Sunday, December 30, 2012

What 2012 taught me about running...and runners.

Well I guess its that time of year when everyone starts waxing poetic about 2012, and how it was amazing/horrible, a blessing/curse.  I get it.  There is something about the new year that makes everyone take inventory of the previous year and chart their progress and count their blessings.  Some people will celebrate 2012 and its achievements, and some will celebrate its passing.  I am doing a little bit of both.

I can honestly say that 2012 was the most emotionally painful year of my life.  I learned a little more about loss (I was already pretty well versed in it, losing 3 people who I loved in the last 2 years, including both of my parents.  I watched two of the three die slowly from horrible diseases, and lost my dad in the blink of an eye.).  I learned about betrayal.  Yeah, my toes had been stepped on in the past, but this is the first time I had to have a knife surgically removed from my back.  Luckily, I have the right friends for that job.

But, throughout all of the tumult, I realized something.  When I felt like I no longer had the strength to stand on my own, I looked down and saw that it was all of my running buddies holding me up.  It was the relationships forged over miles of shared suffering that formed the concrete beneath my feet.  I have always been a pretty resilient person, but I was knocked backwards a couple of times this year.  It was the constant contact from my running friends that pulled me back.

Don't get me wrong - I am not the type of person to ever spend much time lamenting my station in life.  I am always very aware that there are people out there who have it so much worse than I do.  But, this is the first time that I needed the support of others - and boy did I get it.  From the surprise cups of coffee delivered to me, to the calls, lunch invites, flowers, messages, hugs.....these people just don't give up!!  :)

So, here is the riddle...Does running make people into these strong, positive, tenacious, kind hearted individuals or is it that strong, positive, tenacious, kind-hearted individuals tend to take up running?  Does running merely confirm who they are, or does it strengthen these qualities and allow them to fully develop when surrounded by others of their sort?

Is it that we spend so much time in our own heads that maybe we are able to see the world a little more clearly?  Maybe the little things aren't so important because we spend the time needed to work through the big things.  I have my clearest realizations about the direction of my life on solo long runs.  I never go out the door thinking, "I am going to solve this problem today".  I just hit the road with no agenda except for covering the miles, and things sort themselves out.  I come to peace with so many situations this way.  Sometimes it is by realizing an action that I need to take to change a situation, and sometimes is is by realizing that I need to change something about me or I need to accept the situation as it is.  I have always had a strong faith, and I see running as a prayer/meditation time.

So, here I am kicking the dirt from 2012 off of my shoes and looking optimistically towards 2013.  From 2012 I bring friendships strengthened through trial, and a strong sense of being loved and belonging.  There is an analogy that the Church gives us to help apply Christ's suffering to our own life.  It is called the Paschal Mystery.  In its simplest form, it is telling us that we have to live through our Good Friday if we are to get to our Easter Sunday.  This will play itself out in our lives many times, some times more powerfully than others. I have lived through my Good Friday, and I am eagerly anticipating my Easter Sunday.  I know there are hurdles to overcome, but I'm not worried about that.  I have the most amazing people in my life.  That is all I need.

Happy 2013 Everybody!!


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hello Burnout. I've been expecting you.

Yes, you read right.  Burnout.  It happens every training cycle - you get to a point where the last thing you are interested in doing is running.  You are TIRED.  Period.  Tired of running, but just all around tired too.  That is where I am finding myself now.  Since this season started a little earlier this year with the addition of Big Butts 50k, I have found myself in constant training and racing mode since May.  Since then I have done 2 half marathons, one full marathon, 1 - 50k, and 2 - 50 milers. I now find myself looking at different surfaces wondering if I could curl up there and take a nap.  Tired.

I fully recognized my old friend Burnout today when I was preparing for my run - or, should I say while I was doing everything I could think of to avoid starting my run.  I decided I was hungry so I ate a couple of pieces of toast, I fiddled with my gear much longer than necessary, and played around on the enemy of productivity - Facebook.  Once I finally got my butt out the door, I dropped my GPS watch and the screen went crazy for a bit then had to search for signal again.  I was more than happy to stand in the middle of the street waiting on it.  Normally I would have just taken off and let it catch up with me.

Luckily, this isn't my first rodeo, so I knew this was coming, just like the overuse aches and pains that are starting to set in.  Nothing crippling, just little twinges reminding me that I am at the peak of my training schedule, in case I hadn't already noticed that.  I also know that the antidotes to running Burnout are: 1. change of venue and 2. running buddies.  As luck would have it, one of my original long run buddies, Stephanie Day, the Team in Training run coach, had a group run planned for this evening, so I hopped on board.  It was just what the doctor ordered.  I didn't wear a watch and didn't worry about our pace.  We just ran and talked.  The 3.5 miles flew by.  This was by far the most effortless run  I have done in a long time, and it was purely because of the stellar company.

