Monday, August 26, 2013

Reveille Peak Ranch Race Report
I'm thankful for many things following the final 60K of the Capt'n Karl's race series (including the fact that the series is over!), but I'm especially thankful for the many angels at the race.  Here are a few of them:
  • The Rockhoppers members who attended the race.  Seeing how I moved to Texas just under a year ago, not knowing a soul in the entire state, it's such a wonderful feeling to show up to a race and see friends.  And I don't know of more hospitable, kind, caring, and inspirational friends than the trail runners I've met in the last year.  
  • The volunteers, who gave encouraging words, filled water bottles, and poured ice water over me at each aid station. 
  • A guy who tried to warn me about a rattlesnake coiled under a rock on the trail ahead.  Unfortunately, my new headphones blocked all ambient noise, so I couldn't make out what he was saying and had to wait until after the race to hear about it.
  • My friend Emmett, who I got to see at the race, and who was responsible for me running my first 50-miler earlier this year and registering for this series, as well as the Tejas 300 series.
  • My friend Elizabeth, who took great care of me after the race, put up with my fairly grumpy mood at 3:30 in the morning, and handed me my award for 1st place woman for the series. (An award I'm a little uncomfortable with, since I never actually won any of the races, but whatever.)
  • My coach, who talked some sense into me after the race.  I was disappointed about my 4th place finish, because I thought I was in 2nd place; a volunteer had told me I was the 2nd female going into the final loop.  But my coach asked me, Would you have pushed as hard in the final loop if you'd known you were in 4th place?  And I know that I wouldn't have.  So it was actually a good thing I'd been misinformed; I got a better time, and I got practice digging deep and pushing myself hard.  It's amazing how a little question like the one she asked could totally shift my perspective.
  • Mi novio, who led us in prayer before the race, and surprised me with a "congratulations" flower delivery the day after the race.  (And who put up with me wanting to stay at the race until one of my friends finished, which was at sunrise.) (And who let me play my Notre Dame Glee Club CD on the ride home.) :)
In case bulleted lists aren't your thing, how about a random story?  
It was the final 5 miles or so, maybe around 2:30 or 2:45 in the morning.  I'd run about 33 miles at that point, beginning at 7pm, so by then I'd spent about 6 1/2 hours running in the dark, alone.  I'd had 30-odd ounces of EFS slurry, but no solid food, energy gels, or anything of that sort since before the race started.  It was at that point that I noticed my headlamp was starting to dim.  I was worried that it would run out before I reached the finish line, and I couldn't remember if I had extra batteries in my pack.  I didn't think I did, and I didn't want to stop and check, because I'm always concerned about my time.  So I switched my headlamp to a green filter, thinking maybe it would conserve the battery and/or help me see better.  Almost immediately after I did this, a red, yellow, and black snake slithered across the trail ahead of me.
Or did it?  After I finished the race, I described the snake to my friends, who said it sounded like a coral snake, which is venomous.  But my boyfriend told me the light from my headlamp (which I'd switched back to white light shortly after the snake incident) didn't appear dim at the finish line, and when I got home and googled pictures of Texas snakes, none of them looked exactly like the one I'd seen.  Was it the green filter that made it look completely different to me?  Or was I just hallucinating (about the headlamp and the snake)?  I've heard the rhyme about coral snakes since I've moved here: "Red next to yella will kill a fella" but I hadn't studied a picture of a coral snake.  Maybe my mind conjured up its own version of a red, yellow, and black snake, as well as the idea that my light was going.  I'll never know for sure, but I guess I'm inclined to believe I actually saw a coral snake, which is pretty cool.

The only other tidbits I have to share from the race are that Reveille Peak Ranch is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Texas, the moon was big and orange and gorgeous that night, and the ants here bite, which is rather mean.

Anyway, what's on the docket for September? Recovery, strength-building, and gearing up for my 1st 100-mile race, which is in October!

St. Sebastian, pray for us! 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Colorado Bend 60K: The Movie

During the second half of the Colorado Bend 60K, as I became more and more loopy in the wee hours of the morning, I kept thinking of connections between my experience at the race and video clips.  Here they are, for your viewing entertainment.

First, I thought of Petey in Remember the Titans.  That's because I was saying (out loud, of course, even though only the deer and possums were there to hear me) really sarcastic comments like "Gee, running is sure fun" and "This course does not at all blow goats." 

