Monday, October 29, 2012

Cactus Rose - A beauty and a beast

I returned yesterday from Hill Country State Natural Area, just outside Bandera, Texas, where I ran the Cactus Rose 50 miler for the second year in a row.  I probably say this after all of my races, but this one truly was an incredible experience.  You tend to learn a lot about who you are in general at ultra distance races, and Cactus Rose doesn't disappoint in that regard. First, you have to get your s&%t together to get there:

Since this race is self-supported, you have to bring your own supplies to pack into drop boxes at each aid station. You go the day before the race to deliver your boxes so that they will be waiting for you when you get there during the race. All the race supplies is the water, you take care of all of your other needs - snacks, sports drinks you may want, medication, band aids, etc.  The aid stations are  about 5 miles apart, which on this course can be up to an hour and a half, depending on the amount of climbs and descents in that section. I buy these things in bulk, then split them into snack sized baggies for each drop box.

One of my favorite ultra foods -
Animal Crackers!!
Then I take those baggies of snacks, along with salt tabs and any other medication I think I might need, and put them into bigger baggies labeled with which aid station they are going to.

A little fuzzy but you get the point.
I also add into my baggie for the Equestrian aid station, which we would be seeing twice on each loop - lube and extra batteries for my headlamp and handheld.  Two things you would rather not happen out there - getting stuck without proper lighting (very technical trails), and chafing (I passed a guy fairly early into the race who was walking like a cowboy and complaining about his chafing.  His buddy looked like he was about to push him off of a cliff.  Can't say I would have blamed him - this is a race designed for veteran ultra runners, and that was a rookie mistake.)

So, I loaded into the car with two of my ultra running buddies, Bobbi Parker and Brad Delcambre who were also running the 50 miler, and we headed west.  It was great to get to the hill country and start seeing things like this:

This is such a beautiful area.  It is hard to believe it is so close to us, but so vastly different from the terrain we are used to.  

We set up our tent - even with the wind doing its best to blow it away - there was a heck of a front that had moved through that day, and the temps were dropping nicely.  I am a huge cold weather wimp.  Below 75 degrees and I am freezing, but for a race of this difficulty, I'll take it.  Once the tent was set up, it was time to pack our drop boxes.

Coke - works great to settle a funky stomach.

Taped these to the boxes. :)
When you arrive at the first aid station and it is dark,
it is hard to spot your box amid a sea of identical boxes,
and these helped them stand out.
Once we delivered them to the aid stations (just a few miles away from the start/finish via gravel road, but a world away when you are running trails and tired), it was time for the race briefing.

Joe Prusaitis (L) - Race Director
Henry Hobbs (R) - Head Trail Marking Guy
and Color Commentator 
Joe filled us in on the conditions of the trails that we would encounter.  He told us that this was the most messed up and technical (difficult and requiring your full attention) that he had ever seen this trail, and while this is only my fourth time racing on this trail, I have to agree.  Erosion had caused washouts and loose rocks - especially on the side of some of the toughest hills, causing tricky footing on the descents.  It was hard getting up these climbs anyway - very steep - but when you can't get traction and you are kicking rocks back at the runner behind you, then sliding down the backside because there is no solid footing to plant on, and the descent is too steep to walk,  it makes it even more interesting.

My major weakness on this course is descending.  I am a fairly strong climber.  I like the uphills, and I pass many runners there.  I like the burn I feel in my legs and lungs when I get to the top.  If they could figure out how to do a relay where one runner got the climbs and the other got the descents, it would be awesome - I am still working on that. In the meantime, I just suck it up and try not to trip, roll down the rocky hillside and do major damage.  The descents scare me - there is nothing even close to this to train on here.  Yeah, we can find some small hills, but none with loose rock to land on.  If I can ever conquer this fear, I could cut a huge amount of time off of this course, but in the meantime, I just say a little curse word, and plow through.

Don't cross the caution tape, people.
Seems obvious, really.  Something never heard on a
trail run; "Why'd they put this caution tape in my
way? "(Goes under tape, wins Best Blood Award)
Blood Toll - noun - meaning the price you have to pay to run this course, and the earlier you pay it the better.  Henry told us about the sotol grass. Sounds nice, doesn't it?  Picturing Texas prairie land with tall grass blowing in the wind?  Not so much.  Sotol grass was made by the devil to insure that your post race shower is as unpleasant as possible.  It looks an aloe vera plant with an attitude.  It is Texas, of course:
Since I reach the whopping height of 5'2", there were sections where this was at eye level.  It was like running through a car wash of razor blades - no exaggeration - I was wearing long sleeves and long tights, and it cut me through my clothes.  Luckily, these sections were few, and honestly, by the end of the race, you no longer cared, and just plowed right through them.  

