Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Red Dirt 50k Race Recap


Last Saturday was the Red Dirt Ultra, and the first year in the race's 7 year history that I arrived as a participant and not the race director.  After last year's race, it was time for me to hand it off to someone who would care about the legacy of the race, but who would also take the time to grow it and make it an even better event.  That person is Fawn Hernandez.  Fawn is a very experienced trail and ultra runner, and she has a love of the sport that I believe is necessary to have an event that is pure to the spirit of trail running.

Friday evening, Randy and I hung out at packet pickup for a bit, visiting with old friends and making new ones, then for the first time in the history of this race, we went to our hotel room (not a tent or box trailer) to sleep and get ready for the race.  I wanted to see all of my 100 mile friends, so we got to the race site early Saturday morning before the 100 mile and 100k started.  

Ten minutes before the 50k started, Fawn did her trail briefing, giving specific info on the trail and what to expect for the day. She also mentioned the passing of the RD torch and said a few sweet words to acknowledge the handover, and before you know it, the countdown was started and we were on our way.  

The first few miles of this race have a fair amount of climbing and loose sand, so I knew I would take it easy until I hit a runnable section.  Sarah LeBlanc and I ran / hiked together for much of the first 12 miles on the course.  Since my piriformis flared up earlier in the week, causing me to have to take a few days off of running, while taking anti-inflammatories and spending time with the percussion massager, I knew there was a chance that I may not be able to finish the race.  After all, this was just a training run for the Badger 100 coming up in July, and I didn't want to push a minor injury into a major one that may cause me to lose training time.

In the last couple of miles before we hit the MudnGuts aid station at mile 12, I started to notice a sharp pain in my left knee when we were climbing.  I was pretty sure it was just a result of a tight and angry piriformis, but I began to resign myself that I would stop at mile 12 to avoid potential damage.

When I arrived at MudnGuts, Randy was there with my nutrition (Skratch Super Fuel - 400 calories per bottle, 200 - 250 calories per hour), and the aid station was ready to help me and get me on my way.  If you haven't done one of my races, the MudnGuts aid stations are always a highlight of the race. This aid station is filled with experienced trail and ultra runners and they are as loving as they are tough.  They have saved many people's races when they thought they could no longer continue.  Great people.

So, I stopped my watch.  I told Randy about the knee pain and that I didn't want to take any chances.... then I started thinking about getting to see Shipley Cafe (the last aid station on the trail, and another truly phenomenal one - coffee or espresso to order, delicious burritos and more!) or the new section of the trail run on the Caroline Dorman trail that I had not seen yet, not to mention that this was the first year of Fawn being RD, and it was important to both of us that she would be able to put a medal around my neck. 

So I stretched, took a couple of ibuprofen (Not recommending this!  Do this at your own risk!  I take very small doses just to take the edge off when I am hurting.), restarted my watch, and headed back onto the trail. I asked Randy to try to meet me at the next aid station as well, just in case the pain got worse.  Yes, it was a no crew access station, but I claim Founder's Privilege on this one.

I started run / walking again, and no knee pain!  But in a few miles, my lower back started tightening up - what I am sure is all still related to my whole left side being tight from the piriformis flare up.  I ran when I could, walked when I needed to navigate around mud, or just needed a break, and made it to the next aid station where Randy was waiting. I knew if I made it there, I would make it to the end. After this is was just 5 or so miles to Shipley Cafe and 6 or so to the finish line.  Stupid mental games you play with yourself in an ultra.

Between the third aid station and Shipley Cafe laid the new section of trail that I was looking forward to.  Most of Red Dirt Ultra is run on the Sandstone trail which is also an ATV trail from May - December, so it is a wide, not very technical trail.  The main thing you have to navigate are ruts from the ATV tires now and then and a few rocky sections.  

The approach to the Caroline Dorman trail was a dirt road for about .8 miles which seemed longer as it was midday and the temps got up to 80.  Once on the trail, you went from running on packed sand to running on grass, and since this section is not heavily used, the trail was not always obvious.  After a few stops to look for trail markings, I made it to Bayou Kisatchie, where the trail skirted alongside for the last mile or so before Shipley Cafe. Here are a few pics from that section:

My feet were wet most of the day due to water crossings.  Between that and the sand, it wrecked havoc on runners feet.

