Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bandera 100k

As you can read from my prerace post, I had high goals going into Bandera. My next 4 months is about to get very busy with the busiest semester of nursing school and I wanted to make a go at a Western States spot. You have to try right?
I have been so mentally strong and excited and motivated for so long toward this race, but by race week I was in a different place. I was busy getting the house and kids ready to leave yes, but I think my mind was just tired of holding me up. I was still looking forward to it, but I wasn't super excited and it was hard not to be overwhelmed by my goal. I ran Wednesday with my good friend who ran on the same dirt road with me on my last run before my PR marathon. I thought it was nice superstition satisfaction. 
As I've prayed for mental strength to continue until race day when I felt like it was waining, I came away with the true, less overwhelming goals of run my best race and come away happy. Well this friend asked if I really wouldn't come away happy if I was 3rd (1st and 2nd earn the Western State spot). I honestly couldn't answer her that I would come away happy with 3rd. That stunned me a little. Praying that night before bed I had some peace come. Bandera is not to destroy me, it is to build and excite me. Every opportunity is a growing opportunity. Too much pressure is a bad thing, it messes with my brain too much. I am going to Bandera to have MY best race and if for some reason my best race does not put me in a position to take home a slot, the effort of Bandera will be excellent in the strength bank toward any future race, including Western. I signed as an Altra athlete and have travel help now, I can afford to go to another race to chase western if needed but the plan is to do it at Bandera.
That's what I needed, seems simple and silly to some that I couldn't just tell myself that all along, but it helped me a lot then and the rest of the week. 

On the flight to San Antonio I sat next to a woman looking over the course map and elevation profile for the race. My new friend Shannon was connecting from Portland to go out to the race and had done it several times. Was nice to talk to someone with course experience and to make a new friend of course. Kind of ironic she happened to be on the same plane and right next to me. 
Jeremy and I walked along the Riverwalk that evening and enjoyed a dinner out with friends we haven't seen in a long time. Was really nice having that day, Thursday, to not worry about the race, just enjoy the trip. 
Along the River Walk in San Antonio feeling ready to run
Friday we made the hour drive over to Badera and while I watched the terrain become more rolling, even at the state park the hills we would run tomorrow were hidden. I wasn't cocky, but wasn't that worried. There was no mud that evening either.  After we got upgraded to a wonderful condo instead of the 1 room cabin I booked (heater broken and in this weather we needed a heater) so my personal chef made me an awesome dinner while I sat on the floor scattering and organizing all the gear I brought for drop bags. Was such a nice relaxing night. 

Lots of stuff it appears for 2 drop bags (dry bags rock as drop bags), I probably only pulled out 10% of this.
Bags would have been even smaller had it not been for the threatening weather
After dreaming several times I'd slept in I finally woke up to the real alarm and enjoyed a peaceful morning in the living room finishing drop bags and gear while my better half slept in darkness and quiet. He went out to warm the car up and warned me sternly to be very  slow and careful going down the stairs as they were covered in ice. Awesome. I really wasn't too worried though. Jer pumped me up with all my favorite pre race songs as we followed many tail lights down the dark road ahead. I was excited!  Dropped my bags off, found the weather not as cold as I thought, and ran over to the starting line about 10 seconds before they said go. 
Traci, Me, Kelsie, Melanie at like mile 1 probably
The pace was fast but I was in the mix of top 5 women...for a few miles anyway :) I did great up the first climb but was learning just how "fun" ice covered rocks are, and some sections of Bandera that's all there is to run on, ice covered rocks. As we started down the first big downhill from Sky Island I lost that lead pack. They were far more daring on the icy rocky downhill. So, my new friend Traci (Traci Falbo, an amazing runner) and I along with some ladies named Ashley and Kelsie would be around each other for the next several hours. Was nice to chat. Traci and I talked about how fast the women's pace was so far and how we were wanted to run our own races right now and I was able to settle into my own by about mile 16. Up until 16 it felt like I was really working hard, harder than I wanted to (and yet I told myself I'd probably need to work harder than usual to have better than usual results, maybe harder wasn't the answer, maybe smarter was). Up to 16 I was on 10:15-10:30 pace. By the end of the little 5 mile loop back to Crossroads aid station at 21, I was closer to 10:45. Darn. 

Welcome to the mudfest
Now we were experiencing the crazy heavy mud. Mud unlike I'd run in. Mud so heavy each foot really did feel at least 5 pounds heavier and the mud didn't just cake under foot but around it too, I told one guy we looked like we had mud snowshoes on. And there's no kicking it off, or scraping it off. It would just pile right back on. It required so much more and zapped so much more muscle and energy and strength. I knew everyone else was dealing with it, but for my own body, I had a few moments of concern. Twinges of pain or strain in my ankle or quad or calf made me a little nervous. We probably had a 10 mile and 5 mile stretch of mud like that. Each of the 2 loops.  I knew it would slow me down, but I was more concerned about how much energy it would take out of me so early in the race. When we would go down these steep ledgy downhills I had that fear confirmed with shaky, tired legs. 

