Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Bother with 2012 Goals Right Now

I love making goals, I'm goal-oriented, I'm driven by my goals, I don't think goals are rigid and are a moveable, adaptable target, I've even written about running goal-setting in a Texas running magazine. I'm all about goals.

I started 2011 with a 1 month old baby and a fresh bright-red C-section incision scar and 2 weeks of recovery to go. I didn't really make many goals because I didn't really know what to expect when I got running again. I had an amazing running year, but my goals and achievements grew organically as I was learning how my body was going to act this year.

Now I go into 2012 in the exact same place. No fun with another year of not being able to make many goals. I've been light on my running, as planned, in December, as I prepare to direct a large race event this New Year's weekend. I've started with a new trainer who is helping correct many of my biomechanical dysfunctions by strengthening, stretching, and adapting different muscular groups. Let's put it this way: I now have butt muscles. Never did before! And I will be starting 2012 with sinus surgery, postponed a month due to race production demands, on January 5th.

The doctor has said 2 weeks of no workouts of any kind. Then, as an athlete, he doesn't think I'll feel fantastic until at least 4-6 weeks post-surgery.

So yes, goals are on hold. I'm deferring my awesome 1-of-only-250 race entry into late March's Gorge Waterfalls 50K, I had to cancel pacing Derek at Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile in February, and I'm slightly on hold as a runner right now.

I have some thoughts brewing on some fun race plans for May and onward. And still plan some races in March and April that are regular parts of my spring schedule. But let's just see how January and February treat me. Then we can revisit this whole goal thing.

And yes, I'm beyond swamped preparing for Saturday and Sunday's New Years Double races, but I thought it was a priority to get my burning thoughts down on paper, so I prioritize the 5 minutes it took to ramble here. ;-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Body Composition Changing for the Better

About 6 weeks since my last body fat check, Donnie (my new trainer) and I did a check on Saturday. Since each trainer can do it slightly different on a 7-site skinfold caliper method of body composition testing, we expected we could see a small amount of difference so we're considering this a baseline for future measurements.

Happily, the number was LESS! I went from 22.0% to 20.7%! I'd lost 2 pounds too.

To put it in perspective, since I started strength training 3 hours a week in mid-May, I've lost TWENTY, 20, TWENTY!!!!!!! pounds of JUST body fat, and GAINED 7 pounds in just lean muscle mass and blood volume! That's just crazy to think about. It's like taking my 1 year old baby girl and turning her into just squishy fat ball (but same weight) and I've lost that. Okay, that was kind of gross, but a good visualization for me of what kind of heft 20 pounds is!

Ironically, while the gym's standard report says 19.1% is the low end of optimal (so I'm on the low end of their optimal range with still another 1.6% to go to hit the edge), my BMI is still on that edge between normal and overweight. For the purposes of post-meal, having clothes and shoes on weighing in, I'm still 159 pounds.  I'm a solid Athena (over 150 pounds) in the race weight divisions. And that's perfectly fine with me. This is why the number on the scale specifically isn't important. It's if it moves up or down that I concentrate on.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Good Day in Race Directing

I've had a rough few weeks - it's mile 24 of this race directing marathon metaphor. Everyone has these times where it all just feels too much, it's all so overwhelming.

But today was a good day. After 3 days sick, I woke up feeling better today. After a couple days of routine pre-race crises (yes, each really is a behind-the-scenes crisis, I'm not being melodramatic on that wording, but every race has them in the weeks leading up), today was a good day.

I had a crucial vendor that was stressing me out because I couldn't get the fellow to communicate, call back in a timely fashion, get the equipment committed. I got a new contact today and an immediate callback to the voicemail I left. Oh, so things should go smoothly sometimes? Wow, awesome!

I was able to get an announcement out to race participants that I'd been working on for the last month. What started as a "Hey, wouldn't this be cool?" email to a company turned into a partnership for giving something really fun back to all the registered runners. And it was so fun to see the surprised reaction from everyone to the news, and the excitement. Their excitement gets more even more excited for race weekend!

I got more progress on another offering for the runners I've been working on. One more piece to fall into place, and I can't wait to be able to announce it too.

Then, dinner out at Gloria's with the family. A rare moment where I wasn't so stressing out that I couldn't enjoy it.

Finally, a hard workout - 1 hour of strength training with my trainer. Rocked the 3 one-legged squat sets in between alternating legs 90 lbs each on the leg press machine. Felt strong!

So the bad days do come with a balancing out with good days! I needed that reminder after recent days. It was SUCH a good day!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Friend's Analogy of Race Directing to Running a Marathon

I called a friend of mine yesterday about the meltdowns I'm having right now with the race in 17 days. Even when we do something we love, some days just suck and I had vented about that yesterday.

So this friend had the best analogy. She said that the process of directing a race is like personally running a marathon.

My Finish Line: Race day, the happy runners, the smiles at the finish line.
Mile 1: Setting this race in motion for this year.
Mile 6: Wow, this is really real. Completely the feeling when I pulled the trigger on announcing the race and opening registration. In a marathon, around mile 6 is when I have the "I'm really doing this?!?" moment.

And right now, I'm at mile 24. And life sucks at mile 24. Even when you're prepared, which I know I am, in that moment of the race, you don't often feel very prepared for those final miles, and even if you're prepared, it hurts anyway.

You have your breakdowns that can happen at mile 24 of your marathon. Where you just need to cry sometimes. It doesn't mean you won't get to the finish line. And there's nothing wrong with having that breakdown. I shouldn't let anyone fault me for having the breakdown, because I'm human.

At mile 24, you aren't sure you want to run a marathon again. Why would you do this again? It's hard, it can be painful. It was an awful lot of work. Of course, most of us after the marathon sign up for another. So it's how we felt in the moment, not how we felt overall about the experience.

So right now, while life is a little rough, and I feel fragile like one more thing out of perfect position will shatter me, I remember that there's just 2 more miles to that finish line. And that feeling at the finish line is awesome.

So "Dear Diary", yeah, mile 24 is kinda not fun right now, and I need to not worry about anyone who feels I have no right to talk about that feeling. This is my blog, my party, I'll cry if I want to. And voicing those thoughts and getting them out into real words versus ucky undefined feelings, is what got me to a place where this friend could offer up the "race directing is like running a marathon" analogy. And it was so helpful I had to write it down. I'm sure I'll be referring to this again at future races I work on!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Dirty Side of Race Directing

I should start by saying I leave myself very vulnerable when I taught about my experiences race directing. A race director friend thinks runners don't want to know, and if they know, they don't care. I don't find that to be the case. I think once you've seen a glimpse of the other side, behind the curtain, your perspective changes mightily. This is just my reality, every race and every race director is living a different one. But I'm always open, you always know where you stand with me, and this terrible honesty is endearing to some and a moment for attack by others. There's the disclaimers, do what you want with it.

So beginning of last week, I saw the ENT doctor who told me I indeed needed sinus surgery. My sinuses are completely inflamed and closed up and we had tried a strong cocktail of antibiotics and steroids, 5 times a day, for the last month to see if any of it could be fixed or if surgery was the only option.  It didn't work. And I'd run two 50Ks through these medical issues too.