Now for the change of venue.  I was telling a friend today that I feel like there should be ruts along my regular route from me running the exact same roads over and over.  As much as I love running in Broussard, with every run being 10+ miles now, I have seen enough of its roads for a while.  So, this weekend I am joining a group of idiots who are running a 22 mile route from Sunset though Carencro and Grand Coteau.  I have driven part of this route and it is beautiful - rolling hills and horse farms.  It is just what the doctor ordered.  With that run, I will have 60 miles for the week.  The best part?  Next week is a down week, and I only have to run 46 or so miles.  Yes, that was typed with sarcasm.  They really need to invent a sarcasm font.

This is the time in training when I really start to take care of myself.  I am back taking the multi-vitamin that I usually forget about, and I am adding either Airborne or Emergen-C to my recovery shakes.  And, if I see you in public and you are sneezing or coughing, please don't be offended if I just wave and smile from across the room.  This seems to be the time in  my training when every person with a runny nose wants to seek me out for a hug.  Not happening folks. :)

It is 9:30 p.m. and I am going to bed.  I think my brain already beat me there, so I take no responsibility for anything said after this point. :)

Happy zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Running a marathon in your sleep

The overriding theme in my life lately seems to be fatigue.  I go to bed early, sleep all night, wake up tired, run tired, work get the point.  I have about another month and a half until my race, but more importantly, I have 4 weeks until I get to taper!!! Woohoo!!  The last two weeks were  successful 40 and 50 milers, and this week will be right about 60 miles  finishing with the Day After the End of the World Marathon in Humble, Texas, this Saturday. I haven't run a marathon in at least 4 years, so this should be interesting.  It is a 4 loop course, which fits me just fine, since most of my ultras are loops.

So, if the world does end on Friday, I get a rest day Saturday.  Well, technically I guess I would get alot of rest days.  Otherwise I will line up with a bunch of other fools with quirky senses of humor, and we will celebrate not being dust.  That is a darn good reason to celebrate in my book.  Of course, I think pretty much everything is a good reason to celebrate.

If I am able to stay awake and alert enough during the marathon, I will attempt to compose a race report next week.  This one should be interesting.  The good thing is, in this particular instance I will not be the craziest person there.  Dustin and Danette Duval (our brother and sister super duo) will be running the End of the World Marathon on Friday AND the Day After the End of the World Marathon on Saturday.  Can you say OUCH??  Added to the mix is Randy Aymond running half marathons on both days (so he is only half crazy), and Dani D'Augereau, Liz Wooster and Laurin Dugas joining me on the second day for the marathon. See how that happens - one person has a goofy idea and instead of everyone shaking their heads and wondering what is wrong with them, we all jump on for at least part of the ride.  Sick friends, folks, that's what I have.

Have a great week!!

Happy Running Y'all!


Monday, December 10, 2012

If I look a little tired....

So, here I find myself at the two highest mileage months on my calendar.  Boy this sure did sneak up on me.  The good news is that I have some fun things added into the schedule, so it helps to break up the long weeks some.  This weekend, I am doing the Cajun Country Half Marathon right here in Lafayette!  Well, actually, I am running 7 miles with friends then we are doing the half, since it is a 20 mile training day.  There are alot of twenty plus milers in my training season.  18 to be exact. 18 days of 20+ milers, including 2 - 50 mile races, and 2 - 50k's (31 miles) and one road (or hard packed dirt according to the website) marathon.  From now until February 2nd, I have 7 more 20+ days left before the celebration of all of my training - the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler!

I mentioned the Cajun Country Half Marathon - a GREAT local race with a little twist thrown in.  Here's a hint: you might get your shoes a little muddy on this one, folks.  Then, the weekend after I am joining some friends in Texas for the Day After the End of the World Marathon.  I am not a fan of road marathons, but this one is just quirky enough to make it interesting.  It is 4 loops on hard packed dirt.  There is the End of the World Marathon on the Friday then the Day After on the Saturday.  Some are doing both halves or both fulls - one is enough for me.  I am an optimist, but I am also a realist.  I chose the Day After so if the world does end, I get a rest day. :)

I also managed to talk some friends into doing a trail marathon with me in Chicot one Saturday.  That is when you know you have some crazy friends.  I didn't even have to beg!!