The water on this trail is cold and clear.  Feels great on tired feet that are already wet from the trail.

Kisatchie Bayou

A washout on the trail. One of the many reasons I was happy I wouldn't have to run this section at night.

Once you finished this section, you found yourself on a cement sidewalk that led straight to Shipley Cafe, where I was happy to get a big hug from Jeff Shipley, the Aid Station Captain and an old friend.  Jeff is an aid station genius. His station was about 25 miles into a very hot loop, and the first thing he offered was a popsicle.  Perfect.  The next thing I wanted was a cold beer.  During a long race like this, about half of a cold beer if perfect - carbs for a quick pick me up, cold, and bubbly to refresh your mouth from the sugary sweet stuff you've been eating at the aid stations.  If you know Randy, you know that where he is, there is usually beer, so I met him at the car, drank my beer, refilled my pack and headed up the road.

This was by far my least favorite part of the race.  It was midday and hot, and this was 1.5 miles of dirt road until we could reenter the trail.  I told Randy at Shipley Cafe that I had decided to walk it in from this point.  I was 25 miles into a race that I was seriously undertrained for (longest run prior was 9 miles), and I really just wanted to enjoy the rest of the race.  

Once I entered the trail again, I played leap frog for a while with Scott - an active duty Air Force member, who was walk/running ahead of me.  He would jog a bit, then stop and walk and I would keep catching up with him.  Eventually, he decided just to walk it in as well and we walked the rest of the race together and visited the whole way.  

One of the beauties of these races is watching people who would never meet otherwise, or who may have nothing in common, become friends.  The trail is the great equalizer. It doesn't matter what you do, what your political beliefs are, or how much money you have in the bank.  On the trail, everyone is equal.

To wrap up a too long post, I finished at 8:40, I think. Nowhere near a pr, but that wasn't the goal, and this is a tough course - about 2300 feet of gain in 30 miles.  I got my medal and hug from Fawn, Georgie, an angel on earth cleaned and worked on my feet, I drank a couple of beers with friends, ate some of Darrins delicious gumbo, and headed back to the hotel to shower and rest so I could clear 9 miles of trails for Fawn the next day.

All in all a great weekend! 

Happy Running, y'all! 


Thursday, February 9, 2023

Some days are harder than others


If the alarm had been going off at 9:30, I wouldn't have been so unhappy about it.

I REALLY didn't want to run this morning. As soon as my alarm went off, I started the mental negotiations.  Here's how it went:

"It's going to be sunny this afternoon, I can run then" (Knowing that this is rarely successful, as I am usually pretty toasted when I get home from work.)

"Maybe I can skip today. It's been a rough training week and my muscles need to rest." (This is true - I am 60 flights of stairs into a 70 flights of stairs week, with 20 miles running left to do before the end of the weekend as well.)

'If I sleep for 20 more minutes, I should still be able to get my run in and make my first meeting" (Which was also true, but it would have made my morning very stressful, and I don't like starting my day feeling rushed.)

In the end, while all of this was happening in my head, I was getting dressed and ready to run.  5 miles later, I am so happy that I overruled my brain this morning and got it done.  Now I just have 10 flights of stairs to do once I reach the office and I'm good for the day.

One skill running has taught me is that I can observe my inner dialogue but I don't have to obey it.  Even during races when the negative thoughts pop up, I can detach from them and continue moving.  Helps in life in general as well. 

Happy Running!


Saturday, January 28, 2023

Run Nutrition

 One thing it has taken me a while to learn is the importance of taking in calories during a run - even a "short" run of 45 mins to an hour.  During 100 milers, I am pretty careful to get between 200 - 250 calories per hour in, but on shorter runs, I tend to be lazy about it and think, "It's just an hour, I'll eat after."

I don't normally eat before a regular weekday run.  I get up, get dressed and get out of the door before my brain can object.  But, I have started making it a point to do a gel (100 calories) before I head out the door - usually with a little caffeine in it and the difference is very easy to see.  My daily runs are better when I fuel before and during if the run is over 30 minutes.