The part that sucks, but it's reality, is that I couldn't have surgery immediately because there is no one to take my place as a race director for the New Years Double. There are too many details to pass along and there's too much work to do if I'm sidelined for a short time. And that's if the surgery went well - what would happen if the surgery didn't go that well for my recovery time?

So January 5th I'll have sinus surgery, putting it off a whole month because of this race. I'd like to say the decision was easy - but I'll be honest, it wasn't.  In the meantime, more drugs to manage it until we can get me in the operating room. And now I've come down with a cold - which wouldn't normally knock me on my butt, but when you can't breathe through your face and your sinuses are already full and painful, it's completely sidelined me.

A friend who is a race director says runners don't care. They don't want to know what's behind-the-scenes, they just want to go race. And they don't know or care that there are these moments as a race director where you have to choose... Me or Them. And race directors typically choose THEM. I co-directed a 4,000 person half marathon, and was at a race site for 8 hours, just 2 weeks after my first daughter was born. We want people to have a good experience.

And for all this, most of us are NOT doing this as a business. And it's funny because I'm coming to realize over the years the biggest incorrect assumptions runners have made...
a) Someone is getting rich off of every race that's over 200 people or an entry fee over $20,
b) There's a large race committee behind every race who all feel equally accountable and will give up their sleep and personal health
c) That the standards for all races should be the same

A race director friend had someone come up and tell her I must be making so much money off the New Years Double because they multiplied the half marathon current entry fee times the sold out entries. So first you aren't even taking into account 5Kers in the mix, coupon codes, early registration fees. But the part most runners have no idea is that every little piece of a race costs more than you will every think.

For the New Years Double...
  • Those little plastic pieces with your race number on it that you pin to yourself and many throw away after? $600.
  • Those silver heat-retaining thin metallic-y blankets a half marathoner or full marathoner will get thrown over them at the finish line? $1000.
  • Just two tents at the race site? $3,000.
So all that money coming in, it doesn't line anyone's pocket. A lot of it goes right back out the door to pay bills, and then money goes to the beneficiary. And yes, if for being solely responsible and sacrificing my own health choices and working 1,000 hours on an event, if I want to get $1.84 per hour, I should be able to do that without justifying it to the world. It's doable to be all-volunteer for a 300 person 5K that's been in the same logistical set-up for the last 10 years. But new events, large events, and events bigger than a 5K, take hours of preparation people never see.

And why would you expect the same of a small charity event that you expect from a national conglomerate that has a staff of 40 producing a near-similar event in 20 different venues each year? That constantly surprises me.

But these are the days, when I feel awful and sick, that you wonder why you don't raise the entry fee $15 per person, sacrifice quality to make it 4000 runners instead of 2000 on a 12 foot wide trail, and get paid big bucks for the sacrifice. Especially when everyone already thinks you're rolling in dough from working 1,000 hours, and intense hours near race day, working on an event anyway. When 4% of the runners will hate anything you do, because that's just their own unhappiness or them imposing their own expectations on you.  When something's going to go wrong behind-the-scenes race week that will stress you to the point that hair falls out - it happens with every single race. But my heart, and my gut, know that's not the intention. I do this because it's my passion, it's my give-back to the sport I love, it's worth every smile at the finish line.

And as I blow my nose and work with the portalet guy this morning on set-up/teardown hours and exact potty locations, it's that visualization of happy runners achieving their goals that keeps me pushing forward.

Update: As someone pointed out, yes, I chose to start volunteering and hten race directing. But as with anything, some days still suck. Why should I talk only about the fun awesome days in this "Dear Diary" that is my blog?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

1,000 Miles Since Having a Baby, and a New 5K Personal Best

I thought I was going to take 5 or so days off running and strength training - no work outs of any kind - because I'd been feeling overdone and overtrained since not taking a break just after my first two 50k races just two weeks apart.
But today's Sophie's birthday. She turned 1 year old today. A year ago I had a C-section and our second daughter was born. I am extremely blessed.

But as I've also talked occasionally on the chronic medical condition I face each day with, my health is a constant aspect of this life that I focus on and celebrate. And so I realized tonight that if I ran 1.6 miles, I would hit 1,000 miles for the year. But with the date that Sophie was born, and the fact that I then had to sit out 6 weeks of mandatory C-section recovery, that means I could also hit 1,000 miles in the 1 year since having a baby!!!
So why is 1,000 miles in 2012, and 1,000 miles a year after childbirth a big deal to me? I didn't count miles run before 2009 but in 2009 I ran 457 miles. In 2010, while pregnant, I logged 426 miles + a lot of miles on the elliptical thanks to the pregnancy. So with one month left in the year, and having sat out the first 2 weeks of the year, I'm already over double my biggest previous year!
This has been a great running year for me, and I am thankful every day for that. And I recognize how hard I had to push myself this year to come back from the harshness your body endures physically and hormonally through pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum, and I look like darling Sophie and see how worth it the fight has been, especially knowing that for the things within my control, I'm giving myself a larger chance of being around for a LOT of her birthdays.
SIDENOTE: I also had an amazing run. Instead of 1.6 miles, after a 1/4 mile slow run warmup, I changed my run posture a little based on a general physiological observation my new trainer had made about me yesterday. And all of a sudden, the speed came from nowhere. I did a personal best in the 5K on this training run, took 49 seconds off my previous best to bring me to 31:09!!! Hmm, might need to run a 5K race this month to see if I can reproduce this and make the PR official!!!

Scary AND Excited at 2012 Race Plans Firming Up

Part of the plans I've already made for 2012 scares me... and yet I'm SO excited.

Two things from yesterday:

1. Gorge Waterfalls 50K - Hood River, Oregon.

After friend Jennifer posted a picture of this gorgeous race on Facebook, I couldn't get it out of my head. I looked at their website and was instantly enamored. I'm not a fast runner, I'm not trying to get a high placing at a race, but I love being out on the trails and how that's the best way to see everything it has to offer.

Check this course description from their website:
This is one special course! When I ran it I was constantly being blown away by how many waterfalls there were and by how amazing they were, I literally lost count within the first couple hours. First, at the start, is 282 foot Wahkeena Falls that you run right past before you've even had a chance to get warmed up. You climb from the start gaining 1500ft in the first two miles(don't worry this is the only climb of this magnitude in the race--the others are much less steep and don't gain as much elevation) and pass the otherworldly Fairy Falls. As you start dropping back down towards the valley floor you pass numerous other small falls and cascades as you make your way to the viewing platform at the top of the 620 foot Multnomah Falls(the tallest falls in Oregon and possible the 3rd tallest in the country!). After leaving the viewing platform the course switchbacks it way down the mountain with views of Multnomah falls pouring out from the cliff. At the bottom of the switch backs you've only gone 4 miles but you already seen numerous amazing waterfalls and have had views of the Columbia River Gorge. You're just getting started!
As the route heads east following the Gorge Trail and paralleling the river it continues to show off many of the best aspects of Pacific Northwest trail running. Super fun single track that rises and falls gently(most of the time) as it weaves in and out of creek drainages. The trail is mostly in the forest but every once in a while it pops out into clearings with Moss covered rocks and views of the river. Sometimes it follows a creek sometimes it crosses the creek on fun bridges. There are many more big waterfalls including the 80 foot Ponytail Falls that you run right under and 289 foot Elowah Falls that you'll run so close to the base of you'll get wet from the mist!
Sounds beautiful and memorable, doesn't it? Now the scary parts...