Here is my weekly mileage up until Rocky:
Dec 9 - 15 = 50 miles
Dec 16- 22 = 64 miles
Dec 23 - 29 = 64 miles
Dec 30 - Jan 5 = 37 miles
Jan 6 - Jan 12 = 47 miles
Jan 13 - Jan 19 = 76 miles
Jan 20 - Jan 26 = 36 miles
Jan 27 - Feb 2 = 110 miles (Race week)

The key is an 8 day period from January 12 through January 19th where I will have a total of 107 miles.  When I was training for my 100 last year, I read that it was recommended for an ultra that your peak week's mileage equals the distance of your race.  It was hard with work, family, etc., to fit it into a 7 day period, but I could make it into an 8 day week.  I did this, and I really feel like it helped.  Yes, that 8 day period kicked my ass, but once I was rested and tapered for the race, I felt very strong.  That is creeping up on me much quicker than I would like to admit.

So, if you see me pulled over on the side of the road taking a nap, you will understand. :)

Happy Running (and running, and running, and running) Y'all!


The view from the other side of the table

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to work an aid station at the Cajun Coyote trail run for the third year in a row - every year that it has been in existence.  This race is growing every year as word spreads about how much fun it is, and how beautiful the trails at Chicot State Park are.  The runners get to see things like this:

and this:
We received rave reviews all day about how beautiful the park is. It is nice to hear, since we can sometimes take it for granted.  I have said this many times, but I really do believe that Chicot has all of the best parts of Louisiana within its grounds.

So, we drive in Friday evening, and get there in time for the pre-race meal at the Pavilion in the park.  This is a great way for runners to get to visit with each other and laugh about what they are taking on the next day.  In this case, it would be either 1 loop - 20ish miles, 3 loops (100k) - 62ish miles, or 5 loops - 100ish miles.  The number of 100 milers doubled from last year because of the high percentage of runners in 2011 who finished in sub-24.  That is a big goal of 100 mile runners - "100 miles in 1 day".  
Chris Scott, RD and head nut, giving a quick pep talk

Christina the night before her first ultra marathon!
It is a surreal feeling sitting there trying to
wrap your brain around what you are trying to do.
Then, it was off to set up our trusty tent again.  This time, both Josh and Shelby were with me.  I love bringing them to events like this, and I knew they would enjoy themselves.  Trail runners are among some of the funniest, most laid-back folks on the planet and my kids have great time every time they are around them.

We turned in early knowing we would have a long 30 hours or so ahead of us.  The 100 milers and 100k'ers started their races on Saturday morning at 6:25, and had 30 hours to finish.  We would have to be at the aid station for most of that time, taking turns grabbing a quick nap in our cars.  Even for the volunteers this is an endurance event.

Race morning, we began setting up the aid station about 5:45.  Ours was at the mile 4 mark on the trail, and it would be the first one the runners came to, so I wanted to be ready.  Early on, we kept the food choices simple with cookies, chips, pb&j sandwiches, candy and fruit.  For drinks we had Coke, Mt Dew, Heed (Electrolyte drink), water and ginger ale.  (The ginger ale would become very popular late in the race when the runner's stomachs started to go sour - as were the ginger snaps.)

Shelby, Karin and Chris.  Karin was one of my all-day and all-nighters.
We were both a little punchy by the end.
When the first batch of 100 milers and 100k'ers came through it was a little hectic.  It was still early in the race and they were still bunched up.  After a while though, things settled down some. The excitement was too much for Shelby.
Josh was up to the task, though. 

Once the initial rush is over, a pattern forms: 10 - 30 minutes of sitting around visiting followed by a few minutes of action when a runner comes through, followed by 10 - 30 get the point.  The 20 milers started their race at 9:00, so we got a little rush of visitors when they made it to our aid station, but we only got to see them once that day.  After they went through, the field was pretty spread out for the rest of the race.  

Throughout the day, there was the added excitement of the race within the race that was going on.  While most runners out there were going for 20, 62, or 100 miles, one man was going for 200 miles!!  Yep, you read that right - 200 miles.  AD Marshall left Friday morning (on foot) from Baton Rouge, and RAN to Chicot State Park arriving at 4:15 a.m.  Just enough time to eat, shower, dress and line up at the start.
Here he is as he arrived at the park.  1/2 way to his 200 mile goal.
AD's sister, Sarah, was there crewing for him, so every time he was approaching our aid station, Sarah would drive up and start getting things ready for him.  What an amazing friendship they have for her to be so dedicated to helping him achieve this crazy goal!

It was great to see him come through our spot.  At first he was looking pretty stiff and bringing up the rear of the pack.  100 miles on the road will take its toll on you.
But, even when he was hurting he was moving forward as quickly as possible.  Many of the runners that came through would ask about his progress.  It was inspiring to everyone to know that he was out there.