Then, during one of the two incredibly long stretches between aid stations (okay, it was only 5+ miles between aid stations, but it seemed like eternity), I thought of David After Dentist.  "Is this going to be forever?"
During the race, I could relate to so many of David's comments.  "I can't see anything!" "I feel funny." "Why is this happening to me?" And like David, I also lost the ability to count.

I named all my flasks of EFS slurry, as I mentioned in my last blog post.  After tasting some for the first time as I began the race, I decided that the next flask I make will be called Khlav Kalash. 
The slurry tastes fairly awful.  And all the aid stations have to wash it down is Mountain Dew or crab juice.

Finally, in the home stretch of the race, I was reflecting on what a sarcastic mood I was in.  Given that I've been debating whether to use a pacer or not in an upcoming 100 mile race, I started thinking about this Gap Girls skit from SNL:
My fear is that, after 80 miles or so, I'd start acting like Chris Farley's character and my pacer would never want to speak to me again.

I'm thankful I still had a sense of humor by the end of the race, even if it's a weird sense of humor.

Pray Once, Then Give Thanks: Colorado Bend 60K

Occasionally I hear a homily that not only sticks with me, but changes my behavior.  That was the case with last Sunday's, where the priest's message was "pray once, then give thanks."  His point was that we sometimes keep asking God over and over for things, like Abraham in Genesis 18:16-33.  Is there anyone who's not annoyed by that scripture, when Abraham asks God if he'd spare 50 innocent people -- and how about 45? Would You spare 45? What about 40? etc.  Although Abraham does show persistence in his prayer, he doesn't display trust in God, that God has heard his prayer and will answer it if it's in accordance with His will.

The priest's message was that, instead of being irritating like Abraham, we should be more like Mary; at the wedding at Cana, when she asked her son Jesus to turn the water into wine, his reponse was no.  But she didn't keep asking him; rather, she moved ahead in faith and hope, instructing the servers to do whatever Jesus told them.  And, of course, Jesus did perform the miracle. 

I've been trying to apply this idea to my own prayer life.  So as the Colorado Bend 60K approached, I only asked God once to help me have the best race I could.  Then I just did my best, giving thanks for all the little and big blessings of the race. 

Here are some of the things I was thankful for:
  • Great friends.  I got to hang out with the Rockhoppers in their posh set-up by the starting line before the race, and then chatted with them again briefly after the race.  It's hard to come by nicer, kinder, more generous people.
  • Only falling 4 times.  Because I almost fell about a bazillion times.  Seriously, it was an incredibly rocky course.  There were some stretches that I thought of as minefields of rocks.  I was also thankful that I was able to bounce right back on my feet, not losing time after each fall.  I have some nice battle wounds to show for it, which is always fun.
  • Not running face-first into a giant spider that was weaving its web across the trail.  I saw it at the last minute and ducked to the left. To say that it was the size of my palm would be exaggerating . . . but not by much. 
  • More battle wounds -- from kicking a sharp, pointy rock (possibly the sharpest, pointiest rock in the park) into my left ankle.  And for the pain going away after only .25 mile or so.
  • Not meeting Bigfoot.  When I heard branches snapping -- loud enough that I could hear it over my loud music -- at 1:26am, alone in the dark woods, I thought to myself, Maybe Dad's right about Bigfoot . . . :)
  • For the best-feeling stomach yet during an ultra. Thanks to my coach, who recommended I try EFS slurry.  (I think the term slurry makes it sound too disgusting to drink, so I renamed mine; see below.)

At/after the race, I also gave thanks for:
  • The beautiful sunset. 
  • Seeing so many bright stars in the absolute blackness of the country sky.  And a shooting star!
  • Finishing the race.  I guess I lost the ability to count to four at some point during the race, because I was really uncertain whether I had just left the last aid station, or whether there was one more.  So when I saw the finish line, all I could think was "Praise God!"  That was a really tough course -- the hardest yet in this race series, I'd say.
  • Brother wind, to occasionally cool me down.
  • Safely driving back to San Antonio -- a three hour drive -- from 4:00am to 7:00am, without hitting any of the many deer lurking in the ditches.  (Although I did run over a skunk, which I feel sad about.  Poor Pepe.  He had a really cool-looking spiky white hair-do.  At least we didn't make eye contact -- then I'd feel even worse.)
Three of these night-time 60Ks down; one more to go.  I guess my nickname will have to be "second place," because that's been my fate each time.  And I'm thankful.