  1. Major Dallas-sized mountain in the first couple miles - it's not the worst mountain, but for a flatlander like me and to put it at the beginning, that's a little scary. We're talking 1200 feet gain in constant switchbacks over a mile. And then back down the mountain.
  2. Infrequent aid stations - From their website: "There will be two full aid stations(mi 10.9 and 20.2) and three water only aid stations(mi 5.5, 15.4 and 25.5)." I've done two 50Ks and never had to go more than 4.5 miles between full aid stations. So this will take some practice especially since I already know I need to work on my 50K nutrition plan.
  3. The weather - temperatures in the 40s and wet, very wet.
  4. 9 hour time limit - this will be tight for me. More speedwork on the trails in my future!
And then the question of can I even go. The video game Steve's producing comes out next year, so it's up in the air what his schedule will be like, and someone has to watch our kids. So there's a solid possibility I won't even be able to go.

But it's worth taking the risk of losing or deferring a $60 entry fee. So when the race opened registration yesterday at 10 am, I was on my computer, punching the keyboard to get in. They had said it could sell out that day, but more likely within a couple weeks. Well I'm glad I went for it because the race sold out within 12 hours!

2. Pacing Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile - Huntsville, Texas.

I'd been planning for a while that I wanted to go to the Rocky Raccoon 50Mile and 100Mile on February 4 to see, cheer, and love on all my frunners (runner friends). And I knew so many first time 50milers and 100milers in that mix too. Quite a few first 100milers. And starting at mile 60, they are allowed pacers.

So then I thought of course I want to help my friends succeed the best they can, I'm a pretty solid consistent pace runner, even though it's a slower than average pace. So I thought that could help someone. Derek's tried a couple 100 milers, and he's a total teddy bear of a guy.

Yesterday I TOLD Derek, yeah, didn't ask, but told him I was going to pace him miles 80 to 100 of the race. He has a multiple 100-miler finisher buddy pacing him miles 60-80 which will be hard to live up to that guy. It's scary to feel responsible for getting someone to the finish line, since you can have your own crappy run day that day. But I know I can do this. Nothing like 20 miles at 3 in the morning through trails and using every skill and strategy in the arsenal to get a fellow frunner to the finish line of his first 100-miler. I can not wait to see Derek succeed at this race!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Different Not Bad... It's Just, Well, Different

Mid-May I finished my first 20 mile run and walked into the gym I had been paying for monthly for 3 years and not going to AT ALL, and said, "I need help." My core muscles were somewhere between weak and non-existent, with just having had a baby 6 months before. And I said, "There are ten weeks until my very first marathon. What do we need to do to make this go well?"

On a recommendation from a friend, I wanted Donnie to be my trainer. Well, we needed to start right away and Donnie was out of the country for another few weeks. So instead, I trained with the head of Personal Training at the gym, Jeff.

Jeff was great at gently working with me on my food, helped me lose 11 pounds and about 8% body fat, and I gained a lot of muscular strength. I was glad I'd ended up with the bigger basketball guy who had run one marathon, Grandma's in a 4:45, and could tell me he thought it was totally hard.

I saw Jeff 3 times a week, almost without fail, those 10 weeks until my first marathon at the San Francisco Marathon. The race did go well with all the running prep I had done and all the strength training prep he and I had worked on together. I had continued religiously to go 3 times a week since then, through now 3 marathons and 2 50Ks in 4 months.

Well, Jeff's moving, and suddenly too. I was excited for him, he's moving back up to Minnesota after 8 years in Texas. But what does it mean for me?

Ironically, I'm back to Donnie, the fellow who was originally recommended to me by a fast runner friend! Tonight was my first session with him, and it was an hour long evaluation of everything that's wrong with me. He described it as a sort of character assassination. He put me through a series of exercises and stretches and watched me run. He took lots of notes AND took the time to explain what he saw, and how it connected to different things I had noticed.

So Donnie's focused on stretching and strength-corrective exercises. He didn't even ask me about my goals in the first session, which is kinda weird. I'm so goal-oriented. But I think this will be good for me. It also gives me hope that I could see some speed come out of these correctons, which is what Jeff believes will happen since he thinks Donnie's very good at this biomechanical evaluation stuff. It appears I'm pretty efficient and doing a decent job with what I have, but what I have is a pile of bones with a series of twisted pieces, "external rotations", "inversions", "eversions", so maybe no wonder I'm almost 1,000 running miles into the year and still never an 8-minute mile in the pile.
... Or maybe we'll do all this, it will let me run an extra 10 years without hip or knee problems, and I'll just always be the speed I am now. Big shrug on that one!

I got home and told hubby about the session. I was a little pouty, and he gave me a big hug. I'm in a couple days mourning period - mourning the loss of a trainer I'd come to love, a routine I was set in and enjoyed, and simply mourning the change in my life before I pick myself up and just move on.

So Donnie's different. And that's not bad, it may well be very very good in the long term. But for now, for me, it's just, well, different.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankfulness - for Family, Health, and Friends

On Thanksgiving, I want to give my thanks. I'm incredibly thankful for my family. I've been blessed to have been with my wonderful husband Steve for 16 1/2 years, for more than half my life at this point! We've had two gorgeous children, Marissa (4 years) and Sophie (1 week from turning 1 year old). My sweet girls.

Sophie and Marissa - October 2011

But I have to give so much thanks for my current state of health. This could seem like a warped emphasis on my running obsession unless you knew that I have fibromyalgia and at one time suffered greatly from the condition. I was basically bedridden, dosed to high heaven on painkillers, and couldn't work even for some time.

So beyond my family, my running and everything it has brought me is what I give a ton of thanks for on this holiday. And especially the health I've worked very hard for since Sophie was born by C-section 51 weeks ago. Here's a review of my running for the last year, with an emphasis on the amazing friends who have been part of it all and the journeys I've taken.

  • I made a ton of new friends, and I'm blessed to some new time seeing some of them every couple weeks.
  • I formed a new running club, North Texas Runners, that has about 130 members.
  • I ran two long-distance 200-mile relay races (Texas Independence Relay and Hood To Coast Relay).
  • I ran my first trail race and then found the addiction to trailrunning (Grasslands, Hells Hills, Chupacabra, Rocky Raccoon, Wild Hare).
  • I ran 5 half marathons (Austin, Dallas Rock N Roll, Grasslands, Big D, North Trail Half) and 2 25Ks (Hells Hills and El Scorcho), bringing my lifetime total to about 30 halfs/25Ks.
  • I ran my first 3 marathons (San Francisco, Kauai, and Chicago)
  • I ran my first 2 50Ks (Rocky Raccoon and Wild Hare).
  • I cheered on my fellow runners (Hottest Half).
Mid-month I was cleared to start running again. 2 weeks later, I discovered that 1 good long run on the last day of the month would tip me over 50 miles on my first 2 weeks back running post-baby. I asked for help, and my friend Michelle answered my call. So thankful for her help in my recovery as we got a long run in on a weekday night in the cold and dark.

