Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Bandera 100km: What should I have done differently?


 Following the 5k PR last weekend, I had rather high hopes for the Bandera 100k. Both Alicia and I were listed among the prerace favorites over at endurancebuzz.

Unfortunately, Alicia had some knee issues after running 100km in the snow at Tuscobia two weeks prior and made the (wise) decision not to run. She was however feeling better when she captured husband and wife Høeg (below) on our 30 minute run the day before the race.
And now, she would be able to pace me. At the pre-race meeting, Roy Pirrung of the USATF (and WI) announced that pacing was now allowed in USATF ultra championships because it has been such an integral part of the ultra racing tradition. I had never had a pacer before, but I was excited about trying it.

The night before the race, I had my usual pre-race nerves. I forced myself to eat way too much at Bricks, a good restaurant in Bandera. What did I eat? Tilapia with pesto, baked beans, veggies, salad, cheesy spinach dip and a Shiner Bock beer. Top that off with some baking chocolate when we got home.

The only reason I bring up the dinner is, by the time I woke up in the morning I was feeling really nauseated. I forced down a Clif Builder's bar for breakfast, but wanted to puke. Ole had me keep a diary of what I ate the three days up to the race and I constantly felt like it was too much. (I don't know why keeping a diary made me feel like I needed to eat more). That is also what I did before 3 Days of Syllamo and the Mad City 50k, though, and had some success with it.

Alicia was such a sport, getting up with us at 5:30 am to drive SR and me to the start. We stayed at a nice two bedroom house on Doe Creek and Bandera. Alicia backed out of the driveway and hit a tree!! Both Alicia and SR got some whiplash from it. I only spilled coffee on my fancy new shirt (see below). But I am still worried about Alicia's whiplash. SR didn't seem to have any sequellae.

I know I look nervous, but I was seriously ready to take it easy on the first 50k and then let loose. I loved seeing Olga at the start. We hugged and then she said "you are too thin". You are the best, Olga. I always feel  like you are looking out for me. Photo: Olga King.

SR always looks young and cheeky. He's about to start the 50k and has just noticed Timothy Olsen will be joining his race. Photo: Olga King
100km start. Photo: Alicia Hudelson
 The start was quite technical with multiple ups and downs. I loved it. I followed a young man with beautiful dreadlocks who seemed to know where to step. I got into a rhythm, too.

It was when the two girls behind me in the picture below started gaining on me at around 5 miles, that my mind started playing games with me.
Mile 5. Photo: Brian Kuhn.
I got distracted, not knowing if they wanted to pass, and I took a nasty fall on a slippery rock climb shortly after the above photo. I might have said something like "fukc", but don't quote me on that. I can so easily get out of my zone when women pass me. Plus it is hardly a swear word in Danish and I sometimes forget how Americans react to hearing it.

It was so humid that I decided to take one salt tab at the first aid station and boy did I regret it. It made me so sick to my stomach. I was having trouble getting my head in the game and staying positive. And I was only 6 miles into the race.

As soon as I got into a rhythm again and actually repassed the gals above, my right foot started hurting. I had purchased new shoes (minimal shoes with a rock plate), which Olga had mentioned to me. I should not have attempted to run 100km in new shoes. After only 7 miles the plate was hurting me way more than the rocks would have. We went through a long muddy section. Everyone came out of this with their shoes looking like mud snowshoes, none of us able to get much above a walking pace.

I saw Alicia at mile 16 and she helped me switch my shoes and refilled my Nathan hydration pack (nice, by the way) while I put on my older version of New Balance trail minimal shoes (without the rock plate), then I felt awesome.
Arriving at mile 21 feeling great. Photo: Alicia Hudleson

I loved the aid station workers at Bandera. They were so smiley and helpful, always offering ways to help. Photo: Alicia Hudelson

Fine line between enough food and too much. Photo: Alicia Hudelson
Everything was going smoothly until I ate too much at the aid station at mile 21 (including pickles) and started puking. Of course I only started puking after a woman passed me at around mile 22. I didn't know who she was, but it was such a mental blow. I puked again and then fell, lambasting myself with the knowledge that I hadn't yet made it a marathon and I was puking and felt like crap. I kept telling myself I was out of shape and didn't belong there. The muddy trails were ubiquitous and unrunnable. Then right after 26 miles, we went through a really technical and steep section. This is when I started crying. Negativity only begets more negativity. I was completely alone on the trails. I kind of wished I had someone crewing me or just had someone to run with at this point to save me from my own thoughts. My right shoe felt like there was a rock in it, but there was nothing there when I removed the shoe - just pruned skin from all of the moisture and cotton socks from Target offering no wicking.

