh pair of shoes and socks (and clothes, because four changes of outfits) to put on back at the start and I was looking forward to that. But wait, wasn't I quitting?

At the top of a random hill. One of a seemingly 100 hills.
Somewhere between the aide station and the last three miles to the start/finish area, I had decided that I didn't come out here to quit.  I came out to finish.  I'd worked really hard over the last month and a half to do this.  I don't quit.  My friend Royce (who ran the marathon distance - 2 loops) told me a few days prior to the race that finishing out here was winning.  I wanted to win.

This was a sign.  A tiny purple pineapple. 
Aimee greeted me again and proved herself a forever worthy friend.  She took care of my sad looking feet.  I had dry clothes again and it felt good.  I made my time again on this loop (4:20 on this one) and tried to spend as little time at the staging area as I needed to.  Getting my feet straight took a long time, but it was worth it.

Just as I headed out on my last, and final, lap.  That promising rain?  It came.  It started out as a drizzle and picked up quickly.  What looked good earlier, was now becoming a pain in the a$$.  It was creating a mud pit of a course and I was back in the same place where I had ended the last loop, with wet shoes and socks.  By now, the bottoms of my feet were on fire.  All I kept thinking was, just keep moving forward.  I walked most of the last loop, but I did it quickly.  In the flattish parts, I was walking probably faster than I would have been running, around 14:30-15min/miles, with the exception of the steep climbs.  I got to the first aide station, the one where I'd told them I was quitting, and they all laughed and told me they knew I'd be back.  I only stayed a couple of minutes, but wanted to stay longer to get out of the rain, because I knew I had to keep pressing on in order to not get cut off.  Somewhere before the second aide station, I was greeted by the sweeper.  I was a little confused at first, worried that I hadn't made time and was getting cut off.  Instead, it was a sweeper who made sure that the last runner would make it in safely.  Relieved.

We chatted for awhile, but honestly, all I wanted to do was stay in my own head.  Sometimes having someone to talk to is helpful, it takes your mind off the task at hand, but this was kind of the opposite.  I needed to stay present and get this thing done.  The conversation became kind of strange, so I quickly started my audible book that I had been listening to, 'A Walk in the Woods' (appropriate, right?) and tried to immerse myself into that.  By the time I got to the second aide station, I wanted to rip off my feet, they hurt so badly.  Luckily, they had some athletic tape that I wrapped my feet in, which helped. What should be the EBA volunteer of the year, the race director of another local trail race, Cross Timbers, mentioned that she had an extra pair of socks in her truck and insisted that I take them (they were clean, btw).  This woman had no idea how she saved my day.  Those socks felt like heaven.  I had a little extra spring in my step now and was hell bent on getting to the finish line.  I changed my book to music and forged on.  I knew I had a mile or two of semi-flatness, the second half of the rusty crown, unfortunately the most difficult part, and then 2.8 miles into the finish.  My all of my calculations at this point, I had about 45 minutes of cushion to get to the finish, although the sweeper kept reminding me otherwise (incorrectly).  The sweeper had lots of energy because he had only run about 9 miles up until this point.  I had run 36.  Our exertion levels were a little different.  While this was starting to play with my mind, I knew I had to stay positive.

The sun setting was pretty too!
I got to the rusty crown and just stood there for a minute or two, took some deep breaths and took off on, what felt like, my death march.  At this point, everything hurt, but I had to ignore the pain.  I would take 30 steps up and rest for 30 seconds, 30 steps, 30 seconds.  It was the best way I could think of to get it done.  By the time I got to the soul crusher, I thought it would pretty much kill me, but I did it.  Once again, the hills never ended.  Because it had been so hot, and I did a very poor job of maintaining my nutrition and hydration for the past 11 hours, I became very ill on the soul crusher.  I had to stop and vomit several times.  Lucky for me, one of my favorite running mantras is:

I got through the steep climbs, I got through the aide station (which I almost burst into tears when I saw it).  I was on my way in.  I picked up my pace as much as I could without actually running and with a big ol' smile on my face crossed the finish line of the Rough Creek 40 miler.  My time?
12:44:46.  45 minutes to spare.

I was amazed at the number of people who had stuck around to see the last person (me) cross the finish.  I was cheered in just like the first place finished probably was (except maybe a few less people).

One of my goals that I made for myself was to never be last.  I was last.  Yet I didn't look at it that way.  In a field of 38 runners, 11  were pulled from the course because of time cut offs or because they didn't/couldn't continue.  I was not one of those people.

Interestingly enough, this was a race where you are rewarded for being last.  I was honored. I won.

I quickly changed my clothes and Aimee and I headed home.  It was a long ride (probably longer for her) as I got sick several times on the way home.  I was sunburned, dehydrated, sore and just plain tired.  I rested my eyes for a bit and that really helped.

What was recovery like?  Surprisingly not bad at all!  I felt pretty good the next day with the exception of my feet.  They were a hot mess.  I had a really sore toenail, which I will probably end up losing and blisters all over the bottoms of my feet (I've never gotten blisters in all of the years I have been running). I went out running 2 days later and was back to piling on the miles by the end of the week.

Where did I go wrong with my nutrition and hydration?  Easy.  Not enough.  I didn't take in nearly the calories I'd needed for 12+ hours of pretty strenuous activity, despite that fact that the aide stations are like carb/salt buffets.  I took in a few chips and sometimes a cookie at the aide station and always a glass or two of coke (which is what I think made me sick).  I took Endurolytes at every aide station, plenty of water and then salt stick tabs every couple of hours, but because of the heat, it just wasn't enough.  I need to work on this for my next race.  It's scaring me.

I am almost relieved that this was the last year of the Rough Creek adventure.  It was really cool and such an amazing race, but I'd be so tempted to go back and try to get revenge on that course if I had the opportunity.

Ultra #3, a distance PR, was in the books.

Next up....Palo Duro Canyon 50k!