I have tried many gels over the years - it is just the most convenient way to get in concentrated calories and carbs when you are on the move.  I have also done the "all real food" thing before and it works great as well, it is just a lot more work and preparation.  The gel that I have settled on for the last few years, thanks to a recommendation by Fawn, is Huma - energy gels with chia seeds and all natural ingredients.  Most of the other gels out there have ingredients I can not pronounce where as my favorite Huma - lemonade - is made with cane sugar, water, brown rice syrup, lemon juice, powdered chia seeds, sea salt and natural caffeine.  (click the image to check out their website)

It doesn't make sense to run for your health and take in garbage as fuel.

Once I get closer to two hour plus runs, I move over to Skratch Superfuel Drink Mix.  This was a life saver on my last 100 miler.  I can carry a  400 calorie mixture in one of my water bottles, and electrolyte water in the other bottle. I set my watch to beep every 15 minutes which reminds me to drink some of my Skratch, and I know that every two hours I need to be finished with that bottle of Skratch.

Liquid nutrition is just the easiest thing for me. I drink a lot when I run, so it is a no brainer for me to get my nutrition this way.  Once again, Skratch is the cleanest option I have found for this, and it is not too sweet like other products I have used in the past.  (Tailwind used to work wonders for me, but 60 miles in to a 100 miler, and the sweetness would make me quit drinking all together.)

Skratch ingredients:  Cluster dextrin, fructose, citric acid, sodium citrate, lemon oil, lime oil, lemon juice, lime juice.  Click the image above to check out their website.  

AS I HAVE ALWAYS SAID - nutrition is highly individual.  This is just what works for me - for now.  This will change at some point as well, it always does.  These are just two good products that work well for me, and if you are searching for something, they may be worth trying. Like everything in life, the cleaner, purer products are a little more expensive, but like I said, if you are trying to be strong and fit, why would you fuel with garbage?

Enough for today.  I will go over what I do for recovery in another post. Hope someone finds value in this.

Happy running! 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Is your why big enough?


Through my years of running, my why has been fluid.  Early on, I was running to get me much needed alone time while I was in an unhappy marriage.  Running gave me an excuse to go out, alone, and spend time with my thoughts.  It gave me a space where, even if just for a few minutes, I was able to be selfish and just worry about my wants and needs - something I had precious little time for otherwise.

Over time, my why evolved into wanting to spend time with the amazing running friends I had made.  We made some wonderful memories over the years in and out of running, but none of them would have been possible without that core common interest.

I am by nature a solitary person. I love my friends, but I love my quiet time as well.  For the last few years I have evolved into mostly a solo runner.  Group runs have always been somewhat stressful for me because I always find myself forming to someone else's pace or workout and not sticking to mine.  I am a people pleaser by nature (working on that), and I inevitably abandoned my goals to defer to someone else's. Running alone means not having to negotiate pace or worry about anyone else's schedule. I can run super early or sleep in and just take off out of my door. I can stick to my workout or amend it if needed.

I know for some people, running is their source of camaraderie, and that's awesome!  Whether you choose to run alone or you choose to attend group runs, or if it is a combination of both is irrelevant.  As long as you are doing something you love BECAUSE you love it.  Peer pressure or FOMO (fear of missing out) might work for the short term, but to have a longer running career, a deeper why is important.

My why has evolved into more of a "why not?".  I still run and I still want to race long distances because there is no legitimate reason for me not to, and I still enjoy it. (Except when I eat pavement - that part stinks). One of my favorite quotes is by St. Irenaeus of Lyons - "The Glory of God is man fully alive", and I apply this to my life in all ways possible.  

I have been given the gift of good health, determination (some would say stubbornness), and the access and ability to spend hours running.  The way I choose to use this gift is to push myself and test my limits.  This won't change as I get older, even though my limits will naturally adjust themselves.  

The saddest thing for me is to see people with great potential, but without the drive or courage to try to reach it.  Everyone's potential looks different.  Find something that you love and work hard at it.  Find out how far you can go with it.  The worst that can happen is that you are better than when you started.