I thought about Daniel Ditlev asking me what kind of socks he should buy for ultras. I proudly said I only wore cotton socks as it made no difference. I felt like a fool. I got to the 50k halfway point and had the race physician tape my foot and I switched to dry socks. It helped immensely. I made it through the 50k in just over 6 hours. I had planned on running the whole 100k in 12 hours and no longer felt I could do it. So I figured I would just run until I met up with SR and Alicia and then drop. I could not take the humility of running the course in over 13 hours. (your ego can kill you in an ultra).

Now that I had essentially given up and was just running to burn the calories I had eaten over the last week, I was passed by and met a ton of people. They were all so positive, and had you met me, you would have thought the same about me. It was a great group of people to run with. The scenery was beautiful. The temperature was perfect in the low 60's F.

After 37 miles, I ate quite a bit at the aid station and felt better. I momentarily entertained the thought of finishing the race. I started running faster and put on my music. But a couple miles at a faster pace killed my right hip. I could no longer run on it. A whole group of people came up to pass me. I couldn't take it. I went off to the side of the trail and hid in a mud pile under a bush and took a nap.

This is odd behavior even for me. I hadn't been able to eat well and I am certain I was dehydrated from not being able to keep liquids down. (Can I just say that I think Heed is terrible? Once my Gatorade was gone, every sip from my pack was like embibing a bitter poison. Maybe I should stick with water in the future).

I got up from my nap and walked to mile 42. Thank heavens Alicia and SR were right there and smiling. They had been waiting there for 2 hours and were starting to get worried.

A guy named Cullen came in right behind me. He was an experienced Texan ultra runner and had fallen and hit his head on the rocks. SR and I and am EMT assessed him and then we drove him to the medical tent. It was a smart decision on his part to stop. It is the second blow to the head that is really dangerous. And he avoided that.

Below is SR accepting his hand-crafted road runner prize for 3rd in the 50k. He ran it in 4:42:28.

Photo: Alicia Hudelson

SR with one of his heroes, Timothy Olson, who won the 50k in  4:18:23. SR even got an autograph. Photo: Alicia Hudelson.
Michele Yates looked so strong as she finished and won the women's 100km race in  10:08:48. Photo: Olga King.

Seeing Michele and then Melanie Fryar shortly after her finish looking so happy and strong did reignite my desire to tackle the 100km distance again. And coach Ole is already talking about going back next year for "revenge". Would be hard to imagine a better 100km race (Joe and Joyce Pursuaites do such an awesome job and the volunteers were unbelievable) - and assuming it is not muddy next year, it will be a perfect mix of runnable trail and technical ascents and descents providing perfectly variety.

So besides the obvious not focusing on what other women around me are doing, what should I have done differently? Looking back on it, I know I just needed to stay positive, but I couldn't let go of the fact that I hadn't had a run longer than a marathon since July and was convinced I wasn't ready. And maybe my hip would have given up on my at around mile 40 no matter what.

I'll leave you with a quote from Tim Noakes that I have been pondering:

Your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue. Your only recourse is to call on your spirit, which fortunately fuctions independently of logic.

I leave Bandera wondering "where was my spirit?"


Katie said...

The body is real pain in the butt, isn't it? It tries so hard to trick us into stopping anytime it can. Stupid body. ;)

I don't know, being positive, I'm sure would have helped, but maybe you'd be so wiped it would've impacted that sub 3 marathon you're chasing.

Nice job by the way. I'm happy not running 100Km, so even considering it sounds crazy to me. :)

Marathon Mom said...

Humidity is tough to run in especially when you aren't acclimated. Believe me I ran 4 yesterday in 90F after living in sub 0 and it was slow!

BTW: Tell SR nice shirt, wearing mine right now :)

Alicia said...

I think you had a pretty good amount of spirit. I could tell it would have been tough out there--all that humidity, the heat (it WAS hot in the afternoon, even if you didn't notice and even if it wasn't hot by Texas standards!), plus the rocks/hills are not easy coming from a steady diet of soft forest tracks. And you were injured!! You can't have a super strong spirit all the time in every race...

I think it's great that you're already sounding like you want to try 100k again.

