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?"

Monday 7 January 2013

A perfect 5k

One of the problems with New Year's Resolutions is they force us to see the person we currently are as unsatisfactory in a way. Of course none of us is perfect, but maybe we should look at ourselves more often and say "I am happy and satisfied with the way I am right now".

We are in La Crosse, WI again and our visit corresponded with the New Year's Resolution 5k race at the YMCA in Onalaksa. I have now run this winter race course four times.

The first time I ran it was with SR in 2007, before we were even dating. It was the first 5k I had ever attempted to run fast (thanks to the encouragement of SR). If my memory serves me correctly, I ran it in just under 23 minutes. It is always a tough race, in temperatures well below freezing, with wind and some good hills.

A year later, I was 8 months pregnant and ran it in a time somewhere over 26 minutes - after eating two enormous and wonderful muffins from the Co-op here in town (mmmmm).

Last year, I thought I had a PR in me, but with the usual tough conditions, I ended up running it in 20:35 (2 seconds ahead of the 16 year old girl Bailey Oettel), good enough for 3rd place Female.

This year would be the first time I would run it without SR. He was working a shift in the ER and my Mom had agreed to watch the boys. I arrived 1 hour and 15 minutes early. This gave me time to pick up my chip, number, change clothing multipe times, chat with the Bluff Busters Tri Club and manage a very good warmup (was sure to included multiple 200 meter sprint repeats, which seem to shock my system into fight mode). I felt I needed it since the thermometer said 11F (-11C). From the moment I started this warmup, my legs felt good. My goal was simply to beat my time from last year since I knew these were way tougher conditions than I had run my 19:34 PR in. There was even ice and snow on the course in some spots and I was afraid of falling.

When the gun went off (actually when Jamie made a fire engine sound), I started out with the second group of guys and Bailey Oettel at my side. After a half a mile, I pulled ahead of them and up to the first group of guys. I ran the first mile in 6:09 in a headwind. I stayed with the top three guys and the one who had been first dropped back to immediately ahead of me for the rest of the race. Despite the temps, there were fans screaming "GO GIRL" all the way, which was so motivating. I felt strong and non-sick the entire way. I've never felt like that during a 5k and came in in 19:24 on my Garmin stopwatch. First female, fourth overall. I almost felt like I could run it again. They had 19:28 on their chip time, but most people seemed to think the chip time was off. I can't otherwise explain a 4 second discrepancy when I started my watch immediately and stopped it after I crossed the line. Either way, a PR and a huge personal record on the course. I am thrilled with this performance!! Something in my current training plan is working - I'm just not sure if it is more speed work, less training or the combination. It's shorter than 100k, but makes me hopeful about Bandera this coming weekend.

 In an exiharating cool down run, I listed to the great Swedish band, The Knife's Marble House and savored a huge endorphin rush. Incredible you can feel that way after only running 3.1 miles.

Sorry no race pictures, but here are some from our trip so far:
Me and my mom's mom (Mormor!)
Welcome to the land of static electricity
Prachthauser-Høeg-Allen party on the marsh

Don't look for any clues about our personalities on these shelves. We're just renting a house in La Crosse.