The erosion also caused taller "ledges" on the trail.  Since the ground there is mostly rock, or a thin layer of dirt over rock. on the side of the hills, outcroppings of rocks appear.  Last time I ran this course they were about hip high for me, meaning a really high step would usually get over them, and coming down I could hop off of them.  This year, they are even higher, meaning I had to find a way to climb up them by finding something to use as a step or a tree to pull myself up on.  On the way down, I had to sit on the edge of it and hop down - like hopping off of the kitchen counter when you were a kid watching your mom cook.

As you can imagine, all of these little obstacles slowed things down a bit, but they are also what makes these races so much fun for me.  You never know what to expect out there, and you have to be able to adapt and roll with it.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change – Charles Darwin
Many people who are much better athletes than I am drop out of these races because things aren't going according to their plan.  That is why I have a very simple plan on this course - try to go faster than I did last year, and finish the race with the same amount of teeth that I start with.  Mission accomplished.

So, after the race briefing we headed back to our tent and chilled out for a bit. We got to visit for a few minutes with one of my favorite couples, Lane and Erica Gremillion from Pineville.  Lane would be attempting the 100 miler the next day.  Before you ask, yes, a certain degree of crazy is required to be my friend. :)
Lane and Erica after his first 100 mile finish -
Sub 24 hours at Rocky Raccoon!!
 When it was about time to climb into the sleeping bag the temps had dropped to 40 degrees with gusty winds.  As I have gotten into the habit of doing at the races where I camp out the night before, I got into my running clothes, taped my toes (just my big toes - I tend to blister on the outside of them, and while it is not a deal breaker, it does tend to hurt when sliding around on rocks), and got all of my race morning stuff lined up.  I trimmed my race number down - most folks pin this to the leg of their shorts or tights for longer races - throughout the course of the day you will put on and take off layers of clothes up top, but rarely will you change your tights or shorts; then I filled up my handheld and waist pack. I started the race carrying my handheld filled with water, and in the zipper pocket of this were the aid station splits so I would have an idea how far I had to go before getting to water and our drop boxes.

High tech, I know.  That's how I roll.
In my waist pack, I had an extra bottle filled with water (that's why I love the Amphipod hydration system that I use - the bottles are interchangeable and so easy to carry.  It fits my hand perfectly so that I don't have to hold it - it is just there and I don't even feel it.  

Also in my waist pack:  Honey Stinger gummies, a gel (which I never had to use - thank goodness), chapstick (crucial in long runs), and salt pills.

It probably sounds strange to sleep in your run clothes, but when we are camping and it is close to freezing, the last thing I want to do in the morning is have to get out of a warm sleeping bag to change into cold clothes.  And, since we sleep on site for the race, I can get up 30 minutes before the race and be ready to walk to the race start when Joe yells out "10 minutes".

Once things were squared away, and my alarm was set, it was time to attempt to sleep.  I never really sleep the night before a big race, and I have learned that this really isn't a big deal.  If I find myself checking my watch every hour, I don't stress about it like I used to.  I don't notice any effect on my race day performance.  Since the race start was at 5 a.m., we were up about 4:15.  This was plenty of time to pin on my number, get my headlamp and handheld flashlight ready, drink an Ensure (I never eat anything solid that early - my stomach won't allow it), get my shoes on, and make one more visit to the porta potty.  Right about then, I hear Joe say "10 minutes" so I walked over to the start where I ran into Teddi, a friend from town, and by far the fastest ultra running female in the area.  When I asked her what her time goal was, she wisely said "My only goal on this course is not to lose any teeth."  Pretty modest goal considering she finished as the second place female with a time of 10:09.  Amazing!!