Also, I need to add in my defense the full circumstances of hitting the tree:)--I was backing out of the driveway and it was totally dark because there were no streetlights, and the car's brake lights weren't bright enough to show that the driveway curved!! Fortunately my whiplash does seem to be improving, I hope SR's is all better too.

Karen said...

Humidity is a killer. Moving to California wrecked me for the first few months, it is so dehydrating. I also think Heed (and pickles) are horrible for running with.

Maybe you're still over-trained? The first signs I get of over-training is that my mental power disappears, makes sense that it would be the last thing to heal, right?

sea legs girl said...

Katie, that is fine you don't want to run a 100k because you would probably kick my ass and then I would be so mad ;o). And it is crazy and that is the appeal!

sea legs girl said...

Whoah Jen- where ARE you right now?

sea legs girl said...

Alicia - what I meant to write was that you backed into the tree on PURPOSE to sabbotage my race. Despite that, I am really glad it is improving (the whiplash).

sea legs girl said...

Karen- I agree with the "probably still overtrained" - that is definitely how I feel whether or not that is the case.

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Alicia said...

Fortunately I have an easier, failsafe plan to sabotage your race should I ever need it--if we're racing against each other at Bandera next year, I'll make sure Divesh speeds around the park and tells the police officers all about how he's crewing for Tracy:)

SteveQ said...

Odd photos - you're the only person I've seen use a hydration pack strap as a bra underwire.

Olga King said...

Humidity is really horrible when you don't know how to run in it. And in my personal opinion (with which I know of a handful local ultrarunners and athlete nutritionists agree) taking MORE than 1 salt tab would have made things better. But I do hate HEED for sure, never drink it - this is what makes me nauseated and puke-y. Cotton socks, just never ran long enough in bad conditions before, now you know. Sorry about the shoes, but whatever anybody recommends (myself including), please try before on a long run! Food - I never, ever eat any more (and try to not any different) than on any other regular night before the run. The shock you send your digestive system into with all that stuff getting processed and allocated...why mess up with a good thing? Do you eat before any of your 26 mile training runs like that? Then don't piss away the race! I can't help you with your mental game - you are a basket set when it comes to being competitive. But I can tell you that you are thin, and as you posted Michele's photo, she is strong. Thin gives nice flat fast marathons. Strong gives solid performances over 50M+ rocks and hills and mud. Even Melanie is not a skinny girl (by elite marathon standards, skinny in life, yes). So, get stronger. Some squats to build some leg would do you good once you're done with marathon training. Some upper body would help to keep you upright too. I actually hope one day you get to finish a long race where everything sucks from start go - it will give you a lot of power and lessons for the future:) Come back next year! Congrats to SR for running his own race - and not tagging behind Timmy in the first 6 miles (which would have been his last fast 6 then, like JB's). And please, when you train with certain nutrition plan, bring it with you and don't hop on what race offers - often it's crap, since RD's get cheap deals and need to go with it. Rant is over. Nice to see your smile!

Danni said...

Sounds like you need to work on your pre-race and race-day nutrition plan and perhaps your ego. And it sounds like either you were/are injured or imagining problems to give yourself an excuse to stop. Perhaps also you were wrong to assume you'd do awesome given the different trail conditions and weather conditions from what you're accustomed to? Sorry you had a bad race.

sea legs girl said...

OMG Steve- just ask Alicia how weirded out I was by the placement of that woman's-style strap. Turned out it was really comfortable, though, so looking like a fool was an acceptable sacrifice.

sea legs girl said...

Olga - that advice is worth hundreds of dollars or more. I hope you know that. Makes perfect sense to me - everything you said. I honestly don't think the humidity made that much of a difference, though. I'm used to it in the Midwest summers and Denmark is really humid pretty much all the time. Maybe more salt would have helped, but my stomach just rejects that stuff, ever since I stopped taking the PPI medication. I actually do regularly do squats and lift weights and have gained quite a bit of strength do to both. I don't blog about it too much, but I do have an intense cross training routine. I would love to be stronger, but feel like my whole life I have always had a scrawny body - even when I was a little overweight. It just seems to be my build. I do often ponder how much can be changed. I would love to see you again soon. Will you be at WS this year cheering? Or maybe Bandera next year :o).

sea legs girl said...

Danni- my ego always works against me. My best races happen when I let go. I know that and I try. But in all honesty, I just was not mentally prepared to be OUT there for SO many hours. I overestimated what I could do- especially given my injury.

Jill Homer said...

