Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Race Report: Muleshoe Bend

Photo from
For some reason -- maybe my lingering cold, or the general lethargy brought on by spending the past few days in bed -- I can't muster the energy to write a full race report.  But probably no one would want to read such a thing anyway.  So instead of that, I'll just focus on the best parts of the race.  In that spirit, here are:

Ten Things That Didn't Suck at the Muleshoe Bend 60K*
1. Rediscovering a couple great songs on my mp3 player: "Run Through the Jungle" by CCR and "Live Out Loud" by Stephen Curtis Chapman.
2. Wearing the Chilly Pad cooling towel my dad gave me for my birthday -- it really cooled me down. I dipped it in ice water at the end of each loop. (Thanks, Dad!)
3. Using two handheld bottles -- that way, I was able to fill one with ice water and one with ice and Gatorade or Coke at each aid station.  Much quicker then refilling a hydration pack.
4. Orange-flavored ginger chews to combat nausea.
5. Chatting with a running buddy/inspiration at the aid station at the end of each loop.
6. My super-bright new headlamp, which allowed me to not need a backup handheld (although it gave me a sore bump on the head for the following two days).
7. The stars at night were shining bright, deep in the heart of Texas.

Why is it so difficult to think of good things about this race? I'm really having to work to think of three more things . . .

8. I actually liked having four loops of 9+ miles, rather than two loops of 18+ miles. It's always a feeling of accomplishment to pass through the start/finish area, and having only 3 aid stations to keep track of is easier for my run-addled mind.
9. The Tejas Trails organizers and the volunteers are always so great. And the runners, too -- when a runner behind me fell down, several people turned around to make sure she was all right.
10. Singing along to a Notre Dame band CD all the way home. “And here it is….the Band of the Fighting Irish….America’s first University band, with students from across the country and overseas, and representing every field of study.” :) Okay, not actually a part of the race, but part of the race experience, anyway.

*I'm not trying to imply that other things did suck. Banging my head against a tree trunk in the dark, kicking a rock so hard that I thought I broke my toe, having my sunglasses ripped off my head by tree branches, falling, accidentally running an extra mile, and enduring temps of 102 degrees** at the beginning of the race were bothersome, but actually added to the feeling of triumph upon crossing the finish line. Whose glass is half full now? :)

**Funny story: As we lined up at the starting line, a friend/fellow runner asked me if I'd already been running, since I was so sweaty. That's not a great sign.
Image from 

Only two more of these night races left this summer! Thanks be to God for a great couple of races so far. Looking forward to the next one at Colorado Bend.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Illustration from
In a recent Runner's World article, authors Budd Coates and Claire Kowalchik describe a rhythmic breathing technique they developed to prevent injury while running. It's a 5-count breath, where you inhale for 3 footfalls and exhale for 2.  The reason it can be beneficial to the runner's body is that it maintains a balance between the sides of the body experiencing the stress of footstrikes. According to research, "the greatest impact stress of running occurs when one's footstrike coincides with the beginning of an exhalation. This means that if you begin to exhale every time your left foot hits the ground, the left side of your body will continually suffer the greatest running stress."  The authors found that using this technique sped up recovery time and allowed them to run without undue stress or injury.

I've used this technique for months now, ever since reading the article. At first I had to make a conscious effort to maintain the rhythmic breathing, but it actually surprised me how quickly it became second nature. I make one slight adjustment to it, however: when I'm not actively thinking about other things, praying, listening to music, or catching up on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" podcasts, I say these words in the same rhythm as my breath: "Thank You, Lord Jesus; Praise You, Lord Jesus." The syllables of these words fit perfectly with the rhythm, with "Thank (or Praise) You, Lord" occurring during the inhale steps, and "Jesus" occurring on the exhale steps. This has also become second nature after using it so much, so I find myself thinking these words in time with my steps without even having thought about it. 

This breathing technique may or may not be preventing injury -- it's hard to say.  But I will say that it benefits me by keeping me going during long races, giving me something small to focus on when I feel like I just want to be done.  And it also helps me to remember as I'm running that I want every step to be a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God.