If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you are lucky enough.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Pandora Box of Rox

Pandora was exactly that - box of rocks. Between some rocks scattered to long stretches of granite slabs it was THE best location of Joe's races - and I had been to each of them. Situated at Reveille Ranch just an hour North-West of Austin, it has an amazing trail system, and best wild flowers I had yet seen in Texas in one place. Too bad I was racing, so all the photos below are from random googled websites, BUT all of them are from that ranch!

The ranch is also located on the lake with sand beach, and has pools and waterfalls, as well as real toilet and showers and cooking people/devices, and a plenty of parking space. The venue was just simply perfect!

Now that I said all my kudos, to my own race. I had entered half-marathon distance for a single reason of visiting the venue, because I had run each and every one of Joe's races and as a volunteer love to know for sure what is out there. Pandora is in it's first year, so I picked a shorter distance as a training run prior my next weekend's Quadrock 50 miler. I grabbed Stephen, who needed volunteer hours for his own Counselor in Training summer camp in Oregon, and we left the house at 5:30 am.

Since it was a training run (and a local, and free for my hours at Joe's AS's), I had trained through the week like nothing happening. All the plyo, intervals, heavy lifting and the hills, and Friday off, no special treatment. My life has also been quite a turmoil, between busy and emotionally involved (with my son in Portland for the most part, and for other reasons), and I felt quite drained. I started my run purely at the back of the pack, but with double-lane jeep road first half a mile, I got around a few and settled into a nice easy rhythm. On my iPod first always goes a CD of Russian pop, which is mellow and allows me to sing along (try not to be around me, please, at that time) and check into my breathing with it. This CD takes 45 minutes, so perfectly exactly the time it takes me to warm up. 

Those first 45 minutes felt like I had lead stumps instead of my legs, and I just tried to keep moving. Some 30 minutes in or so 2 of my coaching clients passed me (both coming off injuries), but I was about to begin feeling better, and hung behind Jim and Gordie, while they kept asking if I wanted to pass. I didn't. Eventually, I did:) Once I saw 1 hr on the clock, my mind registered it, and somehow it announced: 1 hr left, then a final push. I never know how I come up with times for my runs, and I don't know paces from my brother (I don't even have a brother), but I always know what I should be running for that interval, this hill, that race, or this distance. I planned to be done in 2:15. No reason beyond the number popped in my head, and with 7:15 am start I liked the round number of 9:30 as a finish (I don't start timer and go by clock).

I had been passing the tail end of marathoners who were doing two loops and started 15 minutes ahead of half-marathon runners, and also some half-folks who went out fast. The weather was, well, Texas summer, 70's at the start and 90% humidity with temps rising, but on some of the granite open spaces there was a breeze, and it felt nice (and I would open my arms and yell out nonsense). Since I had no clue how to tell apart "my" race runners from the other, I would just cheer on and get around. At some point there was a gal who didn't like being passed and she got me back, and I believe that what had sparked my competitive juices. Really? Unless a disaster comes, once I go, I go, honey! So, I slowly picked it up. 

I left her behind soon, and came upon 3rd AS with so many people, that even though I was kind of running low on water (I carried 2 bottles and so far hasn't stopped), I went around all of them and just kept going. I am sure there were a few girls there as well. And then I passed 2 more (and more guys), and set on the heels of a very strong lady with short stride, as we began climbing for quite a while. Soon I had tripped and my left hip (with torn labrum) went hurting. I screamed quickly, and she asked if I was OK with concern. I appreciated the care, assured her I will be, and kept locked in a step behind her. There were points I felt I could go faster, but I wasn't sure if I would hold it. 7-10 minutes later I sensed the downhill was coming, yet her gait hasn't changed. Now, I run same effort, but surely different speed and different gait when terrain is changing! So, I got around with words "Come get me on the ups!" - and leaped away. A minute later there was nobody behind.

That motivated me to work, and I started breathing heavily, like, you know, I was racing, or something:) I was pretty dehydrated and on the verge of cramping in my lower legs, something that doesn't happen often with me, and I was riding a fine line, but I wasn't about to give up a position. I was just telling myself: last AS, and then 15 min to the finish.

That last AS finally came, I opened my water bottle without breaking a stride and a nice man filled it half-way, and I kept on going. Front-runners in the marathon were coming into a second loop (a lolly-pop version), so I got to cheer them on, and they - me. Lots of folks I know, so nice to race on home grounds!

Last mile was just pushing to be done. I rounded a corner and saw park's venue, and Brian Rickets 200 yards in front. I yelled to him to pick it up, and picked it up myself, racing to the finish. I didn't get him (by 30 yards), but I did cross the finish line in 2:14:54, so thanks, man, for the final push!
By Enduro Photo

And what do you know, not only did I finish in time I kind of predicted, I placed 3rd female overall and 1st old lady. Only 2 minutes behind 2nd place and 7 minutes behind 1st. With how I felt (regardless the dehydration part and cramping) I'd say, this time - I ran out of estate. But I'll save it for the next weekend:)

Stephen has volunteered at the start-finish AS, and worked his butt off (per everybody's stories and what I saw after I was done) for over 3 hrs, and people said they even saw him smile!

 Now the big chunk of training for summer races is over, and I am entering the fun state of taper-race-recover, rinse and repeat. Stephen went for Skating competition, Alex had moved in with his friends and is renting a couch (all of them go to school and work, so a better place to be, same age too), and I am going to finally take a look at what I am racing next week in CO, and work some aid station times and how many gels to carry. Summer is going to be nuts. But then again, it's the way it always is:)