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.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A little humid stomp in the woods.

My good friend David H. from EnduranceBuzz.com is not only "running" a Southern Region version of iRunfar.com, but also began putting on races last year. I heard so much great things about those that, even though I swore off racing in Texas summer, I decided to sign up for one of his productions, Cedar Ridge 36km trail run (which also had an 18km going on). I figured it is short enough to survive the heat and humidity, and long enough to be called a "long run" - and I need a long run as I begin my training cycle for Grindstone 100 in October...

One of the best parts of that adventure was getting to spend a Friday night with my very old friend (as in, I've known him for years) Reverend Camden...I mean Rev. Craig, and his lovely wife Pamela. The power of the social media and blogging - we've "met" on this platform sometime in January 2006, and had been following each other since, with a personal meeting thrown in, and then Craig, being a Minister of Baptist Church, had married Larry and I back 4 years ago...and our conversations had always been meaningful and non-judgmental. I know it is off topic, but it is as important part of my life as running is, if not more - sharing my soul with friends, real people, and he is one good person. I was writing to him when Alex was going through boarding schools, when I was deciding to end my previous marriage, when I was dating Larry and unsure about the future steps...Craig was the right choice to be at our "little" wedding ceremony, and with life being overwhelming lately, we were due a good talking session. Which lasted well past my bedtime, and with a race start at 5:30 am and a drive time, I got all of 3 hrs of sleep - but the conversation was worth every minute of it.

I arrived to the start at 4:30am, checked in in a fuzzy state (as I explained later to a few people trying to talk to me, in general, I am a very morning person, but on a race morning, it's like my body shuts down and doesn't talk/react/walk as if it preserves itself for the task ahead). I took a nap in the car, scrambled out at 5:15am for some pre-race chat, and strapped my headlamp on...
Nice and humid morning, actually, the temps were ok, it's the water in the air...
It was peach-dark, and Larry Kocian standing next to me asked: Is your headlamp on? I pressed a button once more and shrugged shoulders, thinking of (my) Larry sending me off with words: Are you sure you have fresh batteries? I mean, I promise I am much better these days than I used to, I actually take out batteries after a night race, so I KNOW I have to replace them, and this lamp had batteries in, so I figured they must be ok!
2,600 feet of gain per my Garmin.
We took off on what turns out to be a seriously hilly and seriously technical (roots, steps and roots!) single track, 4 loops of 5.35M (or so). For the first 2 miles Larry K. was running behind me, and we chatted a lot - and a couple times he tried to bring my attention to my lamp, and I dismissed it, as with his light (which seemed to be like CAR headlights) I was just fine. And then at 2M stop I ate a gel and let him go...and suddenly the world fell dark! I mean, I had some kind of dim something coming out, but I couldn't see beyond 1 foot in front of me, and even that was with my head down and straining my eyes! So, I told myself "Stupid!" and resolved to kind of walk and shuffle. After all, my legs felt dead anyway (OMG, what will I do at Ozark 100 after Grindstone 100??!! I am giving my Larry away our little family competition! I'll be fighting cut off's!), so some slow time on first loop shall be beneficial, right? So, I stumbled, nursing already sad left hamstring I overworked the week prior with 4 workouts out of the blue, and also nursing sour stomach (like, intestines, like, WTH?). As mile 5 approached and a number of folks passed me, I began to see better and perked up. So, on the last bridge, in grey light of the dawn, I relaxed my shoulders, inhaled deeply; "I made it with no fall!", stepped on a wooden bridge, slid, and caught myself in a twist that sent that very left hamstring into agony! Jesus, is it torn?

I grabbed my leg and hobbled. The walked. The pain didn't go anywhere, and I was limping so badly, I didn't dare to try and run. A few more folks passed me as we turned the corner into start/finish area and end of our loop #1. I bent over my cooler for a bottle exchange and limped out. David H., the RD, was standing there, and as he saw me, his face got longer, and he was like "Are you sure?". Well, yeah, not only my light was dead, as were my legs, and my stomach did not cooperate, I pulled a hammy! But, no, it's nothing serious, I don't think so, and I can walk a loop to see what's in the future. So, I walked out and slowly broke into a jog.

Mr. Joe H. caught up with me, and we conversed for the next 2 miles, and I felt obligated to keep up so the conversation would flow. It was extremely great to have company that took my mind of the first bouts of pain when it was at its worst, and he was so sweet calling me "Miss Olga" - I could listen to it forever and answer questions about 100 milers!

With Joe H.

Eventually I had to let him go as well, as I was in need to walk off the hamstring every so often, and I would continue on the next mile to change positions with a woman Shelley from Tulsa, OK - and apologize that I am not doing it on purpose, I just can't run continuously as I am nursing an injury...

Conga line with Joe and Shelley.
There were places I wasn't a happy camper, between pain, a fear I am doing it all wrong, and feeling slow and fat and slow...but every time I would manage to turn it around and say to myself: Any day on trails is better than one in the office. Totally!

 Climbing one of the many ladders.
So, the 2nd loop went just like the first one, and if the first was slow with walking carefully over roots with no light, the second was in about same time and limping. I resolved to keep on going - I needed that long run after all!