I already told you how awesome trail runners are, and Mosi Smith epitomizes this awesomeness.  Mosi is a member of the Marine Corps ultra running team.  He ran the 100 miler here last year, and finished in 2nd place with a time of 18:49.  This year, Mosi finished in 18:34 with a first place finish AND a new course record!!  
Every time Mosi would come through the aid station, he was positive, smiling, and incredibly polite.  What a great example.  THIS is what I want my kids to see.  There are no cheats in ultra running.  You may have the most expensive shoes and gear, but in the end it is your drive and determination that get you to the finish line. And at Coyote events, this is what you find at that finish line:
I have no explanation for this.  It just is.
So, as night began to fall, the aid station fare changed a bit, adding ramen noodle soup and potato soup.  It was warmer than we would have liked during the day, and the salty items were welcomed by the runners.  For anyone who has run the Chicot trail in the daylight, you can understand the challenges it presents in the night time.  Roots, critters, etc.

AD coming through our aid station
Before long, many of the 100k'ers were crossing the finish line - with our very own Christina Gravish finishing her first ever 100k in 12:08, for 3rd place female, and 4th overall finisher.  The temperature dropped a bit, and the gaps between the runners were longer as the runners slowed down a bit, so the aid station folks found ways to pass the time.

As the night drew on, the 100k'ers wrapped up their journey, and now only 100 milers were coming through our spot.  Your body clock can be your worst enemy at this point in a 100 miler.  Fatigue and desire for sleep outweighs the weight of your legs.  Sometimes it is just best to lay on the ground and take a short nap - which some folks did.  It is amazing how much 10 minutes of sleep can refresh you and renew your chances of finishing the race.  Once the sun comes out again, though, your body clock becomes your friend again and you get a little boost to keep running.

Its late in these races that you get to witness the drama of a 100 miler.  From folks who may have pushed their bodies too hard in the heat and who can no longer keep food down, leading to a DNF, to those who are hurting and you begin to doubt their ability to continue, just to see them spring out of the chair 10 minutes later and charge down the trail.  For those of you who enjoy studying human behavior, it doesn't get any better than this.

Once the sun rose again, the field had shrunk to just a few tough souls still out there pushing toward the finish line. By now, our aid station was in constant contact with all of the other aid stations keeping track of where each runner was at all times.  There are time cut offs in these races.  If you don't make it to a certain point by a set time, it is a good bet you will not make the overall cut off for the race.  This is when the RD exercises his power to pull you off of the course.  For your own good as well as for the volunteers who have been out there 24+ hours.

Finally, it came down to AD and two other girls out on the trail.  For most of the race AD had been DFL (dead &*%&^  last), but he was gaining ground on the girls, and from the report I got from the start/finish, I knew he started his last lap (180 miles into his run) like his shorts were on fire.  He was determined to make it to the finish under the cutoff and it was looking like he would!  

Next thing you know, here comes AD - he threw his empty water bottles to the side and grabbed the filled bottles his sister had waiting for him and took off down the trail - his pacer was even having a hard time keeping up!! 

Then, here come the two girls we were waiting on.  They were obviously hurting, but they were still moving forward at a decent pace, so there was hope they would make it to the end in time.  Now that all of the runners had come through our stop, we packed everything up and headed to the start/finish to watch the runners come through.  There was no way, regardless of how tired Shelby, Josh and I were, that we were going to miss watching AD finish his 200 mile journey.  That was some epic sh&t, and not something my kids may ever have a chance to witness again.  All day they followed AD's progress, and they were as excited as I was to see him finish!

The finish lines at these events are as drama filled as anything I have ever seen!  I got to witness two beautiful ladies finish their first 100 miler:

Lucia Alzaga

Rhae Loney

I know first hand that the amount of suffering during the run is directly related to the amount of elation/relief/feeling of accomplishment felt as you cross the finish line.  GREAT JOB LADIES!! There were many happy tears - many from me - for each of the runners that finished that morning.  Then, it was time to wait for AD.  But, we didn't have to wait long.  AD flew through that last 20 miles.  It was his fastest lap of the race!  Here he is coming in to the finish:

There are no words.  Truly amazing!
AD with Chris Scott, RD, after receiving his
buckle and propeller hat.  (Along with 2 celebratory

So, we wrapped things up and headed home.  Shelby and Josh were buzzing about AD's finish.  How amazing is it that they were able to witness such an awesome achievement on all of the runner's parts, and that they were able to be an integral part of their success by working the aid station. Even if they never choose to attempt something like this themselves, hopefully they will pull on these memories to remind them that anything is possible when you put in the work and set your mind on a goal.