I had a 6 week recovery from the C-section, and then I came back to do 25 miles a week right away. I did the Austin Half Marathon 5 weeks after I was back running. I traveled with my friend Elaine and even met twitter friends like Arlyne (@acokertx) on the course!

Elaine and I before the race start

Twitter Love!
MARCH 2011
I organized another team this year for the Texas Independence Relay. 12 ladies, 12 friends, 40 relay legs, 203 miles.
Team Mad-Dames
Sharing a van with 4 other ladies brings some strong bonds of friendship. I forever love Elizabeth, Corina, Shannon, and Elaine!

Next was my first ever trail race at the Grasslands Half Marathon. It was my first race also representing the San Francisco Marathon after I was chosen as one of 15 Ambassadors from across the US. At Grasslands, I stayed the night before with Fawn, a crazy awesome trailrunner and mom whose a role model to me more than she may even know.

I was caught mid-bite of bagel. But Greg and Michelle don't look like they're about to do a trail marathon!

Me, Michelle, and Erik
After surviving the sand at Grasslands, I did the Dallas Rock N Roll Half Marathon the next weekend. A cold race, but I was able to hang out with friend Tracy the last 3 miles, and Elaine afterward.

APRIL 2011
My first trail 25K, Hells Hills, kicked off April with a big road trip of friends down to Bastrop, Texas. This race was an eye-opener and made me officially hooked on trailrunning.
Katie, Me, Dat, Julie, Greg, Corina, Derek, Sarah

Big D Half Marathon was my first half marathon so I ran that one again this year, marking my 5th time to run it. It's a chance to see a ton of runner friends too!

Before running Big D
April 2011 was also the first meeting of a new running club I had formed called the North Texas Runners. Frustrated by so many people I met up in Collin County who loved to run but trained alone because the drive to and from Dallas' White Rock Lake wasn't convenient, I wanted to give people a chance to connect, run together, and informally train for the same goal races.
Kickoff Run for North Texas Runners - April 16, 2011
A trail run later in April with good friends is good for the soul!

Me, Erin, Corina enjoying trails at Lake Grapevine

MAY 2011
I ran the North Trail Half Marathon and for the first time ever, had miles before and after the race. That's something I thought was previously for crazies, but it's just part of marathon training! Thankful for Lesley running before and after with me so I could do my first 20 mile run.

Late in the month was a run with the Beer & Bagel Group at Lake Grapevine, although it was more bloody marys & breakfast burritos.
Me, Fiona, Corina, Erik, Michelle K, Stacy, Gretchen, Michelle B

JUNE 2011
I turned 31 at the beginning of June and celebrated my own way. Instead of a party, I hosted two runs and invited all my friends, in an attempt to run 31 miles in my birthday weekend. Thankful for all the friends who didn't laugh at the idea and came to help me accomplish it - 20.5 miles Saturday and 10.5 miles Sunday. It was such a good birthday!

Some of Saturday's Run Crew: Robin, Amanda, Marcie, Shannon, Dana, Me, Fiona

Sunday run crew - Me, Mike, Corina
 Later in the month, a long run in Allen with friends.

Catherine, Lesley, Shannon, Me

JULY 2011
I ran my 3rd 25K race at El Scorcho, a midnight race in the Texas heat. It was a hard race for me, my first time to puke on a run, but my spirits weren't shattered. Plus I had shared that evening with so many good friends - thankful for the cheering of friends like Corina, Cassie, Megan, and Marci!

Yay for Tutus! A guy I had just met, Corina, Megan, and Me.
 I ran my first marathon at the San Francisco Marathon! It was a great experience.
With my BEST friend and husband
I then set up a gummy-bear-and-ice cheer station like at the Hottest Half again this year. Shannon and Greg joined me and we had so much fun cheering on the runners and seeing friends.

Shannon, Me, Fiona, Corina, Marci
Later in the month, after recovering from being sick, it was great timing for a group trail run at Erwin Park. 16 hot icky Texas summer miles.

Alicia, Me, Lesley, Shannon, Kristi, Sharon
I finished off August running the Hood To Coast Relay with Bart Yasso on the Runner's World Team. I had won a contest when raising money for the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation to earn a spot on the team. It was an amazing experience at a great race, running in the middle of the night and making new friends!

I had come home from the San Francisco Marathon at the end of July and immediately signed up for one of those marathons I'd always wanted to do: Kauai Marathon. Known for being hilly, hot, and humid, it was also tagged as "beautiful but brutal." I had an amazing time, traveling alone and running this unique marathon. But even when I travel alone, there's always time for friends. Bart was there again and got to see and chat with him, I made new friends Joanna and Jessica, and I even ran into Twitter friend Eva (@evatesq) three miles into the race!
Eva and Me at Mile 3

My third marathon in 70 days! I ran Chicago Marathon, because I had signed up in February when I decided to do San Francisco Marathon because I didn't want to be a one-and-done marathoner. Again, I traveled alone but I'm always with friends. I met up and hung out with Amanda A., Dana, and Amanda H., and got to catch up with SF Marathon fellow ambassador Page over pizza after the race. Running with 44,999 other people is something I will not soon forget.

Dana, Me, Amanda A., Amanda H.

Against my better judgment, I couldn't resist a chance to run with friends and signed up for El Chupacabra, a trail 10K at Rockledge Park in Grapevine in the dark. Luckily, I didn't fall. Unluckily, Shannon did. But I loved getting to run with some of my favorite runner girls.

Catherine, Me, Shannon, Alicia

I started out November running my first trail 50K race at Rocky Raccoon. Just like my first marathon, I had a perfect race day. And I'm still amazed my body could let me run for 8 hours, 20 minutes. I traveled with the best running companions ever with Corina, Alicia, and Fiona, and was able to run with each of them at different times through the 31 miles. But I also got to see friends Fawn and Tony!

Fawn, Me, Kerry, Fiona, Tony, Corina, Alicia
Driving home the day after the Rocky Raccoon, I committed to the crazy plan to run my SECOND 50K two weeks later at the Wild Hare 50K in Warda, Texas. So Alicia and I drove down, meeting Corina and Tracy down there. We were able to see a lot of friends at the race, some came to cheer, some to run, and some I hadn't seen in months and months. My goal was to just survive the 50K, because I knew I wouldn't get to do much distance running or racing the following 6 weeks with preparing for race directing the New Years Double. I ran into trouble around mile 27 but Alicia pulled me through, and the cheers of a dozen friends a half mile from the finish gave me the final push to finish in 8 hours, 45 minutes.

Tracy, Corina, Alicia, and Me
To end
So you see, my running has brought me the health I could never have imagined 10-15 years ago. But it has brought me unforgettable experiences and lifelong friends. For these things, I am thankful on this Thanksgiving Day!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wild Hare 50K Race Report: Rescued by a Banana, Coke, and a Trail Scaredy Cat

After finishing our first 50K two weeks ago at Rocky Raccoon in Huntsville, on the drive home the next day, Alicia (@trailscaredycat) and I excitedly decided to run Wild Hare 50K with travel companion and friend Corina (@UltraMamaC). Okay, it's my fault - I'm the crazy who suggested it.  For me, I already knew end of November and all of December were going to be somewhat of a running hiatus for me. I can't be a fulltime stay-at-home mom to two small children and direct a 2,000-person race weekend like the New Years Double without sacrificing running time for race preparation time. So Wild Hare was one more chance to just do a fun race with friends.