With the call of "5 minutes", everyone headed to the start, and with one loud "WooHoo" from the crowd, we were off.  For the first couple of miles I almost didn't need my headlamp, there were so many runners around me the ground was pretty well lit. But, that didn't stop me from face planting about 2 miles into the race.  Was it an especially technical spot on the trail?  No.  I have no idea what I tripped on, but I went from running at a pretty good pace to face down on the trail.  I had to get up as quickly as possible to avoid tripping the next runner, so I pulled over to the side of the trail to assess the damage.  I had landed pretty hard on my right elbow, and it was bleeding a bit through my sleeve, but I couldn't see the bone, so that was all good.  I couldn't hold my handheld in that hand for a while since I could not grip my hand at all, but that cleared up after 30 minutes or so.  I had a pain in my lower stomach where I had landed on a rock that was sticking up from the trail, and I have a bruise there.  That ached for quite a while and is still tender to the touch. But, all in all, it was nothing fatal or race ending, so it was time to go.  I had paid my Blood Toll to the trail early, so I should be good for the rest of the day.

We lucked out with the weather.  It was cool in the morning, and overcast most of the day.  The sun came out briefly - just long enough to burn the side of my neck that it was hitting - then it went back to being overcast - perfect!!  I didn't track my time much, except that at every aid station I would estimate how long it might take me to get to the next aid station.  This is just a mental game I play to break the day into shorter sections.  

Bobbi and Brad were running strong  - every time I crossed paths with them, they looked like they were having a great day.  Brad has done this course many times so he knew what to expect, and even though it was Bobbi's second 50 miler, and first time on this course, she is one tough chick so I knew she would be fine.

This race is a two loop course.  The first loop going clockwise on the trail: 
And the second loop going counter clockwise:
For the 100 milers (yes, there are some incredibly brave and hearty souls who cover 100 miles of this terrain), its 4 loops.  Ouch. It did make my day easier knowing these folks were out there too, though.

As always, you see interesting things at these races.  I saw lots of blood at this one.  One girl who was wearing shorts with the front of her thighs shredded by the sotol, the second place guy with blood running down his legs from his knees where it looked like he had bit the dust pretty hard (and was still in second place running hard), the 100 mile finisher who had one heck of a black eye (never got the whole story there - I saw him post race, and he wasn't terribly coherent), and of course, my favorite, the sweet lady who thought it would be fun to run with bells tied onto her shoe laces. After running near her for a few miles and hearing nothing but ching,ching, ching, CHING, CHING, CHING!!!  - I had to let her know as gently as possible that the noise was driving me crazy and ruining the peace and quiet that we look for at these races.  I have enough noise and clutter in my life - these races are my chance to escape from that and be in nature.  The only sounds I wanted that day were occasional polite banter with a fellow runner, the crunch of the rocks under my feet, and my own labored breathing.  I think she got the hint because when we crossed paths later, she no longer sounded like she should be pulling a sleigh behind her.

I tried something different with my nutrition at this race that worked well.  Over the last couple of ultra seasons I have used Vespa in the place of Gu with great luck.  Ever since my last 100, though, I have not been able to look a pack of Vespa in the eye without my stomach revolting. So, here's what I took in for 13 plus hours on Saturday:

Pre-race - 1 Ensure Plus nutrition shake - 350 calories, 13 grams of protein.  It is non-dairy so it doesn't upset my stomach, and it goes down easy.  Sometimes, if I am having trouble keeping food down late in a race, I will have another Ensure then, and I bring extra for post race fueling.  I drink them over the next few days after the race to replenish what was lost and try to make nice with my body for the pounding I have put it through.

During the race: (no exact amounts - I am not very precise about this)
A few handfuls of animal crackers and Pringles
2 lunch box sized packs of those Keebler cookies with M & M's in them :)
2 packs of Honey Stinger Energy Chews (like gummy bears - sooo good!!)
6  salt tabs 
About 20 oz of water every 5 miles or so (remember, on this terrain, 5 miles could be anywhere from 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours)

And that's it.  No gels.  Even in my earlier ultras I did my best to steer away from gels, using 1 at the most in the late stages of a 50 miler when fatigue would set in.  I'm not exactly sure what that means or what lesson to draw from it.  According to an online calculator I found, I would have burned about 4233 calories in 50 miles, not taking into account the terrain, so we'll up it to 5,000 calories to be safe.  You can see from the list above that I didn't take in nearly that many calories, and I felt just fine all day.  No bonk.  No real fatigue.  Any time I thought I might be getting hungry, I would eat a few cookies or animal crackers.  I grazed all day, not just at the aid stations.  Now, that being said, I could not get enough food into my mouth fast enough on the way home Sunday.  I was starving all day, especially for anything high in protein.