Happy Running Y'all!


Friday, November 23, 2012

A few thoughts on recovery

Tuesday morning (just 3 days after running the Wild Hare 50 miler) I got ready for work in the morning, hopped down the stairs at my place, and jumped into my car heading to my first appointment for the day.  It wasn't until I was turning into the parking lot for my appointment that it dawned on me....nothing hurt.  No muscle pain at all that morning.  WOW!  I have been thinking about it since, and trying to figure out what went right in my recovery.  Granted, I haven't run yet - I will be jumping back into the deep end tomorrow morning with a long road run with friends so I am sure I will uncover a few kinks there, but as far as for everyday tasks - zero pain.

Here is my summary of the things I think may have contributed to such a speedy muscle recovery:

This has been my "go-to" recovery drink since I was a beginner ultra runner.  I went into Smoothie Factory
one day and I was telling Rusty Bex that I was training for my first 50 miler and I was POOPED.  I
asked for any recommendations he may have.  The first thing he asked about was
what kind of recovery drink I was using.  This is when he recommended Aftershock.  Don't be turned off by the muscle bound dude on the label.  I have been using this faithfully for years, and I don't look like this:

Remember me?

Pumped up?  No.  Strong and healthy? Yes.

I am a big believer in the importance of a quick recovery.  When I am at my high points in training and during race season, I take this very seriously.  Aftershock has the most bang for the buck - from muscle to joint recovery.  Gotta take care of your moving parts if you expect them to cooperate.

If you live in the Acadiana area, call Smoothie Factory (by Jason's Deli) - 337-989-7001, and ask to speak to Rusty.  He is a great local resource for all things sports nutrition and he will get you on the right track.  BUT - just FYI - the label says use two level scoops - I only use this much when I am doing really high mileage, otherwise I only do one scoop after workouts of an hour or more, but I weigh 110 lbs, so use your judgement on this one - or better yet - ask Rusty.

Because I try to surround myself with people who are smarter than me (it's surprisingly easy), I often get very good tips that I never would have figured out on my own.  This one came from Dr. Keith Terro with Abshire Chirporactic.  Keith has kept me healthy throughout my ultra "career".  He is a master at Active Release Therapy - basically making a stubborn muscle or tendon cry "uncle", and getting things functioning again. One day while he was torturing me - I mean fixing me - he suggested adding a teaspoon of Glutamine powder to my diet a couple of times a day to speed muscle recovery.  This powder is tasteless, but a bit gritty.  I add it to my recovery smoothie (details on that below).  I think the combination of this and the Aftershock have been the magic elixir for me.

Something new I have added to this season that I was skeptical about in the beginning, but have turned into a believer is soaking in a bath with  Epsom Salts. This always brings to my mind a little old lady soaking her feet in a tub of hot water.  No idea why.
When I first started marathon training, I did the ice bath thing.  I completely understand and agree with why this is a good idea for athletes - inflammation, etc., etc.  BUT - the problem is that after a while, I came to the conclusion that I had suffered enough during my long runs, and I refused to submerge myself in ice water.  It was just not going to happen, no matter how much is was supposed to help.  For those of you who are mentally tough enough to withstand this insidious form of recovery, my hat is off to you.  I am a big wimp when it comes to cold.  So, when a friend told me that his massage therapist recommended soaking in a WARM bath with Epsom Salts after his massage to aid in muscle recovery, I decided to give it a try.  Whether it is mostly mental, or if there is some science to it, this really seemed to lessen the soreness in my legs.

It is the combination of these things after Cactus Rose 50 and the Wild Hare 50 that I think have helped me to heal so quickly.  One week after Cactus I ran a 15 miler on the road with no issues, and I am ready to run long tomorrow, one week after Wild Hare.  Do I anticipate some kinks to be revealed?  Yes.  It's one thing to be able to walk around without pain, but reintroducing pounding to my body will show me where there is still some damage.  But, I have a road marathon (hard packed dirt, actually, but pretty much the same thing) in about a month which will be my last long run before the Bandera 50k, which will be one of my last long runs before the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler in early February. This is all of the time I can afford to take off, which is why speedy recovery is the key during my race season.  

Well, hopefully some of these tips will help you.  I suspect some of the rapid recovery time can be attributed to training and the fact that this is my third season doing ultras, but I have no doubt that all of these things contributed.  Maybe they will work for you too.

Happy Running, Y'all!