I'm not sure a lot of people realize how much time and effort I put towards my race recoveries. An ice bath directly after Rocky Raccoon 50K and another that night, epsom salt soaks 4 times a week routinely, easy recovery runs and very low miles the last two weeks. I strength train with my personal trainer 3 hours a week. Heavy hydration as part of my routine. And I never skip my weekly tuneup with my sports chiropractor.

So I went into Wild Hare Saturday feeling good. Alicia and I drove down Friday afternoon, Corina and Tracy (25K) drove down later that evening. In bed by 9:45 pm, then giggling and chatting in the dark until about 10:30. I tossed and turned all night, before we got up to alarms at 4:30 am. Yawn.

The race didn't start until 7 am, so the sky was just lighting up enough so that we didn't need any headlamps. Such an energy saver and mental help. We picked up packets about 6:15 am and caught up with friends. I had about 30 friends at this race running or spectating, many of whom I hadn't seen in forever or had never actually met (welcome to the running world thanks to Facebook and Twitter!).

Tracy, Corina, Alicia, and me
We lined up in the horse barn, yes, horse barn, and the 50M folks came running through the stable at the end of their initial 5 mile loop before our gun went off. So it was a great moment to cheer first time 50Milers like Rick and Tony and hug dear sweet Fawn. Then it was our turn, a quick out-and-back one mile then back through the start to begin the 4 loops of the course to bring our final total to 31 miles. Each loop was 7.4 miles.

It was a horrible race day in terms of weather. It was hot and humid, and so muggy with thick low-hanging clouds. 65 degrees at the start with 80% humidity. Humidity never broke but we got up to 80 degrees for the high. I've always said humidity was my kryptonite. I felt like I was breathing heavy air the whole day, making for a feel like there was a weight on my lungs. And had to use my wristband to wipe sweat off my arms and forehead periodically.

Field at the start of each loop. Look at that sky - this was about 9 am.
The Course
We thought we'd heard this was one of the easiest Tejas Trails courses. After having done Hells Hills (a Tejas Trails race) and Rocky Raccoon, I can say that in the first loop, I was kinda all "This is fun", but I hadn't thought about having to redo each terrain feature for FOUR LOOPS. Brutal. Severe hills, elevated bridge, creek drop-ins and -outs, awful switchbacks.

If you had asked me the course in my 3rd or 4th loop, I would have stared at you blankly. But now that I'm coherent again... After 1/2 mile of field around a pond, we would go through the longest 3 miles EVER of winding winding twisty turny wooded trails filled with rocks and roots. One section in there was called "Spaghetti Bends" even.

At mile 3.5, you come out of that to an aid station that's within sight of the finish line, makes it way too easy to DNF at that spot as I later learn. Then it's a small field before entering a major steep switchback on a big benchcut cut into the side of the hill. First, a concrete pour down the steep embankment with a sign "Enter Slowly". Then it's major rolling hills with a cliff a foot to your right, so step carefully.

Then alternating small fields and small woody sections. At mile 4.5, a massive uphill. So hard on the Achilles! Even the fast people were walking that one!
That's one big hill. And remember, all features are done FOUR TIMES!
Some more fields and woody sections before a giant swaying bridge of wood and wire.

You want to go across this? This uphill bridge elicited major groans in Loop 4!
Briefly spot the finish line at about 6.5 before being sent into a section of twisty turns in the woods labeled "Roller Coasters".

Come around a small fishing pond so that about 0.6 miles from the finish line you would hit the glorious cheering crew of friends. First and second loop, it was Stacy, who had come to cheer and wasn't running because of her gizzard leg (ongoing joke about her off-and-on injury she's been working through). Third and fourth loops, it was filled with friends!

And then through the horse stable to cross the chip mat and see the clock. Then you'd go 20 feet to your drop bag, make any adjustments and get anything you needed, and then do the loop again! and again... and again. ;-) 4 times total.

Loop 1
So 1.5 miles in, I ask Alicia if Corina's behind us, and she stops and turns to look, and is immediately in pain. She's managed to tweak her knee. We don't know what to do - I have her try a couple stretches, and trailrunners are awesome because everyone passing us is asking if she's okay. She's clearly in pain. She said it was like the knee needed to pop back into the socket. She gets running again, and we take some scheduled walk breaks and I can tell how much she's having to work through it. Poor thing.

This isn't posed AT ALL. ;-) Goofing off 2 miles into the race, when all three of us were still running together!
Corina falls quite a bit behind within the first 6 miles or so. But Alicia and I are still together. Finish the loop - I run to the bathroom, take a GU, refill water, take a little Gatorade, find my sunglasses, grab some potato chips, and hit the trail with a handful of chips. So far, so good. Just 3-4 minutes there and taking extra food, meeting my goals to 1) spend less time in camp, 2) eat more at each aid station. We're at 2 hours roughly, which is perfect pacing for us, with 8.5 miles done.
So happy to see Stacy at the end of the first loop at their camp site. I asked her to take our picture because "I don't know how much longer we'll be smiling"! Photo by Stacy
Loop 2
I can tell Alicia's knee is really starting to bother her. And about mile 10, I lose her behind me. I'm powering along and continuing to feel good for the weather we were having. I kept the pace consistent through this loop. At the end of the loop, I change into fresh running shoes, change from my 10 oz bottle to my 20 oz handheld since it's so humid and we're all sweating hard, refill the water bottle, have some Gatorade, and grab more potato chips as I hit the trail again. 8 1/2 minutes in camp. Not great, but I used the time efficiently. And I'm still keeping perfect pacing because it's 4 hours when I start the third loop, now at mile 15.8.

Finishing Loop 2. Photo by Claudia
Loop 3
I get passed in the initial field section by my friend Steve and his friend Billy. This is his last 50k loop - Mr. Speedy. I tell him I hate him. I regret that half a mile later. I'm a little moody, ya think? When we started the race, I thought the twisty wooded section was fun. But now I feel like it's the longest 3 mile section of my life. I keep an okay pace and make it to the aid station, which is mile 19.3.
A mile after this, doing the hard benchcut down the hill and then the hard climb back up the hill, and now I'm feeling super tired. Low back and feet hurt. My Achilles tendons feel the size of grapefruits. I call my husband, I tell him I hurt and I'm tired and I feel kinda woozy, and I might not do the last loop. He motivates some but also says it's okay whatever I decide. I'm walking now at this point. Feels like each mile takes forever.
I go over the massive bridge and then a fellow comes up from behind as I'm now walking and just starts following. We chat, his name is "Jimmy Choo" (name changed to protect the innocent, he doesn't want his friends to find out he walked his first 50 miler), and he's cramping bad. He has 2 loops to go and is happy at that moment to just follow someone and walk and have the company. Well, now I have a purpose. So I do better about lightly running the downhill and fast walking the rest. We hang together for 1.5 miles until I see my friends at the campsite 0.6mi from the finish. I tell them I'm not sure I can stomach another loop. I'm feeling awful. They try to motivate me but it's just not working.