Race day went by pretty quickly, as usual.  I never line up at the start and think, "Oh My God, I have to run 50 miles!".  I just start running.  Usually I break the course up into chunks, aid station to aid station, and play mental games to pass the time.  You want to see something funny - ask someone 10 hours or more into a race to do simple math.  But once I get past the marathon distance in a 50 miler, I know I am more than half way there.  When I get to 37 miles, I just have a half marathon left, then once I am in single digits, its all good.  

As usual, this was a first class event put on by Tejas Trails.

Even though it was bare boned as far as aid offered, it was very well marked, the water stops were always well stocked, and you got plenty of encouragement when you pulled into the start/finish area before your second loop.  People cheered some when you came in, but they REALLY cheered when you went back out.  This is such an amazing course.  Tough, painful, beautiful, rugged, peaceful.  Pretty much sums up Texas itself, doesn't it.  I took a few minutes on each loop to stop and soak in the view from the top of some of the peaks (and to catch my breath).  I love that place.  I believe that the pain you choose to put yourself through in such a serene setting is cleansing.  I think you knock a lot of internal cobwebs off, and you clean out a few closets.  The little things aren't so important anymore, and you come out of this race with a better understanding of who you are and who you want to become.  When facing a challenge such as this, I often find myself looking at the other runners as they go by - whether they are smiling and saying "hi", or grimacing and digging deep - and I am overcome with a sense of awe at the strength of the human spirit.  No one is forced to do this.  They choose to.  They choose to push their bodies far beyond the point where most folks would have given up.  They endure pain, whether it be from blisters, aching muscles, or tender feet.  They embrace that pain and use it to fuel their journey.  They exhibit a depth of character that few ever realize for themselves. They stare their fears and self doubts in the eye - and they defeat them over and over again.  This is humanity stripped of all of its window dressing, and down to bare bones - self-preservation and perseverance.  As much as I love people in general, these races truly make me appreciate the triumph of the human spirit.

And THAT is why I do these races.  I don't enjoy pain like a misguided person once suggested.  How simple and frankly, stupid.  I enjoy succeeding despite the pain.  I enjoy pulling the pain down and using it as a step stool to reach my goal.  And I absolutely LOVE standing at the finish line after and watching runner after runner come in.  Some have tons of adoring friends and family there to greet them, and some come across to a smattering of applause, walk over to their vehicle, and drive home.  I imagine these to be the guys with the slight limp at work on Monday where no one has a clue what they did for fun over the weekend.

So, this is me stepping down from my soapbox.  For those that don't read this and ask how the race was, they will get the stock answer, "Tough, but fun".  You guys know the whole story.

I was able to beat my time from last year - 13:42 by 14 minutes and come in at 13:28.  Not a grand PR, but any PR on this course is a reason to celebrate in my book. With this, I had completed my 10th ultramarathon.  Fitting that it should be on this course. Bobbi and Brad also had a strong race, as did Lane who is the first person from this area to finish the 100 miler with a time of 29 hours and change.  AWESOME!!  He is my hero!!

UPDATE - I just heard that Fred Arsement, a dear friend from Duson, also completed the 100 miler in 30 hours and a bit.  Add another name to my list of heroes!!  Great job, Fred!!!

Happy Running Y'all.

PS - Legs feel great - should be running again by the end of the week, getting ready for the Wild Hare 50 miler in 3 weeks!  WooHoo!!!  I love race season!!

Here's a link to a story written by the RD, Joe Prusaitis about the history of Cactus Rose 50 and 100 miler:


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I can't wait! I can't wait! I CAN'T WAIT!!!!

Serious race excitement going on here.  Just 4 days until the Cactus Rose 50 miler in Bandera, Texas!!  Folks have been lamenting the high temps predicted over the last couple of weeks, then I heard rumors of this:

Ahhhh!!!!  Woohoo!!

