Thursday, September 12, 2019

Return to blogging? And reflections at week 33

It has been a long, long time since I've written a blog post.  I've steered clear for more than one reason, some of which I have a hard time articulating.

For one thing, I think that from this current place of happily married life, and expecting my first child, I've been looking back on how I handled recent struggles, namely the question of Joe getting an annulment, and the gloom of infertility, and have been judging myself pretty critically.  Now that everything has gone our way -- the annulment granted, our wedding held in the church in 2017, and a healthy pregnancy achieved after 14 months of trying -- I've been feeling a bit ashamed, like I was weak and without faith in how I let those struggles get me down.

I'm finally getting to a point, though, where I can be a little gentle with myself and affirm that I did show strength in getting through those tough times, in that together, Joe and I didn't give up, but persevered, doing whatever we could to make our dreams a reality.

In the last few months, I've been thinking about starting to blog again, but I've debated whether I should post publicly anymore, or whether I should just continue to journal privately.  I am leaning towards continuing to write occasional blog posts, because I have encountered people on the trails, at packet pickups, and at aid stations who mention that they've read my blog and enjoyed it.  It's hard for me to imagine that -- again, I'm super-critical of my writing -- but if my posts can provide any useful information or entertainment for a couple people, that's great.  And if no one wants to read my posts, that is perfectly fine, too -- they are still good thinking exercises for me.

So here's a quick rundown of some key reflections related to running and this pregnancy, from week 33:
1. Running during pregnancy is hard!  
I started off feeling like I could keep running (jogging) my entire pregnancy -- despite the fact that the day before I took the positive pregnancy test, I DNF'd a 3-mile run.  I maintained my confidence through about month four, when I was reduced to walk/jogs consisting of maybe half a mile of jogging at any given time.  I tried a belly band and didn't feel like it helped much.  My problems include breathlessness, GI issues, and a lack of energy.  I had been inspired by women I'd read about online who said they ran all throughout their pregnancies (one lady said her pace slowed about 30 seconds per mile, boo hoo), but at the 5-month mark, I gave up.  It actually was a relief to feel like I didn't need to force myself to try to run every day.  In this third trimester I've found that I can jog about the length of a block, so when I'm feeling especially good, I will jog the downhills during my walks.  Even jogging for short bursts gives me a quick happy feeling that I'm still a runner and will one day be able to really run again.

2. I have enjoyed staying active in other ways.
I joined the Y and have been swimming about 2 days a week for 30 minutes at a time.  I have also made a habit of doing prenatal strength videos on YouTube, pretty much every other day.  I'd especially recommend those by BodyFit by Amy.  When I feared my center of gravity was making me clumsy, I pulled my balance board out of the closet holding my "Useless Exercise Equipment" (Joe's words).  I balance on each foot for one minute, and then on both feet for one minute.  (See, it's not useless, Joe!) I also walk for 30-90 minutes about 6 days a week.  We were blessed to enjoy great hiking all summer on our various trips, including in the San Juans in CO, Glacier National Park in MT, and Washington state.  I'm hoping that by staying active and maintaining strength and conditioning, it will be (slightly) easier to return to trail running after the baby is born.

3. I am itching to be a competitive trail runner again.  I don't know whether that will happen.  I think I'm okay with that.
I've already signed up for my first ultra post-baby: Brazos Bend 50.  I've already expressed to Rob Goyen that I want to be part of Team TROT again in 2019-2020.  It feels like it's been forever since I've actually been a successful ultrarunner.  I felt like I broke myself two years ago, after running Tahoe 200 and J&J 100k in quick succession -- both in September 2017.  DNFing the Cactus Rose 100 the following month was a tough blow, as that is traditionally my favorite race, and one I had completed four times previously.

I spent 2018 trying to recover from burnout.  I ran only 4 ultras that year, including 2 of the Capt'n Karl's night races that I love, and the Alamo City 50k.  The night races went well -- I think I got a 4th place and a 2nd place -- and then at Alamo City I felt like I could barely make a forward motion with my legs.  That entire race was a painful death march in the hot sun.  It left a doubt in my mind whether I will ever be able to be an ultrarunner again.  It's hard to imagine how I could ever have done 50 mile or 100 mile races, when even running 5 miles seems hard.  I know that post-baby it will not be easier.  But I also have such wonderful role models of women who make working, raising kids, and training work, and who are then able to show their children an invaluable example of grit, work ethic, and perseverance.  These women inspire me to give it my all, and I plan to.  I don't know what that will look like in my case, whether I will ultimately get back to being able to run long distances well or not, but I am looking forward to trying.

Bridge to Heaven trail, CO - Photo by Joe Prusaitis. 4.5 months pregnant. I look taller than Joe!

Mt. St. Helen's National Volcanic Monument. 6 months pregnant. Photo by Joe.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Official Race Recap: 2019 Whataburger Challenge

WBC4: Greatness Redefined

The 4th Annual Whataburger Challenge is in the books, with history-making performances achieved!

With only 6 competitors this year, it was the first time that the WBC had more spectators than athletes, much like you’d see in any professional sporting event such as the Super Bowl, NBA finals, etc.  All but one of the six were return competitors; the one-and-done folks that couldn't face up to the extreme nature of the race have been winnowed away, and only the hardiest of the hardy, the elite of the elite, remain.

