"In the first half of the race, don't be an idiot. In the second half, don't be a wimp." Scott Duglas.
This month has been - and is scheduled to be - one of the busiest I had in a very, very long time. So much so that sometime last week I exhaled on Facebook a scream that I am totally exhausted. I am not here for details of my life, it's a running blog, so, on the training side, I pushed my training, cramming it high-school and college finals' style, all in 3 weeks of finally being free of injuries. In the midst of it, I cut a tip of my finger, and then managed to totally burn my eyes at work while starring at UV light with no protective gear (dumb, I know) The two photos below are taken exactly 24 hrs apart (by accident, the first portraits a finished hat as a product - any takers?).
|I was surprised Larry still loved me - he even drove home for lunch and brought me soup from Whole Foods!|
36 hrs later I managed to drive myself to work with my eyes closed (this job will kill me one day, or my ability to guilt myself into not taking sick days).
Another 24 hrs later I was up at 4:30 am to do my last long run with 20 hill repeats. Make it 21 for a good measure, just one-up from my last prep for San Diego 100.
I completed it in surprisingly great time, with surprisingly strong legs, and 5,000 feet of elevation gain - all on 2 streets of Austin. Yup, when I am focused, I am THAT focused.
And then I went to the corner store and stocked up on dark chocolate The well-deserved reward was worth the effort. Yes, dark chocolate is my vice, bite me!
I didn't taper through the next week, as I was still some 25 days out of the goal "destination", and I put a fast 9-mile tempo, and some random other runs, and the last 2 weeks I was also the most consistent in the last many years with my yoga practice - like, 3-4 times a week (don't ask me how I did that between other things I can't speak of). I wish I could just yoga and run...but that's a dream that ain't happening, so lets move on...
Rough Creek races of Endurance Buzz Adventures is a relatively new series, but David Hanenburg does a fantastic job organizing, marking, putting things together, and doing it in environmentally friendly style as a family business. His wife Wendy is a sweetheart, and his two little blond cherubs are adorable as the kids can be (and helpful too).
|Not a clue where I stole this photo, but this is David H. and his son.|
|From race document.|
And because he wasn't coming (and I am too lazy to put a tent up by myself, and then take it down in the dark), I skipped taking a tent for the campground we reserved, planning on car camping. Well, let me tell you, it is still summer in freakin' Texas! And I am not 5 feet 90 pounds child to fit in the back seat of the car - which, by the way, is a Honda Civic year 2005! All this provided for an interesting night. Cramped in my own sweat paddle, with windows open trying to not think of male predators after lonely half-naked women and wild Texas critters (at 11 pm someone at the bathrooms yelled: "It's a snake, it's really is a snake, stay away!"), hugging one leg over front seat, one arm out the window (hell with the snakes!)...5 am couldn't come early enough. It's official - I am too old for camping before the race, car OR tent. Even if the race is a training run. Camping is only for backpacking trips. Note taken.
So, back to the race profile. As someone who prides herself in being a mountain runner, and as I am "working" on my Grindstone 100 profile/split chart, this picture above didn't bring any emotions. Like, and? I also knew that the course is OPEN to the weather/sun exposure, is double-track for the most part (not my forte at all), the temps are hitting back into high 90's (even though I am 2 hrs North of Austin), and there will be some scramble hills called "Rusty Crown". Bring it, I am simply testing my fueling (alternating BRL Endurafuel and VFuel gels) and Pearl Izumi M2 shoes I got for free as a possibility for running 100M races.
So, we took off, marathoners and 40-milers, at 7 am, and I am, like, running on this flat dirt road, and thinking why the hell is my Garmin clicking low 9's? That is certainly stupid, right? Um, yes, it is. Where are the hills??
|Race photo official - I bought them yes, I paid for them all 3.|
|Race photo official. Fat girl climbing. Too busy for Paleo lately.|
The Bowl AS came and left, and we went for some rollers in open terrain, and then into the back-side of the Rusty Crown, with more of those steep loose scree climbs and descends, where you see the other side as you come up, some through-cross-country connectors, and relentless beating. Back to the first AS (manned by my clients Brandon and Megan Walters and a couple of guys I knew too, thanks!), and back on the flat double-track to the loop's end (the race was 13.4M repeated either 1x, 2x or 3x). 2:30 on the clock, and I am like - Whoa, I planned for 3+, I will have to pay for it!
|Race photo official|
"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit."-George Sheehan
The thought of going through the Bowl - or the Crown (no matter how fun it seemed on the first loop) was kind of ugly. I ran into the AS and told David I am about to drop. Just in case he should fill my bottle with ice. Just in case I'll put on the shoes I wore when driving in (which I thankfully dragged to the start/finish area for no reason, I never change shoes, but thankfully those were Patagonia's new trail racing flats I got also for testing, soft and not broken in at all besides the drive!). I complained that I had to bend over and pick up too many empty gel packets (half-marathoners?). I told him I hope that the softness and the width of the Patagonia shoes will let my toes to not scream (although the soles were too thin for the rocks). And that I am going to walk out to that first AS on the course and come back.
I stood another minute chatting with Angel, another client (and a wife of that fast Alex B. running second) manning the start/finish AS. Then I chatted with a tall guy who asked what I want - and I told him to go plant some trees for the shade! And then I power-walked out.
|The Beast. Photo by Stephen Winton|
And then I ran some, walked some, and repeated it - and made the 2.7M in 35 minutes or so? And as I entered the visibility of AS, I saw Megan standing there smiling like she knew it - and I was like:" You don't know me, you don't see me, pretend it's not happening". She laughed, as she filled my (both drained) water bottles with ice and water, and I rocked it out. And as I did - the cloud cover came down! Like, holly cow, that guy at the previous AS was Jesus! He didn't grow trees, but he threw clouds for me! Shade! And instantly the life turned from head back on its feet. I passed a number of guys, trying to persuade them to walk with me, but they had none of that (and laughed as they couldn't jog at the speed I was walking). I got those Rusty Crowns on both sides of the Bowl like nothing, and even ran some sections of the Bowl's road. I was repeating how great it is - to learn another lesson opportunity provided: to not give up, to believe, to hydrate and turn around, to believe, and to inspire all those who were there today and whom I couldn't let down.
So, that was it. My both 2nd and 3rd loop's time was 3:15 for each (though I putzed around in-between for quite long), and my finishing time was 9:06. I was 2nd gal and 7th overall (by default, I'd say, it doesn't really matter, as 21 folks dropped from 40 miler due to extreme heat). The winning gal Jessica was a highlight of my trip - a total hoot I'd take 2 hr drive to having meet! She passed me somewhere mid-2nd loop, cheerful and strong (and I totality cheered her on) and beat me by almost half an hour. We talked non-stop at the end, as we took shower together (don't you get ideas now! the resort had cabin showers, and we just took turns while chatting, modesty be damned), and I loved how free and free-spirited, and strong, and positive she is. All the best in your Rocky 100, girl!
That was not my course, or my weather, or my shoes. But it was an ultra run, and that all that mattered. It provides me an outlet that reminds me that I can be strong, there - and in life.
Two and half weeks. I am excited. Virginia, I am coming to have lots of fun in the mountains!