Sunday, February 8, 2009

Fun Times in Huntsville!

This weekend marks the beginning of a whirlwind of travel and racing, and if it's any way to is going to be a heck of a couple of months!

Saturday was the Rocky Raccoon 50/100 mile race. The weather was to be perfect 50's at the start and upper 70's in the afternoon. I thrive in this weather as it becomes as much of a race of nutrition as it does a test of actual racing. If you can keep up with your nutrition, you are golden! If not, well probably another tale to tell.

I must make mention of the new course because having raced in Huntsville many times the course has historically been the same in all of the least one out and back on the jeep road and for Rocky Raccoon also a 3 mile out and back to far side. For me, the out and backs are a mental drain on the soul. You try to rally each loop for them, but by the 3rd, 4th, or 5th loop (depending on which race you are running) they get tough. Well, Joe and Chris came up with trails that I didn't even know could exist out there. We had these fantastic almost clover loops within each loop, bad description but the course was fantastic! They actually even found a few rollers so that your legs weren't totally flat the entire way! Wow, wow, wow! I loved it! You got to see tons of people from the front, middle, and back of each race and every section went by so quickly.

Paul, Flyer, and I went to the race Saturday morning, and got there just in time for me to wish Jamie good luck! Paul would be pacing her later. The 100-milers started an hour before the 50. After they started I put my stuff down next to Pete's. We chat and come to find out that a deer hit his car on the drive down...literally! The impact was bad enough that he was pretty stiff. We talked a little game plan, and I reminded him to take Tylenol vs. Ibuprofen so not to upset his stomach. From there we got ready to go.

Before long, off we went! Loop 1 was awesome. It went by so quickly. Heading out to the Dam Aid Station I got to see the lead 100 milers coming back. It was so fun to be on the same course with Jamie! We had this new awesome loop that cut-off so that we didn't have to go all the way to Far Side. I get that I am speaking almost a foreign language about the course, but the almost 3 mile loop went by so quick and was so much more manageable mentally than the long out and back. It was during this section that I just knew if I could be patient, it would be a good day. It was also during this loop that I realized that my Garmin was going to be useless. I was wearing it for the first time ever during a trail race to keep me conservative on the first loop. Well that is great until it reads 5.3 miles for about 30 minutes and doesn't give you a much for that keeping me conservative. Oh well.

After that section, we went on the jeep road to another new section. I loved it! It was along this old jeep trail with a powerline of sorts. It was a section of gentle rollers, which felt great on my legs. I was almost giddy with how great the course was.

I came in, had a quick switch of bottles and out I went on loop 2. It was on the way out that I noticed a girl not too far behind me, and looked to be running strong. I just kept plugging along, doing everything I needed to for my day. Everything was feeling great, and I thought I was moving steady. Well that is until that girl came FLYING by me like I was standing still. It was on the section past the Dam Road aid station right before we made our turn off. I really thought I was moving well. I could see her, but I could see her quickly pulling away. I just kept moving along...almost in awe of her speed. There was nothing I could do. I got to the Park Road aid station, about 4.5 from the start/finish, and Paul was there. I had mentioned to him earlier to see how far behind she was, but now I asked how far in front she was. Paul could tell that I was pushing hard and there were still 20 miles to go. He said that she was just a minute or so in front of me. Well not quite. The minute I turned the corner from the aid station, she was there. I noticed on this rolling section that she was slowing to a walk on the hills. I just kept plugging away, running, and finally caught her. She and I chatted a bit and then ran together. On the flats she was definitely faster than me, but the minute there was a hill I was stronger. After about 20 minutes I let her get ahead. I needed to calm down and run my race. If she came back to me, fine, otherwise it was all hers.