Didn't see mention in your race report of the difficulties of mud. I would think that would factor in.

I certainly can't provide the depth of insight into race mechanics that others have here, but isn't it pretty much impossible to be in top shape for both 5K and 100K distances? I say this as someone who hasn't seen much of my own personal "top end" for years, because I've leaned so heavily in the direction of long-distance endurance. It's likely going to get even more skewed for me this year, as my interests are taking me in the direction of multi-day races/challenges.

However, I'd love to run a 100K in 13 hours. :P

Good luck reaching your goals this year.

Olga King said...

No for WS this year, yes for Bandera next - always, while I live here:)
If you can't take salt pills, can you think of potato chips? NUUN and other FIZZ stuff dissolving in your water bottle? Glad you're into cross-training and supplemental training!
And to Jill, I do believe you can be in best shape (for you, or rather each individual) for a 5k and 100k.

Jason C said...

Your spirit was with you in Bandera. It is a very difficult course and the rain made things that muchmore challenging. I can promise that you are not the first one to make mistakes in preparation for a race in the Hill Country.

Was curious to know if the tape actually stayed in place or came off after a few miles? (it wasn't the best tape in the world)...

the race physician (assistant) ;)

Anonymous said...

I have run Bandera 3 times, once at each distance, and for any of them I think it really helps to train on that kind of terrain. It's a very unique trail...much rockier than most. I do think people underestimate how tough that trail is....people just don't think Texas could have anything so hilly and rocky. You'll do fine next year...just find lots of rocks to train on!

sea legs girl said...

Jill, the mud was a bummer. I have a renewed respect for the mental fortitude it takes to finish a 100k or longer! I agree that looking back I would have also loved to finish in 13 hours.

sea legs girl said...

Olga- great idea with the nuun or something similar. I'd totally redo my hydration strategy if I come back net year.

sea legs girl said...

Jason! How cool to hear from you. Yep, the tape worked like a charm. I actually didn't think it would - but thank you!

sea legs girl said...

Pancake. The rocky, dry parts were my favorite. It was the deep mud that was a killer! Maybe I'll see you next year?

Anonymous said...

SLG. The writing was on the wall for this one. Curious what advice your coach gave you for running Bandera a month out. If it had anything to do with a 5k PR, I'd drop him NOW! Just something to think about... a 10 minute mile would have gotten you on the podium. You just need to be able to run that for 62 miles.

sea legs girl said...

Anon- I am not really sure what you are asking. My coach's advice for running a 100km did not have anything to do with a 5k race. It was my idea to run that race and he was okay with it. He only started coaching me mid November and since I have been too injured to run long runs, up until a few weeks ago, it is really hard to blame him. I would have kept going had I not had to walk the last 20 miles on a painful hip. Seemed like a counterproductive thing to do at mile 42. For me it is far from about getting on the podium. It is about running the best race I can and not ruining the rest of my season if I feel I am injured.

maria said...

I've hidden behind bushes on two different ocassions while running. Once 'cause I was in a closed park and I didn't want to get hassled by the cops. Once because I was about to get lapped by my running buddies on an out-and-back course and I was super paranoid about not letting them know how far behind I was. So I hid behind a bush until they went by then dashed after them. I couldn't keep up though so they found out how slow I was anyway.

I'm surprised no one else has stories of paranoid-ly hiding in the woods! Or is that not normal?

DDitlev said...

What a post! Sorry, that I haven't read it thoroughly earlier. You are the experienced one of the two of us but when it comes to socks I swear to injinji toe sock :) Wear them even when not running .. hmm .. that goes for my nb minimus too, best shoe I've ever worn, glad to see you like them as well. I have however thought about trying the nb mt110 which is build on the same last.

I think it is great when someone shares the battles they fight and this post really made me feel I was there with you (still hope that we some day will run the same race).

The mental battle you describe is a hard one to win, once doubt enters everything starts to feel twice as hard. I wonder why you laid down and took a nap .. this is the first time (to my recollection) that I heard you have done that.

You entitled the post with a question: 'What should you have done differently' .. I think the answer is everything and nothing. Any other day the shoes might not have been a problem, just like the socks, the food and every thing else that felt wrong that day. One thing that strong runners like you and weak runners like me have a in common is that we can have 'bad days' and that is OK! So what if you didn't this race .. that day wasn't your day and just as you mentioned Cullen made the right decision so did you.

Happy Trails,
Daniel Ditlev