My recovery smoothie recipe (inspired by another, smarter, friend):

Frozen strawberries and blueberries
Whole banana
1/2 pack of plain oatmeal
1 Activia yogurt (you pick the flavor - I like strawberry or blueberry)
1 or 2 scoops of Aftershock depending on the workout
1 teaspoon of Glutamine powder
Almond milk 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The best kind of race is the one shared with friends.

I have been trying to figure out how to start this post.  What was the most important thing that came out of this weekend?  What do I want my focus to be?  Medals? Awards? P.R.'s?  While we got all of those (I'll talk about that later), the thing that this weekend really highlighted was FRIENDSHIP.  A friend is one who helps another friend reach his time goal in his first ever ultra marathon.  A friend is one who gets up out of their warm sleeping bag when it is 30 degrees outside and their race doesn't start for hours, just to see you cross the starting line. A friend is one who hangs around the finish line after they have spent HOURS running and are ready to relax with a beer, so they can be there to cheer for others who are still running.  Friends are people that you can sit around the fire with and talk and laugh with until your face hurts as much as your legs from the race you just finished.

Some dear friends finished their first ultra marathons this weekend. (Notice I say "first" ultra - they are addictive.)

Aaron and Molli Davis completed their first 50k together.  How many married couples can say that?
If they can make it through that, they can make it through anything!!                   


Tim Gill (white shirt) paced John Robideaux to his first 50k finish!  Great job John - suffering is always better when shared! And thanks to Tim for helping John reach his sub 6 hour goal finishing at 5:57!

Dustin Duval, Liz Wooster, Christina Gravish
Our 25k'ers!  This would be Dustin's first 25k on trails!

Rounding out the cast of characters is Karin Gill competing in the 50k, and me doing the 50 miler. 

Like most ultras, this one can best be described as LOW KEY.  Josh and I arrived at the ranch where the race would be held on Friday afternoon to set up camp. This is a beautiful place, and about as friendly and laid back as you would expect from Texas which is one of the many reasons I really love running in that state!

Home base for the weekend.
Then, since we had a little time until the rest of the crew arrived, Josh and I went down to the ranch house to see if there was any race prep we could help with.  Never being known as a shy bunch, Joyce (co-race director, and expert finish line hugger) put Josh and I to work....


These potatoes are cut into bite sized bits, boiled and cooled the day before the race.  On race day, they are served with a bowl of salt next to them.  I know, it sounds strange, and I had never eaten them at a race before this one, but ironically the very potatoes I am chopping may very well have saved my race.  More details on that later.

So, once more of our crew arrived, it was time to gather fire wood.
How do ultrarunners get to be so strong?
Ummm - that one may be a little too big.

Once that was done, it was time to settle in to our campsite and get the fire going.  The temps got down to the upper 30's the night before the race, so the fire was very welcome.

We visited for a while around the fire while we ate, then we all turned in.  Big things to do in the morning!  The 50 miler would be starting before sunrise at 6 a.m., the 50k at 7 a.m., and the 25k and 10k at 8 a.m.  Even though there was no reason they had to, Christina and Liz decided they would come down to the start with me to see me off in the morning.  How awesome is that?  Leaving a warm sleeping bag and soft pillow to freeze at the start line.  Friends.

So, that night I put on my running clothes and got everything else lined up for in the morning: race number trimmed to fit on my leg and safety pins already in the corners, handheld filled and iPod in the pocket, waist pack filled with waffle, gummies, chapstick, and salt pills. feet taped and socks put on, and shoes by the door.  All I needed was about 15 minutes to get my gear on and get to the start line - that is my favorite part about camping at the race site.

The next morning went smoothly, and when the clock read 5:50, we headed to the race start.  Everyone lined up to listen to the race director, Joe Prusaitis, give a brief run down of the new course....WHAT??? NEW COURSE??? - but, but... I have my splits figured out for the standard 7 loop course we have done for the last two years out here!  Well, I guess I can throw this away:
Well, that was a good 7 or 8 minutes wasted.  Since now it would be one 11 mile loop followed by 5 - 7.8 mile loops, these calculations would not help.  Well, at least I had an idea how fast I needed to run to reach my goal of coming in under 11 hours (last years time was 11:13).  I would need to average about a 13 minute pace for 50 miles including bathroom breaks, stopping for a few minutes at the aid stations, and walking while eating.  But, conditions were favorable for this to happen.  I was just coming off of Cactus Rose 50 miler three weeks before, and I was mostly healed from that and feeling very strong.  I was also very familiar with this course, having run 14 loops of it over the last two years' 50 milers. And - oh yeah - for the second race this year - Cactus being the first - the weather would be PERFECT on race day. So now it would be a little tougher to track my splits to make sure I stayed on my game, but there is always a way, and with the help of my trusty $30 Timex, I knew I would get it done.  