I came to the start/finish, grabbed my bottle, piece of pizza, and off I went. Well apparently I came in and out faster than her because I came out in the lead, once again. It was time for me to relax, and run my race. There were still 16 miles to go. Jamie, who was winning the 100-miler, had actually rounded out of transition at the same time, so we got to run together for a bit. We chatted about our days and how much fun we were having. After a bit I told her that I needed to walk for a minute to eat, and so off she went. I gobbled down some more fuel, and then tried to get her. I got to the Nature Center aid station and Paul said that she was about a minute ahead, and so I tried to catch her. My legs felt good, but I was definitely drained from the effort and the heat. No excuses, I was just working to my max. I continued to push hard until I was finished with the Dam Road loop. I knew if I could get through that section that I would have about an hour left of running, and could do anything for an hour...

I got to the Park Road aid station with no time to spare. Paul told me that I was in the home stretch, easy for him to say I thought. I pushed and pushed, but was on the edge. My legs were continuing to run but my head was light. I would run and run and then have to walk for a moment. I wanted to be floating, but it was all I had. In a full sprint I came in at 8:02.

It wasn't the sub-8 that I was going for, but it was everything I had! I was very pleased. I definitely learned some lessons that I will use in shaving off those few precious minutes:
- when it heats up, pick up a 2nd bottle so that I don't have to stop and refill at every aid station.
- Don't blow it early. After the Nature Center on the 3rd loop, I picked it up for those two sections out to Dam Road and then in the loop out of fear of getting caught. It was too early as I still had almost 7 miles to run after that. I should have cruised longer, and picked it up for the last 7.
- Run my race. For what seemed like an eternity, I got very caught up in chasing after this girl or worried about where she was behind me. At the end of the day there was nothing I could do but run my race, so when I did that I ran better and more relaxed.
- Drymax socks are my socks. My Drymax socks were shot from Bandera and I didn't have a chance to order new ones, so I went with the old Asics stand-by. Shame, shame. Huge blister on my big toe...and I have been working so hard for prettier feet :(
- Attitude is EVERYTHING! This is true for running and for life. There are a million excuses: the weather, the course, the work week, not enough training, too much training, not enough sleep, on and on. But at the end of the day, everyone has life obstacles. There was nothing I wanted more than to be running on Saturday, so I paid, put on a race number, and ran. And you know what, good or bad, I would have enjoyed every minute of it! I have a friend who was totally negative before the race ever started. I kind of laughed him off at the beginning, but when we were sitting around at the finish I asked him if his thoughts from the start ever got better. He said, "no." He then went on to totally get where I was going with it, and said that he realized that the difference in his day and mine was that I was happy and giddy in the morning and he wasn't so much. He and I should have been able to run step for step together, so it says a ton. I think this was a great reminder in how to live my life, as well!

Side note to my race report -
After I finished, Paul took off to pace Jamie on miles 60-80. During that time, Melissa was kind enough to help me get cleaned up and changed, and to the awards ceremony. We were given the COOLEST awards! (I will post a picture soon!). Once that was done, we went back and hung out at the start/finish area. I got to spend time with folks I normally don't get to chat with; thanks Marcia for the walk, and I got to cheer on the other folks finishing the 50 or running the 100. Best parts of the night, hanging out:
- got to spend time with John's wife, Crystal, while John was pacing Jamie miles 80-100. She is such an awesome person!
- got to spend time with Jamie's husband, David. So fun to get to know him, even if briefly!
- got to see and cheer for people I knew running the 100. Most noteable of the day was Mark. He was just incredible all day! It was great to see him throughout the day. He has a great attitude, and I know he worked so hard for his day. Very, very solid! The others are Melanie and Liza. I don't know if I was happier to see them or them me. It just made my day to get to see them so much! Great, great women and they were just amazing. So many more, but seeing them have such great days made me very happy!

And, finally, I will let Jamie write her own race report...but to no surprise she won and was 3rd overall. There are not enough great words for her. To the point that when she finished, she walked around thanking and meeting everyone she hadn't. I mean, seriously, that is a class act if I have EVER seen one, and I am honored to be able to call her my friend.

Wow, writing all of this down just reminds me how fortunate I am to be healthy enough to do these things, have a wonderful husband to support me (even for the races he doesn't attend), a strong family, and friends that round out my world.
Thank you, thank you! mer

Now for a quick recovery before the marathon on Sunday! Pace Don't Race - 3:50!!