Happy Running (or whatever it is you choose to do)!

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The value of having a coach - part 1

 I've done many races without a coach's guidance, and done well in them.  Now, though, I find I need the set schedule and I need the guidance to keep me from just piling on miles.  When I first starting running, I was the typical runner - I ran all of my runs at about 75% - 80% of my capacity.  Left to my own devices, I would still probably do that. It is completely normal for most runners to do this, but it is not the way to improve.

The blessing of having a coach is that he or she sets your weekly workouts, and you don't have to think about what you are doing. I just look at my schedule the night before to figure out what time I need to get up to get my run / stretching in and still get to work on time. 

Where right now, I would usually be increasing mileage, my coach has me doing 30 min, 45 min, and 1 hour runs, each of them with strides (speed intervals) with full recovery in between. The 1 hour run is a hill workout, but none of my runs have me doing the whole thing at 80% capacity.

I see this week he is starting to lengthen my speed intervals, which I am actually looking forward to.  Although I am nowhere I need to be eventually, I am seeing progress, feeling stronger, and actually enjoying my runs.  And I am injury free, knock on wood.

But, to be completely honest, I am ready to be at the point where I get to spend a half of a day running alone or with friends, discovering new areas, and catching up on all of my favorite books or podcasts. 

There will be plenty of time for that. 

Happy Running Y'all! 


Saturday, December 31, 2022

Start with one thing

 One thing I have learned about myself over the years is that if I neglect one aspect of my health, everything else follows suit.  For example, if I find myself injured and unable to run or workout, my diet will deteriorate as well. I think it is an attitude of, "well, what's the point anyway?'.

But the opposite is also true. When I am consistent in my running or working out, I am more vigilant about my diet - "Do I really need a second glass of wine knowing how I will feel tomorrow?", "I had better not eat that fried chicken, no telling what will happen on my run tomorrow morning".  (Where is that porta potty when you need it?)

It only takes one win in your life for others to fall in place.  Maybe with the new year, instead of thinking "I am going to quit drinking, clean up my diet and start working out", just do one thing and stick with it.  Once you start feeling the benefits of that one change, the other goals you have will be much easier to stick to.  

Just my two cents.  

Praying for a healthy and happy new year for all of you! 

Happy Running! 


Monday, December 19, 2022

Building Consistency

 If you have spent many years running, many of you will understand that your running life tends to cycle.  You will go from being compulsively consistent to reach a goal, then once reached, you may struggle just to get out the doors a couple of days a week. I have been through both extremes and have spent plenty of time in the middle.

It is so easy to beat yourself up when you are in a running slump.  You remember how fit you were and how good you felt when you were in a solid routine, but you just can't find the motivation to get back there.  So instead of running being an escape from real world worries, or a stress reliever, it becomes a source of stress and guilt.  

I did that for years. I have finally learned to absolve myself from the guilt I used to feel when I was "slacking" and give myself a little grace. Life can beat you up from time to time, and when it does, I think it is good to have your view of running in a healthy place.  

The last half of 2022 was crazy for me work-wise.  We were short staffed and many of the tasks that should have been done were behind schedule, causing me to have to work double time to get everything up to speed and finish up the year.  I decided to give myself some room to breathe and backed off on my running a bit.  It was a huge relief once I did, but rather than feel guilty for not running, I found myself missing it.

Even though 2023 looks to be another challenging year at work, I am determined to have more balance in my life.  I am better when I am running regularly - my happy spot is around 40 miles/week - this is where I feel the best, but it is not wearing on my energy levels.

So, here I am working on building my consistency and recreating the running habits that I need.  I will probably end up running 5 days/week, which is a good amount for me. Most of my earlier ultras were done with 4 day/week trainings, but lots of two-a-days and high mileage runs mid week.  Spreading it over 5 days/week should help even out the load a bit.

If you are in a rut with your running and wondering if you even want to do it anymore ... don't despair. It is normal.  Take some time off from "training" and do some fun runs with friends.  Or don't.  It has to be something you WANT to do, or you have to set a goal you WANT to reach.  If you aren't doing it for yourself, you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

My two and a half cents. :-) 

Happy Running!  Edie