The pics, and my hips, don't lie. Photo by Corina

But I can still muster half a smile. :-) Photo by Corina
I finish the loop and there's Alicia. Both Alicia and Corina have DNFed the race at this point. I'm the last of our small group of 50Kers. Alicia is asking me what I need. I still haven't decided to go back out, I tell her. She asks if I want to sit in the camp chair. And then I say, "If I sit down, I won't get back up." And that statement seals it - okay, I'm gonna do the last loop. I'm 6 hours, 19 minutes into the race. And at mile 23.4. Only 7.4 miles between me and the finish line.

Loop 4
I have zero momentum. "Jimmy Choo" catches up to me right after we start to thank me again for our time together walking and he's decided to try to keep a faster pace so heads off in front of me. NO! More time alone? Yes, I can run alone. But a total of 21 miles alone in the woods, and with no music, can eventually drive you bonkers on an already hard race day. I spend a half mile trying to catch up with him. I shuffle until he's close but he's really moving so I give up the chase.

The 3 flat-ish miles in the twisty-turny woods is worse at this point than the extreme up and downhills of the later miles. I'm down to a slow walk.

A runner goes by me and we exchange the usual "Good job", and then I realize it's Henry. He's doing the 50-miler and is a REALLY strong runner. I ask, "How are you doing, Henry?" And then he bursts out "I feel like crap!" LOL, such an honest assessment, and a nice relief that everyone is suffering today.

A bit later, a runner shuffles up behind me. He follows my walk, I have nothing more in me, but after a half-mile, I'm kinda surprised this person hasn't said anything. I make it a practice to NOT look behind me on the trails. I'm tired and don't want to fall. I'm feeling a little annoyed with my silent follower and I get to a major creek drop-in and -out and I move to the side and say, "Here, you go ahead." The guy turns to me and gestures and mouthes, "I'm deaf." Oh. Well, that would explain the silent following. But I'm so out of it at this point, I feel like I must be in an alternate universe, what are the chances?

Still 2 miles to the aid station. I'm really feeling ill. My Garmin has now died, probably about 7hrs,15min into the race. I'm still moving forward but I actually am starting to feel very strange. Almost out-of-body experience, like I'm dissociating completely from what I'm going through. I'm woozy and feel kinda like I could lay down on the trail and sleep forever. My head's really fuzzy, and I can't form good clear thoughts anymore. It's very hard to describe. My body feels stressed and I can't keep my heart rate down, I'm also really hot. And of course, everything hurts. I call my husband and tell him as I tear up, "I think I might DNF at the aid station." He wants me to take care of myself and says to do whatever I need to do. I actually don't remember the phone call at all except the reason why I called him. I pull out my phone (I'm now at 7 hrs, 25 minutes) and tweet that I think I'm going to DNF in a 1/2 mile at the aid station. Alicia tweets back, "You got this. I'm coming."

My hero!
 Alicia talks about what happened at the aid station from her perspective in her blog, but here's my version. I come around to the corner at the aid station, and I looked like death warmed over according to Alicia, and I can believe it because I felt like that. She asked, "Are you okay?" And all I could do was drop my head and shake it slowly side to side while tears welled up. I say, "It's a deathmarch."

Alicia: "You have 3 miles."
Me: "No, I have 4. It'll take me two more hours at this pace."
Alicia: "Then it'll take 2 more hours. That's okay." That's a relief when I'm her ride.

Alicia: "We should have him pour water over your head" as the aid station volunteer, a runner himself, jumps in to help me. I nod and he says to lean over and I do. I would have done anything he told me to do, I was completely out of it. He pours a whole pitcher across my neck of cold water. I gasp and gasp, but I immediately start to feel alive again.

He's asking me how many loops I have left, how many miles I have left. I'm so fuzzy I'm having a hard time answering so Alicia's filling in details. "Oh, you can do four more miles!" he says enthusiastically. He shoves two salt caps in my hand (which I never have used before) and has me take them.

Then he shoves a banana in my hand and says to eat it. While he attends to someone else, I say to Alicia, "I hate bananas." And I proceed to peel and eat the quarter banana.

The volunteer pops back over to me. "Did you eat the banana?" Turns to Alicia, "Did she eat the banana?" We both say yes. He says, "Okay, we're going to do a cup of coke, it will give you some energy." "Okay", I say. I turn to Alicia, "I hate Coke." And I gulp down the whole cup.

He says, "Want another?" I say, "No, it'll make me sick."
And I don't know how they did it, because neither of them laid a hand on me I think, but they somehow then pushed me out of the aid station! And I was running - slowly - but still running.

I ran most of the next 4 miles. I was passed by an older foreign gentleman, who passed me, turned around, and sang and danced a jig. That was odd. About a mile out, I saw him powerwalking the ridge above me, and he yells in a strong accent, "I am waiting for you!"

I pass the deaf guy about two miles out, and we exchange a smile and a wave.

I'm a half mile from the campsite my friends are hanging out at on the trail. I hear them all hanging out, they're loud, I'm guessing some having been drinking beer for QUITE A WHILE. It gives me a boost, and I yell "MARCO" (something Corina, Alicia, and I had jokingly done at Rocky Raccoon and at the early miles of this race when we were separated). And I hear a ruckus, but not sure it was a "POLO". I'm told they did hear me though.

I come around a bend and they can spot me but I'm not there yet. I'm told I looked like I was running strong.

Then I weave around and there they are. I'm so beyond exhausted and can't even focus on people's faces, but I'm loving the cheers and I crack a smile. They make an arch 4 pairs of people long with their hands, and I run through it. Love my friends! Corina's snapping pictures.

I tell them all this has been the 2nd most miserable experience of my life. The first of which was the labor to have my first child - which was 27 hours, epidurals that failed, and a broken tailbone in delivery. LOL.

I run the next 0.6mi, and then there's Alicia yelling for me as I run through the horse stable and across the finish mat. And I burst out crying, sobbing that it's over. 8:45:56 - almost 9 hours of straight running and walking. I placed 72nd out of 79 finishers out of 93 who started the race. Only 85% even finished the race.

So glad that's done! Photo by Alicia

Alicia and Michelle are asking me what I need, and I'm saying, "I want my medal. I want my freaking medal!" HA! They walk me over and my friend Jorge drapes the medal around my neck.

Earned every square inch of this medal!

So happy to be done. I just wanted to get home. I still needed to drive 4 1/2 hours to get Alicia and me back home! So we hit the road, and I'm happy I could be in my own bed that night.

I'm happy with my achievement, with doing what I could do with what was an awful race day. With doing my 2nd 50K only 14 days after my first, my only goal had been survival. And later when I looked at my results again, I was only 25 minutes slower than Rocky Raccoon 50K, which is only 48 seconds per mile slower for being 15 degrees hotter and more humid, and to me a much harder course.

And I'm so happy I had this experience surrounded by so many friends.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Problem I Didn't Know Was a Big Problem Because I'm a Runner

This is a venting post... Watch for falling rocks and rambling and run-on sentences...
When I got pregnant with each of my children, my allergies went haywire. I went from never really having seasonal allergies before, to bad congestion and probably off-and-on undiagnosed sinus infections. So this happened with the pregnancy of Sophie last year but never really got better after she was born. I thought it was just another round of bad seasonal allergies. Or like 2 months after Sophie was born, I got a really bad cold that became a sinus infection. Or before the San Francisco Marathon when congestion became bad again and I ended up with a steroid shot. Or a few weeks after that when I came down with a bad cold again.