And I finally sit down to read the race doc, and this is what I see:
COURSE MARKINGS: We mark the course with bright yellow arrows & reflective ribbons. Also, we like to use the occasional red Wrong Way sign in places where we already know that you like to go, even if it is the wrong way. We do not use glow sticks now that we know how much better the reflective flags work. As long as you have a good light, the reflective material can be seen much better than an old fading glow stick. Still, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO STAY ON THE COURSE. If you get off course, return to the place where you got off. A good thing to keep in mind is that the person you are following might not know where he is going. Just because he's faster does not mean he's smarter. If you do blindly follow a person off course, you have become a LEMMING and deserve the extra distance for your mental laziness. Remember to tell me when you are done so I can charge you for the extra distance you did not pay for.
Heehee!! This is why I LOVE these races.  No whining or complaining tolerated.  Take care of yourself.  There is no hand-holding here - especially at CR.  This is designed for veteran trail runners, and it is pretty bare bones.  It is a physical feat to run it, but it is also a lesson in strategy.  Bad decisions = DNF.  Heck, there is a pretty decent chance of DNF'ing (Did Not Finish) while making only good decisions.  Bad decisions just insure that fate.

I will be shopping tonight for all of my supplies, and I will add a post about prep for this race - it is different even from any other ultra I do, and THAT is what makes it so exciting!!  I can't wait! I can't wait!  I CAN'T WAIT!!!  Woohoo!!! :)

Happy Running Y'all!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

But it's just a half marathon!!!

No - I would never actually say that.  Prior to Sunday's Gulf Coast Half Marathon, I had vivid memories of my first half marathon in 2007 (I think) in Nashville.  I had trained with Team in Training, and raised over $4000 for cancer research to earn my spot on the Team.  I had done the work, and I was ready to run.  And run I did.  For 13.1 miles.  It took me 2 hours and 18 minutes to finish, and  by the time I got to the last few miles, I thought I was going to die.

I was very much an infant runner at the time, and I made very bad choices.  Like believing that if 1 or 2 Gu's were good, then surely 4 would be better.  I mean, why would they hand them out on the course if you weren't supposed to use them, right?? So I  spent a large portion of the next couple of days in or near a bathroom, convinced I had poisoned myself.

So, to answer your question before it is asked - No, I did not take this race lightly.  Just because my preferred distances are 50 and 100 milers, I still respect 13.1 and 26.2.  My flaw for this race was not taking into consideration a couple of factors:  First - it was going to be very humid and HOT.  I think it was 70 degrees before we even left the hotel room at 5:45 a.m. on race day. The weather had been cooler in the week leading up to the race, and I didn't bother to really pay attention to the forecast and I didn't pre-hydrate like I usually do for my races.  Second - I was not just running 13.1 miles - I was RACING 13.1 miles.  I had a goal to come in under 2 hours.  My previous PR for a half was 2:08, I think??  It had been YEARS since I tried for time in a half marathon, so I really didn't prepare my body the way I should have.

So, race morning we head down to the race site - Fontainebleu State Park, Mandeville, Louisiana. I had run one race here earlier this year a Q50 Full Moon Trail Race, so I remembered just how beautiful this park is with its lake views and moss filled oak trees.  The only sticky part about this race is the traffic.  This is a fairly small race - about 2,000 people - but the park where the Start/Finish and festivities are has only one two-lane road entering it.  So, even with a fairly small number of runners, the traffic can back up on the park road as people attempt to find a parking space.  This was a pretty small inconvenience though, since everyone was able to park without issue - it just took a little while.

Acadiana runners ready to do their thing!!
The race started without a hitch, and from the beginning it was awesome!  There was never a time when the course was congested.  With this being a small-ish race, and with wide roads and paths, there was never a traffic jam.  The course itself was beautiful.  We ran through some quaint Mandeville neighborhoods (and past the race sponsor, Varsity Sports), and along the lake.  But with it already being warm and humid, when we reached the lake front at about mile 5, it felt like the temperature jumped 20 degrees.  Once we turned back into a neighborhood and were revisited by the breeze, it was better.  Still hotter than I would have liked, but better.

There were plenty of water stops along the course - probably more than necessary, but in this case it is ALWAYS better to be safe than sorry.  The aid stations were very lively, too...
These lovely folks gave up their free time on a Sunday to
hand water to a bunch of hot, stinky runners.
As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to PR and I really enjoy running races, so I probably pushed my pace a little more than I should have early on, but it was a nice morning, I was surrounded by friends, and a small part of my brain knew that even if I blew up at 9 miles I could suck it up and make myself run the last 4 miles.  This is where experience and confidence in my capabilities is a bonus.  I wasn't terribly worried about bonking, since many of my weekday runs are now 10 plus miles, so the distance is not intimidating to me like it once was.  I would just prefer to not puke when I cross the finish line (more on that later - but that is one reason I wouldn't choose to volunteer at the finish line of any race).