I saw David again after that loop, and he asked me what's the verdict. I said - I'll keep going! (His response: Only because I know you know what you're doing). The first 2 loops were run in one direction, and the next one were in opposite, what means coming in I saw folks ahead of me, counted girls (and first gal was flying right after the first guy!), figured I am 5th, so no pressure! What I said to David, as well - Now I can relax and just stroll.

And that whole idea allowed me to begin smiling. I was over half-done, a mere 10+ miles left, I could make it happen. With that, my third loop went uneventful, more painful and shooting up my butt and down my calf, but at the same time very plodding-like enjoyable. I was just on a run, seeing folks coming towards me, cheering me on...It WAS the slowest loop by 5 minutes, at the end of which I had realized that I will not be able to break 4:30, but may be, if I just plod like that, I'll do 4:40.

As I was leaving for the last loop, and David, again, being all worried, asked me if I need anything, I yelled out - Ibuprofen! I know he doesn't carry it for the race (and I know of the opinions of taking it swirling around, and I don't care), but I was hoping someone would hear me. Jeremy Day did! He said "I wouldn't recommend it, but I have a bottle in my car..." Yes! Run, get me - as I dusted out. He was - No, car this way - so I had to make my way to the car (pretty close by, I have to be honest), gave me 4 Vit I (Praise God!), and I literally bolted out! I was on high even before the effects hit - Central Governor and all!

And soon after - I pass a guy, another guy, and see a silhouette of Shelley! At first I get into "hunting mode", and keep my reins in as I slowly get closer...But as I even out with her, and exchange a few sentences ("Your stride looks so much better now than before" - "Thanks, I got some Ibuprofen, and I also adjusted it to a very short one, and he hamstring behaves a bit better"), we feel into stride to stride and kept on talking. About her 50k at Palo Duro last year and the same one up coming in October, about her mountain biking past and some knee problems...and at some point I offer we should try and finish together, it was so much fun! I was beginning to feel the pull of an endurance runner though, growing stronger, and she seemed to be a little more working, but we stayed together for 2 miles, until I pulled on a downhill just before AS with 2M to go.

Last awesome downhill before AS.

Opening up and felling like a runner again!
I quickly filled up my water and as I was leaving, Shelley came in, and I turned my head and yelled: I'll be walking up that hill and eating gel, come and get me, lets run it in!
And I did walk and did eat a gel - but then the pull of the finish line, that "smelling the barn" was just too strong. I looked over the shoulder, saw Shelley walking back, and began jogging, then actually running up the incline.
Grinding last 1M incline.
And here is where my favorite for the year cramping came full strength! I actually felt them doing their thing almost since the beginning of the last loop, but it was possible to hold them back - and in the last mile and half, on that incline and then flat and some rooty ups - my calves were MOVING! On their own! All I could think about: please no Cheaha or McDonald Forest, please stay under control, please don't trip, don't misstep, don't speed up...short stride, kick from the hip flexor...I rounded the corner afraid to even think what will happen if I seize like I infamously did in those two other 50k's...but I didn't. And I actually ran my loop in fastest time, and finished in 4:32 - and for the next 10 minutes had spectators enjoy the "show" of my dancing calf muscles on both legs.

Shelley came a couple of minutes later, and we started hugging before she even crossed the line (and the volunteers actually didn't count those few seconds - so, it's my fault!), then Chris Brady in the next 2 minutes (who later said 2 things: one is "Dang, I saw your name and knew I have a chase to happen", and another "I read your reports, if you don't have disasters, you don't have a race!"). Which is true, I guess...it's not about running, it's about stories! And I always have those!

So, I ended up being 4th female, and even snatching a goody gift bag as first 40+ lady - which I technically wasn't, but in EBuzz races you can't double-dip, and other (much faster) old ladies got the podium bags.

There was food, MASSAGE!, lots of chatting, a couple of my clients running, meeting David's wife and cutest children (it's a family enterprise!), and I had to leave (unfortunately) to massage my own clients (dreaming of a massage of my own!).

I highly enjoyed the event, and am looking forward doing his next one in September. The trails were perfect, and while I wouldn't fathom going for more than 4 loops, for that distance, with reverse direction, and IN THE TEXAS SUMMER - it worked great. Soft dirt, lots of roots, even more steps, but NO ROCKS (I am not a rock fan, and that's one of about 100 reasons I don't like Texas running:)). Come check this gem out!

And while you're at it, high-five a couple kids, and tell David to hug better! :) That was one thing I wanted to tell this awesome budding RD - a tighter hug. But I think it comes with the fact he is young and not so squeeze as we, grizzly, are. Besides, it IS summer in TX, and the stinking drench is pretty bad:)

And now, a thanks go out to BRL Sports and their EnduraFual I took a bottle of on loop 2 and a bottle for recovery. VFuel gels I consumed every 30 minutes.

I ran in Pearl Izumi N1 shoes and at this point am unsure how I like them (not good, not bad - just not certain). My favorite Nike lucky shorts, and a sports bra I picked at the Ross discount store a brand of which I have no clue about, but on this run I found out it had pockets on the side! At first I got excited and thought: for gels? garbage? ice? But then it dawned on me, this bra, when I bought it, had those boob-inserts I discarded before even leaving the store (who needs extra boobs for running??), and that is what those pockets for...May be the idea is not that bad!