The shoes and legs post race.  There are yellow shoes under there.
And then there was the razor sharp sotol plants lining the trail on both sides in places where there was no where to go but through. It hurt really badly several times and was annoying most of the other times. Was grateful for capris so I at least only ripped up my shins. There were places the sotol was way closer together and thicker than in this photo below. 

Photo from
I rolled into 50k at 5:25 (although I think my husband has me down at 5:15).  Made quick time in the aid station only changing out of my noisy rain coat (which did serve me well during 1 rain storm) and into a softer quiet jacket.  I also had changed from my Ultraspire Astral vest hours ago at Crossroads into my Ultraspire Quantum belt.  LOVE that belt!  I didn't start with it because I didn't want to stop at every aid station to fill my 2 5-oz flasks for time and because I didn't want to get gloves wet, but it turned out totally worth it.  Love not having weight on my shoulders but still don't like a handheld. 
Anyway, left halfway positive.  I kind of resigned myself to not coming in top 2 anymore, but I wanted to hold on and 'race my best race' in case someone ahead faded.  I wanted to have more to push with, but it never really came.  It was nice to see a lady in front of me and I got within a minute a few times, but she held strong and pulled away each time.  Time passed pretty well, I was looking forward to seeing my husband again at Crossroads again.  I was walking a little more than before maybe, but I powered up every hill even if it was a power hike, trying to make up any time I could.  On the downhills that thankfully weren't as slick anymore, I kept mantras in my head like "pick your feet up, pick a line, pick your feet up, pick a line" or "feet up, knees up, feet up, knees up".  I kept to my schedule for Ibuprofin and PreRace and did well with my calories and hydration.  Enjoyed a small cup of yummy mashed potatoes and then a few hours later had mashed potatoes inside a quesadilla in one hand, and a cup of jelly beans in the other :)  There was only 1 aid station to go now till the finish, 2 sections, and I was motivated by a new time goal, to go sub 12, preferably in the 11:40something.  I knew my splits from earlier and was still feeling reasonable GI and leg wise and the mud was slightly better, so I gave it my best.  I left Crossroads with my headlamp which I was hoping to not have to need, but it's a good thing I had it.
My game face
By the time I got to that last aid station, and I'd made good time to it, I was happy about that, it was time for a headlamp.  The last section of the course included 2 big climbs and 2 big descents.  They were long both ways.  When I left that aid station it was about the time I had wanted to finish and I could hear the finish line a bit.  That was a bummer.  It was really misty out now, maybe light rain, but more just misty.  However, it made it impossible to see with the headlamp on your head. I had to hold it in my hand with arm down.  I'd have to raise it up to see the reflective markers tied to trees.  Definitely slowed things down to not be able to see where I was going very well.  After finally getting to the start of last long climb (which would have a long descent afterwards), I knew I'd be close once I got the switchbacks.  So, I started singing a song about the switchback.  It was totally weird but kept my mind busy and motivated.  Shining the light on cactus nearby that looked  like giant rabbit ears was fun too.  My pace had really slowed running in the dark and I really wanted to accomplish at least one goal that day.  Finally found that switchback, thanked it for being there and ran as fast as I could to the end of the trail that lets out on a dirt road that's probably a mile or less from the finish.  I ran into a man probably in his 70's in the 50k probably, who wondered if he was going the right way.  I assured him he was and continued on, in awe of him out here and wanting to be out here.  What was his motivation I wondered?  I admired him and hope I'll still love it at his age.  
The finish came and I snuck in at 11:49.  Barely got it, but got one goal that day.  6th place, 5th USATF.  As for my 'run my best race' and 'come away happy', I didn't have the competitive edge I wanted that day and probably didn't push myself to 100% so I didn't meet that goal completely, but I kept on and finished strong-ish and healthy.  I never got passed in the second half, that's good.  As for the 'come away happy', I laughed at myself at thinking "well, I'm happy to be done" :)  
See, I do smile, this was even the second half of the race, mile 35 or so
I'm disappointed but not depressed.  No, I didn't have a miserable day, but I was bummed at how much I had underestimated the course and competition.  I was trained well, but not specific enough for this course.  I ran too much flat, too little technical (not that I have ice covered rocks to train in, snow would have been easier).  Knowing the course would help I think, being able to train on some of those rocky downhills.  Home court advantage would rule on those.  I lost most ground there I think.