The 50 milers waiting for the start.  Pretty laid back bunch.
And we're off!  That's me in the lime green jacket :).

It was pretty chilly for the start which is always a good thing.  I have raced enough in Texas to know that once the sun gets overhead it gets warm quickly, so I wanted to cover as much real estate as possible before that happened.  The first few miles were single track trails in the dark, so everyone kept in line for the most part.  Once the sun was up and we could see without headlamps, the pack started speeding up and spreading out a bit.  This is when I decided to push my pace while it was still cool and bank some time.  I know, I know, some of you race veterans are cringing at the thought of banking time in a race.  The theory is that Jack decides he will bank time in the beginning of the race to give him a little leeway later in the race.  The reality usually is that Jack goes out way too fast, and ends up crashing so hard later that he finishes slower than if he had started off conservatively and finished strong.  Yeah, I know all of the lecture material - I used to coach it.  That is usually how I run these races, but this one was different.  I had a real time goal and I felt very strong, and really, I wanted to see how long I could hold on.  The result surprised me.

The only potential glitch I came across were leg cramps in the third loop.  Actually, they weren't full on leg cramps but twitches in both calves and my right hamstring that were letting me know that things were about to turn against me.  I stopped at one point to stretch the hamstring by throwing my leg up on a fence which was immediately followed by that legs quad muscle seizing up. Fun times, folks, fun times.  Many times, leg cramps like this is a combination of dehydration and a sodium deficit.  The way I usually track my hydration during warm races is by paying attention to my arms.  Weird, right?  If my forearms are still wet with sweat, I know I am taking in enough hydration.  I can't go by the number of times I have urinated because I can run almost an entire 50 mile race without peeing and be just fine.  But, my forearms were dry but when I would run, the water would slosh in my stomach.  So - I was drinking but it wasn't being absorbed.  At this point I doubled up on my salt intake - I had been taking one Salt Stick capsule an hour, so I increased it to two.  Also, when I pulled into the next aid station, I told Henry Hobbs, a veteran ultra runner and professional aid station volunteer, and he suggested potatoes and salt. I ate a couple of those, drank some Coke and headed out.  Before I knew it, the leg cramps were subsiding and my stomach was no longer sloshing.  Mission accomplished.  From this point on at every aid station I hit the potatoes and salt and had no more cramps.

So, instead of 7 laps there were 6.  The first one was 11 miles, followed by 5 - 7.8 mile laps.  There were two aid stations on each lap - one about 3.5 miles in, then the start/finish about 4.3 miles after that. Being familiar with this course, I know that the second half of this loop is much faster for me.  There are some steep climbs and descents, but they are very runnable.  Especially the descents.  As much as I am a chicken at Cactus Rose with descending on those rocks, this hard packed dirt, or even cemented descents are like a playground for me.

Keep in mind, this trail is mainly a mountain bike trail, so lots of the steep descents are followed by a turn where the outside corner is built up where the bikes can ride up the bank, then continue the descent - like a switchback.  This is AWESOME to run!!  I can't lie - I was making race car noises in my head every time I would get to these.  This was play time!!  Every time I would get to this particular descent I would laugh out loud and plow forward as fast as I could down the hill, run up on the bank in the turn, then continue down the other side. :)  Fun stuff!

I started to notice a pattern on these loops.  It took right at about 45 minutes to get from the start/finish to the first aid station, then about 50 minutes to get back to the start finish.  Every loop.  Right on the money.  One loop, it took me 5 minutes longer to get to the first aid station, but by the time I got to the next one I had made up the time.  I was working hard, and running faster than I had in one of these races before and I was just waiting for the wheels to come off.  But they never did.  There was a long bridge over a ravine, and I knew that it only took me 20 minutes to get from that bridge to the start/finish.  On my last lap, when I hit that bridge at about 48 or so miles into the run, I was still running hard.  The bridge has a pretty steep incline to it, and I was still charging up it with very little fatigue.  Nobody could have been more surprised that I was.  I looked at my watch and thought, "Okay - with 20 more minutes to go, I can be at the finish line at 4:24 - giving me a 10:24 finish time."  I was wrong.  I have no idea where it came from, but when I pulled off of the trail onto the gravel road to the barn:

which we would run through to get to the finish line:
my watch read 4:14. WHAT????  THAT is impossible.  Yeah, I had been doing the mental math and tracking my splits, but that is almost an hour p.r. on this course!!  WOW!  So I ran through the barn for the last time, turned the corner and saw the finish clock - 10:15.  Was I thinking, "Woohoo! I rock!"? No.  I was thinking, "Don't cry dammit!".  
That's me coming up the path,  Tim on the right waiting
to slap hands with me, and Karen, Liz, John, Josh, Dustin and
Christina on the left waiting for me.