Some top storylines this year:

  • Matt "The Assassin" Smith, fresh off his wins in the 2019 Rockhopper Beer Mile and the 2019 Ice Cream Challenge, had the first ever attempt at the Triple Crown lined up with a win here.
  • Mike "The Ringer" Ruhlin, winner of the Taco Cabana Challenge, as well as WBC2 in 2017, was trying to become the first-ever 2-time WBC champ.
  • Chris "Cactus Kid" Russell was purely driven by the desire to stop The Assassin from winning the Triple Crown, and would have to do so without his usual harem of followers.

Franz The Vegetarian and Matt The Assassin (PC: Jess Winnett)

At 9:07 sharp, the gun went off and the gorging began.  Chris was done with his #1 in under 3 minutes and took off, with Joe "Schmo" and The Assassin right behind him.  Those three were followed shortly after by Mike, then Franz, and finally Wimpy Rich.

Matt went directly into Assassin mode, screaming down DeZavala at 6-minute pace, leaving the other competitors so far back they could no longer see him after a couple miles.  This aggressive gamble, typically ill-advised, paid off for Matt as the second restaurant was not ready for the volume of WBC orders.  This second store always seems to be the wildcard!  While Schmo and Franz (Franz was competing in the first-ever Vegetarian division) arrived 3-5 minutes later, their orders were more like 10 minutes behind Matt's.  "Sweet" Chris was heard to say that Denny's service was faster, and that he hoped Matt choked on that third burger.  One must wonder if any collusion took place with store employees.
Matt finishes up #2 while everyone else waits

Matt departed the second store before anyone else even received their #2 combo!  Legitimate worry began to permeate the dining room.  Mike "The Ringer," despite arriving 5th, was the second to leave, albeit 16 minutes behind Matt.  A minute later, Schmo and Franz finished and took off, very slowly, after the leaders.  Blaine Adams, one of the spectators, seeing pools of sweat forming, foolishly offered Chris a towel from his vehicle - Chris sat on it while dining and once complete with his #2, gave it back to the regretful Blaine.
Chris at WB #2, with Mike Ruhlin in the background

The heat took its toll on Rich, and he was the race's first casualty, a DNF partway through his #2 combo; but true to his persevering nature, he still managed to run all the way to the third restaurant with his partially-eaten burger for the weigh-in.

The Assassin arrived light years ahead of the others, but the tide had turned.  As Franz and Schmo finally arrived, both having been reduced to a pathetic walk/jog during the run, they saw Matt's entire #3 combo just sitting there, untouched.  Brian "Banjo McNaturepants" Ricketts, winner of WBC1 like a million years ago, was texting fellow WBC1 finisher (but WBC 4 spectator) Tom "Bro-ling" Bowling to get updates - he asked how Matt was doing.  The response: "Scott Rabb-like," referring to Rabbers' (also a WBC4 spectator) WBC1 performance in which he could only stare at the tray of food.
Paralyzed.  A familiar scene at WB #3 (this was also the 3rd different shirt Matt wore?)

Mike The Ringer arrived a couple minutes after Schmo, and the race's fate was set.  At 2:07, the 4th-fastest time in WBC history, Mike became the competition's only 2-time champion!  Greatness.
 Victory!  Again.

The prize he chose for 1st?  A Rockhopper hat (take that TrailZen)!

Schmo, having previously decided not to even order the #3, changed his mind when he saw the opportunity for his best finish, place-wise.  He ate all the fries, slowly, and stopped with the 3/4 pounds of burger remaining, to grab 2nd place.

Then things got interesting.  Chris had made the same decision as Schmo, but saw the opportunity to complete his mission of taking down the Assassin, as Matt bowed out already.  Chris made it through half his fries to grab the final podium spot, just ahead of Matt, who took 4th.
The podium (L to R: Schmo, The Ringer, Cactus Kid)

Franz made it through the veggie version of the #1 and #2 meals - a disgusting pile of fried hashbrown sticks in a standard Whataburger bun - and definitely deserved first-place vegetarian honors, even though he was the only competitor in the division.
Franz selected Spicy Ketchup for his Veggie feat

Finally, the coveted DFL (and WB Ketchup bottle) went to WBC2 podium finisher Rich, who showed up for his 2nd WBC event, joining a short list of elite competitors to ever attempt this race more than once.
Rich with his #2 bag of deliciousness

A note for those considering a WBC5 entry: you can do this - be sure to train throughout the next year, so you may too have your name forever inscribed in Whataburger lore.

Final Results:
1st - Mike "The Ringer" Ruhlin - 2:07
2nd - Joe "Schmo" Schmal - 0.74 pounds remaining of #3
3rd - Chris "Cactus Kid" Russell - 1.13 pounds remaining of #3
4th - Matt "The Assassin" Smith - 1.16 pounds remaining of #3
DFL - "Wimpy" Rich Mihalik - 0.93 pounds remaining of #2

1st Vegetarian - Franz "The Vegetarian?" Konczak - DNF before #3

Historical (four-year) DNF rate: 78%