Well, 20 months after this routine of sinus "annoyance", because that's all that I would term I was experiencing, Steve and I thought back through the last few months and figured out that I had lost my sense of smell. I think I'd lost it a long while before but I was always so congested we couldn't notice. But when we thought back, even the times I wasn't congested, I couldn't smell anything, even the horribly strong smells.

So at a checkup for Marissa's tubes in her ears, I asked her ENT if he sees adults. He did and asked generally what the problem was. When I told him I'd lost my sense of smell, he wanted me to schedule an appointment right away. In the appointment, he couldn't see much with his scope but ordered a CT scan.

This evening he called with the results. I had extreme inflammation in ALL my sinus cavities, he told me. It was actually remarkable how bad it was for how I described the mere "annoyance" of symptoms and the fact that in the end, it was only the lack of sense of smell that ever even brought me in. He actually thinks the great health I'm in because of all my running made me have such a complete lack of symptoms besides losing the ability to smell things. It made it harder to come to light sooner. It means I have not suffered through this the way others do. But he's amazed at all the running I'd accomplished with the disaster behind my face that the CT scan had revealed. He said he almost always sees this type of major inflammation with people who report severe facial pressure and pain, terrible congestion and drainage, and people who are overall miserable with all the symptoms of it. And often sinus inflammation this bad causes some lung / breathing issues, which would explain the wheezing I've had a bit of for the last month he said, which again I chalked up to allergies.

So I've been given a month of a strong cocktail mix of antibiotics and steroids to see what we can accomplish in fixing it. But he told me it's highly likely that I'll need sinus surgery where they would go in and clean all the gunk out and widen the openings of all my natural sinus cavities. That sounds awful. He said to not throw out my spring race plans; surgery would only put off training for about two weeks.

In the meantime, I can do my 50K race in 9 days. I'm NOT on an antibiotic that causes tendon rupture (runners, always check about this since there is one that can cause major problems for athletes) and none of the drugs should have side effects that would cause a problem running for 9 hours straight, LOL.

I think I'm most upset because I just feel blindsided. I just thought I'd need to be on a nasal steroid spray for a while to clear up some minor inflammation, and then I could breathe again. I feel like doctors often warn about the possibility of a worst case scenario but don't want to delve into it much if there's a good chance it can be avoided. The fact he thought surgery was very likely and was willing to talk about it in more detail scares me.

I know there are people out there going through much worse things, but as a generally pretty healthy human, I think the fear that comes with the word "surgery" is completely understandable.

So that's where I stand tonight. Contemplating the news, recovering from the shell shock, and just preparing for whatever comes next.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The 50K: So Nice I'm Running It Twice - Heading to Wild Hare

On the drive home from finishing our first 50K the day before at Rocky Raccoon, Alicia and I chatted with Corina about future race plans. I had been very clear that I was not making any 2012 race plans until I finished this 50K. I didn't know where I would want to go next in my goals until I did this race. Did I want to someday do a 50 mile race? Did I want to do many more trail 50K races? Did I want to do frequent marathons like I'd been doing the last few months?

Corina is signed up for the 50K at Wild Hare, put on by Tejas Trails, in Warda, Texas in 2 weeks. Alicia and I looked at spring races and considered what to do next. Alicia had decided she wasn't so interested in road marathons and wanted to stick with trail 50Ks. I had said I needed to lower my weekly mileage between now and New Year's because my usual time spent running was going to need to be more dedicated to the work and details of race directing for the New Years Double race. Especially since people have been signing up way faster for this race than I had expected, and I'm feeling good that the race will max out at the participant limit. In addition to being a fulltime stay-at-home mom, that's a lot of work still to be done to get us to race day!

Alicia and I brainstormed some fun things to do in the spring. We're feeling a lot more recovered the day after than we had ever expected. So somehow it just came up... why not run ANOTHER 50K in 2 weeks at Wild Hare?

Well, that's a lot of time away from family. Okay, so we drive down late afternoon the day before, and we drive back that evening after the race (4 1/2 hour drive). Ugh, but doable. And with a 50-miler that same day, we have a much longer time limit so we can take it slower if we need to.

So Alicia and I went home, checked with our families, and signed up yesterday to run the Wild Hare 50K 14 days after our first 50K.

Are we certifiable? Probably! Do we need a running intervention? Perhaps!
But I'm having too much fun to really care!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rootin' for My First 50K Finish

Yes, there's a pun in that title. I had decided towards the beginning of 2011 that I wanted to run my first 50K (31 miles) while I was 31 years old. So I had from June 6, 2011 to June 5, 2012 to make it happen. I knew Corina would be doing Rocky Raccoon 50K November 5, and it fell at a good time after Chicago Marathon so I chose that one for my first back around April. It's 2 loops of 15.5 miles through Huntsville State Park, so only about a 4 hour drive from home.

Back in May or June, I'd met Alicia when we got together one evening for a run. She was definitely interested in Rocky Raccoon 50K when I mentioned I was pretty settled on the idea of going for it.  Then in the final weeks before our girls' trip, Fiona joined in the fun too. So we had veteran Corina with 2 previous 50Ks and then Alicia, Fiona, and me going for our first 50K.

We drove down to Huntsville midday Saturday. After mandatory stops at Colin Street Bakery in Corsicana for lunch and dessert and Buc-ees in Madisonville for snacks, we arrived, checked into the hotel, set out our gear, and went to the State Park to pick up our race packets.

Alicia, Fiona, Corina, and me
Imagine how gleeful I was when they gave me my bib. #31! For the girl who wanted to do her first 31 mile race while she was 31 years old. It certainly felt lucky!

Excited! "Please let this be a sign for good things to come tomorrow!"
 We had dinner at Farmhouse Cafe, behaving ourselves by avoiding many of the fried home-cookin' and pies/cakes in favor of normal pre-race fare like grilled chicken with baked potato and lots of yeasty rolls.

In bed at 8 pm, asleep by 8:45ish. We woke up at 4 am. Out the door at 5 am, all leading up to a 6 am start. Weather had been hard to predict for this race. Two weeks ago we thought it would be hot. Then even the night before, we thought it would be decently cold, like low 40s. Instead, it was 53 degrees with barely a breeze. Okay, that's still better than my race conditions at Kauai AND Chicago, AND better than it was predicting of mid-60s ten days out. I'll take it.

A 6 am start means we spend about the first 5 miles in the dark. And the first few miles? Rolling hills with LOTS of roots. I lead our group of 4, keeping the charging horses named Fiona and Alicia at bay. ;-) Both are faster runners but neither had done as many miles as Corina or myself in the last couple months (26.2 for me, 27 for Corina), so our jobs were to keep them reined in for the first loop so they didn't go out all "happy puppy" as I like to call it, aka too fast. But in the dark, even with my bright headlamp (love this new Black Diamond Sprinter), I discovered I have NO perception of when we were going uphill versus downhill. So Fiona would tell me anytime we were going uphill so that we'd go back to a fast hike instead of wasting energy running the uphills.