                        50 hard earned miles.

When I crossed the finish line, the Race Director, and an all around class act, came up to me and said, "I was wondering if you would be the next one to cross the finish line."  I guess I looked confused because then he smiled and said, "Because I only have one trophy left."  At which point he handed me my bunny (Wild Hare, remember?) and I started to cry.  Causing him to smile and give me a big old hug.  Finish line hugs are the best, and Joe and his wife Joyce are pros at this! 

My bunny. :)
I started this race just wanting to beat my previous time on this course of 11:13.  That is one of the reasons I repeat some of the same races every year.  While with road races, you can compare your times somewhat between different locations, with trails, no two races are alike.  A few weeks ago, I worked my a$% off at the Cactus Rose 50 miler to finish in 13:28.  At the Wild Hare I really wanted to break under 11 hours, but I would settle for anything under 11:13.  I NEVER imagined I would come in at 10:15.  Hopefully this gives you some idea about how important it is to choose your first ultra wisely.  The terrain makes a BIG difference!

I have taken the picture of my medal and race
number, and they have joined the rest of them
in a box under my bed.

So, back to the point.  While I was out running, once everyone was finished with their races and ready to sit down by the fire, what were they doing?
Waiting for me.
Just looking at this picture makes me so happy to
know these people.

So, it was time to pick up my chair and race supplies to head back to the tent to assess the damage and to put on dry clothes.  After these races, I have about a half hour or so before my core body temperature plummets and I am spending about 10 - 20 minutes freezing and shaking uncontrollably.  I climbed in the tent (no small feat) and changed, then checked out my feet.  I knew from the second lap that I had blisters forming on the side of each foot.  I have run many miles with blisters, and these weren't on a main spot where I felt them with every step, so it was bearable.  What I found when I peeled off my sock was this:
It hurt worse after I saw it :).
In comparison to previous years on this course, this is pretty mild, so I'll take it.  Despite the advice of some, I drained and taped it, then joined the rest of the crew around the fire pit.  This was the best part of the weekend.  War stories and lots of laughs.

So I left with a surreal feeling.  Did I really just run a 10 hour and 15 minute 50 miler on a tough course?  What the hell happened?  Huh - maybe all those runs during the summer with me trying to keep up with my fast friends are paying off.  Maybe experience is on my side now and little things like blisters and muscle cramps no longer threaten to sideline me.  I also think that I understand the nuances of these distances better these days.  I know that the highs and lows come harder and faster than normal distance races, and I have learned how to use them to my advantage.  When a high comes, ride it.  Run like there is something chasing you and enjoy every second of it.  When a low comes, it means something.  Either I am behind on my fueling or hydration.  Use that time to assess the situation and fix it, slow my pace a bit, and wait for the fix to take effect because it always does.  I will always be learning about this sport, and that is what makes it interesting to me.

Well, thank you for slogging through this race report.  And with this being Thanksgiving week, I have tons to be thankful for.  Top of the list are my kids and family of course.  And my friends are my family - here is the proof in pictures. :)  

Happy Running Y'all!
Sunset at the ranch the night before the race,

Dustin picking on a nervous John before his first ultra.

Remember in the CR report when I told you about the chick with the
bells on her shoes.  Well, she was at WH too.  This is me pointing her out on the trail
to the girls.  My exact words were something like, "I'm about to trip that bitch
with the bells on her shoes."

Ultra bling

Little did we know, many of these would be making their way
back to Louisiana with us!
Dustin with his post race brownies/bribe.                           John "I'm never taking this medal off" Robideaux

The post race beer.  At least the first one! 

No trophies for the boys. :(

Good thing the girls weren't rubbing it in.
                      This is what it is all about!
Our group (minus Josh our crew dude - he's taking the picture).
Karin and Tim Gill, Me, Dustin Duval, Liz Wooster, John Robideaux,
and Christina Gravish.
Karin - 5th place overall female in the 50k
Me - 5th place overall female in the 50 miler
Liz - first place masters in the 25 k
Christina - 3rd place overall female in the 25 k

Other race weekend pix:

Barn cat and Chief Mouse Eliminator

The spectators.  Seemed like they were laughing at
me on that last lap.  I could almost hear them saying,
"Stupid human."

Gotta keep up with your hydration.

Gag gift from my friends.
Think they are trying to tell me something?

America and England working together on a
housing issue.
This is me having the last laugh.