I posted a picture of a humble pie on my Instagram mostly as a joke.  The night before I posted a picture in my Wasatch Mountain Wrangler shirt in front of a big Texas clock saying "we'll see how 'technical' and 'hilly' this course really is, or I'll eat humble pie".  I posted a picture after the race of humble pie on Instagram mostly as a joke, it made me laugh at least.  But a lot of people didn't understand.  I got the "well you still ran way faster than I ever could" or "6th place isn't bad" or "don't be so hard on yourself, you did amazing!".  All well meaning thoughts and I appreciate every thought or like!!  I do!  But I wish people understood that faster than someone, doesn't mean easy, it doesn't mean I have to be happy with it because it was faster.  I had my own personal goals, big goals for this race (read the post before this if you haven't).  So while 6th place is great at a competitive race like this, it is!  It wasn't what I wanted.  Mostly, I didn't feel the way I wanted that day.  I felt flat.  
I'll learn from this, train more specifically for the next one, whatever the next one is, and be grateful for my strong, able, healthy body, and the wonderful opportunities I have to run and race.

Strong scratched sore legs heading home
along with buttered popcorn jelly belly's from my mom
Wow that turned out to be a really long post with lots of honest verbal vomit (it just keeps coming in my mind and out my mouth sometimes as my running friends will tell you, this is my journal though, public as it may be).  Here is a simple list of the equipment I used
Altra Lone Peak 2.5 - yep, got to run in a shoe not out yet and I loved it!  Good ol Lone Peak bottom (great tread, sandwiched stone guard) and an upper that feels like an improved return to the original Lone Peak.  Beautiful roomy round toe box and tough mesh.  I dare say a little lighter than the current Lone Peak.  Happy feet the entire day!
Altra Gaiters - I'll let the picture speak for itself.  They do their job well. 

Smartwool socks and long sleeve 1/4 zip - I apologize not having the model name, but they are a great thicker but not bulky wool and kept my feet warm in the wet conditions all day.  Never changed socks, never noticed my feet.  As for the shirt, it is so soft and thin, but warm too.  Love having a zipper to regulate temperature.  Considered changing it halfway through as it was damp from sweat, but didn't, and never got cold or bothered.  Expensive for a shirt, but worth the investment, especially for winter.
Icebreaker wool bra - don't picture an itchy bra.  That would be stupid.  This feels like any other sports bra but breaths better.  I don't have a whole lot to put in the bra after nursing 4 kids, but a comfortable core is important for everyone.  Did I mention I came away with zero rub spots or blisters?  Zero, anywhere.
Misc - Wore fancy ol Old Navy capri tights, comfortable, stayed in place, protected me from the sotol (on my quads anyway).  Wore a running rain jacket the first half and a light Pearl jacket the second half.  Wore a buff around my neck the whole time and a visor the last couple hours to  keep rain out of my eyes.  Some basic Polartec gloves came along for the ride too.
Ultraspire Quantum belt - I've said it before I'll say it again, I LOVE THIS BELT!  No bouncing, holds plenty in front and enough water to get me aid station to aid station in a race like this with reasonable close aid stations (I usually carried a 3rd flask in my hand I'd drink first then tuck in my bra).  I started with the new Ultraspire Astral pack, a pack I recently wore on a 31 and another 25 mile training run, both with good results, but for whatever reason, it bothered my this time and by 20 miles I had it off and I liked the shoulders free feeling (I do love the Spry pack though) so the Quantum came on for the next 42 miles.  The Astral bounced more than I liked which I don't know if it was due to only having the bladder 1/2 full, or the pack being over my rain coat, but as much as I like having my chest unstrapped, I think it helps keep it bounce free.  I'll have to keep playing with it more to love it more.
Vfuel gel - used 1 every 30 minutes the whole darn day and had zero stomach complaints and good energy.  Love how thin it is, and loved having 5-gel flasks in drop bags to carry around rather than deal with wrappers.
Elete Electrolytes - used the liquid additive in my pack initially and then was concerned about not having it in my flasks I switched to, so when I pulled one out my husband had filled and tasted the tapwater goodness it made me smile, I love that taste, really!  When I had plain water I'd use the electrolyte pills, even shared one with a downed fellow runner.  Hope it helped him as much as they help me!
First Endurance Pre Race - Bought these pills to experiment with and mostly to use at night in 100 milers, but turns out they provide great energy boosts for several hours in the day too!  I took 2 doses 4 hours apart and then half a dose 90 minutes before finishing and was pleased with the results.  I don't feel high or jittery or crazy energy, but I feel a boost and feel steady and I like that.  I save them for racing or really desperate training runs.  I also took Optygen HP for a bit over a month which I like too.

1 comment:

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

Sounds like a tough one! That kind of mud makes for a hard run. Thanks for sharing what works for you like mashed potatoes and VFuel! I've heard about maple bacon VFuel and I'd like to try it!