The first mile is mixed broken old asphalt trail along the main road. Right before the ranger station at the entrance we cross the main road into the very rooty area I mentioned. About 2 miles in we turn onto an old jeep road. This is a major out-and-back section. We learned our mileage by landmarks. Mile 2 begins the old jeep road with the woman with the cowbell and the sockmonkey (later learned that it was Paula Boone, she and her husband direct the New Year's marathon in Kingwood). Mile 3.5 is a turn and a lone port-a-potty. First aid station is at mile 4. We're all in good spirits at the first aid station. See?

All smiles. But how long would that last?
About mile 6, Fiona and I broke away from Alicia and Corina. Then we took a wrong turn and got off the course for a second. We come out on a jeep road and we're complaining we can't find any markers, and then we see Alicia and Corina come out of the trees 50 feet in front of us. Oops. Looks like we were off course maybe an extra tenth of a mile. Glad it was so short! Fiona and I get out ahead again, and we rock along pretty well through the second aid station at mile 8, and the third aid station at mile 12.7. Fiona leaves me just a little ways after that, luckily after I catch her as she runs straight past a bright yellow "Right Turn" sign in the ground!

I'm finishing up the first loop and am zoning out and I hear "Smile, Libby!" Greg (Fiona's husband and a fellow frunner) has come down to surprise Fiona!

3 hours, 48 minutes. I finish the first 25K (15.5 mile) loop, potty stop, get some water, take a GU, I feel like I'm rushing. I find my change of shirt, socks, and shoes. I rip off my short sleeve NTX Runners shirt and change into my San Francisco Marathon Ambassador's singlet since it's starting to warm up some. I sit down in someone's camp chair and hope they don't come back to notice. I rip off my shoes and socks. Feet feel good, no blisters. But I can't get on my new socks with sweaty feet. So I bodyglide up my feet, slip on the socks, and switch out one pair of Brooks Launch for a different pair of the same shoe style. Aww, like little air mattresses of cushy happiness!

Corina's sitting on my cooler, I can't find my sunglasses. Where's Fiona? Is she in the potty? What about Alicia? Me saying "I feel like I'm forgetting something." It's just chaos. I feel like I'm wasting time and/or waiting for others because I prefer to run with a friend than spend another 15.5 miles only a minute ahead or behind a friend and not know it the whole time.

And in the middle of base camp chaos, Corina's taking pictures. SMH.

Corina, Alicia, and I are 80 steps from our drop bags with Greg, and he takes our picture. Then I realize I forgot to refill my pockets with GU energy gels. I look back at the race site. Corina says, "Want to go back?" Me: "No, we've gone too far." We head out. I'd spent 18 minutes at base camp. :-(

Ready to Start Loop 2
About a mile and a half in, Alicia falls on one of the hundreds of roots. She's hit her knee, but we don't see blood and she actually feels like the sand has cushioned her fall.

An example of the many many roots on this course!
At the second aid station at mile 23.5, Alicia says, "There's just 2 behind us, one's a walker." And one of the volunteers visibly sighs. We feel bad for her and thank them all for being out there all day, and we know it was a gut reaction. I think she actually felt bad for that because she was rather sheepish after that. We chat for a couple minutes while we snack on potato chips. They have two Hammer Gels on the table, and since the next aid station is 5.5 miles away, I take it, even though Montana Huckleberry flavor sounds awful.

Aid Station 2, Mile 23.5, I think I have potato chips in my mouth!

After the aid station, Alicia and I pull ahead of Corina. Around mile 25, I tweet and Facebook our current status. I tell Alicia, "I tweeted our time and that we're at about mile 24ish". She says, exasperated, "24ish? We were at 24 like a mile ago!" And I say, "Yeah, so 24ISH." Can you tell we're getting tired?

Then I try to open the hammer gel. I wrestle it with my teeth. Then Alicia uses her teeth and gets it open. All's fair out on the trail. I take one sip off it. "EWWW! Disgusting!" It's awful. I don't take anymore. I have to carry it another couple miles with the top of it flipped closed because if I put it on my pocket, everything will leak out and get me super sticky.

About mile 26.5, I'm losing steam, and Alicia goes ahead. A couple minutes later, I don't want to be left behind, and it gives me motivating to keep my running going. A random runner out on his jog coming the other way passes me and says, "You can catch her. She's just 50 feet ahead!" Whoa, thanks for the motivation! A short bit later, I can spot her from time to time between the trees. But I just can't close the gap.

Instead of 5.5 miles between aid stations 2 and 3, it feels like 20 miles. All I can think of is there's supposed to be a "water only" stop 4 miles after the aid station 2, so where is the water jug?!? And once I finally got there, I knew I still had to pass the marshy area and some more wooded area to get to the 3rd aid station.

All through mile 27, I'm obsessed with the idea that the race director will pack up the timing mat and finish line. I've done the math and realize I won't make his 8 hour time limit. Now this had been a worry of mine a couple months ago. I had emailed Paul, who directs the race. He was so super nice. His response had been, don't worry, we stick around for a while. He understood your pace can just fall apart in those last 10 miles. But I was becoming increasingly terrified that my finish, when it finally came, wouldn't "count" in an official way.

I'm almost ready to burst into tears out of stressing over this when I get to aid station 3. I ask them to make sure Paul doesn't pack up the finish line. They tell me not to worry, Paul's nice about that. One girl hanging out there says she has finished the 50K there in over 8 hours before and Paul waited for her. And I point to them all and say, "Well you call and tell Paul he HAS to wait. I'm on my way."

I run / walk my way to the last course monitor at the turn onto the trail by the road near the ranger station. The course monitor says, "You have just one more mile." I decide to run the entire last mile. I plod along across that section of rolling hills with broken asphalt trail. I feel like it's 5 miles. Until the woods open up and I can see that last 500 feet to the finish! I hear all my friends calling my names, and I actually feel like my form looked pretty strong coming in, and I was able to give a decent kick into the finish line.

8 hours, 20 minutes, 57 seconds! I placed 85th out of 87th, and I don't care about that at all. But I am amazed that there were only 17 women in the whole 50K.

So I actually expected to cry as I finished but I didn't. I had spent the last couple miles of the race thinking about crazy this past year has been. I have an 11 month old baby and in less than 100 days, I had completed an amazing 200-mile relay, my first 3 marathons, and my first 50K trail race. And I'd trained and raced with some of the greatest frunners (friend runners) anyone would be lucky to know. I LOVE this photo of all of us after we finished.

Frunner Greg took this picture. From left to right: Fawn, me, Kerrie, Fiona, Tony, Corina, and Alicia.
We went back to the hotel, got cleaned up, and I did my ice bath. Yowza. But so worth it! For dinner, we went BACK to the Farmhouse Cafe and had all the fried awful foods we couldn't have on race eve. Yeah, I totally had fried avocado with ranch dressing as a starter, followed by fried shrimp with two sides of onion rings. Oh, and peanut butter pie to go. YUM! I had earned a major cheat meal!

Another ice bath before bed, then Sunday morning we drove home. I actually felt pretty good, just a little sore and stiff. And happy and proud. :-)

Big thanks to Corina, the source for basically ALL these photos. She is the Picture Queen!

Happy Running!