Monday, May 7, 2018

Mind Over Miles - Wildflower 50k

Earlier this year, Linda and I were talking and she was saying that she was going to sign up for an 50k race in New Mexico and I should consider doing it with her. Having to travel out of state for a race wasn’t really in my plans for this year so I had to pass, but said it would be cool to do one someday. Sometime later, Linda said she found a 50k race in Bastrop in May on my birthday weekend. Hmmm…now that would be fun to do on my birthday. So, I went all in and signed up and 
told my coach, “I’m doing a 50k!”

Fast forward a few months and some bumpy training with colds and some minor niggles, race weekend was suddenly upon me. I did not feel completely prepared to run 31 miles but I knew I could at least get through a little more than half of the race before it would become a total sufferfest. Linda and I drove up to Bastrop Friday afternoon and picked up our packets, had an early dinner, and got our gear ready for our early morning wake-up of 4 a.m. Saturday morning. The race started at 6 a.m. and we had 12 hours to complete it. I told Brian to not worry about coming up until after noon because I didn’t want him to be bored standing around waiting for me for too long, plus Libby might get ornery after a while and I didn’t want him to have to deal with a crazy puppy. Since I really had no idea what the terrain was going to be like, I set a goal time of 7-9 hours for me to complete the race. I figured if I could just keep moving my feet forward, I could do it.

The course was a 6.2-mile loop that we would do 5 times. I hate loops. This race just re-affirmed my dislike for loops, but I do think that it helped me break through a mental barrier I had against them. By forcing myself to keep going and not quit just because “I had the opportunity to”, it made me realize that I can be mentally strong when I need to be. The third loop was the hardest for me because I was pushing past the limit of my training. It was also the first loop where I was mainly by myself out on the trails and my brain started telling me that I should just stop and not head out for the next 2 loops. As I made my way back to the checkpoint to begin my 4th loop a girl caught up to me and asked where the finish was. I told her she was super close and that she was literally almost there and she was doing great. She asked what distance I was doing and I told her the 50k and that I had 2 more loops to do. She told me that what I was doing was, “So cool and amazing and I was looking so strong and that I would be finished with those 2 loops before I knew I knew it.” Her words really helped put a pep back in my step and when I got to the turn to head out for the 4th loop, I felt lighter and had a smile on my face as I hiked up the trail leaving all the people behind. This good mood lasted for most of the loop, and I sang stupid songs I made up to the fire ants I saw on the trail as they were carrying huge pieces of food to their homes. I sang, “If fire ants can carry I don’t know how much more than their body weight then I could finish these next 2 loops.” (I think I was partly delirious, but there was no one out there to hear me so FTW!!!) I was still able to do a slow run down the flat trails and downhills and was feeling great until maybe the last mile and a half of the loop. By then the bottom of my feet were really hurting, but since that was all the pain I was feeling, I knew I had no reason to quit.  

I got to the checkpoint to head out on my last loop and it was so desolate at the finish line. The people that were there were great and cheered and did their best to keep my spirits high. I stopped and filled up my hydration pack with ice and water one last time and I told the lady that I had one last loop to do. She told me to get out there and I started up the hill again. This time there was much less pep in my step as I thought I was the last one on the trail. A little up the way, a group of 3 or 4 people caught up to me and I told them I was so happy to see them as I thought I was the only person out there! We laughed and exchanged some pleasantries and then I got stung by a bee. One of the guys that had just passed me said he got stung last year and that it’s just part of being out in nature! I agreed and kept on going. I knew I was still doing okay timewise because when I started this last loop I was at the 7-hour mark. If I had been able to run at all, I think I would have been able to break 9 hours, but I knew the pace I was keeping, I would probably be more like 9hrs and 30mins. And this was okay with me. It was still under the 12-hour limit and I knew I wasn’t alone anymore. I just needed to keep more forward.

And then the best thing ever happened! I heard Linda’s voice behind me!!! I stopped and got off the phone with Brian. (He had just gotten to the park and I was telling him I was probably still like an hour and a half from finishing.) I knew from the texts that my coach and friends were sending that she wasn’t very far behind me and would probably catch up to me so I was so happy she did! We were able to hike/shuffle that last 4 or so miles of the course and it helped so much to have someone else to suffer with. We finally made it up the last hill to the finish line and I did the most pathetic shuffle run over the finish line. Brian was there with Libby and the race director came over and gave us high fives. We went over to some shade and sat down for a bit while Brian made sure I had a recovery drink and some ice to rub on my legs. Libby then took the ice out of my hands and ate it, so I felt like I was right at home!

It took a few minutes for the realization that I finished an ultrarace to set in, and I couldn’t be happier that I was able to do it. I don’t know where my ability to try and do things that I really don’t think are possible comes from, but I’ve had for as long as a I can remember. In 6th I tried out for the cheer leading team on a whim. I never had really given it any thought, but I went ahead and tried out and I made the team! I remember going to practices and the coach would give us pyramids or formations to do and the other girls would groan and say they couldn’t do them and I would say that I would try. I remember her asking them if they had ever heard me say “no” when she asked us to do something. She said that I was willing to try something first and if it didn’t work out then that was fine but at least I gave it try instead of just assuming I wouldn’t be able to do it. Her comment has always stuck in my head.

Finish Time: 9:28:31 – 31 miles – 72nd place out of 79. There were 97 runners signed up for the race; 13 racers DNS and there were 5 DNFs.

I don’t know what’s going to be next or if I’ll do another 50k again, but I did learn a few lessons from this race:
1.  A 50k is the longest that I will run. I honestly have no desire to run further than 31 miles…for now. 😉
2. I’m not sure I would have been able to do this distance at altitude. So, if I ever decide I do want to do this distance again, I’ll have to remember that.
3.  Trail Running Over Texas (TROT) is one of the best race directors around. They had great support and volunteers and the atmosphere of the race was just fabulous. I will definitely do one of their races again and will recommend them to anyone.

Thank you to Brian for being there for me through all the training and taking care of me. Your face at the finish line was definitely something I needed to see. Love you! <3
Tired spectator puppy
Thank you to my coach, Brandi, for putting together a training plan for me after I sort of sprang this race on you! You’re the best and I really feel bad for stressing you out sometimes!!! I’ll try to do better. 😊

And thank you to my friends who encourage me and, who themselves, do amazing things that inspire me to push my limits and to keep trying no matter what!

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