So I ran.  I ran with different friends at different times during the race, but as most of my running buddies understand, on race day its every runner for herself (or himself). As for nutrition,  I did my usual 1/2 Gu at mile 6 or so, and the second 1/2 at mile 10 - a far cry from the 4 Gu's I did for my first half.  Once I got to mile 11, I started to regret the second half of that Gu.  Remember, it was HOT and I was pushing my pace, so my GI system was a little testy.  My mantra for the last couple of miles was "Don't puke til you cross the finish line".  I said this over and over to myself.  As I was approaching the finish chute, I saw the clock - 1:56!  Yay!!!  I would PR!  At least that was what I would have been thinking if I wasn't still telling myself "Don't puke til you cross the finish line".

And cross the finish line I did.  I received my medal (a beer bottle opener with Gulf Coast Half Marathon on it - genius!) from a very sweet and very brave lady, then I went to the side of the chute and finally got rid of that damn 1/2 of a Gu that had been threatening to make an appearance for the last two miles.  Once that was gone, I felt mostly better.  My body felt like I had spent the morning being interrogated by the mafia, but it was over.  I had PRed at a second distance for the season. I don't know if you guys remember my Big Butts Race Review where I broke the 7 hour mark in a 50k for a personal best at that distance. So far this season is going well.  Lots of HOT summer runs are paying off.  Now if I can hold it together for Cactus Rose in a week and a half (YIKES!!).  

After all of that, what was the best part of this experience?  Sharing it with friends. 
Erin, Danette, Me, Liz, Christina, Emma

Eric, Laurin, Phillip, Randy, Bob, Dustin
The only people outside of college students who appreciate a good vomit story.

and Leslie!!

And Sandi :)
Until next time,


Friday, October 5, 2012

Phew! Lots going on, but its all good!

It's been a while since I have written.  Brief recap - I moved into an apartment with my two teenagers, started a new job (more on that later), and ran a 50 mile week last week, and working on a 60 mile week this week.

As we all know life waits for no one - so you can either take the reigns, or just react to what it throws at you.  I am firmly in the drivers seat now, even though sometimes I hit the little bumpy strips on the side of the road meant to wake up dozing drivers. Before I get to my training for Cactus Rose - now only 3 WEEKS AWAY!!!- there is something I have been very aware of on my runs lately...I absolutely love my runs in the country!  Broussard is such a cool little town.  Since the move, I am in the "city" part, but with just 2 miles of running, I get to see things like this:
Harvesting the sugar cane.

And this:

These guys will come to the fence if you have some
tasty looking grass to offer.

While there is some excitement to playing frogger when crossing the two major intersections to get out to this area, it is so worth it.  If I add another mile or so onto this 10 mile route, I can see donkeys too.  It is soothing to the soul to get away from traffic for a while.  Although, there is the added risk of rolling an ankle on the cut cane that falls to the side of the road.

So, back to the topic at hand - race season.  Next weekend I am doing the Gulf Coast Half Marathon in Mandeville.  I heard such great reviews about this race last year, that I vowed not to miss it.  Originally I was going to try to PR at this race by aiming for a sub 2 hour half (below a 9 minute pace), but considering it will be the last run of a 50 mile training week, that may not be realistic.  Who knows, though?  One thing I have learned is that on any given day, with the right conditions, anything can happen.

When I get back from that I have to really work on the logistics of Cactus Rose.  Not only is this a nasty tough trail race, but it is self supported, so I have to put lots of thought about what I will need to put into my drop boxes (that I will have to lug out to the aid stations the night before) - things like - nutrition: animal crackers (my favorite at this race last year), gu, vespa, chips (for salt), change of clothing possibly, lube, medication, blister kit, etc.  And I will need 4 of these drop boxes.  I will keep you posted on that packing adventure.

Also, this will be my first 50 miler to attend solo.  Meaning, I will have to be able to drive myself home - about a 7 hour drive.  I'm not ready to think about how unpleasant that will be.

So, I have a 20 miler tomorrow, and another one either Sunday, depending on how I am feeling, or Monday at the latest, then I "taper" with a 50 mile week, then a 36 mile week, then race week.  When I line up for the start at CR, I will have run 801 miles in training since May.  I guess we will see if that is enough to help me shave a few minutes off of my time last year on this course - 13 hours and 42 minutes.  

On any given day....

Happy Running Everybody!!!